§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Sir Philip Sassoon)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
It is my duty this afternoon to introduce the largest Air Estimates that have ever been presented to this House. The net figure of £82,500,000 can be compared with an average figure of some £18,000,000 asked for by the Ministry in pre-expansion years. It exceeds by £32,000,000 the total Estimates of 1936. The magnitude of this figure gives rise to mingled feelings of disappointment and relief. All will feel regret that it should be necessary to expend so vast a sum on military preparations. All, on the other hand, must feel relief that proper steps are being taken to safeguard our country against attack and to fulfil our international obligations. Last year I pointed out that our expansion scheme in no way meant that we had given up the hope of an air pact or of some general stabilisation of air armaments; nor have we given up that hope to-day. On the contrary, we look upon its realisation as of paramount importance, and we shall be eager to seize the very first opportunity of achieving it; meanwhile, until that opportunity offers, we have no alternative but to proceed with our plans. Indeed, we think that a British Air Force, strong, ready and well-equipped, is the best contribution that this country can make to the peace of the world.
Any appreciation of the present position of our air defence forces must necessarily have regard to what has taken place in previous years. The Memorandum accompanying the Estimates was purposely made very comprehensive so that a clear picture might be given of the colossal nature of the expansion represented by the programme outlined in the White Paper on Defence of March last year, compared to what had been accomplished previously. Nevertheless the House will expect me to give some 1666 account of the progress we have made and the difficulties we have encountered—and there have been many of them—and the lines on which we hope to progress during the coming year.
Two fundamental considerations have always been present to our minds: Is the programme adequate, and is it being effectively carried out? As regards its adequacy I would remind the House that the Government have many sources of information open to them and that many of these are sources which, in the nature of things, cannot be available to private individuals. The information from all these sources is correlated and it is upon this information that our programme must be based. The House will not expect me to divulge the sources of this information, but they are entitled to the assurance that all the information that comes to us is constantly kept in review by the Government and by the Committee of Imperial Defence, and it is upon that knowledge that the programme is based.
With regard to the second consideration, there are three main problems which have to be dealt with in any Defence programme—men, material and the war potential. I should like to emphasise that the expansion of the Air Force is not merely a question of making good deficiencies. It is a matter of trebling a Force and rearming it with modern equipment. Perhaps it would be convenient if I dealt with the problems in the order I have stated. I deliberately start with personnel because the importance of that aspect of our expansion cannot be over-emphasised. An ample supply and reserve of trained personnel are not only important, they are absolutely essential. After all, aero engines and aircraft can be turned out with ever-increasing rapidity as experience of production is gained and new plant comes into operation. It is a mechanical problem; it is a problem of production. That is not the case with personnel. You cannot improvise training; a considerable period is necessary to train really skilled pilots, skilled navigators and so forth. Let me emphasise that this question of personnel is entirely an Air Ministry responsibility. We are responsible for the recruiting and we are responsible for the training, and I am, therefore, all the more glad to be able to assure the House that that aspect of our expansion scheme is entirely satisfactory.
1667 Our programme for last year envisaged an entry of some 1,200 short service officers and 235 airmen to be trained as pilots. Those figures have not only been reached; they have been surpassed; and we are continuing to recruit in anticipation of our future requirements. During the coming financial year we hope to train 1,175 pilots. The position with regard to airmen is equally satisfactory. During 1936 we planned to recruit over 11,000 airmen, including 2,656 apprentices and boys. With a continuance of public support we hope to recruit a slightly larger number during the coming year. I think I have said enough to show that, great as have been our demands, they have been amply and completely met, and I think that this fact pays a handsome tribute to the public spirit and the sense of adventure of the younger generation.
At the same time there can be no relaxation of effort. We rely upon the continued support of the British public, and we feel confident that we shall get it. But it may be asked, "Your recruiting seems to be going all right and you seem to be getting the number of pilots that you want, but are you really sure that you are getting the right type of recruits; are you really sure that the best men are coming forward for your service?" I can certainly give that assurance. The standard of character and education of those who are accepted is quite first rate. We derive as much satisfaction from the quality as we do from the numbers of the young men who are coming forward in the interests of their country.
So far as the permanent officers are concerned, there is increasingly keen competition for the increased entry into the Cadet College at Cranwell, and also for the University entry, which is so valuable to us. Close contact is also maintained with many of the public schools. Officers serving in the Royal Air Force are appointed to their old schools to keep close liaison with the Air Ministry. Flying demonstrations, lectures on Air Force subjects and visits to Air Force stations are among the many activities covered by that scheme. This policy has more than justified itself. Meanwhile the Air Ministry is doing what it can to secure employment for the short service officer when he retires from active service. 1668 Many appointments have been found for those officers, not only as instructors in civil flying schools or as air pilots in regular companies, but also with a variety of other companies which have nothing at all to do with aviation. The Air Force Officers' Employment Association has found employment for 92 per cent. of the officers on its books. That is not only encouraging but a very great achievement. I should like to remind the House that the short service officer has one considerable advantage. He gains a great deal of experience. He learns discipline and the command of men. He may visit distant countries and strange places and peoples that he would not otherwise have had an opportunity of visiting. Then with all this experience behind him he reverts to civil life, not very much later than the boy who has gone up from a public school to a university.
Another scheme which will be of great assistance in finding employment for the short service pilots when they leave the Service is that recommended by the May-bury Committee and approved in principle by His Majesty's Government. Financial help is to be given to a suitable flying school to enable advanced training to be offered at low rates, and preference will be given to ex-short service commission pilots. This will facilitate their securing those special certificates which are required to-day before a pilot can take his place in a civil air transport company. Practical steps are also being taken to improve the prospects of employment for airmen on discharge.
Before leaving the question of regular personnel I want to say a few words about Dominion co-operation. There is already in existence a scheme whereby pilots can be trained as cadets in the Royal Australian Air Force and then come over to the British Air Force for a term of years. They afterwards revert to the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve. A similar scheme is being established by New Zealand, and also a scheme whereby candidates for the British Air Force can be medically tested before they come here, so that they shall not be turned down when they come here and have all their journey wasted. We should welcome the adoption of a similar scheme by Canada, from which Dominion over 100 young men have come over on their own and have been accepted for short service commissions. We welcome these pilots; they 1669 are first-rate young men, and we would like to do everything we can to facilitate their entry.
I now pass to the question of reserves of personnel. The great increase in first-line strength has made it necessary to build up a proportionate reserve. This, of course, is very important. The increased demand for regular pilots has in some cases led us to retain in active service pilots who, in the ordinary course of events, would have gone automatically to the Reserve. To that extent, therefore, the rate of expansion in the Royal Air Force Reserve has diminished just at the time when it should have been increasing to keep pace with the increase in the first-line strength. To meet this difficulty the Air Ministry introduced a scheme last year whereby a boy on leaving school could serve a whole year with the Air Force. During that time he would have the rank of pilot officer, and pay accordingly, and at the end of the year he would revert to the Reserve without any further peace-time liabilities except to keep himself qualified as a pilot by a certain number of hours flying during the course of every year, for which he would receive £25 a year.
At the same time a new Reserve is being created, called the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. It is a direct entry Reserve. That is to say, pilots are recruited direct from civil life. During the course of the next year we hope to recruit over 800 men in this way. We realise that it is necessary that training should be brought to the men. With that object a network of training schools is being set up in the neighbourhood of London and around big centres in other parts of England. Town centres are also being formed for instruction in ground subjects and to serve, as we hope, as social centres as well. As hon. Members will have learned from an official announcement made last week, training will begin at 12 aerodrome centres on or about 1st April, and applications from candidates living in London or in the neighbourhood of centres outside London can now be received. Employers can be of real assistance to the success of this scheme by giving encouragement and facilities to their employés. Big concerns will be afforded the opportunity to form bodies of recruits sponsored by the firm and training together at the same flying centre. Already the Midland Bank and the Bank of England are co- 1670 operating in this way, and I should like to pay a tribute to the public spirit they have shown. I am sure hon. Member's will realise the vital necessity to us of this reserve, and will do everything they can to assist recruiting by giving it publicity in their constituencies and in any other way that they can.
I must now say a word about the very important subjects of aerodromes and works and buildings. The number of suitable sites available is very limited. Aerodromes have to conform to strategic requirements; they have to be sufficiently tar away from existing aerodromes to avoid congestion in the air; they have to be on well drained ground which can be prepared without undue expense, and in areas where suitable landing grounds for forced landings are available and where meteorological conditions are reasonably good. Incredible as it may seem, there are, apparently, parts of England that are wetter and foggier than others. The Aerodrome Board has had an extremely difficult task in finding suitable sites conforming with all these conditions and at the same time free from reasonable objections from landowners or local residents. This last difficulty has not been a simple one. I find that objections centre very largely upon birds. It is feared in some cases that they will be driven away from bird sanctuaries where it is hoped to preserve them, and in other cases it is feared that they will be driven away from shooting coverts where it is the intention to destroy them. The Air Ministry have done their best to treat all objections in the most sympathetic way possible, and I am very glad to say that in most cases we have found local landowners and local bodies only too anxious to meet us in a like spirit.
Similar troubles are met with in finding land suitable for other Air Force requirements, such as flying training schools, armament training camps, repair depots, and the like. A concentrated works programme, and the careful use of all available building resources, have enabled us to halve the time hitherto taken to put up our hangars, workshops, barracks and the like. At the same time we have paid very careful attention to the appearance of these buildings, so that they may harmonise with their surroundings and may not even remotely give the impression of looking like eyesores. During recent months, unfortunately, building 1671 labour has become more and more difficult to obtain, and we have already been caused, in that connection, a certain amount of embarrassment. Unless some satisfactory solution can be found, I am afraid that our building programme will be delayed. The bad weather we have had during the first two months of this year has also added to our difficulties.
I turn now to the second of our expansion problems—that of the production of adequate supplies of equipment. This covers a very wide field, because it embraces, not only aircraft and aero engines, but all ancillary equipment such as instruments, armament, wireless and the like. No one, I think, will question the excellence of British designs, whether of aero engines or of aircraft. The fact that so many foreign countries are anxious to purchase our latest types, or to secure permission to manufacture them under licence, is, I think, sufficient evidence of their quality. Except for the larger aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, the monoplane, which approaches most nearly the ideal of stream-line form, is almost entirely replacing the biplane. The difficulties of providing wings of adequate stiffness to prevent them from bending or twisting delayed this change for many years. They have now been overcome by a variety of methods of stressed skin construction. By continuous attention to details such as surface smoothness, we have been able to reduce considerably the drag of our latest types of aircraft. The net result of all this is that the striking power of our new types far surpasses that of corresponding types of two years ago. Let me emphasise, however, that we are far from resting content with the design of our latest aircraft. Active research and development are continually in progress with a view to obtaining machines of even greater speed, range and load-carrying capacity.
While I am dealing with our progress on these lines, I might perhaps refer to certain advances that we have made in other directions. In particular two new guns have been introduced into the Air Force. One is an entirely new Vickers gun, and the other is the Browning gun, which has the merit of simplicity and which gives greatly increased performance for aerial use. Arrangements are being made for its manufacture in this country. These are guns for use on air- 1672 craft. Active research continues to exploit the advantages of higher quality fuel. Tests which have been carried out on the sleeve valve aero engine, which gives a better performance, greater rapidity of construction, and reduction in maintenance, have been most encouraging, and it is about to go for service trials. Finally, over the whole field of aircraft components, accessory equipment, wireless apparatus, and warlike stores of all kinds, the strictest emphasis is being placed upon standardisation of types and simplicity of design, so as to facilitate quantity production. Having given our contractors the clearest indication we can of the quality and performance that we require, we encourage them to manufacture as simply as possible. For instance, our requirements in wireless equipment are now 14 times what they were in the pre-expansion era, but nevertheless we now have a standard type which gives us what we want and which is easy to produce in quantity.
As regards the delivery of aircraft, we have stated frankly to the House that there have been delays, and we have naturally been disappointed, but I would like to emphasise that the deliveries for our programme were based upon the forecasts of manufacturers. These forecasts were necessarily framed on inadequate experience of production difficulties with the latest designs of aircraft, and the result is that many of these forecasts have proved optimistic, and manufacturers have not been able to deliver up to schedule. The Air Ministry have done everything they possibly can to develop plans for increased production. We have arranged for large extensions to be made to works. To encourage firms to put the work in hand at the earliest possible moment, we have covered them by the capital clause in contracts, to which I will refer later. Certain firms have, with the approval of the Air Ministry, entered into agreements with firms outside the industry whereby the resources of the latter can be used for the production of aircraft. If I might mention some examples of these "marriages," as they might be called, I would mention Shorts and Harland and Wolff, and Blackburn's and Denny's. In the latter case the result has been that a new factory is being put up at Dumbarton, a Special Area, where a contract for aircraft of a value of £1,250,000 will be put in hand. We have 1673 encouraged, and in many cases we have insisted upon, firms putting out a great deal of work to sub-contract. We have introduced main contractors to suitable firms for this sub-contract work; we have assisted by concentrating the orders for each firm on a single type as far as possible. Finally, there are the shadow factories.
The delays have been due to various causes. There has been a shortage of labour. There has been a distinct shortage of skilled draughtsmen. Again, firms have had very little post-War experience of production on a large scale. They had to extend their shops, rearrange their lay-out, re-organise their whole system; and, concurrently with that, they had to put out their maximum production from their existing plant. Thirdly, the large increase in demand coincided with a most remarkable advance in aeronautical technique and design. The Air Ministry took the risk—a deliberate risk—of placing production orders for new types before their prototypes had been built and tested. This will meet the objection which I have often heard from hon. Members as to the length of time that it took to put a machine into production. Under this latter policy it was inevitable that some of the "teething troubles" which are usually associated with the prototype should manifest themselves in some of the first production machines.
The necessity for the simultaneous development of quite new quantity production methods has also tended to cause delay. But these difficulties are being steadily overcome. None the less, this new method has proved incomparably quicker than the old. We have, in fact, more than halved the time that it took to bring a new machine into production. Deliveries of our new types are now beginning, and the rate of output will increase progressively. The risk we have taken has been amply justified, and, I think the House will agree, a thousand times worth while.
As I have said, the Air Ministry are doing all they can to expedite production. We are aiming at reducing the number of types. We have reduced modifications to a minimum, subiect, of course, to safety and to performance. We are giving firms every assistance we can in securing materials and machine tools. Our production 1674 staff, consisting of people of considerable manufacturing experience, are in almost daily contact with the firms, investigating causes of delay and giving helpful advice on production matters. Indeed, the firms themselves have testified to the assistance that they have received from us.
Finally, there is always the incentive to the firms to give quicker and cheaper production. I will deal with this later when I come to the question of prices. Hon. Members may perhaps say, "We approve your policy of ordering new types of aircraft. We realise that it is, perhaps, inevitable that there should be a certain amount of delay. We admit that, when your shadow factories are working at full pressure and you have reached your peak in production, you will be getting all the deliveries that you require so far as one can tell at present. But is there nothing more that you can do now to accelerate production? Is there nothing that you can do to increase deliveries over the coming months?" That is a very natural and proper question, and I should like to deal with it. We have already succeeded in obtaining voluntarily a certain priority in delivery of machine tools. As yet there has been no serious shortage of materials but we feel that, if there were, priority could also be arranged there voluntarily. Another suggestion is that we might develop a system by which further firms could be turned over to aircraft production. I should like to stress that there is a vast amount already of sub-contract work being undertaken by firms who are well qualified to do it, and who are doing it in the ordinary course of their business. Both the Air Ministry and the main aircraft contractors are doing their best to broaden the basis of production in this way. To turn over a number of these firms to the production of complete aircraft would dislocate their business and cause a great upheaval in it. Nor would it be of any present help. They would not come into production until long after the peak production of the shadow factories and of the parent firms had been reached.
What would help us very much to secure accelerated production would be if we could have more skilled personnel. There is not, unfortunately, enough skilled labour at present to go round. If you were to pick skilled men from other 1675 engineering industries and draft them into the aircraft industry, it would cause a tremendous dislocation in the general engineering industry just at the time when it is going through a period of great activity. It seems to me that it is essential that this activity should go on. To undermine and interrupt it, with the obvious reactions that it would have on other industries, would be fatal. Not only that. There are a great many unskilled men who depend for their employment on skilled men and who would be thrown out of employment. Also the financing of our rearmament programme, which depends so much on the general economic prosperity of the country, would, I think, be adversely affected.
So far as the war potential is concerned, the policy of the shadow factories has already been explained at length, and I do not think I need go into that now, but I should like to claim that this is a thoroughly practical policy. It not only gives us a war potential, but it also reinforces production without interfering with normal industry. Very satisfactory progress is being made with the erection of the factories for the production of aeroplanes and aero-engines.
Finally, a careful review is being made of requirements of those raw materials of which there might be a risk of shortage during war. Arrangements have already been made for the purchase of reserve stocks of certain essential products, and provision is being made for obtaining adequate reserves of petrol and oil, and for storing them in places least accessible to air attack.
I should like to turn now to the question of contracts. The Air Ministry have had three objects constantly in view—to obtain the machines we want, to obtain them as quickly as we possibly can and to obtain them at a fair price. Many steps have been taken for achieving these ends. To obtain deliveries, manufacturers have made large extensions to their buildings and plant. In doing this they have felt some anxiety as to whether they might be left with redundant buildings and plant after the expansion was over. We want to avoid the experience of the last War when manufacturers who had energetically expanded buildings and plant were left with them on their hands after the War. We, therefore, considered 1676 it right and proper to safeguard them against these risks by what we call a "capital clause" in contracts. In effect, it provides that, if on the completion of expansion it is found that contractors are burdened with buildings and plant erected to carry out our contracts, for which they can no longer find employment, they will be able to claim compensation. But before that compensation is awarded all the books of the firms will be examined and, if it is found that in an isolated case, in spite of all our precautions, an excessive profit has been made, any excess profit will be taken into account when the amount of compensation is assessed. It seems to me that this arrangement gives the contractor the security that he needs, and at the same time ensures that the taxpayer will not pay more than he should.
Now I should like to deal with the question of costs and juices. In the first place, we have the fullest right of inspection of all the contractors' books. In the second place, our own accounting and technical costings' departments have been immensely strengthened. We further have the assistance of Mr. Reeve, chairman and managing director of the Associated Equipment Company, with his wide experience of costs in relation to engineering production. In many cases we are dealing with new types, and the contractor himself does not know what the cost will be. In those cases therefore we give our instructions to proceed. We then wait for one batch, or two small batches, to be manufactured; then, if we have sufficient information, we agree a fixed price for the remainder of the contract. It may be, however, that we cannot even then be certain what is a fair price for the whole order. In that case, we agree what we call a "basic price" on such information as we possess. If by increased efficiency the contractor can deliver the bulk order at less than the basic price, the saving is shared between him anal the taxpayer. If, on the other hand, the basic price is exceeded, the contractor will be paid what he has actually spent, but his profits will be based not on the actual cost but on the basic price.
§ Sir P. Sassoon
I could not tell the hon. Gentleman quite accurately, but it 1677 might be anything between 12 per cent. and 20 per cent. [Interruption.] That is the profit on the savings.
§ Sir P. Sassoon
The contractor has every inducement, therefore, to produce as efficiently and cheaply as possible, and the undesirable features of time and line contracts are eliminated. Firms have a right to go to arbitration over the capital clause and over individual contracts. I am glad to be able to pay tribute here to the invaluable assistance given us by the Hardman Lever Committee, who are advisers on matters of principle and arbitrators in matters of dispute.
I think I have said enough to show where we stand in the military sphere. I would only ask hon. Members to cast their minds back to two years ago. Let them compare the 53 squadrons of the Metropolitan Air Force of 1935 with the 124 squadrons which will be in being in a few months' time. Let them reflect on all that lies behind the bare numbers of first-line aircraft, the men and matériel and stores of all kinds, the immense elaboration and extension of our ground organisation, and the creation de novo of an adequate war potential. It is only by comparisons of that kind that a true indication can be obtained of the real progress that we have made in our vast undertaking.
In past years it has been my custom to give some account of the activities of the Royal Air Force, especially overseas. Last year events at home tended to throw into shadow even the more important operations of the Air Force overseas but, none the less, the year has not been without incident. In particular, the Air Force co-operated usefully and valuably with the land forces in attempting to maintain and restore law and order in Palestine. The speed with which air support could be summoned by wireless to the assistance of convoys engaged with armed bands was one notable feature. It is interesting to note that, from the time of the original summons, it took an aeroplane six minutes to get off the ground. In other parts of the world, particularly in the neighbourhood of Aden, the Air Force has continued successfully to discharge its function of maintaining and restoring law and order, more often than not by demonstration flights alone.
1678 Reference has been made in my Noble Friend's Memorandum to the very important exercises which were undertaken at Singapore in January last, when squadrons from Iraq and India, accompanied by bomber transport aircraft, went to Singapore to engage in the exercises there.
I must now turn to civil aviation, where several matters of first importance arise. One of the recommendations of the Gorell Committee on Civil Aviation, that the control of air-worthiness of civil aircraft should devolve upon a statutory autonomous board, was accepted in principle, with the exception of the larger passenger - carrying machines. The requisite Parliamentary authority was given last year by the Air Navigation Act and the memorandum and articles are now virtually settled. The board will be known as the Air Registration Board. It will consist of from 16 to 18 members representative of operators, constructors and insurers, assisted by co-opted members not in any of those categories, and also by two members nominated by the Secretary of State. It is expected that it will commence operations under the chairmanship of Sir Maurice Denny within the next few weeks. It is hoped that the provisions of Part III of the Act, providing for third party insurance for civil aircraft, will come into operation on 1st July.
Another event of the first importance is the report of the Maybury Committee on the development of civil aviation in Great Britain. Certain ad hoc proposals of the Committee have already been implemented. The far-reaching recommendations contained in the final report, in so far as they involve State action, have, as has been stated in my Noble Friend's memorandum, been accepted in principle by His Majesty's Government. Perhaps it will be useful if I mention briefly the main points of policy. The first point is, that routes must be fully organised with wireless and other equipment, so that the services may be regular and punctual both by day and by night, and so as to limit, as far as possible, the risks and dangers of collisions in the air. Accordingly, it is proposed to set up a general system of radio and control facilities, operated by the Air Ministry. Provision for a first instalment of the cost is included in the present Estimates. The experience of internal air services 1679 during the past year has also raised in an acute form the question how such services can best be enabled to operate upon an economic basis. The Committee concluded that if they are to pay there must be some limit to competition. Available traffic must be concentrated so as to permit of a greater number of flying hours for each machine maintained in operation. The practical scheme outlined by the Committee for testing this conclusion is to be followed up in order that further experience may be gained. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the thanks of His Majesty's Government to Sir Henry Maybury and the members of his Committee for the very valuable report which they have presented.
Turning now to developments in British external air communications, satisfactory progress is being made towards the fulfilment of the Empire Air Mail scheme. After protracted discussions last summer, the Australian Government have now agreed to come into the scheme under arrangements enabling certain special adjustments to be made to meet Australian requirements. The present intention is that the scheme as a whole shall come into operation at the beginning of next year. As from that time all first-class mail from the United Kingdom to Empire countries on the Empire Air routes, will be carried by air at a flat rate of 1½d. per half ounce, that being the current preferential Empire postage rate. Meanwhile, it is hoped that a start will be made on the Durban route in the early summer of this year, and on the Singapore route towards the end of the year. The complete scheme aims at providing flying boat services on the routes to South Africa, India and Australia, assisted by landplane services to India, all operated by the new Empire aircraft. There will be three flying boat services a week to Kisumu, of which two will go on to Durban; and three services a week to Singapore, of which two will go on to Sydney. The landplane services will probably be three services a week to Egypt, of which two will go on to Calcutta, so that with the three flying boat services, there will be five services a week to India, and, of course, there will be arrangements made for feeder services in connection with all routes. Hon. Members will have learned with gratification that the Portsmouth City Council have 1680 agreed to co-operate in this Empire scheme by adopting a proposal for a flying boat base and aerodrome at Langstone Harbour.
The main details of the arrangements agreed upon between the various governments concerned in connection with the proposed North Atlantic service were explained by me to the House last July. The formidable task of providing the necessary ground organisation and equipment is being actively pursued, and bases for both land and marine aircraft are being selected by the various governments affected. As regards aircraft, there are three main lines of Transatlantic development in hand. Four-engined high speed land machines are on the point of completion, with which it is hoped to operate an experimental service before the end of this year. A fleet of specially designed flying boats should be available in the course of 1938, and the possibilities of catapulting long-range flying boats are being actively investigated. The Mayo composite aircraft and refuelling in the air constitute two subsidiary lines of research, directed to finding the best solution of long-range problems. Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages. They will all be actively pursued with the object of finding out their possibilities. Meanwhile, experimental trials have already begun with two flying boats of the "Empire" type specially fitted for long-range operation. I think that the House will agree that we have every reason to be proud of the achievements of these Empire aircraft.
Among the new British external services introduced in 1936 were a weekly mail service between Khartoum and Kano and Lagos, and a temporary service between Penang and Hong Kong, pending completion of arrangements for a permanent connection from Hong Kong to the Empire trunk routes. It is expected that the Burmuda-New York service will begin operations this year. It will entail nonstop hops over 800 miles of water. A proposal for the establishment of a trans-Tasman air service, which was discussed at a conference at Wellington last autumn, still awaits the approval of the Governments concerned.
