- 1. "That a number of Air Forces, not exceeding 33,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and abroad, exclusive of those serving in India, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928."
- 2. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,160,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, etc., of His Majesty's Air Force at Home and Abroad, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928."
- 3. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,900,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Works, Buildings, Repairs, and Lands of the Air Force, including Civilian Staff and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928."
- 4. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,365,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Quartering, Stores (except Technical), Supplies, and Transport of the Air Force, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928."
- 5. "That a sum, not exceeding £6,424,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Technical and Warlike Stores of the Air Force (including Experimental and Research Services), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928."
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I beg to move, to leave out "33,000," and to insert, instead thereof, "1,000."
I want to make it perfectly clear at the outset that I am speaking only for myself and am expressing only a personal point of view. It is one which is held by some other Members in my party, but on this occasion I in no way represent the Labour party officially. The Amendment, according to Parliamentary form, is in certain words, which we here in the House know indicate the practical abolition of the Air Force. We might have raised this Amendment on the Army, or, as last year, on the Navy, but, 2228 in choosing the Air Force, we have chosen the new arm which is especially deadly, which is of recent creation, on which scientific research is concentrating all its genius, and which is, comparatively speaking, cheaper, and, therefore, infinitely more dangerous than the others. But in selecting it on this occasion we naturally imply that it is not only the Air Force at which we are aiming, but the three Services. Our desire is to bring forward in this House for serious consideration the idea of reaching disarmament by general international content along the path of disarmament by example.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding connected with this question, and in this period of the history of this country and of the world's history, it is not a subject which is unworthy of careful consideration in the British Parliament. We have in the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air one who has depicted, in very graphic and eloquent terms, the specially dangerous, destructive and diabolical character of aerial warfare. One of my friends likened the Secretary of State for Air to Hyde and Jekyll. Dr. Jekyll describes the horrors of aerial warfare and gives ns due warning of what is in preparation for this and other countries should warfare take place; while Mr. Hyde in his office is doing his utmost and his duty to make this engine of destruction even more efficient. It is to Dr. Jekyll that I want to appeal this afternoon, and I think that I am on stronger ground than if I were asking for a limitation or for a reduction. If you believe in armaments; if you believe in force; if you trust the experts whom you have charged with the duty of perfecting these various, engines, it seems to me unreasonable to ask them to cut down here and there. It seems to me that you must take their opinion as to what is sufficient and what is efficient in the way of armaments.
I am taking the standpoint this afternoon of abolition, and I want the House to consider it more seriously than it has had the opportunity of doing hitherto. At the first blush, it may seem an absurd proposition, but I want, little by little, if I can, to put before the House arguments which will make hon. Members see it in rather a different light. Arma- 2229 ments are said to serve two purposes,, and those two purposes are very often confused together. The first purpose of armaments is to give us security against a successful attack by an enemy. I am prepared to admit that may be so. The second is that armaments give us security against war. That, I, for one, absolutely deny, and I am supported in my opinion by a recent utterance of Lord Cecil of Chelwood. Speaking at a meeting in the City, called, I think, by the League of Nations Union, Lord Cecil said:Take the Air. There were symptoms that this or that country was increasing its Air Force for no other reason than that the Air Force of some neighbouring country was already greater than its own. No one could complain of that, but it was exactly the reason which led to the gigantic competition in armaments before the War, and, though he would hesitate to say that was the sole cause of the late War, no one could deny that the state of mind produced by armaments competition prepared the soil on which grew up the terrible plant which ultimately fruited in the Great War.I do not think that it could be better put. The piling up of armaments, the inevitable competition which must grow up if armaments exist, the competition which is growing up now especially as regards the Air Force, the gradual feeling of each Government that it is sufficiently well-equipped to take up a threatening attitude, must in the long run lead to war. It is because I believe that we are drifting back into that old rut, and that no really courageous precautions are being taken in any direction against drifting back, that I am standing here to-day with this proposition.
The existence of armaments is a menace to civilisation. The Governments of the world seem to have learned nothing by the great failure of force from 1914 to 1918. I think that the people realise and know that, after all that great display of violence and force with the tragic losses that it involved, no one single object for which we were told we were fighting was achieved. It was not a war to end war, because war has been going on ever since 1918, and we are preparing for war now. It was not a war to make the world safe for democracy, because we know that half a dozen dictatorships have grown up since the War. It was not a war for small nationalities, because small nationalities have suffered considerably since 1918, and one of them Monte- 2230 negro, was wiped off the map by the Treaty of Peace itself. It was not a war to give homes to heroes, because our heroes are still without those homes. Four years were spent in a desperate effort to beat down Germany to her knees, and, when we had succeeded, we spent the subsequent eight years in straining every nerve to set Germany on her feet again. Could imbecility go further than that? I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not a "turn-the-other-cheek pacifist." I am often asked: "What would you do if a man with a knife came along and wanted to murder your wife." My answer is perfectly simple, "I should knock him down." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I thought that would draw cheers, because hon. Members opposite are deluded by the entirely false analogy between an individual criminal and a nation. There is no analogy between the two.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
The hon. and gallant Member says suppose that criminals get charge of a nation. Well, in 1914–18, the criminals were pointed out to the people of Great Britain. The criminals were Ludendorff, Hindenburg, Bethmann-Hollweg and the Kaiser. Did we touch any of them? Not one! Bethmann-Hollweg has died since; Hindenburg is the President of the Republic of Germany; Ludendorff is alive, and the Kaiser is "married and living happily ever after." You did not touch these criminals. Your four years were taken up in massacring innocent men, women and children—the flower of our youth was massacred, and at the end we see that absolutely nothing has come from it.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
Nor were ours. Nobody attained any object. There was no victory; everybody lost the War. Let me take another instance. If—as I hope may never happen—I had a very severe quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, such a severe quarrel that our passions were roused to an uncontrollable point, what I should do would be to say to the right hon. Gentleman "Come down to the Terrace!" What I should not do would be to send my constituents from the 2231 Brightside Division of Sheffield to massacre the inhabitants of Chelsea.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It would be my duty to look after challenges made in the House. I do not think they ought to be made.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I am perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman and myself are on such friendly terms that there is no likelihood of anything of that kind happening, but what I wanted to point out was the imbecility of this way of conducting warfare, as well as its increased brutality, and that the piling up of armaments in preparation for this kind of futile and cruel method of attempting to settle international disputes is an insult to the intelligence of mankind, and ought to be put an end to.
I want to come to close quarters with the position if we took the initiative and disarmed our forces. I know perfectly well that you cannot disarm a nation by a stroke of the pen; it is a process that would take some time; but what I want is the sincere intention to do that by way of example. I am perfectly convinced that the first nation that has the courage to do it will be followed by the other nations very quickly, and you will get what you want, that is, disarmament by general consent. At present we are all standng on the brink waiting for someone else to make a start, no one having the courage to do what is obviously the right thing. The objection which is at once raised is, "Where should we be if there were an unprovoked attack by an aggressive foe?" and I want to deal with that. An unprovoked attack by an aggressive foe is one of those cries which go up in every war. The enemy of the State is an aggressive foe. This is always declared during war. It has to be done in order to raise an inclination in the nation to fight. When the war is over, that is dropped. In 1921, when the jurists of the various nations assembled at Geneva, they were quite unable to define aggression, and they had to put forward a new definition, which is that, if any nation disregards the League's verdict, it will be considered the aggressor.
It is clear, however, that no people in these days would undertake an aggressive 2232 warfare against an unarmed nation. The unarmed nation would be in a position of far greater security than the nation which is always straining to compete in armaments, and always in fear lest it has not got a sufficient supply. Then people say, "How about those savage nations that are uncivilised and might attack us?" Who are the uncivilised nations? There is no question about it that, in this great comprehensive matter of disarmament, it is the armament firms that must be tackled, and the manufacture of armaments must be gone into, because, if these various races that are supposed to be so bellicose are not armed by the Western Powers, they will give no trouble at all. Moreover, a disarmed nation will not undertake the aggressive diplomacy which leads to Imperialist expansion, and we should not find the necessity for armaments which is so often quoted to-day. Disarmament by example is the end, I am convinced, that we ought to seek. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Cooper) made a very remarkable speech the other day at Blackburn, and I should like to quote to the House just two passages from it. First of all, he disposes of the idea that war is a glorious exploit in which the British nation is always anxious to take part. The glory of war has altogether passed, and the hon. Gentleman, who is a master of oratory, as we all know, described it very rightly. He said:It was said that an Englishman liked a scrap, but was anyone going to argue that an Englishman, or any other human being, liked sitting in a waterlogged trench with the prospect of being blown up by a gun fired miles away, and thinking that his home and family might be destroyed by bombs dropped from the sky? Bring him an Englishman who liked that, and he would endeavour to have him certified as insane and placed in a lunatic asylum.He then went on to say:He did not think they could achieve anything by disarmament agreements. He was in favour of this country taking the risk of disarming, and setting an example to other countries.At any rate, there is one hon. Member on the opposite side of the House, and an hon. Member with a rising reputation, who is in support of my contention to-day.
What is being done towards disarmament? A preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference has been 2233 appointed. I am in entire accord with the Amendment that was moved last week by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence), with regard to bringing this matter of the Air Force before the Disarmament Conference. I only want to-day to press for something a little more courageous and more drastic, because the Disarmament Conference Preparatory Commission shows that we started the thing in the wrong way. Instead of laying down certain principles and asking the experts to carry them out, we have asked the experts of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to assemble together and make definitions. They have been months making definitions, and they find it an extremely difficult job. It is, of course, if you start in that way. It is very difficult to get a definition of what armaments are; it is very difficult to lay down a limit which can be the same for all nations in different circumstances; and another difficulty is that it will give an excuse to the Governments to say, "We cannot go very far in this direction."
I am sorry to say that these proceedings give me very little hope that anything is going to be done, because statesmen are all the time merely paying lip-service to the cause of disarmament. We have our Foreign Secretary, and the Foreign Secretaries of other countries, going to Geneva and talking about the Locarno spirit, and saying that they desire peace; and then we have them all going home to their own Parliaments and asking for millions upon millions to furnish them with armaments of the latest and most diabolical description. The peoples of the world are getting impatient at this duplicity. They are suspecting this insincerity, and they want to see one nation come out and make a bold and courageous move in the only direction that can lead to any useful result. I do not think there is very much time to he lost. I think, we are living at a very critical moment. We who lived through 1914–18 have got in our minds a memory that every one of us will carry to our dying day. It rests with us to make compensation for the outrage; it rests with us to do something that will really lead to the destruction of war, an object which we all say we want to attain, but which few are 2234 really working for with any eagerness or sincerity.
While the Governments hesitate, while the Governments are slow, the people are thinking. The British people talk least about what they feel deeply. I have had the experience, during the last 18 months, of getting into contact with thousands upon thousands of my fellow-countrymen and country-women, who have expressed in no hesitating terms their absolute determination to have nothing more to do with attempting to settle international disputes by these barbaric methods. The people of the generation that is now passing away have made up their minds on this question: Are we going to take advantage of the people's feeling? I will appeal to any of my hon. Friends behind me who think I am putting forward an extravagant: proposal, to see that, although it may be in advance of what other people have discussed, it really opens out the only method that is likely to be fruitful. I want my hon. Friends behind me, who, as Socialists, want to see a great change in the condition of the people of this country, whose hopes are high when the tide is turning so quickly in our favour—I want them to realise that our hopes, our ideals, and our principles will be shattered if the bugle call and the cloud on the horizon forebode war. I think it behoves all good Socialists and internationalists to do their utmost, to take their courage in both hands and to go forward, realising that it is only by a courageous step that you can bring the nations together in brotherhood.
In a recent visit to America, I was enormously and profoundly struck by the vast foreign populations living in that wonderful Continent—the hundreds of thousands of Italians, Germans, Czechslovaks, Scandinavians, Irish, negroes, all races, living together, mingling together, in amity, in unity, in co-operation, without any difficulty at all. Why? Because they have not got Governments to egg them on one against the other; because their natural feeling of brotherhood is allowed to express itself; because, in that great Continent, they can give us a lesson of internationalism which we could have learned too if the Governments would only be inspired by the spirit which lies deep down in the moral sense of the people. Few may support me to-day, but we few will be representing a 2235 very large body of opinion outside the House, as I have reason to know—a body of opinion which demands that we should take the lead in this matter, that we should come forward with a direct proposal for disarming ourselves, and that thereby we should make civilisation secure for posterity, otherwise we are laying up for posterity something that our imagination refuses to accept. I make this appeal to the Government and to the House in all parts. I believe the only way is the way of example. If you are confident that you are right, and if you are confident that what is right is also expedient, if you know you can release the burden from your people and spend it in far more fruitful ways, there is no power that can be successful against you, however evilly disposed or diabolically equipped. It is because I believe this way is the best way and the way implied in this Amendment is the way that will lead to this end that I stand here to-day and move it.
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
I consider it a very great privilege to second the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend so ably and with such great sincerity. Like him, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am speaking for myself only, but I shall be echoing also the opinions of a very rapidly increasing number of people all over this country, and other countries too. I do not pretend that I am speaking for the majority of my constituents, although I know that there is an increasing number who are beginning to see that the way of total disarmament is the only sane way ant the only right way. Whether it be expedient is another matter altogether, but it is certainly and definitely the right way, and because of that I think it ought to be brought up in this House, and I make no apology for bringing it up, and I hope it will be constantly brought before hon. Members here and all over the country. It is not that I have anything fresh to say on the subject. It is a subject that can be approached from very many angles. My right hon. Friend has given one and others around me will be giving theirs. I want to give my particular angle, and that is to approach this from the point of view that we have had put before us for the last 2,000 years, but have never yet accepted. I had precisely the same opinion that I hold 2236 now in 1914, and before 1914, and I went to considerable effort to air those opinions even in pre-War days. Therefore it may seem inconsistent that I joined the Army in 1914, but I did so chiefly because, although it was only a matter of 12 years ago, yet I w as very much more than 12 years younger then and I have learnt very much since. Thanks to the propaganda that is always spread at the beginning of every war, and will be spread at the beginning of every other war that is coming, thanks to the lies that are always told at those times, thanks to the clear knowledge of the psychology of the masses which the war-makers know how to exploit so well, I felt that if the German spirit, such as was told us, were to become predominant, it would be hopeless for me to go on propagating my ideas of what I wanted civilisation to reach to, and believing that, I felt it would be quite wrong for me to ask others to do what I refused to do myself. Therefore I enlisted.
We know now surely that the institution of war is an absolute fraud. It never does what it pretends to do. It cannot put right in front of might. It merely attests which has the greater armies or the best propagandists, may I say, and certainly and inevitably increases the poverty of the poor and the luxury of the idle and the rich. That result is always absolutely certain. I do not pretend to be any more sincere or earnest than many other very good people who will agree with much of that, but they say: "We are sorry about all this. It is a great tragedy, but it is a necessary evil." I do not agree. It will not be right, it will not be justifiable to say that war is a necessary evil until we have tried the method which was first propounded 2,000 years ago. When the Christian method of settling differences has been tried and found wanting, perhaps I may go with other people who will say that war is a necessary evil. Why has it not been tried? As I see it, just because Christianity has been made the tool of the rulers of this and of other countries. They have shaped it to their own ends. They have perverted the simple message that was given us and they have used it according to their own convenience, and we have not the courage to break away. If we had, there is no question as to what we should do. 2237 It is so much easier to listen to what others say that Jesus said, and what they say He meant, than it is to read the message for ourselves, and worry out our own interpretation. If we did that instead of listening to others I am certain as to the result. We may quibble about the particular meaning of a word or the particular application to our own day, but what can be simpler than what was told us, to quote only one passage?Ye have heard that it was said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, hut I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil, but whosoever smitest thee on one cheek, turn to him the other also, and if any man should go to law with thee and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also, and whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee and from aim that would borrow from thee turn not away. Ye have heard that it was said thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. I say unto you, Love your enemies, pray for them that persecute you, for he maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if yo love them that love you what reward have you P And if ye salute your brethren only what do ye more than others? Do not even the Gentiles the same?Is that true or is it not? Are we a Christian nation or are we not? If we are, let us accept that and act upon it and no longer be the hypocrites that we are when we proclaim and profess and call ourselves Christians and yet absolutely refuse to take any notice of that. No matter how much we may argue about the meaning of particular words or the particular passage here, there is no doubt at all that He meant it. His death proves that, and the blood of untold martyrs ever since His death has also witnessed to the truth of that. I do not mind our having wars and killing people so long as we do not call ourselves a Christian nation, but as an Englishman I object to being such a hypocrite as to call ourselves Christians and yet absolutely refuse to carry this out.
