Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,536,010 be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Perkins)
It is my privilege to introduce the first Estimate that has ever been presented to this House for civil aviation. That has arisen because of the Civil Aviation Act which tins House passed in April of this year and which took away civil aviation from under the Air Ministry roof and put it under its own roof. This Estimate dates from 25th April this year, and, I hope, will carry us on until 31st March next year. I want to make the position quite plain: this is not new expenditure. If the Act had not been passed this money would have fallen on the Treasury or on the Air Ministry Vote, but because it has now been taken away from the Air Ministry we have to paddle our own canoe. Consequently, we understand that there will be a saving equivalent to this sum of money on the Treasury and Air Ministry Votes.
Perhaps I might take this opportunity to try to calm down some of the many fears which have arisen as a result of the announcement of the publication of the Government's White Paper. There are all kinds of apprehensions as to what this document really means. Hon. Members on all sides of the House have imagined that in every corner there is a hidden hand with a blood-stained dagger ready to stab some one in the back. Pre-war operators are extremely worried because they do not understand what their position will be. Operators of the future do not understand whether they can come in or whether they cannot. I understand that Scotland considers that they have had the wrong end of the stick and that they are very unhappy. In fact, there has been very strong pressure from all 985 sides of the House on the shoulders of my Noble Friend and myself, with the idea that we ought to do something more for Scotland.
In deference to the wishes of the House, which have been expressed from all sides, we have made an attempt to meet this feeling to the best of our ability without in any way interfering with the main structure of the Government's scheme, as it is expounded in the White Paper. My Noble Friend has asked me whether I would make a statement in the House today in order to explain what this new suggestion is. I hope the House will forgive me if I read it out. It is a very complicated statement and it must be correct. I do not want to mislead any hon. Member or to give any false impression, so I hope the House will forgive me if I read this out.
§ Mr. Montague (Islington, West)
May I intervene? According to what the Minister says, this is an alteration of the terms of the White Paper in respect of Scotland. Do I understand that to be the case?
§ Mr. Montague
Whether it is slight or not, may I point this out to him? This is sprung upon the Committee. It affects Scotland without the Scottish Members being able to discuss the matter or to understand that the matter was coming up. The whole question seems to be likely to go by default because of the same kind of policy that has been adopted throughout in regard to civil aviation and the White Paper, namely, to settle broad questions of policy without consulting this House at all. I put that point to the Minister, that a change in the White Paper proposals affecting one of the countries of the United Kingdom ought not to be sprung upon the Committee in that way and that Scottish Members, at any rate, ought to have been given an opportunity of knowing that it was coming forward.
§ Mr. Perkins
I think my hon. Friend is under a slight misapprehension. There is no question of trying to rush this through the Committee. Everyone has known that there was to be an opportunity of a Debate on civil aviation. The Estimates have been published for a considerable time and the fact that a Debate was to take place has been, and is, well known; but if he is in any nervous mood 986 about it, may I remind him that the matter will come up again on Friday and that he will have lots of opportunity to read the statement in the meantime and will be able to raise it again? This is what my Noble Friend wants me to read:
Air services within and from the United Kingdom fall into three main divisions: (a) Commonwealth and Empire services; (b) services connecting the United Kingdom with foreign countries; (c) internal services within the United Kingdom. Commonwealth and Empire services and foreign services will be governed by agreements made by His Majesty's Government with Commonwealth and foreign Governments. It is the intention of His Majesty's Government that these agreements shall be in accordance with the policy laid down in the White Paper on International Air Transport of October, 1944, and elaborated by the United Kingdom representatives at the Chicago Conference and in the Commonwealth conversations and the South African Air Conference. In accordance with this policy such agreements will provide for the determination of capacity and its distribution as between the contracting countries.
As stated in the White Paper on British Air Transport of March, 1945, air services within the Commonwealth and Empire will be operated by British Overseas Airways Corporation, shipping lines being associated with them on' particular routes, and the British services will operate in parallel with Commonwealth operators. It is intended that this parallel partnership shall cover all Commonwealth and Empire services, including the Trans-Atlantic Service to Canada. It is also intended that the Trans-Atlantic service to the United States shall be entrusted to the same Corporation.
As regards foreign overseas services, as stated in the White Paper the Government propose to assign the South American service to the British Latin American Airways, and to assign those European services which it is intended to start as soon as war conditions permit and aircraft are available, to the British European Corporation, in which the participants will be railway companies, short sea shipping lines, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, travel agencies and such other pre-war operators as desire to participate.
987 Internal services: As stated in the White Paper, the Government propose to assign a number of internal services to the same Corporation. An umber of these services have, in fact, been operated in the past by existing air line companies, who will participate in the Corporation. The Government also propose that any pre-war operator who was licenced to run an internal air line service at the outbreak of war shall be entitled to resume the services he was previously licensed to operate, provided such operator satisfies the licensing tribunal referred to hereafter that he can comply with the conditions which will be laid down for all operators, present or future, that is to say, that he is financially capable of operating the service; that he will comply with the welfare conditions applicable to pilots and aircrews; that he will use British aircraft unless the tribunal is satisfied that suitable British aircraft are not available.
Designation of airports: Under the Chicago Agreements it will be the duty of His Majesty's Government to designate airports in the United Kingdom; (a) for non-traffic stops under the International Air Services Transit Agreement; (b) for traffic stops, i.e., the embarkation and dis-embarkation of passengers, freight and mail under Inter-Governmental Agreements. It is the intention of the Government for both traffic and non-traffic stops to designate airports in England, Scotland and in Northern Ireland, and they intend to designate Prestwick as an airport for all such purposes. Pending the completion of Heathrow and its use as the main international terminal in the United Kingdom, the Government will arrange that British land-based aircraft on passage to and from Canada and the United States shall stop to pick up and set down at Prestwick. Even when Heathrow is in operation, Prestwick will continue to be designated, which will enable air lines of any nationality to pick up and set down passengers and freight at Prestwick.
It was stated in the White Paper on British Air Transport that a tribunal would be established to deal with any complaints by the public on such matters as the absence of reasonable facilities, the reasonableness of rates and charges and the granting of undue preference on United Kingdom air lines. It was also 988 stated that while certain routes would be assigned to the main corporation, no commitment would be made with regard to unassigned routes or new routes, but that these should be left open to whatever operator can best establish he is fitted to run them. It is the intention of the Government that a single tribunal should discharge the dual function of ensuring reasonable facilities and granting licences for unassigned routes, and it is proposed to establish this tribunal and give it its powers by legislation.
Air Services in Scotland
The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Civil Aviation have been in recent and close consultation as to how to establish a comprehensive network of air services serving the mainland of Scotland and its Islands, and connecting Scotland with other parts of the United Kingdom. A number of services have been operated within Scotland by Scottish Airways Limited and some by Allied Airways (Gandar Dower) Limited. In addition to the existing services, it is proposed that there should be a very considerable extension of internal services to be operated by Scottish Airways. The network so envisaged will include services from Glasgow (Renfrew Airport) to Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, Thurso, Oban, and Forth William, Kyle of Lochalsh and Ullapool. There will be an air service between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and both Edinburgh and Glasgow will be linked by air with the Western Isles, the Hebrides, the Orkneys and the Shetlands, and inter-island services will be operated as well. In addition to the internal services it is intended that the corporation shall run services linking Glasgow with Belfast, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and London, and linking Edinburgh with Newcastle, the West Riding of Yorkshire and London.
It will be observed that the services set out above do not include services emanating from Prestwick. The reason for not assigning services based on Prestwick is to leave it open to the licensing authority to entertain applications to run services from Prestwick to any part of the United Kingdom. It is an essential feature of the Government's plan for overseas services that, in order to avoid uneconomic competition and the need of subsidies, the approved British operator shall have the exclusive right to operate on the route or routes assigned to him up 989 to the extent of the capacity authorised by inter-Governmental agreements. But it will be within the power of His Majesty's Government to assign routes to particular operators.
As stated in the White Paper, it is the intention of the Government to assign to the British European Corporation those routes and services between the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe which it is intended to operate as soon as war conditions permit. But the Government consider that services which will be developed from Scotland to Northern Europe should be available to Scottish companies. The Government, therefore, propose to withhold from the British European Corporation services from Scotland to the Scandinavian countries, in which I include Denmark. This will afford to Scottish enterprise an option and opportunity of operating those routes which are geographically most convenient, and will preserve the essential element of avoiding uneconomic competition between the United Kingdom operators on the same route. His Majesty's Government sincerely trust that Scotland will take full advantage of these proposals.