The expansion of the Royal Air Force and the development of civil aviation in this country have very largely increased the demand for meteorological informa- 1681 tion, especially in regard to flying at night or for flying in cloud. To meet this, a revised organisation of meteorological stations has been evolved, and is being brought into operation as rapidly as the necessary trained personnel can be provided. The organisation will cover a number of primary forecasting stations with scientific and observer staff. To each of these stations there will be allotted a series of subsidiary stations, situated on aerodromes, from which night or cloud flights take place. Trained assistants will man these stations and will provide local information and obtain forecasts from the main stations as required. For the Empire air routes, the work of establishing the meteorological ground organisation has made satisfactory progress, while a special section of the Meteorological Office is engaged upon a study of weather conditions in the North Atlantic.
It is now necessary for me to return for a moment to the current financial year. Some further adjustment became necessary in our expenditure during the year, beyond that provided for in the Supplementary Estimate presented in July last. Briefly, we have made more headway with our works and buildings programme than had been expected, and the result is an increase of expenditure; while, as far as equipment is concerned our expectations have not been fully realised. It is, therefore, necessary for me to present to the House a token Supplementary Estimate for £100 to cover the major variations which I have mentioned, and some less important variations which are also shown in the details of the Estimate.
It is impossible for me, in a speech of any reasonable length, to give an adequate idea of the immense activity which has prevailed during the past year throughout the Royal Air Force, both in the Service itself and in the Departments of the Ministry. It is the more gratifying, therefore, to me to pay a deserved tribute to the loyal manner in which the incessant demands of the expansion scheme have been met, both by the staffs of the departments, and throughout the Service. Throughout all the expansion, in every step on the industrial side, and in fact in almost every aspect of our work, we have had the invaluable and untiring assistance of Lord Weir, who has brought to bear upon our problems his great industrial experience and his almost unique 1682 knowledge of the Air Force, which he himself did so much to create.
The Ministry can make plans, and the nation can provide the money; but the plans cannot effectively be carried out without the loyal and intelligent cooperation of all ranks and all departments. Indeed, more than that is needed to make a success of an expansion scheme so vast. We need the willing co-operation of the aircraft industry and of the other industries working for us, and the help and the encouragement of the nation as a whole. All that is vital. All that we have had. The staffs of the Department have given us of their best. The existing personnel of the air stations and squadrons have accepted the continuous stream of recruits and enthused them with their own spirit. The aircraft industry and other industries working for us have shown an earnest desire to do everything they possibly can to help. Finally, the nation at large has encouraged us with an ample flow of recruits. We ask that this flow may continue.
I make bold to say that so large an expansion in so short a time has never been approached, even remotely, in like circumstances by any other Service Department. It is an expansion without precedent in peace time in the history of our country. It is being accomplished by voluntary effort, and not by emergency powers. It is based on cooperation and good will, and not upon dictatorial decrees. We have still an enormous task before us during the next two years. I venture to say that we have made a good beginning with an expansion scheme of which even yet we cannot clearly see the end. I am confident that, if the help and encouragement that we have received during the past two years are continued, we shall surmount successfully whatever further problems we may be called upon to meet.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
The right hon. Gentleman has introduced the Air Estimates to this House so many times and in language always so clear and well arranged that it is difficult to find new terms in which to compliment him. We appreciate, at any rate, the legibility of his speech, and I am sure hon. Members will unite with me in congratulating him upon his return to the House so fit and well as apparently he is. I rise in order to raise a number 1683 of questions connected with military and civil aviation and to put forward some considerations which are in the minds of my hon. Friends. In due course the usual token Vote will be put before the House in accordance with a well understood procedure, and it does not involve either the acceptance or rejection of the financial provisions embodied in the Minister's statement. We shall be entirely justified in voting against every penny of the Estimates to show our disagreement with the Government's policy, but to represent such a vote as one to deprive the nation of necessary armed protection would be a new and somewhat ingenious doctrine. Hon. and right hon. Members on the Government Bench have over and over again voted against Service Estimates, lock, stock and barrel—the metaphor is appropriate—and when the ultimate Vote comes before the House for consideration it will be our endeavour to fasten on the Government the responsibility for a course of action, which however necessary it may be and however much it may be justified to-day, has been brought about to an appreciable extent, in our opinion, as a result of the Government's own foreign policy. In the Memorandum the Secretary of State says:The most important features of the plan were certain variations in the composition of the Force designed to increase its striking power and so provide a more effective deterrent against any possible aggressor.In the Estimates, in page 47, total amounts and quantities are mentioned, but there is no indication as to how the items of armaments and munitions are classified, the kind of armaments they actually are. We know, however, that what are called defensive offensive weapons proponderate, and that with every increase in armaments the same proportions, we may assume, will apply. Put in another way, it means that the risk to this country in the encouragement of a race in armaments increases according to the vulnerability of the country; the competition of bomber against bomber goes more and more against Great Britain because of our peculiar vulnerability. The more offensive defensive weapons we have, since like produces like in competition, the greater is the effect or our geographical disadvantage, and that geographical disadvantage is recognised and admitted by everyone.
1684 I must touch on some aspects of policy. The Under-Secretary of course in his speech dealt with the actual figures and facts relative to the Air Force in general, but I think it is necessary to refer to some aspects of policy which relate to the request for such a huge amount as £88,500,000. The Under-Secretary said that it was £82,000,000.
§ Mr. Montague
Yes, but the total figure is £88,500,000. We have debated foreign policy on many occasions and, therefore, I will confine myself strictly to the points which affect the nature and disposition of the Air Force. I should like to ask the Government this question: Do they imagine that Germany has in mind the colonisation of Great Britain? On the answer to that question depends the kind of armaments and aeroplanes we create, and also their disposition; where those aeroplanes should be placed. Unless that is the idea, then the fear of a sudden attack on this country, the kind of attack which is in many people's minds, an attack without warning from the air, is probably more or less a fantasy. If Germany or any other country wants war it will find an excuse. If Germany wants a return of her colonies, she will adopt appropriate tactics, and they may probably be peaceful penetration where the problem resides. No doubt, Germany's air power will be behind the fait accompli, but the question is one of mandates and the defence of mandates. The Under-Secretary will see my point in a moment. These mandates come from the League of Nations, and hon. Members who talk easily about isolation must logically be prepared to surrender these mandates unless isolation means the kind of thing which is sometimes represented by the saying "what we have, we hold."
Do the Government believe that the manhood of this country will throw itself into another war of unnameable horrors for the continued possession of mandates in Africa, for Togoland for instance? If they do, they must be mad. Our people will fight for defence and for honour, but they will not fight for mandates. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) recently said that the question of the economic value of colonies has assumed in German eyes wholly disproportionate importance. There is no 1685 evidence that the ownership of colonies, said the right hon. Gentleman, is an indispensable condition of her prosperity. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook is able to look at anything through German eyes, or through any other eyes but his own, but the truth is that the German case, which may be weak in economics—although I am not so sure of that—is certainly strong in justice. The danger of the situation to this country is that bases threatening our coastal routes, our Cape to Cairo communications, could be established in Tanganyika and South West Africa. This possibility is more significant to-day than it was before the War. If it is true that the people of this country are not likely to support a war in order to retain either for this country or for the Union of South Africa mandates of that description, I think it is reasonable to assume that Germany is likely to strike not in this country but in Africa, and then the question will be whether we are willing to go to war for the retention of these mandates.
§ Mr. Sandys
What does the hon. Member really suggest? Does he suggest that Germany is likely to make an invasion of Africa by air without it affecting this country?
§ Mr. Montague
If the hon. Member will wait a moment he will know what I suggest. My suggestion is that if there is any danger of attack it will not be upon this country but in reference to Eastern Europe or to the colonies which Germany possessed before the last War, and that we must take that into consideration when we are discussing the type of our Air Force and its disposition. I suggest that it is not likely that Germany would strike at once at this country, though the possibility, of course, of such an attack must be guarded against, but on principles of defence widely differing from those based on the building of bomber against bomber, is a panic race to ruin. To surrender mandates to Germany would be considered by her a sign of weakness, but unless we are prepared to go to war in order to keep them we must at least be willing to lay down, as a basis of discussion, their possible disposition under the League of Nations, subject to guarantees of disarmament and the observance of the proper standards of colonial practice. We must face that. We have to consider this huge expendi- 1686 ture of money in the light of such considerations.
§ Mr. Montague
The question is what our point of view is going to be, and the reaction of the people of this country to a war begun under such circumstances. If Germany's colonies are of no economic importance to Germany, they are of no economic importance to this country. One of the Service newspapers, not a Socialist newspaper, said recently in reference to the White Paper:We are, unabashed, about to slip into the old system of throwing our weight here and there in order to preserve the balance of power. The rearmament plan, in fact, is un-disguisedly unilateral and the regional pacts to which the Prime Minister has alluded, can never be a real substitute for even an emaciated League of Nations. The logical outcome of an arms race is war. One can even go further and say this. In the sense of industrial activities begot by the necessities of Defence this country is in a state of war in time of peace. Nothing affords the slightest proof that the Government is in pursuit of any settled policy. It is just rearmament plain and simple and this is being undertaken, apparently, in the hope that given time we may again exert a preponderating influence in world politics.That is the comment of a leading Service newspaper of this country.
§ Mr. Montague
Yes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has more than once made the point that the Defence Loan Vote in relation to £26,000,000 which appears in these Estimates as an appropriation-in-aid from the Consolidated Fund, was not one compelling the Departments to spend up to their full amount in the allotted time, that is five years. He has said that if the situation in foreign affairs alters for the better the rate of expansion might be modified. That is a very important statement, because the Government have time in order to initiate a policy which might make a difference to the state of affairs in foreign politics. I say that if an expenditure of this magnitude is necessary under the new situation, if the Government could convince the House or this side of the House that they mean business and not mere scheming for advantage, then probably the point of view of many sections in the House would be very different from what it is in respect of this huge expenditure for the expan- 1687 sion plan. Let hon. Members bear in mind the point that I have made in regard to German Colonial contacts, and the fact that the common people of this land will not murder Germans wholesale for the sake of a splash of tropical red.
Let me come to another aspect of the question. On page 136 it is stated that the number of airmen pilots in establishment strength last year was 54, and the Under-Secretary stated to-day that the number of airmen pilots entered last year was 235 in relation to a total of 1,175. That is only about one-fourth of the strength.
§ Sir P. Sassoon
Those were direct entry pilots. There were a great many pilots who became pilots in the Air Force.
§ Mr. Montague
I am aware of that, but in any case the figures are meagre. It must be recognised that the airmen pilots have no permanent commissions, but belong to the Reserve. We think that the proportion and the method of entry reflect the traditional preference of the service against democracy. There is to be an enormous expansion of personnel presumably on the same ratio, and we regard that as an aggravation of a dangerous class bias. So afraid are those in power of entrants into commissioned rank even from the secondary schools and for the Air Force Reserve only that there is not even common examination. The absurd position arises that a lower standard of intelligence, knowledge and capacity may well determine the mental level of the majority as compared with the small number of social inferiors who are allowed to get through. Those are selected, no doubt, with extreme care. We suggest that something better than the airmen pilot scheme is required. We press for a more democratic system, and until the Service is fully representative of the nation from the top to the bottom, we shall not be satisfied.
I do not share the fears of those who contemplate the possibility of Fascism on a Continental scale raising its head in this country. But there is Fascism and Fascism. Without any hysteria in regard to that question we regard class domination within the Service as a menace to public liberty and our constitutional safeguards. We might as well be frank about this matter. There are not a few potential Francos among those from whom 1688 the officer class is drawn, people whose belief in constitutional democracy is a matter of convenience. We say that it is not a good thing that huge forces should be built up under the administrative control of a small economically and socially superior class. There is no need for it. Intelligence and capacity are no longer the monopoly of the public schools and the universities. If the control of men and the art of instilling that power of control is to be the prerogative of the public schools, then the sooner the whole system of class government goes, the better. From what I know of Air Force education it is possible to cultivate respect of rank for rank without making it a matter of social prestige and standing. Let advancement be determined by merit. Let there be equal examinations and adequate pay for officers and men. As a result of some of our reservations we are prepared to recognise that they may mean an increase of pay to the office' class. We believe that the country ought to pay for ability and to pay upon a standard which will enable people to live, to whatever class they belong.
With regard to permanent commissions in the General Duties Branch of the Royal Air Force, which includes flying, technical command and administrative work, not only must applicants have completed three years' residence by the end of their university year in Which they are recommended, but preference is given to those who have become efficient members of university air squadrons of Oxford and Cambridge or university officers' training corps. Short service commissions are open to candidates possessing school certificates such as those obtained from examinations of the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board, or the London University matriculation standard. Then they have to pass through the filter of the civilian flying training schools, in order that unsuitable candidates may be weeded out. There is no objection to the weeding out of candidates who are unsuitable from the point of view of technical ability or education, but the whole system seems to us to smack of bias and snobbery, for the "true, clean-run youth," as Kipling would say, of the British ruling class, who can get Royal Air Force commissions with far less fuss than people of the second or third grade of the social formation. I repeat that we view with profound misgiving any expansion of air 1689 power without drastic changes in methods of recruiting and appointment among the higher executive personnel.
Turning again to the Memorandum, on page 7, the Secretary of State says:As the training of boys entered as apprentices extends over three years, it was not to be expected that the large requirements of fitters for the rapidly expanding force could be wholly provided from this source.This relates to the labour question, which has been dealt with by the Under-Secretary.
The experiment was, therefore, tried of supplementing the apprentice-trained entrants by a special class of recruits directly entered for short training as mates to skilled fitters.That sentence is very reminiscent, and we are entitled to know exactly what it means.
The best of these have been selected for further training as flight mechanics and flight riggers to undertake, under supervision, the maintenance work carried out in flights.I may be told that this is a matter for the National Council for Aircraft Workers, which includes the Amalgamated Engineering Union as one of the participating unions. But there are local committees in aircraft production areas, and I am not sure that the council covers titters' mates on aerodromes, and I do not know whether or how far it is officially recognised. The matter is wider than a question for local committees, however representative. Dilution in industry is inevitable. It is being instituted over a comprehensive field of industry, and we want to know what is to happen to these men when the plans for rapid expansion are completed. What is to happen to the industries concerned? We have the experience of the War and we have the post-war results, as to the attitude of the Government and the country to industry. We know what is to happen to the industries concerned in respect of profits. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence admitted the other day, in the most casual manner, that the law of supply and demand had its roots through nature to nature's God.
§ The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I did not say that.
§ Mr. Montague
I know the right hon. Gentleman did not say that exactly, but what he did say was that the costs were bound to reflect the conditions.
§ Mr. Montague
Prices are costs. At any rate, they are costs to the nation. The millionaires are mobilising. Throg-morton Street is calling. Metals, like programmes, are expanding. We know that iron and steel and chemicals constitute a solar system; so much so that it is possible to make the knight's move over the industrial chess board and touch every square. We are not to be told what a reasonable profit is. The Under-Secretary was asked this afternoon, by interjection, what it was, but he did not seem to have the slightest idea what the standard of costs was or how productive costs are to be checked. There is a handful of men in key positions. If we were to study their interests as closely as they study their own, we should find that they were masters of co-ordination. They beat the Minister of Co-ordination to a frazzle. From iron to coal, from tin plates to oil, from battleships to food, from guns to butter, from nickel to beef, the chart of industrial finance resembles one of those puzzles where you begin and end at the same point, but you do not go over the same line twice.
It is all very well for the Under-Secretary to tell us that everything is being watched and everything is being done as far as the costs in the manufacture of aeroplanes are concerned, but the financial and industrial complications of this question go very much further afield. I notice that a newspaper which supports the Government was virtuously indignant the other day because the workers sought by an unofficial strike—I am not defending unofficial strikes—to profit by the nation's emergency and to get a bit for themselves. That is very reprehensible, no doubt, but it is strictly in accordance with the Defence Minister's law of supply and demand.
§ Mr. Montague
It is the right hon. Gentleman's law by appropriation. There seems to be great unrest in the aircraft industry. Can we be told anything about it? What arrangements are being made in order to secure the successful working of the plan? Or are the Government prepared to let things drift, and trust to the indignation of the people when it comes to real difficulties in the industrial and working-class field? I can assure the Minister that so long as it is accepted as a matter of legitimate business and a 1691 matter of course to seize the opportunity of national extremity for the purpose of shovelling money into individual pockets and rocketing the value of shares, the workers will not be satisfied with anything less than the same law of supply and demand being allowed to operate in their favour. It is unfortunate that sordid considerations should come between the people and patriotic promptings. Whose fault is it? The workers are not unfamiliar with the names of those responsible for industrial mobilisation. The Bearsteds, the Aberconways, the Essen-dons, the Greenwoods, the McGowans, the Weirs. The Under-Secretary referred to Lord Weir. I assure the Under-Secretary that I am not casting any aspersions on them. But as long as the supply of essential war materials is vested in rich and powerful men, so long will the workers want to know where they stand. If the country is to be bled—and the so-called reasonable profit only consists of a fraction of what is involved—and if there is only the suspicion of all-round plunder, nobody can be blamed if hostility is developed.
May I remind the House that during the Great War the Miners' Federation offered to work at existing wages providing that prices were not forced up against the nation? But prices were forced up. A Select Committee, in 1920, reported that it had received evidence from the Inland Revenue Department that a small group had added £4,180,000,000 to their wealth, after allowing for Income Tax and Excess Profits Duty. Sir Josiah Stamp put the figure higher, at £5,300,000,000, a sum which is three times as much as we are spending in five years upon armaments. The yearly interest on that amount would permit of the abolition of the means test, the raising of the school age, pensions of £1 a week at 60, and still leave a huge sum for other social purposes. Are we willing that such a situation should arise again? It is no answer to say that the costs of aeroplanes are being watched. If hon. Members opposite do not regard that sort of thing as plunder, we do, and we are not satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's bland assurance that these things are being watched, but that, of course, it is natural that an increased demand should have an upward effect on the metal market. It must also have an upward 1692 effect on the labour market. The production and supply of all the things necessary for our Defence are to be left to private enterprise and private profit.
Before leaving the military aspect of the Estimates, I would ask the Minister to give the House some information upon certain matters relating to Home Defence. There is a rather absurd reticence about the nature and cost of our Home Defences. We are told about the new guns that are being put into aeroplanes and about a great many other things, but we are not told about the state of the Defence of London and the remainder of the country. With regard to the balloon barrages, for instance, does the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else imagine that it is possible to camouflage balloon stations any more than oil tanks? Does he imagine that other nations will not know where those balloon stations are, or does he want them to come over and find out for themselves? We do not want them to come. Is the Hank's predictor as infallible as it is made out to be? What is the answer to the argument that, as a shell takes a minute to climb 30,000 feet, however efficiently an instrument on the ground may predict the position of an aeroplane upon a straight course, if the aeroplane has three dimensions, as it has, in which to travel, and is taking a zigzag course, what is the value of the prediction of the instrument? Are the robot aeroplanes a mechanical success, and what is their stage of development? Is the flying bomb practical, and will it cut through steel aprons? I would like to have some information on those matters. I suggest that the giving of that information would do no harm to our Defences and would help to strengthen public confidence.
Turning now to civil aviation, an increase of £1,500,000 of public money is asked for to meet the needs of the next financial year, making a total of £2,300,000. Part of this is to be spent in setting up an air traffic control organisation in the United Kingdom to carry out the recommendations of the Maybury Committee, the report of which is an exceedingly interesting document. In the summary of conclusions and recommendations it says that the local authorities should make every endeavour to encourage private flying and that due weight should be given in revising future subsidy arrangements to such valuable 1693 work. It is always a question of subsidies. Presumably the valuable work in private flying is the creation of an air-minded community and a source of military pilots. If it is a military consideration, I suggest that it ought to be brought up upon appropriate Votes. Internal services are to be regulated, at the public expense of course, but exclusive licences are to be given to a private company or to a number of private companies to operate for five years, and a licensing authority is to be appointed which will select the company or companies.
Some day, it is said, this will be completely self-supporting, and the public will be compensated, as a result of fees for an increasing number of pilots' licences. Long ago we were told that civil aviation would fly by itself, but we do not seem to be getting any nearer to that day, because as far as these estimates are concerned—never mind the subsidies in the Air Navigation Bill—the subsidies are to be more than double those given last year. The report says that the expenses of the additional ground organisation are likely to impose an appreciable extra burden upon the public purse for a considerable period and, in the language of Sir Henry May-bury himself, the public is to foot the bill. Someone said some time ago that we should soon be getting our living by taking in each other's subsidies. I have no fear of a dictatorship in this country as long as Parliament can find plenty of money with which to encourage industries and pastimes. What is the value of private flying? I think we ought to be told precisely what value it has for the country which is sufficient to justify this public expenditure.
One of the remarks made in the May-bury Committee's report is really amazing. There is a reference to the proposed network covering London, Bristol, Portsmouth, Southampton, Edinburgh, Newcastle and so on, with a junction aerodrome in the Manchester and Liverpool district, and the report says that such a system would serve an aggregate population of 14,000,000, or one-third of the population of the United Kingdom. It will not serve the interests of 14,000, let alone 14,000,000, except as far as business convenience may be concerned. This raises a rather important point. I am prepared to admit that there is a strong case for subsidising Imperial air, routes, just as 1694 there is a strong case for foreign countries to subsidise commercial air travel on the Continent, which is virtually united in that sense, if not in the political sense, or in America and Canada; but what justification is there, without effective ownership and control, for subsidising mere commercial travelling through the air in Home territory, where there is competition of the firms one against the other?
I fail to see that there is a case for subsidising these internal air routes. Since when has it been considered healthy in pathological economics to finance business convenience in the name of 14 million people, the great majority of whom, from any-practical point of view, is never likely to know one end of an aeroplane from the other? It may be said that other countries do it, but there is a vast difference, for instance, between subsidising new and efficient transport of diamonds from the hinterland to the South American coast or the development of the West Indies from the United States or from Canada, and subsidising business competition from the public purse. I cannot see any justification for that assistance. One might just as well subsidise road transport for the same reasons. The truth is that business interests have got into the habit of mind of the apothecary's leech. In our view the private exploitation of the air is as bad as the private exploitation of the land. If the underlying motive of the Government's subservience to private interests is ultimate military advantage, then let it appear honestly in the appropriate Votes. I would like to conclude by thanking the Under-Secretary for his very clear and useful speech, and by telling the House that we shall have more to say when the detailed Estimates are discussed.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
I crave the indulgence of the House on the first occasion in which I have the honour to address it. I propose to deal with one or two points which affect that branch of the Service to which I have the honour to belong, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force; but before doing so, I would like to place on record the extremely high regard in which my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air is held throughout the whole Service, the Auxiliary Air Force in particular. I can only say that 1695 his kindness, help and thought have always been the cause of great satisfaction.
I think it would be well to refresh the memory of the House as to the amount of work which is actually expected of squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that we are expected to do more work than any other unit of the Territorial Forces. During the summer months it is necessary for us to give up practically every weekend, and also one or two evenings a week. I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree that it is no exaggeration to say that the work of the Auxiliary Air Force squadrons is extremely difficult for the officers and men concerned. Fortunately the keenness of these officers and men makes it possible for the programmes to be carried out, and I am glad to say that they are in fact carried out. The difficulty has always been in making sure that the requisite number of aircraft is always serviceable when the week-end comes. We have in all auxiliary squadrons 12 aircraft allotted to three flights. One of these aircraft is always a reserve machine which cannot be flown without the permission of the group headquarters, and the twelfth is a dual instruction machine which cannot be used for general work.
The strength of pilots in the Auxiliary Air Force has been, so far, 21 general duties officers. As far as I know there are no sergeant pilots or airmen pilots in this Force. The House will appreciate the fact that in the past it has been extremely difficult to maintain the necessary supply of Service aircraft, and when we get to our stations at the week-end it is often difficult to obtain sufficient Service aircraft. That is with 21 general duties officers. We are led to understand that in the future we are to have 29 officers, excluding the commanding officer, who is just as much a pilot and a working officer as any of us.
Bearing this increase in mind, I think hon. Members must see that it will be impossible for the senior Auxiliary Air Force squadrons to deal with the amount of work which is in front of them unless my right hon. Friend can promise us in the immediate future an additional number of aircraft. We have a certain number of ab initio pilots in the act of training. These young officers are busy acquiring their wings. It is necessary 1696 that a certain number of Service aircraft should be allotted to them to get on with the work, but, as I say, we find when the week-end comes that there are no aircraft available even for fully trained officers and air gunners. I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us that we may reasonably expect a considerable addition in the near future to the number of aircraft available for this force.
The other day when he was presenting the Lord Esher Trophy to the Middlesex Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force, the Secretary of State for Air said that in his opinion, in the event of hostilities, all the Regular officers and airmen could be taken away from an auxiliary squadron and that squadron would be able to function by itself. With the utmost respect, I do suggest that my Noble Friend is a little optimistic. Probably it would be possible for the officers to do their work by themselves without the help of Regulars, but it is impossible in the time at our disposal at week-ends to train fitters and riggers sufficiently to enable them to take full control in the event of hostilities. It is no exaggeration to say that if and when war came, the casualties in the Service generally would be considerable during the first few weeks and it would only add to the possibilities of casualties if all our Regular staffs were removed. I hope, therefore, that this view will be modified and that we shall be able to keep at any rate our Regular non-commissioned officers and equipment officers.
