HL Deb 27 January 1943 vol 125 cc794-829

LORD WINSTER rose to ask His Majesty's Government what measures should be undertaken by the nation to see that the Fleet Air Arm is equipped with the most modern planes we can give them; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move the Motion that stands in my name, I must say how very glad I am that it is being taken in public. Since the matter was debated in this House last week, I have re-read what the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, said on the subject of secret debates. I appreciate the weight and force of his remarks perhaps more fully now than I did at the time, but I must also say that if the noble Viscount's views were accepted it would really mean that no war subject could be debated in your Lordships' House during the progress of the war. It seems to me that what we have to find out is whether it is possible to have a debate which will inform the public, not inform the enemy, and not put His Majesty's Government in an unfair position as regards replying. The only way to find that out is to try. The Government have very wisely decided to try. We are going to try to-day, and I have no doubt whatever that the result will show that we can safely have debates of this nature.

During the debate last week something was said about those who move such Motions being in opposition and wishing to overthrow the Government. I am not quite clear about this. I frequently hear Lord Addison referred to as the Leader of the Opposition. I did not know there were any Oppositions to-day. I thought there was a political truce and no political Opposition. But, at any rate, I am not in opposition, nor am I seeking to overthrow the Government. So long as we are fortunate enough to enjoy the benefit of his service, I cannot imagine the country wanting any other leader than the present Prime Minister. As for the Government, I think it is not at all a bad Government, though some parts are better than others. But, at any rate, we are still very much alive to-day, as the news shows, and kicking—and kicking to some purpose. A Government which can achieve that cannot be entirely devoid of merit. There is one other thing I would say. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Bruntisfield, is not here to reply on behalf of the Government. I realize the reasons for his absence, and I would most gladly have postponed bringing forward my Motion except that there have been so many delays about it that I felt it was undesirable to delay further. If the noble Lord happens to read my remarks, I hope he will accept my assurance that I intended no discourtesy to him and, on the contrary, regret his absence and his advice, for he has always shown a deep interest in naval matters.

In bringing forward this Motion about the Fleet Air Arm, I am impressed by the fact that the Fleet Air Arm is exerting an ever greater influence on naval strategy and tactics, and consequently it is essential to ensure that the Fleet Air Arm has the very best in aircraft, in weapons, and in equipment which can be given to it. The Fleet Air Arm to that end must have very much higher priorities than it has hitherto enjoyed. I have no intention of going into any of the past history of the Fleet Air Arm. That is a very long and chequered story, and in my opinion has already given rise to far too much embittered controversy. I refer to one matter only in order to put what I am going to say in its proper background. The supply of aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm is governed by the decisions of the Balfour Committee of 1923, when that Committee decided that the Air Ministry must provide all the material required by the Admiralty, that the Air Ministry should carry out research experiment and design in consultation with the Admiralty, but that the Admiralty was to put forward suggestions as to types for the Air Ministry to embody in designs and then obtain specifications and tenders from the trade. At all stages the Admiralty was to be kept informed. That went on till 1940, when the Ministry of Aircraft Production was instituted and played the same part in relation to the Admiralty that the Air Ministry had played up till then.

There is a controversy between those who say that the Admiralty did not get what it wanted for the Fleet Air Arm and those who say that the Admiralty was not very clever at explaining what exactly it was that it wanted. I noticed quite recently that Air Marshal Dowding has gone on record as saying that the Admiralty got precisely the types which it specified and demanded. Whatever may be the rights and wrongs of this controversy there is certainly no doubt whatever about it that war found the Fleet Air Arm equipped with extremely bad aircraft. But there is one other thing I think which should be said in fairness. The Admiralty regained control of the Fleet Air Arm in 1937, rather less, I think, than two years before war broke out, and when war did come it found the Admiralty struggling with the enormous task of constituting the Fleet Air Arm, and those difficulties were very great indeed. One has only to consider the difficulties about personnel—the expansion of personnel from 3,000 to 10,000 which the Admiralty was struggling with. We see the results of that to-day when in those great operations in the Malta Convoy 90 per cent. of the pilots belonged to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. They were also caught with a very difficult job about maintenance. Maintenance is all-important to the Fleet Air Arm because a Fleet Air Arm pilot cannot do a crash landing in a convenient field. The Admiralty had to borrow some 1,500 to 1,600 maintenance ratings from the Royal Air Force. No one would blame the Royal Air Force for not wishing to lend its best and brightest in the way of personnel. The Fleet Air Arm has always had a great struggle in that connexion, and maintenance has been a very great problem.

A great deal is said about lack of air-mindedness at the Admiralty. I have said something about it myself. But that is an old story. The Admirals who were trained in masts and yards certainly resented the introduction of steam, and the submarine was very much looked askance upon. Similarly, the air weapon has had great difficulties to contend with in the Navy from the older generation of officers whose minds were not sufficiently flexible to enable them to appreciate the full impact of the air weapon upon sea warfare. But, however these things may be, the fact remains that the Fleet Air Arm was badly equipped when the war broke out and is very insufficiently equipped to-day, and the responsibility must lie somewhere. Whether it lies at the Admiralty or at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, or whether it lies with the Minister of Defence or the War Cabinet, these are things which require a great deal of knowledge and information before one could decide; but the responsibility must lie somewhere for the fact that in the fourth year of war the Fleet Air Arm is still so ill-equipped as to be robbing this country of the opportunity of great and victorious strokes at sea while at the same time inflicting very unnecessary perils upon the pilots.

I have this to say about the developments of the types. If the types are bad why is it they are bad? I think one reason is that the Admiralty has shown that in the matter of ships it has always had a tendency to try to develop a ship as nearly as possible into the next class above it. The destroyer becomes something approximating to the light cruiser, and so it goes on, and there is always a tendency to fill the ships with every conceivable type of apparatus and equipment so that many ships are really very reminiscent of the White Knight. Your Lordships will remember that the White Knight had to walk into battle because he could not possibly have ridden his war horse, having hung far too much equipment on to it. The same thing has very Much happened in the sphere of aircraft. The aircraft required and specified by the Admiralty have in many cases been required to fulfil far too many purposes. They have been hybrids instead of aircraft designed for one particular function.

Another difficulty has been that Admiralty orders have of course always been small as compared with Air Force orders, and consequently the Fleet Air Arm has had to rely upon some of the smaller firms of the industry. Altogether, I understand that only something like II per cent.—I am not sure of the accuracy of that figure—of the industry is devoted to work for the Fleet Air Arm. Out of that very small percentage of industry available for the work of the Fleet Air Aria difficulties have arisen in regard to two firms. There is the firm of Faireys. Sir Richard Fairey, I understand, has been in America since 1940, employed, I believe, in work for the British Purchasing Commission there. I have no doubt his work is considered far more important than work with his firm here in England. I do not presume to say on which side of the Atlantic Sir Richard Fairey should be, but it should be made clear, if indeed it is the case, that he is doing more valu- able work in America than he could do with his own firm in England. A great deal of criticism exists upon that point, especially because the firm of Fairey seems to have fallen into a very considerable state of disorganization during the absence of Sir Richard Fairey in America.