Many excellent people say "Yes, it is a pity, but we cannot do it; it is not practicable." I want to ask if yours is a practical means of settling differences. Supposing at the beginning of 1914, instead of taking up arms and using our force, some miracle had happened and we had said, "Let us try the policy of non-resistance. Let us try the Christian method," and at the end of the settlement of that difference we had to report 2238 that as the result of trying that method 10,000,000 human beings had been killed or maimed, I wonder what would have been said. Would it have been said that non-resistance was a practical remedy? Suppose, for instance, we had to report that as the result of trying non-resistance there were 150,000 human beings totally or partially blind. Last Friday we spent many hours here talking about blasphemy. To me there is no more horrible form of blasphemy than the very fact that human beings are maimed and killed in this way. We say the human individual was made in the image of God and is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Do we believe that? If we do what right have we to have nineteen millions a them maimed in this way? I could spend a long time bringing forward illustrations of that sort. We are all familiar with them. I could add also about our unemployed. I could add also about our great debts. I could add also that, war or no war, the mass of our people are always living in degradation and in poverty. In fact, one of the greatest indictments is that under Liberalism or Toryism, whichever you like—the two names stand for the same thing as I see them—the only time when the mass of our people attain even a fairly decent standard of life is just when you set the workers of this country killing the workers of other countries. Then you have millions of men who are at least well fed and well clothed and have fairly decent shelter. The people who were left at home during the last War attained a standard of living which they had not experienced for a very long time and have not attained since. Could there be a greater indictment of any system?
I am sure other Members have the same daily harrowing that I have to go through in those terrible letters from people in our constituencies telling us of their dire poverty, their dire need and their dire agony. All these things we know and we need not dwell upon them. This being true, therefore, is force a practical method of settling our differences? We know perfectly well that it is not. May I quote a very great authority upon this matter? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently written a book. I am very glad that 2239 he has done so. I would commend everybody to read the closing passage on page 524 of Volume 2, in which he says:To break their (the German's) strength and science and curb their fury, it was necessary to bring all the greatest nations of mankind into the field against them. Overwhelming populations, unlimited resources, measureless sacrifice, the sea blockade could not prevail for 50 months. Small States were trampled down in the struggle; a mighty Empire was battered into unrecognisable fragments, and nearly 20,000,000 men perished or shed their blood before the sword was wrested from that terrible hand. Surely, Germans, for history it is enough!I would say, "Surely, Christians, for history it is enough!" It is time that we ended such an insane method of trying to settle our differences. If I can take anyone with me along the road of my argument that force is not practicable, they will be entitled to ask: "Is the Christian method of non-resistance practicable?" May I quote one or two examples? There are few, tragically few. We are not the only nation which calls itself Christian. Denmark has now almost reduced its Army to police strength. Denmark is certainly in a much more difficult situation than we are. She is a small nation and she is much nearer to the countries which are always said to be seeking out their prey. I do not think Denmark is any less prosperous than she was before she took this courageous step. I would that we could say that we had done the same thing.
What about Germany? Germany in China, as the result of the Versailies Treaty, has had to carry on without any force. She has had no gunboats and no protection. What has been the result? There has been two results, as I see them. First of all, her trade has increased in China to a far greater proportion than our trade has increased. Moreover, during the trouble at Hankow the foreign population there witnessed the wonderful spectacle of Germans going about wearing armlets, on which were the words: "I am a German." That meant to say, "I have not a single soldier in this country to protect me, I have not a single gunboat, and because I have no force behind me I consider that I am safe and I want everyone to know that I am a German."
2240 May I also refer to the position of Russia in China? I know that this is a highly controversial subject, but I would like respectfully to submit that the reason perhaps that Russia has been held in such regard in China—it may be propaganda, I do not know, and I doubt whether anyone knows the truth about that—is because one or: the first acts of Russia after the revolution was to say to China: "Just as we believe in "Russia for the Russians," just as we believe that that is right for us, we believe that it is also right for China, and that China should be for the Chinese. Therefore, we will clear out as far as our Armies and Navies are concerned." I submit that that has had a great deal to do with the influence of Russia in China to-day. May I mention, in passing, that we have not paid sufficient attention to the effect of the missionary work that has been going on in China. For several generations China has been receiving—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We really must remember that these are Air Estimates. We cannot travel over the whole field quite so widely. The Amendment is that there shall be no Air Force. The hon. Member must keep himself within range of that.
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
I an very sorry to have been out, of order. What I am trying to show is why I object to the Air Force, and I am submitting that we have tried certain methods and that there are alternative methods. I was trying to give illustrations of what has happened when those alternative methods have been tried. I hope not to offend further. We have to substitute a grander idea instead of the idea of Air Forces, Armies or Navies. The present method and idea will not help in the essential task which we have to face of living together in this small world. All the lessons of recent times, if we will but read them, show that there are far more reasons why nations should live together than that they should be quarrelling with each other.
The unity of civilisation stares at us on every side. The most blue-blooded Member sitting opposite is nothing but a mongrel in the real sense, because in our veins there is the blood of the peoples of all sorts of nations. Starting from the 2241 Mediterranean shores and gradually working round to this country, we are a complete mixture. There is also the unifying influence of our language. Take any dictionary you like, and you will find that it shows a wonderful derivation of words. There you will find thousands of examples of words and usages which have come from all quarters of the globe. What about our food? Take the contents of any average meal table, and you will find that we depend upon the four quarters of the world for our food. What of our science I When you listen-in to-night, or at any time, remember that the man to whom we owe that wonderful science of wireless communication is a man who is an Italian on one side and an Irishman on the other. So hopelessly mixed up are we that we must make every effort so that nothing is put in the way of this unifying influence, of which the Air Force is one of the chief obstacles.
The policy of non-resistance does not mean that we have to be merely passive. I have no use for the proverb "Spare the rod and spoil the child." As an educationist, I submit that that problem is entirely different. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" must be interpreted that it is not right to use the rod any more than it is right to spoil the child. There is a middle course between force and spoiling, and educationalists of all nations ought to: put forward their intelligence in filling up the gap to the utmost of their ability. When I have talked over this subject with various people they have said: "Supposing Air Forces, Armies and Navies were scrapped, what would be the result? It would add to the unemployed." I do not know whether it is sufficiently realised that, if it were practicable, which it is not, to abolish the Air Force, the Army and the Navy to-morrow, we could keep all the people who are engaged in those Services to-day, give them their present rate of pay and allowances and be tremendously in pocket.
Sometimes in my dreaming I allow my imagination to wander, and I ask myself what uses could we make of the battleships and the aeroplanes if we were to abolish them as implements of destruction. As a teacher, it has been my lot to go to an education committee and to say: "I want, this, that or the other 2242 for my children." I remember on one occasion saying: "I believe that I could do my job very much better if you would allow me to take the children to camp during the school holidays. Unfortunately, I cannot take them to camp because they cannot afford even the meagre sum of money that is necessary, but if you will allow me 5s. a head for 40 boys I will take them to camp. I will transport them there and back, I will keep them for a whole month, shelter and feed them." The reply always was: "My dear Mr. Shepherd, you know that the country is bankrupt." "When one requires money for constriction, means cannot be spared, but when one wants money for destruction there is any amount of money available.
I could make a very much better use of aeroplanes and bombing machines for educational purposes if and when they are scrapped, as they will be some day. "We have to realise that the only way to stop war is to stop fighting, that the only way to stop fighting is to stop preparing preparing for fighting is to adopt total for fighting, and the only way to stop disarmament. That is the method I suggest. The Christian method would be far easier to apply to-day than it ever has been. We have the League of Nations, and we have 55 nations who have signed the Covenant of the League. Does that mean anything or nothing? War is not practical: it is an absolute fraud. War is not practical because it is founded on hatred and destroys life. The Christian way is the only practical way, because it is founded upon love which gives life, and life more abundant.
§ Captain CUNNINGHAM REID
I do not intend to follow the last speaker, if for one reason only and that is that I intend to be brief. In my experience in this House I have noticed that brevity is the only subject that is non-controversial and consequently I intend to go on those lines. I would like though to follow the hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ponsonby) and to point out that there is a note in regard to Vote A which reads:The decrease in the numbers to be voted as compared with 1926 is due to reductions of various establishments and chiefly to the decision made late in 1925 2243 to retard the rate of expansion of the Royal Air Force for home defence.5.0 p.m.
As a result I would point out to him that the number of personnel to be voted this year is, approximately, 33,000 as compared with 35,500 in 1926. But even so the hon. Gentleman has suggested that he is desirous of still further reduction. In fact he would like to see the total reduced to 1,000 as compared to 33,000. In other words, what he wants, as he frankly admitted, is complete disarmament. We on this side of the House are entitled to ask, if these are his feelings and the feelings of many hon. Members behind him, how was it that they did not attempt to carry this out when they had an opportunity about three years ago? Perhaps it is that this is only a necessary annual political device in the hopes of obtaining a few votes from the credulous throughout the country. But the hon. Gentleman knows quite well that what he has been suggesting is at present quite impossible, and I would suggest to him that instead of putting down such a futile reduction as this, his time would have been better occupied in attempting to persuade his Russian friends to make a move in this direction. I think if they did so that the whole complexion of disarmament would be changed. Until every nation in the world is prepared to carry out complete disarmament we in this House would be failing in our responsibility if we did not prepare for any contingency that might imperil the lives of British people. This is the more important when we bear in mind the peculiar geographical position of this country and our accessibility to hostile European Powers from an aerial point of view. I would recount a little incident that occurred to me during the War. We were stationed at Cambrai just behind the line, and on two occasions I left Cambrai at a reasonable hour in the morning and went to England and took part in a day's hunting with a well-known pack. I flew back the same day and arrived at the officer's mess that evening in good time for dinner and without my chief being even aware that I had been away. You may wonder why I make such a confession. It is simply in order to emphasise the mobility of the Air Force.
Hon. Members who have seriously considered the question of any future attack 2244 by a hostile nation upon this country will appreciate that if in the unfortunate event of War London was disorganised—London which is the key to all our communications—it would mean that war would be over so far as we were concerned in a few hours and to our disadvantage. It is a pity that London has not the strategical position of Warrington, the constituency which I have the honour to represent, as Warrington is so much further north than London. London from an aerial point of view is the most vulnerable town in the whole of the British Isles and this was amply shown during the War. Future attacks, should there be any, will undoubtedly be on a far larger scale than anything we have ever imagined. That being so, I ask myself, should such an attack take place, what would be the use of our Navy which cost £58,000,000 and our Army which is costing £41,000,000? Hon. Members can realise that in dealing with an air attack the combined arms of those two forces will have as much effect as shooting boiled peas at the Rock of Gibraltar. Yet it is suggested by the hon. Gentleman who moved this Reduction that we should reduce the Air Force personnel to 1,000 men, although it is obvious that future wars are going to be in the Air. This year it is intended to spend £150,000,000 on the Fighting Services and only £16,000,000 of that sum is going to be for the Air Force. I say deliberately that I would like to see the Air Force at least doubled and the cost deducted from the other two Services. Consequently, I was very interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air had to say when introducing these Estimates in his admirable speech. There was one paragraph which gave me a very strong impression that the Minister was somewhat of my own opinion. Unfortunately, he neither nods his head nor does he shake it, and so I am still left in doubt, as he has wisely cloaked his remarks in a veil of Ministerial respectability. I am quite convinced though that we will come to a redistribution of the Services sooner or later. For the simple reason that it would mean an increase of defensive efficiency and a decrease of national expenditure. This is all the more emphasised when we consider that the Air Force is the only Service where the 2245 expenditure is of use to us commercially. The greater the development of flying and the greater the efficiency of the aeroplane, the better it will be for civil aviation and world trade. I was very glad to hear that the Minister attached so much importance to civil aviation and Imperial routes. I was also interested to learn from him that an Air Route had already been started from Bagdad to Basra, complete with freight, passengers and strap-hangers. I hope in the near future we shall see pirate omnibuses on that route and on many others.
I realise too well that I am only one of many little Tory lambs bleating somewhat dismally from a wilderness of Back Benches, but I do trust in view of the fact that I have always given earnest consideration to this subject and that I have had a certain amount of practical experience of aerial warfare that my main suggestion on this occasion will receive some slight attention from the powers that be.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I find myself regretting very sincerely having to differ somewhat vigorously from the Amendment which has been moved and seconded by Members of my own party. I am giving away no secrets, I hope, when I say that there are several occasions in our party, as in all parties, when our members agree to differ. But I have never yet had any occasion to carry my differences with my colleagues either on to the Floor of this House or outside it. This time, however, I am fortified by the fact that this Amendment is not an official one, and does not represent the opinion of the Labour party in its official capacity. While that is so, and I am thankful it is so, the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment must not forget the very important fact that he occupied an important official position in the last Labour Government as representing the Foreign Office, and, in spite of the fact that the initiative in this Amendment has not been taken by the Labour party, the very fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonhy) and his sponsors who sit on the Front Opposition Bench have put it forward, makes it somewhat difficult for the ordinary man hi the street to differentiate one member of the party from the other. That is why 2246 I have taken this opportunity of making my position perfectly and definitely clear.
I have not the slightest doubt of the honesty of purpose of any of my hon. Friends who are moving in this direction. Nobody, for instance, can doubt the earnestness of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Shepherd), an eloquent speech, religious in every sense of the word, and so far as Christian principles are concerned, absolutely true. But we are not living 2,000 years ago, we are living in 1927. No one can doubt the honesty and sincerity and, if I may say so without being offensive, the simplicity of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrynageour) who has also associated himself with the Amendment. I can almost subscribe to every word they said so far as they were an objection to the horrible conditions of warfare. None of us have any doubts on that subject. The latest recruit to this House, the Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Wellock) has associated himself with this Amendment. I could have made the same speech myself, apart from the abolition of the Air Force, that was made by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. He and the hon. Member for Darlington recognise the horrible conditions of war on land or in the air, but their speeches did not touch the heart of the Amendment now before the House, which means, as bas been frankly admitted, the abolition entirely of the Air Force and the horrible nature of the warfare it inflicts on the population.
I agree with them there. We had an example in the last War of the horrible things that are inflicted on a people by this branch of the Service, the deaths, murders and mutilation of the inhabitants of this country by enemy aircraft, and while that warfare does exist are we going to abolish it and say that we are not going to attempt to set up any defence for our own non-combatants? Humane sentiments and intentions are splendid, and so far as a reduction or abolition of armaments can be achieved internationally I am heart and soul with the proposal. But we have to look at things as they exist at present, and it would not be human but inhuman to leave our population in the case of another outbreak of hostilities, which is not beyond the bounds of possibility I 2247 regret to say, at the mercy of any enemy aircraft who might raid this country. I take the suggestion of the hon. Members who moved the Amendment—example, example, example. If I thought the example of laying down our arms and abolishing our armaments on land or sea or in the air would influence other countries of the world I would certainly agree, but while we have a world in arms and there is yet a possibility of warfare, I cannot see that such an example would be followed by other countries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington spoke of the workers of different countries killing each other and of Russia for the Russians. Let me take the example of Russia, with no intention whatever of discoursing severely on Russia or anyone else. Russia to-day has a standing army of 650,000 men, with 8,000,000 men in reserve. Russia is manufacturing, so we are told on good authority, poison gas. What for? It is in order to maintain Russia's position. It appears to me that there is a tendency to regard as orthodox in every other country, in a country like Russia, the right to defend herself, but that it is heresy for this country to defend itself. I detest war, and the horrors of war will remain with me as long as I live. They will remain with the older generation of to-day, but I recognise, and the hon. Member for Brightside will, I hope, recognise, that since the beginning of the late War, a new generation has arisen which knows nothing of the horrors of war, which has never experienced them, and the spirit of adventure being alive, as it always is in the younger generation, the poverty which drives some of them into the Army, the recruiting; all these things make for the possibility of these horrors recurring; which God forbid. If war broke out again, it would not be Russia for Russia, but England for anybody who liked to attack it. That is a policy to which I am not prepared to subscribe at all. It may Os humane, magnificently eloquent and very heroic, but I am not in the heroic mood on this matter. It appears to me, in the face of all these circumstances, that it is more like political lunacy and, therefore, I am not prepared to assent to it.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I am sure the whole House appreciates the 2248 high ideals and the sincerity of the two hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Amendment, but whilst the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby) was giving us his peroration, describing the condition and wonderful progress of the United States, the thought occurred to me that there were 10,000 murders every year in the United States, and I wonder how far that would increase if the whole of their police force were removed. Surely, our forces to-day, if you take them on a comparative basis of the population of the Empire are no greater than the number of police we keep in this country or those which America keeps in the United States for the preservation of internal order. The forces we maintainto-day, as compared with war forces, are nothing more than a garrison or police force, and we must maintain a sufficient police force until the hon. Member considers that human nature has advanced to such an extent that we can withdraw all the internal police forces. I think we cannot withdraw the police forces of our Empire. Hon. Members opposite try to get rid of what they do not like by calling it a bad name. We cannot get rid of war by calling it a bad name. There is a strange similarity between the present Amendment and the Amendment moved by the official Opposition last week. The only difference, I admit it is a great difference, is that the Amendment moved by the official Opposition was to do away with the Air Force and civil aviation by agreement.
