§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £196,000, 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, 1914, for Additional Expenditure in respect of the following Army Services, namely:—
|Vote 1. Pay, etc., of the Army
|Vote 6. Quartering, Transport, and Remounts
|Vote 7. Supplies and Clothing
|Vote 9. Armaments, Aviation, and Engineer Stores
The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR Colonel Seely)
This Supplementary Vote is rendered necessary by two main causes, the first being the retention of Indian troops in China, and the second being necessary additions to the military aeronautical service. With regard to the troops in China, there are now about 2,300 native 1792 Indian troops stationed in Hong Kong. Their presence there has been rendered necessary by the disturbed situation in China, and, although we had hoped to withdraw them earlier, and therefore did not budget for them remaining there during the whole year, as events proved we were not able to take that step in consonance with the public interest, and, therefore, I am obliged to ask the House to vote this Supplementary sum rendered necessary for their retention. I hope and believe that the retention of those troops whose pay and provision naturally' fall upon Indian funds, except when they are in China for Imperial purposes, when it falls on our fund, will not be much longer necessary. My right hon. Friend the, Foreign Secretary agrees that we may make arrangements to withdraw them if nothing unforeseen occurs in April next. I shall be glad to give any explanation of this item later on in the Debate, but I do not know that the Committee would wish for more information about it at present.
§ Colonel SEELY
This Supplementary sum carries us on to the commencement of the next financial year. We had hoped to withdraw them earlier, but in point of fact, they are carried on until the beginning of the next financial year, the 31st of March. With regard to the other item, that for aeronautics, I am asking for a considerable sum, and the Committee may well ask me to justify such under-budgetting with regard to this Service. So rapidly is the science advancing, that I do not believe it is possible to forecast what your demands may be. I believe that every other country which is interested in military aeronautics has found it necessary to snake further provision owing to the growth of knowledge of aeronautics, and we have followed suit, and for similar reasons. But there is one reason for this increased Vote which does not apply to other countries, and that is the transfer of the Airship Squadron of the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps to the Navy. The Committee may ask how does the transfer of military airships from the Army to the Navy involve a Supplementary Vote for the Army, as one would naturally think the contrary would be the case. The reason is as follows: For the purpose of transfer the airships themselves and their hydrogen - producing plant and so forth were valued at a sum 1793 of £65,000, but, of course, no actual cash transfer takes place when a transfer of this kind is made between one Government. Department and another, but it would not have been proper for me, having obtained the sanction of the House of Commons to eight squadrons for our aeronautical service, to reduce that number to seven. Therefore orders were given to put in place of the Airship Squadron a squadron of aeroplanes which, for reasons I will give in a moment, are considered more suitable for Army purposes and Army administration and management.
I therefore gave orders for the immediate provision of the necessary aeroplanes when the transfer was effected. Those aeroplanes are of special type and designed for a special purpose. They are being constructed at the Royal Aircraft Factory, and they will shortly be ready. There will be three types of them, which I think will be of value to the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps. The reason why we decided to transfer the airships from the Military to the Navy Wing was as follows: In the progress of aeronautics it became apparent that so long as airships were required we must have, not only more airships for the United Kingdom, but larger airships. Our military airships are remarkably efficient for their size, but as the science progressed it became apparent that we undoubtedly were at a disadvantage, for various technical reasons, owing to the great growth of the size of other airships. The question then was, Should both Departments, the Navy and the Army, take on this formidable business of increasing our lighter-than-air craft, or should it be done by one Department? It seems to us quite clear—and I am quite sure that the decision was right—in a matter of this kind, where you have one service, it is much better, if it is possible, to arrange to have it managed by one Department. That being decided, the question was which of the two Departments should manage our airship service. It seemed to me, and to those whom I consulted, that without doubt it was more akin to the Navy to navigate great air-ships than to the Army. This does not mean in the least degree that our military officers had shown themselves incapable of managing our airships, for the exact contrary is the case, since, whatever view may have been held with regard to the inadequate number we have had, I think there has been general agreement that the re- 1794 cord of our military officers who navigated our airships is a remarkable record both as to skilful navigation in the most difficult country that there is for aerial navigation, namely, this country, and also for the quite astonishing absence of serious accident either to the men or to the balloons themselves.
This has been recognised by the First Lord of the Admiralty in that he has given posts of great importance and responsibility in the aeronautical airship service to those officers of the Military Wing who have been transferred to the Navy Wing; nor does it mean that the Army has finally decided that it does not require airships at all. That- may well be the conclusion in the years to come, but it is not the final conclusion now. The difficulties of providing airships for an Expeditionary Army like ours, which must needs cross the sea except for purposes of home defence, are very great, but are not perhaps insurmountable. Therefore what this means is that the Navy will hold at the disposal of the War Office -such number of airships, if any, and of such character as it may be decided that the Army requires for military purposes. I do not think that I need add anything further to this question of the transfer of the military airships to the Navy Wing of the Royal Flying Corps from the Military Wing. I do believe that this division of functions will tend greatly to efficiency. The Army now is devoting, and will continue to devote, its whole efforts to the heavier-than-air service. I may be asked what is this division of functions. No such statement can, of course, be final, but, as at present advised, the Government are of opinion that the proper division should be as follows: The Navy Wing of the Royal Flying Corps should be responsible for the whole of the lighter-than-air, that is the Airship Service, the Military Wing should be responsible for the whole of the heavier-than-air, that is to say, the Aeroplane Service, with the exception of the seaplanes, which seem to be more suitable to the Navy. Those seaplanes will be specially designed to operate in conjunction with ships, and in the neighbourhood of naval bases and naval forts, and for naval purposes which can be best described by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, as I anticipate, will be obliged to come to the Committee for a Supplementary sum for the Air Service for his Department also.
1795 That seaplanes can play a great part in naval warfare there can be no doubt. For the present, the Army has the larger part by far of the heavier-than-air service, and some 'will say that it is the easier task, in that the problem of the seaplane is one of immense difficulty. Without saying anything to trench on the Department of my right hon. Friend, speaking as the Chairman of the, Air Committee, which has under its supervision both.Services, I think it is almost certain that we are ahead of all other nations in our development of seaplanes. The next reason, and there are four, for this supplementary sum is that we have found it necessary greatly to increase the number of spare parts. The third reason is that we have found it necessary greatly to increase the number of new aeroplanes. The fourth reason is that we have found it necessary to create an Inspection Department. It will be seen that the first reason I have o given is a change of policy, as we believe, in the direction of efficiency. The other three reasons are a continuance of the original policy, with a view to efficiency, but most especially in the interests of safety. This provision, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been good enough to agree, and which I hope the Committee will now sanction, has not failed of its object. Its principal purpose was safety. In the provision of spare parts there is one very obvious way of making flying more safe, but nobody realised how much greater was the requirement of spare parts than in any other kind of internal combustion engines. A comparison with the motor-car is often made. In point of fact, an aeroplane requires a far greater provision of spare parts, a far more rapid replacement, and far more constant care, than any other internal combustion engine.
With regard to aeroplanes, for the same reason we have found it necessary greatly to add to the number of new ones and to strike off a great number of old ones. Machines which were thought to be safe a year ago are in many cases now considered unsafe. It may be convenient if at this point I tell the Committee what is the strength of our present areoplane fleet as the result of the expenditure which I am now laying before the Committee. Other nations consider it desirable to keep the number of their aeroplanes secret. We see no advantage in doing so, at any rate, So far as the aeroplanes for the squadrons and for the Central Flying School are con- 1796 cerned. When I last addressed the House on the 30th July we had in possession 113 aeroplanes. Since that date we have struck off fifty-two, and added of new aeroplanes 100, which makes a total now in possession of 161. The Committee may well say that to strike off so large a number as fifty-two, nearly one-half of the aeroplanes that we had only eight or nine months ago, is a very strong step which demands justification. I think it is justified by the event. The aeroplanes we then had were as good as we could get, but they are nothing like so good as the aeroplanes we can get built now; and although it is a drastic thing to do, and no other nation as far as my information goes has done anything so drastic as to strike off nearly one-half their available strength, I think it was right, and I hope the Committee will agree, in view of the great probability that by taking this course we should minimise the risk to life and limb of the officers and men of the Royal Flying Corps. This, I am glad to say, has been the result.