The Fleet Air Arm is short of aircraft, while the workmen at Faireys are complaining of having to stand idle when other firms are making aircraft for naval use. There is no secret about this matter. In November, 1941, the shop stewards of Faireys laid all the controversies before Press representatives and what was said was very remarkable indeed. There had been protest strikes and discussions with the management because men were standing idle, and skilled men Were complaining of being idle upon night-shifts. Men were so idle that they asked to be allowed to go elsewhere but were refused permission to go. There were acrimonious meetings with the management. It was alleged things were wrong from top to bottom. All these matters were reported to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, to the Air Ministry and to the Admiralty in December, 1941. A year later things were stated to be still astounding and deplorable. The Fleet Air Arm were flying in obsolescent machines and still men were standing idle and were refused permission to go where there was work for them to do. That is the state of affairs which has come to my notice and a great deal of it has been published in the Press. I do not know what happened, but I saw that Sir Stafford Cripps, shortly after becoming Minister of Aircraft Production, visited a factory somewhere in the Home Counties—where we were not told—and that he found it necessary to appoint a managing director to take complete control of that factory. In the fourth year of the war a factory was found needing to be put on a sound production basis. If Fairey's was the factory which Sir Stafford Cripps visited I think it is still more important that some explanation should be given why Sir Richard Fairey remains in America. I hope improvement will result.

Another Fleet Air Arm factory is Blackburn's, and Blackburn's workers feel that the Fleet Air Arm is very much neglected. They feel they are a Fleet Air Arm factory and it is a matter of great regret in the factory that their war effort seems to be so very disappointing. I have heard of no criticism of the management or organization at Blackburn's, but I have heard of a real feeling of frustration at the fact that they have no up-to-date efficient aircraft to manufacture for the Fleet Air Arm. I will not go into details of the work that they have been doing, but I would ask this very simple question: Is it the case that the firm of Blackburn has got an efficient up-to-date aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm flying at the present moment? The state of affairs at these two factories certainly raises some question as to how far the Admiralty or the Ministry of Aircraft Production have really been energetic in seeing that the state of affairs would be such as to redound to the advantage of the Fleet Air Arm. I would say certainly in regard to one of these factories that I think there is a very strong case for an impartial inquiry as to the advisability of developing a certain type of aircraft which has been reported against.

In this connexion I think that the Admiralty organization at the Admiralty and at the Ministry of Aircraft Production will have to be considered. There has recently been a reorganization at the Admiralty and there is no doubt whatever that it has given great satisfaction and confidence. The appointments of Rear-Admiral Boyd and Acting Rear-Admiral Portal have given very great satisfaction, and I would like to say, if I may, that the willingness of Admiral Dreyer to accept some subordinate post in that organization redounds very greatly to the credit of that distinguished officer. I say that in view of criticism levelled against his previous appointment which I think was unfair, because criticism should have been levelled against those who made the appointment and not against Admiral Dreyer. This new organization at the Admiralty should be accompanied by a certain reorganization at the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The two things should go hand in hand. My impression is that until now the naval representation at the Ministry of Aircraft Production had been too much in a watertight compartment and confined to its own tributary instead of being brought into touch with the broad stream of aircraft development generally. These matters should be reflected upon and there should be a similar reorganization at the Ministry of Aircraft Production to that which has just taken place at the Admiralty.

While I am on this matter of reorganization I should like to ask if there is now any link between the Fifth and Sixth Sea Lords, the Director of Naval Services and the Controller. I do not think it has existed up to date, but it is an important matter in my opinion in regard to efficient organization. I also feel that some revision is required in the methods whereby the Admiralty receives technical advice upon types and designs of aircraft. The system seems to me to have been unsatisfactory up to date. It is too much of a family matter inside the Admiralty, and there is a case for constituting an advisory panel upon which there should be production engineers and Air Force officers to give advice to the Admiralty regarding types and designs. In that connexion I would urge that some of the officers concerned should be given actual experience inside firms in the aircraft industry, so that they may understand what great production delays may be involved by the introduction of some modification in an aircraft which seems to them a simple thing but which in production will cause great delays.

I do not want to say very much about the types of aircraft in use in the Fleet Air Arm. That might be getting on rather dangerous ground, although of course the enemy must know as well as we know what types are being used by the Fleet Air Arm. They can be no secret. I do wish, however, to point out that the primary need of the Fleet Air Arm has always been a very fast fighter. That is the primary requirement which the function of the Fleet Air Arm imposes upon it. Yet only in the fourth year of the war has the Fleet Air Arm been given the Seafire, which is a modified Spitfire. The Royal Air Force had the Spitfire before the war and is now using Spitfire IX. Yet the Fleet Air Arm has to fight the same enemy and the same machines in the same air as the Royal Air Force. That is the position in the fourth year of the war. The Fleet Air Arm has only now got a fighter comparable to the fighter which the Royal Air Force had before the war. The Royal Air Force, I think, is very well equipped qualitatively. I wish the same thing could be said of the Fleet Air Arm.

If now the Fleet Air Arm has the Sea-fire, which is a satisfactory type, one would like to ask how many of them there are in reserve. The difference in treatment which the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force have received in the past is emphasized by the fact that work on the design of a Spitfire with folding wings was stopped in 1940 because its development would have hindered production for the Air Force. It would take too long to go into the details of the various types of aircraft with which the Fleet Air Arm has had to fight. I have a long of them, one after the other being failures, commented upon adversely by the pilots who have to fly them.

Leaving that particular question of types, and coming to the general question, I should like to call attention to the question of the torpedo bomber. That is a decisive weapon, and the Navy showed the way to the world in torpedo bombing. Why has the development of that type been allowed to lag behind in the way that it has? In July of last year, the then Minister of Aircraft Production said: "We have some torpedo bombers, and we have a new type coming along for the Fleet Air Arm." That was all that the Minister of Aircraft Production could say in July, 1942—" We have a new type coming along for the Fleet Air Arm." Has it come along yet? It would be very interesting to know.

I should have liked to say something, but I have already taken up too much time, on the question of transport aircraft. Has anything been done to develop a service of transport planes for the Fleet Air Arm? Such a service will become increasingly necessary as the war progresses, and as the area and intensity of operations increase. The story of the dive bomber, with all the inconsistencies and contradictions which we have had from one high authority after another, is a sad one. I pin my faith, in the matter of the dive bomber, to a letter written to me by an Admiral whose opinion I greatly respect. He writes: The differences of opinion which exist on the value of the dive bomber would be reduced if people knew the number of battleships, aircraft carries, cruisers, destroyers, etc., sunk or damaged by dive bombers, and the number of German ships sunk or damaged by our bombing. The story of the dive bomber is a very melancholy one indeed so far as operations at sea are concerned, and reflects very little credit on those responsible.

I have endeavoured to make clear the existing position with regard to the Fleet Air Arm, and anything that I have ventured to say has been confirmed by the existing Minister of Aircraft Production, for, on December 16 of last year, Sir Stafford Cripps agreed that the rearmament of the Fleet Air Arm had been delayed "because of a number of difficulties with types." What a very full explanation of what has gone wrong ! Sir Stafford Cripps added the usual Ministerial formula that there was every reason to hope that these difficulties would be overcome, and that the re-equipment of the Fleet Air Arm would now proceed satisfactorily—in the fourth year of the war! Who has been responsible for these difficulties of which Sir Stafford Cripps spoke? It cannot be impossible to apportion the responsibility where it belongs. If these difficulties have existed and are known, then we must ask who it is who is condemning the Fleet Air Arm pilots to fight a better-armed enemy at a great disadvantage, and consequently to miss great opportunities in the war at sea.