Finally, I would like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he can give us any further information about the balloon barrage system. I see that ten squadrons are to be formed on an auxiliary basis to deal with the balloon barrage and I would like to know whether my right hon. Friend thinks there will be any difficulty about recruiting a sufficient number of officers and men to run those squadrons on what he would consider to be the necessary strength. I thank the House very much indeed for the patience which they have shown to me.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
I am sure the House will join with me in congratulating the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Grant-Ferris) on the speech which he has just made. It is of the highest importance that new Members coming into 1697 the House should bring with them firsthand knowledge of new developments, and it is undoubtedly an advantage to the House that the hon. Member should have come to it with the knowledge which he has shown on this subject. I think I can assure him that, every time he speaks on this subject, he, with his knowledge and skill will be listened to with attention. I also wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary on his speech. It is now, I think, the fifth or sixth year in which he has made it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not the same one."] No, not entirely the same speech. Speaking for those who sit on these benches, I wish to say that we do not entirely agree with the view of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) that he and his friends ought to vote against these Estimates. That is not our view. But we regret this expenditure and we intend to examine it carefully, in order to see that we are getting the best return for the money. We shall not be content merely with the fact that the money is being spent. We shall want to know what is going on in connection with the expenditure.
A question was asked to-day by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) as to whether now that we have these very high Estimates for the Royal Air Force, we should not have the responsible Minister in this House, and I must say that I was staggered by the Prime Minister's reply. The right hon. Gentleman said that what was going on now in connection with air defence was so important that it was better that the Minister should be in another place. For a House of Commons man to say that the other place is the proper place for the Minister in charge of a large spending Department seems very peculiar—unless it is that the right hon. Gentleman is shortly to be translated there himself. That answer by him, however, seems wrong from the point of view of Parliamentary and democratic control. Therefore, while congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary on his introduction of the Estimates, I sincerely hope that next year that task will be performed by the Minister, whoever he may be.
In the right hon. Gentleman's speech we were told a number of things about 1698 personnel and training and civil aviation, but we were not told what is the state of the Air Force to-day. It is a serious matter. It is no good closing our eyes to such considerations as where the danger may come from, and how it is to be dealt with. I think it was the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence who said that our aim and purpose was to develop as a deterrent, as powerful a striking force as we could. That striking force must reach the centres of the enemy country. Those are, more or less, the lines on which it is hoped to develop our Air Force. To achieve that object our aircraft must have a sufficient radius of action, adequate apparatus, skilled crews, and a ground personnel of the highest quality which will give confidence to those in the air. This armament programme is very largely due to Germany's rearmament and we have to face the fact that it may be from Germany that the attack will come. We have to ask ourselves: Is our present Air Force the proper force for dealing with that menace?
I have to assume certain figures because I am not in the same position as the Minister and I have only the advantages of an ordinary Member as regards information. But assuming that Belgium in the event of war is going to be neutral and that an attack has to be launched from this country against Germany. You would have to go 500 miles before you got say to the Ruhr around Belgium, and 500 miles back. It is necessary to allow an addition of about 25 per cent. to that distance for going out of the route and climbing and having to avoid the anti-aircraft guns of the enemy. That brings the total distance to about 1,250 miles in the case of an attack say on the Ruhr. In the case of an attack on Berlin the total distance would be about 1,600 miles there and back, including the 25 per cent. allowance which I have indicated.
What machines have we for carrying out such an attack? We have the Heyford standard heavy bomber and the Hind standard light bomber. The first named, I believe, has an effective range of something less than 700 miles and the last-named, the standard light bomber, has an effective range of about 400 miles, It does not seem that these are the proper machines for such an undertaking, but I understand that our new heavy bomber squadrons are being fitted with Heyfords 1699 and most of the new light squadrons with Hinds. It is clear that these long distances cannot be covered with two-seater machines. A bigger type of machine with a proper crew will be necessary, if it is to be effective when it reaches its objective. I do not know that such a machine will be much good unless it carries a load of something like one ton of bombs. Its mission when it reaches its objective is to destroy and it is no good going a long distance with a small load. As far as one can see the machines which are suitable for the kind of attack that might have to be made by this country, in its own defence, are not machines of the type which we have to-day.
This raises the whole question of air navigation. We have been told several times that everything is being done in this respect and that the conditions both as regards the actual navigation in the air and the work on the ground are much better. But if one goes abroad to Germany or America for example one finds far better arrangements both on the ground and in the air than we have in this country. Take for instance the question of flying in fog and in bad weather. It is not compulsory in this country but if you go abroad you find that it is the regular order of the day and that aerodromes are specially fitted to deal with these difficulties of navigation. Unless you get an Air Force which can be used under any conditions, you are only going to waste public money in this country.
There are several technical matters in this connection which are of great importance. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence would tell us that they are all being dealt with. There is, for example, the question of bomb aiming. A number of us here do not feel so happy about the manner in which this is being dealt with. The bomb sights in these smaller machines, up to speeds of 100 miles an hour, are efficient, but if you are to have night bombing over a town such as Berlin from an altitude of 15,000 feet or more, and you are travelling at a speed which will make it necessary to release the bombs before you get to your target, sighting becomes a highly complicated mathematical question. It is not merely a simple question of day bombing from the more or less slow machines that you have to-day. One feels that more attention is paid to this 1700 side of the question in other countries than is being paid to it here.
In regard to types of machine, I do not want to go deeply into that matter, but the Minister said that one of the questions with which they were dealing was the attempt to standardise as much as they could and not to have too many different types being developed. The policy in this country with a small Air Force has been rather to experiment with many different types of machine. Many contracts have been given to several people, but if you are merely going to expand by giving an immense number of increased contracts to the same number of people, you will not get a very efficient force. If you take the number of machines that you have now—for instance, to take only a few, the Vickers B.9, the Battle, the Whitley, the Blackburn, the Hawker, the Handley-Page, the Hendon, the Wellesley, the Anson, and the Blenheim—there is a strong feeling, and it is no good denying it, among people who know and who happen to be in the Air Force that some of these machines are not suitable for the work which they have to do. I admit that the Vickers B.9 and the Blenheim are the right type, and, of course, there is the Handley-Page, but several people who know do not consider several of the others safe at all if it is a question of going to war. Are these machines being produced now, or are we going to have a definite programme for one or perhaps two real types of machines which can be considered safe and proper for our needs? Money may have been spent, and contracts may have been given, but it would be far better to tear up those contracts and to start, now that you have got this expansion, on proper business lines, so that you can produce the real article that you need in order to secure your safety. I know that it is a difficult question.
There is also the question of the personnel, and in regard to these new people that you are getting, this new increase in the number of airmen-pilots, it will not be easy, and there are one or two points that I think should be considered. There is the question, for instance, of the way in which they are housed. Even in the more modern aerodromes many of the quarters are really hutments, similar to what we had during the War, and I believe that if you are going to train 1701 officers so that they can become strong pilot officers and eventually become squadron leaders, you must get the right atmosphere for them to feel that they can go up and not merely remain, as so many of them are, flight officers, never fit to command a squadron. It is an important point, and it is one which has not been overlooked in any way in Germany, where you find that the quarters are far better than were given to the Army or to the Navy before the War. For them, it is a very serious matter, in the training of these young officers, to give them conditions which make them feel a strong esprit de corps and not merely to keep them in hutments, as they are even in some of our most modern aerodromes.
I have asked several questions on the subject of the balloon barrage. I feel that the sort of secrecy which is maintained about this matter, so that you cannot find out how many balloons there are, where they are, and when they are going to be ready, is not really helping towards the feeling that the Ministry is getting on with this balloon barrage. I know that in France they have certainly tried it and believe in it, and I presume that the Air Ministry here believe in it too. I do not know whether I do or not, but certainly if our experts do believe in it, let us have a proper barrage, and do not let us have merely so many balloons which are called a barrage in order to lull the people of London into a sort of security and a feeling that we have a real balloon barrage when we have nothing of the sort. I put a question to the Minister in this House stating that in France they have reached a height of 25,000 feet. Here, as far as one can find out, although I have no information, the balloon which is most favoured is one that goes up to about 10,000 feet. If it is a 10,000-feet balloon, it is quite an efficient balloon for protecting a thing like a bridge-head or something where you have to come low down in order to drop your bomb on it. But if it is a question of the defence of London, it is no use at all, and you must have something able to go up far higher, so as to deal with the aeroplane that comes over here to drop its bombs indiscriminately and not to aim at any particular point. After the statements that have been made by Ministers about its being for the defence of London, I think the House ought to be told whether 1702 it is really part of the defence of London, how far it has gone, and when they expect it to be ready.
There are many other points that we would like to have more fully explained. We know that this is the youngest of the three Services, and perhaps at last it is coming more into its own, but, expanding as it is, it will not be easy, and the Minister will not have an easy time in keeping down extravagances and in being able to decide on exactly what is wanted. We admit that many experiments will have to be made and that some will fail and some succeed, but we feel that it is the most vital in importance of all the armaments that this country has ever had to face, because it is one which affects not only the troops, but the people of this country as well.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon
I am sure we all enjoyed listening to the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) making his well-informed speech, and although he sits on the opposite side of the House, I do not think that there is anything in what he said to which I have to reply from a party point of view. It was indeed a very valuable contribution to the Debate. I also want to congratulate the Minister and to tell him that, though he spoke this time from notes, I can assure him that his speech was in no way less interesting because of that fact. The Air Ministry has had put upon it an enormous task in carrying out this expansion programme, but I think that anybody of any vision and knowing anything about the air must have known for many years past that such a development was bound to come, and that a rapid increase must take place. It is interesting to notice how well the Air Ministry has dealt with this question of personnel. I think it redounds to the credit of the Ministry that they are up to time in personnel, and up to numbers, and I think we can congratulate ourselves and the country that this particularly dangerous form of service is attractive to the young men of the country. I think that is very gratifying. Another thing which gives me very great pleasure is to notice the fewness of the casualties that we suffer in training, as compared with those abroad. Some of the figures of casualties in training in some of the Continental countries—if they were known—are nothing short of appalling. We have avoided that in this 1703 country, and I congratulate the Air Ministry very much upon it.
On the materiel side, we are behind-hand, and there, I think, the Air Ministry must take the blame and not try to pass it on to the manufacturers. The attitude of the Air Ministry towards the manufacturer is always in these days rather overbearing. They sometimes forget that they are private firms and that the Air Ministry cannot dictate who shall be their directors, their staffs, their designers. They are still private firms, and yet the Air Ministry started, when the programme was laid down, by telling the industry that they were not to make any profits. That seems to me to have been rather discouraging. I think you must remember that these private firms, until you have national factories, are our national assets in this type of business. There may come a time when you can produce aeroplanes in a mass way, just as you can produce shells or candles, but that day has not yet arrived. We are still in the transition stage of design, and very much so, and really the basis of our wealth in this country is our designing staff. They are people who should really be described as creative, scientific artists, because in a problem like this, as was shown during the last War, whoever is technically ahead of the others has the superiority. Consequently, it is essential not to look upon this problem as one purely of manufacture, but to keep healthy all these private firms, so that they may be able to go on investigating the difficulties on the scientific side of the question in order that when they are wanted we shall have machines better in performance than those of any of our rivals.
We have got a trade rather soured right from the beginning, due to this profits statement by the Air Ministry. Only within the last few weeks have those manufacturing firms known what they were going to be paid for the aeroplanes which they were going to produce, yet the expansion scheme started 18 months ago. I think you could scarcely expect private firms to embark on big capital expenditure in making huge works to supply the enormous demands of the Government when they had no assurance at all that they were going to make any profit. There is this point also: There is a fetish in official circles against what is called the unapproved firms. There was a certain num- 1704 ber of firms which were approved, and there were others which invested their money in the same way as the approved firms in order to make aeroplanes, but they are looked at askance by the Government. I do not see why there should be this bar, this discrimination, and as a matter of fact we are embarking on a programme in which our engines, for instance, are divided between two firms, the Bristol and Rolls-Royce, taking certainly 90 per cent. of our demands. I consider that is putting our eggs very much into one basket.
I have always said that if I were a commander of an enemy air force I should bomb only two places in this island. One would be Derby and the other Bristol, and I know that it would put the whole of the Air Force out of commission for at least a year. Until we get the shadow factories self-producing in units we shall still be in that very vulnerable position. The Air Ministry tell us—and I congratulate them on it—that they have ordered these new machines, as they say, off the drawing-board, instead of having the usual seven years' delay. Everybody knows that no aeroplane went into a squadron until it was seven years out of date. That was the superb organisation of our glorious Air Ministry. Now they say that they have gambled by ordering off the drawing-board. I would like the House to note that that assumes that the Air Ministry knows all about aeroplanes and the trade nothing. I do not accept that nor does anybody else. The more the Air Ministry leave it to private enterprise, the better machines we shall get.
If you were asked in times of stress to produce many motor cars, would it be the right thing to go to the aircraft industry and ask it to produce them? When the Government have to produce aircraft in large quantities, the Air Ministry do not approach the aircraft industry in any way. They go to the motor car industry. The aircraft industry never had the chance of organising their shadow factories or getting on with the job. It was put into the hands of the motor manufacturers, and I do not know to-day whether the shadow of Mr. Fairey is like the shadow of Lord Austin. The thing may not go as sweetly as we imagine. It would have been better if we had put the shadow factories into the hands of the 1705 big industry which is concerned with the manufacture of aircraft. I cannot see that in those circumstances the Minister can say that they are disappointed with what the trade has done. It seems to me that they might have helped the trade, at any rate, psychologically, a good deal more than they have.
I want to say a word on the Fleet Air Arm. We had a statement the other day that we were going to have another inquiry. We have had an inquiry every two years ever since the War. I remember nothing else but inquiries, and I hope that the Air Ministry to-day are as strong in holding their case as they were in the days of what we might call the Trenchard-Hoare combination, against which wave after wave of attack from the Admiralty was hurled, and all in vain. The position of the First Lord of the Admiralty is one to which we should really draw attention. I want to know whether, when he defended the Air Ministry and took a very definite line against the Admiralty during those many years he was at the Air Ministry, he was sincere in what he thought, or whether he was just representing the Department. When he got into trouble over foreign policy, was he expressing his own opinion or was he again representing his Department? Now, when he has become First Lord of the Admiralty, is he representing what he really feels, and has he had a change of heart, or is he now merely representing the Admiralty? I understand that the First Lord of the Admiralty is going to be our next Prime Minister but one, or is it two? I cannot quite remember. I would rather have a Prime Minister who had no views on anything than a man who is going to change them according to each Department over which he presides and holds no views sincerely.
The Royal Navy is sometimes referred to as the silent Service. It never strikes me as that when we hear its representatives in the House of Commons. I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) has been mute on this subject. I cannot say that he has not put his case anything but well, and he has had ample opportunity of putting it. When we talk about battleships we are all very brave—nothing can hurt them, nobody can sink them, and the more we build the stronger we are. We like our 1706 battleships, but it was a very different thing when they were in the Mediterranean. What did the sealed lips speech which came from the Prime Minister mean? It meant that we were not too happy if we were going to be attacked by first-class up-to-date aircraft. We are going to have an inquiry, and I accept it, but I want to draw the attention of the House to this. However much we equip the Royal Navy with their own air force, the Fleet are never going to be safe against aircraft attack based on shore aerodromes. In all the narrow waters of Europe they are always subject to that attack. Consequently, the Royal Air Force would always have to pull them out of their difficulties when they were in narrow waters. As soon as we admit that, we get on to that very dangerous ground—do the Navy really want shore based squadrons? I am glad that my right hon. Friend, in announcing the investigation on this subject, said that it was not going to be on the purely technical demands of the Admiralty, but on the broader question.
There is also the question of the protection of our mercantile marine. In any troubles which may arise unhappily in future, the position of our merchant shipping will be very difficult. The modern long-range bomber has speeds of 270 miles an hour and ranges of 2,000 miles, carrying a ton of bombs. What, therefore, is going to be the fate of some of the ships coming to our shores? They will have to be protected, and protected by aircraft. Although the object of the air attack in this case is a ship, it does not matter what the object is or whether it is on water or land; the fight, qua fight, is an air fight, and when ships are attacked at sea by shore-based aircraft they have to be defended by shore-based aircraft. You really cannot discriminate between what is going to be a naval problem and what is not. I have striven for many years to get a Minister of Defence. We have now got a Minister of Co-ordination. It is not quite what we dreamed about, and not quite our child perhaps—a little sterile in imagination and a little constipated in action, but it is going a long way to what we shall really require one day. I would like to know whether the Government's policy will actually be framed on the result of inquiry of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, or whether it will be com- 1707 miffed to a Cabinet Committee as it was in previous examinations of this subject. While we are on this question, may I ask whether the Army have put up their case for their own air service as well as the Navy, because if we are going to give away services, let us be thoroughly generous and give each of the Services their own air service.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I want to deal with two aspects of the Under Secretary's statement. I want first to speak of the conditions of the men employed by the manufacturers of aircraft for the Ministry. When I first gave notice of an Amendment on this subject, the National Aircraft Council were very much concerned because of the attitude taken up by the Air Ministry with regard to one or two issues which they desired to raise. They wanted to interview the Minister with regard to at least two firms in the South of England which were employing boys at disgracefully low wages. They also wanted to raise the question of the interpretation of the fair wages clause. Since that time negotiations have been opened between several of the engineering trade unions and the engineering employer. Those negotiations are now being conducted, and I do not want to say anything which may affect them.
I want, however, to raise one or two issues which will probably not be dealt with in the negotiations on the wider aspects of the conditions of men employed in these factories. The Under-Secretary stated that there was a great shortage of skilled labour. Is he satisfied that the available skilled labour is being utilised to the best advantage with a view to securing the maximum production? Will he give an undertaking on behalf of the Ministry that in future they will see that the fair wages clause is interpreted in factories manufacturing aircraft in the same way as it is in other factories? The unions have only to raise the question and to produce evidence with regard to shipyards and other factories, and the Admiralty take up the question, and, on the whole, the unions have had satisfaction. They have not had the same satisfaction with regard to the aircraft factories. I would ask the Under-Secretary whether he will give an undertaking on behalf of the Air Ministry that in future, 1708 when questions of this character are raised, they will give attention to them in order to eliminate the unnecessary friction which has prevailed and which has produced industrial disputes that ought not to have occurred.
I am dealing with this question within very narrow limits because I do not want anyone to have an opportunity of saying that anything has been said from this side of the House which may not help matters in the negotiations which are taking place. I want, however, to deal with a number of strikes which have recently taken place in the aircraft industry. I know men in factories sufficiently well for me to say without hesitation that there is never a strike in a factory unless there is justification for it. You never get a body of men to risk their livelihood by coming out on strike unless they have legitimate grievances. It may be said that agitators do this and that, but the sore must be there to enable agitators to take advantage of it, and I have no hesitation in saying there must have been something fundamentally wrong in the aircraft factories where these strikes have occurred, many of them against official advice.
I should like the Under-Secretary or the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to make a definite statement on another issue. I find when travelling about that the men employed in aircraft and in engineering factories resent very much the constant accusations of sabotage which have been made. Questions have been asked from both sides of this House which have indicated that the questioners have had no idea of the origin of the rumours and these accusations and the publicity which has been given to them in the Press have cast a cloud over many factories. I noticed the other day that an investigation had been conducted by the Air Ministry into an accusation of sabotage in a Midland factory, and according to the Press no evidence could be produced to show that what had occurred was due to sabotage, those conducting the inquiry being of the opinion that it was just a mishap that had occurred, such as can happen in any factory. The best protectors of the aircraft and the engines which are being manufactured in this country are the workmen themselves. They take a great pride in their craft and in the work they 1709 have in hand, and therefore we can depend upon it, so far as the average man employed in the aircraft industry is concerned, that in no circumstances will he be a party to sabotage. It is true that the men, and particularly the organised men, will stand up for a principle, will strike for a principle if necessary, but in no circumstances will they be parties to any acts of sabotage, and therefore the time has arrived when some responsible Minister should say from that Box that he does not believe that the men as a whole employed in the shops will have anything to do with acts of that character.
There are one or two other complaints that I wish to raise. I read in the papers this week end that a number of aircraft workers have been negotiating for seven months to secure transport facilities between the place where they live and the place where they work. Some of the men now working in aircraft factories as a result of the extra employment there have to travel many miles to and from their homes, and the transport facilities are not adequate. Many men leave home at 6 o'clock in the morning and it has been 10 or 11 in the evening before they return home. If the Air Ministry is to get the best results from the aircraft factories better transport facilities must be provided. Some hon. Members may ask what this question has to do with the Air Ministry, but I say that if we are to get the best workmanship put into our aircraft it is necessary to provide the best possible conditions in the factories and the best possible transport facilities for the men.
Another matter which will in time raise a serious problem for this country unless it is dealt with arises out of the large number of boys between 14 and 16 years of age employed in the aircraft industry. It is true that the work on which they are engaged is mainly repetition work, but they are paid disgracefully low wages, such as do not obtain in most sections of industry, and particularly the engineering industry. I ask the Minister to consider whether these boys ought not to receive an apprenticeship training on reaching 16 years of age, so that when they are 21 they will have something to turn to and not find that they have been in a blind-alley occupation. If that cannot be done it is reasonable to ask the 1710 Ministry to see that the boys get adequate wages instead of the low wages they are receiving.
I listened to the Under-Secretary very carefully when he was dealing with costs. He did not go into details, but if the rumours in this country are to be dealt with satisfactorily it will be necessary for the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to go into more detail with regard to the prices which have been charged by the manufacturers of aircraft. It is alleged, for example, that the manufacturers are organised and fix prices by arrangement, and that they can so manipulate their estimates when they tender for contracts that the prices are arranged. In view of the rumours which are prevalent I should like the Minister to deal with that aspect of the matter. Let me give two extracts from an article by the air correspondent of the " Sunday Express " of 21st February this year. He stated that he had received information from a reliable source in the industry which gave him a comparison between the prices of aircraft manufactured for military purposes and those manufactured for civil purposes. He said that single-seater fighters cost £10,000 each, whereas a single-seater racer of a similar character cost only £2,000. He said that two-seater fighters were costing the Air Ministry £12,000, but the cost for a similar two-seater tourer was only £2,000. The price for a heavy bomber was between £25,000 and £30,000, but for a big liner of a similar capacity the cost would be only £24,000.
The writer of the article said that even after making allowance for differences in the materials and various other things there was still no reason for the big difference between the cost of military aeroplanes and the cost of aeroplanes for civil purposes. He went on to say that on the average aircraft manufacturers, particularly those engaged on large aircraft, were making at least £1,000 per aeroplane. Does the Air Minister think that it is right on the one hand to restrict wages to the limits to which they have been restricted in the case of firms making aircraft for the Air Ministry, and for boys between 14 and 16 to be employed at the miserably low wages they are receiving, while aircraft manufacturers, according to these reports, can make a profit of £1, 000 on each aeroplane produced?
1711 There is one other issue I want to raise. I agree with several hon. Members who have spoken with regard to the question of Defence in this country. I understand that our Defence arrangements are very efficient, that great steps have been taken in order to make them as efficient as is possible. I understand that a detector has been perfected which, according to the information I have been able to gather, is one of the most efficient detectors ever invented, and that they are so satisfied with it that it is soon to be put into production. If that is so, I think the Air Ministry should tell us, in order to allay the feeling which has been aroused by the many articles which have appeared in various quarters.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander James
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the points which he has raised, because a lot of Members wish to speak and I want to deal briefly with only one or two matters. The first thing is the general question of expansion. There is a demand, which is often voiced by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) especially, that the expansion shall be rapidly, and even violently, accelerated in order to overtake what he regards as arrears in the programme. I very much hope that the Government will be quite firm and will not yield to this demand for a more rapid acceleration of the programme of expansion. I feel certain that expansion is being carried on as fast as, and even faster than, sound expansion can take place without loss of efficiency. Haste would, I am certain, be extravagant. The whole of our air expansion programme is being undertaken to meet a particular danger, that possible danger being German rearmament. I do not think that enough allowance is made by those people who are so anxious for the undoubted advantage we did have at the start of our expansion programme. We started with a small but extraordinarily efficient Air Force, an advantage which cannot be estimated in terms of mere numbers. We have, secondly, an advantage in the quality of our personnel, which was thoroughly tested in the last War. That is in itself an immense advantage. We have advantages in material and skill, in ground personnel and in manufacture such as no other country in Europe 1712 possesses. Thirdly, we have, happily, certain geographical advantages over any Continental Power, always excepting the London area, which are themselves very considerable. On those grounds I hope that the Government will not allow themselves to be worried by this demand for more rapid acceleration of the expansion, and will try to make people realise that what counts is not mere numbers but efficient machines capable of being maintained in the air.
The second point with which I wish to deal is the question of the Fleet Air Arm. I see my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) is present, and he will concede me this point, that I am not attacking, but only counter-attacking. He would not expect me to allow my very high personal regard for him to soften the force of any blows which I may seek to deliver. I hope I shall not say anything to add fuel to those deplorable flames. I do not think I have ever said anything contentious on this subject before, but I have listened during the last two or three years to many attacks upon the Air Ministry's control of the Fleet Air Arm and to the demands that the situation should be changed. As I shall seek to show by quotation in a moment, those attacks appears in many cases to have been inspired. Let me substantiate that statement by reference to a Debate which took place on 10th November in this House last year. The hon. and gallant Gentleman then demanded an inquiry. He said:Therefore, I took an early opportunity of re-stating the Navy's case, and again asked for an inquiry, which was long overdue.I naturally take no objection to that, but he went on to say:In fact, there is no answer which could satisfy any impartial committee.That rather did appear to me to be begging the question. Then the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) speaking in the Debate shortly afterwards, made the following statement, to which I would particularly draw the attention of the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence:Since the creation of the Royal Air Force there is not a shadow of doubt that successive Boards of the Admiralty and Commanders-in-Chief of the Fleets have been profoundly dissatisfied with this dual system, and have not ceased in their endeavours to regain control of their own air arm, but so far without success.1713 The Debate in which that statement was made was wound up by the First Lord of the Admiralty and I naturally expected that he would administer a swingeing answer to it. If the statement is taken literally it means that the Admiralty have for many years refused to accept the Cabinet's decision on matters of policy and I assumed that the First Lord would reply to it somewhat drastically, but—and this is why I am raising the question tonight—this is all the First Lord said:How, Sir, can these two divergent views be reconciled? So far the attempt has been made to find the least objectionable point of contact between the two Services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; cols. 783–822, Vol. 317.]Frankly, that is not good enough. Then we pass on to 18th February, when we were promised an inquiry.