I have not the precise figures for the number of miles flown by the military wing of the Royal Flying Corps since the 30th of July, but it is well over 100,000. They have taken part in manœuvres—not only divisional manœuvres in this country, over very difficult country, very wooded, with rivers and trees, which make the risks of flying appreciably greater than in open country; but also in grand manœuvres and in manœuvres in Ireland, for which they flew across St. George's Channel, and whence they returned. During that time—and I think this will astonish the Committee; it would have seemed incredible a year ago—excluding Saturdays and Sundays, which are not flying days, though in fact flying often takes place on Saturdays, there were only six days on which flying did not take place. On every other day our aeroplanes have been flying. When one reflects on the winds in this country, the broken nature of the country, and the great gales which we have experienced, often lasting for days in succession. I think it will be agreed that it is a remarkable record that on every day except six our aeroplanes have been up in the air. That is what has been done since the 30th July. I am glad to say that during the whole of that time there has not been one single fatal accident to an officer or man of the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps. I much regret that there was a fatal accident to an officer under tuition. There was also a very sad 1797 accident to a civilian, who was engaged in experimental work, only the day before yesterday, when returning from certain experiments which were being carried out. But with regard to the Military Wing itself, of whose performances I have given this brief account, there has not been one single fatal accident to officer or man. So far as I have been able to understand, there has been no single case of serious or any breakage of any main part in the air. I believe the reason for this is that, not only we have scrapped so many of the older aeroplanes—although those that we have scrapped are of precisely the same type as those in the possession of foreign countries which have taken up aviation—but also because we have insisted on putting safety far higher than is the case in any other country. That is justified, not because we are more fearful of risks, but because we think we ought not to take risks if no useful purpose is served by it, and also because this is a more difficult country to fly in than any of the Continental countries. The gusts are more violent owing to stronger winds and the more broken nature of the country.
This is the record which has, in a large measure, resulted from the expenditure. It results also, in equally large measure, from the skill of our pilots. Although there is no precise sum taken for pilots in this Vote, so far as I am aware, I may be permitted, without going beyond the Rules of Order, to say that our pilots continue to show that skill and daring which have been acknowledged by all who have investigated our aeronautic work. The fourth reason for this Supplementary Estimate is the creation of an Inspection Branch. This is also part of our scheme to make our aeroplanes as safe as they can be made. In order to do that, you have to test every part, however small, of the aeroplanes. It has to be inspected and tested during manufacture as well as when completed. The difficulties in which manufacturers and makers are in consequence are very real, and I fully sympathise with them. But safety was considered by us to be the first consideration, and many of the manufacturers of aeroplanes whom I have seen, or who have seen my officers, fully appreciate the necessity for this rigid inspection, and, indeed, approve of it. The creation of an Inspection Branch, while ensuring safety, will greatly mitigate the difficulties by reference to a central point of all questions as to safety, and the steadfast strength of different materials of which the machines are manufactured.
1798 In regard to the policy to be pursued in connection with the new aeroplanes which we have bought, and those for which provision is made, either in this Estimate or in the Estimates I shall shortly present, I told the Committee on the 30th July that we had made arrangements to accelerate the provision of the squadrons considered necessary by the Committee of Defence. I am glad to say that with this supplementary sum, if the Committee are good enough to vote it, and with the provision which I shall shortly present to Parliament in the Army Estimates, we shall be able to complete the whole of the eight. squadrons in men and machines—if not in all respects in regard to mechanical transport and se on, for which I do not believe there will be time, apart from money—by the end of the corning year. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. Lee) asks what that means in total number. It means that we shall require 250 aeroplanes, fifty for the Central Flying School and 200 for the Military Wing. I may be asked why we require 200 for the Military Wing, seeing that in the White Paper presented to Parliament we said that of efficient aeroplanes per squadron there should be twelve. The reason is this: We have come to the conclusion, after watching the monthly returns for many months now, that if you want to have ten aeroplanes ready at any given moment, you must have twenty in your possession. That may sound a very large number. It differs greatly from the estimates formed as to the number of locomotive engines required, in regard to which I have some figures here, or even of those comparatively frail machines, taxi-cabs, of which an hon. Member has given me some particulars. There you require only a comparatively small percentage over and above the number that you want to have ready on a given day. But with aeroplanes, experience has taught us that if you want one you must always keep two. Therefore, we want 200, in order to have 100 ready at any given moment. I ought, perhaps, to add a word in regard to the method by which we shall acquire this number of 250.
§ Colonel SEELY
Whether biplanes or monoplanes does not arise at this point. I shall be glad to give the hon. Member any information on that question. I may say that the great majority of the machines are biplanes, though we have some mono 1799 planes. It is a great mistake to suppose that the biplane is a slow machine and the monoplane a fast one, as I shall presently show. Not only do we want two machines for every one that is to be available on any given day, but we reckon from experience that you must, count the life of an aeroplane as two years. Therefore, every year you must replace one half. We require even to maintain our eight squadrons 125 aeroplanes per year. These we can get in the United Kingdom. Of the 100 which we obtained since 30th July we obtained, I think it was, thirteen from abroad and eighty-seven in this country. These are approximate figures. I can assure the Committee—and I know they will be glad to hear it—since, quite apart from any question of the relative merits of trading abroad and at home, on which we might differ, it is undoubtedly necessary to get all warlike material whenever you can within your own borders. I can assure the Committee that I have satisfied myself that the condition of the industry is such now that we can quite easily get all the aeroplanes we want to maintain the present establishment in this country—and a great many more, too, if required. In regard to engines, as the Committee know, a competition is to be held in the near future, with a considerable prize and orders to the amount of nearly £50,000, for a British-built engine. I cannot prejudge the result of that competition, but I know enough of what is being done to be able to say that we also could get all the engines we require in this country within a very short period of time.
The problem of getting aeroplanes and engines in this country sufficient for our needs is, in my judgment, solved. I may be asked how much do you propose to construct yourself—as you do in the case of Woolwich and the Government dockyards—at the Royal Aircraft Factory, and how much do you propose to construct through private firms. I do not wish to lay down precise figures, but to state our general policy. We propose that the larger proportion—the much larger proportion—shall be constructed by private firms, and that the smaller proportion shall be constructed—and has been constructed lately—by the Royal Aircraft Factory, thus leaving the Royal Aircraft Factory free to do work which is more important to us—namely, the construction of experimental machines—machines of a special type, the details of which 1800 we do not wish to become known, and also repairs which they can do very well. This is the state of the aeroplane industry so far as it affects military aeronautics, so far as I have been able to give it to the Committee in this short space of time. I do not think we need fear in regard to the capacity of this country to produce aeroplanes and engines. I may be asked, and rightly asked, by people in all quarters of the House who carefully scrutinise expenditure, how does it come that for the provision of a comparatively small number of aeroplanes, 250, you will want sums which, if we are to take the standard of expenditure of this year, must amount to a very considerable figure—many hundreds of thousands of pounds? How does it come to be so expensive to maintain an air fleet? The reason is that these machines must be regarded, not as birds with a little mechanical power added, and therefore comparatively cheap, as they were, curiously enough, when the great pioneers of this industry, the Wright Brothers, first flew in the South of France, before that, flying in America. An aeroplane is like a modern high-power motor car, and much more expensive.