It is not only Sir Stafford Cripps who has spoken; the First Lord of the Admiralty has spoken on this subject as recently as this month. I think that it would be unfair to criticize that speech too captiously, Ministers have very little time, with the pressure of work upon them, to prepare their speeches, and pressure of space on the newspapers must frequently result in the report of a speech being very much compressed. Nevertheless, the First Lord of the Admiralty did speak about the work of the Fleet Air Arm being performed with "old, slow, but pretty sound craft," and he added an appeal to the nation, to which I am sure the nation will respond gladly, that the nation should make every possible effort to see that the Fleet Air Arm is equipped with the most modern planes we can get for it. I have already quoted Air Marshal Dowding as saying that the Admiralty have had exactly the planes which they have specified and for which they have asked, but in any case the First Lord of the Admiralty is by the Patent of Admiralty solely responsible to the Crown and to Parliament for whatever concerns the Navy. I am sure that the nation, which has been appealed to by the First Lord, will most gladly respond in any way it can to his appeal to give the Fleet Air Arm the right aircraft, if the nation can only be told exactly what it is that it can do in this matter.

The responsibility in this matter must, in the ultimate issue, come back to the War Cabinet. It is the War Cabinet which has to decide how it is that we are going to win this war. The War Cabinet must decide whether the basis of any winning strategy is sea power, and, if it decides that it is, then the Fleet Air Arm must have higher priorities than it has had hitherto. I have endeavoured to speak with moderation, and I hope that I have also spoken with discretion; but I must in conclusion make it quite clear that I do feel that the present equipment of the Fleet Air Arm implies grave faults on the part of some responsible people, for otherwise it could not be the case that the Fleet Air Arm, with the tasks which it has imposed on it to-day, should be given such wretched weapons with which to perform them. Hitler is relying on his Navy to win this war. We may not think so, because his Navy happens to have gone under the sea, and is now represented by submarines and not by great mastodon battleships; but Hitler is relying on the German Navy to win the war for him, and what concerns our Navy must have its due priorities. The Fleet Air Arm can, and will, render incomparable services in whatever tasks lie before this country at sea; surely it is the duty of all of us to make it a matter of the first urgency to do what we can to see that that Fleet Air Arm is properly equipped. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, after listening to the declaration of abdication by the Opposition, I must say that I think there is a considerable case made against the Government. Much of that case I could answer, but I do not think that it is necessary to do so, because my noble friend is ready to speak on behalf of the Government. There are some other features of the situation, however, which I wish to present to you. First of all, there never has been any priority difficulty so far as the Fleet Air Arm is concerned. I can ask my noble friend Lord Brabazon to bear me out when I say that there has never been a priority in the Aircraft Ministry, at any rate in our time, which operated against the Fleet Air Arm. There was a new charter drawn up between the Aircraft Ministry and the Fleet Air Arm at the time that the Churchill Ministry was formed, and that is the charter which operates at the present time. Under that charter the Fleet Air Arm has full relationship with the Aircraft Ministry, and is freed altogether from any responsibility to the Air Ministry.

My noble friend spoke of maintenance of spares. The maintenance of the Fleet Air Arm is in charge of the Admiralty, and it is most wonderfully well done—I think an example to other Services. Furthermore, as late as December, 1940, the Fleet Air Arm declared that they were in possession of all the spares they required. I must say at once I do not take the pessimistic view of the Fleet Air Arm equipment that my noble friend has presented to the House. I would ask the distinguished industrialists in this House to bear me out when I say that the aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm and all other types of aircraft depend for quality on the firms producing them. That, I believe, will be borne out by every industrialist in this House. Beginning with the design of the aircraft, the responsibility of the firm prevails there. The work of the firm is almost invariably a private venture; the design is a private venture, put forward by private enterprise, by private capital. The individual responsibility for the design of the aircraft and for the development of it prevails completely, not only in the Spitfire, which was designed by Mitchell and produced by Vickers-Supermarine, but in the Hurricane, designed by Camm and produced by Hawker. In fact, raw materials were provided for a thousand Hurricanes by the Hawker firm without any order from the Ministry at all. The Hawker firm had to go and get the authority for the ordering of the raw material after the purchases had been made. The same argument applies to the Lancaster and the Mosquito.

In fact, the aeroplane depends on the work of the firm. If there is a good firm there is a good effort, if there is a bad firm almost certainly it will be the reverse. It is true, the Ministry issues the specification, but that specification is sometimes rejected and frequently amended by the firm—usually improved. In the case both of the Spitfire and the Hurricane—those great aeroplanes—the design that was produced by the firm did not at all resemble the specification issued by the Air Ministry, and in fact the relationship was some- thing like the relationship between the landlord on the one hand and the architect and the builder on the other, except that the firm is not only architect but builder too. The Aircraft Ministry is the landlord and has all the rights and the responsibilities of a landlord, but none the less the architecture and the building are carried out by the firm.

As for engine design—as all your Lordships know the engine is the real secret of the aeroplane—engine design is entirely in the hands of the firm. The Ministry has no relation to engine design at all. The great Merlin engine was designed by Hives and he is responsible for it, the Bristol was designed by Sir Roy Fedden, backed up by good men—and I believe the Bristol to be a good company—backed up by White and by Pollard. The Sabre, designed by Holford, is rather different, for special reasons that I will not go into. The designers of the engines and the designers of the aircraft often get together, and they make plans for an aeroplane with a new type of engine. There again, although the Ministry is consulted, and although the Ministry gives advice, the job rests upon the capacity and the industry of the engine firm and the aircraft firm. So that if noble Lords in this House have pressed for the types of aeroplanes that have been in use recently, then first of all they have to press the firm, to press their designers, their managers, and their men. And, though some of your Lordships may not like it, you have to go still further and press their shareholders, because they took great financial risks in producing these types. They took the risk of producing prototypes. The shareholders therefore have to be given some of the credit for the production of the craft that won the Battle of Britain, and for the production of the craft which are bombing Berlin to-day—types that are greatly admired in the United States of America. And here let me say from my experience of the aircraft industry, covering a long time—and I studied it very closely—we have nothing to be ashamed of in Great Britain in regard to the British aircraft industry. There is no superior aircraft industry in the world—I would almost say no rival.

I have been dealing with the design of engines and aircraft. There is then the development—that is, after the design has been accepted by the Aircraft Ministry and the Air Ministry. First there comes the development of the prototype—something which will be useful and worthy in battle. Development depends almost entirely on the firms, and not on the Ministry. It is quite a mistake to suppose that the Ministry is drawing plans and issuing projects. These development projects are in the hands of the factories—in the case of engines, altogether. The increase of the Spitfire's speed—and the Spitfire has improved greatly in speed within the last two years—is due to Vickers-Supermarine—that is where the increase comes from. Why, the Merlin engines lifted the aircraft up, both Spitfire and Hurricane, by another 5,000 feet. Where did that device come from? The first intimation that came to the Ministry of a higher capacity to lift up the Spitfire and the Hurricane by another 5,000 feet came from Hives when he had already accomplished the fact.

You will ask me, What is the Ministry doing? The Ministry does a very great deal. It deals with specifications—admirable work and very important—it supervises equipment, developing guns, and deals with defects in types, projects for improvements in types; and the Ministry's experimental stations are helped from the various Commands. That most splendid figure Sir Hugh Dowding always had plans and schemes for developing aircraft and there was always something to be gained by listening to him. But the best work, of course, in helping the development of aircraft and engines came from the test pilots and the R.A.F. pilots—that was the very best help that could be got and the very wisest advice that could be given. That is what my noble friend Lord Winster called "user experience." But none the less it would be absolutely wrong to say that the drawing board of aircraft or of engines is at the Ministry. The drawing board is not at the Ministry, the drawing board is with the firm.