The hon. Member who has moved the Amendment to-day wishes to do away with the Air Force by way of example and not unilaterally. I do not think it is moved with the idea of being anything more than a gesture. The general view of the Opposition with regard to civil aviation is that it is of not of much value to this country and that it would be better, if possible, to prevent its development. It is just possible that the development of aviation is perhaps the most likely avenue by which the two hon. Members who moved seconded the Amendment are likely to obtain what they want. If we look back into history, we find that owing to the development of the sea power of this country, civilisation and peace was spread throughout the tremendous area of the British Empire, and if we try to take a lesson 2249 from what has happened on the sea to what might happen in the air, it is possible we may realise the vast possibilities of peaceful civilisation that might be provided. This country is in a unique geographical position compared with any other country in the world, and just as our forefathers had the wisdom to realise the advantages of sea-centrality and developed our great sea power, so now perhaps if our rulers realise our unique position in air-centrality which this country possesses we may be able to develop and exploit that position.
Might I in a few sentences explain what I mean by developing that position of air-centrality? If we go back into history, we find that there are only four great nations which have for many hundreds of years maintained a world power. There are a few others, like France and Spain, which have for a short period been great Powers. Those four were Babylonia, Egypt, Rome and, lastly, this country. If we try to deduce the reasons for the gradual transference of power from Babylonia to Great Britain, I think it is possible to deduce the vital fact which will show us what we could do in regard to our Air Force and the development of civil aviation. If we compare those four great nations we find that they were all different in race, in climate and in the character of their inhabitants, but each had two factors which were similar: Each was situated on the sea, and the other factor was that each was the centre of the then known trading world. As the centre of the trading world shifted, so did the focus of power. It did not shift to this country until the two Americas were discovered, and we became, in consequence, the centre of the trading world.
What was the reason for what one might almost call the sudden growth of this country from a small island on the outskirts of Europe ranking as a third-rate Power to the centre of the great Empire as we know it to-day? I think it was dependent on two inventions. It was dependent on the invention of the mariner's compass and the development of ships that could beat to windward. It was the combination of those two developments which put us in the centre of the trading world and allowed the trade of the Americas to flow in. To-day 2250 we have the sea-centrality of the world for all time. Our great sea routes are open to North, South, East and West, and, as we know, hundreds of millions of revenue are pouring into this country as the indirect result.
How does that bear on the question of air development? Is there any parallel between sea development and air development? Is there any parallel between sea-centrality and air-centrality, and, if there is, how shall we utilise our position, how shall we exploit our geographical position as our forefathers expoited our sea geographical position? I think that a matter of some substance arises here. There is not quite the same parallel between sea-centrality and air-centrality, for we were able to develop our sea-centrality because we were fortunate in possessing harbours that were open at all times of the year; but the air vehicle by its very nature is not dependent upon the configuration of the coast line, and France and Germany are in very much the same geographical position, so far as world distances are concerned, as is this country. Therefore our development of the air must necessarily depend to a much higher degree upon our own efforts than was the case in regard to the development of the sea. That Germany has not been slow to realise this, we can see from the fact that she is spending over £10,000,000 sterling this year on civil aviation. I know that the official figures show that she is spending only £2,300,000, but that is the national contribution and it does not include the contribution from the several States, such as Bavaria, Wurtemburg, Prussia and so forth, and it does not take into consideration the indirect subscriptions of such towns as Breslau, Dresden and the like. But that is the fact to-day: Germany is realising her position. She is spending over £10,000,000 sterling this year on the indirect development of civil aviation.
That I think, is a matter which must cause us to reflect, and to reflect whether the Amendment now before the House is one to which we can subscribe. So far as this country is concerned, we see France and Germany in civil aviation forging ahead of us by leaps and bounds. Germany already covers Europe with a close network of air lines and is extend-towards Asia. France already stretches down to Africa. America has more air 2251 miles to her credit than any other nation in the world. Of all the world records not one is possessed by this country. When we are in this position, an hon. Member opposite moves the Amendment which is now before the House. I think we have to find out what it is which will give us the equivalent in the air that the mariner's compass and the ability to beat to windward gave us in regard to the sea. I think that the answer is clear. It is the development of machines, whether they are lighter than air or heavier than air, which will give us a sufficient economic radius of action to reach out to the outer Empire and the Americas.
It must not be forgotten that with the exception of Malta, which is 1,500 miles away, no portion of our Empire is within 3,000 miles of this country. Therefore, it seems to be that aviation to-day in this country is in exactly the same position as was the development of our sea power in the 14th century. If that be so, I think it would be desirable to consider whether we should alter in any way the policy which we are pursuing. Does that consideration of our unique geographical position determining the method by which we should develop our aviation, have any ultimate effect upon the Votes under consideration to-day? Are we spending the money in the best possible way? Before we can answer that question we must ask what our Air Force is for and what is its function. One is met with somewhat of a paradox when one endeavours to answer that question. I asked the Secretary of State for Air some questions in order to find out two things—what was the expenditure of our Air Force to-day, and what we were likely to want in an Air Force in time of war. The answers were rather illuminating. In 1917–18, the last year of the War, we constructed a total of 34,147 machines. This year we have constructed under 1,000. In 1917–18 we trained no fewer than 8,000 pilots This year we trained 410. In 1917–18 we spent £150,000,000 sterling on aviation contracts; this year, 1925–26, we spend £4,400,000. Surely that means that our present Air Force is approximately 4 per cent of what we require in time of war.
Therefore the real criterion of our aerial strength must necessarily be the 2252 rate at which we can develop and expand that Force in time of war. At the present time we have no reserves, and we cannot have any reserves until we create an aerial mercantile marine in the same way as the Navy is able to draw upon that which we have at sea. Therefore in regard to the expenditure of the £20,000,000 sterling provided in these Votes, the question is whether it is desirable to spend practically the whole of that amount on a relatively small fighting organisation which can at present be nothing but a training organisation composed of short range machines, when in order to obtain greater security we have to rely upon the development of a commercial air navy. The present Air Force has not more than a fortnight's supply of machines for a time of war; or, to put it in another way, our rate of manufacture of men and machines is not more than a fortnight's supply in time of war. It is upon that basis that I think the present Estimates disclose their inherent weakness. If it be true that our real security depends upon the rate at which we can expand, it is somewhat difficult to imagine how by an expenditure of only £4,000,000 a year on the various factories which manufacture these machines, we can expect to have that possibility of expansion. Therefore it might be thought that if we were to spend more upon civil aviation we should be able to have a very much greater reserve than that which we have to-day.
For instance, if one takes the cross-Channel service, with the overhead charges already paid by subsidy, an additional mileage can be flown at a profit. But if we look at our Estimates in this way, with £10,000,100 spent upon civil aviation and £10,000,000 on military aviation, it would imply that for every £1 spend on civil aviation a further £2 would be spent by the public by virtue of the fact that they would pay for the services rendered to them. By that means we should more than double our present production, and our present organisation dealing with the production of aviation machines. I know full well the stock arguments which are used against diversion of any moneys to civil aviation. I know that the military authorities are against it. They raise the question of the different character of the training required and the necessity 2253 for greater ground organisation, and the unsuitability of commercial machines for military work. But I entirely repudiate the idea that any of these objections is either valid or relevant. I think that they are directed to only one side of the problem. They take no cognisance of the fact that, if it is true that our unique geographical position determines the method by which we should develop our air forces, we should devote our main energies to the production of long-distance machines.
Therefore I think we come to this position: The country cannot be expected to maintain in time of peace a force which is adequate for war purposes. Until we can establish a great commercial air organisation we must remain without that manufacturing capacity which can give us that rapid provision of fighting machines. But this capacity for rapid expansion is our real and only insurance. Therefore it is a question whether the £20,000,000 that we now spend upon aviation, which is spent only as an insurance and can be spent as nothing else, is spent in the right way. I suggest that there are adequate reasons for a considerable change in our policy. I suggest that the Secretary of State for Air might consider setting up a Royal Commission to inquire whether drastic curtailment could not be made in expenditure upon military aviation, and whether that sum so saved might not be devoted to civil aviation. I admit at once that such a reorganisation could not be done by a stroke of the pen. I believe our policy in that respect has been wrong since 1919. The advisers to the Secretary of State for Air have been looking continually towards another war in Europe, and towards the development of an Air Force which would be used again in a Continental war. I suggest that there are other considerations. I suggest that we ought to take more of a world outlook than that; and if that be so, I think it is time that some investigation was made into this matter. I realise the difficulties of the Secretary of State for Air. He has done what he could. His conversations at the Imperial Conference and his recent flight to India have shown which way his mind is working. I appreciate the fact that he realises to the full the necessity for these long-range machines, but I suggest to him that, if it be the fact that our real 2254 insurance in war—as I think I have shown—must depend on our capacity to expand, it is better to double the total money spent on aviation by subsidising and forcing along civil aviation so that our actual reserve will be greater, while, at the same time, we may exploit for this country the benefit of the air-centrality of the world.
In conclusion, I suggest to the House hat as soon as we have these long distance machines to reach but to the distant parts of the world, England will be secure and will ever more become the trading centre of the world. Just as the sea-centrality of the world has given us hundreds of millions of pounds of indirect commercial benefit, so I believe will air-centrality, developed in this way, give us indirect benefits in a like degree. As far as one can see at present, the heavy merchandise of the world must always be carried on the water, but the high-class freight, such as mails and passengers, will, I believe, be transferred entirely by air within a generation. Is it not worth making a great effort to acquire practically the whole of this trade for this country? Is it not better to make that effort than to allow the possible 'benefits to be snatched from us by Germany or France? It is upon those grounds that I ask the Secretary of State for Air sympathetically to consider the point of view I have indicated. I appreciate all he has done for aviation, and I make these suggestions, not with a view to creating difficulties for him, but in order to try to show how I believe great indirect benefits can be brought to this country.
I wish heartily to support the Amendment which has been so ably submit Led from the Front Opposition Bench. I accept the credential for simplicity which has been given me by the hon. Gentleman my colleague on this side who has spoken from his own far-seeing point of view. We have heard a very carefully stated case in support of the view that there is no hope along the lines on which we are now proceeding in regard to this matter. Referring to the Seconder of the Amendment, an hon. Member on the Opposition side, who disagrees with the Amendment remarked that a certain quotation from the New Testament only brought us up to 2,000 years ago, and he 2255 remarked that we were now living in 1927. That was evidently an indication that after these 2,000 years, it seems impossible, even for those of us who profess the Christian faith to proceed with its applicaton. I am satisfied on the same eternal authority as has already been quoted that—The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God,And I am further assured on the same unchallengeable authority that, with all our worldly wisdom, a little child will be able to lead us. If the "little contemptible army" on the Opposition side on this question are to-day looked upon with disdain as altogether impractible, it will be only in accordance with historical precedent. History has shown that the little contemptible forces in the past became the great achieving and successful movements of later days. As in the case of the Navy Vote, I am quite satisfied, in regard to this Vote, from expert evidence concerning all armaments, that we have no defence in the real sense of the word for our country, as a result of the policy which has been pursued up to now. I have carefully reviewed and examined some of the evidence bearing, for example, upon the question of gases. Gas is one of the formidable methods which we are told is necessary to meet certain emergencies. Brigadier-General Hartley has stated in the "Army Quarterly" that there is every likelihood of trouble arising from the difficulty of making a close enough definition as to what gas or gases might be excluded by an international agreement. He goes further and says that it is a very difficult question and that it might prove to be the match which would set alight the whole concern.
The Prime Minister reported to the House last Thursday on a personal investigation which he made into the question of the numerous accidents in connection with the Royal Air Force. Speaking of the accidents which have occurred in recent times to those wonderful young men who carry out astounding flights, the right hon. Gentleman said he was completely satisfied in regard to the evidence of these accidents, and he thought it would he inadvisable to reveal such evidence, both from the point of view of those who mourned the loss of 2256 loved ones killed in such accidents, and also from the public standpoint. I find in the same "Army Quarterly" to which I have already referred, an editorial which devotes considerable space to this question, and from that very careful elucidation of the subject I am not satisfied with the answer given by the Prime Minister. He said that, these young men might be classified as adventurous, and that they were entitled to all the credit we could possibly give them. No one is likely to gainsay the adventurous spirit or the courage which enables them to accomplish such feats. On the other hand, if we are to consider a question like this, it is far more important that the young men of our times should get into serious grips with the realities of this problem.
They will have to Face the problem—and so will others—because there is one advantage about modern developments in regard to war, and it is that old men are going to "get it in the neck" as well as the young men. War now includes us all. It will in future be an "all-in" movement, and there will probably be no movement at all for many of us at the end of it all, judging by the authorities on the gas question. But if the young men of our times are to consider this matter on higher grounds than those submitted by the Prime Minister, they should begin to examine not merely how accidents take place in the air service, but also how the particular emergency which we call war arises. It is reckoned that an important feature of the next war will be the activity of the air service, and the young men of our times who are growing up to take our places would be doing well to study those memorials which are placed in our churches to-day and those monuments in every city, town and village which tell of the eventuality described in this way by Mr. R. C. Hawkin, writing in the "Nineteenth Century":The war to end war has proved a costly fiasco. We all want security, or, better still, tranquillity, hut are we more secure to-day than in 1913? We are staggering under taxation, two-thirds of which we pay for past or future wars. Germany is disarmed, but Europe has more soldiers under arms to-day than in 1913 and tranquillity is absent even where the Fascists are supreme. Twelve million soldiers have died, yet more must he drilled.2257 I heartily concur in the statement which has been made from this side in support of the Amendment, and I say it is the bounden duty of every man, whether on the Government side or the Opposition side, to support the principles laid down. Every leader of the Opposition should be on the Front Bench now. I am quite well aware this is not a proposition from the party, but that is no reason why we should not recognise the courage of a colleague, who has held an important office in the Labour Government. We should not only have respect for the proposition which is here put forward, but for the courage of a colleague in standing up to this issue. No Labour movement is ever going to accomplish its objects unless it is capable of making the proposition which is made here to-day. It will be said, indeed it has been said against this proposition, that the Mover of it has held a responsible office, and that it is therefore apt to complicate matters. I sat here to-day, as I sat last night at a public meeting in London, and heard my hon. Friend make his deliverance.
That is the special reason why I am satisfind that it is a man who has held office and met that kind of argument against him already, as I heard him answer last night. He was asked: "What about your prospects of taking office?" and the answer he gave was: "I do not trouble about that kind of thing.' When the Labour movement can produce men who are prepared to take the Front Bench and stand on a basis of that kind, then we are going to have a realistic Labour movement. In the meantime, we have an apologetic situation. I quite admit that on this occasion, as on every occasion in this House, I speak for myself, and when I speak I mean it. If I have an entitlement to simplicity—and I have got that credential already—I prefer it rather than a compliment in the way of duplicity. I am quite satisfied, not only on this question, but on many other questions, that we have too much stage management too much of wasting hours in discussion of the question whether we should make some substantial reduction or not.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I must ask the hon. Member to remember that we are dealing with the Air Estimates.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I thought I was getting on very well, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) has been writing on "A Conservative's Misgivings," and saying:Conservatives bitterly complain of the lack of efforts to economise our public services. They point out that here in 1927, after two years of Conservative Government, we are actually spending some; £30,000,000 more than the Socialist Government spent when in office.That shows that there is a comparison on the question of the amount spent, and on that you can have a very lengthy discussion, but I want to keep closely to the issue that has been presented so well here to-day. When, during the War, we had destruction done to non-combatants, there was a tremendous hue and cry about this infringement of established and thoroughly recognised war regulations. I am not much of a believer in the possibility of sustaining war regulations. Once you agree that you are going to kill, it is likely to result in something happening in the way of death, and, when the sexton is called in, you are charged neither with simplicity nor with duplicity. Here we are face to face with the fact, and, dealing with the Air Service, all that goes off the board. There is no question of non-combatancy at all. Men, women, and children have all got to get it, and I ask you seriously to face that question as we are presenting it here to-day. We are expending money in some degree, at any rate, upon some of these projects for social improvement or the eradication of the scourge of cancer, and if we take that line of reasoning and put against it the deliberate, set purpose of the Government in this matter of armaments—on the ground, of course, that other Governments are bent on doing the same thing—how can we square that with intelligence, with consistency, with the discharge of our duty in the highest interests of mankind?