I have no doubt whatever that this complicated statement will have muddled some hon. Members, and if any hon. Member wishes to put specific points I will do my best to answer them. Personally, I consider that what we have done here does not in any way break up the main structure of the Government's proposals in the White Paper. I believe it will help Scotland, I believe it is operationally possible to do this, and I believe that the scheme will work.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
May I thank my hon. Friend for that very long, very carefully prepared statement, which I agree with him is somewhat difficult fully to absorb just by listening to it? Therefore, I do not suppose he will expect any hon. Members here to make any very detailed comment. I would ask him to give us this one assurance, that the prohibition has been entirely removed which prevented aircraft companies or aeroplane operators having to possess pre-war operational experience. If that prohibition has been entirely and definitely taken out of the White Paper, I can see a vast future for these companies which did not run air lines before the 990 war, but which have all the skill and capacity and knowledge to enable them to do so. I refer particularly, of course, to Scottish Aviation, Limited, which has been waiting for the past few years to get busy with the job.
Will it be left to the licensing tribunal to enforce the use of British machines, or is it possible for those companies which cannot get British aircraft for some months or a year to function with adapted American machines, so that they can get straight off the mark and not be forced to hang fire and let those companies which may be able quickly and rapidly to secure British aircraft to get ahead of them?
§ 7.23 pm.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
The Parliamentary Secretary said if we had not the ability to understand what he had read out we would have another opportunity on Friday. I wish first to raise a point of Order. Surely, if this Committee stage is dealt with and finished to-night this Business will not come up on Friday?
§ Mr. Bowles
Then I was wrongly informed. I thought the Committee stage had been put down for Friday.
§ Mr. Bowles
It was not, I think, contained in the Business as announced last Thursday. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentlemen who represent Scotland are very pleased with their achievement. They concerted their forces, and I was present on various occasions when they pressed the claims of Scotland. I am not for one second anti-Scottish in my outlook, but hon. Members know that I have always, in this Chamber and in the country, adopted the point of view, so far as civil aviation is concerned, that it must not be a matter for one country, or two or three countries, to struggle for. It is bad enough when we get a lot of different aviation companies or other companies, such as shipping and railway companies, running services in various countries in the world, all trying to put in a claim to have some share in the business which, undoubtedly, will be a profitable business after the war. Therefore, I find the statement that the Parliamentary 991 Secretary has read out quite appalling in the sense that it departs from what I believe should be the proper basis for the future organisation of civil aviation. I have maintained that it must, of necessity, be a world service.
I saw in "The Times" this morning that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Sir R. Cross), who is High Commissioner for Australia, returned from Sydney to this country, leaving Sydney on Saturday and arriving in this country yesterday. In other words he was able to fly from Sydney to this country in two and a half days, or three days at the outside. I also saw in the paper this morning that two British airmen had flown 4,600 miles in 12 hours, 25 minutes, with a 40 minutes stop in Egypt for refuelling. I put it to the Committee and to the country that if it is possible—I have asserted this before, and it is true—to fly from any one place in the world to any other place within three days, and with the development of jet propulsion, I am sure, particularly having the authority of the hon. and gallant Member for Watford (Air-Commodore Helmore), that the speed of air transport will be increased considerably, I do not think it is beyond probability that in the course of the next five or ten years aircraft will be able to fly from any one place in the world to any other in two and a half days. If that is an aspect of the subject under discussion it is surely quite foolish, quite short-sighted and very hindering to the proper development of aviation that development should be left to a lot of little companies.
I do not know how many companies to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred are to have some little part to play in the development of air services in this country, but I should think he mentioned something like six or eight, to say nothing of those operators who operated before the war and who are going back to their old air line routes, who are to be allowed to satisfy this tribunal that they have the aircraft and the financial ability to carry on. In this little Island it is quite ridiculous to think that these services will be properly developed by a multitudinous body of air line operators such as the hon. Gentleman referred to. I have persistently argued that here we have essentially a world problem. How are the best services to be provided for the users 992 of aircraft, so far as civil aviation is concerned, and I have always argued that the interests of the user must be put before the interests of the operator? All the pressure on this Government, not only here but in another place, has been from the point of view of the operator—"Can we shipping companies have a chance of getting something out of it?" "Can the railway companies, the travel agencies, and the pre-war air line operators—Jersey Airways—run their services?" That service was an excellent one. I had the benefit of flying on it on many occasions. I wish I could convince the Committee that the future of civil aviation and all that it entails must be dealt with on a world basis, on an international basis, and that a national basis is not good enough.
We know the kind of tussle that went on at the Chicago Conference on the political level. On the technical level there was no difficulty. I have not read the whole of the Chicago Agreements, but I have had a good look at them. The experts were able to come to agreement on their own level; but, when it came to the political level, we had this country putting forward a certain policy, as contained in the White Paper, Australia and New Zealand putting forward a policy of complete nationalisation—which I have myself put forward on many occasions in this House—America putting forward another policy, France putting forward another policy. With 54 nations putting forward different policies, agreement was impossible. This is one of my pet subjects, and I am looking forward to the General Election, because this is one of the issues which will have to be fought out. It is a matter in which a great number of ordinary laymen and women take a considerable interest, although that may surprise some Members. They know that civil aviation may be international dynamite, leading to another world war. Men and women want to travel on business, to travel on holidays, to send goods and mails, as safely and cheaply as possible. I suppose it is hopeless to try to persuade this House of Commons, but it is not impossible to persuade any reasonable audience in the country that the only way to solve this problem is to take it right out of politics, out of international politics, too.
The first thing to do is to have regard to the best interests of the user, and to find out how to serve him best. I am sure that the best way is to do it on the basis 993 that I have advocated before. That is, to form an international corporation—World Airways Ltd., or whatever you like to call it—which will be directed by men and women appointed on grounds of appropriate ability. They will be selected from all over the world. They will be people who, in the opinion of those who appoint them, have a real international outlook, and whose dominant object will be to provide the best air services for the world. This corporation or company would, in the pursuit of that duty, be obliged to buy the best aircraft, in whatever part of the world they were made. If British aircraft manufacturers were the best, they would naturally be able to sell their aircraft to this corporation. I do not want the big aircraft manufacturers pulling the coal tails of the Government, in this country or in any other country. I do not want the big manufacturers, in this country or in the United States, to bring political pressure to bear on their Governments. I want the Governments kept out altogether.
§ Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
Surely the manufacturers might pull the coat tails of this great corporation?
§ Mr. Bowles
I do not believe so. I believe it is possible to find 10 or 20 men and women who will fulfil the qualifications I have laid down, who will be internationally-minded, whose dominant object will be to give the best service to the world, who will be above having their coat tails pulled, above any amount of temptation, bribery, or any other kind of seduction. I believe that we can find hundreds and thousands of men and women who will not be so susceptible to this kind of seduction as the hon. and gallant Member seems to suspect. I realise that it may be difficult to appoint the right people—appointments are always difficult to make. With Ministers you have a very small number of people to select from. When you have to appoint somebody to run, say, the railway services of this country you have tremendous difficulty in finding the best man. I am not fool enough not to know that. But I believe that it is possible to find 10 or 20 men or women who will be internationally-minded. I had to go to Geneva many times before the war, and I saw many men and women there who were completely devoted to the offices in which they were working, for the League of 994 Nations or the I.L.O. They were above any pressure, even from the Governments of the countries of which they were nationals. These things can be done.
You can find 10 or 20 men or women able to do the job, who will be actuated only by honest motives. They will be prepared to appoint the best men as aerodrome managers, traffic managers, and so on, to appoint the best pilots, and the best ground personnel, to select the best aerodromes, and not to be influenced by pressure such as we have seen applied in this House by Members from the Northern part of this country. I do not know whether Prestwick is a good aerodrome or not, but I have been told by people who have operated on it that it is not so wonderful as those who have listened to speeches in this House might be led to believe. I remember the late Minister of Aircraft Production really turning down the plea of hon. Members from Scotland to make Prestwick the main airport of this country.
§ Major Lloyd
Does the hon. Member, who is talking about political pressure, realise that on this issue all Members from Scotland, irrespective of party, are completely united?