It would be right to say that the Ministry gives help in design and development. I am only dealing with design and development. Particularly that was the case when my noble friend Lord Brabazon was at the Ministry, because he had a genius for design and development problems—he was much better than anybody else in design and development. But it is quite true that particular firms need much help. That is due to the mushroom growth of the industry. Your Lordships all know the immense way the industry has expanded during the last three or four years. Naturally some firms need help, but in giving these firms help you must not interfere with individualism. You must put responsibility on the individual. If you ever depart from the responsibility of the individual, you would do great harm and wrong to the industry. The Minister should encourage them in everything, in daring, enterprise, and individualism, but particularly individual responsibility. Committees cannot help in that sort of situation. It is no use putting up committees for that sort of business. The duty of the Minister is to place individual responsibility where it belongs, and then try not to give too much worry. If the Minister does give too much worry, then try to counteract it by high spirits. My noble friend Lord Winster will want to know what firms are making Fleet Air Arm types, and whether these firms are good firms or not, whether the Fleet Air Arm gets inferior aeroplanes because it is dealing with firms which are not in the front rank. My noble friend who is speaking for the Ministry to-day should tell us what firms are producing Fleet Air Arm craft, and he should tell us about three new firms which have been brought in during the last eighteen months or two years, making a considerable number of firms all in a position to produce good aeroplanes if the firms are worth while.

When you come to consider the case made by Lord Winster in relation to the Fleet Air Arm you have got to take into account the immense assistance that the Fleet Air Arm got from the American programme. It got splendid assistance. There is the B.P.Y., the Catalina so-called. The Catalina began early in 1940. Many of them, perhaps all, were flown across the Atlantic. The supply of Catalinas has been very considerable. Then there are the Hudsons of Coastal Command. The Hudsons have been coming here in great numbers. I should say there have been as many Hudsons as the Air Ministry could handle. Then there is the Martlet. As to the output of these firms, they were persuaded to give up some aircraft which were going in other directions in order that we might be supplied with essential aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm. Then my noble friend mentioned the dive bomber. I am afraid if he wants an explanation about the dive bomber he will have to consent to a Secret Session. I recommend him to do so because there is an explanation, and an explanation which the Government need have no hesitation in giving to the House in Secret Session. Indeed, for myself, I should think it might be given in Public Session. It has been stated over and over again that the torpedo in our Swordfish, Albatross, and now in the Beaufighter is an 18-inch torpedo. That has been published times without number, and everybody knows that 22 inches is the size of the torpedo used by the Japanese. The torpedo is part of the equipment of the aircraft, and as such it has got nothing to do with the industry.

I pass altogether from design and development and I now discuss production. Production is a very different job. If I may say so, with my experience of it, it depends on drive and decision. That is what makes for production—plenty of drive and swift decisions by the Minister. Furthermore, if an old man may offer some advice to a younger incumbent, do not give the aircraft industry a safe programme. There is a great tendency to hand down a safe programme. It makes the Minister feel good, though that is not the reason for having it. It allows a man to say: "There you are, I have fulfilled my programme, there is no complaint so far as I am concerned, I have got my figures for this week." Do not do that. Give a programme that puts the firms at the stretch. Keep them all out all the time. Give them a programme that will even make bottlenecks, and then let the Minister try to deal with the bottlenecks. There are many ways of dealing with bottlenecks, but with a programme all out, firms at the stretch, and bottlenecks the constant preoccupation of the Minister, trust the firms and watch them.

The best production I ever saw was a job with which the Ministry had nothing to do, nothing at all. It was the production of the Rolls-Royce engines in the United States. It was done by the Pack-hard Company. There was not a single representative of the Ministry there to supervise and only four representatives of the Rolls-Royce firm. The job was most wonderfully done. In no time at all, production had been got under way. The output from that firm is remarkable. The Packhard Rolls-Royce engine is an example to the whole world. There was a very good American aeroplane called the Mustang. The engine of the Mustang was giving good service, but some genius had the idea of putting Rolls-Royce engines into the Mustangs, and the result is a very good aeroplane, one of the best in the world—some people will say the very best. That was the result of this project in America over which the Ministry had no supervision, although the contract was made here by the Minister.

It is imperative that the Ministry should not have too many planners. They are very dangerous people, planners, dangerous to design, development, and production. They sit in committees all day long. They go into session in the early morning, and they are there all day. They have a paper output that is unexampled. I assure your Lordships that no director can read all the paper he gets every day. It is impossible, absolutely impossible. A director is given instructions to produce a weapon, and before he gets down to business he will be compelled to consult some-times as many as ten committees. Please do not think I am blaming my predecessors. I was in it too. I was in the committee business very heavily. He will have to consult, as I say, as many as ten committees sometimes. A director producing weapons will be told to produce a weapon, but before he can do that he has to go to the Raw Materials Committee, and they will say, "Let us sit down and have a good long talk on the use of the weapon," and they do it. Then he goes from the Raw Materials Committee to the Machine Tools Committee. That is a fine committee. There are far more applicants than there are machine tools.

The Machine Tools Committee will first discuss the use of the weapon, then they will discuss the economy in making it, and next they will discuss whether other tools would not do for the purpose. From there he goes to the Factory Buildings Committee. That means another big day. Then he goes to the labour people. That is two big days. In addition to all that there are now the Regional Boards to consult. The poor director who wants to produce a weapon will now have to go also to the Regional Board. From there he must pass on to the Production Minis- try, and there, it may be—I am not sure—he will be passed on to the General Production Committee. I would not be surprised if that were so. I think it quite likely.

There is all this overlapping. These Committees overlap terribly. They discuss day by day and at great length. They raise one inquiry after another and they waste time. Of all the evils that will distress us in the future that is one of the greatest—waste of time. I regard this war organization, this war effort as being upon the basis that it excludes enterprise, initiative and individualism. That is a most menacing thing, but that is what happens under this committee system. We are in danger of reaching a point where war organization may become something bigger than the war itself. The men engaged in making war are far less in number than those engaged in making the machinery of war. The soldiers in battle are a mere handful compared with those who are organizing the fighting front. I am not making an attack on Ministers, I am making an attack upon the system. Its abuses are flagrant and should be firmly dealt with. I do not deny that there must be organization in war; not at all. A framework is needed in which a decision can be implemented. The trouble comes when the time arrives that there is over-organization.

Errors are only made manifest after many months of war. They are being made manifest now. Ministers try very hard to stop the growth of Ministries. They want public opinion behind them. These big Ministries mean that delays are long drawn out and decisions are postponed, and the elements of procrastination that ensue result in wicked loss of time. I have seen it over and over again. The art of war is, and always has been, the art of dealing with the unexpected. It depends upon the capacity for expediency, the power of organization and the willingness of each one of us to do what we can, untrammelled by the fear of doing wrong. The fear of doing wrong holds up many a man from doing what he ought to do. It has been well said that surprise shortens war. The improvisation of victory in war depends upon human passions. The will to win is the continuing and determining purpose of a nation bent upon a holy cause, and you will never reach this emotional condition until you give to the organization of war the strength and resources of a great purpose.