If we looked at these matters in the way in which, I submit, we ought to be facing them, we should tackle the real problem. It has been well said already that the scheme now in operation in connection with the League of Nations, whereby the Preparatory Commission is 2259 studying the question of disarmament under set conditions, is beset with restrictions. It is so beset that, in truth, I am thoroughly convinced that it is meant deliberately to obviate the real question. We are bound to face this question. We are heading to a situation that is quite frankly declared oftentimes in this House, and appalling to contemplate, when even our former Ally in the War, France, is now just as freely spoken of as our prospective opponent in the air as formerly we spoke of Germany in regard to the sea. Is not that an evil thing, after all that we have said? Germany is developing commercial aviation in a marvellous fashion. We are not in it. We are far and away behind the capacity and the ability of the Germans in this matter, and they are doing things now that, it has been pointed out by authorities, we ought to have been able to do. Germany is the leader in the movement to-day, and is now in the position that we occupied after all our loss of life and expenditure of money in the War, and now we have the position emphasised by a speaker on the other side of the House that Germany is shooting ahead of all the nations in this matter of commercial aviation.
What have we accomplished in those years 1914–1918? The hon. Member for Northern Lanark (Sir A. Sprat) said that the enemy did not accomplish their purpose, but what was their purpose? It was declared to be their own defence. [Laughter.] Our declaration was the same. Of course, the hon. Member opposite laughs, but other people, in the other countries, laugh when we say the same thing here. That is the imbecility of the whole concern. We know very well that the whole plan of war depends—and more so in what are called up-to-date times than in the past—very specially upon the deliberate policy of inspiring hatred among the masses of the people themselves. The appalling tragedy of it, in regard to the Air Service, is that these multitudes of people in every nation are not going to be able through their air services to defend their own country. We have to send those forces to rain clown gases and bombs and every kind of utensil to distribute evil upon the whole human family. When you think of going on for days, months, and years with what we call legislation on this, that, or the 2260 other proposition, do you not think we have reached the stage when we should stop all our legislating, and see whether there is going to be any sense in legislating at all? It is being openly declared by very able men, very representative men, that we are moving directly to the collapse of civilisation. I have here a sermon preached by a Minister of the Gospel, who is a very noted representative of the churches, in which he stated:It would be far more than a noble gesture, it would be a great witness to the irreconcilable antagonism between Christ and war, if the Church of Christ, in real penitent remembrance of the past, were with one voice to make the strong assertion, 'Never again!' and to resolve that her whole ministry would be free from all compromise with wrong and from henceforth be wholly devoted to the Gospel of Reconciliation. That more than all else would guide the Church out upon the road that leads sure and straight to the final victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. And if, at any great crisis it meant the ascent of Golgotha, the Cross would once more lead straight to the Garden of the Resurrection.That is from a sermon preached in the Moncrieff United Free Church at Alloa, by the Reverend Charles Robson, who is a leading Minister of the United Free Church. I want to say to-day, and very particularly, that. I lay a special onus upon the Church; and when I refer to the Church in this connection, I am referring to that Church as a whole, that Church which in the real sense has no division. I submit that the Church was traduced and was brought into collusion with the State in a nefarious international war, in which phrases such as "A war for holiness" were used. A declaration of that kind, in a world stained with sin, and to speak of one section of the human family as if they were the most ungodly of the whole crowd, and to speak of ourselves as if we alone were entitled to claim righteousness was a travesty of the truth. When I think of the appeal made for brotherhood in the last sentence of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, I think of that great brotherhood movement that we have in this country, and in that connection of the Report, to which I have referred, by the Prime Minister on the question of the young men. Nothing would be finer than that the brotherhood of our country should come together on the basis of this appeal of the Reverend Charles Robson— "Never again!"
2261 Reference is being made time and again in this House to the question of the necessity for trade unions keeping out of politics. If there be anything to be said on that score, I make answer that this same Brigadier-General Hartley maintains, on the question of gases, that it is essential to have certain industries for that particular purpose, and that those industries, for that reason, must be reckoned as wastage along with armies. When you talk about the prospects of bringing unity and agreement on these matters, you know very well that you give your own answer—human nature being as it is, you cannot depend upon it. My answer to that is, that there is in every country now a movement against war. This is no mere isolated movement here. It is growing in this House, and, although I have heard some of the Members upstairs saying that our movement is likely to be damaged by the impracticable character of the proposition, and that we are likely to lose by it, if a party is to be concerned about how it is to secure votes rather than how it is going to lay down given principles and stand by them, I make answer, on the same Eternal Authority I have already quoted, that in order to gain our lives we must be prepared to lose them. Better far for a party with exalted ideals to hold aloof than to be after power and office—power to use the Air Service, the Navy and the Army, and to have, perhaps, the Minister responsible for the Air Force again paying a tribute which he paid to the Under-Secretary of State for Air in 1924, by remarking that while he held eon: scientious objections, everyone in the House greatly appreciated the very practical way in which he had met the emergency by managing the affairs of his Department so well.
If we are going to stick like a leech to office in that sort of fashion, I say "Never for me, whatever prospects and advantages there may be for a party of that kind." I would rather speak for myself and those who sent me here, and never have any connection with that party. We are getting nearer to the time when the bill must be met; the cheques must be cashed or dishonoured. The time is coming when there will be no defence on the ground of not having power as well as office. Far better not to have the office and not to have the 2262 power in that sense. Far better to wield the power of conviction. That is one of the best hopes for the Labour movement and the Labour party. I know perfectly well the practical difficulty of the Front Bench man. I know there are those who though not sitting on the Front Opposition Bench now, would, nevertheless, like to he with us. The party must be careful while dressing the window not to give too much indication of selling the things in the shop window when people ask for them.
Far better on this momentous issue to declare our position. I stand as I did do in the War, and in the course of a particular Election against one candidate, and that candidate the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I declared then, in answer to a question which was in tended to bait, and in some degree cost us loss of political strength at the poll, "Do you say there is a greater moral courage than that which is demonstrated by the man who wins the Victoria Cross?" I said, "I do," and there and then the Press of that city utilised my reply in order to secure, as I am told they did secure against me, the loss of some thousands of votes. Even a politician does not live by votes alone. A real man is more than a politician, and he stands by his position. We said then that the conscientious objector was right and we told Dr. Norwood in his campaign for the League of Nations movement in the City of Dundee, that he had really brought us to this position that the Church ought to be the conscientious objector. He said "You know, Mr. Scrymgeour, they went to prison and that was all." I said "Was that all I Do you tell me that when Paul went to prison, that was all? Do you tell me when Christ went to Calvary, that was all? "Oh! he said, "the Church is troubled with much serving." "Yes," I said, "in strange places." The Church makes the defence that she is not entitled to enter the political arena. Then I ask why it was that the Church was brought into the arena of bloodshed, and Dr. Norwood himself made the confession that even the Ministers of our Pulpit were responsible for that incitement to hatred that did not even exist on the battlefield. I ask why did the Church occupy that position? The Church is now in the mire and practically deserted. 2263 You can make all the excuses for evading the Sermon on the Mount, while pretending to believe in it, but I dare anyone to assert that He who delivered that sublime message did not mean it. That would indeed be blasphemy to dare to say such words of Him who spoke from that Mount. I rejoice and thank God today for the opportunity of standing here to back the right hon. Gentleman in the appeal he has made, on the basis of God's Word, which we know can never return void.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
I have listened to the very eloquent and very sincere speeches of the supporters of this Amendment They have both quoted Scripture at very considerable length. I always think politicians are ill-advised when they quote Scripture in support of their own opinions, and for the refutation of their opponents, because more often than not, owing to the peculiar nature of the sacred words, they can be used equally against those who employ them as against those whom they seek to attack. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Shepherd) quoted from Scripture the words about turning the other cheek, and giving the coat also when the cloak is taken. Would he apply the same language to some of his friends who are advocating the class warfare in his own country? Would he go to the workers who had gone out on strike, because some portion of their wages had been taken from them by their employers, and urge them to give up the rest of their pay, and to offer non-resistance in the same way that he is asking us to make use of non-resistance in dealing with other countries?
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment, however, did not, quote Scripture, but was kind enough to quote with approval some words I used in a speech in the country at a League of Nations meeting some while ago, and I have intervened in the Debate in the hope of being able to show to the House that there is a great deal to be said for an active disarmament policy from an entirely different point of view from that which has been so far represented from the other side of the House, and a great deal which, I think, will appeal to moderate, sensible opinion in every quarter of the House. I believe that at 2264 the present time the greatest danger which this country is running is due to the excessive expenditure in all Government Departments. I believe that the need of retrenchment has been lost sight of; we hear less and less of it. Motions are brought forward. One was discussed yesterday in another place, and some very sensible speeches were made by Noble Lords, but that was the end of the matter, and nothing was done. When we are discussing the possibility of retrenchment, we always come back in the long run to the spending Departments, the Service Departments, as being the only real hope of attaining any substantial reduction. I remember a year ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced what was called an Economy Bill, and on that occasion he made a very comprehensive, clear and impressive survey of national expenditure, and showed to the satisfaction of most of us how impossible it is to hope for any material reduction of expenditure in any of the ordinary Departments of this country at the present time, until you come back to those Departments which are spending money upon armaments.
In the Debate earlier this week upon the Admiralty Estimates, the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) was true enough to the traditions of that almost defunct party to say one word on behalf or retrenchment, but, to my mind, he spoilt his plea by saying that such retrenchment must come from within the Admiralty itself. If we wait until the Departments concerned come forward with really substantial economy proposals, we shall wait for ever. I go further and say, I do not think it is their business to suggest economy. I think it is the duty of the civil servant or anybody employed in the Admiralty or War Office to take the view that his Department is the most important in the State; that everyone employed in the Admiralty should think that nothing matters but to get the largest and the most efficient Navy he can wring out of the taxpayer; that, similarly, anyone employed at the Treasury should think that nothing matters except saving money, and that the official at the Foreign Office should think that nothing matters but the preservation of friendly relations with foreign countries. It is for the Minister, the politician, to take a different view. It is for him to weigh 2265 risks, and I suggest there are greater risks facing this country at the present time than defeat in battle. If you study the history of great countries, especially countries like ours, which depend chiefly upon sea power and commerce, you will find that in nearly every instance it was not defeat in war that led to their downfall. It was bad business and loss of trade. Let Ministers, therefore, weigh in the balance at this moment which we risk most in this war-weary world, where the other Powers which possess great armaments are our sworn friends, and, at the present moment, cannot be said to constitute any immediate menace—let them weigh that danger as against the danger of falling into practical bankruptcy, owing to the excessive expenditure, which prevents any revival of commerce, or return of that prosperity to which we Lave been looking forward so long.
The early cities of Greece, which more than 2,000 years ago achieved a civilisation we have never equalled, fell owing to excessive expenditure on armaments, and I may add, for the benefit of hon. Members opposite, that their fall was accelerated by the introduction of measures of nationalisation of private property. It was not a horde of barbarians who destroyed the Roman Empire, but the hopeless confusion of their finances, It was not the defeat of the Spanish Armada which brought down Spain, but the ambitious policy which was followed under Phillip II, which necessitated excessive expenditure. One of the countries most similar to ourselves in being dependent upon sea power and commerce was Venice. As long as they were prosperous, their navy was wiped out twice in the 14th Century, and they went on to greater power and prosperity; but when they lost their trade, and their finances became hopeless, owing to the loss of that trade, they rapidly dwindled into nothing, and finally lost their independence without, being able to strike a blow.
Let Ministers weigh the different dangers that beset this country at this time, and not be guided by their professional advisers, whose duty it is to urge only one point of view, and ask themselves seriously, "What is the greatest danger which besets this country?" That is one reason why I support an active policy of disarmament. 2266 There is one other reason, and a more important reason. There is one political object before all politicians of all parties and of all countries which I believe to be of greater importance than the prosperity of any country or the integrity of any Empire, and that is the prevention of another catastrophe such as that which we have survived, The Prime Minister himself has said,One mom war in the West, and the whole of the civilisation of the ages fall with as great a crash as that of Rome.I believe those words are profoundly true, and surely it is our bounden duty to do everything in our power to prevent the recurrence of such a catastrophe. We know something of what the next war will be. We know that it will so far surpass in horror the last war as the last war surpassed in horror all others. We know that the combatants, the protagonists, will no longer be the young men in the trenches, but the professors sitting in their laboratories, and the victims will be men, women and children lying in great Cities.I myself am not in favour of any temporary agreement for mitigating the horrors of that war.
For the life of me, I can never understand why it is more cruel to puff a whiff of poison gas into a man's face than to pump an ounce of red hot lead into his stomach; and the arguments for temporarily abolishing such peculiarly horrible weapons are faulty for two reasons. In the first place, nobody can he trusted to keep such an agreement; it is putting too great a power in the hands of the unscrupulous. It may be said that in previous warfare certain rules have been observed, such as not firing on the envoys of peace, and not murdering the wounded; but those laws were observed because it never paid anybody very much to break them. You could not win a war by shooting the herald; you could not win a war by being cruel to your prisoners; but you could very easily win a war if you employed poison gas when everybody else had promised not to do so. You could win the war in a single Clay if it were properly prepared, and the old maxim, "Salus reipublicae supreme est lex" might very well be brought forward on behalf of any nation which was standing with its back to the well 2267 For those reasons, I do not believe that le the right way to get disarmament of the kind we want, though I would encourage every disarmament conference. Although I believe a great deal can be done by disarmament conferences, at the same time the difficulties are so enormous, the technical difficulties in the way are so tremendous, that progress must necessarily be slow, and the progress that we have already made has not been altogether encouraging. The Washington Conference produced an agreement between the great Naval Powers to undertake to build only a certain number of ships of more than 10,000 tons. What was the result? That all those Powers immediately devoted themselves to building a far larger number of ships under 10,000 tons. I believe the risk of setting a great example in this matter is one that this country would be well advised at any rate to consider. I believe that if that example were set, it would be followed. Whatever the desires of stares-men and politicians in other countries might be, public opinion would be sufficiently strong to compel them eventually to follow that example. I believe that, both from the point of view of this country and from the point of view of the world at large, it would be a sane and a wise policy.
But I cannot for a moment support the Amendment before the House. I think it does far more harm to the cause in which I believe than it does good. In the first place, why is the Air Ministry selected? The Air Ministry, which spends less than any other Ministry; the Air Ministry, which is occupied with the most modern and most efficacious form of armament, and that which is most cheaply produced? If you are going to have armaments at all, let them be cheap and deadly. Criticise those armaments which make wars long, criticise those which are most costly, but do not criticise those which are least costly and which produce the greatest possible effect; and, after all, we must remember that the League of Nations imposes upon us certain obligations, certain police obligations. Only yesterday, or the day before, at Geneva, there was a discussion as to the attitude that countries ought to take in order to prevent war when war 2268 seemed on the point of breaking out, the attitude they ought to take towards a nation which refused to pay any attention to the decrees of the Leaguer and there was a majority strongly in favour of an air demonstration as one of the methods which should be adopted. If we were to abolish our Air Force, we should be unable to take any part in a demonstration of that kind, should be unable to fulfil our duty as members of the League of Nations; because the League of Nations must have some sanction behind it, and behind that sanction there must be some possibility of force. Otherwise, nations such as the great, powerful Russian nation, which openly sneers at the League, flaunts it and defies it, will he encouraged to go on defying the League—unless it be realised that the League does stand for something more than a debating society-and has some real power of carrying its decrees into effect. That is another reason why a real supporter of the League of Nations ought not to vote for the Amendment.
There is another and a more important reason still. The League of Nations depends upon the support of ordinary people all over the world. The cause for which the League stands can never succeed unless we produce a state of mind in this country and in every other country in which the ordinary man in the street turns to the League of Nations as naturally as he now turns to the Law Courts, as he now turns to the police, as he now turns to the natural defence of law in this country. How are we going to bring that about? We shall not get it as long as we frighten people away by Amendments of this kind, which make people think that all supporters of the League of Nations are cranks and faddists and fanatics, which make them think that all supporters of the League of Nations believe in abolishing the Army, the Navy, and the Air Service to-morrow, As long as people believe that, they will say the League of Nations is all nonsense, that it is a fad, that it belongs to the highbrows, the intelligentsia., it is not a real thing, that it will never work, adding, "Look at the sort of people who support it." I believe the support of such people is perfectly genuine, but they do more harm than good to the cause for which they are working.