§ Mr. Bowles
Yes, I have heard these Debates, almost completely devoted to speeches from Scottish Members. That does not alter my argument. They have made the Government change their mind. I do not object to Governments being made to change their minds, but the political pressure was there.
§ Mr. Bowles
I admit that. I was trying to avoid bringing in the national issue, particularly in relation to Scotland, and more so when we have here the hon. Member for Mother well (Mr. McIntyre), who stands for a political theory which I think is a particularly dangerous one. Surely we can abandon the national attitude, and get on to the international one. One of the touchstones of the world's ability to get rid of nationalism and on to internationalism is this question of civil aviation.
§ Mr. Francis Watt (Edinburgh, Central)
Is it part of the hon. Member's case that you require an international body to run aircraft from Glasgow to Aberdeen?
§ Mr. Bowles
Perhaps there was not much point in my giving way to the hon. Member, but I thought he was going to ask me something more serious. I am sure that the people of Scotland are able enough to run an air service under the general supervision of this international body. I believe in delegation of authority. I believe you should have somewhere, at Geneva or at some other properly-chosen place, the head office of this International Aviation Ltd., and then, even in Scotland, you could have branch offices; but they should be responsible to the international body, which would be in supreme control of the organisation. I will not occupy the time of the Committee any more, except to plead this in conclusion. Here is a touchstone of man's ability, at the end of this terrible war, to see whether it is not possible to organise this service, which should be a boon to mankind, but which if left to be developed, in the way the Government propose, by the small private companies or by the bigger railway companies and shipping companies or by chosen instruments, will have inherent in it the seeds of another world war. That is why I described the statement as an appalling one from the point of view of maintaining and developing the peace of the world on proper, sensible, international lines.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The statement which we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary, coming at the end of the day, and no doubt compressed, is a little difficult to grasp, but it is clear that a statement of great importance, great interest, and great hope has been made. I do not at all appreciate the argument of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). He seems to believe that it is possible to take out of politics subjects in which people are passionately interested. Has he ever seen any evidence of that in this House? As soon as people are passionately interested in anything it comes down to this House. Does he not agree?
§ Mr. Bowles
I do. I have seen examples on many occasions. One, before I came into the House, was the setting up of the Unemployment Insurance Board. An attempt was made to get that out of politics. We have had the attempt, in connection with San Francisco, to get foreign affairs out of, or at any rate above 996 party politics. I think it is impossible. The only way to do it is to get right out into the international field of organisation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
That seems a characteristic example of arguing in a circle. Who is going to raise the matter above party politics? The very people who, from those Opposition benches, have, denied the possibility of other things being taken out of party politics. It is ridiculous to suppose that Russia, for instance, will accept the nomination to this international body of somebody who will be entirely independent of the Soviet Union and of the great political power exercised by that great country.
§ Mr. Bowles
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that the International Postal Union is out of all national and international party politics?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I certainly would not agree that any representative of any great Government of the world in any organisation is not capable of being criticised by that Government. Russia provides one example of that, America another example, and this country another example. I do not see hon. Members opposite agreeing to take finance out of party politics, and saying that the Bank of England should be out of party politics. Politics are those things which interest the citizen, and this is the place where those things are discussed. Flying is certainly one of those things which interest the citizen, and so is air transport. They will be discussed here. As my hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh(Mr. Watt) said, the suggestion that you must have an international body, with representatives from all over the world on it, before you can decide whether you will be ready to fly from Glasgow to Aberdeen, is absurd.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
That is the suggestion. Without any doubt, the suggestion is that the whole of aviation shall be run by a world international board.
§ Mr. Montague
I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should say by whom such a suggestion was made. It is quite contrary to the published policy of the Labour Party, which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can examine.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I am not interested at the moment in the published policy of the Labour Party; I am in the House of Commons, debating matters with hon. Members across the Floor, and talking of the speech which has been delivered by the hon. Member for Nuneaton, who suggested that we should sweep away all the small companies, and of this suggestion that no private or national body should be allowed to run aeroplanes, but that they should be put entirely under a great international body. The hon. Member said that; we heard him say so, and the hon. Member for Islington, West (Mr. Montague) may refer as much as he likes to the published statements of the Labour Party. We are not reading statements of the Labour Party; we are Members of the House of Commons threslling out this question and dealing with the suggestion just made with great force by the hon. Member for Nuneaton. We take a diametrically opposite view, and say that the user has a right to be considered as well as those who are organising these great schemes. The hon. Member said quite rightly that the user ought to be considered, and then he went on to say that the organisers should buy the best aeroplanes, wherever they are produced. I could not help remembering that he sits for an area very closely connected with the highest developments of modern engineering, and, unconsciously, that was no doubt weighing in his mind.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Yes, I am speaking of the passenger too. Where does the passenger in Scotland get his passages from? Exactly from these small companies upon which the hon. Member for Nuneaton pours such scorn. The question of aviation in Scotland is too vital for Scotland to disinterest herself in it. It is nonsense to say that all these things should be simply trusted to the discretion of some international board, which should have a branch office in Scotland. Why a branch office in Scotland? Why this suggestion that, for all these things, a central office should be in Nuneaton, or London, or Glasgow or New York? These matters of transport are of far greater interest to a country such as ours, intersected and cut up as it is by waterways of greater or lesser space, than to the hon. Member who lives in the centre 998 of England. People there can travel around in motor-cars and on the railways from Nuneaton for many miles in every direction. To the dweller in the Shetlands this matter is of very great importance, and he does not believe that he will get the same opportunities from some international board with offices in New York or London as from somebody whom he knows, a development which he can control, either through his passages or through that political pressure to which the hon. Member has just taken such exception.
The hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Shetland (Major Neven-Spence) talked of this development in connection with his political campaign, and said that, instead of a six-hour journey by steamer to the islands, where he would have to spend a whole day, returning next day by the same six-hour journey, a ten-minutes' flight there and a ten-minutes' flight back would enable him to carry out exactly the same duties. These are things in which people are intimately interested, just as people are interested in the trams which, in great cities, run past their doors. Development in these areas is part of the life-line of the development of our country. Believe me, it is not enough to say that it will be adequately developed by some great international board.
I welcome the Government's statement that it will be possible to have several avenues of approach towards the development of these services, because we firmly believe that, without several avenues of approach, it will be organised in great Transatlantic runs in which the millionaires of one city will pour across to meet the millionaires of another city, have a cocktail party, and pour back again. If great movements of transport are developed on those lines, they will attract the attention of such people, but the little lines and the ordinary ways of getting about our islands, and from the mainland to the islands, will have no place, and we believe that the great company will not benefit the user in anything like the same way as a small company working for the benefit of its neighbours. We are grateful to the Government for having changed its mind in response to representations made from the constituencies. Is not that the way in which we are supposed to work things in this country? We press things upon the attention of the Government. That is what we are here for, but the hon. 999 Member says, "Oh, political pressure, or even national pressure, caused the Government to change its mind." If pressure of this kind would not cause the Government to change its mind, what is the use of this House? We are proud that, by such methods, and not by revolution or shooting in the streets, we have induced the Government to change its mind. The Government has listened to argument. It is an example of the Government changing its mind and making an announcement in Parliament, and we are grateful for it. It is the operation of the Parliamentary system, and we are proud to see it taking place.
I will go further and say that we are interested in the general question which the Government very rightly mentioned in the statement just made. We desire a window, and more than one window, in this country by which we can look into the world with this new line of travel, as well as the old lines of travel; and the Clyde, which has been so prominent in so many forms of travel, and been such a centre of world engineering, looks forward with legitimate ambition to having a share in this new development also and in its international development. We think that the port of Prestwick should be an airport through which people can travel and reach the Scandinavian countries and that it should be an airport of first-rate importance. We are proud of that. We fear the danger of having oil these things concentrated in the Thames Valley and we are most anxious to see that these developments are pushed ahead rapidly.