We must beware lest individualism becomes paralysed by the organization for war. If we allow that to occur we shall have delays and indecisions and we shall move and think in a world of shadow. My conviction is that the Government are alive to these dangers and can be trusted to keep the lamp burning. It is my belief that our people should be aroused to the growing dangers—the dangers, I mean, of government by committee and the destruction of individualism. There is, I believe, even now, on account of the great superstructure of committees and co-ordinating agencies, something that is obscuring the main purpose and the principal object of our lives. The setting up of a new committee is the panacea for every ill. Every time there is difficulty or trouble there is set up a fresh Ministry, or a fresh committee, or a fresh co-ordinating body. As each fresh problem confronts our nation the machinery of a new committee is resorted to. Urgency is no longer obtainable under such conditions. Anxious spirits wishing to make progress towards the ultimate purpose that we have in view are always frowned upon and damped down. For this state of things I believe the public is very largely to blame. They have a passion for plans. They want a blue print of plans for victory. It is plans, plans, plans everywhere; and finally, as the war organization becomes complete, it also becomes rigid, and wars are not won by such rigidity.


My Lords, I recognize the services of the noble Lord who has put down the Motion we are discussing, and in the few remarks I have to offer I want to say them with all fairness and with the sole object of helping to quicken the victory and minimize our casualties. We have learnt many bitter lessons in this war, we have learnt how ignorance has caused very heavy set-backs. I am not going to attempt to follow the noble Lord in the amazing speech to which we have just listened. It struck me that if it meant anything it was made with the idea of showing that no organization was of any use, and also of showing that there was nothing wrong with the Fleet Air Arm or any other part of our production.

I am in sympathy with the Motion which has been put down, and with many of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Winster, made, but not with all of them. To me the terms of his original Motion were a little obscure. He asked if the policy of His Majesty's Government was that "the nation should make every possible effort to see that the Fleet Air Arm is equipped with the most modern planes we can get for them." That goes without saying. The short answer to that question is "Yes." The noble Lord took the words from the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty on the 13th January at a club in London. Such speeches we have heard before. We all want the best of everything; the Government, the nation and the troops who use the weapons all want the best. Unfortunately, as everybody knows, the best is always changing, especially so far as the air is concerned. One knows quite well that the change to a better type of aircraft, or anything else for that matter, slows up production. It takes some months, sometimes years, to produce anything new in sufficient quantities to make its weight felt in battle. In fact, it is a well-known saying amongst airmen that directly any force or squadron is finished being equipped with the latest machine, that machine is already out-of-date. That was so in the last war, it is so in this, and it will be so for many years yet.

Therefore the noble Lord's real question in his Motion is priority. But before I come to that I would like to say that I agree that the Fleet Air Arm has been let down, to put it mildly. As the First Lord has told the country in the speech which has been mentioned, and as we have heard from the last two speakers and from other sources, the types of machines used in the Fleet Air Arm are of old design and, although good at the time they were produced, are now out of date. If replacements are not coming forward either in types or in numbers adequate for Fleet Air Arm requirements that is entirely a matter for the Admiralty, and failure to provide the right type of aircraft is their direct responsiblity. As far as I know, such progress as has been made has been to take existing Royal Air Force types of aircraft, modify them for the Fleet Air Arm and develop them along those lines. That is bound to be slow and can only be a compromise. But I rather feel that the object of the speech I have already referred to of the First Lord was really to try to throw the blame on either the Air Ministry or the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Neither of them, in my opinion, is to blame.

Is it altogether a question of the age of the machines with which the Fleet Air Arm is equipped? Is it not more a question of the type of machine? In considering age you have to remember the Swordfish. That I believe was a design often altered and therefore a newer type than the Wellington, which is still doing effective service. I do not think age has so much to do with it. In the past (and it may be so even now at the present day) the Admiralty stated the requirements of the Fleet Air Arm. They have done so since 1923. The Admiralty say what are the characteristics they require, what the aircraft are required to do and what disadvantage in design they would accept in order to get the advantages that they require. That is a very important point. The fact is that the requirements which the Admiralty laid down have produced aircraft which have failed to stand the tests of war. In other words, requirements were formulated from a sailor's point of view and not from an airman's point of view. It may be true that the young officers of the Fleet Air Arm prepared the initial draft of what were required, but I wonder very much if that was sufficient to overcome the predominant sailor's bias in design, remembering as I do all that went on in the last war. I feel that the Admiralty could not be persuaded that the real fighting would take place in the air and not on the sea. Secondly, I feel that the Admiralty always considered that their aircraft were going to be used against carrier-borne aircraft, and would not measure them against shore-based aircraft. They asked for their aircraft for sea warfare outside the range of shore-based aircraft, although in modern history no sea battle has ever taken place outside the range of shore-based aircraft.


May I interrupt the noble Viscount? When he makes that statement does he remember a battle which could not have taken place 100 miles from the shore, off the coast of Chile, which has a coastline of 2,500 miles? Where would you have your aerodromes?


I am not sure that I heard the noble Earl correctly but there was no aircraft used on either side if I heard aright. I would emphasize as strongly as possible that when the Fleet Air Arm left the Royal Air Force in 1937 the responsibility for designing Fleet Air Arm aircraft became entirely an Admiralty affair. I believe it to be true that the Admiralty selected their own manufacturers—I am not certain of that—and I should be surprised if they were not given all the priority for which they asked in the production of aircraft. In any event, if they felt that they were not getting sufficient priority they could have laid their case before the Government. If they failed to do so it was entirely their fault. What I have said about design and out-of-dateness is what I expected when the great mistake was made—the only great mistake I can see that the Air Ministry has made—when in 1937 the Fleet Air Arm was broken off from the Royal Air Force and handed over to the complete control and organization of the Admiralty. It is probably true to say that it was the decision of the Government on the demand of the Admiralty. After experience in the last war one knew what would happen, and it has happened.

Just before and during the last war the Royal Naval Air Service was formed and organized after a terrific struggle with the Admiralty. That struggle was carried out with great pertinacity by that great Admiral, Sir Murray Sueter, and a body of devoted airmen who believed in the air. I want to say to-day that the body of airmen who fly the Fleet Air Arm are just as keen as in the last war. They are magnificent. Their work at Taranto, their work with the Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean and elsewhere has shown what they will do if properly equipped, but I sometimes wonder what they must think when they see statements such as those made this afternoon and the statement made in the speech I have referred to. The Admiralty were opposed to the ideas of their naval airmen in those days and they have been opposed to them ever since. They have never understood air and, though they now realize the importance of the Fleet Air Arm, they still have no conception of air war. How can they? How many of them have ever flown? Very few. I am glad to see the changes made recently in the Admiralty. They will help enormously. Another point I would like to make refers to the torpedo machine. The Admiralty did not believe that torpedo machines could operate against ships. They did not think torpedo machines could live against the anti-aircraft guns on the ships. It was openly said twelve years ago and repeated just before this war that the modern capital ship had nothing to fear from aircraft. The backwardness of the Fleet Air Arm machines is undoubtedly due to this type of mind which persisted until 1940–41. In fact, demonstrations used to be given to certain people to show how wonderful the anti-aircraft defence by the pom-poms was on the ship. They scoffed at torpedo machines, but the Royal Air Force realized the value of them, and kept them going all those long years down to 1937, as will be seen from the Swordfish of those days, which is still having to be used to-day. Directly the Fleet Air Arm was handed over, was any real effort made by the Admiralty? In the days when I was at the Air Ministry, before 1930, and when the Fleet Air Arm was under the Air Ministry for training, we used to Practise with torpedo machines and dive bombing—not dive bombers—on various targets. I wonder whether these practices were carried out after the Admiralty became responsible. I hope that they were.