The size and power of the engines increase daily. The average speed of the aeroplanes now in our possession is between sixty-five and sixty-six miles an hour, and I may say, incidentally, that this is a speed much greater, so far as my knowledge goes, than the average speed of the aeroplanes of any other country. That means high engine power, and anyone who owns a motor car knows that if you are to have an engine of from 80 to 120 horse-power, it is a most expensive thing. It wears out, too, far more rapidly as against the motor car. You save the cost of tyres, but the cost in every other way is far greater. The aeroplane must have at least two mechanics constantly in attendance. For all these reasons, concerning which I will gladly enter into detail if any hon. Member doubts whether it is necessary to spend so large a sum on military aeronautics. I do not believe it can be said that we have been other than wise and economical in our management, so far as it is possible to save money in a concern where every saving, if it is a saving on strength of material in any degree, however remote, may mean an added risk to human life.
I may be asked why do we want this aeroplane service at all, or if we do want 1801 it, why so big a one That question has been put to me by many persons. It is quite true that these proposals, which I now put before the Committee, will give us an aeroplane service much larger in proportion to the size of our Army than that possessed by any other Power. But I conceive that it is wise that we should have a much larger proportion than any other army. Our Army is a very small Army, and for that reason, in matters of this kind, it is well to be equipped on a greater scale. I may be asked whether really this fleet is any good—as I was asked the other day. Of that there can be no doubt whatever. The power of vision from the air is astonishing. One is sometimes told by those who do not understand the subject, that if a man in an aeroplane keeps near enough to the ground to see what there is below, he will be brought down by the guns or rifles of the enemy. That is a complete delusion. At a height of 5,000 feet, which is under a mile, one can see quite clearly on any ordinary day every detail of the landscape. One can see, for instance, not only roads and hedges, but where there are two horses or one in a waggon or cart moving along the road. One can see men walking along the streets of a town. How easy then it will be to see, as it has been to see, what are the troops winch you are observing. I go so far as to say, having given some personal study to this matter—and I think military opinion will be disposed to share this view—that the commander of any army without aeroplanes, when faced by another army with aeroplanes, if things are anything like equal in other respects, is doomed; he cannot escape. Every movement except by night, or in a dense fog, or in a dense wood, will be recorded. All this we have seen in the manœuvres this year. But it will be still more the case in actual warfare, unless my judgment is at fault. In manœuvres it is easy to adopt ruses de guerre to hide under hedges, and so on, as Sir James Grierson told the troops to do: "If you cannot find a hedge, hide yourselves under your blankets, and make a noise like mushrooms." These ruses de guerre cannot be practised in war when the men are weary, when you must get on, and where there is always hurry and haste in order to avoid disaster. Therefore it seems clear that every large movement of troops in future will be absolutely known to the opposing commander unless conducted in the dead of night, in a dense fog, or in a thick wood. This being so, the end of this business no man can foresee, 1802 but I conceive that hon. Members here, whatever views they may take on armaments in general, would not wish us to be left behind in a matter of this vital importance. I do honestly believe that the efforts which are being made by the officers who have conducted this aeronautical service have been not without success. The separate Department which I established under the control of General Henderson, has now been at work for several months, and I believe has attained a great deal of efficiency. We have certainly pilots as good as any in the world. I believe it to be true that our aeroplanes, if less in number than some, are certainly faster, and are certainly much younger, for the average age of the whole fleet is under nine months, and more air-worthy, as they must be, seeing the difficult country over which they have to fly. On the whole I do believe that we have made satisfactory progress. I hope we shall make still further progress in the years that are to come. I think we may even now say that we are in possession of a military aeronautical service not unworthy of the British Army.
§ Colonel SEELY
I thought, it would not be convenient for the Committee that I should go into detail in any particular item, but I will do what the hon. Gentleman asks me at once. The mechanical transport vehicles are those vehicles which are required for the squadrons. I think the hon. Member has seen them at manœuvres. They convey not only the spare wings for the aeroplanes, but other necessary things. On page 3 (at the top) of the Estimate the explanation shows what the items are for. China (Indian troops at Hong Kong) accounts for some of the Vote. The mechanical transport vehicles for the aeronautical service; which, I think, the Committee will agree are vitally necessary to keep your squadron efficient, accounts for the rest.
§ Mr. SANDYS
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain whether 'the composition of the squadrons has now been changed, and increased from the original eighteen aeroplanes each?
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes, Sir. The hon: Member will have apprehended that we shall want 200 for eight squadrons, which means 25 per squadron.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I beg to Move to reduce the Vote by £100. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech to-day is more satisfactory than in previous speeches on this subject, though he has been preaching during the latter part of his speech entirely to the converted. I think that certainly those on this side of the House are quite prepared to agree with what he said with regard to the absolute importance of the aeroplane in modern warfare, and that we should not merely have aeroplanes, but an efficient force of aeroplanes. I do not know that it is necessary to labour that. I could not help feeling, however, that throughout his speech the right hon. Gentleman, if he will forgive me saying so, reminded me some-what of Jack Horner. He takes rather a pride in the plums which he pulls out, and he is perhaps rather too much inclined to assume that our aeroplanes are better than all others in the world. I am every bit as patriotic as he is, but I am not quite sure whether it is desirable in this House of Commons on the part of a Minister who is responsible for the Army quite so publicly to state the mode in which our aeroplanes and material are better than those of other Powers. I think I will be able, before I sit down, to show, not that our machines are worse, but that other nations have quite as good machines. I should like, before I deal with the actual machines, just to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the four reasons that he gave for the new Estimate. These were: alterations to airships, spare parts, increase of aeroplanes, and Inspection Department. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to forgive me for saying that the burden of our speeches upon this side of the House last year were the three last subjects to which he alluded. We insisted over and over again upon better and proper provision for spare parts, and for increasing the number of aeroplanes, and for the creation of an Inspection Department. We welcome the provision for these now, and we welcome the alteration that the right hon. Gentleman has made. I will not trouble the House by dealing with the Inspection Department. It is very admirable and essential, and I do not think there will be two opinions with regard to it. Perhaps I may say with regard to the Inspection Department, I take it that the officers of that Department will be quite free and independent of the Royal Aircraft Factory, and that they will inspect the work of the Royal Aircraft Factory 1804 with the same correctness as that of the private manufacturers. I trust I have the assent of the right hon. Gentleman in saying that. If he does not admit that, I must say I think it is essential that the Inspection Department should be made entirely independent of the Royal Aircraft Factory. Here you have a large factory increasing its output month by month now, going on to make aeroplanes, and if there is an Inspection Department to inspect the work of the ordinary trade manufacturers, and if that Inspection Department is responsible in time of war to the country, they must be in an independent position in regard to the Royal Aircraft Factory as well as in regard to ordinary aircraft manufacturers.