We beg the Parliamentary Secretary to use the greatest expedition in this development. We have heard to-day the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport say that he can hold out no hope of even such a small alleviation as the provision of a restaurant car for the tedious journey between this capital and Aberdeen. Aberdeen is a great city, and, even though the man cannot get his cup of coffee or the woman her cup of tea, they may realise that, per ardua ad astra, the journey has been worth while when they get there. We hope these things will not be too long delayed, but these developments can be made almost forthwith. Within six months or a year it ought to be possible to get this great tracehorse on to the load of internal trans- 1000 port in this country. It is greatly needed. The congestion on our railways will go on for many months, and, it may be, for years to come, and after that the repairs to the permanent way and other improvements will have to be made. Here is a system of transport which can be embarked upon at once. The air has not been worn away, and there is no injury to the sky. There is no need to have a new track laid. It is easy to travel across it, and this new method of transport should certainly be pressed forward with the utmost speed, because people are getting a little tired of the troubles, difficulties, and congestion of railway travel and would welcome some means by which they can move more expeditiously from one part of the country to another.
We are glad that the Parliamentary Secretary has been able to make this statement to-day, and we hope he will turn all has great energy to the further development of this scheme, and we in Scotland will do our utmost to bring forward our particular claims and press the arguments for intensive development of this new method of travel both externally and internally, and both as regards our country and the rest of these islands. We will do our utmost to press it forward, and we hope we will have the same good fortune as we have enjoyed in the past.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague (Islington, West)
The Parliamentary Secretary has presented a statement in which he said there was a muddle. Between the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), I should imagine that the Committee is pretty well muddled by this time. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has made a rambling speech about aviation and its development, but has not told us anything new or pertinent to the subject before the Committee. He did make the remark that the best results can be got by making use of the small man. That strikes me as being a petty sort of statement to make in dealing with a subject of such magnitude as civil aviation, because if there is anything which is not capable of development by the small man surely it is aviation. Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that we should go back to the small man and his stage coaches, instead of the railways and the railway combinations that exist today?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If the hon. Member had listened to my speech, he would have heard that I advocated buses.
§ Mr. Montague
What happened to the buses in London? When it was left to the small man, London transport was in a state of chaos.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The hon. Member interrupted me several times, and he must allow me to say that I criticised this concentration on London. If he would get away from London, we might have something worth listening to.
§ Mr. Montague
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to get on with my speech, I may be able to get away from London, but I am entitled, as an hon. Member for a London constituency, to begin there, and, as one connected with transport, to say that I think the example of London is very much to the point. But it has happened all over the country. The chaos in transport has been the chaos arising from leaving it to small private enterprise operators instead of organising it upon a scientific plan for the development of all transport throughout the country. I see no point at all in the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument, in view of the fact that it is admittedly necessary, and admitted by this Government and the whole nation, that there shall be a large scale development of civil aviation in the future.
The point we have to put is that aviation is of so important and unique a character that the idea of leaving its world development, its imperial development or even its internal development, to the go-as-you-please ownership, control and development of people who are just investors in a new enterprise for their own profit is very undesirable indeed. The hon. Gentleman surely must know that the Labour Party stands for a policy of internationalism upon lines which will allow all the decentralised development that may be required, and if the programme of the party is examined it will be found that it makes allowance even for national considerations. All the organisation that is required will be carried out in the interests of the whole community of this nation, and in the Commonwealth of Nations as far as the old Imperial Air Lines are concerned.
Finally, there is the question of world organisation. I do not want to go into 1002 that beyond making a passing reference. We stand where we did in past Debates upon that question, but this is hardly an opportunity for an expanded academic discussion about internationalism. I realise the difficulties of the international position if we do not have America, Russia and other countries with us upon that matter. But we have at least the Dominions with us as far as the Dominions Air Board is concerned. It is no use pressing a question of this character on this Government now, but we shall certainly press on the nation the vital necessity of an Imperial or Commonwealth air board in conjunction with the nationalisation of the internal air services of this country. I was very much surprised at the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary. He tells us that he cannot understand the highly complicated statement of that character, which took about 10 minutes to read, and he says that the House of Commons will have an opportunity of thinking about it and discussing it on Friday on the Report stage. Is that satisfactory? It is essentially the White Paper, with a slight alteration, perhaps from some points of view an extension. The Members of the Committee will have no opportunity, and certainly not upon the Report stage, of making an adequate examination and having a proper discussion on the question of the Scottish and Scandinavian organisation of air travel. What surprises me more about the Parliamentary Secretary's statement is the fact that it was confined to the new White Paper representing Government policy. This is the first Estimate of a new Ministry, and we have not a word of explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary, who is responsible for presenting the Supplementary Estimate, and we are not told anything at all about the way the Ministry is to be organised and run.
I have a number of questions that I would like to ask. We have taken civil aviation away from the Air Ministry. For what purpose? In order that we may take advantage of modern science and develop civil aviation in the post-war years upon an adequate plan. Surely we are entitled to know how the Ministry is to be run, who are to be responsible, what principles are to be adopted with respect, for instance, to the advice that is obtained by the Minister himself and the Parliamentary Secretary from people who are qualified to give advice.
1003 I have had some experience of civil aviation, because I was in charge of it when I was at the Air Ministry, and I know just how far the political organisation of a Ministry of that kind goes, and how far the Civil Service "set-up" exists and just where, as civil aviation existed at that time, the professional and "technical man comes in. It would be very desirable if the new Ministry had closer contact with the scientific and professional advisers upon the subject. It may have closer contact or it may be contemplated that it shall have, but the Committee should be told whether people with aeronautical experience are within the Ministry and advising the Minister on his plan of campaign with regard to civil aviation in the future. Who is the chief technical adviser and what are his qualifications? This is a reasonable question to ask and this is the time to ask it. The Parliamentary Secretary should tell the Committee just what his Ministry is. It is a new Ministry and this is the first chance of debating its organisation under this Supplementary Estimate.
Another question with which I would like him to deal is the terms of service for the professional staff. Are they good enough to attract the best type of men to civil aviation? I am not sure whether we have always attracted the best types. I know something of the difficulties in the days of the formation of the Air Pilots' Union, as I had something to do with its formation. They were very dissatisfied at that time and even in recent years—I do not know what has happened during the war, because things have been clouded over by war conditions—just before the war, I know that the pilots in this country, in the old Imperial Airways, at any rate were very dissatisfied with their conditions and there was not the attraction there ought to be for the best professional technical assistance. We are entiled to ask for some information about that.
There is also the question of civil aviation training. All these things the Parliamentary Secretary ought to have expanded in his speech. He initiates a Debate and beyond presenting a new paper, which modifies certain aspects of the original White Paper, he tells us nothing at all about his policy or about the policy of his chief. Is there a civil 1004 aviation training policy and what steps are being taken to make a career in civil aviation worth while for the keen young men we require for its development? We do not agree with the plan of the Government for civil aviation, but there it is. We have accepted the new Ministry, and as far as the White Paper is concerned, there has been a sort of compromise policy which the House has accepted. Therefore, it is rather unnecessary and beside the mark for me to go further into the question of general principles.
§ Mr. Bowles
Would my hon. Friend allow me to interrupt? He said that the policy in the White Paper published in March of this year had been accepted by the House. May I put this to him? It was debated on an Estimate, and I remember quite well that the right hon. and gallant Member for Central Nottingham (Sir F. Sykes) said that as it was not being accepted that day there would not be any vote, but we made it clear that we were not accepting the policy although there was no vote.
§ Mr. Montague
I made that point clear at the time. We were not satisfied at all with the way it was presented to the House, but I think we must accept the position that the House—and the Government, after all is in the majority in the House—accepted that policy, which was a compromise policy. However, the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove talked about aviation experience. I think we are entitled to ask what kind of aviation experience there is in respect of the set-up at the present moment. Take the B.O.A.C., for instance, which is to have some basis of structure in the new tripartite organisation. What qualifications have the directors of the B.O.A.C. to-day for the profession of aviation, for running the vital Imperial services that are submitted to their charge? I think we are entitled to know that, and really we ought to have a more up-to-date and progressive policy under the new Ministry than we have had in the past. Would the Parliamentary Secretary say to the House that people whose great interests are dog-racing tracks or chain stores are the best people to run civil aviation in this country and throughout the Empire? On the Board of B.O.A.C. there is only one person who can be called at all technical so far as flying is concerned—I 1005 refer, of course, to the lady member of that Board. All the rest are just people who are out, as investors, to make money and nothing else—with certain experience as members of boards of directors in the ordinary financial and business sense of the word, granted, but what business experience have they had in civil flying? Surely we are entitled to be told, when the new corporations are set up, what policy the Government have to secure efficient and trained experience in every part of the tri-partite arrangements for this development of civil aviation?