When are the Government going to say the last word on this matter? As was stated lately by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping:I do not think it is very creditable, and we certainly cannot go on like this indefinitely."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1937; col. 1406, Vol. 321.]It is only because of this constant succession of attacks that has been made upon the Royal Air Force and upon the Air Ministry that I have ventured to ask for a more authoritative announcement, and to offer one or two observations on the point. The solution of the problem is not so simple as is suggested by right hon. and gallant Gentlemen; on the other hand, the solution offered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping is very simple. He gave it only a few days ago. This was his solution, subscribed to by, I think, my hon. and gallant Friend. He said:It seems to me that the principle should be that the Fleet must have absolute control in all its integrity of all the aeroplanes, whether on wheels or on floats, which start from ships of war or aircraft carriers. Not only must the Fleet have that control, but it must also have the entire preparation, training and selection of all the personnel in connection with the Fleet, not only, that is to say of the aircraft on board the ships and on the aircraft carriers, but also of the training bases on shore."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1937; col. 1406, Vol. 321.]In practice, when one comes down to the point, at what level can the Air Force be divided without great loss of efficiency? Clearly, research must be centralised, and I submit that supply must also be centralised. In the Great War we had 1714 the most deplorable results from competition between the Admiralty and the Royal Flying Corps. So far as training is concerned, 95 per cent. of the training of the pilot is the same, whether he is flying over land or water. The demand made on the part of the Admiralty that you must have naval personnel to do reconnaissance work does not impress me. We went through that stage in the Royal Flying Corps during the years from 1914–1917. At one time the Artillery contended that an observer for artillery must necessarily be a gunner, but that was disproved completely in practice, and the agitation was dropped. Later the same thing was said by the infantry about contact patrol. In fact, the observer in an aeroplane, if he has a moderate amount of commonsense and common knowledge, reports what he sees. That is what is wanted of him.
There remains the question of tactical control. That the Admiralty have already got. There are certain minor adjustments which could be made, and probably would have been made before now had it not been that the Air Ministry have known all along that if they gave an inch the Admiralty would take an ell. The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington, in the speech to which I have just referred, used, as an argument in favour of divided air control, a statement which appeared to me to be perhaps the strongest and most concise condemnation of the Royal Naval Air Service I have ever heard. He said:At the time the amalgamation took place in…there was under the complete control of the Admiralty no less a force than 2,800 air machines of all kinds, with a personnel of 55,000, and from 40 to 60 aerodromes scattered about the coast—no mean force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; col. 797, Vol. 317.]It is true that those machines were under the control of the Admiralty, but the real point is, what use was made of them? I do not deny for a moment that the naval part was extremely well done, but the fact remains that, while the Royal Flying Corps suffered enormous casualties and were having a very hard time, the Royal Naval Air Service squadrons were held in reserve for contingencies that never arose.
During the Battle of Passchendaele I was commanding Number Six Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. In five months and to a day, out of an average daily flying strength of 5o, I had 54 fly- 1715 ing casualties. Only 14 miles or 15 miles away, at Dunkirk, were four or five Royal Naval Air Service squadrons, magnificently equipped with far better machines than we had, with magnificent engines and splendidly found in every way. They were doing what they were told and no doubt doing it very well, but they were taking no part in the battle and suffering virtually no casualties. By the end of the battle it was not possible for me to put a machine in the air with both the two people in it who were fully trained to do their job, and yet 15 miles away was this powerful force, held in reserve for a contingency that never arose.
What is needed is the institution by the Government of a common authority which shall override Admiralty and Air Ministry alike. I make no plea or demand for any control over the Admiralty that is not to be exercised equally over the Air Ministry. To admit the position of privilege taken up by the Admiralty and to refuse it to the Air Ministry is demoralising to both Services. Until we get that joint staff to advise the Cabinet and the Cabinet are able to make up their mind on the advice they receive, this situation is bound to go on. The reason why I am convinced that the splitting up of the Air Force and handing over a part of it to the Admiralty would be disastrous is that you would thereby lose the first essential of so mobile an Arm as the Air Force, which is elasticity. Putting it crudely and as a generalisation, one can conceive of a major European war in which the narrow seas were closed, and in which the whole Air Force would be needed for independent action; or, conversely, of a war in the Far East, under Admiralty direction, in which the Fleet Air Arm would need to be enormously increased. The elasticity of the Royal Air Force under central control for operation anywhere must be preserved. I ask the Government to tackle with courage this question, and to give us some proper scheme of control over both these Departments.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, when he speaks later, is to deal with the more general questions raised in the Debate, as distinct from the technical questions. I will therefore confine my observations to 1716 the wider issues. First I would say that some of the questions involved in the work of the Air Ministry have been wrongly answered with most deplorable results up to the present. This includes the question of whether, in air warfare, it is true that the defence cannot effectively function against the attack. If that doctrine be true, the most fundamental alteration in the strategic position which this country has always had has undoubtedly taken place, and it puts us in extreme peril. It involves us in all manner of problems. If it be not true, and the defence may be effective against the attack, we are back, provided we protect our food supplies, in the old position of being an Island Power.
Looking over the history of the last five years, the Air Ministry are open to very grave censure both because of the attitude they have taken up and their effects upon the public mind. The Ministry have not always struck the optimistic and encouraging note with which the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) began his speech this afternoon.
They have practically said that there is no defence against attack except counter-bombing of the enemy population. I have always felt that one of the most misleading statements ever made to the public was that which was put into the mouth of the Prime Minister when he said that the bomber will always get through. That doctrine has led to serious results. It has led to little attention being paid to the defence side of our air operations. It has led to the fact, which I do not think will be contradicted, that until not much more than a year ago some of our defence machinery was of a most derelict description. It has led to the result that the balloon barrage, which performed very good service during the War, was allowed to rot away and is now to be recreated. I have always been surprised that this doctrine should have been so generally accepted, because it contradicts the whole experience of the last War. In the last War the great attack on this country came in March, 1918—the attack of the 30 Gothas. But 10 of them were brought down before they returned, with the result that before the end of the War the defence was so completely master of the attack that not a single German aeroplane 1717 appeared over London during the last six months of the War.
I am making these observations because in the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day there were certain practical definite guarantees given by the Admiralty which entirely alter one's whole outlook on this question if these guarantees can be made good. It is now the doctrine that the Fleet can be successfully protected against air attack. The First Lord of the Admiralty went on to say what was most striking indeed, that not only the Fleet but the naval bases could be practically guaranteed against air attack. When you speak of a naval base you are speaking of a very large shore area. If you take Chatham, the dockyard extends six or seven miles and down to as far as Sheerness. If you can defend Portsmouth it means not only the harbour but Spithead, where the Fleet lies, an area half the size of London. It would be most important to know what that statement means, because if you can defend many square miles of Portsmouth, where there will be no warning of the raid, you will certainly be in a much better position to defend London, where you will get eight or 10 minutes' notice before the attackers arrive. I bring this to the front because it is obvious that if it is true it alters the whole perspective; it alters our policy in a number of other directions. Where you come to discussions in technical journals about the functions of the Territorial Army in the future. I see it is suggested by high authorities that we have to guard against the possibility of forces being landed in this country, and that it will be one of the functions of the Territorial Force to clear up any attack of that kind. But if the defence can master the attack, that would not be one of the possibilities against which we should need to take these precautions, and to which we should need to divert the Territorial Force.
I will illustrate what I say by this question of the new balloon barrage, which is creating at the moment a great deal of interest. It appears to me that the whole record of the Air Ministry about the balloon barrage is open to grave criticism. General Ashmore, who was in charge of the defences of London during the War, believed that the balloon barrage was one of the most effective methods which saved London from attack during 1718 the last six months of the War. In his book he quotes the report sent by the German Air Force to the German High Command, the concluding words of which are:If the balloon barrage be increased and improved much more it will make a raid on London almost impossible.I raised this question of the balloon barrage last year, and at the time I spoke I said that I believed there were only three balloons left in the country. At the time I spoke the Estimate for the balloon barrage was only £4,000. It is now nearly £700,000, which means a remarkable change in the views of the Air Ministry. The fact is that for a considerable time there have been a number of our youngest but best and most vigorous scientific brains who have been working on these subjects, who have sometimes been actually co-operating on their committees with the Air Ministry, who have perhaps a number of devices, of which this is one. They have complained that the Air Ministry have not been very receptive to their ideas.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
These young scientists. I doubt whether the Minister will deny that there has been a good deal of scepticism on the part of the Service side of the Air Ministry as to the value of these younger scientists' theories. Here is a case where they have devised a balloon barrage and in which the Air Ministry has presumably been converted. The views of Professor Lindemann on this topic are received with great respect by many Members of the House. He has said that the Air Ministry has adapted itself only to these scientific devices under pressure, and that they are still apt to regard them as sideshows which will keep the scientists quiet. He points out that there is a great number of other devices which are on the horizon and which he believes will be more effective than the balloon barrage, and I think it will be most serious if the attitude to these new devices is the same as the attitude of the Ministry has been to the balloon barrage and if we have to wait for years before finally the Air Ministry are converted. I remember a phrase of Lord Haldane, "Thinking costs nothing." It is very possible that we may be saved tens of millions of pounds by scientific investigation and research, 1719 encouraged to give its contributions to these problems.
I have raised once or twice in these Debates what appears to be an extraordinary system by which all the ground operations for air defence are not with the Air Ministry but with the War Office, so that when an air raid comes an observer corps belonging to the Air Ministry will start working while the searchlight party which will follow on four minutes later will be working with the War Office. The technical journals—"Flight" and "Aeroplane"—say that this leads to ill results and no one can deny that until a year ago it did lead to ill results. I do not think that the Secretary of State for War would deny that until a year ago the War Office kept its best equipment to itself and treated its air functions as a sort of poor relation. It would be far better for all this work to be taken over by the Air Ministry. I understand that the Minister for the Coordination of Defence has investigated the matter and come to the conclusion—which I would have predicted—to maintain the status quo. He has investigated it from the point of view of administration. Has he investigated it from the point of view which I expressed in the earlier part of what I have had to say?
The most essential work in Defence is research and investigation. It is these new technical ideas by which we may be able to render attack innocuous. Our experience has been that if you want technical advance in a subject you should concentrate it all under one Department. For education you need a Board of Education; for health, a Ministry of Health; and for transport, a Ministry of Transport. I cannot believe that you are getting the best results if research is to be divided between the Air Ministry, a fairly modern Department, and the War Office, a fairly old-fashioned Department. Am I correct in believing that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has decided to keep our Defence separated between two Departments? If so, on what grounds has he come to that conclusion, and if he has come to that conclusion in the administrative sphere, will he ensure that there will be co-ordinated attack on the problems of technical research and scientific development?
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Wells
I should like to congratulate the Under-Secretary on the way in which he has presented the Estimates. He has covered a very wide field, but it was hardly wide enough to satisfy me. I notice that the subsidy for civil aviation amounts this year to £2,315,000, or an increase of £1,500,000 as compared with last year. I believe, however, that the cost of a passenger by air would be 61 per cent., and that the 39 per cent. would be paid by the taxpayer, but perhaps the Minister would be able to give the figure. My right hon. Friend said that the North Atlantic presented a very formidable task, and I quite agree. I wonder whether, when the subject of civil aviation is under discussion at the Imperial Conference, the question of the airship will once more be discussed. I was sorry not to hear any reference to it in my right hon. Friend's speech today. The rgiht hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) talked about scientific discovery and research. I wonder whether we are following what is happening in other countries in regard to the airship question.
I should like to point out that the "Graf Zeppelin" has an extraordinarily fine record. Since 1932 she has been running on a regular schedule, carrying passengers, mails and freight from Germany to South America and back, and two years after that date was running without subsidy, paying for herself. At the end of 1936, she had crossed the ocean 139 times to schedule, had flown 15,391 hours, and had covered well over 1,000,000 miles, carrying over 35,000 passengers and 40 tons of mail and freight. That is a wonderful record, but the Germans are still going ahead. They have built a new ship, the "Hindenburg," costing from £250,000 to £300,000. The Minister has told us to-day of the aeroplane which is going to cross the Atlantic next year, and which, I suppose, will carry freight and passengers. I should like to ask him what that aeroplane will cost, and the number of passengers and the amount of freight that it will carry. I think it will probably cost something like £300,000, but, at any rate, it cannot work with the certainty with which these airships are working to-day. A Zeppelin to-day is built to carry Too people and To tons of freight, 1721 and this year we are going to experiment in crossing the Atlantic with a flying boat of about 160 horse-power. These boats, I understand, will be fitted with extra tanks and filled up with petrol, and will not be able to carry any passengers. Moreover, I am sure they will have to wait for weather conditions, and possibly may have to wait weeks before they can make a start. I believe that the weather forecasts from London, New York and Montreal are correct for the areas of which those places are the centres, perhaps for a radius of some hundreds of miles, but I do not believe that an accurate forecast can be made, even yet, of the weather in the mid-Atlantic.
I look upon this flying boat experiment with very grave misgiving, because, if these aircraft have to come down in a storm, I think they will have very little chance of surviving. Looking at the last record of the airship "Hindenburg," we see that it crossed from America to the Irish coast, with 133 people and several tons of mail and freight, in 16 hours 53 minutes, and this ship is already running on a paying basis. We have heard something of subsidies to-night from the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), who inquired when the subsidies on these airships would cease. The airship subsidies have ceased; they are not running on subsidies. The German airships, and also the American Goodyear Zeppelins, are running without subsidy, are paying their way, and are constantly flying. The "Hindenburg" has already crossed the North Atlantic 20 times, and the South Atlantic 14 times. She has flown 190,000 miles, and carried 3,927 passengers and many tons of freight. Not long ago I put a question to the Postmaster-General asking him how much was paid to Germany for carrying freight by airships last year, and he told me that the sum was £34,000. That is a small sum, but it is going to be very much larger in the next year or two, after the Germans have produced their new ship next August. It is interesting to note, also, that not only have we paid that sum, but more people are booked from London by German airships than from anywhere else. The cost of working these Zeppelins is low. I believe it works out, based on the cost of the "Graf Zeppelin," at £2,447, and I understand that the "Hindenburg" 1722 trial trips have already succeeded as a paying proposition without a subsidy.
The policy of airships has been criticised by some of my friends, who say that they will not be able to cross the Atlantic in the winter, but I believe we shall see, when the new airship is commissioned next August, that they will cross the Atlantic all the year round, and run to schedule as they always have done. There is also the possibility of these large airships increasing the speed of travel very considerably, by picking up an aeroplane, with mails and possibly passengers, from Germany, which has started perhaps 12 hours later, crossing, and dropping the aeroplane before they get to America. We know that such a measure is possible, because we have picked up aeroplanes ourselves in our own airships when we had them in this country. There is no doubt in my mind that Germany will build and go on building airships for many years to come. She has entered into a 3o-years agreement with a company in Brazil for the hire of an airship shed which has already been built. Taken all round, the record of these commercial airships is 4,000,000 miles flown and 400,000 people carried, and, what is even more interesting, there has not been a single injury to any person carried. I think that that is very remarkable.
Other countries besides Germany are taking a keen interest in this question. The United States of America are going on developing airships, on which a large company is at work all the time. France has her naval airships, in which she is training aeroplane pilots in practical air navigation, especially during adverse weather conditions. Russia has airships, but we have not very much information about them. Japan has already an airship company, and is planning a five-day airship service from Tokio to San Francisco via British Columbia. In Great Britain, we have not a single airship, large or small. I venture to say that airships are beyond the experimental stage to-day. I have given figures which show that they have been running to schedule across the Atlantic—an impossible achievement for aeroplanes as a service. The time of crossing by airships has been reduced from four days to less than one day. But we are still experimenting with heavier-than-air machines, which 1723 will have to wait on weather conditions before they can start.
I would like to propose that we try the experiment of subsidising an airship company here, starting with, perhaps, a small commercial airship on the lines of the Goodyear Zeppelins which have been so successful in America, and which are working in that country without a subsidy. We could use them for training our pilots in air sense, which is extremely important. They could go up in adverse weather, they could learn wireless working, the airship could be used for survey work and for fishery control round the coast. I suggest that, starting on these lines, we could establish a small service and build it up until men have acquired a knowledge of how to work an airship in this country again. It is a big thing to tackle the Atlantic, but I believe that, if Germany can do it, we in this country can do it successfully. There is not only the Atlantic, but there is an immense value in the services to South Africa, India and Australia. I believe that the commercial airship has come to stay, and can, if properly worked, be made to pay. Heavier-than-air machines have flown the North Atlantic at tremendous risk and at rare intervals. I would compare that with the speed and comfort of the "Hindenburg." My one regret is that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest) is unable to be here; we all regret the cause of his absence. He has crossed to America in the airship "Hindenburg," and I believe he has a great enthusiasm for this modern method of transport.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:in view of the peril to civilisation latent. in air warfare, this House calls for immediate and sustained effort to secure the abolition of military and naval air forces and the international control of civil aviation.The luck of the Ballot has given me the opportunity of interrupting what, to me, has been a very technical Debate, to call attention to the need for the abolition of aerial warfare and the international control of civil aviation. I have been glad to find that, since it was indicated that I should move such an Amendment in this House on the Air 1724 Estimates, great interest has been shown in, and great support has been forthcoming for, the ideas that I shall endeavour to put forward to-night. Only to-day, owing to the fact that I was to move this Amendment. I was presented with the opportunity of putting forward, at the beginning of the proceedings in the House, a petition organised by the Federation of Progressive Societies and Individuals. There are many progressive societies and many progressive individuals in this country, but this particular petition, which covered only a limited field, received 3,592 signatures. The petition set forth:
Having regard to these facts, the petitioners pray the House to do all in its power to re-open the Air disarmament discussions at Geneva which were suspended in 1933 and to prepare forthwith for submission at these discussions a plan for international ownership or control of civil aviation, which will furnish as effective as possible a safeguard against military use, and make possible the fullest and most efficient development of civil flying, and notwithstanding the possible refusal of some States to co-operate, press for the adoption of this plan and so pave the way for complete air disarmament. That is only one of many indications that I have had of the support that there is for my Amendment.
- "(a) That bombing aeroplanes are becoming a more and more important weapon in the fighting forces of all nations.
- (b) That the rapid increase in their number and destructive powers is causing universal apprehension amongst the peoples of the world.
- (c) That in 1933 most of the European nations signified their willingness to abolish fighting aircraft subject to an effective system of international ownership or control being devised; and the principal extra-European Powers also promised assistance to such a scheme.
- (d) That in 5935 over 9,000,000 people of this country voluntarily recorded their desire to see the same object achieved.
- (e) That the progress of aerial transport is being retarded because it is not organised on an international basis."
I think we are entitled to ask ourselves what has put us into the position in which we find ourselves to-day. Sir Malcolm Campbell, in a booklet which, I believe, he has circulated recently to every Member of the House, gave the reason.The ungenerously impossible terms of the peace treaties are responsible in great part for the present state of Europe.1725 My own conviction is that, although during the War soldiers, sailors and airmen did their part and did all that they were called upon to do exceedingly well, yet the statesmen, who ought to have so organised affairs prior to 1914 that the sacrifices that were made between that year and 1918 should not have been necessary, blundered into war. They also blundered into the peace, were unready for it and, when they had opportunities placed in their hands for the pacification of the world, they lost them and we find ourselves to-day back in the atmosphere of 1912, apparently preparing for another world war. It is not that there have not been opportunities for pacification. Thanks to the work done principally by the last Labour Government, we saw the opening of the Disarmament Conference in February, 1932, and quite early on in that conference we saw France proposing the internationalisation of civil aviation. This was opposed at first by this country, by Germany and by Italy but after a more progressive French Government had been elected in May, 1932, efforts were made to put somewhat similar proposals before the Disarmament Conference and in February, 1933, the new French Government put forward proposals similar to those contained in this Amendment—the total abolition of national air forces and the internationali-sation of civil aviation. There was proposed at the same time a small international air police force. It was at this period of the Disarmament Conference that the late Secretary of State for Air, Lord Londonderry, made his great effort and succeeded in preserving for this country the use of the bombing aeroplane. Because of his action, this country must take a very considerable responsibility for failure to make progress along the line of air disarmament. I often wonder what Lord Londonderry thinks now, having seen what followed in the train of that refusal to co-operate in air disarmament, having seen the destruction that has taken place more recently in Abyssinia, and is taking place to-day in Spain.
I want to call a few witnesses as to the menace that we are facing to-day from the possibility of air warfare. I go back to that often quoted, but I do not think too often quoted, speech of the Prime Minister when he said: 1726I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people tell him, the bomber will always get through. I am further convinced that, if it were possible, the air forces ought all to be abolished. All disarmament hangs on the air."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 632, Vol. 270.]To his own Conservative party conference in October, 1933, he talked of the possibility of bankruptcy for some nations if rearmament began in Europe and he said:I have never disguised my own view that another war in Europe would be an end of the civilisation we know.I would remind the House of some words used by his predecessor before he became Prime Minister, again in 1929. The present Lord President of the Council said:Has any nation ever been made secure by its arms? Every chapter of history says No. Has any nation ever been victorious in war? They have won battles but victors and vanquished alike have suffered defeat. The next war, of which people are talking so lightly and for which governments are so blindly preparing, will leave civilisation a smoking ruin and a putrefying charnel house. No man, woman or child will be immune. Destruction will rise from the sea and fall from the air and people will drop mysteriously where they stand, touched by the invisible breath of poison. There must be no next war.He used those words in 1929 before the great betrayal of 1931, which in its final result placed him in the position in which we find him to-day. I come to one perhaps more competent to speak from actual experience of what air warfare is—Air Commodore Charlton, in his book, "War from the air." He goes into details in this way:During the last War a mere 30 ton weight of explosives was dropped in London, and yet 1,800 were killed outright. Neither incendiary nor gas really came into play. The Thermite bomb, weighing 4 lbs. or less, can be scattered over the City at large. Fire points will be raised in all directions beyond the control of any fire fighting system and, with favourable weather conditions a fire might start as great as that Fire of London which completely destroyel the City. Thermite will burn through steel and through successive floors of buildings, so that modern architectural construction, only fireproof in the ordinary sense of the word, will be no adequate protection against it. And, curiously enough, like love, it cannot be quenched by water.To quote Arnold-Forster in his "Air Warfare": 1727I conclude that no country in the world stands to gain more than our own from the abolition of this weapon. One 500 kilo-gramme gas bomb could poison two-thirds of a square mile of London, killing every one. A single aeroplane could carry 500 incendiary bombs against which fire brigades would be helpless.To go back to the book by Sir Malcolm Campbell:It has become possible for an enemy to drop 1,000 tons of bombs in London in a single day and night.That is the menace that we are facing if the world goes on in the way it is going at present, making of this great triumph of man over the air an opportunity of dealing death and destruction by that means. May I remind the House also of a speech delivered by the Prime Minister?
Since the day of the air, the old frontiers are gone. When you think of the defence of England, you no longer think of the chalk cliffs of Dover, you think of the Rhine. That is where our frontier lies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1934; col. 2339, Vol. 292.]When we consider the continuous and rapid improvement that is taking place in aircraft construction, it is impossible to say that we can make even the Rhine our frontier, and I think that in the realm of the air it is entirely erroneous to endeavour to make frontiers at all. Travelling through the air, a frontier is unknown. There is no indication in the air, there can be no proper indication that a frontier has been passed. If we are to have the real value of this wonderful triumph of man over the air, we shall require to blot out frontiers and to let civil aviation develop without any frontiers barring the way. Mr. C. W. A. Scott said:It is a fact that the present system of individual national control is a curb to civil aviation development throughout the world. Furthermore, there appears to be a growing recognition that civil air transport, tied as it still is to military aviation, is not getting a fair chance to develop efficiently as a useful service for the world.We are told that all this building up of air forces is for the purpose of Defence. During the discussions on the Service Estimates and on our financial preparations for rearmament, there has several times come into my mind that declaration of Israel Zangwill, thatTo safeguard peace you must prepare for war. I know that maxim. It was forged in hell.1728 When we think of all that is involved in this so-called preparation for war in order to maintain peace, we must be struck by the appositeness of that declaration. We are at the present time in this race in armaments. I remember the last Debate on these Air Estimates very well indeed, and how particularly struck I was by the fine statement which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown). I recollect the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) saying that if we went on with this arms race, we should shortly find ourselves in the bankruptcy court. To-day we find ourselves in that race with a vengeance, and the statement made last year by the hon. Baronet the Under-Secretary of State that he was introducing the biggest Estimate that had ever been brought in in respect of the Air Force of this country, had to be repeated again to-day. As a matter of fact, the position to-day is that he has presented an Estimate which is greater than last year and the year before put together. The rise in the Air Estimates has been remarkable during the last three years. In 1933 the Estimate was about £,16,500,000—I give the round figures—in 1934 about £17,500,000, in 1935 about £27,500,000, in 1936 over £50,500,000, and to-day the net estimate that is presented to us is £82,500,000.