2269 I would implore those to whom this appellation of cranks or faddists or fanatics can apply to hide their light under a bushel, lest the glare of it should frighten away from the League of Nations more sane, more sober, and more moderate people; because only by the assistance of these people can the League of Nations ever succeed in the task which I honestly believe is the greatest that confronts all politicians at the present time, and that is the task of preventing a recurrence of the great catastrophe of war. It is not the duty of this generation to prepare for the next war, but to prevent it. If that war comes, it matters comparatively little whether the nations engaged, who will emerge eventually bankrupt and ruined, are in a position to call themselves victors or vanquished, because whichever nation wins and whichever nation loses, civilisation, in the words of the Prime Minister himself, will have been destroyed for ever. Our duty, therefore, is to prevent that catastrophe. By our success or our failure in that duty we shall be judged by posterity, because upon our success or our failure the happiness of posterity will depend.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
What I have to say on my own behalf and on behalf of t small number of hon. Members who agree with me can be said in a very few words. There are several of us in favour of the present Amendment, and prepared to go into the Lobby to support it, but not, perhaps, for the same se of reasons as have been expressed in the House this afternoon. Personally, I cannot take the very high moral ground on this matter which some hon. Gentlemen on these Benches have adopted. I cannot declare myself a pacifist, as absolutist., or a non-resister. I cannot proclaim myself as having any sympathy whatever with the Doukhobor creed. In this House a week ago the Government, through the mouthpiece of the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, declared that there was no money in the British Treasury with which to find economic and socially-useful work for our unemployed fellow citizens; that the task of finding relief work had had to be damped down, as there was no money. The Government have declared that the programme of house building has to be greatly curtailed—there is to money. Social re- 2270 form was to be cut down—there is no money. Education and other social services have to be cut down—there is no money. With over 1,000,000 of oar fellow citizens starving, their lives blasted and ruined because they can find no master, with our own country going to the dogs, I for one decline, so long as the Government can find no money for social reforms, which raise the standard of civilisation in the country, to assist in the continuance of the present state of affairs by voting another penny piece for militarism of any kind whatsoever. It is not only the Air Force, but the Army and the Navy; they cost a total of; £120,000,000. To defend what? To defend a social order in which more than 1,000,000 of our fellow citizens cannot get employment. So long as His Majesty's Government are prepared to defend the present social order, to relieve Super-tax payers of their taxes, thus reducing their share of the national expenditure, and so long as they declare in the callous way they do at that Box that nothing can be done for the starving poor, then I and some others who agree with me are going into the Division Lobby on every possible occasion to vote for the cessation of insurance expenditure which does not protect the majority of out fellow citizens.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Samuel Hoare)
The speeches of the two hon. Members for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour and Mr. Johnston), each of them very sincere, raised many interesting questions which illustrate, I think, one of the difficulties of this Debate. We are discussing the Air Force Estimates. Yet during the last two or three hours the discussion has roved over every conceivable question both of political and religious importance. Indeed, during the whole course of the Debate scarcely a single reference has been made to the Air Force. During the time I propose to occupy the attention of the House I want to get hack more directly to the particular Amendment and the particular Estimates. At the same time, let me say at the outset that I fully realise the sincerity of the arguments which have been used to-day; and I think hon. Members who have heard me speak before on the question of disarmament will give me credit—and I hope I shall 2271 show they have every reason to give me credit—for holding the opinions I do just as sincerely as they hold theirs. During the course of my speech I shall attempt to put a different view from that which has been put by hon. Members opposite, and I claim to he just as sincere in my desire to see a restriction and a limitation of armaments as any wish which hon. Members opposite may have in their minds. The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby) has compared the Government with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I do not know how far that is applicable to me, but I should have thought there was something to be said for applying it to the Front Benches opposite, and even to the hon. Member for Brightside himself. Here we have an Amendment put forward for the total abolition of the Air Force. Only a week ago we had an Amendment of a very different character, suggesting the making of reductions gradually, and making them dependent upon a system of disarmament adopted by all other countries.
Going back to the time when the hon. Member for Brightside was a member of the Socialist Government, so far as I remember I think he voted for the Air Estimates proposed by the tinder-Secretary of State for Air, who was a member of his own Government, and which proposed the carrying out of a policy which differs practically in no respect from the policy which I am putting before the House to-day. The hon. Member's dual personality seems to express itself one way in office, in another way during the Committee stage of the Air Force Estimates, and in a different way on the Report stage. The hon. Member who seconded this Amendment in a speech which covered very wide ground made a number of allusions to the religions side of the problem, and although I do not agree with the arguments he used or the conclusions at which he arrived, I do agree to this extent that I believe this problem is really a moral one. I would like to point out, however, that you must have disarmament adopted by the public opinion of the people and by the Governments of Europe before you can have military disarmament all round. The real trouble to-day is not so much the programmes of this or that Government 2272 introduced in connection with their armament policies, so much as the feeling of suspicion and distrust that still exists in Europe, although I believe it is diminishing. Nevertheless it still exists, and until we get rid of that feeling we shall never really get any advance in the direction of reducing military armaments.
Let me now conic back to the actual Amendment to reduce the Air Force by practically the whole of its personnel. If this Amendment were carried two results would immediately follow. The first would be that we should have no opportunity of making any economies in our system of Imperial defence, instance of which I ventured to allude to in my speech upon the introduction of be Air Estimates a reek ago. I then attempted to show the House that the air arm, if properly used, could be made an instrument of economy and not a cause of extravagance, and I pointed to a case where in a short space of time we had been able to reduce military expenditure from about £20,000,000 a year to something in the nature of £2,000,000 a year. Therefore, it is clear that if you abolish the Air Force that line of potential economy in armaments will be closed.
There is a more important result which would follow the passing of this Amendment, and it is that the country would be left defenceless at a vital point. That is so obvious to all hon. Members that I need not argue it at any length. It is a fact that London is the most vulnerable capital of any of the great capitals of Europe. As more than one hon. Member has already pointed out, it is the civilian population, the men, women, children and non-combatants, who would chiefly suffer if we had no means of defending ourselves against this terrible form of attack from the air. The hon. Member for Brightside said that a country which is defenceless would never be subject to an unprovoked attack. That is the opinion of the hon. Member. He may be right, but he may he wrong., and certainly I cannot believe that any Minister responsible for any one of the great defence departments of this country, whether he happens to be a member of the Labour party, the Liberal party or the Conservative party, would allow his country to be so defenceless as to be liable to a risk of that kind.
2273 The hon. Member for Brightside also suggested that we should set an example in regard to disarmament. I think we can point with great credit to our record in this respect since 1919. At the end of the War we had the greatest Air Force in Europe, and what did we do? We immediately began to reduce it. I remember as recently as 1922 when I first became connected with the Air Force, finding no Air Force whatever in a position to undertake the duties of the home defence of this country, and we showed our belief in the reduction of armaments to such an extent that we almost abolished our Air Force. What was the result? Was our example followed by any other great Power in Europe? I do not wish to be dragged into any kind of criticism of foreign countries in this respect, but the fact is self-evident that although we reduced our Air Force to insignificance, every other great Power went on with their programmes and we were in duty bound to follow their example and take the necessary steps to put ourselves in a more defensible position. I say without fear of contradiction that our record in the matter of the limitation and restriction of armaments has been better since the War than that of any other of the great Powers of the world.
The hon. and gallant Member for Warrington (Captain Reid), a very distinguished pilot himself, has reinforced this side of my argument, and has pointed out from his own practical experience the extreme danger in which this country would be placed if we were to abolish this most important line of our country's defence. Not only did we make great reductions in 1919, but even since then, when it seemed to us that the signing of the Treaty of Locarno last year had created a more peaceful atmosphere in Europe, we deliberately retarded our programme of expansion—and I know many hon. Members at that time expressed doubts as to whether we were wise in making that retardation—in order to show our desire to restrict armaments. Nevertheless in order to show our sincere belief that a restriction of armaments was necessary, we did definitely retard our programme by a number of years, with the 2274 result that we remain in a state of marked inferiority to the other air forces of the world.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney), in dealing with this part of the subject, suggested to me that the better line to take up would be to have a greater concentration upon civil aviation and less expenditure upon military aviation, and he said that it would be useful to have a Royal Commission to inquire into this question. Of course I attach great importance to the views of my hon. and gallant Friend, but I must inform him that this is exactly the question that was considered at great length by the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1922 and 1923, and they came to the definite conclusion that, however attractive might be the development of civil aviation, the first necessity was to create a home defence Air Force within these shores. For that reason the proposal was not accepted by the Conservative Government of the day, nor was it subsequently accepted by the Socialist Government which followed us.
It is very attractive to suggest that we should develop a larger field of civil flying, and I have every sympathy with that desire. At the same time there is great danger in extending your subsidies over too wide a field. My desire in the matter of civil aviation has been to adopt a policy which eventually would make civil flying an economic proposition as soon as possible. To achieve that end I am not sure that it would be wise to go upon a system of almost limitless subsidies. If we can make civil aviation an economic proposition independently of subsidies, we shall then see the kind of development. I wish to see, and have a mercantile aviation as the reserve of our military flying power. But I am afraid we are still some little distance from that desirable end.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
With regard to civil aviation, will the right hon. Gentleman use the activities of his Department for experimental work in that direction in regard to aeroplanes, and experiments of that kind.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Certainly, I can give him an assurance. I regard that as an integral part of our policy, and I can 2275 assure him that we are working on those lines in more than one direction in the Estimates. That diversion brings me back to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Brightside. He and his friends made a proposal for total abolition as their contribution to the solution of the disarmament problem. I agree rather with the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Duff Cooper), who in a very interesting and eloquent speech suggested that the real way to make an advance was not to pass these root and branch resolutions for the abolition of this or that particular service, but to try to take some practical and definite step in advance. I will tell the House what I mean by that.
I believe myself that in the matter of disarmament and particularly in the matter of air disarmament—the most complex and difficult side of the disarmament problem—you can never make an advance if you try too much at first. I believe myself that, if you once complicate the problem with all sorts of considerations that may be attractive and may be defensible in themselves, you will be so snowed under with the number of details that no advance will be made at all. It is on that account that I have always thought that in the matter of air disarmament the important thing was to concentrate your attention upon what is really the centre of the problem, namely, the danger of a sudden air attack upon the great centres of population in Europe. I hope I have made myself clear. That is the first step—to concentrate your attention on those air forces that are capable of making these sudden attacks upon the great centres of population.
I can tell the hon. Member for Bright-side, without going into any great detail, that that is the line upon which Lord Cecil will work in Geneva. I do not suggest by that that he is exclusively tied down to one line of advance. It would be a great mistake, if it were so. A delegate at Geneva must be guided and influenced by the arguments which are put to him by the representatives of the other countries, but I can tell the hon. Member, in general terms, that our desire in the matter of Air Force disarmament is to concentrate on those metropolitan Air Forces—the forces, that is, that make these sudden attacks on the great centres 2276 of Europe—and to see whether we cannot agree to some form of limitation and restriction. If we can do that, we shall have taken a very real step in advance, and a step in advance in the direction where air attack is most dangerous. The contention that I am advancing is that in all these disarmament discussions, the great thing is to start with one simple point on which you can make a step in advance. When you have made the first step, it may follow that you can go further afield and make other steps. I am sure that then the very interesting argument which has been made by the hon. Member for Oldham would have great weight. I think, when you have shown that you can make some definite step in advance, there will then be brought to bear, not only on the Government of this country but on all Governments abroad, a great pressure from their respective taxpayers to reduce the national expenditure on armaments, and I am not sure, really, looking into the future, that probably the greatest pressure in favour of disarmament will not come along that line more than along any other line.
I hope I have said enough to show that, firstly, I do not regard this Amendment as a practical step that is going to help on the cause of disarmament; secondly, to show that the Government of which I am a member do regard this question seriously, and thirdly, that we have definite proposals to make at Geneva and that we intend to make every effort to get those proposals accepted by the other Powers. We feel just as strongly as hon. Members opposite regarding the danger of the present situation—perhaps I feel it much more than any other member of the Government, being responsible for the Air Ministry and the Air Force, where new instruments of destruction are invented almost every day—and I can assure hon. Members opposite that, although I shall go into the Lobby against their Amendment, I shall not relax my efforts to bring about, so far as I can, the restriction and limitation of the most dangerous of all arms.
§ Question put, "That '33,000 ' stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 197: Noes, 24.2209
|Division No. 46.]||AYES.||[3.52 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James R.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cooper, A. Duff||Hennessy, Major sir G. R. J.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Cope, Major William||Herbert, S.(York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hilton, Cecil|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Apsley, Lord||Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hudson, H. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Ellis, R. G.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bennett, A. J.||England, Colonel A.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Berry, Sir George||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hutchison, G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Everard, W. Lindsay||lliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Fermoy, Lord||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Brass, Captain W.||Fielden, E. B.||Jephcott, A. R|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Ford, Sir P. J.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Frasrr, Captain Ian||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Gates, Percy||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gower, Sir Robert||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Burman, J. B.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Locker- Lampson, Com.O. (Handsw'th)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Loder, J. de V.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Lougher, L.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Luce, MaJ.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R.(Eastbourne)||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Cayzer.Maj.Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hanbury, C.||McLean, Major A.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Harland, A.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.SirJ.A.(Birm.,W.)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Harrison, G. J. C.||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hawke, John Anthony||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd,Henley)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y,Ch'ts'y)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Line (Streatham)||Ropner, Major L.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Ruggies-Brise, Major E. A.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Salmon, Major I.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Sandon, Lord||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Savory, S. S.||Wells, S. R.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Shew, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G.(Ptrsf'Jd.)||Skelton, A. N.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Smithers, Waldron||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Oakley, T.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Windsor-CIive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden,E.)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Penny, Frederick George||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Storry-Deans, R,||Womersley, W. J.|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Perring, Sir William George||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Styles, Captain H. Walter||Worthing ton-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Raine, W.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Ramsden, E.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir Harry Barnston.|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Adamson, W. M. (Stall., Cannock)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bllston)||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Kennedy, T.||Snell, Harry|
|Barnes, A.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Barr, J.||Lawrence, Susan||Stamford, T. W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Lawson, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Broad, F. A.||Lee, F.||Suilivan, J.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Lindley, F. W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lowth, T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lunn, William||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro., W.)|
|Compton, Joseph||Mackinder, W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cove, W. G.||MacLaren, Andrew||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dalton, Hugh||March, S.||Townend, A. E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maxton, James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Montague, Frederick||Varley, Frank B.|
|Dennison, R.||Morris, R. H.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Dunnico, H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Mosley, Oswald||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Fenby, T. D.||Oliver, George Harold||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Owen, Major G.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gardner, J. P.||Palin, John Henry||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Paling, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Potts, John S.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Riley, Ben||Windsor, Walter|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks,W.R.,Elland)||Wright, W.|
|Hardie, George D.||Rose, Frank H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr Whiteley.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
First Resolution read a Second time.
|Division No. 47.]||AYES.||[7.8 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Fremantle, Lieut-Colonel Francis E.||Neville, R. J.|
|Albery, Irving James||Ganzoni, Sir John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cast'l)||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G. (Ptrsf'ld )|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Gates, Percy||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Owen, Major G.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Grotrian, H. Brent||Penny, Frederick George|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R.(Eastbourne)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Berry, Sir George||Hanbury, C.||PhiIipson, Mabel|
|Blundell, F. N.||Harland, A.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Harrison, G. J. C.||Raine, W.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Ramsden, E.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hawke, John Anthony||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Reiner, J. R.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y,Ch'ts'y)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Burman, J. B.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Ruggies-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Herbert, S.(York, N.R., Scar, & Wh'by)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hilton, Cecil||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. C.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Hogg, Rt. Hon.Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Sandon, Lord|
|Campbell, E. T.||Holland, Sir Arthur||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Holt, Captain H. P.||Savery, S. S.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Alton)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.SlrJ.A.(Birm.,W.)||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon, Winston Spencer||Hurd, Percy A.||Sprat, Sir Alexander|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hurst, Gerald B.||Stanley,Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden, E.)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hutchison, G. A.Clark (Midl'n&P'bl's)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jephcott, A. R.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Thorn, Lt.Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Cope, Ma|or William||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Lamb, J. Q.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Ward,Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Loder, J. de V.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Looker, Herbert William||Warrendur, Sir Victor|
|Crookshank, Cpt.H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lougher, L.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Wells, S. R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torgoay)|
|Dixey, A. C.||McLean, Major A.||Wilson, P. R. (Staford,[...])|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Windsor-.Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ellis, R. G.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Wise, Sir Fradric|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Westan-s.-M.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Withers, John James|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Malone, Major P. B.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Fenby, T. D.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Merriman, F. B.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Captain Lord Stanley and Captain Margesson.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Rennie (Penistooe)|
|Barr, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Batey, Joseph||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Buchanan, Q.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Cove, W. G.||Potts, John S.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Groves, T.||Purcell, A. A.||Wright, W.|
|Hardle, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Scrymgcour, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Scurr, John||Mr. Shepherd and Mr. Maxton.|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.'
§ Brigadier-General WARNER
Prior to the Debate that took place last year on the Air Estimates, the Royal Air Force had been subjected to some very unfair criticism. It had been classified as a purely ground force, and it had been said that money had been wasted on buildings. The Debate that has taken place this year on the Estimates up to the present time has been conducted in a much more sympathetic atmosphere than prevailed last year, but there is one point to which I desire to draw the attention of the Secretary of State. I hope that the reduction of £450,000 on building works will not interfere with the provision of sufficient quarters for married men on the strength. It is most necessary, in the agricultural districts where the barracks are situated, that full provision should be made for the men who are married on the strength, because otherwise they have to go and live in the villages, and there are many young agriculturists, getting the very small pay of the land worker, who are desirous of marrying, but who are more or less pushed out by the better-paid air mechanic and his wife.