The same, of course, applies to the railway companies and the shipping companies. They have had experience in plying, but as I said in one of the Debates, one might just as well have argued, as did the boatmen of the Thames in Pepys' day, that they were the best people to run the new-fangled family coaches because they had been concerned with transport. We want to know whether the people who are connected with shipping and railway companies upon the boards of these corporations are people capable of developing civil aviation, and what kind of people they are. It is reasonable, I suggest, to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to develop that.
There is one other point I wish to raise, the question of the craft themselves. What is being done by the new Ministry to speed up the work of the Brabazon Committee, for instance? My information may not be as up to date as it should be, and that is another reason why the Parliamentary Secretary should give us more information. I understand that all the flying craft available for civil aviation in this country are, even to-day, merely converted military craft of a small character. We have had pictures in the Press of seven prototypes which include a jet plane and the pressure cabin plane. These have been boosted in the Press, but not a single order has been given. When are the orders going to be given? The prototypes are accepted; is anything being done at all? No, we either have American planes or else small converted military craft. You cannot develop the British side of civil aviation under the system of private enterprise or quasi-public enterprise—whatever you may call it—for which the Government stand; you cannot have development unless you have the best brains possible engaged in the supply of craft, in 1006 the development of craft, people who understand every detail of aeronautical affairs and aeronautical science.
We say that those people should be nearer the heads of Departments, nearer the politicians than they have been in the past—and I know exactly the circumstances of where they were. We have to have political control of course, in a democratic community like this, and the House of Commons has to control these affairs, but there is no indication that there is the slightest change of heart or policy on the part of the new Ministry as compared with the people who have had charge of civil aviation in the past. I complain sincerely on behalf of my party that the first Estimate—a Supplementary Estimate, I admit—brought to this Committee by a new Ministry passes without a single word from the Minister concerned about the future policy of that Ministry in civil aviation. It seems to me that is a slight to the Committee, and the Parliamentary Secretary ought not to have confined himself merely to a Paper which he admits is likely to muddle the Committee. It ought, at any rate, to have been presented as a codicil or addendum to the White Paper for hon. Members to consider. It has been sprung upon the Committee and there has been no opportunity to look at it. To say that an opportunity is given by a short Report stage Debate on Friday is simply playing with the question, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to answer the points I have raised, especially with regard to the position of aircraft, because it is upon aircraft, upon their efficiency, upon their speed, upon the character of the people behind the aircraft, and operating them, that the future of civil aviation depends in respect of this country in relation to the rest of the world.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
On the last occasion when we had a Debate on the subject of civil aviation, I remember that the ex-Minister of Aircraft Production stated that the future of civil aviation, according to the White Paper policy, could not be settled then but would have to await the result of the General Election. Is that still the case? It rather looks to me as if the Government were taking definite binding decisions now which would not be capable of being altered in the event of a different Government coming into power. I am 1007 asking for the sake of information, because I think we ought to know precisely where we are in this matter.
It has always seemed to me that there are two main objections to the White Paper policy of the Government; firstly that it represents a definite reaction, a moving backwards from the policy that was adopted by the Conservative Government which was in power before the war. When you once arrive at a state of affairs when a particular industry is thought to be fit for a public utility company, and when that is proposed by a Conservative Government, I should have thought the general view might be held that such a step should not be retraced after a period of ten years and the experience of war. It is astonishing to me to find that, whereas in 1939 that admirable Conservative, the late Sir Kingsley Wood, came forward with the policy of B.O.A.C., and all the proposals that go with it which we have never had an opportunity of putting into operation and trying out in practice in any way, the Government should come along now and say that the matter should revert, to a very large extent indeed, to private enterprise. I do not understand it; it seems inconsistent with the way things were marching in this country. We go in the direction of what is regarded as progress; we do not, as a rule, step backwards. Here, there is a definite step backwards from the high water mark of Conservative policy just before the war.
The other point that worries me is the introduction of the railway and shipping companies. I should have thought that these were the people who ought to be kept out of it. Civil aviation is a great new world service with opportunities and functions of its own, with problems which do not arise in other spheres, and is really not comparable to transport by shipping and railways. The excellent people who have pioneered with such success in the shipping and railway industries will be bound to have regard, to a considerable extent—human nature being what it is—to what effect civil aviation policy will have on shipping and railways. They are bound to have in mind the importance of keeping a considerable place open in any plans they may make for shipping and railway transport. They cannot look at it as people interested solely in flying 1008 would look at it. I say, therefore, that the step which has been taken seems to be entirely wrong. It is not a step which has been taken in the United States, where there is every opportunity for flying, and I hope that before a final decision is taken on this matter it will be carefully looked at again, because it does not seem to be sound.
Further, the two points I have mentioned are not consistent with the policy of our Dominions. We ought to try to be Imperialistic, and keep in line with the Dominions. They are keen on the policy of the chosen instrument. They want a national board under public control, and it would be regrettable if we, being in step at the moment, found ourselves out of step with them. I should be sorry to see such a Little England policy of that kind pursued here. I think the right policy, looked at in the broadest sense, is the maximum degree of inter-nationalisation. That was the policy of the late Government, and it was right. The maximum in the present state of affairs is comparatively small, because we cannot obtain the co-operation of various large States, such as the United States and Russia, and we are driven back to finding the best practicable method that is available to us. My feeling is that the policy of the chosen instrument is right. It need not necessarily be one chosen instrument; you may have several directed to different routes, as the Government contemplated in the White Paper. I feel that ultimate control of any civil aviation scheme ought to be vested in the State, working through a public utility company, however much freedom of experiment within they care to give. There is no reason why there should not be all sorts of experiments, different methods, and different companies, but you should have, at the top, the ideal of public service and State watchfulness.
Now I turn to another subject. We have heard a good deal from the Minister and other speakers about what is to be done in civil aviation for Scotland, the wonderful opportunities that are to be granted, how it will be possible to go from island to island with the greatest ease, and how the magnificent facilities of Prestwick are to be used. Well, I personally have heard enough about Scotland for the time being, and I turn to Wolverhampton and the facilities that are 1009 to be offered to the citizens of that important town. How are they to be transported, and what facilities are they to have to go to Scotland? Supposing they want to go across country to Hull, to reach which the railway journey is extremely difficult and lengthy, and supposing they want to go to London, Cornwall or the Channel Islands, what opportuities are they to have? They would never be content to rely upon a Birmingham aerodrome. That would mean motoring some 20 miles. There are excellent aerodromes available in the neighbourhood, and I have one in mind in particular, Perton, which I think would suit the town very well for civil aviation after the war. I would like my hon. Friend to say whether his Department contemplate direct or feeder services, or some other method, by which the citizens of Wolverhampton will have as good facilities as those in the islands of Scotland, or any other remote part of the Kingdom, have to go about their business on the pathways of the air. I hope my hon. Friend will be able to say something about this, because it is important from a local point of view.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. McIntyre (Motherwell)
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Sir G. Mander) said that he had heard just about enough of Scotland, but, as he will guess, he will now hear a little more about it from me. I will never tire of pointing out to Members of this House that if they do not want to hear more about Scotland they have the solution in their own hands. I do not want to be here any more than they want to listen tome here; I want to be elsewhere, in an Assembly directly responsible to the Scottish people. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) who, I am sorry to say has had to leave, seemed to think that if you highly centralise such a thing as civil aviation or anything else then you inevitably work towards world amity. That is evidence of the confusion of mind which we so often get from our doctrinaire friends on the Labour benches. In his argument he put forward a plea of a narrow and parochial character under the cloak of international good will and objected to small countries developing their own resources in co-operation with other countries. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) appeared to think that large corporations are always 1010 better than small ones, and as this is a matter of transport I would like to remind him and others that if he had lived in Scotland during the last 20 years he would have realised that one transport concern, by virtue of its size, had not served Scotland well. I refer to the railway companies which, since amalgamation, have not served Scotland to a degree that would have been possible if they had been operating entirely in the Scottish public interest.