I remember, also, in the last Debate that the Under-Secretary claimed that what we were doing at that time was to carry out an obligation that had been laid upon the Government by the electors in the Election towards the end of 1935. I think he was wrong. What the people voted for at that time was not tremendously increased expenditure on armaments of any kind, but a policy of collective security. It has been an amazing thing to me in all these Debates to find the different ideas that Members of the same Government have with regard to what is called collective security. They are a Coalition Government. They might be said to represent in themselves a certain amount of collective security, but certainly there is no collective security for the ideas of those who are in the minority in that Government. I would describe collective security as being a pooling of the resources of friends; in this case the friends of peace. That is what the people voted for in 1935. I may be asked how can the idea that is put forward in this 1729 Amendment that I am moving be carried out? It is an ideal, and perhaps, in present circumstances, a remote ideal. Is there anything that an anti-militarist like myself can put forward as a means for reaching that ideal? I think that I can take it upon myself to say that while it is necessary to have in the world a certain amount of force in order to counter the machinations of those who might be evilly disposed, the way to organise that force would be to put it into the hands of those who are peacemakers and who have no other interest.
§ Mr. Mathers
There is an old Book which says:By their fruits ye shall know them.We would decide on guarantees that were given to us. The force on the way towards the ideal which I am putting forward to-night, would be in the form of that which has often been described as an international police force. It would be a force organised for peaceful purposes; for the purpose not of making war but of preventing war. Therefore, it would be a force not equipped for bombing cities, as we have heard mentioned in the other part of this Debate, but for preventing the bombing of cities. The main purpose of an international police force would be an interceptor force, and that force, if organised under the conditions that I am trying to indicate, would be the only force in the world. It would be the only force that would have protected places for shelter. Every civilian aircraft would use open and above-ground hangars, and would not be in the same protected position as would be afforded to the international police force. That force would be able, if necessary, to keep civil aviation under constant supervision as to the designs of machines, ground equipment and all the rest of it, in order to make sure that we had not in civil aeroplanes potential instruments for war.
The pessimist would say that this is an impossible idea. I do not think it is. We are faced, I agree, with a huge problem. Are we simply going to sit down to it and allow ourselves to go on in the way that we have been going during the past years, preparing for war and 1730 using the wealth of this country which could be so very much better used in other ways? That is a much greater indication of pessimism—a pessimism of not being able to think of anything better. But there is an opportunity open to us, and it will come to us in May of this year, when the Bureau of the Disarmament Conference will again meet at Geneva. The British delegation to the Disarmament Conference of 1933 put forward certain proposals. The one on Air armaments was Article 35, which says:The Permanent Disarmament Commission set up under Article 64 of the present Convention shall immediately devote itself to the working out of the best possible schemes providing for"—and this is the one to which I particularly refer—(a) The complete abolition of military and naval aircraft, which must he dependent on the effective supervision of civil aviation to prevent its misuse for military purposes.So that quite clearly, the British Delegation, at an important international conference, does not look upon what I am putting forward to-night as being absolutely unattainable. I ask that the Government representatives shall go to Geneva in May of this year and support the setting up of the Permanent Disarmament Commission and that this commission should be instructed to ask for an agreement along the lines of Article 35, which I have read. We are entitled to do that. Indeed, we are obliged to do it if we think at all about the obligations that were laid upon us by the men who engaged in the Great War between 1914 and 1918. This country gave them the promise that never again would they or anyone belonging to them require to go through the same tragic circumstances that they had gone through. Their sacrifice imposes the obligation upon us not merely to remember them, as we do, round the Cenotaph and elsewhere, on 11th November of each year, but to remember them by applying our minds to the problem not of making preparations for war, but of making preparations for getting rid of war.
It is a big task I know, but, surely, the very greatness of the task is a call to us to be courageous and to realise that some day we shall require to face up to it and must reach this ideal. I ask for the passing of this Amendment to-night in order that it may be an instruction to the 1731 Government to get on with the job, and instead of preparing for war, to prepare for peace. It is all a question of outlook and approach. I want to finish with words which should make an appeal to all of us. They are the words that Longfellow used when he visited the arsenal at Springfield and saw there all the implements of war. He said:Were half the power that fills the world with terror,Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts,Given to redeem the human mind from error,There were no need of arsenals or forts.It is upon the question of our outlook upon these things and our courage to face the problem, that I commend this Amendment to the House to-night.
§ 7.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Watkins
I beg to second the Amendment which has been submitted to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers). In the opening sentence of his speech, the Under-Secretary of State said something about the Government not having given up the hope of securing an air pact. I take it that what the right hon. Gentleman meant by an air pact was some kind of international agreement that would limit the air forces of the countries of Europe or would even abolish them altogether. Up till now we have been discussing the administration of the Air Ministry, but this Amendment invites the House to look at the general question of air armaments, and register the opinion that it would be wiser for this country to take the lead in opening negotiations with other countries in order to get a reduction, and ultimately the abolition, of bombing aeroplanes. There are abundant quotations one could give as to what the next war will be like. The Prime Minister has said that it will mean the end of civilisation. If the thousands of aeroplanes which are possessed by all the great Powers are let loose on the men, women and children of the cities in this country and on the Continent, it will mean a disaster such as the world has never seen before.
It is a commonplace now to say that the next war will be waged in the air and that the battleship and large armed forces will play a very little part in the struggle between nations. Ammunition 1732 will be dropped from the skies, gas bombs, high explosives, incendiary bombs, and bacteriological bombs. These forces of destruction have been designed to create the utmost havoc among the civilian population. There will be no distinction between soldiers and sailors and mothers and children in the homes. It is agreed that there is hardly any defence against aerial attack, and it is being said with a cynical disregard of everything that is decent that the only defence is reprisals on the civilian population of other countries. It will be a very poor consolation when our civilian population is experiencing physical agonies and mental tortures, for them to realise that men, women and children in continental countries are suffering equally from the same causes. In the next war there will be no warning. War will descend suddenly like a thief in the night. The leaders of some countries have announced that. Up to now war has been a kind of gentlemanly business, with a declaration of war going in front of it; a kind of referee's whistle to indicate that the match is to start. War in the future will start suddenly, and hysterical men, women and children, the civilians in the street, will be subjected to all the horrors.
In the next war there will be no victors; the only victors will be death and chaos. That is the situation, and yet we find that every country in Europe, every so-called civilised country, is meeting that menace by building larger armaments. Every leader in Europe is crying out for more and more aeroplanes, more factories for the manufacture of bombs, more chemists to prostitute their scientific knowledge in order to discover poison gases of ever increasing malignity. There is no sanity at all in that arrangement. And this country has joined in this suicidal pact, this mad competition. I know that hon. Members opposite believe that this policy of rearmament will maintain peace. It never has maintained peace in the past, and what ground has anyone for supposing that it is going to succeed in the present when it has failed so dismally in the past? I can understand an armament policy which is a background, and only a background, for an international policy based on the pursuit of peace, but a mere national armament race, which is going on at the present time, will undoubtedly—perhaps 1733 that is too definite a term—will probably lead the world into the worst disaster that humanity has ever experienced. Europe is an armed camp. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in one of his books, "The World Crisis," spoke about the international situation in these terms:Death stands at attention, obedient, expectant, ready to serve, ready to sheer away the peoples, ready, if called upon, to pulverise without hope of repair what is left of civilisation.What this party stands for, and what the overwhelming majority of the people of this country stand for, is that unceasing, persistent and determined efforts shall be made by international negotiation to secure the abolition of the bombing aeroplane as an instrument in international policy. I know that I shall be told that that is an impractical policy. What is the alternative? Does not everyone realise that unless humanity conquers the bombing aeroplane humanity is doomed. If the bombing aeroplane is to remain it will remain in order to be used; and if it is used there will be destruction so vast that civilisation itself will be destroyed. Is it impractical? Every large-scale advance in the history of mankind has been dubbed impractical before it was achieved, and if mankind had listened to the sceptics we should still be living in the Dark Ages. What are the Government doing about this? The Under-Secretary has said that the Government still have hopes of an air pact. Do the Government think that an Air pact will descend already made out of the clouds? If an air pact is to be achieved it must be struggled for with all the determination and energy that representatives of this and other countries can command.
Now the cry is all for war, and there is no voice amongst all the political leaders and statesmen of Europe calling for peace. The whole direction of world affairs, the whole temper in which the world is living its life, is determined by the worst in human nature, not by the best; by greed and aggression, not by co-operation and decency. The Government appear to have signed another non-intervention agreement to keep themselves out of the struggle between peace and war. Everyone knows that there is no remedy for aerial warfare except its abolition. I know that the Under-Secretary and other 1734 hon. Members have spoken about a barrage, anti-aircraft guns and chasing planes. Is anyone optimistic enough to believe that if an attack was launched on London at least 75 per cent. of the invading aeroplanes will not get through? You have scientific men discussing quite calmly and coldly whether a square mile of London can be covered by a 45-foot layer of lewisite, or phosgene, or mustard gas. The only safety for the future is that by international agreement aeroplanes shall be abolished for ever. I know the Government claim that they have large public support for their policy of rearmament, but a policy of opening negotiations to secure the abolition of bombing aeroplanes would receive public support enormously in excess of that which is given to their rearmament policy.
A year ago this same Amendment was submitted to the House and seconded by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown). A year has gone by and again we raise on these benches the appeal to the Government to try and do something before it is too late. It may be that in another year's time we shall have a chance of making the same appeal to the Government. But we may not; it may be too late. It may be that before then this major disaster will have descended on the world. I look back in history and I see the procession of men and women who have served as light-bringers and leaders of humanity. They have taught and suffered, and through their example and their service they have lifted mankind to the level of civilisation we have at present. I am convinced that civilisation is in jeopardy. It is not a matter of defeat for this country as against another country. It is not against any other country that I want to engage in a struggle I want to engage in a struggle against the arch-enemy, the institution and practice of war.
The Prime Minister is shortly, if rumour be true, going to give up his great office and retire into more restful circumstances. It would be a great thing for the Prime Minister, as the crowning act of his many years of public service, if he would initiate international discussions in order to achieve this great boon that humanity desires. There are rumours—I do not know how true they are, but I hope they are true—that President Roosevelt is going to call an international 1735 conference on these issues. If that conference is called, I would beg the Government to go into it determined, in so far as Great Britain has any influence, to make the outcome of the conference a very great and lasting success. I hope that the Government will not regard our Motion as a mere impractical fantasy, but will regard it as being practical politics promising a way whereby the fears of aerial attack that rest so heavily on the men, women and children of all the great cities of Europe can be lifted.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson
I have listened to the speeches made in support of the Amendment, and I think all hon. Members will agree that they displayed a great depth of sincerity which deserves a reasoned and full answer. I gather from the wording of the Amendment that neither of the hon. Members would adopt completely the attitude of non-resistance, which is advocated by some hon. Members and some of their friends outside. It is wise that they should abstain from that course, and for this reason. Hon. Members opposite, as well as myself, have probably been brought up to believe as a first principle that it is impossible to change people's opinions by force, but, unhappily, to-day we have only too much evidence that that maxim is no longer true, and that those who in any highly organised State can gain control of propaganda and the education of the people can completely change the minds and souls of a whole people within a generation. Therefore, that maxim must be set on one side in these days, and as a necessary consequence it follows that there are some things that are worth making war for rather than that they should perish from the face of the earth. It has been said by a wise man, that no man should fight for his opinions but that every man who dares to call himself a man should fight for the right to hold those opinions. In the world to-day, and particularly in Europe, it may be that those nations that hold opinions which to them are dearer than life and material prosperity will be called upon to defend the right to hold those opinions by warfare, even to the last extremity. That may be the position of our own nation within the next few years.
Hon. Members who spoke from the benches opposite were moved, obviously, 1736 with deep sincerity, but I do not think that it is possible to congratulate them on their knowledge of the modern conditions of warfare. They spoke from the basis that the only means of defending our country, for example, against attack from the air is by means of reprisals. When they mentioned bombing aeroplanes it was obvious that they had no conception of any other function for bombing aeroplanes than that of making reprisals upon open cities and the civilian populations of our enemies.
§ Mr. Mathers
I tried to make it clear that I thought that should not be part of the function of any international air police force that might be brought into existence.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Undoubtedly, but I think I am correct in saying that the hon. Member's conception of bombing was that it was merely a method of warfare upon civilian populations. I should be the, last to vote for any expenditure of public money upon bombing aeroplanes if I thought that that was the function to which our bombers are to be devoted in reply to any attack that might be made upon us. It was true up to about a year or 18 months ago, and the experts were of the same opinion, that the only method of defence against air attack was by mass reprisals upon the enemy's civilian population, but I thank heaven that those responsible for our organisations, and particularly the scientists who were brought into consultation, have refused point blank to contemplate that as the only possible defence in air warfare. For purely practical reasons this country would be foolish in the extreme to base its defence of the London areas upon the possibility of attacking the civilian population of any possible air enemy with which we might find ourselves in conflict. Therefore hon. Members opposite must dismiss from their minds the idea that a bombing aeroplane under the control of the people of this country is necessarily a device for tormenting women and children in foreign countries. It has other functions, much more reputable and much more manly.
To us the most important function of a bombing aeroplane is to be able to attack the enemy's Air Force on the ground as well as in the air. The Prime Minister, some 18 months or so ago, said: "Come what will, the bomber will always 1737 get through.' That was perfectly true in the sense in which he used it, but do not let hon. Members opposite imagine that such a large proportion of raiding aeroplanes could get through our defences in this country as to bring about such a catastrophe as that hinted at by the hon. Members who proposed and seconded the Amendment. Whatever we do, here and there a bomber will get through and bring devastation and ruin in its train, but the whole principle of warfare is this, and always has been, both in our Army and in our Navy, that the nation which devotes itself to attacks upon civilians and which allows its attention to be distracted from the objective of the armed force of the enemy, that nation, other things being equal, is bound to lose in warlike operations. I maintain, and I have maintained all along, and I find to my great joy that it is a principle that is being recognised by the heads of our Air Force, that the whole objective of any air force commanded by Englishmen should always be the armed force of the enemy and not the civilian population against which it might operate.
Surely the main point of this Amendment is its plea for the abolition of air warfare as being something infinitely more horrible even than land and sea warfare. It is on this point that I join issue completely with hon. Members opposite. To my mind it is not a question of whether air warfare will destroy the world as we know it, but is more a question of whether air warfare will not ultimately prove the salvation of mankind, rather than the destruction of civilisation. I do not say that without deep thought and some little experience of these matters. All of us who took part in the Great War, in France and in other parts of the world, will agree, I think, that warfare had reached its lowest depths of degradation and had become a thing beastly, disgusting and vile beyond anything which previous generations had known from the very beginning of history.
It had become so beastly and disgraceful because it was a matter of moving vast masses of conscripted armies against one another, vast masses of men who knew not what they were fighting for and who did not wish to fight against others in the same position. There was a piling up of immense quantities of guns, shells, and all the other devices of war; in other words, war became purely a quantitative 1738 operation without any regard to those qualities both of intellect and of soul which should be the only things to be fought about in any war amongst civilised people. All we proved by our success in the War was that we could make more guns, more shells and more battleships than our enemies could, and I, for one, do not wish ever to have to take part in a war again simply to prove that our material resources are greater than those of our enemies. Surely what we have to prove, in fighting for those ideas and ideals for which we believe any sacrifice is worth while, is that they are the right ones because they produce a higher quality of men than that which the opposite ideals can produce.
In these days, when one nation after another has gone back in the scale of civilisation and has endeavoured, whether by Communism or by Nazi-ism or by any other such foul creed to destroy the individual mind and to swamp it in something called the mass mind—in other words, to drive mankind back to the herd and ultimately to the jungle—there must be at any rate one nation, and possibly more, which will stand up against those ideals and will prove by its method of warfare that the ideals which it maintains can produce a fine quality of men than those mass ideals of Communism, Nazi-ism, or Fascism can ever do. This is where air warfare comes in. Of all forms of warfare, air warfare, under modern conditions, can fulfil our greatest need, which is for a form of war such that it is only that nation which can produce the very highest quality of men that can ever hope to be successful in warlike operations. It is to that end, as I have hinted already, that the scientists, the tacticians, and the heads of our Air Force, and many of those who in one humble position or another, such as my own, have been devoting all their ambitions and efforts during the past year or 18 months.
This matter came to my notice, as some hon. Members will know, because I was commissioned semi-officially to look round the various training schools for airmen in this country more than a year ago and to find out what quality of youngsters we were getting in those training schools, particularly those in which the boys were going in for short service commissions. I started flying round the country, but after a very short space of time it began 1739 to dawn upon me that it was of no use going round to see what sort of entrants we were getting until we knew exactly what sort of lads we wanted to have. As a logical consequence, one had to find out what form of tactics was to be adopted in the main and what were to be the technical principles upon which we would fight and base our air defence.
By a further stage of reasoning, which now seems so obvious that it might be imagined that I ought to have thought of it before, I came to the conclusion that until we knew what our scientists could put in our hands as a basis for tactical schemes we could not form tactical schemes, and, more important still, we could not tell what sort of boys we wanted to carry out those particular schemes. More than a year ago I came to the conclusion that the solution of the fundamental problem of air welfare, and air defence in particular, depends upon the brains of our scientists pitted against those of foreign scientists who might be on the side of our enemies. Here I wish to refer to something which was said by the hon. Member—
§ Mr. Hopkinson
That is precisely the point to which I was about to refer. The hon. Member said—I give the gist of his remark—that science has been utterly degraded of recent years and that it has been devoted very largely to the devising of methods of beastly and indiscriminate slaughter. I entirely agree with him in that condemnation of what some branches of science have been doing. Every effort of vile imagination and all the skill of disgustingly degraded scientific ability has been devoted to that horrible end which he condemns. But it is not the same in this country as it is in some countries abroad. The very best brains of science in this country, for many months, have been devoted not to contriving new methods of torment for women and their babies, but to finding new scientific methods whereby our boys can not only fight with the enemies when they find them, but, more difficult than that, can find the enemy well in advance and limit him strictly within known heights above the ground, and having done that, if they cannot bring the bombers down, they will merely prove that we cannot produce that 1740 quality of mankind which would justify us in winning a European war.
I take this opportunity of saying a word or two for the scientists of this country. I do not know what scientists abroad are doing. For all I know they may still be degrading science lower and lower all the time. But for our scientists here, I do say that they have been devoting themselves wholeheartedly for many long months to finding out the means by which air defence may be conducted without any thought of any reprisals upon helpless civilian populations in any future war. Naturally, on a subject of this sort, one has to be extremely careful, but I think I may safely say that the efforts of our scientists have yielded remarkable results already, and that almost daily it is becoming more and more certain that we can actually secure command of the air without having to use methods such as I, for one, would never like to suggest that any English boy should be expected to use against any enemy. Naturally, it is a subject which is extremely difficult to put before an assembly like the House of Commons, and hon. Members opposite have been extraordinarily patient with me in my effort to do so.
I am putting before the House ideas that have been in the possession of only a comparatively few people. I am endeavouring to dismiss from the minds of hon. Members opposite and of the pub-lice outside the horrible idea that air warfare must necessarily be the bestial thing that hon. Members opposite seem to think it must be. On the contrary I say, presupposing that war is to continue, and that is a presumption, I think, upon which we would be safe to base our policy at the present time, the more that war is fought in the air the more likely it is to prove the salvation rather than the destruction of civilisation. That is my view, and I have given the House my reasons for holding that view. Indeed, there is every prospect as far as we are concerned that the main and decisive action in any war in which we are engaged may very likely be in the air. If by the efforts of our scientists and our Air Force and the thinking department of our Air Force we can so bring it about that we can get command of the air without reprisals, then I say—and here I think even hon. Members opposite will agree with me—air warfare will have justified itself before the court of man- 1741 kind, and I submit that an Amendment of this sort ought to be withdrawn in view of the circumstances which I have put before the House.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
While I am sure we appreciate the hon. Member's desire to be informative and to disclose to us some new form of genteel warfare which has not hitherto been disclosed, would it not be better if the fact that we have succeeded in devising a strategy to destroy our enemies without the usual, and normal and accepted forms of air warfare, were officially made known to us? Is not this a disclosure which ought to come from the Government?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I do not understand the hon. Member's interruption. If he wishes to be sarcastic on this matter, it is entirely for himself and the Government, and I have no concern with it whatever. If the Government choose to tell him things which I have not told him, by all means let the Government do so, but I do not see what his interruption has to do with the remarks that I was making. I am sorry that his interruption has unfortunately added to the difficulties of the very difficult speech which I was making, but I would say this in conclusion. The Mover of the Amendment quoted from a favourite poet of mine, Longfellow, and I would like to cap his quotation with another from the same source. As hon. Members opposite know, and some on this side know, too, I have devoted much of my life for the last five years to endeavour to acquire some knowledge of the air and what the air may mean to the future of mankind and my experience leads me to say of the air, what Longfellow said of the sea:Only those who brave its dangersComprehend its mystery.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Brown
The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) commenced his speech by informing the House that he opposed the Amendment of my hon. Friend, but I can hardly conceive more cogent arguments in favour of that Amendment than those which he advanced. We must all recognise the sincerity with which he spoke, especially when describing the bestiality and horror of modern warfare, and if his feelings on that point are as strong as they appeared to be when he was speaking of it, he 1742 should have no hesitation in coming into the Lobby with us when the Vote on this, Amendment is taken. He attempted to describe the functions of the bombing aeroplane. He told us that its principal function was to attack the enemy's air force both in the air and on the ground, and he expressed the hope—I do not think he went any further—that it would not be used by us for reprisals if war should break out.
Surely, he must understand, however, that if war does break out the bombing aeroplanes activities will not be confined to fighting an enemy's air forces or bombing an enemy's bases. The bombing aeroplane will be used to accomplish the maximum amount of destruction in every conceivable form against the enemy Power. Even if we started off with the intention of not using our bombers for the destruction of cities and the lives of women and children, does not the whole history of war point to the fact that we would be forced by the course of events and by the logic of circumstances to retaliate against an enemy who bombed us, by bombing in return his cities and his civilian population? Merely having what I may describe as the ideals of how war should be waged, to which the hon. Member referred, will not avoid that contingency. The hon. Member said that my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) was sarcastic because he used the phrase "genteel warfare." He wants us to believe that in future war will always be waged in a genteel way. What facts can he advance, what evidence can he give from human history and experience, to convince us of that view?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
As the hon. Member challenges me, may I tell him that the first war in which I took part was the war against the Boers; that that war was carried out by us in a very gentlemanly fashion; that we looked after the wives and families of the Boers, and did our level best for them, and in the end we won.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I admit that Miss Hob-house went up and down the country talking about the horrors of the concentration camps. I saw the concentration camps, and I say there was as much lying about them, after the South African War, as there has ever been about anything which this country has ever done.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member takes what I must describe as a perverted view about warfare in general. If he could convince the people of this country and of the world that war would always be waged in the gentlemanly fashion he desires, there would not be a great deal of objection to it, provided that the gentlemen who wanted to carry it out were the only people involved.
I listened a little while ago to the statement of the Under-Secretary of State for Air. I have heard him make this annual statement on three or four occasions, and I think he did it to-day with as much clarity and ability as he has done on any previous occasion. He used the two main arguments which are being used to defend these rearmament proposals by all his colleagues. I should not expect him to be out of step with them, and therefore he will not mind my reminding him that he called our attention to the chief reasons why he had to present these Estimates. He said they were, first of all, designed to preserve the country and the Empire from an aggressor, and to maintain peace. Those were not his actual words, but I think that was the implication. Secondly, he said that they were being built up to discharge our international obligations. In order to achieve those objects, the right hon. Gentleman reminded us that he was presenting to the House the largest Air Estimates with which the House has ever had to deal. For these two purposes, therefore, we must continue to spend these huge sums of money. That was the First Lord's story last week, it is the Under-Secretary's story to-day, and I imagine it will be the Secretary for War's story to-morrow. The argument will be the same in all three cases—first of all, that these armaments are being built up for the protection of the country and, secondly, that they are being built up to support our international obligations.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must remind the hon. Member that this is not a general Debate on 1744 Defence; it is not even a general Debate on the Air Estimates. It is a Debate on a particular Amendment.
§ Mr. Brown
I understand, I hope, quite clearly that this Debate is on the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend for the abolition of military and naval air forces and for the internationalisation of civil aviation, and, obeying your Ruling, I will endeavour to confine my remarks to the Amendment. I want to refer to another matter which the hon. Member for Mossley raised when he told us that there might be things for which it was worth men's while to fight. He instanced the mass propaganda which is being carried on in certain countries, which results in great masses of people thinking alike and being likely to fight for certain ideas. I wonder whether the hon. Member imagines that our country is free from propaganda of that description. In this country the great bulk of our newspapers and all kinds of publicity agencies are circulating, constantly and all the time, the idea that only by rearmament, by the retention and the building-up of air forces, can you possibly keep your place in the sun, and a vast body of other interests in the country are not criticising that publicity in any way. Armament manufacturers appear to like it, metal merchants are not quarrelling with it, iron and steel manufacturers have nothing to say against it, shipbuilders do not quarrel with it, coalowners like it, and chemical combines do not trouble about it.