I want to call the attention of the Committee to the extraordinary change the right hon. Gentleman has made with regard to airships. I quite agree that a very rapid movement is taking place. But the right hon. Gentleman was so strong eleven months ago in regard to the provision of airships for the Army, that I think some little more information ought to have been given us as to why he has changed round and no longer wants airships in the Army. I cannot regard the suggestion a.; satisfactory, that if the Army wants areoplanes they are to send a coastguard over to the Navy and say, "If you please, we want three or four ships to use in our movements. We are going to send an Expeditionary Force here and there, and we want to borrow some of your airships." That is not satisfactory. If an Expeditionary Force goes out of this country in the case of European War—I am not dealing with small native wars, but with an Expeditionary Force that has to leave our shores for some European country—it will only be at a time when the Navy is in grips with the enemy also. It would be very hard upon the Navy for the next five or ten years, during which God preserve us from a Continental War, if they had the whole of the airships in their charge working with their battle squadrons, and becoming part of the personnel of the Royal Navy, that the Army should demand the loan of some of their ships. I am not sure what the position of our Army would be in such circumstances. Men who give themselves up to the Army have to remain in the Army, and ought, if they desire, to continue in the Army. But in, such circumstances, with all the airships with the Navy, they would be forced to become officers of the Royal 1805 Navy also. The Airship Department will become absorbed in the Navy, and rightly so, and we must have a larger provision of airships than at the present time. At the same time, when the moment comes, and when the Army writes or telephones to the Navy for a number of ships for the Army, I think it is more than probable that the Navy will say, "We are very sorry, but the protection of our shores is the duty of the Navy, and we must use these airships to compete with those of foreign countries." It is an evitable consequence. The right hon. Gentleman himself only nine months ago in dealing with this subject of airships made it perfectly plain that the country, had need of airships. I remember asking him why they did not have big ships, and he flattened me out, to use a colloquial phrase, and said perfectly distinctly—Our Army is an Expeditionary Army, and to use airships would be unnecessary. These gigantic engines could not be taken there with the Army. We are therefore decided"—I hope that "we" meant the Army Council as well as himself—that the Army should have some dirigibles which can be packed on motor cars or ships and sent away when we like. These we have got.He made a speech—I did not read it—but he said in it that our dirigibles or aeroplanes were, like all the right hon. Gentleman's air property, superior to all others. I doubt that.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I think that is perfectly true, and therefore these particular airships or dirigibles were superior to any others in the world—that is to say, superior to nothing. The right hon. Gentleman is welcome to any score he makes upon that ground, but he went on to tell us:—We propose to continue these small dirigibles, but, the Army has no intention of embarking upon large dirigibles.And he went on to say:—We want airships that we call pack up and send away with our Expeditionary forces.The Army cannot to-day pack them in parts or send them away, because the Navy would be using them when we wanted them. Ours is an Expeditionary Army, if it is anything at all. We shall have to use it for sending out as an Expeditionary Force. Where are those machines to be packed up and sent with it? I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman he might suggest to some of his 1806 colleagues that they could make very good use of some of the airships.
We had a Debate yesterday on Somaliland. If he could pack up one of these small airships on a motor lorry and send it to Somaliland, I venture to suggest it would be of very much more use than a couple of Camel Corps. One of those small machines, no good for European warfare, would be of the very greatest use if sent oversea to Somaliland, or for stopping the raids on the north-west frontier of India. There are occasions when the Army does want airships, but the right hon. Gentleman has given them all away to the Navy; but !he has got a credit in hand of £65,000. It is too soon, I venture to suggest, for the right hon. Gentleman, as head of the Army, to discard airships for Army purposes. The development is very quick and very rapid. The use of them by the French and German armies is increasing and growing, and it is putting our Army at a very great disadvantage not to give us the immediate use of them, and to be able to lay our hands upon them at the moment when we want them. I should like to suggest, when he made that statement, that it is natural for the Navy to take charge of the airships, that he ought to remember that the French army and the German army have airships, and that all these great airships are machines for the military in Germany, and not for the naval forces. I do not want to weary the House with figures, but I think the House should know how enormously airships have advanced. Only last autumn one of the German airships was twenty hours afloat in the air at a height of over 5,000 feet. You have no aeroplanes that could do that. Germany has now fourteen airships against France's seven, and we have, so far as our Army is concerned, nothing whatever to put against that particular force if at any time there should be war. I do not lecture Germany in any way, but, in dealing with military matters, one has to estimate the possibilities of war with another country.
5.0 P. M
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about another change of policy he made without consulting the House of Commons. He made his change as to airships without consulting them. He has not told us what took place, or what negotiations went on between the Army and the Navy on that subject. He has not told us whether he had any trouble in overcoming the reluctance of the Army Council, and I think we are entitled to know whether the 1807 Army Council, who are responsible jointly with the right hon. Gentleman for the defence of these shores, cordially approved of the action he has taken in handing them over to his colleague, the First Lord of the Admiralty. We have had another very remarkable change of front with regard to construction of airships at the Royal Army Air Factory. There are two schools of thought, of course, in regard to the manufacture of aeroplanes at the Royal Factory. One school may be right, or the other may be right; but the right hon. Gentleman ought not to change his views without a little more explanation to the House. During the last eighteen months the right hon. Gentleman assured us, in the most unequivocable manner, it was not his intention to manufacture aeroplanes at that factory. In March, 1912, speaking of the Royal Air Factory, he said:—It will make experiments and make repairs.We questioned him later on, and he said the same thing. I asked him in October, 1912,Whether the Royal Air Craft Factory which hitherto existed for experimental purposes was to he utilised in manufacture on a large scale, and if that was so, what was the reason for the change in policy?And he answered:—No, sir. There is no such intention.I asked hint again whether there was not a chance of such a change taking place, and over and over again he said, not merely in answer to me, but in answer to many lion. Members on this side of the House—and the statement went out to the country and to aeroplane manufacturers—that it was not intended to compete with others in regard to the manufacture of aeroplanes. This is a question of vital importance. Either our manufacturers know definitely or not. Hon. Members who have not heard me on this question before, will perhaps allow me now again to say that I have no interests of any kind or description in aeroplane factories, either financially or otherwise. I want to make that perfectly clear, but I want the House to realise the enormous importance of having here, as in France and Germany, a satisfactory number of aeroplane manufacturers who are prepared to manufacture aeroplanes for this country. There is no other market except the military one, and the naval one. There is no private market for aeroplanes at all. If the aeroplane manufacturers are to continue to exist, 1808 they can only do so by orders from the Army and Navy. A year ago there were 400 or 500 men employed in the Royal Factory. To-day, if I mistake not, I think the right hon. Gentleman has got nearly 1,000 men, and only the other day he admitted to me, in reply to a question, though not giving any notice of a change of policy then, that he had given orders for the manufacture of twenty-four aeroplanes of a particular type in his own factory. I think they are to be called the "R.E." in contradistinction to the "B," but they are a type that could be made outside the factory as well as in it. I am not saying definitely that it is not desirable in the interests of the State to have an aeroplane factory of our own, but it is absolutely necessary to the other aeroplane manufacturers of the country that they should have definite knowledge of this fact. The right hon. Gentleman told us he is going to have a competition for aeroplane engines of British manufacture; that he is going to offer a prize of £5,000, and that he is going to give orders following that competition approaching £50,000. That was the statement made a year ago when proposals with regard to the competition were first promulgated. Was there not a circular issued by the War Office to engine manufacturers warning them that that guarantee of an order was not to be absolutely relied upon? The mere prize of £5,000 is no good to either a large or a small manufacturer to induce him to put up the very elaborate plant needed for the making of one of those elaborate engines, which one might almost call a human engine, so marvellous is its construction. You cannot expect them to put up such a plant unless they are assured of adequate orders in addition to the prize. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make it perfectly clear before the Debate closes that if the successful engine is a good one, there is to follow a definite order of £40,000 or £50,000.
I would like to ask how many of our aeroplanes are fitted with English engines I know we have the Renault engine and one or two other types, but in time of war we should not be able to get these foreign engines at all. Throughout the whole of last year the right hon. Gentleman was priding himself upon his aeroplane fleet. As a matter of fact, the moment a bullet went through one of those engines, or they went wrong by a jar, he would be unable to get 1809 fresh engines to replace them. It is absolutely essential for the life of an Army and the maintenance of an Aeroplane Corps that we should get these English aeroplane engines, and the right hon. Gentleman should devote even more time to the perfecting of an English engine than to the other parts of the aeroplane force to which he referred. I want to allude now to the number of machines. The Committee will remember that on the last occasion I was unable, through illness, to be present when the Committee discussed the question of the number of aeroplanes. I had made certain allegations with regard to the number owned by His Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman used the figure of 120 efficient aeroplanes, which he lowered to 100. I do not want to go back on to that topic. He has given us fresh figures to-day and they prove that he had not anything like the number of 100 efficient aeroplanes in the month of July last year. I think that is conclusive.