We have heard from the Minister this evening a very interesting statement. It would appear to be somewhat of a climb down by the British Government in certain Scottish matters. I may be forgiven if I detect in this last-minute lamentation of the British Government on a Scottish matter a little pre-election sensitivity to Scottish affairs. I think that would possibly explain to the hon. Member who sits for West Islington why this particular matter, which he objected to being brought up to-day, was in fact brought up. I rather suspect the Government are becoming a little afraid of opinion in Scotland asserting itself. I am very glad the Government have climbed down, however little it may be; I am very glad they have shown a little evidence of that sensitivity. Surely, it is rather criminal that the whole of Scotland should have to get up on its toes to attempt to solve a matter which ought never to have arisen, such as the injustice to Scotland in the matter of civil aviation; surely, it is wrong that a whole country should have to bother about such a comparatively small thing before it can get a little bit of justice from the British Government. Surely, it is a denial of every principle of decent government.
I find that the general opinion in Scotland—with which I am in agreement—on the White Paper on Civil Aviation is that here there is a case—I am talking now with reference to Scottish affairs—where the British Government are backing three monopolies against the interests of the Scottish people; where they have prevented, with the exception of the little climb-down to-day, Scottish development in the interests of large London monopolies, one of them sometimes confused in the public mind with the Greyhound Racing Association. I would like to hear from the Minister whether the let-up of which he has given evidence to-day means 1011 that any company operating from Scotland to Scandinavia will not necessarily be a subsidiary of a railway company, whether it will be possible for a new company to operate that route, such as Scottish Aviation, Limited. I would like also to know whether the licences will be given to companies which before the war did not operate air lines, or whether they will be confined to companies which before the war did operate air lines, I ask the question about the Scandinavian routes because there you have the railway company, or a subsidiary of the railway company, as I understand it—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—being allowed to run services from Scotland to Scandinavia. I do not expect from the railway company or a subsidiary of the railway company any better treatment for Scotland in civil aviation than we have had in the operation of the railways themselves, for we cannot expect any longer in Scotland to receive any decent dealing or justice from a highly centralised London company.
When the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton suggests that in this matter there should be a public utility company, I do not dissent from him, but I do dissent from the view that, so far as Scotland is concerned, there should be a London public utility company. I do not think we will gain in Scotland from a civil aviation public utility company if it is under the denomination of the British State. A certain Scottish company recently made it quite clear that they were perfectly prepared in Scotland to go into an enterprise of a national type, and that, I think, would probably be the best thing, but I find that the Government appear to be adopting a dog-in-the-manger attitude. They will neither allow Scottish enterprise fully to develop nor will they allow a public utility to run affairs in Scotland. The result was that when the former Minister of Aircraft Production toured Scotland and suggested that there was not any enterprise in Scotland in such matters, he was accusing the British Government of preventing that enterprise from developing by their dog-in-the-manger policy. In this matter, as in so many other matters, if the Government would leave Scotland alone there would be no trouble at all. The Minister said they were doing something for Scotland. We do not come here asking for 1012 the assistance of the British Government. If the British Government would only stop interfering and preventing Scotland from helping herself, we would get along perfectly well. I ask the Minister further to inform me whether the ban on the use by companies of any but English aeroplanes in Scotland will be maintained, or whether a Scottish company may make the best use of any aeroplanes which come to hand within the next two years.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Major Mills (New Forest and Christchurch)
I want to put two definite question's to my hon. and gallant Friend. They arise on Item F—Works, Buildings and Lands—and I am rather nervous about the answer I may get to the first question, because the expenditure to which I refer is for "New Works, Additions and Alterations." Under that heading there comes, first of all, Beaulieu, a training base, and £10,000 is to be voted. Nobody knows better than my hon. and gallant Friend the area between Lady cross and Beaulieu, over which his father, when he was Member for the New Forest, always kept such a watchful eye. I am a little nervous about what the £10,000 is to be spent on. I do not think there will be very considerable new works or additions as a result of that sum of money, but when it comes to alterations, I wonder whether I dare hope that the alteration means that the training base is to be taken away. When the aerodromes were started in the New Forest we were all most anxious that they should disappear in due course. We quite realised at the time that they were very necessary, and we knew that sentiment about the New Forest could not be allowed to prevail at that time, but we looked forward to the day when the countryside there would be restored to its original state.
The second point arises about Hum, where additional accommodation is to be found. The total estimate is £1,250,000, of which £200,000 is to be voted this year and the balance later on. I know perfectly well that it is a very large and important aerodrome and it is probably right that it should be handed over for Civil Aviation, but this additional accommodation makes me nervous. Is the extension going to be made towards the East and, if so, is the Town and Country Planning Committee to be consulted, because up to a little while ago they had 1013 not been, and has the Hampshire County Council been consulted? All that area has been planned by the Town and Country Planning Committee for open space or residential property, or not for intensive development, and if the aerodrome is going to come down in that direction it makes me nervous as to what will be built there. More than that, the County Council is planning a new road to Bournemouth and a new bridge across the Stour and it may well be that, unless the Town and Country Planning Committee and the County Council have been consulted, there may be confusion between the plans for the extension of the aerodrome and the plans that they have made, and that would be a great pity because so often conference early on avoids difficulty. It is an important point, because that neighbourhood is planned to make, and will make, a very picturesque entrance to Bournemouth from the Forest and it would be a pity to spoil that for want of a little thought in time. I hope the Minister may be able to give me some comfort in that way from his consultation with the local public bodies.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
The country from which I come has had its name mentioned a number of times, and I want to return to the question of Scotland and to express my gratification for the fact that in the Minister's statement there was an indication that recently some special attention has been paid to the Scottish position. I am glad of that because I am one of 23 Scottish Labour Members who have been here for many years and who have tried on many occasions to have attention paid to matters such as air service development. Recently we have had the spectacle of Scottish Members acting together and, when we come to deal with matters which affect Scotland as a whole, Scottish Members drop their party differences and act together as an all-party team in order to bring upon the Government, if they consider it necessary, pressure which may cause them to deal with those matters in the way we should desire. The references in the Minister's statement to the Secretary of State and the Minister of Civil Aviation having recently got together in connection with the services that he mentioned as applying to Scotland left one a little obscure as to whether the Secretary of State referred to was the Noble Lord who has so very recently been 1014 appointed or my right hon. Friend the ex-Secretary.
§ Major Lloyd
Surely the statement was perfectly clear. It was the present Secretary of State who holds the responsibility for these concessions.
§ Mr. Mathers
I missed that particular part of the statement. That was not clear to me, but I know how very earnestly and enthusiastically my right hon. Friend the ex-Secretary of State worked with all the Scottish Members to draw attention to Scotland's needs in respect of civil aviation. I hope that the action that has already been taken by the new Secretary of State—I congratulate him upon it—to some extent had its genesis in what had previously been done by my right hon. Friend. But what has been indicated is a very small modicum, although we rejoice at it, of course, and we look forward with interest to further developments. If so much can be done in such a very short space of time, we must have some confidence in looking forward to further developments as the result of the activity which has already been started. Our view on these benches is that civil aviation is only part of the internal transport of the country and that the transport should be linked up—rail, road, coastwise steamers, canals, and air traffic—and, looking forward as I do to the early nationalisation of the railway services in one comprehensive unit, the fact that some of these air services are going, as it appears, immediately to be in the hands of the railway companies does not greatly concern me. I do not feel the apprehension about that particular development which some Members appear to have. I am certain that, given the power, we shall proceed along the line of bringing together all these services. The statement did not give an indication of how Scotland is to be served in respect of coming to the Southern part of Britain. I wonder if the Minister could say anything about what is contemplated in that regard. We have advertisements of services which are to be run when the reconstruction period has enabled them to be developed. I look forward to the day when Scottish Members of Parliament will not require to spend the night in a train.
§ Mr. Mathers
We regret the inconvenience that is caused and the time that 1015 is taken by travelling during the day, and most of us make the journey during the night and have provision made for it out of public funds. Whatever may be done in respect of devolution of functions to Scotland, there will still be Members in this House acting as Members of the British Parliament, and provision should be made for them to be able to travel by air to do the job that is so necessary here if Scotland is to have her proper place in the affairs of the Empire. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. McIntyre) indicated that there would come a day when Scottish Members of Parliament would not come to London at all. I think that day is far off—
§ Mr. Mathers
I would have liked to answer my hon. Friend's point, but I will not transgress your Ruling. There was an indication of the way in which Scotland is treated in respect of civil aviation in the speech of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Sir G. Mander). He made some passing reference to Scotland, and. then said, "That is enough of Scotland; what about Wolverhampton, that important town?" Thus a town in the Black Country is looked upon by one Member of Parliament as of more importance than the country of Scotland.