So the propaganda goes on, with the sole idea of creating the impression that the maintenance of these air forces, both naval and military, is one of the fundamental guarantees for the preservation of the Empire. We have a universal chorus being chanted all the time. Everyone is saying it, and, therefore, we are told, it must be right. As the squadrons of the air fleet multiply, as the Admiralty put bigger ships on the seas, as the Army becomes more and more mechanised and expanded, all that is designed to create a greater public confidence in the method which is being pursued by the Government at this stage. At the best, this policy, which is contrary to the policy embodied in our Amendment, is but a temporary expedient. It solves no problem; it removes none of the dangers which exist. If nationalism is the evil, it does not allay, but intensifies nationalism; if 1745 economic antagonisms are to blame, it does not remove one of them; if territorial maladjustments are to blame for the trouble that exists, the policy that is being pursued does not in any way correct those territorial maladjustments; if fear is the cause, fear is not allayed, but intensified, by all this vast expenditure. Therefore, these Estimates, make it all the more necessary that we should face up to the position raised by our Amendment, because these huge armaments cannot lay the foundations of peace on anything firm, stable, or lasting. They create further unrest and suspicion of all kinds, so that something else must be done.
I want to remind the Under-Secretary of State that this question was raised here nearly a year ago, when he expressed a certain sympathy with a Motion similar to the Amendment which is now before the House, and hoped that ways and means might be found of putting it into operation, though he expressed his doubts of the possibility of its being done. At the beginning of his speech to-day, he told us that the Government would act as opportunity offered for making arrangements with other Powers which would result to some extent in disarmament. A year has elapsed since he expressed similar sentiments, and I want to ask him whether the Government will not explore the possibilities—it is not for me to say how; there are various methods that they might use—of initiating some discussions between the great Powers of the world in regard to the menace and the danger of the bombing aeroplane and all that is involved, and of seeing whether some sort of agreement cannot be come to.
If there were no other reason for my asking that, there was a reason which he stressed in his speech which ought to make this a desirable thing for the Government to do as quickly as possible. He used this sentence:The striking power of our new types of aeroplane far exceed those of two years ago.The House will understand all the implications of those words. The right hon. Gentleman was seeking to convey that the killing power of these machines is greater now than it has ever been before. Moreover, the growth of technical knowledge in these matters cannot be confined to this country. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman told us that some of the firms which were building certain engines and 1746 certain types of machines were selling them to various Powers, so that the technical efficiency of which the right hon. Gentleman approves so strongly is not confined to our own Air Force, but is possessed by other air forces. The right hon. Gentleman stressed that point. If I had no other reason to advance except that one, I would urge the right hon. Gentleman that, urgent as the matter was last year, and seeing that he expressed some sympathy with the purpose of the Amendment as, indeed, did the hon. Member for Mossley, the time has arrived when there ought to be explored all the opportunities there are of reaching some agreement on this matter.
I listened with great interest to that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he described the growth and development of civil aviation. He told us the story of how air routes in the Empire were being developed. In a few phrases he conjured up before our imagination the way in which Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia are being linked together by air lines. While he was delivering those passages of his speech I could not help feeling that he was describing what were the real and true functions of aviation. They were the functions of extending commerce, communications and travel which, if they are carried out and expanded in every direction, will tend to draw mankind closer together. The effect of that expansion will tend to be negatived if the nations of the world retain air forces for bombing and destructive purposes. If we cannot abolish naval and military aviation and internationalise civil aviation, a power which ought to have been one of the greatest blessings conferred upon mankind will turn out to be one of the greatest curses that has ever afflicted the human race. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members, recognising the spirit in which we move this Amendment, will support us in the Lobby.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
We have listened to a very remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), in which he told us that air warfare would be the salvation of mankind. That is certainly a new theory which I am afraid will not be acceptable to the average citizen. He further told us that the whole principle of aerial warfare was now changed and that war on citizens was bound to fail. Evidently Italy did not agree with that 1747 when she set out to conquer Abyssinia. It has been said that Jefferson, the third President of the United States, once observed that this world was the lunatic asylum for other planets. When one sees world affairs to-day one is inclined to think that there may be a degree of truth in that statement. After the war to end war, we see every nation spending more and more on armaments and science being prostituted to finding methods of destroying life instead of finding methods of ameliorating human suffering and saving life. It is deplorable that the work to which Arthur Henderson devoted himself seems to have gone for nought, and that instead of thinking of disarmament every nation is thinking now only in terms of more and more armaments.
One cannot help feeling that if Britain had taken a strong lead at the first Disarmament Conference things would have been different in the world to-day. Unfortunately, the Hoover proposals did not receive the support to which they were entitled. At that time it was stated that if the proposals had been accepted, it would have meant a saving to Britain of £42,000,000. To-day that amount is a mere flea-bite compared with the amount we are now spending on armaments. The proposal to abolish bombing planes put forward by Mr. Hoover meant, so far as the United States was concerned, the scrapping of 300 bombing planes. Since then, there has been a huge increase in every country. What was the attitude of the British Government towards that proposal? They said that bombing planes were necessary in order to deal with the hill tribes. It was absurd, however, to imagine that bombers could be confined to that particular purpose. Naturally, other nations that had Colonial possessions would claim to have the use of bombers. Even the nations that had no Colonial possessions would be apt to look askance a such a suggestion, because if bombers were to be retained anywhere, why not everywhere? Why use bombers only against native tribes? A bomb dropped from the air is no respecter of persons; it wipes out women and children just as much as men. Surely the children of hill tribes are as precious to them as are children of white people are to their parents? The tragedy of Abyssinia is still fresh in our minds. There Italy ignored a treaty to which she 1748 was a party and used poison gas from aircraft. In Spain to-day we see how women and children are being slaughtered from the air.
When collective security is mentioned in this House, it is too often received with sneers and we are asked what we mean by it. To my mind, collective security is the only method of preventing aggression by any State. What we mean by collective security is that instead of each nation depending for its Defence on its own forces, it would rely on the joint action of the forces of all peace-loving nations to prevent aggression or—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must tell the hon. Member that this expression "collective security" is also received with some disfavour by the Chair on this Amendment, and that he must confine himself to the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Leslie
I accept your Ruling, Sir, and I will now confine my remarks strictly to the terms of the Amendment. I think it presents a very good case for an international police force, for an international air service. We know that the French general staff advocated an international air force at the Disarmament Conference, and we also know that in the last War the Allies had a united force under a unified command. The function of an international police force being purely defensive, the offensive spirit would be absent, and thus there would be less risk of national animosities and racial prejudices. Its sole responsibility would be to enforce international law and to repel an aggressor, and the very object of an international police force would, I believe, appeal to men of a high moral standard imbued with the highest possible motives. Armaments competition undoubtedly means increased budgets; great armaments create military castes which sometimes, as we have seen in other countries, seize political power. Militaryism creates distrust between nations and distorts Government policies. Armaments produce insecurity, not security, and the great need of the world is security, for nations to settle down to peaceful pursuits and to restore trade prosperity. We know that the cost of armaments is colossal. One "Rodney" costs as much as it would take to erect 20,000 much-needed houses for the working-classes.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is out of order, not keeping the promises he just made to me unless there happens to be a bomber called the "Rodney."
§ Mr. Leslie
I will do my best to conform to your Ruling. In conclusion, I think it is good news that President Roosevelt has suggested a peace conference, and I hope the response to that proposal will be encouraging, and that our Government will assure him of Britain's ready assistance. We know that the Americans are a very proud and sensitive people, and if Britain backs Roosevelt's efforts it will be a gesture that will have far-reaching effects and do much to bring about the cancellation of debts. It is well to know the arguments of the Americans against the cancellation of debt. I believe that if the people of the United States can be assured of British support on this occasion fruitful results will accrue.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
The Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) called for the abolition of aerial warfare, and I propose to devote my few remarks to-night as closely as I can to the text of that Amendment. I hope there will be some early occasion in the future when we may stage a full dress Debate upon the necessity for an international police force as the major policy by which this country and the world may hope to get peace. Personally, I believe there is no other road than the international road by which to secure peace. I believe the day is long past when security can be got by any nation acting alone. I do not believe it is possible to get security through national armaments and alliances with the possessors of other national armaments. My view is that the only hope for mankind will come when collectively we provide our quotas to an instrument for the preservation of law and order in the world and secure the abolition of national armaments altogether. So far we have had no opposition to this Amendment. We had a rather humorous interlude from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), who strove without much success to persuade us on this side that there were in mustard gas some spiritual qualities which were absent from previous old-fashioned methods of warfare.
§ Mr. Johnston
The idea in this Amendment is not a Utopian idea. I disagree with the hon. Member who moved it when he said, in one sentence, that it was perhaps a far-off idea. I do not believe it is far off at all. I believe that it is urgently necessary; and, moreover, the attempts which have been made towards this ideal have been almost uniformly successful. I read the other day a remarkable book by Mr. Hughes, who is, I think, now Minister of Health in the Commonwealth of Australia. In that book he described what happened when the police force in Melbourne went on strike in November, 1923. The police abandoned their beats at seven o'clock at night, and by eight o'clock the gangsters of the underworld in Melbourne had taken possession of a large part of the city. They looted shops and created a reign of terror, and later it took the police three days to get the underworld of gangsters down and out.
My own country provides an earlier illustration. Until after the second Jacobite rebellion we had the private army system in full blast. Every baron, every great landed proprietor, was the chief of a clan and had his own private army, his own armed retainers. [Interruption.] I do not think they wore much uniform in those days. There was great poverty as a result of this private army system, and there was not much money for uniforms. Every great landowner had his army of retainers, and when he quarrelled with his neighbour he simply ordered his retainers to lay waste the territory of that neighbour. The neighbour told his retainers to do the same in the other territory. The existence of those private armies, and the weakness of the central authority and of force behind the law, had the result that Scotland was kept in poverty and misery to an extent almost incredible to believe. It was not until 1747, just after the second Jacobite rebellion broke out, that local jurisdictions were abolished altogether and the right of private army was taken away from individuals and vested in the Crown. Not until then did Scotland get peace.
We have more modern illustrations. We had one in the Saar on a small scale in 1934, only a few years ago, when there was a grave danger of an outbreak between France and Germany. At the 1751 behest of the League, four nations, on the proposal of M. Laval, supported by Italy and backed by Germany—
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir John Simon)
It was proposed by this country.
§ Mr. Johnston
I believe that the proposal was finally made by M. Laval on behalf of France and by Baron Aloisi, who was Chairman of the Committee of Procedure, for Italy. Germany agreed, and suggested that both France and Germany should be kept out.
§ Sir J. Simon
I assure the right hon. Gentleman, and he will probably be glad to know it, that it was, of course, a British proposal, which originated in London.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not wish to dispute that. On the contrary. At the conference, however, the proposal was made by M. Laval on behalf of France. I do not seek to give priority to any one nation in the matter. I am trying to create a contrary impression, because I want to show that, by international action and the abolition of individual action, the peace was preserved in the Saar. I should like a most remarkable speech which was made by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to be put on record. Speaking at Belfast on 18th January, 1935—this shows not how far we are away from this distant ideal of this matter, but how close we are to the possibility of something in the nature of an international police force—here is the gentleman who is popularly supposed to bet the coming Prime Minister of this country reported as saying, referring to the Saar:They had been faced with a great menace in Europe but, in the twinkling of an eye, the whole situation was transformed "—I need not read all the intervening sentences—when we sent over, as part of an international force, British troops to maintain order. What had happened in the Saar was a precedent that pointed clearly the direction in which they had to go in order some day to establish firmly and permanently the maintenance of international peace.It is the precedent which points the road. The Amendment of my hon. Friend sets out in clear and explicit terms what has been, at one time at any rate, the policy 1752 of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It is more than his policy; it is the policy of the Minister of War, of the Foreign Secretary, of the Governor-General of Canada at this moment and of M. Pierre Cot, who is going to Geneva in May to propose it again. It has been the policy of the Government of France and it is the policy announced time and again by M. Litvinoff. It is the policy of our youngest Dominion, New Zealand, officially recorded within the past two or three months with the League of nations, in response to a questionnaire. It was the policy of the Presidents of the United States of America. It is, indeed, the only policy that holds out any hope for the world. We are asking right hon. Gentlemen who are on the Government Bench to repeat, when M. Pierre Cot proposes it at Geneva in May—what the Government of France proposed in 1932, when it was backed by the French general staff as technically possible and by the Russians as technically possible. We are asking where the Government stand. Are they going to do what Lord Londonderry did before? Or are they going to line up, not only with France and Russia, but with New Zealand, Sweden and other countries, and to declare for an international police force against any aggressor who breaks the law of the world?
That is the simple and vital question. We are busily engaged to-day in a competition in ruin. The Amendment of my hon. Friend gives us a chance of getting an organised peace in Europe. Let the hon. Gentleman who is to reply not say that the proposal is not technically possible. We have the strongest quotations from the greatest military authorities in Europe that it is immediately possible, but that it is politically difficult. I agree. I am told that the greatest authority is Captain Liddell Hart, the present military correspondent of the "Times." He says that it is technically possible. Sir Frederick Maurice is also a strong supporter of it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) believes, and all his friends believe, that it is technically possible.
It is politically difficult; why? Because we cannot get out of the ingrained habit of relying upon ourselves alone. We will not trust somebody else. Either we choose an international force, or we 1753 slide down the road to ruin. A right hon. Gentleman who spoke this afternoon gave us a graphic picture of what will happen if London is raided from the air. We are told by our authorities that 80 per cent. of the population of London will require to leave London if we engage in an aerial war. We are told that the development in poison gas research has been such that a permanent screen of poison gas 130 feet high could be created found London. We are told that nothing now can live within a radius of a quarter of a mile of the dropping of bombs containing a certain kind of germ. Is it not worth while for His Majesty's Government to take the lead and say, "Yes, if a number of other responsible nations will come in through the League to join us, we will contribute our quota of the Air Force required to preserve peace." It seems to me clear that if the League of Nations was equipped with sufficient force to deter an aggressor, that peace would come at once to Europe. If we and other nations could get security by this method, then we would have the spirit in which international disarmament would be possible, and in no other way.
I hope that on some future occasion we shall be able to extract from the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister a clear declaration of the policy of His Majesty's Government on this matter. I would not vote them sixpenny worth of armaments unless it was for effective collective security. There is a growing body of opinion in this country which has come firmly and fixedly to the conclusion that only through the international role can mankind be saved, not only in arms but in credit and in currency and in all manner of other ways. The world is big enough for us all, if we will give up the idea that if we hold a corner of it and are strong enough to keep others off, we shall get peace. There is no peace that way, there never was, and there never will be. I believe the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) in proposing an Amendment that we should set out for the abolition of aerial warfare rather than seek to be stronger than the other fellow, and that the only way to abolition is through the psychological sense of security which can come alone by the international ownership, control and direction—through a Colonel Lindbergh in charge if you like—of an aerial force. The world is prepared to back the Gov- 1754 ernment if they take the lead. If the Government fail, or go back to Lord Londonderry's way, the crime and the consequences of it must be borne by the Government alone.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Sir P. Sassoon
The right hon. Gentleman said that it had been obvious from the tone of the Debate that there must be general sympathy with many of the propositions that have been put forward. Of course, that must be so. I have great sympathy with many things that were said, and I find myself more especially in agreement with one of his opening sentences in which he said that we could get peace only through the international role. It is only when we get together with other countries that we can hope to get to that goal. I can claim that in that connection we have a very good record. We pressed for the Disarmament Conference, and more recently we have pressed for the establishment of a peace pact with the Western Powers which would have been one of the most fruitful steps to what we all wish to achieve, the reduction and limitation of armaments. Whether this Amendment is to be pressed to a Division or not, I do not in any way regret that it has been brought forward. On the contrary, I appreciate the obvious sincerity of all the speeches that have been made in favour of the Amendment.
At this moment the energies of this country are being bent towards a large expansion of our armed forces. Therefore, it seems to me all to the good that to-night there should be full expression given in this House to the innate love for peace of the British people. No country is more anxious than this that the airways of the world should be airways of peace. That should not be forgotten even though, as we think at the moment, factors beyond our control have led us into a programme of expansion. Behind that programme there still burns brightly the hope that sooner or later, and the sooner the better, we shall be able to reach some international agreement on a reduction of armaments. One must face the fact that to-day there seems little practical hope of the complete abolition of air warfare, and we regret it very much. Therefore, we welcome the occasion which this Amendment gives us of expressing categorically the intention of seizing the first opportunity that we can to achieve it.
§ Mr. Johnston
Is that an explicit pledge that if the French Government at Geneva in May proposes disarmament and an international air police force, the British Government are now prepared to back them?
§ Sir P. Sassoon
The right hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that I could not give a pledge of that kind without first seeing what the French proposal was or examining it to see whether it was effective. I can read out what our proposal was:the complete abolition of military and naval aircraft, which must be dependent on the effective supervision of civil aviation to prevent its misuse in time of war.That shows our sincerity. When I say that we would be ready to seize any opportunity for some scheme of limitation, I would go further and say that we would be ready in the future, as we were in the past, with constructive and practical proposals. This proposal I have just read we made four years ago to the Disarmament Conference. It was our proposal that an inquiry should be made into this. It was dependent, as this Amendment is dependent, on the formulation of an effective scheme for the control of civil aviation to prevent its misuse.
It was largely owing to our initiative that this proposal was examined, early in 1933. It came to nothing, because nobody could devise a practical scheme for the control of civil aviation, and that difficulty, I am afraid, still remains. It is obvious that, if there were no naval or military air forces to act as a deterrent, the nation with the largest civilian air fleet could become master of the air, and not only would they have the largest fleet aircraft actually in being and capable of conversion to naval or military purposes, but they would also, presumably, have the largest capacity for the rapid production of machines designed for such use. I am only putting these points forward to show that this is not an easy matter to deal with—that there are practical difficulties in the way. It follows that, before aerial warfare can be abolished, some scheme must be devised for the control of civil aviation to prevent its misuse, which must be practicable and must also at the same time be acceptable to all other nations.
Unfortunately, there are very grave difficulties in the way of such a scheme.
1756 For instance, to take our own case, the control of our Empire air communications would pass from our hands and those of the Dominions; and the same would apply to the air services with which France and Italy maintain their air communications with their African possessions. Then you would have great countries like Germany and Russia, the control of whose Imperial air lines would be in the hands of some international committee on which their own representatives would be in a minority. I do not say that that is impossible; I am only saying that it might perhaps be difficult. I do not say at all that it is beyond the wit of man to devise a scheme of that sort, but I think that at the present moment it would be difficult. It would be difficult, also, because a scheme which might operate effectively in time of peace might become ineffective immediately on the outbreak of a war. It seems to me that the first step that a country which had decided on war would take would be to seize all the civil aircraft within its own territory, and it is for that reason that I should envisage with perhaps more hope a scheme such as was adumbrated by the right hon. Gentleman, under which there would be some kind of military air force which could be used as a deterrent and as some control over civil aviation.
It seems to me that, before anything of that kind could be done, it would be necessary, as a first step, somehow to get an international agreement on the limitation and reduction of air armaments. There is another preliminary step which might be taken, and that is to limit the character of world warfare. Some scheme of that sort is embodied in the Hague Rules, and, although those are not ratified, it is a step which might be taken, if not concurrently with, perhaps independently of, mutual reduction of air armaments. But there are practical difficulties in the way of that also, in regard to the formulation of rules which would be acceptable to all nations. There is also the risk that rules which had been formulated and devised in peace-time might be broken at the outbreak of war. But neither those difficulties nor that risk would prevent His Majesty's Government from co-operating in any scheme which might be acceptable to other nations for limitation and reduction.
I must point out that the breakdown of the Disarmament Conference was not 1757 due to the absence of any general agreement upon any particular suggestion for the limitation of armaments. It certainly was not on bombing, as has been suggested. It was never the intention of His Majesty's Government to insist on "police bombing" to the prejudice of any really effective scheme of abolition which would be accepted by other nations. The conference certainly did not break down because of the impossibility of arriving at any scheme for the international control of civil aviation, or of defining the precise rules which would limit armaments. It broke down because of disagreement on problems of a far wider and more fundamental nature. It was not possible even to get agreement on the relative level of general disarmament as a whole, or on the security measures for maintaining peace and for ensuring the effective operation of a general Disarmament Convention. Therefore, it seems to me that it would be foolish to be too optimistic to-day as to the prospect of
§ getting some agreement on this question in the near future, but on the general principle we are entirely in agreement. We do not wish, and I am sure the House does not wish, to give the appearance that there is any real division of opinion upon it, and in these circumstances I hope sincerely that the Amendment will not be pressed to a Division.
§ Mr. Mathers
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly say whether any preparation is being made now for the meeting of the Bureau of the Disarmament Conference, and whether it will be possible to deal with this matter under Article 35?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided; Ayes, 175; Noes, 119.1759
|Division No. 108.]||AYES.||[9.44 p.m.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Duggan, H. J.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Apsley, Lord||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Assheton, R.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Errington, E.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Everard, W. L.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Findlay, Sir E.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Fleming, E. L.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Furness, S. N.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||McKie, J. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Maonamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Goldie, N. B.||Maitland, A.|
|Bracken, B.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Brisooe, Capt. R. G.||Granville, E. L.||Markham, S. F.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Grelton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Bull, B. B.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Grimston, R. V.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Channon, H.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Guy, J. C. M.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Mulrhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Munro, P.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Hannah, I. C.||Nail, Sir J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Harbord, A.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Cooper Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Nicolson Hon. H. G.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||O'Connor. Sir Terence J.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Grookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Hopkinson, A.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Hulbert, N. J.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Keeling, E. H.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Remer, J. R.|
|Doland, G. F.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Kimball, L.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Sandys, E. D.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Tate, Mavis C.||Wells, S. R.|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Simmonds, O. E.||Touche, G. C.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Train, Sir J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Turton, R. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Spens. W. P.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Sir Henry Morris-Jones and Mr.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Warrender, Sir V.||Cross.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Potts, J.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, W. HI.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, G. D.||Ridley, G.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Ritson, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Rowson, G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hollins, A.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Barr, J.||Hopkin, D.||Salter Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Benson, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Short, A.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kelly, W. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cape, T.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Chater, D.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lee, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Logan, D. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lunn, W.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Walker, J.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||McGhee, H. G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maclean, N.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Mander, G. le M.||Whiteley, W.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H||Maxton, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Foot, D. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Muff, G.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Naylor, T. E.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gibbins, J.||Oliver, G. H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Owen, Major G.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Parker, J.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Hardie
We now come back to the main Question, but the vote that we have just had is very encouraging. In the general Debate we have had nothing but the atmosphere of preparedness for war, the warlike mind expressing itself in various forms. It is always interesting in such Debates, when you get one Service describing the other Services. It is always interesting to hear the Air arm of the Navy making out its case against the other Air arm. But all these questions relate to preparedness for war. It would seem that in the minds of those who have been discussing the Vote it 1760 is quite settled that there is going to be war, and that is the type of mind that produces war. We had a most interesting speech from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), in which we had the most eloquent contradictions that I ever listened to. In one breath he was speaking with all the force that a Christian heart could express in regard to the horrors of war, but yet he was not convinced of the futility of that organised murder called war. At that I am greatly surprised. The question of the air seems to be exercising the attention of every country. It is held that whoever has control of the air has control of the power of the world. That may be so in regard to the applying of force from the air, but there is still moral law in the world.
1761 If we could for a time forget man-made laws and remember the moral law, the force behind that law, operating through the various peoples in the world, would very soon leave the Navy, the Army and the Air Force as things related to an evil past.
In the minds of the majority of those who sit on these benches, that is the basic thought in regard to peace. Until the nations of the world realise that nothing but destruction and despair can come from war, there can be no real advance in civilisation on the general plane. It is all very well to claim, on the basis of civilisation, that science is able to do this, that and the other thing; is able to see at a great distance by television and to hear a voice round the world. But what good is that? That is a lop-sided advance of the human mind. The balanced development of science in the human mind will mean, when it comes, that instead of all these things giving power to the few, science will give power to the people as a whole in the world. Instead of being used as the means of destruction, these things will be used as a means of at least bringing about the brotherhood of which all civilised people have dreamed.
As so many questions have been addressed to the Under-Secretary since he spoke on the last occasion, I expected that to-day he would have taken the trouble to deal with some of those matters, and I propose now to refer to some of the questions that I myself have raised. I have often raised the question of aerodromes; how they were obtained and what were the land conditions. I have wanted to get details concerning a matter about which I have continued to use a very ugly word in this House, and I make no apology for having used it. It relates to what has been taking place concerning accommodations of business transactions. I recently asked a question with regard to a certain aerodrome, and the Department did not seem to know anything about what was going on. When one puts a question to the Minister, who is bound to be in possession of some sort of knowledge, the Minister should in some way seek to answer the question. I draw the attention of the Under-Secretary or the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to the last paragraph in page 13 of the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for Air, Command Paper 5388, which says: 1762Since its opening in 1928 the aerodrome at Heston has played an important part in the service of civil aviation, and it is clear that this aerodrome to-day provides essential facilities both for internal and for international purposes. Information was received that the owners of the aerodrome had decided to restrict their activities and to dispose of part of the airport.I want to know what is meant by the words "information was received." Who received that information? Is the Under-Secretary or the Minister in possession of the facts, as printed in the local Press, of the investigation that took place at Slough in regard to this transaction? Can either Minister give any information as to a "secret letter" in the evidence, signed by some one called Muntz. I am not good at German names or pronunciation. Is the Under-Secretary in possession of any information in regard to that letter? According to the evidence, as reported, that letter was sent to the Chairman of the Slough local council. It was used in evidence and was described as a "secret letter." This House should be informed of transactions like this, which find their way into courts of investigation. Such information would save a tremendous amount of suspicion. If such a thing applies at that aerodrome, one might assume that it might apply all round.