We have just had a discussion on the question of aerial disarmament. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment said that there were certain Members who would think his Amendment was absurd. When I read it first, it seemed to be abstruse, because I could not make out what the meaning of it was. I hold the opinion that, if we maintain a weak Air Force, we shall never secure aerial disarmament. Recently, at the Washington Conference, they were able to slow up the building of battleships, and America was able to call that Conference because all the time she was building more battleships than any other country in the world, and no other nation was ready to enter into competition with her. A strong Air Force is the best step we can take towards aerial disarmament. If we have in England a strong Home Defence Force, then the other nations in proximity to these Islands will stop building in competition against us. When the War finished, we had not only the most efficient, but the strongest and largest Air Force in the 2280 world. That Air Force was so cut down that, four years ago, the Government of the day, recognising the necessity of protecting these Islands, consulted the Air Ministry as to the best steps to take with regard to raising a Home Defence Force. The Air Staff recommended that there should be 52 regular squadrons, which were to be completed by the year 1928, that is to say, next year. The programme was gone on with, and, by a swing of the pendulum, in the following year the Labour party were in power here at Westminster. They, however, continued to carry out the programme, and it was only last year that, owing, perhaps, to Local-no, or on the ground of economy, a drastic slowing up in the Air Force took place. I have here the statement of the Secretary of State in his Memorandum, from which I beg to differ. He says:The Home Defence Force now consists of 28 squadrons, including seven on a non-regular basis, and more than half the original programme of 52 squadrons has thus been completed.It is with that statement that more than half of the 52 squadrons are now completed that I differ. Anyone who has had anything to do with the Air Force is fully alive to the fact that these non-regular squadrons—these special reserve and auxiliary squadrons—are not fighting squadrons at all: they are only training squadrons for the pilots who are passing into regular squadrons. The Secretary of State then goes on to say:It is intended to form two new regular squadrons for Home Defence during the financial year 1927.What will be the exact position on the 1st January, 1928, IA hen the 52 squadrons should have been completed? There will only be 23 squadrons for the defence of these Islands; that is to say, if we go on at this rate, only adding two regular squadrons every year, the programme will not he completed, as was said four years ago to be so desirable, until the year 1940. It will take altogether 12 years, and what will happen in a time like that in the politics of Europe? If we want aerial disarmament. I ask the Secretary of State, even though it may cost money, to add each year five regular squadrons as a minimum to the Home Defence Force, so that we shall be so strong in the air that other Powers will not increase their forces, as we know they are doing to-day.
2281 There is another point in connection with this matter—our reserves of pilots, which, together with our reserves of machines, especially, are very small in percentage ratio as compared with those of other nations. We only have a reserve of 100 per cent. of machines, whereas in France they have a reserve of close on 300 per cent. The life of an aeroplane on ordinary peace service is from two to three years, but under war conditions it is only one month, and, therefore, in a period of two months we should have used up the whole of our reserves, and should inevitably have become a ground force. What is more, the slowing up of the Air Force in this way has hit the various aeronautical manufacturers very hard. They are struggling to get a living. There are only 20 firms to-day, whereas immediately after the War there were 150, and, if expansion in the air had to take place, we have not got the firms ready to supply what would be necessary.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy), when speaking the other day, referred to the great advance that has taken place in aviation in the United States of America, and he referred to the fact that in America there were 5,000 privately owned aeroplanes, whereas in this country there are only three. The Under-Secretary of State, when he spoke, corrected that by saying that there are 56. I wish the hon. and gallant Member had rather more developed his statements regarding America, because I am here to support anything he says on that subject. I have recently been in America, and have had the opportunity of being in touch with some of the leading aeronauts in the United States. They tell me that they regard the year 1926 as the turning point in aviation in the United States. At the commencement of 1926, there was a certain number of aircraft factories struggling for existence, but at the end of 1926 they were prosperous companies with many orders booked far ahead. More than that, additional companies were springing up in the Middle West and in the Far West. Aviation has become so popular that in Arizona last year, instead of holding their traditional sports on horseback, as we saw at Wembley, they had aeroplane races and aeroplane 2282 sports, and it is quite customary for the ranchers and farmers to fly many miles into the various townships for what they call a "buck-hop," or, as we should call it, a jazz dance, and to fly back again to their farms.
How has this great impetus in flying and aeroplane building arisen, which is likely to be as big a romance as the introduction of the American car? It has arisen through the large number of small municipal clubs that have been started for local flying. These clubs, in most instances, have attached to them men who have been pilots, who license the aeroplanes to see that they are in a fit condition to fly, and who also give lessons in flying. The movement, however, is not subsidised. The postal service there, of course, is, but the impetus is due to these small, clubs. The Minister may very well say that the conditions are absolutely different from those in England, but I want to see those light aeroplane clubs encouraged as much as possible.
The Under-Secretary told us the other day that the Ministry were encouraging them. The Ministry can do nothing better. There are at present, we are told, six authorised light aeroplane clubs, six in course of formation and eight others, but we want to encourage the light aeroplane very much more than that. We want to be very much more generous in the subsidies that are given to them, and as I think in July the amount of assistance that five of these light aeroplane clubs shall receive has to be considered again, I hope the Ministry, in considering the number of hours flown by each club, will pay them in the most generous way possible so as to encourage the formation of clubs. Of course, in this country we have not the wide expanses to fly over that they have in the West of America, but we have those expanses in our great Dominions, and, just as aviation has suddenly caught on within the last year in America, there is no doubt that it will catch on in Australia, Canada and South Africa.
The Minister did magnificent work with the Imperial Conference in extending the air lines, but I wish he would call together at once the manufacturers of the country in the aeronautic world—there is not a moment to be lost—and 2283 arrange with them to establish agencies throughout our Dominions, subsidise them if necessary, and send out pilots with the aeroplanes so that we shall be the first on the ground in this great development that is coming, and must come, in our Dominions. If we do not do it, we shall find the old story of the Americans being first in the field, and we shall never catch up because, if we are to have a strong Air Force, a healthy aircraft industry is most important. We have had Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, regretting that there are so few British cars coming into the country. Do not let us have the stigma in five years' time that any Prime Minister of any of our Dominions will be able to say how much he regrets that the British aeroplane has been cut out.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
I desire to call attention to a point of importance which was mentioned in the earlier stages of our Debate last week and has also been the subject of a question addressed to the Secretary of State for Air. In order to make the matter perfectly plain, I will recapitulate the simple facts. An hon. Member asked the Minister whether the Director of Civil Aviation was a director of an outside company, and whether that was in keeping with the ordinary Civil Service rule in matters of this kind. In reply to that question, and also in the concluding stages of last week's Debate, the Minister gave certain facts which it is only fair to him and the House that I should now summarise. He pointed out that this official was engaged in only a temporary capacity, that he could not be regarded as a permanent civil servant, that he was liable to dismissal at six months' notice or some term like that, that it would be exceedingly hard if he gave up his interest in civil occupation, a return to which might be denied after a period in the public service, and that he had no connection with the contract side of the Air Ministry. I may not have altogether accurately or completely summarised the right hon. Gentleman's reply, but, in substance, that was the statement he offered to the House. May we make it plain that we make no reflection whatever upon the official concerned. There is not the slightest suggestion of irregularity or anything like that. Our whole object is 2284 to draw attention to a principle of great public importance as it has always been regarded by the House, particularly from the point of view of the annual review of Accounts by the Public Accounts Committee.
I am inclined to agree to-night that if you had here an official, whether eminent or less responsible, who was only to be connected with a public Department, in this case the Air Ministry, for a very short time no particular criticism could be offered, but the facts are that this official has been connected with the Department for a fair number of years and that, so far as we know, there is no prospect of the appointment being terminated. The question therefore arises whether the official in question is to fall within the ordinary rules of the Civil Service laid down by the Treasury as they apply to both permanent and temporary civil servants. In the case of temporary civil servants, it has been quite clearly stated—I am here referring to the Civil Service as a whole—that they must not be directors of outside companies which have or might have associations with the Department to which they are attached. In short, although they are on a temporary and unestablished basis, practically all the rules which apply to a Minister in this House and to the permanent Civil Service are applicable in their case. So, when the Minister last week relied upon the fact that this official was employed in only a temporary capacity, I am afraid he exposed himself to legitimate criticism on this point, especially when the appointment has continued over a term of years. In recent reviews, I think by the Public Accounts Committee, and certainly by other Departments, the whole object has been to get rid of the very possibility of controversy a this kind, and I think the House will agree that it is of importance that we should make that perfectly plain and definite.
There are other reasons for suggesting that course, apart altogether from the strict regularity of Civil Service practice. In the last Debate attention was directed by hon. Members on this side, and I think by Members in other parts of the House, to the prolonged cross-examination of officials of the Air Ministry before the Public Accounts Committee last year. That criticism turned largely upon the financial struc- 2285 ture of the Ministry and upon contracts and other problems, and, while it would be inappropriate here to make any reference to the evidence that was given, I think the House generally would concede that our common object must be to make this new Department, as I am sure it is the desire of the Minister, as watertight and as efficient as it can possibly be made. So if you have an official who does not conform strictly to Civil Service practice you expose yourself to exactly the kind of criticism which will be offered in the Public Accounts Committee and elsewhere. All these things roll up together, and, I should think, make it difficult for the officials themselves in some cases adequately to discharge their duty m the public interest. Without wasting more words on the problem, I would strongly appeal to the Minister to review this problem, and, if he can see his way to do so, to give us an assurance that what appears on the surface to be an irregularity in Civil Service practice will be removed.
§ Viscount SANDON
There are one or two points I want to put before the right hon. Gentleman. It seems to me that in the course of propagating civil aviation since the War we have reached a stage now when we ought to emerge from the stunt era—the era when one man flies to the furthest possible point in the same machine, and that sort of thing. I quite recognise the importance it has had, and I recognise the wonderful feats of those who perform them, but I would put before the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not now in the interest of the commercial business development of civil aviation that we should look at it from the angle of either a specific piece of goods or a specific person getting to the extreme end of his destination at the earliest possible moment. What may be a feat of ability performed by the pilot in question, or the standard of ability reached by those who produce the engine, is of no real importance to the development of the service, nor that it should be the same plane or the same person. I should like to ask if it is not possible to establish on these long-distance services a constant change of pilots—it is not for me as an outsider to know what the period should be, but a constant change of pilots and machines where it is necessary, if the engines will not stand it, to save time en route. I 2286 should also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman when we shall be approaching that time when we can carry on, not as a stunt but as a matter of routine, night flying, and whether it is money or science which at present has not reached the point at which we can develop it further. We all know in war time we had night flying going on all round us, with remarkably small ill-effects from the civil as apart from the enemy point of view. I should like to know whether in the comparatively near future that is likely to be established on a normal footing and that the ordinary traveller will be able to avail himself of it.
I should also like to know whether it has ever been considered making this new route which the Secretary of State has done so much to propagate take a more direct line between England and Baghdad across Europe and perhaps tapping some of the lucrative traffic which ought to lie along that route. I should also like to ask whether there is any immediate prospect of it being linked up across India from Karachi to Singapore and whether that is really being taken up as an immediate problem of the moment, by the Indian Government. I associate myself most heartily with everything that has been said in congratulation of the Secretary of State on his remarkable feat of flying to India. I believe that if his policy of getting into personal touch with what goes on in the Service were carried out by other Ministers in other branches of the Government, it would bring credit to the Department concerned, and credit to the Government and to this country. I am sure that his move in taking that journey will be a real starting point in civil aviation not only in that particular direction but radiating in every direction from this country.
§ Mr. DENNISON
Before we go into the Lobby, if we consider it necessary to do so, I should like to have an explanation from the Minister regarding the very serious complaint levelled against the Department with respect to the compensation of £13,800 given to a private company which was asked to carry out certain work on behalf of the Ministry. From the report that I have read, I notice that, apparently, the compensation was given because of the delay due to the Ministry not giving instructions to the company, 2287 and also in withdrawing from the execution of the work. The comments of the Auditor-General on the matter are of a very serious character, and I should like an explanation why the taxpayers' money was wasted in that direction.
I should also like some explanation with respect to the contracts which have been given in regard to R100 and R101. This is not a new question, because the attention of the Department has been drawn to it. The contract for the material necessary for the construction of one of these airships has actually been placed with the German Zeppelin Company, whilst at the same time several firms in this country are standing idle. I know of one particular firm which usually employs 48 workpeople, 40 of whom are now drawing unemployment benefit. In the answer from the Department which was given to the hon. and gallant Member for Dul- which (Sir F. Hall), on the 16th February, it was stated that there was no firm in this country capable of executing the contract for gas containers necessary for these airships. That statement was qualified later by a further statement that the Department had subsequently discovered that it was possible that some firms could execute this particular work. In the public interest it is well that the fact should be disclosed that the contract for gas containers for the first Zeppelin that was ever built in the world was placed by Count Zeppelin with a British firm, and was made by a British firm. It would appear to me that the right hon. Gentleman owes an explanation to this House why there has been this subletting of an important part of the contract for fitting this airship, and that it has gone to a German company, and more particularly to the German Zeppelin Company. We are urged by hon. Members opposite to buy British goods. Is this the way in which the Government carry out that motto?
In view of the attitude adopted by the Government and Members of the Conservative party that if, as they say, and I daresay there is a great deal of justification for their view, the wars of the future will be more in the air than on the ground, it is of vital importance that we should encourage firms in this country who are engaged in aircraft work, and see to it that we should manufacture the 2288 goods ourselves and thereby retain in this country the skill for manufacture if the time ever comes when it is necessary to build more and more aircraft.
There is another point on which I should like some explanation, and that is in regard to what is happening at the Cardington State Aircraft Factory. I understand that during the last 12 months that factory has, practically speaking, been standing idle. It has been doing practically nothing, although recently the contract has been placed for airship R101. How is it that with a well-equipped, indeed, the best equipped airship establishment in this country standing idle, the Government place contracts of a very vital kind with private firms in this country and permit them to sub-let vital parts of those contracts to foreign countries, and particularly to countries which were recently at war with us?—although I hope they will never be at war with us again. It is important that we should retain the skill required for building airships in this country. I hope the Minister will give some explanation on these matters, on which I feel very strongly.
§ Mr. WELLS
I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Kings Norton (Mr. Dennison) raise the question of airships, because throughout the whole Debate on the Air Estimates we have hardly had a word on airships. The Minister told us last week that the new airships would be capable of carrying 200 odd men, or a squadron of aeroplanes. I do not think that by that he meant to convey to the mind of the House that these airships were to be used for service pur poses; but if the Air Force retain the airships, it is possible that the First Lord of the Admiralty will soon be asking for airships for sea routes, and no doubt he will be followed by the Secretary of State for War asking for them for Army purposes. In that case, it would be a very good thing if we had a committee of defence to settle between the various services the proportion of services which they require.
I understand that the two new airships are to be ready by next spring, in accordance with the report. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the preparations for these airships are being pressed forward, so that they may fly when they come out. Have we 2289 sufficient mooring masts in this country? These new airships will be bigger than any airships that have ever been built before, and they will require very careful handling, especially when they leave the shed and are put into the sheds again. When you have mooring masts you will not take the airship into the shed unless it is necessary on emergency or for repair work. You will leave it at the mooring mast. I believe that in this country to-day there is only one mooring mast fit to deal with these modern airships. I was glad to note that at the Imperial Conference the question was raised, and keen interest was displayed in the development of Empire airship services. It was recommended to the Dominions concerned and India to see to the question of erecting mooring masts for the purpose of demonstration flights in 1928 and 1929. I note from the Minister's speech the other day that already the Prime Ministers of South Africa and Canada, are preparing to go on with the scheme for mooring masts.
Where you have these airships making long distance journeys, and these journeys are not to compete with the aeroplane, from one part of the Empire to the other, it is very desirable that sheds should be built in each of the great Dominions, and with these sheds there should be a mooring mast. It is evident that where you have mooring masts with a shed, you would want to take your passengers out and to take your goods out and then trim the vessel before putting it into the shed. We want at least two more mooring masts in this country; one at Howden and another as far west as possible, so that in case of a storm, when a ship may have to leave the mooring mast it would have an opportunity of fetching up somewhere else in this country rather than going abroad to Egypt or to a foreign station.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) raised the question of construction the other day. He spoke of radial bracing wires and of girders running fore and aft. I do not propose to go into the method of construction now He suggested that the two airships were being constructed differently. In that case, the company experts and the Government experts should put their heads together and cooperate as far as possible, because we 2290 want to get the most stable airship possible. When the crews go into the air, we want them to have full confidence in the airship which they are going to fly. The hon. Member for Kings Norton raised the question of balloons. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the balloons that were made for the R.33, I think in 1925, turned out to be satisfactory. If so, it is well to remember that those balloons were made at Cardington, and I certainly agree with the hon. Member that it is most desirable, even if the method of manufacture has to be changed, that we should still continue to manufacture these balloons in this country. Another very important point is the question of training men for these airships. These airships are going to be more costly than existing airships, and they are not going to be easy to handle in the air at first. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will re-commission R.33, if she is safe for re-commissioning and give the men training locally in that airship, as it is of the utmost importance to have trained men when we are dealing with these new giant airships. Finally, I would like him to say if the construction of R.101 has already been started.