I want to call attention to the question of monoplanes, and I do not want to do it harshly. We had given to us in the various statements made by the right hon. Gentleman extending over the earlier part of last year, a certain number of aeroplanes, including a certain number of monoplanes. The number included 28 monoplanes, and they were for the time being under a ban, the right hon. Gentleman having got a fright because of a certain accident, and he got a Committee to consider this question. Nevertheless, he had those monoplanes, and he included them as efficient machines, and he told us at the time that they could be used, that they were efficient, and that they could all fly. My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton and myself saw what machines there were. Included in the list of machines we were shown were the 28 monoplanes which the right hon. Gentleman had been saying month after month could fly and were really efficient machines, and, can it be believed that, after the House rose last year, between the rising of the House in August and Christmas, the whole of those 28 monoplanes which were reported to the House as being able to fly, and which had been included by the right hon. Gentleman in his total of efficient machines, were scrapped and knocked off the slips. Either they were efficient, or they were not. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to come down to this House and tell us that he had a certain number of efficient aeroplanes in- 1810 cluding these monoplanes, when he knew, or ought to have known, that they were not efficient, and as soon as the House of Commons had risen he was going to strike them off the list. They have now gone, and are no longer in the number of efficient aeroplanes.
The right hon. Gentleman now boasts that he has struck off fifty-two machines, which last year he said were efficient, and which we wasted our time in going down to look at. What have we got now? He says we have 161 aeroplanes. I will not discuss what condition they are in. He had 113–he struck off fifty-two, and that left sixty-one, and he has added 100, which makes 161. Therefore lie has made this admission, that for every one aeroplane you must have two, because you have always one in dock. I suggest that out of 161 machines he could not put more than eighty-one in the air to-morrow morning, or upon any given morning, without stopping the ordinary work of polishing some of the others up and tuning them up for the purpose of inspection. He has admitted that you must have eighty spares for eighty efficient machines. Today we have only eighty machines, and what use is that to meet the fleets of either Germany or France? Where are those eighty machines? The right hon. Gentleman talks about his eight aeroplane squadrons. An aeroplane squadron consists of twelve machines with six spare machines—that is, eighteen of the best machines to form one squadron. Now he tells us he is going to make the number twenty-four or twenty-five machines to each squadron, and in doing this he is only doing what France did more than a year ago. France has always had one spare for each machine. Have we got to-day three or four squadrons, fully equipped with their twenty-four machines in flying order, ready to take the field to-morrow morning?
The right hon. Gentleman says he is going to give us eight squadrons, which is one more than he promised last year. No. 3 and 4 Squadrons are on Salisbury Plain, but I do not think there are eighteen machines in either of those squadrons, and those are the two best squadrons he has got. I do not believe one of them is full up, as it should be, with eighteen machines, to say nothing of twenty-four" with transport and spare parts ready to take the field. The No. 5 Squadron, which is at Montrose, is certainly not in an efficient state, because there are less than 1811 ten machines. I could almost say there are only eight machines at Montrose, instead of the eighteen or twenty-four which ought to be there. Nos. 6, 7, and 8 Squadrons do not exist at all, and they are not in the air, although they are in the right hon. Gentleman's brain, and only there. It is very difficult for us to proceed in this matter, as we are not allowed to move an increase in the Vote. We do not really want to make party capital out of this. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] We do not want to make political capital, but we do want to make patriotic capital. We have been fighting this question with the utmost force in order that we might help the right hon. Gentleman, and I have never said one word in derogation of the Royal Army Flying Corps, and I appreciate to the fullest extent the magnificent work those men do, taking their lives in their hands day after day. What I do say is that the provisions which this country makes for them is not sufficient.
I would like to refer for a moment to what has been done in Germany with regard to aeroplanes during the last year. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have an air fleet larger in proportion to our Army than any other country, but that has absolutely nothing to do with it. We have an air fleet very much less than France or Germany, and if we are to be content with an Army infinitely smaller than the armies of great Continental nations, we at least might have an Air Service equivalent, if not better, than those nations. In Germany the National Flying Fund last year received £361,725. The House will remember that only a few years ago Germany collected £305,000 voluntarily for Zeppelin airships. These figures are taken from to-day's "Times." I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of one other question with regard to Germany. He admitted with regard to airships that Germany has taken an enormous stride forward, and to-day she holds the records for flight distances of the whole world. A German military aeroplane has been up during the last few months for 16 hours 20 minutes on a nonstop flight; another has been up for 14 hours 17 minutes; and another for 16 hours.and 1 minute. Let the right hon. Gentleman reflect what that means. German military aeroplanes and airships can keep up flying continuously for 16 hours with supplies of petrol and oil, and every- 1812 thing necessary for that length of time. I gravely doubt whether any one of the right hon. Gentleman's machines—I do not say that they are not as good—could do better than that. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have not at the present moment an aeroplane that could do anything like that in the way of a non-stop flight. These are all military machines, not private machines, machines made during the last two months, certainly during the last year, and all built in Germany, including the engines. Everything is made there exactly on the lines that I have tried to get the right hon. Gentleman to follow here, on the lines of what I may call a self-contained aeroplane system. I give these remarkable figures in to-day's "Times," because whenever the right hon. Gentleman sees anything in the "Times" which supports him he generally comes down to the House and calls attention to the fact. This money has been expended in training, in equipping, and in giving prizes to aeroplane constructors and pilots in Germany. Forty-seven constructors were asked to compete, and nineteen were chosen. They were paid £400 for each pilot they turned out satisfactorily from the military point of view As a result of this encouragement, up to 10th February one-hour flights had been made by 369 pilots, two-hour flights by 203, and three-hour flights by 122. Up to the same date one of the airmen was awarded £4,000 for flying 1,300 miles between twelve in the morning and 11.55 p.m., and others received very large sums. The right hon. Gentleman told -us just now that our Army had flown, I think, 100,000 miles during last year.
§ Colonel SEELY
No. The exact figure for last year was 188,000 miles for purely military aeroplanes. I was trying to tell the Committee what the distance was since 30th July, when I made my last statement, and that is over 100,000 miles.
Mr. JOYN SON-HICKS
At one military aerodrome alone in Germany, at Johannisthal, there were 36,817 flights on 336 days, lasting altogether 4,097 hours. The Committee can easily make a calculation, knowing the pace at which aeroplanes go, say, forty miles an hour. One aerodrome has exceeded the total of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Colonel SEELY
It is a small matter, and I only want to get at the facts. This 100,000 miles consists of flights of long duration; it excludes all short flights, like aerodrome flights.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman speaks of aerodrome flights. He has seen the article in the "Times," and I take it that these flights were not confined at all to aerodrome flights, but were flights made by military pilots emanating from the Johannisthal military aerodrome. The only means we have of protesting against the insufficiency of the Estimate is, of course, the very ridiculous one of making a reduction. We cannot move an increase. I should like to see an increase of at least £250,000, but I am obliged to move a reduction of £100 for the sake of getting a Vote. I move the reduction as a protest against an inefficient Aeroplane Service. I move it, because, whilst I realise that the right hon. Gentleman has made a considerable advance during the last six months, I do not think that he or the Cabinet sufficiently realise the vital importance to our country of an Aeroplane Service which will be equal to any other aeroplane service in the world. The Cabinet know that we on our side are prepared for a much larger aeroplane Estimate when the Budget of next year comes forward. I do earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to believe that we do not want to make party capital out of it, but to encourage him to meet the demands which must be made upon hint by the Royal Flying Corps. We shall throw no obstacle in his way, but do everything we can to put our country on a level with, if not above, other countries in this matter.