§ Sir T. Inskip
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether the inquiry which he said is taking place is concluded and whether a report of it has been made?
§ Mr. Hardie
I am not quite sure whether the case has been concluded or not, but I do not think that that affects my question. I want to know how it comes about that these things can go on and be reported in the local papers, and yet we cannot get an answer in this House when we put a question?
§ Sir T. Inskip
The inquiry is being held and the inspector has not made his report, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not expect me to express any views about a question which is sub judice.
§ Mr. Hardie
It would have been as well if the Under-Secretary or whoever was answering questions had stated something like that. I and my hon. Friends do not want to overstep any of these niceties, but we ought to have been told what was occurring. I leave it at that, in the hope that, before long, we may get some in- 1763 formation. I will not go into details of the seven cases which I have raised in questions concerning other aerodromes, but I hope that in reply we shall receive some information, because these things are causing a great deal of suspicion concerning everything that is being done, and especially where land is being bought. The Under-Secretary to-day made the same statement that he made a year ago in regard to our aero engines. He said that we were making a great advance and getting on with the great improvements in our engines, and he also mentioned, as proof of the improvement in those engines, that we were selling them abroad. I do not believe in wars at all, but if we are preparing to fight some other nation, is any care being taken with regard to the nations to whom these engines are being sold? Are they being sold indiscriminately, and are they likely to be used against us at any time during a war? Is the instinct for profit so deeply seated that it blinds even the so-called flag-waving patriots to that fact? Are we to be told that it is not that class of engine which is being sold abroad? Do profits come first or the safety of Britain?
Last time we were told of the great shadow scheme and how parts were going to be brought together and assembled into the complete article. To-day there has been a great deal of talk about the weather having kept things back and of other forms of delay, but no mention has been made of the delay in this part of the scheme. I should like to know why. Perhaps the Under-Secretary or the Minister will deal with it. Now I come to the safeguards of employers against loss in regard to plant and buildings when they are no longer required for production purposes. I remember distinctly what happened at Gretna. The nation paid about 20 times the value of the land for the huge site and put up huge factories. After the last War, which it was said was a war to end war, instead of putting the plant in this factory to civil production the Tory Government of that day destroyed even the houses that had been built—and we were short of houses at that moment. They lifted the water mains, destroyed the electric lighting plant, took the kitchen equipment out of the houses, took out even the windows, and then the huge plant, one of the finest in the world, 80 feet high and 4 feet in 1764 diameter, was destroyed and sold to a local plumber at Carlisle.
Hon. Members opposite ask why we criticise the incapacity of the present Government. There is an instance. Now we are being told that when we have passed through this period of production and have reached saturation point that the owners of these plants and buildings are to be compensated, but there is not a single word about the workers who will be displaced. This is where there is great lack of vision. I hope that if there is to be compensation in regard to plant and buildings which go out of use that there will be compensation on this basis, that wherever a plant has been erected for the purpose of producing war materials it shall be scheduled as such. The Government have always pointed out that we must not disturb ordinary production, and that the manufacture of arms should run alongside of it. In some cases they will require special assessment to get through the difficulty.
I come to the question of untrained men. A great deal has been said about the absence of skilled men. In my second speech in this House in 1922 I pointed out the necessity for the nation to take care of technical education. I had specially interested myself in evening technical education school work, and I knew its value. I suppose the Government thought they would be able to slip from one thing to another, to blunder through as we have always blundered through our difficulties. To-day, instead of highly technical skilled men you have one or two skilled men, a handy man, a labourer and a labourer's labourer. When you get highly specialised production in aircraft, when you get a machine which is almost mechanically perfect, almost automatic, instead of seeing that the type of young man who can become skilled is in contact with this, and has also some instruction, you allow employers to employ boys at cheap wages, at a time when they should be receiving technical education. By so doing you create a gap between the elementary school education of the boy and the technical education which he should get; you destroy the connection with the continuation school, in my opinion a most serious defect in any nation. I hope the Minister will deal with this question, not only as it concerns aeroplane factories, but in other kinds of work as well.
1765 As regards the conditions in some of these works, I was reading on Sunday about a gentleman called Bedeaux who is living somewhere in France on money he got by introducing the Bedeaux system. I should like to ask whether in any of the Departments concerned with the production of aeroplanes the Bedeaux system is in operation. Hon. Members will understand that it is impossible, in connection with this speeding-up programme, to educate the mind by means of photographs. If you want to make your highly skilled technical man less in value, if you want to reduce the number of your technical men, then apply the Bedeaux system. That happens when you get the human mind down to a level where the person concerned will hold up his head at the ringing of a bell and will not do any deductive thinking. If that process is to go on, I hope the Minister will realise that this sort of thing destroys the nerve centres of the individual. I saw it at work in America in connection with a shirt factory. Near that factory they had recently built an asylum. I asked what the asylum was for, and I was told that since the introduction of the Bedeaux system girls and boys had been driven demented.
You cannot have a system of measurement for the highly skilled man. The highly skilled man will never react to measurement. The man who is doing deductive thinking cannot be measured. The gentleman named Bedeaux has never been able to measure nerve force. The most highly skilled students of medicine in the world say that in relation to the nervous system under the strain of workshops, especially where there is continuous noise, when you introduce this system you either destroy the nerve centre of the individual or you render him capable of doing only labouring work. I hope that the human element will come through.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Captain Harold Balfour
The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) dealt with the subject of labour in industry, and so did the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. E. Smith). One remark of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent would find echo in all quarters d the House, and that is that the vast majority of men engaged in the skilled industries, and in the aircraft industry in particular, take tremendous pride in their 1766 work. I am sufficiently nationalistic to believe that there are no workmen in the world who can excel in skill, enterprise and tenacity the workmen in this country.
I should like to make on comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Springburn. He spoke of various suspicious things about which he says he has raised questions in the House, and which the Minister says are at present sub judice. If one approaches every problem in an atmosphere of suspicion one will find everything in life suspicious. There may or may not be ground for suspicion, but it is a pity to prejudge any issue in an atmosphere of suspicion. Then the hon. Member for Springburn took us back 17 or 20 years, towards the end of the War, and spoke about a wicked Tory Government boiling down some copper tubes at Carlisle. I do not remember the particular item of machinery that he mentioned, but it was not a Tory Government at that time but a Government led by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who sits on the front Opposition Bench and whose support the Opposition are very often glad to get.
Now I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), with particular reference to the question of airmen pilots. He gave certain figures of the entry of airmen pilots, and my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State intervened. I should, in passing, like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the introduction of the Estimates. The hon. Member for West Islington gave certain figures and the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State said that they were the figures for the special entry only, that they did not represent in any way the numbers of airmen pilots trained in the Service after ordinary enlistment. They are certainly no indication of the very high proportion of airmen pilots in the Royal Air Force to-day. I think some of the remarks of the hon. Member for West Islington scarcely did justice to himself and the Opposition. He said that the officer class predominates and that other ranks are very often more able but are held down by this wicked system. Then, warming up to his speech, he referred to the bias and the snobbery that exists to-day in the making of the officer class. The truth is that there is an open ladder of promotion from ordinary air 1767 mechanic right up to the higher ranks. Discipline and comradeship, rank and respect among all ranks are not in any way contradictory, as any hon. Member who has served in any of His Majesty's Forces in the capacity of senior or junior will acknowledge.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The hon. and gallant Member has referred to the open ladder from the rank of air mechanic to the top of the Air Force, but he has not given any figures to show to what extent it is possible to ascend that ladder. I venture to say that in the rank of squadron leader, for instance, not 5 per cent. have risen from the noncommissioned ranks.
§ Captain Balfour
The hon. Member should check his facts first, for if he will look at the formation of the Royal Flying Corps, from which the Royal Air Force was formed, he will see that several of the senior officers of to-day are the original non-commissioned officers which the Army first lent to the Royal Flying Corps. They have taken increasingly responsible positions in the administration and discipline of the Royal Air Force; some of them are still serving and some have retired. The hon. Member likes to build a case on prejudice in order to satisfy some desire in his mind to criticise with inadequate grounds for his criticism. If one talks to any of the men in any rank of the Service to-day, it will be found that the strictures of the Opposition would be least welcomed among the lower ranks, which have not feelings of class distinction, but rather these feelings of comradeship and discipline which are not in any way contradictory, would like now to turn to a question which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) concerning the announcement of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence that he was about to conduct one more inquiry into the Fleet Air Arm. All I will say is that I think it is not for anyone who has any particular belief on one side or the other to say anything that is likely to make the situation more difficult.
On all sides of the House and throughout the country people are tired of this controversy, as they feel it impedes the efficiency of the development of rearmament. I sincerely hope that a solution 1768 will be found which will rest on the merits of the case and not on any political strength of either Service. The hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Colonel Moore-Brabazon) spoke of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the fatal dualism that now besets him in that he has now to defend the Admiralty from the Air Ministry instead of the Air Ministry from the Admiralty, and the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey painted a picture of the right hon. Gentleman turning round about and marching the other way. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who I am sorry is not here to-night, has also done a bit of turning about in his day, but he has a great ally in the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping used at one time to look after the Air Ministry, and in those clays he had to justify the position of the Air Ministry in relation to the Admiralty. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth, if I may say so, ought to be careful, not so much about the merits of the Admiralty's case as about relying too much on a rather dangerous ally, one who must feel when he speaks from that corner the conviction that his own case is exaggerated.
§ Captain Balfour
The hon. and gallant Member shakes his head. Let us see what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said in 1919 when he was defending the Air Ministry against the Admiralty. Replying to a speech by Lord Mottistone, then Major-General Seely, the right hon. Member for Epping said:I am very sorry that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the other night accused the Admiralty of not asking for enough…At any rate it is true that the Admiralty have not got what they asked for. They asked for a great deal more than they got, and I never remember a time, I rarely remember a subject, on which the Admiralty have not asked for more than they have been able to get"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 5919; cols. 138–139, Vol. 123.]The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to be careful about relying too much upon an ally who must be feeling from his own experience that the case which he is advocating is exaggerated by its backers.
The Under-Secretary of State said that we ought to have an Air Force which 1769 was strong, ready and sufficient. "Strong" is a comparative term, and must be in relation to something. I think everybody in the House acknowledges that "strong," generally speaking, means in relation to the German air force, the largest air force at the present time within striking distance of these shores. I think that while we must not close our eyes to the seriousness of the situation, we ought not to get wrong standards of comparison between this country's air strength and Germany's. When people speak in this House of German air strength and compare it with our objective of a metropolitan strength of 1,750 machines, do they mean German air strength including training and mobilisation spares or not? Our 1,750 machines do not include them, but when people speak of German first-line strength I think they are liable to include them. Then we have the Fleet Air Arm and our overseas strength, and Germany has neither. When the right hon. Member for Epping makes a statement as to Germany having a greater first-line strength than this country, he ought to make it clear whether he is excluding those items from the German strength which are excluded from our strength. Without such a basis of comparison it is impossible to say what is the comparative first-line strengths of this country and Germany.
I do not minimise the importance of having a strength equal or in fact, superior to that of any Power on the Continent, but let us be sure that our comparison is on a common basis. If the right hon. Member for Epping has any particular or special knowledge, which allows him to make this comparison on a proper common basis and which he has not given to the House or the Government, the House is entitled to ask him to supply such information to the Government. We are also entitled to ask from what source he has his information—whether it is from a British source or from some other Power on the Continent. I am sorry that he has not graced with his presence to-night our Debate on this important matter, in which he has taken such a considerable part, but, with great respect to his Parliamentary experience, I would suggest that when next he makes a speech on comparisons of air strength he should give a premise to show that the comparison is a common one as between this country and Germany.
§ Captain Balfour
The hon. Member says that I have a suspicious mind, but, if so, it is a very narrow suspicion, not a great broad suspicion, like that of the hon. Member who spoke just before me. Instead of a suspicious mind, I should say it is an inquiring mind, and there is a great difference between the two. Mine is an inquiry of the right hon. Gentleman, who speaks with great authority and knowledge, to ask him that we should have the full benefit of his knowledge and not perhaps the partial benefit.
I want to ask the Minister for the Coordination of Defence whether he will give us once more the rather comforting assurance that this enormous programme of Air Force expansion for a Department which a few years ago could barely muster Members in this House for a Debate, but which has suddenly had the silver slipper of Cinderella put upon it and is now perhaps the most important of the Departments—that this expansion scheme is still only three or four months behindhand. If so, it is a very rare thing, for in any large programme in life if one could completely live up to one's own expectations it would be a very fine thing. I do not think that any of us do. If such an enormous expansion is only four months behind time, it means that we shall finish the programme in 1939 on time, but that some time in 1938 there will be that three or four months' lag to be made up, when we shall still be building for the first line while we should really have been building for the reserve had we been fully up to time. I think that, provided that there is no war in the next year—and I do not think that on any side of the House we anticipate that that will occur—the Air Force programme will end according to time and will give the security that this House has asked for and that the country has asked for through this House.
I do not wish to conclude my remarks without saying once more than I personally—and, I believe, all Members of this House—welcome the reservation which is always made by the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, and by the Prime Minister when he speaks, as to the flexibility of this programme, in order that it can be reduced if the European situation so develops that a reduction in this 1771 enormous armament expenditure is found to be possible.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
The Prime Minister was good enough to honour my constituency with a visit at the beginning of the last General Election, and during that visit he said that there would be no great armaments. I find it a little difficult to reconcile the demand which is being made to-day for these very large sums of money for the Air Force with a statement of that kind. Surely it was not so very far to look ahead—only about 18 months—and I find it difficult to understand what occurred. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Air made no more reference in his speech to-day than did the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the joint purposes for which, under certain circumstances, these forces would be used. I find that it is no doubt the case—and I believe it to be true—that the Government's rearmament programme has given great satisfaction among many countries abroad, but I venture to think that it would give much more satisfaction in this country, and do more to unite the nation behind the Government in their rearmament programme, if they would indicate, in introducing these Estimates, what steps they are taking to make it possible to use these forces as an integral part of a collective system which they still maintain that they are trying to work up.
In view of the fact that we were informed that it is part of our Defence programme to use our Forces effectively and loyally to resist any act of aggression in accordance with our military strength and geographical situation, it is the duty of the Government to have such consultations as they can with other nations to work out a practical programme. I know that there must always be difficulties where we are guarding against various potential aggressors, but I should have thought that in the case of the air we would have a simpler programme than in any other arm of the Service, because the main problems to be decided would be what machines would be made available and the areas in certain circumstances that different countries would be prepared to take as their objectives. I hope that the Government even now will take some step to show that they are going to get 1772 into touch with other nations which are willing to co-operate with us to see how far we can arrange things on a joint basis. We have such a plan now with France and Belgium arising out of the reoccupation of the Rhineland, and I presume in that case definite arrangements, as the result of staff conversations, have been made to act jointly in case of attack. I am only asking that that precedent may be taken a considerable stage further.
It seems to me that the Government, in dealing with the production of their aircraft programme, have made two serious errors. They may have made many more, apart from the many admirable things they have no doubt done, but the two errors I have in mind are these. I do not think they have been altogether wise in their handling of the aircraft manufacturers. Instead of asking for their good will and co-operation, and presenting a sort of joint programme to them, they were far too much inclined in the past to keep them in watertight compartments, each working on their own, and to send them instructions and orders as to what they were to do and turn out and when it was to be delivered. I believe that it is that failure to cultivate the cooperative spirit among aircraft manufacturers that is partially responsible for a good deal of the delay that has taken place. There has not been the necessary cohesion, and we have not made the best use of such resources as we have. I believe that the situation is altered now and none too soon, and that the tendency is much more to say to the manufacturers, "Will you help us and when can you deliver the goods ordered?" rather than to give them instructions. It would have been much better in the first place to say to them, "We have a great national scheme in front of us, we have to pool our resources, we have to pull together and do the best we can." It is regretable that for lack of vision or for some other reason the Government failed to obtain the advantage of a system of that kind.
I think that the Government have failed to take the trade unions into consultation and to get their co-operation in the production of aircraft. A great many appeals and suggestions have been made to the Minister from time to time to do that, but he has always given the impression that things were going on all right, that it was not necessary, and that 1773 things were working out in a satisfactory way. My information is that that really is not so. For instance, the scheme of trainees which is being introduced in various aircraft factories was carried out without any consultation with the trade unions. Its introduction is a delicate matter which might give rise to difficult situations, and, in view of the shortage of labour, surely the Government realise that they cannot carry on industry in this country and a great national scheme of this kind unless they have the wholehearted co-operation and good will of the representatives of trade unions. Nor, for that matter, can you carry on preparations for war, or a war itself, without the co-operation not only of the supporters of the Government, but of the Opposition, too, and I very much hope the Government will bear that in mind. I will quote from an article about the trade unions which appeared in the monthly journal of the Amalgamated Engineering Union:When the scheme of production was outlined a year ago it was clearly the Government's intention to consult the unions. It was indicated at that time that consultation had already taken place with the employers. Since then nothing has been said or done by Ministers to lead us to think they are anxious to secure an understanding with the unions. It must be understood by Ministers or others concerned that the trade unions cannot be ignored in this matter. As far as our own union is concerned, we do not propose to allow our views on the very complicated problems arising from the transformation of the engineering industry into war production to be dealt with over our heads.I hope the Minister will be able to give us an assurance that every step will be taken to get that absolutely essential co-operation. With regard to the shadow factories which are being set up, on terms which seem to be amply remunerative to those who are going to manage them, there is one particular problem on which I should like the Minister to throw some light. These shadow factories have, naturally, no skilled staff—I am not talking about the workpeople, but skilled technical staff, which is only available at present in the aircraft factories in the main. In order to staff these shadow factories it would appear that the personnel will have to be drawn by the temptation of higher remuneration from the existing aircraft factories. These will be extremely reluctant to part with that technical staff, and may outbid the shadow factories in order to get them back again, and I am informed that a very difficult 1774 situation is likely to arise out of the shortage of that particular specialised staff, and the competition there will be for it.
How do the Government propose to deal with that situation? Will they allow the free play of the market, allow the operation of the law of supply and demand, with which the Minister has been quite wrongly associated to-day, or have they some scheme by which everybody is to make an equal sacrifice in a national emergency? If manufacturers are to forego their profits, and everybody is to be paid a standard rate of remuneration, it will be interesting to hear about it; certainly the problem will have to be dealt with in some way.
I now have a word to say about the Fleet Air Arm controversy, in spite of the admonition addressed to me by my hon. Friend who preceded me. I was rather astonished to hear that a new inquiry was to be held, because I was under the impression that the inquiry had been going on for a long time, and that my right hon. Friend had been addressing his mind to that among other subjects. It seems to me that the Admiralty, which has glorious traditions and history, and has through the ages managed to do itself very well, simply hates the idea of coming down to a level with other people, and in particular being made subordinate in any sense to such a new Service as the Royal Air Force. That is a very human failing, and I think there is a great deal in that point. I well remember when the Royal Air Force came into being in 1918 and the officers from the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps were brought together into the same messes. One could appreciate how much the Royal Naval Air Service resented being brought down to the more homely level to which the Royal Flying Corps had been accustomed up to that time. I appreciate that operational control must be, and has been, given to the Navy, but to give them the right to order and to buy their own machines, of whatever type they liked, would involve enormous duplication of effort and waste of money. You would have the different types of machines creating duplication in the factories, in the training schools and in the aerodromes, and the whole thing would be a great step backward. I very much hope that no decision in that direction will be come to.
1775 May I ask the Minister for the Coordination of Defence to refer in his reply to the defence of London which is, mainly, in the hands of the Royal Air Force? An essential part of the defence of London, the anti-aircraft work is, however, in the hands of the War Office. There is a good deal to be said for placing the control of the defence of London under the Air Ministry, as has been done, I understand, in Germany and in Italy. Whatever we may think of those countries, they know something about the way in which to use aggressive forces, and they have thought out the probelms. I make this suggestion because the technicalities of the defence of London involve orders being given to fire, or to cease fire. If those movements lasted for a few seconds longer or shorter the result might be disastrous to our own aircraft in the air. The interlocking arrangements for the defence of London are so intricate that they involve the placing of arrangements under one head. London is a wonderful target, especially to machines coming at 300 or 400 miles an hour.
Are the Government making full use of the auxiliary air force formation? There is a good deal to be said for developing those squadrons, which cost about half as much as the regular squadrons. They are suited to the type of man engaged in business of a breadth of experience and outlook that you do not expect to find in all Service officers. You want to get into the Air Force at the present time the qualities of adventure, wide outside experience and contact with the world that you get in the Auxiliary Air Force squadrons. I ask whether the Government will seriously consider the wisdom or working on these lines? We here intend to vote for the Estimates to-night; not because we have any confidence in the Government, we have little confidence in the purposes for which the Government intend to use these armaments; we would be delighted to think they were going to use them not only for the purely national defence which is so obvious, but also for the equally important national defence of working under the collective system, and we have little confidence that they mean to do that; but whether they do or not, it is clear that in the present situation of the world we cannot take the responsibility of saving that the sums asked for are more than 1776 are necessary to help to keep the country safe.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) accused my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) of suffering from what in aeronautics is called "directional instability." But the rebuke might equally be returned to the hon. and gallant Member, because he made a speech on 27th January regarding the expansion of the Royal Air Force which would read in a somewhat different tone from the speech that he has made to-night. He said in particular that we were four months behind in our expansion programme. That is not at all what the Minister for Co-ordination said on that day. The right hon. Gentleman said that we would have 120 squadrons by July, which was four months late. But in reply to an inquiry I made, he admitted that many of those squadrons would be only just formed, and I know he will admit that it would take another six months for all those squadrons to be brought up to full strength.
§ Captain Balfour
I was talking about the production of air frames being four months behind. That was what I said then, and what I say now.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I beg the hon. and gallant Member's pardon if I have misunderstood his meaning, but I am now speaking of completed squadrons, and that is the important issue when we are dealing with National Defence. We shall be somewhere between six months and a year behind, and none of us will be more delighted than myself if the right hon. Gentleman can tell us that by some new energy which the Air Ministry have brought to bear that period can be reduced. I would not return to the subject which we discussed somewhat fully on 27th January, but for the fact that that Debate has brought into my possession a number of new facts, and the one that most disturbs me, and which I should like the House to know, is the approximate rate at which Germany is adding to her first-line strength. One has many opportunities for gauging the increase, and I am satisfied from a number of different sources of information that this year Germany will easily be able to add at least 3,000 first-line aircraft to her air force. I 1777 believe equally that we shall not be able to do that this year. It follows therefore, that in 1937, our inferiority will be ever increasing. We may only hope that the European skies will clear during this year, but it does behove the Government and the Air Ministry to apply themselves with ever-increasing vigour to this problem.
There is another point that has been mentioned so frequently that I think it should be corrected. Spokesmen of the Government have on many occasions laid the major blame for the delay in the expansion programme upon the aircraft manufacturing industry. I do not believe that to be a fair statement. What happened was this, and it was very natural in the then state of affairs. The Ministry said to the manufacturers, "You must let us have so many hundred aeroplanes by a certain date." The manufacturers replied, "We are very sorry, but that is an impossible proposal." "Very well," said the Ministry, "if you cannot do it, we shall give that contract to your competitors"; and consequently the manufacturers had to raise their delivery dates to an almost fantastically advanced period. But, if there had been planning at that time, to see that the raw materials were flowing into the factories—a thing which could very easily have been done then, but which is exceedingly difficult now at this late date—much delay might have been obviated. I do not, however, want to pursue that point further.
This is about the only opportunity during the year that the House has of examining the Air Ministry's stewardship, and that for a sum of money much greater than has ever been entrusted to the Ministry; and I regret to say that some of the very best friends of the Ministry, in the country and in this House, feel at this present juncture very grave alarm and apprehension. I know that the whole House will regret that, under his energetic labours, the Secretary of State has had to go on leave; we all hope that he will soon be restored to health; but we have the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence at the Air Ministry, for a brief period at any rate, and I sincerely trust that some of the disquiet that we feel may become so apparent to him that some changes will take place.
I ought to give the House just one or two examples of the procedure in the Air 1778 Ministry which is so disquieting to-day. The first point is the relationship between the Air Ministry and the industry. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) brought out this matter very clearly, and I agree whole-heartedly with what he said. We have in the industry to-day three separate parts—the old industry, the new industry of the unapproved firms, which were also referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), and the shadow factories. There was definitely jealousy between the old industry and the new firms, for the very obvious reason that the old industry, for some 20 years, has been struggling against adversity, with small orders and small dividends in any year, and very frequently a loss. The industry was thus very alarmed to see a large number of new firms coming into the aircraft manufacturing industry, with the possibility of receiving substantial Air Ministry orders. The Air Ministry, I think very fairly to those companies which had sunk a lot of money in aircraft manufacture over the years, stood by the old industry; but I am afraid that that standing by the old industry has, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey indicated, rather suggested an antagonism on the part of the Ministry towards this new industry. Whatever may have been the merits of the case two or three years ago, I think the Air Ministry should recognise this: To-day there is no antagonism between the old industry and the new, and those two parts of the industry are willing to pull together for the national good. This question was raised last year in another place and the Secretary of State made what I thought a most important, though also a most extraordinary declaration. He said:If my Noble Friend can tell me of a firm which is prepared to take a sub-contract for a particular type of machine which forms part of the programme, a firm which is efficient to produce it and which cannot get a sub-contract from a main contractor, I or my director will take up the case to-morrow.In this new industry there is a considerable number of firms which are wholly lacking work and are frequently having to reduce the number of their skilled and unskilled hands. The companies, therefore, which had a little subcontract work, and thus were clearly fitted for this work, and were themselves regarded as efficient by the Air Minister 1779 himself, were a little staggered by that statement, and some of them inquired whether in fact, the Secretary of State or his director would look into their position, but the only reply they received, in spite of the fact that one company was discharging over 100 men that week, was that they must apply to the main contractors, and no immediate hope of work was held out. I am content to say that this procedure is not calculated to create confidence in the Air Ministry or harmony between the industry and the Air Ministry. That position remains to-day and there are many firms in the new industry, in spite of the lag in production, which are earnestly requiring work and this, as the Minister for Co-ordination will know by now, is well known in the Air Ministry. What is the Air Minister going to do to encourage these firms, and also to speed up the programme?