§ Mr. GILLETT
There are two points with which I wish to deal. One point is in connection with a matter which I raised in the previous debate, and on which I asked a question, in regard to the contracts that have been given out without being submitted to public tender. On the first occasion, the answer which I received was that there was only one firm which was in a position to supply the articles. I wondered when I heard the hon. Member for Kings Norton (Mr. Dennison) speaking about a contract having been given to Germany under the impression that no firm in this country could supply the goods, whether that was one of the contracts about which I have been asking questions. Despite the answer that was given to me a, week or two ago, the right hon. Gentleman may remember that two years ago this matter was raised in the Public Accounts Committee and his Department supplied a special report upon the question of contracts given out without public tender, which is to be found in the Appendix to that volume. The reason given was that his Department is compelled to give out 2291 a number of orders to English firms in order that those firms may have work and be able to keep their staffs engaged in designing new plans for aircraft.
The defence of the Department, which was given three years ago, was that when any design is accepted the Department feels compelled to give orders to a limited extent to the successful firm. That is rather different to the answer now given as to why these contracts are given without public competition. In view of the complaints that have just been made, I would like to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that opportunities to tender were given to English firms. Is it not possible that more orders might be given to the Department's own factory and the staff enlarged? In the second place, is it not possible that some payment might be made to the successful firm which has presented the successful design? Then the design might be submitted to open competition. It seems to me that the answer given a year or two ago as to the reason which compelled the Department to give out these contracts without competition is very different from that which I have received to-day. I should like to draw the attention of the House to this answer. It was that the amount given out was only a little short of £2,000,000. I should like to impress on the Minister that the, more he is able to give out contracts to public tender the better, and that the system of giving out contracts without public tender should be got rid of. If that can be done, the more satisfactory it will be to every one of us. I know this is an exceedingly difficult matter. I am not suggesting that anything unsuitable is being done, but it is so difficult for the Minister to keep a check on contracts of that kind.
There is another point on which I want to lay stress. It is one which has been emphasised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) in regard to the employment in the Air Service of a director of a public company. I do not wish in any way to reflect upon this official; indeed, I am not able to do so, for I have no knowledge of the gentleman. But when I look at the recent record of the company in which he holds a prominent position, I wonder how he can combine the 2292 duties of the Air Service consistently with the duties which he carries out in the company. But that is a matter for himself. I think that what the Minister fails to realise in connection with this is the fact that here you have a director of a private company who can walk about as an official in the Department. You may say that he is not actually connected with the Department that is giving out contracts. I submit, however, this practice is hardly fair to the other officials and to the head of the Department which may be placing out the orders for petroleum. You never know what might happen. I am not suggesting that this sort of thing is taking place, but I do say that the present practice is not fair to the other officials, and neither is it fair to the man concerned. This is a very important principle. I think it would be very much more satisfactory if the Minister could ensure that in some way the joint holding of these two positions should come to an end. I am sure the principle is thoroughly bad, whatever the reasons. The gentleman in question has held these positions for some years, and I am sure that this state of things ought to come to an end. As has been pointed out, it is just this sort of thing that creates a feeling that the Department is perhaps rather slack in the way in which it is conducting its work. When you realise that not only have we grounds for complaint in regard to this matter, but also that there are a large amount of tenders which are being put out without any public competition, I think hon. Members will agree that these two things are most undesirable. I hope the Minister may see his way to give us an assurance as far as he possibly can that these practices will cease, and that, in any event, the tenders which are put out without public competition will be reduced to the lowest possible minimum.
§ Captain FAIRFAX
I will not detain the House long, but I wish to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air on a particularly urgent matter. It is, I think, a matter which will appeal to him. Quite recently, in the last week of February, a new civil aviation club was started in Norwich, known as the Norwich and Norfolk Light Aeroplane Club. It was launched with very great enhusiasm, largely owing to the energy and enterprise of the Lord 2293 Mayor of Norwich and the Sheriff of Norwich. Both he and the Sheriff are very young, and one of the first acts of their year of office was to inaugurate this light aeroplane club. I understand, on the question of finance, it is estimated that it would take about £4,500 to put the club on a sound working basis. So great was the enthusiasm shown that many members were enrolled, and two industrialists generously offered to equip the new club with a Moth aeroplane. It is said that Heaven helps those who help themselves, and I hope that in this matter the Treasury will help those who help themselves. The local boot and shoe manufacturers have been approached, and it is probable they will generously supply a second machine. There is also that very enterprising body, the local Mustard Club, which may be counted on to supply the necessary impetus, if not to carry the whole burden of finance. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is in a difficult position. I believe that he has bound himself in some sense to the Treasury that he will not ask for more in the current year, but I hope that in the following year he will take a leaf out of the book of Oliver Twist, and that he will not allow himself to be deterred by any financial Bumbles or beadles who may beset his path, hut that he will press for a larger subsidy for this enterprise.
There are subsidies and subsidies. There are some which I think we shall all agree are extravagant and harmful. There are others which are certainly beneficial, and the one which I am advocating falls in the second category. I want to reinforce the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Mid-Bedford (Brigadier-General Warner) as to the importance and necessity of training fresh young pilots who will be of enormous advantage to civil aviation, and who will be of great value in forming a reserve for dangerous contingencies and times of emergency that may arise. I do not think any of us are militarists, but we do realise that there are all sorts of almost unforseeable contingencies that may occur, and a powerful civil aviation arm would be of immense assistance in the days to come. I agree that in America and Canada there are wide expanses of territory suitable for the encouragement of aviation, 2294 but I would like to emphasise the fact that there is perhaps no part of England so happily situated for experimental flying purposes as Norfolk. There is, I believe, no civil branch of the Service in East Anglia, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will find it possible to give us this grant. I may remind the House that East Anglia is the land which bred Nelson and that, given a little opportunity and timely encouragement, it may very well breed a flock of Admirals of the air.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I rise only to answer some observations which were made by the hon. Member for the King's Norton Division of Birmingham (Mr. Dennison) in regard to the placing of contracts for gasbags. I happen to be responsible for advising the Secretary of State for Air in regard to the placing of the contract for the purchase of these gasbags in Germany, and I therefore feel some responsibility on the matter. As the hon. Member will realise, we naturally wanted to get these gasbags made in this country if possible. The company of which I happen to be a director is associated with another company which made gasbags during the War for the airships in this country. Owing to the fact that certain technical difficulties became manifest in the manufacture in this country, we came to the conclusion that the German company was better fitted for technical reasons to manufacture these gasbags, rather than to have them made in this country.
§ Mr. DENNISON
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that the German company which had the contract for these gasbags are actually purchasing gas containers from British companies at the present moment?
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
The problem is this: First of all, you have the question of the skins, which you can purchase anywhere. Then there is the question of fabric, which you can purchase anywhere. The technical skill comes in in the fixing of the skin to the fabric. That was the difficulty with which we were confronted. Previously in this country they were fixed with a rubber solution, which was placed between the two. It has been found on 2295 experiment that there was a possibility of electrical conditions arising which would give rise to a spark and consequently there would be a possible risk of fire. The Germans use for this fixing a special glue, and, if we have to send out two of these experimental ships into the tropics, it would be unwise to endanger the lives of 150 men. I was not prepared to take the responsibility of sending one of these ships out into the tropical countries unless I knew for certain that the bags that were inserted in them had been given definite and prolonged trials before that took place. I can assure the hon. Member that every consideration was paid to the possibilities of placing these orders in this country, and these orders were only placed in Germany because I personally did not want to take the responsibility of having anything in the ship that had not been thoroughly tried out.
There is one matter to which I should like particularly to draw the attention of the Secretary of State. The hon. and gallant Member for East Bedfordshire pointed out the opportunities that exist for this nation in regard to the development of aviation. If one thing more than another is apparent from the Estimates that have been placed before us, it is that those Estimates have been cut down absolutely to the lowest possible requirements, consistent with the Treasury standard, and, therefore, we have to rely in the case of an internationl emergency, if it should unfortunately arise, on a large and immediate expansion of our existing service.
If it is true that a battleship is obsolete before she is launched, it is almost equally true that an airship is obsolete before she is built. We rely, therefore, very largely on our manufacturers of aircraft, who are constantly experimenting and trying out new designs, who try to keep their factories fully employed, and the large number of scientific and technical men they employ. I happen to have, in my own constituency, and this is my excuse for rising, one of the best known manufacturing businesses for aircraft in the country, and I feel strongly that, unless these organisation get orders for aircraft from the Government, and also constant encouragement for the develop- 2296 ment of the latest scientific ideas and experiments (Which should be fostered by the Government with financial assistance or otherwise), we shall be much handicapped if and when the time comes for great and immediate expansion. It is an expensive thing to carry on these industries, and it is a dangerous thing. They need the encouragement of orders to keep them going on an industrial basis, so that the valuable experiments they are engaged on may be kept up to the highest pitch. I want to emphasise this, although I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is as anxious as anyone to give sufficient encouragement to these organisations, so that in time of trouble they will be fully equipped with all that is necessary.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The House will probably wish me to deal with the questions which have been brought before the House in the last three-quarters of an hour. Let me begin with the question raised by the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). The right hon. Gentleman is well qualified to speak on a subject of this kind, for not only was he Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the Labour Government, but he still is the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. I can assure him that I do not in the least resent the fact that he has raised this question this evening. Fortunately, it is a question we can discuss quite dispassionately. No party issue is raised. The distinguished official in question has served equally loyally and well successive Governments, Conservative, Liberal and Labour, and there has never been any secrecy about his position. Indeed predecessors of mine have answered questions in this House on the subject, and I think that in the course of each successive Secretary of State, Conservative, Liberal and Labour, the position has been fully explained. I hope, therefore, no hon. Member will think that there is any desire to conceal the exact position. So far from that being the case, it has already been brought to the attention of this House. The right hon. Gentleman suggested, and this was the only point on which he was inaccurate, that this was a special case and did not come within the ordinary Regulations of the Treasury. That is not so. If he will make inquiries, 2297 he will find that this case, in word and spirit, is within the Treasury Regulations both for temporary and permanent officials. That is the only point on which the right hon. Gentleman was inaccurate. He said it was irregular, or he suggested it might be, but as a matter of fact it is not irregular in any way. Indeed, I think he will agree with me that this particular case falls fully within the two underlying principles which have always obtained—namely, no official, be he permanent or temporary, ought to have any work which in any way may interfere with his work in the Government Department, and, secondly, that he ought not to have any connections with a company which might be in contractual relations with his own Department. I fully accept those two principles, and while I affirm that there has been nothing irregular in this case—there can be no suggestion whatever that the official in question acted improperly or put himself into an improper position—I am quite ready and, indeed, I feel sure the official concerned is equally ready, in view of what has been said in the House to-day and a week ago, to look into this question again. I am just as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman, and as any of my colleagues in this House, to have not only no suspicion of any detail in my administration but to have no grounds for suspicion. As a Member of this House who always values the opinions of his colleagues, no matter where they sit, I am quite ready to take into account the views which have been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members and look into the case once again. I think the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the answer I have given him.
A number of detailed questions were raised by various hon. Members. The question of the aircraft industry has been referred to. One of the difficulties is that you are dealing with an industry which has to rely principally on Government orders, and that must make any industry precarious as compared with other industries which can look to a wider field for their orders. I can only tell my hon. Friends that this is a question I have constantly in mind and I will not fail to give consideration to the views he has expressed this evening.
The question raised by the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. R. 2298 Dennison) was with reference to a contract that was given to a firm for the provision of the stainless steel for one of the two new airships. That is a question to which the Auditor-General has drawn attention, and I can imagine it is one of the cases into which the Public Accounts Committee will inquire in their coming sessions. Although I am prepared to go into the details of the matter I think it is better to leave the case to be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee and to allow my advisers, and perhaps myself, to explain the very technical position to the Public Accounts Committee. If the hon. Member approves that course, then I will assure him, so far as my own opinion is concerned, that I can give a very good answer to the criticisms he has made this evening. I can assure the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Wells), a constituency which is much interested in the airship programme, that we are constantly taking into account the various precautions he has suggested this evening. We realise that our airship programme is largely experimental and that we must take every conceivable precaution to make a success of it. I am always ready to discuss with him any specific suggestions he may have to make.
An hon. Member opposite suggested that we ought to make greater use of the facilities for construction at Cardington. For the last two years we have been engaged almost exclusively upon a programme of research and experiment, and until that is completed it would have been folly to begin the construction of another airship. This programme is an experimental programme. We are hoping to embark upon the erection of the new Government airship in the next few months, but in the nature of things it would have been foolish and impossible to have started upon another airship before we had come to the end of the research and experiment on which we have been engaged. I was asked why it was that we had given a contract to a private company to build one of these two airships. The answer is very simple. It was not this Government which gave the contract, but the Labour Government of the right hon. And hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am not suggesting that I disagree with the action then taken, but I do suggest that if the 2299 hon. Member disapproves of that action it is not I who should be blamed.
Then I was asked questions about the number of orders that we had given without tenders being demanded. I do not think there is really anything contradictory in the answers given to the hon. Member. Both the answers were true. First of all there is the answer that in the case of a great number of orders the article ordered is in the nature of a proprietary article, and there is no means of getting outside tenders. There is the other answer that in giving orders to the aircraft industry, while in the first place we have to think of getting the best article, we have also to remember the effect of our orders on the industry as a whole. I think it is obvious that there must be an industry of a certain size to supply the needs of the Air Force, and the reaction of that is that it may be unwise to let this or that firm drift out of existence, with a great weakening, as a result, of the aircraft resources of the country. But I can assure the hon. Member generally that I am most anxious to have public tenders and competitive tenders wherever it is possible. It is only because of the nature of things that we have been giving this large number of orders without tenders.
Let me also say, in connection with the hon. Member's criticism, that in cases where there is no tender we are very careful to have a very thorough costing of our own. If the hon. Member wanted further information on that point, I could satisfy him that we do not at all take blindly the prices that are suggested to us, but that we take every step possible to cost a particular article, whether a machine or something very much smaller, to see that we are getting it at a cheap price. The hon. and gallant Member for Norwich (Captain Fairfax) asked a question as to the Norwich Light Aeroplane Club. As one who is connected with Norfolk. I was much predisposed towards my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion. Unfortunately, the money that we have for subsidies to light aeroplane clubs is limited, and I am afraid that it will not be possible this year to increase the numbsr of clubs to which we can give a subsidy. But I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I will keep his 2300 request in mind, and that the Light Aeroplane Club at Norwich will not be forgotten when we come to make up the list of clubs that we intend to help next year. I think I have now dealt with the points raised, and I hope we may get the Report of the Vote.
§ Mr. DENNISON
I would like to know whether the Secretary of State takes responsibility for the statement which has been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Commander Burney).
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am sorry that I did not make my position clear. I accept full responsibility for the action which was taken. I would much have preferred that the tender should have been placed in this country. Unfortunately, in the nature of things it was not possible. We could not make them at Cardington, because the existing space is already occupied, but in course of time we hope it may not he necessary to go to Germany for these articles.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The Noble Lord emphasised the great importance of punctuality and regularity in long-distance flying and thought it might be well to have relays of pilots and engines. I am inclined to think that engines and machines have developed so much in the past few years that it will not be necessary to have these relays of pilots and machines. I would quote the instance of my own recent journey. We made that long journey quite punctually and regularly with only two pilots and with no necessity for spares or new engines or anything of that kind. With regard to night flying, I can state that a considerable amount of night flying will be carried out by the Air Force this year, and we are pushing on as fast as we can with such experiments as the leader cable, the technical details of which I will not go into now, that will make civil night flying much more possible and safer than it has been before.
§ Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
§ Second, Third and Fourth Resolutions agreed to.
§ Fifth Resolution read a Second time.2301
§ Mr. ROSE
I beg to move, to leave out "£6,424,000," and to insert instead thereof "£6,423,900."