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
I am rather surprised that the hon. Member should have taken the step that he has, because no one recognises more fully than he does that this arm and the preparations for this arm are in a state of transition, and that it is most important, when things are in a state of transition, that we should not simply spend money wildly, but should try to make steady progress, and to develop the type instead of merely multiplying the machines. He spoke in various ways of it being in a state of transition. He spoke of the development of the flight, of increasing the length of flight, and of increasing the time spent in the air; and I was astounded that one of his criticisms should relate to 1814 the group of fifty aeroplanes which have recently been discarded. He put to the Secretary of State for War one of those questions which really hardly arises from the practical standpoint. He said that at a certain point of time last year either these machines were efficient or they were not efficient, and he asked: "Was the answer Yes or No?" I really think that in the matter like this we ought not to apply that kind of logic chopping. After all, questions of efficiency or inefficiency are not questions of an absolute yes or no. They are questions of the degree of efficiency, and when, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, the average period of efficiency of an aeroplane cannot be taken as more than two years, it is obvious that every machine undergoes very great changes in relative efficiency in a very short time. That argument is still further strengthened when one remembers that it is not only that the machine becomes old and perhaps dangerous to use, but that it is outclassed by new inventions. Anyone interested in the matter must have been struck with the rapid changes both in practice and theory.
I was much interested in the right hon. Gentleman's statement as to the general organisation of the service, and in reference to the plan that airships and seaplanes should belong to the Naval Wing, and that all ordinary aeroplanes should belong to the Military Wing. That is a development which may gradually come about, but I venture to think that, before long, we may see a still further development which I foreshadowed some years ago in this House, and that the whole of the arrangements of aviation will ultimately form a distinct branch of the Service, and, perhaps, a most important one. I think it may very likely come to that. The distinctions between machines used for military and machines used for naval purposes are not so very fundamental as might at first appear. I quite agree that the arrangements for landing on the water, for remaining on the water, and for rising from the water, are in many ways essentially different from those for machines performing the same functions on land; but, after all; the power of navigation is the same in both circumstances, and the various mechanical parts are practically the same. There is another point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech which I am sure must appeal to Members of the House, and more so as it was endorsed by the hon. Gentleman. As between two armies, one 1815 of which is provided with aeroplanes and airships—it matters not which for this particular purpose—and the other of which is not so provided, the one which is not provided is foredoomed to disaster. I think that may be taken as a well accepted fact. If we admit that, we see that in future combats both sides will provide themselves with airships, and we see further that the shortest way to victory on the part of either side will be to destroy the enemy airships. Therefore, the first and possibly most critical stage in any general engagement may be an engagement between the airships themselves. That strengthens my argument that in the course of time aircraft should become a distinct branch of the Service, treated as a distinct branch, rather than as connected with one or other of the Services.
The relations of aircraft to the Army in the field were brought out by the right hon. Gentleman from his personal experience in what I am sure was a very striking manner. I have made a very considerable study of this subject, though I regret to say not from the point of view of practical flying, not having had that opportunity. I was rather surprised to hear the detail with which the country and the people on the country can be seen from such a great height as that he made. That, of course, is a most important factor. I need hardly call attention to the somewhat similar experience in naval flying in connection with a recent visit of the First Lord of the Admiralty to a naval station. It was found that on the sea very much the same sort of thing happened. You could follow and shadow and locate a submarine in a very remarkable way. If the airship can locate and follow the submarine, then it would almost seem as if the submarine would be at the mercy of the airship, just as the herring is at the mercy of the gannet. I mention this to show how closely connected the various Services are, and yet how important it is that the Air Service should take a leading part in connection with both military and naval warfare. I venture to think that what has been done has been done along sound lines. I do not share the criticisms of the hon. Gentleman. He spoke, for instance, of the Royal Aircraft Factory, and apparently desired that no machines, except possibly experimental machines, should be made there, but that the making of machines should be confined to those men who compete for prizes and who, we all 1816 agree, do most efficient work. I venture to think he would hardly expect the Secretary for War, or any other Minister, to take up any such position as this, and to undertake not to manufacture at the Royal Aircraft Factory.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I do not think I said that. The hon. Member must have misunderstood me. What I said was that the right hon. Gentleman had, over and over again, taken up this attitude: "I am not going to manufacture at the Royal Aircraft Factory." If he is going to change that policy he ought to give notice to the manufacturers, who have, on the strength of the official statement that he does not intend to manufacture, increased their plant for manufacturing purposes.
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
I understood the hon. Member to make his criticism because my right hon. Friend was manufacturing at the Royal Aircraft Factory. I am bound to say, considering the enormous development of the Air Service and the increase in the number of craft, I do not see there is any obligation on my right hon. Friend to warn manufacturers, and I think the Royal Aircraft Factory may manufacture and still leave the private manufacturers the same volume of orders as before. In any case it was merely a declaration of his idea of what he would do. There was no undertaking whatever, and no responsible Minister would ever bind himself not to manufacture these craft. It would be a very foolish thing to do. because if anyone were to do it he would put himself in a position—
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but may I quote the reply given by the right hon. Gentleman on this question on 7th March, 1912. a reply which has never been altered. The question was:—Whether the under-Secretary will say how many aeroplanes he expects to manufacture in the Aircraft Factory before the 31st December this year?The answer, given by the right hon. Gentleman himself, was:—As I have already explained to the House, the functions of the factory are to repair damages, to alter or improve those aeroplanes which have been already obtained, and to make experimental machines. It is not intended for the manufacture of aeroplanes on any large scale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 7th March, 1912. col. 552, Vol. XXXV.]
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
That is a statement of what, in fact, was being done two years ago, without any undertaking or pledge whatever. It was a statement of the intentions of the Minister with regard 1817 to a factory which had just been, started. I had no idea the hon. Gentleman's evidence was so weak until he actually produced it. Then so far as engines are concerned. After all, if my memory serves me right, with regard to British engines, a very considerable proportion of the prizes which have been promised are for competitions with a view to securing a satisfactory British engine. That is the principal thing for which prizes are being given, and I fail to see how more could be done in that direction. A point has also been raised with regard to the manufacture of engines abroad. I know that a number of these engines are manufactured abroad, and they are perhaps the best engines obtainable. Undoubtedly they are the best for this particular purpose, but I should like to point out that the fact that an engine bears a foreign name or is being manufactured abroad does not imply that it cannot be manufactured here. We may not be able to manufacture it here for various reasons connected with the patent laws, but, while a good deal is done by the recent Patent Act to prevent patents being obtained in this country in order to secure the manufacture here, nevertheless there are facilities for the compulsory working of licences in this country in that connection, and I venture to call the very special attention of the Secretary for War to the necessity of seeing that all patented inventions which can possibly be used by this country should be made available, and that they should be as accessible at all times as the patent laws will admit. If the Act does not give us the right to make use of the inventions on fair terms, there should be some alteration of the law in that respect. I believe, if we can move in that direction, it will be of great value to this country for this important service.