Even now I think that the Admiralty outlook is not "How shall we use the air to the best advantage?" but "How shall we restore the capital ship to its supremacy by the use of the air?" I should therefore have liked to move an Amendment to the noble Lord's Motion, to the effect that the best way of making certain that the Fleet Air Arm was properly equipped was for it to be taken over by the Royal Air Force, who have the knowledge to re-establish this branch of the Service on a sound footing. Why not let the Royal Air Force run the air side of this war on an air plan, with the Royal Navy co-operating? We ought, surely, to begin to recognize the importance of the air in modern war. I would add that the difference between an air plan and a sea plan is the difference between the "Bismarck" and the Catalina flying boat or the Lancaster bomber. The aeroplane is still under thirty years old. Developments are rapid. Is it not time to recognize the position and let the air be developed as one service, when it will always be better served and more up to date than if it is divided into different parcels.


My Lords, it is with considerable diffidence that I venture to speak within a few hours of entering your Lordships' House, but the subject of the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, is of such intense interest to me, and so intimately connected with the ability of the Navy to fulfil its world-wide obligations, that I trust that your Lordships will bear with me for a few minutes and accord to me the generosity that you generally give to a maiden speech. I must confess that when I first made up my mind to speak on this Motion I intended to make quite a different speech. I certainly do not intend to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, in his somewhat controversial utterance, but I hope that there will be other opportunities of dealing with the recommendations he has made to-day and with the letters and articles which he has published in the Press.

I want to try to put an end to this inter-Service controversy and to make the public realize, and your Lordships realize, the vital importance to the Navy of being left free to develop its naval aviation. I would remind your Lordships that at the end of the last war, in 1918, the Navy had an immense Naval Air Service, consisting of about 55,000 men and something like 2,500 machines. I happened by good fortune to inherit an Air Force of some fifteen squadrons. They were a unique unit, the most up-to-date and powerful unit of their kind in the whole world. They possessed the heavy night bombers which were the envy of the Royal Flying Corps; they possessed the best fighters in the world, and powerful day bombers as well. The reconnaissance craft used photographic apparatus which was designed by my ingenious predecessor, and they were 200 to 300 per cent. ahead of anything else in existence at the time. All that was swept away when the Royal Air Force was born.

When I went to sea immediately after the war, I commanded a Battle Cruiser Squadron, and each of my battle cruisers had its own fighter. The Service was becoming air-minded. The young fighter pilot was a member of the mess, and everybody was intensely interested in what we called "our fighter pup." When I left the sea two years later we had no Naval Air Service; there was not such a thing as a Naval Air Service. There was the Argos carrier, but naval officers were not allowed to fly unless they joined the Royal Air Force; naval officers were not allowed to fly as observers. An Admiral was dependent for his reconnaissance, on which the very life of his fleet depended, on some R.A.F. observer, and even the fire was directed by an R.A.F. observer.

When I came ashore I went to the Admiralty, and I was there for four years. I must say that I agree that the Navy as a whole was not really very air-minded, but I was air-minded. I flew as early as 1912. I few in an old machine, sitting in a kitchen chair tied to the struts with my arms round the waist of the pilot, looking for submarines, and I can tell you that it is exceedingly difficult to see a submarine from the air. In 1914, when I was in command of the submarine service, I flew to see at the value of air reconnaissance was against submerged submarines. I remember a day on which the present Prime Minister flew with me. In home waters we came to the conclusion that it was almost impossible to see a submerged submarine in the North Sea, unless the sea was perfectly calm and the periscope was up, making a feather. When I was Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, I had the most exhaustive trials carried out to find out what could be seen from the air and how best to paint the submarines so as to make them immune from air observation. It was almost impossible, even in the clear waters of the Mediterranean, to see a submerged submarine unless the water was smooth and the periscope was up.

When I went to the Admiralty I convinced the First Sea Lord of that day, Lord Beatty, of the vital importance of restoring our Naval Air Service. I went with him to 10 Downing Street, to a meeting presided ever by Mr. Lloyd George, and we demanded an impartial inquiry. Mr. Lloyd George promised us an impartial inquiry. The House was just going to rise for the autumn Recess. Unfortunately for the Navy, Mr. Lloyd George was unshipped, and that inquiry never took place. It never has taken place; there has never been an impartial inquiry. There have been several political inquiries and compromises, but there has never been a really impartial inquiry.

What I want to say to-day is this. Let us wipe out this controversy. What is the good of writing articles in newspapers and making speeches here about the past? I was provoked into saying that. It is of absolutely vital importance to this Empire of ours that the Navy should be properly equipped with all the aircraft that it needs to fulfil its great responsibilities, whether these aircraft are carried in ships or based on convenient shore bases within reach of our sea routes, whether their undercarriages are floats, wheels or boats. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said it was entirely the Admiralty's fault that we were so ill-equipped. I hold no brief for the Admiralty since I left it. After the so-called Balfour Committee had made its recommendations, which to my mind would have crippled the development of naval aviation, I took to Lord Beatty a paper—I have never said this before—signed by every Sea Lord, including Lord Chatfield, Sir Frederick Field, and Admiral Oliver, now Admiral of the Fleet, to tell the Prime Minister that he must find other naval advisers unless the Admiralty were allowed to develop all the naval aviation that was considered necessary. Beatty said to me: "You know that is rather strong. We are told there is not going to be a war for ten years." He added: "Now what do you consider absolutely essential? because I think that is going rather far." In the light of what has happened since I think we ought to have done it.

At that time I was in charge of our efforts to get naval aviation and I said there were three essential things. One thing was that all the money which was spent on naval aviation should go on the Navy vote. That would enable us to see that he who paid the piper should call the tune. If we wanted more aircraft we should be prepared, if the Treasury would not give us enough money, to give up a cruiser or something of that sort. Another thing, though it seems a small point, was that the naval officers who were to join the Fleet Air Arm should be allowed to continue to wear naval uniform. And the third point was that an arrangement which so absolutely struck across the fundamental principles of administration and command in war should only be regarded as an experiment.

Well, Beatty wrote that letter. I do not know if the letter is still in existence, but it is indelibly printed on my mind, and it ended by saying to the Prime Minister: "Unless you are prepared to make these three concessions you must find other naval advisers." Mr. Baldwin was Prime Minister at that time. His speech was something to this effect: "His Majesty's Government have decided to implement the Balfour Committee's recommendations and then there are three amendments we propose to make. It hardly seems fair to ask naval officers to wear Air Force uniform; and, of course, as the Admiralty are responsible for the strength of the Fleet it is only right that the cost of aviation for the Navy should fall on the Navy vote." And, thirdly, he said, using the words that Beatty wrote, this must be regarded as an experiment. I, reminded him of that years later and he said: "Let sleeping dogs lie." It was a long time before the Committee's Report was implemented. It was only implemented thanks to my noble friend Lord Trenchard and to myself who sat for about three months under the presidency of Lord Haldane and it was known as the Keyes-Trenchard Agreement. That agreement covered the relations, most friendly and amicable, between the Air Force and the Navy for the next fifteen years.

But naval aviation was not developed. My noble friend Lord Trenchard said: "It is all the Admiralty's fault." Well, perhaps. Perhaps if we had had different Boards of Admiralty, and had had on the Boards of Admiralty a number of young officers who agreed with me and foresaw that naval aviation would be of vital importance to the Navy in war, things might have been different. I have appealed to every conceivable person to help in this matter, including various Prime Ministers. Mr. Chamberlain wrote to me on the eve of making his announcement that the Fleet Air Arm was about to be handed over to the Navy. He said: "I hope you will now be satisfied and that this will put an end to the eighteen-year-old controversy in which you have played such a vigorous part."