I wish to deal particularly with Subhead "O" of this Vote, which refers to some lighter-than-air craft or one particular airship which is being built or is supposed at some time, in the sweet by-and-by, to be built at a place called Carding-ton. This is a somewhat remarkable proposal. We discover in connection with it that the person really responsible is the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney), who has just informed the House that he could not take the responsibility of sending craft of this kind into the tropics unless he was quite sure that the gasbags were made to his specification. It is rather remarkable that the Secretary of State for Air should sit patiently under what seemed to be almost an affront. I do not think any more ridiculous proposal than this ever entered into the heart or mind of man to conceive. When it was first projected some years ago I attacked it in the House of Commons and in the Press. The original suggestion was that 12 of these ships should be built. They were to have a displacement of 5,000,000 cubic feet and they were to carry 200 first-class and 200 second-class passengers from here to India in four days, with 40 tons of baggage and mail. Of course they could not do it. But this thing has gone on in spite of protests, and I say with shame and dismay that it was first sanctioned by the Labour Government. I cannot understand what sort of mentality induced any Government to permit a scheme of this kind to be foisted on a credulous public. I cannot understand the spirit a responsibility of any Chancellor of the Exchequer who then or now permitted public money to be wasted on such folly.
It was to be a commercial undertaking. I do not want to drag the House into a labyrinth of technicalities and I am not going to use my own figures, which do not agree with the figures I received today in answer to a question which I put a week ago to the Secretary of State for Air. I am going to use his figures, little as I agree with some of them. First he says that the maximum diameter of these goldbeaters' skin gas bladders is to be 130 feet and the length is to be 720 feat and that they are to have a maximum 2302 lifting capacity of 150 tons. I do not believe he can do it. I do not believe he will ever lift more than 27 tons per million feet, but, supposing he lifts 30—and that is what he says he is going to lift—the weight of the ship and its engines without load is to be 90 tons. The ship that is being built at Cardington is not being built upon any original designs. In fact they are not designing anything at Cardington; they are copying, or are going to copy at some time in the future designs, weights, measurements and capacities laid clown in respect of a sister ship which is being built elsewhere by private contract. All might have been well, or if not well at least indifferently well, had the original idea been stuck to by the Ministry. It was to be a purely commercial business. It was to carry passengers from here to India. That was the first idea, but this day week the right hon. Gentleman told the House that he was going to use these things for trooping and for airplane carrying. That alters the whole business from end to end.
The right hon. Gentleman says he is going to carry 200 soldiers or alternatively a squadron of airplanes, and I want to know whether he expects any humane, or even human, Minister of War to sanction the sending of 200 of His Majesty's soldiers into the tropics on a goldbeater's skin gas bladder. The thing is perfectly monstrous. The soldiers will weigh 30 tons with all their equipment. The right hon. Gentleman tells me that is what they will weigh. The ship is going to weigh 90 tons, without soldiers and without crew. At least 100 of a crew will be necessary, and then they will be shorthanded. They will want three watchers anyhow. When the ship is loaded up with 200 soldiers how much water is the right hon. Gentleman going to give them to drink? Is he aware, or are his experts at Cardington aware, that water has a quality known as avoirdupois. He will want 10 tons of water at least. How many tons of fuel he will want I do not know, but if he is going to give his passengers—the soldiers—a gallon a day each for drinking, washing and cooking, he will want to go away with 10 tons of water if he is to be away for a week. I do not believe it is possible to lift 150 tons with 5,000,000 cubic feet displacement but, supposing the right hon. Gentleman can do so, let us see how this 2303 thing proceeds. He has already told us they have not started on it yet. When this project was first mooted I said here and in public prints and on public platforms that there was not a building in all the world in which such a vessel could be assembled, and I did not care what shape they made it. Apparently they are going to make it in the shape of an exaggerated Rugby football. The right hon. Gentleman says the actual lift of this ship can only be determined by experiment. Let us clear the way for a moment. In all the right hon. Gentleman does in the development of civil aviation and heavier-than-air aviation he will have my earnest sympathy and support, but when he comes to a project that is in defiance of all science and all practical experience and when he talks about adapting a craft of this kind to military purposes and using it for the transport of troops and for airplane carrying, then it is time the House took closer cognisance of the operations of the Ministry over which the right hon. Gentleman presides.
For developing this ship at Cardington—and there is nothing else being done there—they are spending £39,000 on supervision and £63,000 on wages, all for one ship. There is a long list of "brass hats" of one kind and another, a director with £1,750 a year, a deputy-director, an assistant for planning, an officer-in-charge, a works manager, and an officer in charge of design—Oh no, he has gone. There is nothing to design there. All their designs are coming from some other place. I want to know how far they have got on with the shed that they are going some day to build the ship in. This is the item: "New works, airship shed, £145,000," but they are only spending £50,000 out of it all next year, and they are leaving £95,000 for appropriation in some future years. They are building something they call a mooring mast ready for this ship that will never be built, and it is to cost £50,000, but they are only spending £48,000 on it, and they are leaving over £1,000 to be used the year after next. Does it not seem that the most charitable scrutiny of this Vote suggests that we must have some more explanation of the position in regard to this airship? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us, or can his experts tell us, 2304 of any constructive or productive works in which the salaries of the superintendents are actually £2 for every £3 of wages? There are plenty of offices going apparently, but the ship is not started. The right hon. Gentleman has told us to-night that they have not started on the ship, and they have got all these people building it, and now to-night we have had revealed to us this amazing position that the bladders in which they are going to carry the gas are a matter for which the Ministry have no responsibility. The responsibility has been nobly assumed by the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Commander Burney).
They call this administration. It is business of a sort, I admit, but I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman, as I tried to tell him four years ago, that you cannot build these ships, that you will never build them, and it is well for you and for all of us that you will never be able to build them, for if they were built, they would be an infinite mischief and an infinite wrong to this country. Then the right hon. Gentleman begins to talk about sending troops away on them. Why is he going to make soldiers, who have to obey orders, go on board an airship like that? Because ne knows he will never get civil passengers to do it. There are a, hundred considerations against this monstrous proposal, a proposal that is out of science and out of common practice. It is not even yet in its initial stages, for the only thing that has been done by the Ministry in respect to it is to come to Parliament and ask for hundreds of thousands of pounds absolutely to waste on the blowing up of bladders. I want the House to emphasise its sense of reprobation against this cruel proposal. If all the experience of lighter-than-air craft has not beer enough to convince everybody with common sense of its utter impracticability—it's worse than impracticability—I am at a loss to understand what experience would convince the Minister for Air. There is hardly a lighter-than-air craft that is airworthy to-day, and hundreds and hundreds of them have been built. As a war instrument, they were demonstrated to be of greater, mischief to the side that used them than to the side that fought against then1, and for commercial purposes they can have no possible future. I do not 2305 know what the right hon. Gentleman's experts are going to fill this thing with. They talk about helium gas, and in subsequent proceedings of this House I shall want to know something about the cost of helium gas, and whether or not they are going to use it. I have not had the time to analyse the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has given me, but I am accepting them for the moment, and on the basis of his own figures I want to tell him here and now that he is doing his country a dis-service by wasting its labour, its money, and its resources upon a project that is foredoomed, not only to failure, but to absolute catastrophe.
§ Mr. GROVES
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so, because I have been very interested in the revelations of my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose), and I hope that all that he has said is right. In my own experience during the War I realised with great dismay that lighter-than-air craft apparently were very useful to the Germans, and although I heard all that my hon. Friend said about the incapacity of the Government or its representatives to produce any new airship, I do not see why they should not, having regard to the experience of the past. Nevertheless, if what my hon. Friend says is true, that they have not begun to build this airship, and that there appears to be no opportunity in this neighbourhood for the proposed ship to be constructed, I think it is wrong that Parliament should be asked to grant the Air Minister all this money. I think the protest of my hon. Friend is based on the scientific objections to the airship as proposed, and against the fact that the Minister has come to Parliament to ask for money for some experiment which he, my hon. Friend, as an engineer of many years' experience, points out is unscientific. I do not profess to be an engineer, but I do profess to be interested in seeing that money is not willingly granted by Parliament for some project that is not proven to be based upon facts and upon the experience of engineers and financiers.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
Will the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, tell us what he is doing in connection with 2306 an aeroplane development which is even more deadly than anything hitherto known. There is a type of craft in the United States which can be launched from the ground, unmanned, despatched on its mission for 35 miles, and dropped within a quarter of a mile of its objective. Has the Air Ministry paid any attention to this form of development? Have they discovered any protective methods against such a weapon, and, if so, to what extent are we being asked to provide for those protective measures in this Vote? I do not want to go into the matter in detail, but I raised this question on the Air Estimates before, and no reply was given. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will deal with it in his reply this evening.
§ Sir S. HOARE
In reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I must tell him that it would not be in the public interest to give him an answer.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
It would certainly be in the public interest if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us whether any of this money is being voted for such defensive measures. I do not think that is a valid reply.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am afraid I differ from the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I think it is a valid answer. Let me come back to the question of airships. As I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose), I could not help wondering why I was here asking the House to vote these Estimates, and why hon. Members opposite were not signing an order to confine me to a lunatic asylum. I have never heard such an indictment of the depth to which the folly of a Minister might sink. It is, therefore, with great diffidence that I venture to make anything in the nature of an answer to the criticism which the hon. Gentleman has made. He said we were acting in the teeth of scientific teaching. I can only reply that we have taken every conceivable kind of scientific advice. A great body of the best scientists of the country, totally unconnected with the Air Ministry, have engaged in this problem and they, together with my technical advisers, inform me that I may look forward to see these two ships in the air, to seeing them flying safely from one end of the Empire to the other and performing 2307 a very useful purpose from the point of view of Imperial communication and Imperial defence. He tells me that the weights I have given show that to attain the purpose in view is quite impossible.
There, again, I have to choose between his opinion on the one side and the opinion of this great body of scientists on the other, and, as at present advised, I take the advice of the latter. It is a great experiment, this experiment of building these two big airships. I believe it is one of the most interesting scientific experiments being undertaken in any country at the present time, and I believe the money will be found to be very well spent. It is an experiment which if it succeeds will be of immense value to the Empire and the world as a whole, and it will help to do what I have always wished to do, namely, make flying of some use to the world, instead of being merely a military danger to the world. I have been informed that there is no reason why, with proper care, this experiment should not be successful, why, in spite of what the hon. Member has said, these airships should not fly safely about the Empire. I hope, therefore, hon. Members on all sides of the House will not take his ipse dixit as settling the matter, but will support this very interesting programme upon which we are engaged, and will see at no long distance these two great airships in the air being of great value both to this country and the Empire as a whole.
§ Mr. PALING
The right hon. Gentleman said in reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the Liberal benches that it is not in the public interest to answer his question. I do not think that applies to all the questions asked by the hon. Member for N. Aberdeen (Mr. Rose). He asked a good many questions, but the right hon. Gentleman only answered one, namely, that the advice he has got is that the airships will prove a practical thing. But what about the questions as to the money spent, and the airships not having been started? I think it is in the public interest that those questions should be answered.
§ Sir S. HOARE
With the permission of the House, I will deal with these 2308 points, which, I am afraid, I forgot. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) is under a complete misapprehension as to what is being done. He first of all thought that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney) referred to the airship that is being built at Carding-ton. It had nothing to do with it. It referred only to the airship being built by contract by a private company.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am coming to that. The hon. Member then made the charge that the Government airship was not being based upon an original design, but was merely a copy of the design of the airship that is being built by the private company. That is not so. The answer to the hon. Member, therefore, is in the negative.
§ Mr. ROSE
I am sorry to interrupt but these are the words of the question and answer:To ask the Secretary of State for Air the dimensions (diameter and length) of the 5,000,000 cubic feet airship now under construction at Cardington, and the estimated weight, without load, of the ship and machinery when completed?The reply was:In answer to the first part of the question, the diameter of the airship is 130 feet, and her length 730 feet. As regards the second part, the Air Ministry is working to the same weight as that laid down for her sister ship, which is being built by the Airship Guarantee Company, namely, a maximum of 90 tons.
§ Sir S. HOARE
There is nothing in that which is at variance with what I have said. The two airships are the same weight, but they are being built to very different designs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sister ships."] In the case of sisters it is usually only a general resemblance. The hon. Member seemed to think that no work was going on at all. As a matter of fact, a great deal of work has been going on at Cardington for more than two years. A bay of the new airship has actually been erected at Cardington, with a view to its being tested, and although the major part of the construction has not yet begun to the extent of assembling the various parts, a great deal of work has been done in the construction of parts. I could convince any hon. Member 2309 who paid a visit to Cardington of the magnitude of the work which has been done during the last two years.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I can certainly arrange for the hon. Member to go. Then there was the question he raised about the sheds. He said "Here you are, before you have begun your airship, you have to ask Parliament for money for a new shed," implying that there is no shed there ready for the construction of the airship. There has been a shed at Cardington for many years, and construction has actually taken place in that shed already. The other shed in the Estimates for which we are asking provision is for operating and for the construction of future airships, when, as we feel sure, the two airships are successful and we then go further and embark upon a larger programme of airship construction. I think I have now dealt with the main points raised by the hon. Member and I hope the House will give us this money.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not see how we on this side can possibly agree to give the right hon. Gentleman the money for which he asks. He does not answer or attempt to answer the basic arguments against the probable success of these ships. He tells us about the sheds, but he does not answer the points put up by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose). He says:I have on my side all the expert advice that is obtainable and I am prepared to take that rather than the ipse dixit of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen.I recollect, from the first year I came into the House, that the Ministry put up the same defence in connection with the money for which they asked for experimental work on a helicopter.
Each year the Minister came forward and said the experts reported that this was a scheme on which progress was being made, and each year we gave more money. Practically the only critic in the House was the hon. Member for North Aberdeen. Now the experts at the Ministry have all come to the same view about the helicopter as he took four or five years ago, and that branch of ex- 2310 perimental and research work has been definitely dropped. The House voted money year after year for several years, but neither the Air Service nor the country has gained anything—not one additional bit of knowledge. The helicopter idea was condemned on general principles by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen four or five years ago, and that view has now been accepted by the Air Ministry—or by its experts. Before I would be prepared to grant this money, I should have to have some answer to the points raised by the hon. Member against these airships. Surely there is some official at the Ministry of Air who could have provided the Minister with a few simple facts with which to rebut the argument of the hon. Member. Not a single one has been produced. If I may make a pun, the Air Minister waives the criticism airily aside—it is too ridiculous that this one engineer should dare to criticise this scheme of the experts of the Air Ministry. I have shown the House, I hope, that this one engineer did bring substantial criticism to bear on a certain experiment, and that his criticisms were subsequently accepted as being correct; and in view of those facts, I hope the House will reject this request for money.
§ Mr. AMMON
There are two points I would like to put to the Air Minister. Evidently the Air Ministry interprets the term "sister" in an altogether different way from how the sister Service, the Admiralty, does. The Admiralty usually speaks of "sister ships" as those Of similar design, laid down in the same class, and I should have imagined that that would apply equally to airships.
§ Mr. AMMON
The other point is that in the last answer the Minister told us that a shed we are asked to vote money for is for future airships if and when this experiment proves to be successful. It seems to me that before we are asked to vote money for future buildings we ought to have some assurance that the experiment upon which the Air Ministry are now engaged will be successful. Otherwise we shall find ourselves landed with a useless shed which has cost a terrible lot of money. I suggest the right hon. Gentleman should wait for the money for the shed until he has seen whether the experiment proves a success, or whether 2311 my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) proves to be right once again in his criticism.
§ Question put, "That £6,424,000 part of the Resolution.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 72.2313
|Division No. 48.]||AYES.||[9.13 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Albery, Irving James||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Raine, W.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Harland, A.||Ramsden, E.|
|Atkinson, C.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Hawke, John Anthony||Remer, J. R.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Ruggies-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hills, Major John Waller||Salmon, Major I.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hilton, Cecil||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Holland, Sir Arthur||Sandon, Lord|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Holt, Captain H. P.||Savery, S. S.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Burman, J. B.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland,Whiteh'n)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jacob, A. E.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden, E.)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Jephcott, A. R.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.|
|Cope, Major William||Lamb, J. Q.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Looker, Herbert William||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lougher, L.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||MacAndrew Major Charles Glen||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Edmondsan, Major A. J.||McLean, Major A.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Wells, S. R.|
|England, Colonel A.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Wilson, H. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Fielden, E. B.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Withers, John James|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Womersley, W. J.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Nuttall, Ellis||Wragg, Herbert|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Gates, Percy||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Penny, Frederick George||Mr. F. C. Thomson and Captain Margesson.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gillett, George M.||Morris, R. H|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gosling, Harry||Mosley, Oswald|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Owen, Major G.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln, Cent.)||Palin, John Henry|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Paling, W.|
|Barnes, A.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Barr, J.||Groves, T.||Potts, John S.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bromley, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Riley, Ben|
|Buchanan, G.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, W. G.||Kennedy, T.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lawson, John James||Scurr, John|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lindley, F. W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Dennison, R.||Lowth, T.||Snell, Harry|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||March, S.||Snowden Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Fenby, T. D.||Maxton, James||Stamford, T. W.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Montague, Frederick||Stephen, Campbell|
|Sullivan, J.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Sutton, J. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Welsh, J. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Varley, Frank B.||Wright, W.|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
Resolution agreed to.
§ REPORT [7TH MARCH].
§ Resolutions reported,