With regard to the relationship between the Air Ministry and the old industry, again the hon. Member for Wolverhampton hinted at the difficulties that were arising in connection with the shadow scheme. This is becoming a very serious matter indeed, particularly in the Midlands. May I read a few words from a leader in the "Birmingham Post," which represents the largest industrial area in the country?One difficulty will surely grow worse. The shadow scheme firms, with Government money behind them, can offer wages for skilled labour which will draw key men away from their present employers. The Air Ministry accepts no responsibility for this state of affairs, but it cannot be surprised if contractors get into arrears, for skilled craftsmen cannot be made in a minute, and there are not enough to go round. This cause of delay is the gravest which the Debate of 27th January has disclosed.Any manufacturer will know that it is just cutting your feet from under you to know that there is a Government Department prepared to pay any amount for your staff and that you cannot, in the light of your competitive position, get these men back again. That continues to be a most serious question which the Air Ministry have not yet solved in any way at all. Representatives of the industry have discussed this matter with the Secretary of State for Air, and this afternoon I asked the Under-Secretary what instructions the Secretary of State had issued to the firms managing the shadow factories with regard to their enticing personnel 1780 from the established aircraft industry, and for the benefit of those hon. Members who were not present at Question Time, I will read the reply:My Noble Friend recently discussed with a deputation from the Society of British Aircraft Constructors certain difficulties which may arise over the employment of skilled labour in expanding aircraft industry. It was agreed that the subject was one which could best be dealt with within the engineering industry itself, and I have no doubt that the result will be satisfactory.I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State, who always tries to be affable on all these difficult points, did not know the real situation in this matter. It was that that deputation left the Secretary of State for Air in utter disgust at his unwillingness to settle this most serious problem, which, can, in fact, dislocate the whole of the present expansion scheme. The shadow factories cannot be in full operation for a year or two, and it is on the present industry that the country must rely for the next 12 or 18 months. If we are to dislocate that industry, what is our production to be? I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence whether he will spare some of the time, while he is at the Air Ministry, to try to pour oil on the troubled waters of this most pernicious problem. At the moment the situation is developing on very much the same lines as the Nuffield controversy with the Air Ministry. It is greatly in the public interest that a repetition of that affair should be avoided, and I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will endeavour to straighten out this affair?
I want to call attention to an entirely different aspect of the Air Ministry, because it is going along in exactly the same way as the other two points I have mentioned. The House will recollect the announcement of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and it says in the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for Air that it is hoped that not less than 800 pilots will be entered in 1937. It may be assumed from that, that all was now ready. The House should judge for itself. The story commences in July last year when the Air Ministry invited civil flying schools and similar air enterprises to fill up a questionnaire regarding the establishment of the necessary schools for training these pilots. The estimates were to be based on the cost per 1781 flying hour and were to cover the rental of existing aerodromes, or the cost of acquiring and preparing suitable land and the necessary buildings. Replies to this questionnaire were to be submitted by the 14th September last, and indeed that was done. Some of the firms obtained definite options on the land and obtained forms of tenders from contractors for the preparing of the aerodromes and the erection of buildings. Flying could have commenced by now.
Early in December out of a large number of replies 13 firms were selected as suitable. The second chapter opens on 18th December when the Air Ministry called a conference of the firms and informed them that it had now been decided to change the basis of the scheme to limited contracts on a management basis by which the Air Ministry would acquire the land, lay out aerodromes, erect buildings, and pay for all the costs of operating the schools, while the firms would receive a management fee for managing their schools as agents of the Air Ministry. New tenders for these management fees were to be received by the Ministry by 6th January, and were duly submitted. The firms by this time had surrendered their options on the land, dropped their tenders as the Air Ministry had now undertaken to carry this responsibility themselves. The third chapter opens on 8th February, when the Air Ministry to the amazement of the tenderers, called a third conference and said that it had again changed its mind and had decided upon a third basis. The companies were now asked to submit fresh tenders on what was referred to as a limited contract basis. The companies were to tender a price per flying hour including all the operating costs, wages, overheads and maintenance, but the capital expenditure in purchasing or hiring the land, preparing it and building the necessary structures, would be met either by the Ministry or the tenderers as agents of the Air Ministry. Tenders under this third scheme were to be received by 1st March, and were in fact duly submitted. I understand that no decision has yet been made and that agreement with the companies is as far off as ever. Thus after eight months of delay with three changes of policy, effective practical steps to start these schools have still to be taken. Meanwhile, in something like a panic, although no pro- 1782 vision has yet been made for these schools, the Air Ministry has asked for 800 applicants to learn flying, and I gather that they will be taught as an overload on the present schools, although I understand that the present schools have yet not accepted the responsibility for this overload.
The delay is serious for many reasons. To start with, the land could have been seeded during last autumn and would have been ready by now. The land cannot now be seeded until next autumn and will not be ready until early in 1938. But possibly more serious still is that the price of land and buildings, of petrol and almost everything else has increased. You cannot have an increased demand without increasing the price, and consequently through this penny wise and pound foolish delay the Air Ministry is likely to have to pay anything from 15 to 25 per cent. more than it would have done. These are a few examples of the fact that this vast expansion scheme is rather overcoming the Air Ministry machine, and I want to ask in the public interest that whilst the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is at the Air Ministry he will seriously consider this matter. Are the responsibilities now falling upon the shoulders of the Air Minister unsuitable to be borne by senior Air Force officers, not brought up in some of these problems? Would it not be wise to obtain further help in production and supply from outside the Ministry, from the Government Departments or public enterprise? Would it not be a good thing to give greater power to those few capable men who have been brought into the Ministry from outside, such as the Director of Production, who has been greatly hampered in what he has to do by the machinations of the old Air Ministry routine?
One thing which has been referred to twice to-day is the representation of the Air Ministry in this House. I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that when we are spending these vast sums on the air it is right for the Air Minister to be in another place. Surely this House could help the Minister to mould his policy. We are all anxious that it should be moulded on the right lines. I feel sure that as soon as convenient—I understand from the Press that there may be several convenient opportunities—the Air Minister will be in 1783 this House. Those of us who are interested in the air should say to the Prime Minister or to any future Prime Minister that the air now demands two Under-Secretaries, an Under-Secretary for Civil Aviation and an Under-Secretary for Service Aviation. It has been rather unfair to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in the last few months. He is charged with the responsibility for civil aviation, and we all know that throughout many years he has thrown himself with considerable energy into his work; but on many a day at Question Time he has shown that he is not—how could he be? —in touch with the developments on the Service side. It is unfair to him to ask him to take this dual load, and I hope that this matter will at an early date receive the consideration of the Government.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Sir T. Inskip
I think it will be convenient for the House if I attempt to make such answer as occurs to me to the many important points that have been raised. Any hon. Members who desire to raise further points after Mr. Speaker has left the Chair will be able to do so on Vote A.
§ Sir T. Inskip
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) finds nobody to agree with or to approve of. He has disagreed with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, he has disagreed with the Air Ministry, and he has disagreed, I gathered, with myself. He has raised so many points of disagreement that I think I had better reflect upon some of them and see whether I can give him a little satisfaction by correspondence or conference. Obviously some of the matters which he has mentioned are bound to be outside my knowledge, and indeed I doubt whether they are within the knowledge of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. For instance, my hon. Friend who has just spoken dealt with the Royal Air Force 1784 Volunteer Reserve. I think that everybody is aware that there has been some delay in connection with that. I have found in my experience of the last year that delays often take place when very great care is being taken to prevent the making of improper contracts which are likely to give excessive profits to the parties with whom they are made. No doubt there have been some delays, if that be the right word, as a consequence of the negotiations with contractors taking a little longer than was anticipated.
I pass now to some of the important questions that were raised in the earlier part of the Debate. Perhaps I may once more place on record the absence of any objection from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to any part of the Estimate, large though it is. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has assured us of his support on the Estimate, although he is not confident that the Government's intentions are quite as honest as his own. I gather that hon. Gentlemen opposite will vote against the Estimate, although—[Interruption]—Then I am wrong; I am very glad that they will not vote against the Estimate. The hon. Gentleman who began the Debate from the Opposition Benches made a rather unexpected reference to the German colonial question. I deprecate once more, as I did on the last occasion, any direct reference to any particular nation as though that nation were the object of any hostility on the part of the Government or of this country. Surely it is much better to content ourselves with the statement made very often by the Prime Minister that we cannot suffer any inferiority, from the point of view of the air, with any nation within striking distance of this country. I hope that will not enflame any feelings. The question of German colonies can be debated on a more appropriate occasion.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) turned the Debate in a more profitable direction. He asked a very natural question—whether it is true to say that air defence cannot function against air attack. That is a question which is much more easy to ask than to answer, and I venture to say that there is no definite and absolute "Yes" or "No" that can be given to it. I wish there were such an answer. The right hon. Gentleman referred to what my right 1785 hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty said on this question a few days ago, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman put the statement a little higher than my right hon. Friend would have wished, for my right hon. Friend did not say that he guaranteed ships or bases against air bombardment, but that the defensive measures had been developed and brought to such a pitch that ships and bases would become a very undesirable target, perhaps the least desirable target of all, for any enemy to attack. That is a rather different proposition from saying that he guaranteed ships and bases from air attack. I share the views which I, together with my fellow members of the Committee, expressed in connection with the vulnerability of ships. We said in our report that new forms of attack had always sooner or later produced new forms of defence. The report continued:The question is whether attack from the air, unlike others, is incapable of being Met. The work of the Committee on Air Defence Research is evidence of the efforts which are being made in another sphere to create new forms of defence against the menace of air attack.—I, certainly, do not take the view that we are as exposed to air attack as some people, especially writers in the Press, are minded to suggest. On the other hand, I should not say that our experience in the War, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, is necessarily much of a guide to what may happen 20 or 30 years afterwards t after there have been enormous developments in technique both by way of attack and by way of defence. All I can say is, that until it is possible to give a precise answer to the question of whether defence can defeat attack, we must be prepared with such forces as will be necessary to make counter-attacks. Here let me make one reservation. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that Government spokesmen had committed themselves to the proposition that the only defence we can make is by way of counter-attack on the enemy's civil population. I do not think he will find that any Government spokesman has made that statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Prime Minister."] I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley made such a reference, rather by way of the suggestion, in passing, that it would he unfortunate if we were to take up the position that our only defence was counter-attack on the enemy's civil popu- 1786 lation. No Government spokesman, I think, has ever gone that length.
§ Sir T. Inskip
I think not. I have not the record here, but I do not think the Prime Minister said so. At any rate, the Government are certainly determined that the best methods of pure defence shall be elaborated with a view to defeating attack from the air. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley suggested that we were not as zealous as we ought to be in developing or using the devices which scientists are able to give us, in relation to these important questions. There is no foundation for that suggestion, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to feel pleasure at my statements. In 1935, a small committee of very distinguished scientific men was formed to help the Government in connection with air defence. Sir Henry Tizard, Rector of the Imperial College of Science and Technology is chairman and Lord Rutherford has been good enough to agree to act as adviser. This committee works in the closest co-operation with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and therefore with Sir Frank Smith. The committee not only acts in reference to air defence, but works in cooperation with all three Services. Indeed, I might describe a much wider and more elaborate network of scientific investigations which is producing and is likely to produce results beyond the hopes of the most optimistic of us. Everybody knows that scientific research and the use of such research cannot be hurried beyond a certain point. The methods of scientists are their own. The assiduity, skill and ingenuity with which these inquiries are being pursued shows how determined both the scientists and the Government are to develop to the fullest possible extent, pure defence against any attack which might be made.
The hon. Gentleman referred to one distinguished scientist. I withhold no praise at all that is due to him for the discoveries which are the results of his own inquiries, but I am sure the House will believe me when I say that there are others just as distinguished as he is and perhaps more occupied in day-to-day examination of these problems. Sir Henry Tizard, who has many duties to perform, 1787 actually gave up the whole of his last vacation in order that he might give those days of his vacation wholly to this question of scientific research in connection with air defence. There is nothing upon which I am more confident in giving the House an assurance than upon this subject.
Another problem is in connection with the defence of London and the balloon barrage has been the subject of many remarks during this discussion. I do not think the Government have been guilty of any reticence, as the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) suggested. Indeed, I have sometimes been surprised at the freeness with which the Government have supplied information about the balloon barrage, and I sometimes wonder whether it is altogether in conformity with what one would have supposed to be prudent to have informed the world at large as to the nature of the defence which we propose for London. Reticence! Surely there has never been any reticence. But what is the fact about the barrage? My hon. Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Grant-Ferris), who made a most interesting maiden speech and one which we all welcomed, said he thought it was a fact that there would be 10 squadrons on an auxiliary basis, each of which would contain 600 officers and men, and that is accurate, but the recruitment has not yet seriously begun. The Regulars, who will be about ro per cent. of the personnel, are now training, and the balloons are being delivered.
Let it not be supposed that there will be any fixed balloon barrage. It will he disposed of in accordance with plans that may be necessary for the proper defence of London from time to time, but the balloons and curtain are not the only form of defence. They are not a separate form of defence, but part of a considered scheme for the defence of London. The balloons will rise to a certain height, but that is only part of a plan in connection with which the guns, the searchlights, and the fighters in the air play their proper part. I am afraid that there has been a disposition sometimes to think that we are very foolish to suppose that a barrage that can rise to 10,000 feet will stop aeroplanes, because, of course, raiding aeroplanes will rise above 10,000 feet. 1788 Really, those who devise these defences are not quite so simple as that, and they have their plans, in which the balloon barrage is a part.
Something has been said about the control of these air defences of London. It is said that they are divided, that the War Office manage one part and the Air Ministry another part, whereas they all ought to be united under the Air Ministry. I think one hon. Member took the line that when you deal with transport, you have a Transport Ministry, on questions of health you have a Health Ministry, on education questions there is the Board of Education, and that therefore, as these are air defences, they all ought to be under the Air Ministry. The hon. Gentleman is really too logical. I should have thought that gunnery from the earth was an Army or War Office question, and that therefore, if you handed over gunnery from the earth to the Air Ministry in the expectation of having unity of control, you would immediately produce duality of control in another direction. The simple reason which will appeal to the House for the existing system is that the War Office are responsible for anti-aircraft defence in connection with the field forces and in connection with defended ports abroad. They have their Regular personnel, their trained staff instructors, and their training schools, and they, of course, are responsible for the provision of guns of the calibre which will be used for the antiaircraft defences.
To suggest that the Air Ministry should duplicate these services because it is desirable that they should control the defence of London is a proposal that will not commend itself to the House. There is the further reason that the antiaircraft units have largely been formed. The organisation is in existence, and to change over at this very moment, however gladly the War Office might welcome being relieved of this responsibility, would be to cause a certain amount of confusion and delay, because the Air Ministry would have to create new duplicated schools and personnel for training and begin the provision of guns and searchlights which are now being produced under one united control. The operational control of this defence is in the hands of the Air Ministry and the War Office provides the material and men, and is responsible for their training.
1789 I pass to a group of questions with which I will deal shortly because I think the House is satisfied on many of them already. With regard to the terms on which the Government have placed their contracts, we were asked, what is the standard profit? There is no standard profit in the contracts. If a standard profit were adopted, it is certain that in some cases it would be excessive, and in other cases it would be too small. The profit has always to be fixed by reference to the job itself, particularly taking into account such matters as turnover and the capital employed. If there is disagreement between a firm and the Air Ministry, the difference is resolved by arbitration by the committee that has already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend. It is interesting to notice that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) suggested that the different aircraft firms have been so badgered and discouraged by delay that it is only lately that they have come into line. I do not think that that is quite an accurate picture. I think that throughout the firms in question have been working hard in circumstances of great difficulty. It is not very easy to turn over to a largely expanded production of a machine with which, perhaps, they are not over-familiar in some cases, but I do not think it is a fact that the Government's insistence on a proper contract to carry out the promise which I and other Ministers have given to the House that there shall be no profiteering has in any way hindered the production of the aircraft for which the firms are responsible.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey asked why we went to the motor firms to build the shadow factories. Surely he appreciates that the reason was in order that we might get a vastly increased war potential. Instead of our being dependent on the aircraft firms alone, we have now the advantage that these big motor firms will be undertaking aircraft production, so that in case of war they will be able, by working not merely one shift, but two shifts, or per. haps three, to produce aircraft or engines which otherwise would be produced only by the regular aircraft firms. I pass to another question in connection with finance which the hon. Member for West Islington raised. He is under a misapprehension in thinking that there are 1790 any subsidies for internal air lines. There is not a penny in these Estimates for any subsidy to internal air lines in this country. The Government will provide what may be called traffic facilities, lighting and patrolling the routes on which the aircraft travel.
§ Mr. Montague
The right hon. Gentle man will remember that I said that the whole of the ground organisation was really a subsidy for the internal air lines, though not a direct subsidy.
§ Sir T. Inskip
If the hon. Member is agreed that they are not direct subsidies, then it is only a question of opinion whether they can even be described as indirect subsidies. The hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) raised a number of questions, and while I do not like to say that I can contradict him on every one of the points he made, he has really taken a wrong view. He said that our bomb sights are not suitable for use in the machines of higher speed than the old 150 miles an hour machines.
§ Sir T. Inskip
I can tell the hon. Member that his hopes are well founded. He also criticised the hutments in which some of the young pilots live, and said they ought to have places better fitted for men of such courage who perform such services. I can assure him that those hutments, though necessarily built under conditions which prevent them from being the luxurious places which some day will be provided in permanent air stations, are much better than anything of the kind which has been constructed before. I am told that the method of construction is such as to make them really comfortable and habitable, bearing in mind that they cannot be anything in the way of luxurious establishments, but with the pace at which we have been working and the shortage of building labour it has been impossible to build what we shall one day hope to produce.
The hon. Member for West Islington made a series of statements, which have already been referred to, which were a charge of snobbery against the Royal Air Force. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) has already answered that point. He said truly that there is no particular virtue in 1791 a university education so far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, and everybody will agree with that. I do not know whether I dare go on to say this, but a day or two ago two young men visited Cambridge and were shown round by a master of one of the colleges. They said they had not been to a university. In Trinity Hall the master showed them the painting of Thackeray, a fellow of the college. One of the young men said, "Dickens was a greater novelist than Thackeray, wasn't he?" The master said, "Yes, undoubtedly," and the young man answered, "But he was not at the university." Well, that would be a very good retort to the hon. Member. None of us supposes that a university degree is any qualification for a commission in the Royal Air Force. What is the position? A third of the pilot entries required for the expansion has come from the airman pilots. More than 20 per cent. of the permanent commissions have been granted to airmen. A large proportion of all officers come from the secondary schools, and private means are definitely not required in the Royal Air Force. What my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet said was true, that there is a free ladder, an open ladder, for everybody in the Royal Air Force irrespective of the school or university from which he comes, or of whether he comes from a university at all. I hone that no suggestions will be made that there is snobbery in the Royal Air Force, because I am sure that if you went to any air station and asked the fellows there they would say that they were not conscious of it. At any rate, the Government do not intend that there shall be any feeling of that sort.
I cannot pretend that I have dealt with every question that has been raised to-night, but there is one question on which I will say nothing, and that is the Fleet Air Arm. I am at the moment conducting an inquiry into that matter, and I almost wonder whether, if I dealt with the speeches that have been made on it, it would not be in the nature of contempt of court; but I can assure those who have spoken that it is one of those questions that are bound to be investigated, and one upon which a great deal may be said on both sides.
1792 My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston has asked, as did also my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet, about the stage which our programme has reached. I should like to say definitely that, when in a previous Debate I used the expression "three or four months' lag," I was describing the lag between the promise of contractors and their performance of that promise. It is not like the Government giving a promise to the House that something should be done by a certain date and then falling short; it is only the lag between the contractors' promise and their performance. It is due, in all probability, to no fault of theirs. I can assure the House that, although difficulties are by no means over, and although we may still have some disappointments to face, there is no reason at all to suppose that the programme will not be completed by the end of the year 1939, as originally suggested. As regards the number of squadrons that have been formed to date, undoubtedly it would have been greater if Scheme F had not been super-imposed on Scheme C. This necessitated the retention of training establishments which would not have been necessary under the original scheme.
I hope that the House, having heard these observations, will be content to accept the Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair"; in Committee hon. Members will have the opportunity of making any other observations that may occur to them.
§ Mr. Mander
Will the right hon. Gentleman say something about the question of a conference with the trade unions?
§ Sir T. Inskip
I have not the least doubt that the overwhelming majority of the men in the aircraft establishments would be horrified if they were to be supposed ever to have approved of or been guilty of any act of sabotage. If there have been one or two such acts, I am sure they must have been excrescences upon the system.
As to a conference with the trade unions, my opinion has been, and I still believe it to be right, that the trade —.ions exist to carry on their constitu- 1793 tional task—for it has now become a part of our constitutional system—of negotiating with representative organisations of the employers. Had I attempted to see the trade unions at any particular point, I do not believe that I should have assisted the deliberations which have been taking place. I am not going to suggest that there have not been some anxious moments in connection with trade disputes at some aircraft factories, but I am bound to say that, so far, it seems to me that my opinion, which I offer to the House with all respect, has been justified. If it is necessary for the Government to
§ intervene, there is appropriate machinery through the proper Minister—the Minister of Labour. That is not my task. My opinion still is that it would never be desirable for the Minister for the Coordination of Defence to take upon himself the task of instructing the trade unions how they should perform their proper duties in connection with the regulation of wages.
§ Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 210; Noes, 94.1795
|Division No. 223.]||AYES||[11.05 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Errington, E.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Allen, Lt. -Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Apsley, Lord||Evans, D. 0. (Cardigan)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Everard, W. L.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Findlay, Sir E.||McKie, J. H.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Fleming, E. L.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Balfour, Capt. R. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Foot, D. M.||Magnay, T.|
|Balniel, Lord||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Maitland, A.|
|Barolay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Furness, S. N.||Mander, G. le M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Markham, S. F.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gilmour, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Goldie, N. B.||Mayhew, Lt. -Col. J.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Gretlon, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Morris, 0. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Bracken, B.||Grimston, R. V.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Muirhead, Lt. -Col. A. J.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Monro, P.|
|Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Nall, Sir J.|
|Bull, B. B.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Butler, R. A.||Guy, J. C. M.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hanbury, Sir C.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hannah, I. C.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Channon, H.||Harbord, A.||Peake, O.|
|Clarke, Lt. -Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hartington, Marquess of||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Haslam, H. C. (Hornoastle)||Petherick, M.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Courlauld, Major J. S.||Heneage, Lieut. -Colonel A. P.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Cranbome, Viscount||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Holdsworth, H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F C||Hopkinson, A.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Renter, J. R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hulbert, N. J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Crosstey, A. C.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Cruddas Col. B.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|De Chair, S. S.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Doland, G. F.||Kimball, L.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Leokie, J. A.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Leech, Dr. J. W||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Liddall, W. S.||Selley, H. R.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Lindsay, K. M.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lloyd, G. W.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Loftus, P. C.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Touche, G. C.||Wickham, Lt. -Col. E. T. R.|
|Spens. W. P.||Train, Sir J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Storey, S.||Tufnell, Lieut. -Commander R. L.||Wilson, Lt. -Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Strauss, E. A. (Southward, N.)||Turton, R. H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut. -Colonel G.|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wakefield, W. W.||Wise, A. R.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Womerslcy, Sir W. J.|
|Saeter, Rear-Admiral Sir Ml. F.||Ward, Lieut-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wright, Squadron. Leader J. A. C.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Tate, Mavis C.||Warrendor; Sir V.|
|Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Waterhouse, Captain C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wells, S. R.||Mr. James Stuart and Lieut-|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Gardner, B. W.||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, O. H I. (Poplar, S.)||Garro Jones, G M.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Gibbins, J.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Grenfell, D. R.||Ridley, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Ritsin, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Rowson, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hardie, G D.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Silkin, L.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Benson, G.||Hollins, A.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hopkin, D.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Brooke, W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cape, T.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cooks, F. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lawson, J. J.||Taylor, R. J. (Mcrpeth)|
|Daggar, G.||Leach, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, H.||Lee, F.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leonard, W.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Logan, D. G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lunn, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Dobbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||MoEntee, V. La T.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Ede, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Wilson, C. H. (Atterclifte)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Montague, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Oliver, G. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Fletcher, Lt. -Comdr. R. T. H.||Paling, W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Frankel, D.||Pethick-Lawrenee, F. W.|
|Gallacher, W.||Potts, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES. -|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]