§ Sir G. Mander
My hon. Friend has slightly misunderstood me. There had been considerable discussion about Scotland, and I say "Good luck to it," but I wanted to point out that there are other places in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Mathers
I accept that, but when the hon. Member makes reference to the islands and other remote parts of the Kingdom being served with air services and makes them of less importance than Wolverhampton, although I give him credit for thinking of his own constituency, I claim the desirability against that kind of background of putting in a word for Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell referred to the doctrinaire friends of the Labour Party. I would be out of Order if I answered that in a proper way, and I am not here to indulge in a Scottish Nationalist Debate.
1016 I am trying to link up what I have to say with civil aviation, and I want to point out that we have had nothing from the Minister about the development of Prestwick. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) was doubtful of the merits of Prestwick airport. The merits have been definitely established by hundreds, if not thousands, of the most skilled airmen, who look upon it as the best landing place on this side of the Atlantic. It has proved its usefulness and merits during the war. We are anxious to hear something more from the Minister about its development and about making it into a Transatlantic airport of the first magnitude. There is something to be pleased about in the mention that has been made about Scotland in regard to some contemplated developments, but Scotland is expecting much more than has been indicated. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell suggested, this is thought to be sufficient for the Scottish people to be going on with in order to prevent any reference to further needs in respect to civil aviation in Scotland during the General Election, any such idea can be set aside. The treatment of the Scottish claim for Prestwick will be pressed by the electors in Scotland, and will continue to be pressed by Scottish Members of all parties. It will not do to think that Scotland can be completely satisfied with the statement that has been made, and we look forward to further developments in the near future, which we will make it our business to press upon the Government.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Major Procter (Accrington)
I want to raise two points for the consideration of the Minister of Civil Aviation. We all have great love for Scotland, but I have a deeper love for Lancashire. I regard Lancashire as one of the most important counties in the country. For years it has supplied the revenue that has sustained the Army, the Navy and the social services. I fear that there is a danger that we are being a little side-tracked. Lancashire holds one-tenth of the entire population of the United Kingdom. It is the industrial centre that has energised and fructified the commerce of this country, and it has helped to make the influence of England felt in every part of the world.
Hitherto we have done this by communications on land and sea. To-day we 1017 have a new means of transport, namely the aeroplane. These aeroplanes are becoming an increasingly safer method of transport. We know in the early days the aeroplane could drop its passengers any where. To-day, owing to needs for safe transportation, safe airfields and methods of landing, aeroplanes drop their passengers when the pilot and passengers desire to be dropped and not before. I do not wish the new Minister of Civil Aviation in this Conservative caretaker Government to make the mistakes that were made by the Ministry of Labour on the one hand and the Ministry of Aircraft Production on the other—otherwise redundant aircraft workers would not have been discharged so suddenly—
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I must warn him that he must not discuss matters concerning the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Aircraft Production.
§ Major Procter
I will strictly observe your Ruling, Mr. Williams, but I am sure you would be the last to prevent a humble Conservative from warning his own side against certain dangers. We have in my division a splendid airport called Salmsbury. It is conveniently near to some of the great industrial centres of Lancashire, and not amongst the least important is my own division, the town of Accrington. Salmsbury is like a picture surrounded by a frame, but in that frame are included such towns as Preston, Burnley, Darwen, Blackburn, Clayton le Moors, Oswaldtwistle, Rishton and a lot of other industrial places. I fear that airport may be deemed redundant just as a splendid aircraft factory in my division which made engines for the machines to fly from those airports, has been made redundant. I am asking, therefore, that the new Minister will see that this very efficient and wonderfully constituted airport is retained by his Ministry in order that it can serve the whole district, so that from my division and the towns just mentioned there may go forth ambassadors of trade—
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
Might I ask my hon. and gallant Friend if he is sure he knows his stuff on this matter? This aerodrome is the joint property of Preston and Blackburn, and my impression is that neither Preston nor Blackburn want the Ministry to take it over. They want to 1018 have it for use as a municipal civil airport.
§ Major Procter
I do not care who owns it. It must not disappear as our aircraft factories have done. I want it to remain. Accrington is willing to co-operate with any other municipality in order that Salmsbury airport may be retained. That is the point, and it is the main point I want to make.
Lancashire wants to send her travellers with cotton goods and other products, upon which depends the prosperity of this hardly-hit county, all over the world. I want our business men to start from Salmsbury. They will come from Accrington, Preston, Blackburn and Burnley and other towns, and take a plane at Salmsbury without having to go to Speke or Liverpool. I want this airport to be one of the great airports from which the emissaries of Lancashire trade will go forth to find new markets, and to transport, if necessary, their goods by air, so that they will get back some of the prosperity which, because of difficulties in the past, we have lost.
It may be considered that this proposal is impossible, on grounds of cost, but I tell the Minister that this is an opportunity for him to collaborate, in the interests of civil aviation, with the Minister of Aircraft Production. The overhead charges on an airport are extremely high but I am certain that with collaboration between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Aircraft Production, engines can be made by the Bristol aircraft factory and transported to Salmsbury airport and assembled right on the spot. This would enable us to achieve several things. We should form a good nucleus of aircraft manufacture in the area and we should reduce the overhead charges on the airport. I, therefore, ask for greater collaboration. I am certain that it would help solve the problem of costs of this airport. It would help to preserve and retain the men of great skill and the Lancashire women who have brains in their fingers, by this combination of aircraft production and civil aviation at Salmsbury airport. Such collaboration would enable Salmsbury airport to help Lancashire, which truly deserves to be helped.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Perkins
As I expected, we have had a very large number of questions on 1019 all kinds of subjects connected with this Vote. I welcome them and I will do what I can to clarify the position by answering them all, one by one, although that may take some time. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) asked me what operational experience would be necessary in order to enable future air line operations to obtain a contract. The position is that we propose to set up this tribunal. I hope that it will be presided over by a judge. It will be absolutely free of my Department, and once it is set up we shall have no control or influence whatever over it. It will be entirely free, but we shall give general directions along these lines: First, we shall insist, or shall ask them to insist, that British aircraft must be used if British aircraft are available; We shall insist that adequate provision is made by any new operator for the welfare of the pilots and the air crews, and we shall insist that any new operator is financially capable of carrying out the job. Apart from these three things we shall lay down no conditions whatever; we shall leave the matter entirely to this tribunal.
The hon. Member asked me whether British aircraft will be available. I think they will. I will tell the Committee the present position with regard to four machines which will probably be used in this country. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) also asked me a question on this matter. The prototype of the Tudor I will fly within one week. I hope that unless there are further industrial troubles in the factory deliveries of this machine will start in August of this year.
§ Mr. Montague
Is it not a fact that not a single order has been given for that machine? No one is saying that the prototype cannot fly, but an order has not been given. When is it to be given?
§ Mr. Perkins
I am surprised that the hon. Member should say that. An order has been given for 20 of these machines. That order has been placed for a considerable time. This particular machine is the one which we hope will fly the Atlantic. That is why we only want a comparatively small number. The prototype of the Tudor II is due to ply next November, and deliveries should start in January next year. A considerable order 1020 has been placed for that particular aircraft. Then there is the Viking, which is the one which will run these internal air lines in this country. The prototype is expected to fly this month. A large order has been placed. This order can easily be increased, and deliveries, we hope and believe, will start in December this year. Lastly, there is the Hermes. No order has so far been placed for this aircraft because we are using Tudor I and Tudor II. I understand that the prototyped this particular machine is likely to fly in September this year.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-colonel Elliot) asked me a lot of questions, but the main one was whether I could condense what the Government proposed to do to help Prestwick. The position, as I said before, is that under the Chicago Agreements we have to designate certain airports for international air traffic. We shall designate airports in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We intend to designate Prestwick as one of those airports. When Heathrow, which is the main terminal airport for London in the future, comes into operation at some distant date, we shall continue to designate Prestwick, so that any air line of any nationality can come to Prestwick at will. Then there was the question of whether a new air line could operate from Prestwick. The answer is "Yes." We have deliberately excluded Prestwick from any of the assigned routes. Consequently, any operator who can justify his case before the tribunal can run an air line from Prestwick to any part of the British Isles.