Something has been said with reference to airships. I know that these ships have been increasing in size. I dare say the old airships would not compare very favourably with the later ones, although they can remain a long time in the air. It seems to be the fact that the airship has not been making the same rapid progress as the aeroplane, particularly for military purposes, and that the aeroplane is developing much the faster of the two. I doubt, indeed, whether money is wisely expended in the multiplication of airships when aeroplanes cost so much less. We have heard that the life of an aeroplane is not more than two years, but then the life of 1818 an airship, with the leakage of gas through the envelope, is very much less. There was a recent instance in which an airship was purchased and after a very few months became, for all practical purposes, obsolete, and had to be abandoned. I certainly think that attention should rather be given to inventions for destroying airships. We heard the other day of an invention by which a weapon can be discharged at an airship which, if it touches the envelope, will set the whole machine alight. I think the authorities have been perfectly right in concentrating on the aeroplane rather than in spending money for airships, which appear daily to be becoming obsolete. I cannot close these few remarks without expressing my great regret that in the course of events, it should be necessary that the development of this great invention of air navigation—one of the greatest in the progress of the human race—has been connected with the arts of war rather than with the arts of peace. But I venture to hope that the progress we have made with it for military and naval purposes may also work out in other ways, and that the increasing communication through the air may draw nations more closely together, so that in days to come, although we now contemplate the matter mainly from the military aspect, we may see still greater and more far-reaching effects in promoting the arts of peace and good will.
§ Mr. LEE
I do not want to take any lengthy part in this Debate, because the ground is so exceedingly narrow. In dealing with Supplementary Estimates, while considerable latitude is always given to the responsible Minister, who is permitted necessarily to stray more generously from the strict lines than other Members, I think it is better to wait until we have the whole proposals of the Government with regard to this particular service before us, as we shall have when the Estimates are produced, before we make our main criticism—always supposing such criticism becomes necessary. But there are one or two points mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman we ought not to pass by without comment. May I say at once that, in our opinion, the statement which he has made to-day has been vastly more satisfactory to us than the statements which he made to the House during the course of last Session. At the same time, I do not want it to be inferred by him that we regard the present state of affairs with respect to aeronautical progress as 1819 entirely satisfactory, although he has shown a substantial improvement in the position, an improvement for which we must be as grateful as we can. I would like, if I may, to join unreservedly in the tribute which he has paid, not for the first time, to the officers who are engaged in this service. I think he was probably justified in saying that the officers of the Royal Flying Corps are second to none in the world now, not only in their courage, which is a point that does not require demonstration, but in their actual technical ability. Certainly from the little I was able to see of their work during the Army manœuvres last autumn, quite obviously, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, whether the country was wooded or complicated by rivers, which made the use of aeroplanes exceedingly difficult, the aeroplanes were always coming in with information, which, I think I may say without giving cause for international offence, was not so markedly the case at the German manœuvres, which I had an opportunity of witnessing in the previous year. I am anxious to join in the well-deserved tribute the right hon. Gentleman paid to these officers.
Then I come to a line of debate which the right hon. Gentleman is in the habit of falling into. He puts a number of questions to himself, questions which, as far as I know, are never put to him, either by us or by his Friends behind him, and which he is able to frame as he chooses and to answer entirely to his own satisfaction. He says, for instance, "If I am asked whether it is necessary to have aeroplanes at all, I should reply," and so on. But no one would think of asking such a question, because everyone, even the most ardent reductionist of armaments, must admit that if you are to have an Army at all it is necessary it should be fully equipped with all modern requirements. I really think, therefore, that is a question which we need not argue. Of course this service is essential. The questions whether the right hon. Gentleman has given us the best value for our money, and whether he is spending enough on that particular arm, are the points which actually interest us here. Next, I come to the question of the new departure in policy with regard to Army airships. It is a highly technical question, and its consideration is a good deal complicated by the effect of Treasury control over the expenditure. It has always been 1820 easier for the right hon. Gentleman's colleague at the Admiralty to extract money from the Treasury than it has been for the Secretary for War. I am, of course, not reflecting on the relative abilities of the two right hon. 'Gentlemen in importuning. But the change of policy is so startling from that which the right hon. Gentleman emphasised to the House last year, when, he dealt, particularly forcibly, with certain criticisms of my own. He then said that the War Office knew exactly what it wanted, that it had made up its mind on the airship question, and that it wanted a small airship for purely military purposes and had got it. He took pride in that fact. Now he tells us that the Army does not need small airships and that, although a final settlement of the question has not yet been arrived at3 he has already given them up and he is going to send a postcard to the Admiralty to ask that Department to lend him an airship when he requires one for the purpose of a war. That, of course, is obviously impossible in practice. If we assume a great Continental war, in which we were taking part, within easy reach of these shores, it might be practicable for the Navy, if they had them, to send airships to take part in Army manœuvres. But the British Army does not exist mainly for the purpose of taking part in large Continental wars. Its long history shows that by far the greater portion of its work is in what we used to call small Colonial wars, which are waged, not only far from this country, but also far from the sea—little expeditions against native tribes in Africa, India, and other places—and it is ludicrous to suppose that if we were going to take part in one of these expeditions it would be possible for the War Office to persuade the Admiralty to send them an airship manned by officers and men of His Majesty's Navy.
§ Colonel SEELY
In order to elucidate the question, may I point out to the hon. Gentleman that even if the airship belonged to us, the Navy would have to carry it for us to any particular quarter?
§ Mr. LEE
The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if an airship would be a kind of minor satellite of the earth which would be capable of bringing purely military information to the commander of the forces. I do not think it will work out satisfactorily. In any case, the right hon. Gentleman has not given us a satisfactory reason for this departure in policy. While I agree that he stated more than once that these small airships he has had hitherto would be obviously useless in a Continental war, when they had to face the great Zeppelins, Parsifals and ships of that description, they must be of the greatest possible assistance in dealing with problems that might arise on the North-West Frontier of India. The possibility of having to land somewhere in the mountain regions of the North-West Frontier of India or the plains of Afghanistan is one which any airman, however intrepid, might very well shrink from, whereas the small airship need not land, and would play a great part in any Indian trouble, and would act not only physically, but morally in hostilities of that description. However, the right hon. Gentleman tolls us that the matter is still under consideration, and I sincerely hope that the Army will not finally and definitely abandon the use of small airships for purely military purposes until the matter has received a great deal more consideration, and the opinion of those who have to take part in these small wars has also been ascertained.
Before I pass away from the transfer of responsibility from the Army to the Navy, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what will be the actual status of the military officers who are transferred to the care of the First Lord of the Admiralty. We hear a good deal nowadays about Army officers being transferred to the Navy. There is some talk about the Garrison Artillery officers being transferred. It would not be in order for me now to go into that question, but I am naturally interested, because, having been a Garrison Artillery officer, I should have been annoyed and miserable if I had thought I should ever be sent to sea. We ought to be told what will be the position of the officers of the Royal Flying Corps who are about to be transferred to the Navy. Will they continue to be Army officers or will they be Navy officers? If they are no 1822 longer to be Army officers, how will their prospects as to promotion, ultimate pension, and reward be affected? They must obviously be affected a great deal, because there cannot be the same opportunity of rising to the higher ranks in the Flying Service as if they remained in the ordinary ranks of the Service. There will be a good deal of anxiety among the officers who have to make transfers until that point is made clear.
I come to the question of aeroplanes. The right hon. Gentleman has certainly shown us that the position has been greatly improved by his policy of accelerating the completion of the eight squadrons for the Expeditionary Force. I am very much relieved to know that within a measurable time, at any rate, those eight squadrons required for the Expeditionary Force will be complete, although I should like to ask him what he means exactly when he speaks about those squadrons being on a war footing? I cannot help remembering that last year we were told that the squadrons then in existence—No. 3 in particular—were on a war footing. When No. 3 was inspected by my two hon. Friends it was found that out of this squadron, which was supposed to be on a war footing, there were only ten aeroplanes in all, of which two were not completed, two were not war machines, and only six were available. We want to know whether these eight squadrons are to be on a war footing on that basis, or on a real war footing, with a full equipment of machines always available; otherwise the right hon. Gentleman has not really improved the position at all.