Well, I did not know that this announcement was going to be made. It was the end of the Session and I happened to be at Goodwood and did not hear it, but I was very distressed when I read in the papers that the Government had actually contemplated putting the Coastal Command under the Navy, but had decided to leave it under the Air Force. If they had put the Coastal Command under the Navy five or ten years before the war, would the Navy that built up that magnificent Air Force in the last war have had to go to America for its Catalinas and Hudsons? Would the Fleet Air Arm have been so utterly inadequately equipped? I did not believe it for a moment. The Navy would have been as air-minded as the American Navy is and as air-minded as the Japanese Navy is. Well, thank God the United States Navy is better equipped and better fitted out with air power than the Japanese Navy, and will be of help in restoring the situation in the Far East with its splendid military and naval air force. Military and naval aviation in America has been developed to the full. What a relief that has been to the Australians and New Zealanders. The United States Naval Air Service has provided us with many types of naval machines that we lack.

My noble friend Lord Trenchard says it is all the Admiralty's fault. Well, it may be. I hold no brief for the Admiralty; but if the Navy had been allowed to develop its aviation and had not been deprived of it in 1918, we should have been in a very different position to-day. Now let us wipe out what is past and start afresh. I have made appeals to all sorts of people, to Prime Ministers, Secretaries of State for Air, Chiefs of the Air Staff, and First Lords of the Admiralty. I am going to make one appeal to my noble friend Lord Sherwood who represents the Air Ministry in this House. We have often crossed swords in another place. As he knows, I have been steadfast in this quest and my quest is to see that the Navy is properly equipped with all the aircraft it needs to fulfil its great responsibility. If your Lordships will help in that quest you will deserve well of the country.


My Lords, my first duty is to congratulate my noble friend Lord Keyes on his intervention in this debate. We are pleased to see that he is faithful to his habit. He starts by closing with the enemy and lets off his broadside as soon as he has an opportunity.

I will not at this late hour go into the extremely interesting and in some respects technical suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, and his plea for individualism. It appeals to me in a great many respects and I am sure the Government are not unsympathetic. We have frequently asked that Committees should be suppressed, but naturally there is a limit if we are to avoid confusion. It is the usual story of trying to find the best compromise between anarchy and totalitarianism and I am sure the Government are not anxious to weight the balance on the side of totalitarianism.


The noble Lord is putting a perfectly false interpretation on the speech made by me.


I have no desire to put any false interpretation on a speech of the noble Lord and I hope the noble Lord will not think I am making any attack on him.


You are misrepresenting me, deliberately misrepresenting me.


I think not, certainly not deliberately. I understood the noble Lord to make an attack on the committee system. We all know that committees are apt to proliferate, and when they proliferate they do harm. On the other hand, there is a happy mean, and I am only trying to reassure toe noble Lord that the Government are anxious to find that happy mean. Whether they have been successful so far or not, that is the intention and desire.

The noble Lord who moved the Motion spoke with his usual eloquence and clarity, but with a little less than his usual acerbity. He so far forgot himself as to suggest that the Government were like the curate's egg. I hope he will not find he has struck one of the worst parts. He said he agreed with what had been said by the Minister of Aircraft Production, and in that case we have no complaints to make. He criticized the provision made for the Fleet Air Arm, saying that we began the war with a lot of old-fashioned out-of-date machines. That, of course, is an attack upon the pre-war Government, upon whoever was responsible at that time. He asked one or two particular questions which I should like to answer. He asked whether there was close liaison between the Navy and the Ministry of Aircraft Production. I understand that a high naval officer is a member of the Aircraft Supply Board, and the close connexion he sought between the Third and Fifth Sea Lords is established by the fact that they are both members of the Board of Admiralty.

The point he really objected to was that the Fleet Air Arm machines were, in his opinion, out of date. That is the same point as Lord Trenchard made. To a certain extent every machine in the Service is bound to be out of date. I do not know whether noble Lords realize the impossibility of changing the type of machines quickly. In the Fleet Air Arm we have special difficulties. We have machines that have to fly from small floating aerodromes, with restricted hangars and special lifts to the flight deck. That restricts you as regards the type of machine, and it also restricts you as regards the type of carrier you can use. On the one side, you have to meet the demands of the sailors for an efficient ship, a ship to sail long distances and with the requisite speed; it must be sea-worthy, it must be defensible, and it must be possible to make it without the consumption of too many man-hours. On the other side you have the requirement that the aeroplanes flown from it should be suitable for the purpose in view. Obviously, as in all engineering problems, you have to compromise. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, objected that the types used were hybrid. They must be hybrid up to a point, for if you have only a restricted hangar space, you cannot have every conceivable type of machine. There has therefore been a tendency to make dual-purpose machines. If you operated near your base, you could go in and change the type when you wished, but if you have a Fleet that must operate all over the world you have to carry on the carriers all the types of machines needed. That has led to this tendency to make hybrid machines.

The noble Lord gave as his special example of the horrible nature of the neglect of the Fleet Air Arm, the fact that the Seafire was brought into service only in the fourth year of war. In the early part of the war it was held that we must have two-seater fighters, for one reason because we wanted to operate over great ranges and, for the other, because it would be impossible for the fighter to find the carrier and "home" on it in the ordinary way. It is only more recent developments which have made it possible for the fighter to find its way home, and make it reasonable to have single-seater fighters operating from carriers. Land machines were adapted for this purpose. It was held in the early days that this would not do because in certain parts of the world they would not be the most suitable type of machine for the job. The type of war determines the type of carrier, and the type of tactics determines the type of aeroplane. With changing methods, all these may change. The varying circumstances of the war may change strategy, and new developments may change tactics, thus enabling us to use a type of machine not practicable before.

Few people, however, seem to recognize the difficulty in changing from one type of machine to another. Many seem to think—though noble Lords, I am sure, are not so misguided—that one has merely to get out a specification of the type of machine, its speed, lift, and range, and then get someone to make it as one would make a pair of boots. This is not at all true. In the first place the type of machine required has to be settled. Then the designer has to consider the layout of the whole thing—what engine he shall use, what sort of structure he shall build, and, above all, the aero-dynamic aspects. Aero-dynamics is not an exact science. It is much easier to design an electrical machine to do what you want than it is to design an aeroplane. It is not possible to work out on first principles what will be the drag even on surfaces which are, mathematically speaking, of the simplest kind—such as a sphere or a round flat disc like a plate. All you can do is to make models and test them in a wind channel. From the model you extrapolate to the greater size of the real thing, taking into account all the various factors involved, and hope the result will turn out the way you want. To a great extent it does.

The whole efficiency of an aeroplane, however, depends on the stream-line flow over it, and any small excrescence is apt to destroy this flow. You get factors like interference between the body and the wings which cannot be predicted at all. The efficiency of the rudder, the efficiency of the ailerons—all these factors can only he tried out experimentally. The model is inadequate to show exactly what is to be expected. In peace-time all this was quite simple. Full-scale models were models, all the necessary alterations and variations were tried out, and the machine was then ordered or not, according to the result. In war-time this lengthy procedure had not been feasible. We have had to order almost entirely—even shortly before the war—off the drawing board. If you order a machine off the drawing board, you may be lucky or not. It may fulfil your hopes without any teething troubles, and the machine can go into production and come into service in the time predicted; but even then the time in, which you can hope to get a machine is much longer than some people think. Some six months are required to get the general lay-out, and then probably over a year to get the drawings. Many thousand drawings are required even for a small aircraft.