§ Mr. McIntyre
Perhaps I did not make myself quite clear. I was asking whether any company would be permitted to operate also from airports other than Prestwick to the Scandinavian countries, or whether it would be only from that one airport.
§ Mr. Perkins
I am taking the points as hon. Members spoke. I will endeavour to answer that point in a moment; and if I do not, I hope that my hon. Friend will pull me up. The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove asked for more information about the position in regard to Scandinavia. We propose to shield from the main scheme air lines going from Scotland to Scandinavia. Consequently, any operator, whoever he may be, provided that he can satisfy the 1021 tribunal and that we can come to some arrangement with the Scandinavian countries, is free to run to Scandinavia. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) raised several interesting points. I think he is under a slight misapprehension. He has certainly got the impression that there are a very large number of pre-war operators who are to come in. I do not know the exact number—I rather think it is two; it might be three; but it is very small, and will have little effect. The main one is an organisation called Allied Airways, in the North of Scotland.
§ Mr. Bowles
How many companies' names did the hon. Member mention for internal airlines, in the statement he read out?
§ Mr. Perkins
Internal airways are going to be run, on the assigned routes, by British European Airways, with their subsidiary company in Scotland. On non-assigned routes any company can apply to the tribunal to run. As far as England is concerned, I am very sorry to have to say that I have not got the facts yet. We have not settled what routes are to be assigned.
§ Mr. Seaborne Davies (Carnarvon Boroughs)
Why is Scotland put first, England mentioned second, and no word said about Wales?
§ Mr. Perkins
I am sorry, but I was answering the speeches which have been made here, and I do not think that anyone from Wales has spoken—otherwise, I should have been delighted to refer to Wales. The hon. Member spoke about the Australian service, and said that a friend of his had come through quickly. I welcome this. We have just started this new service, which will take about three days. I believe that it is the fastest service in the world, and that it will be of benefit not only to Australia, but to this country. 1022 Then my hon. Friend made a speech, which I believe I have heard him make before, about some form of international set-up. We have crossed swords on this matter many times before. He has my sympathy. I believe that in the dim, distant future, it may be in 20 years, it may be in 50 years, it may be in 100 years, when the world is a better place, we shall see something on those lines. I do not believe that it is possible at this moment, and I am reinforced in that by the great pamphlet which I read one day while flying over the Tasman Ocean, a very interesting pamphlet, published by the Socialist Party, with a great deal of which I am in agreement. There was one short paragraph in it to the effect that if this bold scheme of an international organisation was impossible they would prefer to see the Empire services run by the Empire Governments as a whole. That is the position at the moment.
§ Mr. Perkins
I did not say that it did. I am expressing my own view. The hon. Member for West Islington asked me about the pilots. I remember that in the early days of the British Airways Pilots' Association he was extremely helpful. I think I was the founder of that Association; I was the first vice-president; and he was kindness itself, and helped me in every way possible.
I am sure that he will welcome the provisions on the White Paper for pilots. As he knows, in the White Paper, there is a paragraph for the welfare of the staff by which all these new corporations—and we shall insist upon it—will have to become model employers, and, so far as I can see, the pilots and air crews of the future should be happy. The hon. Member also asked about machines for the future. I am afraid we have only been in existence for five weeks, and we must not expect to run before we can walk. The hon. Member also asked about the question of jet propulsion. We are very interested in jet propulsion—exceptionally interested—and I fully anticipate that, in seven or eight years' time, we shall see some civil air liners propelled by means of the jet.
§ Mr. Perkins
I should not like to say what is the exact position of the Brabazon IV without going to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, because it is their pigeon and they act as our agents, but I will tell the hon. Member one thing about jet propulsion aircraft. They want a pressure cabin, and, while we are pushing on with jet propelled aircraft, we have a lot of work to do on pressure cabins. The hon. Member asked me who were our technical advisers. We have the Brabazon Committee, the Air Registration Board, the facilities at Farnborough and tele-communication advisory bodies—in fact we have got all the advice available to us that is available to the R.A.F. We have got the best possible advice, but, if the hon. Member thinks there is any other information available and will let us know, we will make use of it.
The hon. Member asked if we had a training scheme. Yes, Sir, but it is not big enough and we are taking steps to increase it. It is run by British Overseas Airways. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Sir G. Mander) asked me about the position of Wolverhampton. I am very sorry, and I have already said this, that I cannot tell any hon. Member about the future of his own local aerodrome. It has not yet been decided. Until we have got agreement with British European airways on these assigned routes, it is quite impossible for my Department to say which aerodromes we shall need, but I can give the House the assurance that we are hard at it and that, as soon as ever we get this agreement on these assigned routes, then I shall tell the House. How long it will be, I know not, but I think it will be several months before we finally get that matter cleared up.
§ Mr. Perkins
I have not yet given all the details of all the places where we are going to land in Scotland. I have merely drawn a broad picture, but I can assure the hon. Member that the picture for England, when it is drawn, will bear comparison with that of Scotland. Neither Scotland nor England will be better off; both will be very well served.
The hon. Member for Motherwell (Dr. McIntyre) asked me two questions. First, he asked whether the railway companies, the British European Corporation, or their subsidiary, Scottish Airways, will be able 1024 to apply to the tribunal to run to Scandinavia. The answer is, No, Sir. As this route is not an assigned route, they are automatically barred—both the main operating company and the subsidiary. The second question was—Can some completely new company go to Scandinavia? The answer is Yes, provided that the Government can make arrangements under Chicago with the Scandinavian countries, and I have no doubt whatever that we can do that, provided that the new company satisfies the tribunal that it is confident that it will use British machines and treat the pilots properly.
§ Mr. Montague
The Minister said "provided they use British machines." Does that mean that they are not allowed to use any tout English machines, in the next two years, and cannot use the best machines available.
§ Mr. Perkins
I apologise for repeating myself. I told the Committee just now the Government policy with regard to British machines. We believe that British machines will be ready as quickly as any other machines are available in this country, and I gave the dates when I hope and believe they will be there. We made it quite plain that it is the policy of the Government that these British machines should be used by those air lines, and British machines will be there as quickly as the lines are ready to start.
§ Major Lloyd
Does my hon. Friend understand that everybody in Scotland except the extreme Scottish Nationalists will be highly delighted with the concessions announced to-day?
§ Mr. Perkins
I thank my hon. and gallant Friend very much. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest (Major Mills) asked about two aerodromes in the New Forest. He asked about Hurn and whether we were in contact with the Town Planning Committee of the county council? I do not know whether we are or not but I can assure him that we shall be, and will make contact at once. He then asked whether this extra money to be expended on Hurn was going to mean a big extension of the aerodrome. I understand that the whole of the money will be spent on the present limits of the aerodrome. He asked me about Beaulieu. Beaulieu is on common land and my father, 25 years ago, when the Member for the New Forest, took 1025 some part in keeping the aerodrome off that common land at that time. We had a look at Beaulieu and thought it might do as a kind of temporary aerodrome for a short time, but the facilities we wanted are not there so we have moved off. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that as far as my Department is concerned we are going elsewhere, but I cannot tell him where. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) wanted to know about connections between Scotland and the South. As I said, Glasgow is connected with Belfast, Liverpool, Manchester and London, and on the East Coast, Edinburgh will be connected with Newcastle, the West Riding of Yorkshire and London. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Accrington (Major Procter) wanted to know about Lancashire. I will certainly bear the claims of Lancashire in mind but I can only repeat what I told the Committee just now, that we are not in a position to announce what aerodromes will be needed in this country, but as soon as ever we know we shall make an announcement.
§ Major Procter
Will my hon. Friend see to it that these airports are not allowed to go out of existence before his Ministry has made up its mind what is to be done?
§ Mr. Perkins
I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend need worry about that. We are not going to be as slow as all that. We are hard at it now on rather broad principles. I have endeavoured to answer all the many points which have come up. I personally can commend this scheme to the Committee. I believe that it will work. The slight modifications which we have made as a result of the approach of hon. Members, political pressure and drive and general public opinion do not, in any way, affect the main structure of the Bill which sets up three corporations. I believe that we are laying foundations which may well last for 20, 30 or 40 years. I ask the Committee now to give me my salary.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a sum, not exceeding £3,536,010, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
§ Resolution to foe reported upon Friday next [Commander Agnew.]
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.