It cannot be said that they might be subdivided and spread out over a large staff, because the whole thing is a unitary conception. They must be supervised and looked after by one man or, at most, very few men. Consequently to make even these drawings takes a good deal over a year. Meantime, no doubt tooling tin is going on and other things being done, and if we are very lucky we may get the machine in production in two and a half or three years. The result is that at this period of the war one cannot expect to have any considerable number of machines in service that were first ordered since the war. Even machines ordered in 1939 or so are only just coming through. As Lord Trenchard has said, the Wellington is very much older than any of these Fleet Air Arm types, and the big bombers which are only now really becoming normal service equipment were ordered before the war. The designing of an aeroplane is more an art than a science.


No, that is not the case.


I always bow to the noble Lord because he has great experience of this matter, but I think if he asked the designers they would certainly say that you cannot promise anything accurately in advance about the performance of a machine or about the time at which it may go into production. These difficulties are accentuated in the case of the Fleet Air Arm. In the case of the Fleet Air Arm the pilot has to land on the deck, and for this purpose you. must have a low landing speed; you must have a light loading; you only have a certain deck surface, and that deck surface cannot be made of sufficient dimensions if you increase the speed of landing too much.


How about the Hurricane landing on a deck? That is not a slow-landing machine.


The Hurricane has some very special features—but I am speaking generally, not about individual machines. You cannot increase your span too much because of the lifts and the limited space available. You have therefore to use wing sections which are not normal in land machines, and consequently it is more difficult than ever to predict exactly what will happen to the air stream and at the tail and all the rest of it. The structural problems, of course, are fairly well known, but even there, when we have to fold the wings back the difficulties increase and all the design difficulties, which are hard enough in any aeroplane, are increased. The noble Lord spoke about Hurricanes. I was speaking about weight-carrying machines. If you have a small single-seater fighter the difficulties are not so acute because there, the weight being small, the wings can be small, and you need not have these abnormal wing-sections. Moreover, the arrester gear will be more effective. I suggest that it is not possible to have completely up-to-date machines. Of course this is very galling for the pilots and for those who use the machines. In every Service in which there is any progress they see some new and better weapons coming along and of course they all wish to have them. Moreover, they quite naturally feel that their Service is more important than any other and ought to have priority.

The priority of the Fleet Air Arm, as the noble Lord said, has never been in question. I think that at the moment, of five machines which have highest priority three are Fleet Air Arm machines; consequently I do not think any objection can be raised against the action of the Government in this regard. As to the number of machines available, of course there have been difficulties and certain machines have not come through as fast as we might have hoped. Again we have relied very largely upon the United States, and although they have given us wonderful help, when they entered the war it was obvious that readjustments must be made in their programmes. These matters, I think, have now been cleared up by the visit of the Minister of Production to Washington, and I hope we can now build upon the future in this respect with confidence. I do not think that the gloomy picture painted by the noble Lord who moved ibis Motion is altogether justified when we consider what the Fleet Air Arm has done—the enormous successes it has scored in many fields, in home waters, in Norway, in the Mediterranean at Taranto and elsewhere, in the sinking of the "Bismarck," the Malta convoys, the Russian convoys and in the Indian ocean.

In view of all this I do not think it is right to suggest that the Fleet Air Arm is grossly ill-equipped. There is no real reason in my view to apologize for it. Thirty-six enemy warships have been sunk or damaged, and I think that in the Mediterranean alone something like half a million tons of Axis merchant shipping have been sunk. With this record behind it there is no reason to say that the Fleet Air Arm is badly treated. It is quite true that the Government, just as much as the noble Lord, would desire to give the best aeroplanes possible to the Fleet Air Arm and as many as possible, but there are physical limitations and nothing that can be done about those. Every possible effort is made to diminish the time taken in getting new types into use and all possible drive is put behind increasing production. I do not think there is any reason to suppose that it was to inadequate efforts on the part of the Government that any of the complaints to which the noble Lord drew attention are due.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Winster, replies, I should like to make one observation and that is that I think this debate is a year too late. A year ago there was a definite feeling among officers and pilots of the Fleet Air Arm that they had had rather a raw deal, and were not getting the aircraft which they deserved. But going about as I do amongst these airmen I believe that everything possible is now being done to give them the very best. That is realized in the Service. Therefore I am sorry that this Motion, if raised at all, should have been raised to-day instead of very much earlier.


My Lords, the debate has gone on so, long that I am sorry to say it has prevented by noble friend Lord Sempill from intervening and in what I have to say I shall be extremely brief. It was of particular interest to me to hear what Lord Beaverbrook said upon this subject of which he has such very intimate knowledge. Indeed, I should like to say at once that I have never heard that the noble Lord was anything but a good friend to the Fleet Air Arm; but when he was sent to the Ministry of Aircraft Production it was to produce Spitfires for the Battle of Britain, which the noble Lord most certainly did. Nevertheless, in spite of that preoccupation, I believe he was always helpful and sympathetic to the needs of the Fleet Air Arm. I gather from the noble Lord's remarks that, wherever lies the blame for the shortage of equipment to the Fleet Air Arm, he does not consider that it lies either with the Ministry of Aircraft Production or with the firms who, he said, will produce good types if they are given the chance to do so. But one would like to know what good types have been produced for the Fleet Air Arm during the past four or six years.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Keyes, who made such an interesting contribution to the debate to which I listened with much interest, spoke of the desirability of avoiding inter-Service controversy and of the necessity for wiping out the past. I fully agree. I tried to avoid history in my speech, but I would point out that the way to avoid controversy and to wipe out the past is to cease referring to it. If every one adheres to that simple rule it will have the desired effect. I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, for the kindness with which he replied to many points which I put to him, but in spite of what the noble Lord said I hope that reorganization of the naval end of the Ministry of Aircraft Production will be considered. The noble Lord seemed to suggest that machines must always be out of date; that that is inevitable in the conditions of service. I do not think that explains why the Fleet Air Arm has only got the Seafire now when the Royal Air Force had the Spitfire before the war.


It was because they originally said that they wanted two-seaters and could not use single seaters.


I appreciate that point, but were no new fighters designed or under development for the Fleet Air Arm at all, either single or two seater? I will not press that point because it is about types.


Single-seaters were not put into production early because they did not at that time want to have them. Now that they are agreeable to single-seater fighters they have the Sea-fire.


No efficient two-seater was evolved at the time when they wanted a two-seater fighter; that seems to be the effect of what the noble Lord said. As regards restrictions which aircraft carriers impose, while I quite agree that great restrictions are imposed it does seem that there has been a tendency to design aircraft to fit the carrier instead of carriers to fit the aircraft. I think the noble Lord will agree that some types were altogether too much "all-purpose." It will be interesting to know what machines for the Fleet Air Arm were ordered off the drawing board. I agree that it takes two and a half years to get a new type into production, but it seems to me to show what penalties are paid for lack of foresight in the past and lack of the right ideas. The noble Lord's remarks merely emphasize those penalties. In fact, I think that the noble Lord's speech really consisted of a repetition of the word "difficulties." There were difficulties here, difficulties there, difficulties elsewhere. Apparently none of these difficulties have been overcome.

I think I must conclude by asking the noble Lord a question. If, as he has told us, things were really not quite so bad, that really people had not done so badly, that the Fleet Air Arm is not so badly off, why did the First Lord of the Admiralty utter that cri de coeur: Will the nation—not the Minister of Aircraft Production—help the Fleet Air Arm to get the right aircraft? He had been to every door and failed to get what he wanted. Nobody will help him, so at last he turns to the nation. I am not going to apologize for what I have said when I have the authority of the First Lord of the Admiralty. As to the last speaker I would assure him that the pilots will be deeply grateful to him for having so correctly represented their views about the aircraft which they have to fly. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.