I want to come to a point I have raised before, which has assumed much greater importance, because of certain remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. It is this: even if he has got his eight squadrons for the purposes of the Expeditionary Force, what aerial equipment is there left over, or does he propose to provide, for the Home Defence Army, which will have to attend to the military defence of these islands if the Expeditionary Force, with its eight squadrons, has been sent abroad. He has not touched on that point at all. I must remind the Committee of the extremely singular admissions the right hon. Gentleman made in the course of his speech this afternoon, and the very startling language he used with regard to the hopeless position of a military force which was not supplied with proper aerial equipment. He said that a force that 1823 had no proper equipment of aeroplanes, if confronted with a force which had a proper equipment, other things being equal—I shall have a word to say about that in a moment—would be doomed, and could not possibly escape. That is a very strong description, and I believe it is perfectly justified. He is assuming that other things are equal—that is to say, that the quality of the troops on each side is equal. Then he says that the force which did not have an aerial service would be doomed and could not possibly escape. What would be the position of our Home Defence military force in the event of its having to deal with an invading army which was admittedly superior in training and experience of war, and which was fully equipped with aeroplanes and, possibly, airships? However well it might be led, however strong the position it might hold, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, it would be doomed and could not escape.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Other things being equal.
§ Mr. LEE
Does the hon. Member who interrupts me really suggest that the numbers of the defending force would make it unnecessary for them to have accurate and early information about the movements of their enemy? I know that he is a high military authority; but does he really mean that by saying, "Other things being equal"? The thing is perfectly absurd. That brings me back to the main point, namely, is the right hon. Gentleman going to make any provision whatever for the aerial equipment of the Home Defence Army. I contend it is more necessary to them than to the Regular Army. If they operate at all in war, they are going to operate in this country, which is peculiarly enclosed, therefore making it exceedingly difficult to detect the movements of troops, far more so than in any Continental country. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to suggest that the Home Defence Army is to have that additional handicap, on the top of all the other handicaps with which they have to deal, placed upon them by the 1824 absence of any aerial service. That is a very serious point to which he ought to direct his attention.
§ Mr. LEE
I do not deny that he has directed his attention to it, but he has not vouchsafed to the House of Commons any of the conclusions at which he has arrived. This is a point upon which we ought to have information. He gave us details of the various additional services upon which he expected to spend this extra money, but I did not hear him say anything about what I might call the ground staff, that is, a better supply of mechanics. He told us that every aeroplane required two mechanics. That is no misstatement of the facts. I also understand that one of the great difficulties in forming the Army, Flying Corps has been the difficulty of getting suitable mechanics who would be willing to submit to military discipline, and to whom the service is sufficiently attractive. Is he, in this Vote, making special provision for the supply of a larger and wholly adequate staff of mechanics, because without that the best flying men in the world are not only incapacitated, but may be exposed to quite unnecessary risks. I should like to back up what my hon. Friend said about the necessity for the Inspection Staff being entirely independent of the aircraft factories. It is only fair and right that the products of a Government factory and of the private factories should be subjected to independent inspection. We all know that there has been a certain rivalry set up between the Government factory and the private factories, and I do not think it is fair that the private factory should be inspected by officials of the rival manufacturing department. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that into consideration.
There is one point on which I have not-found myself in agreement with my hon. Friend, if I rightly understood what he said. I, personally, have the strongest objection to this country raising national flying funds, or funds for presenting "Dreadnoughts" to the British people, or anything of that description. I think it is the business of the Government and of the taxpayer to provide what is necessary out of the taxes. It is not the business of private individuals, who are expected to support hospitals, scientific research, athletic funds, and a thousand and one other demands, also to take off the shoulders of 1825 the Government the business of providing for the defence of the country. I hope, therefore, that no encouragement will be given to a policy which may have been adopted with success in other countries, but which I do not think is a sound policy, and which will certainly always meet with my opposition.
May I now address a more personal appeal to the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite me, and join in the appeals which have been made to them by Members on their own side, having demonstrated to the world, what was entirely unnecessary, that they are men of courage, not to make it a constant practice to expose their valuable lives unnecessarily to the risks which are entailed in what is no doubt an exceedingly delightful occupation. If it is absolutely necessary for Members of the Government to go up in aeroplanes, we might suggest a list of gentlemen who could be better spared. But we do not want to do even that. I have a strong feeling on party questions, but I really think the two right lion. Gentlemen have sufficiently demonstrated their courage. If it was a case where it was necessary to restore morale in the Service, owing to a series of accidents, I should only applaud the action which has been taken. But, as the right hon. Gentleman has now shown that that is in no sense necessary—recruits for the Service are coming in in as large quantities as we could possibly desire—I hope that now the business of flying may be left to those whose proper business it is to engage in it. I only wish to add that we have by no means concluded the remarks which we may have to make on this general subject. When the Estimates come forward I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not take the line that he has dealt with the whole question of aviation, and that it is not necessary to say any more. He has dealt with one particular aspect of it which arises on the Supplementary Estimates, but it will be necessary for us to return to the subject later, when we have the whole scheme of the Government before us, and are in a better position to judge whether the national requirements are being thoroughly satisfied.
§ Sir W. BYLES
To one with no knowledge of flying, and with very little of shooting, and who is an enemy of all war, this development of the science of aviation in relation to the art of war, which has been disclosed in this and some former
1826 Debates, is certainly interesting, and I may say startling. A friend of mine, an eminent man, wrote a book a few years ago, having studied the art of war, to prove that war was rapidly becoming impossible. He pointed to smokeless powder and the longer range of rifles and guns, and other things, and said it would make war so deadly that it would end itself. I wonder what he would have said if he had lived to see the development of this science of aviation. Perhaps so far as he was right, one who holds my views ought to rejoice in this development, because it would add to the perils of conflicts between nations, and might by its deadly nature bring war to an end. But I have a desire to put another point of view. I came down here, and looked at the Army Estimates, and the money that we are asked now to vote, with a feeling of hesitation to go into the Lobby for this Vote, or, indeed, to vote any money at all for the Army. I had that inclination because eminent men to whom one is taught to look up with respect are going about the country declaring that the Army is disloyal.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member is now dealing with a general question which does not arise on this Supplementary Estimate.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I will not pursue it, but you will allow me to put this question. If I feel hesitation in voting this money in support of the defences of the country, will not my Constituents wonder why? Is it not in order to explain my vote and to tell them on what grounds I withhold it?
Major MORRISON - BELL
I will not comment at all on the remarks of the last speaker, who says he is against all fighting, except to ask him if he realises his inconsistency in coming to the House and saying that every year, as he does, when he does not practice what he preaches in his own Constituency?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Those remarks of the hon. Member were out of order, and there is no need to comment on them.
I rise to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. In 1827 a passage which, I think, struck the whole Committee, and which was reinforced by the hon. Member behind him, he told us how one force, provided with aeroplanes, opposed to a force without aeroplanes, was practically doomed. I agree with him there, but what I wanted to ask was this. It is obvious that no first-class Power today will attempt to undertake any warfare without being provided with these aeroplanes. I think the right hon. Gentleman has told us that any action would be preceded by an action between either airships or aeroplanes, and it is obvious that the object would be to drive away or destroy the aeroplanes of the other. Can he tell us whether there is any advance made at all towards arming these aeroplanes? Have they, thought out the subject at all in what way they are to arm these aeroplanes, because it is obvious that one aeroplane cannot ram another in the air, and it can only be done by having some method of offence—guns, or something else. It is a very important question, and one which should not be neglected, because I see other nations are already engaging in this direction.
§ Colonel GREIG
One or two comments occur to me on the speeches we have heard. The first is what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lee). His concluding remark shows the difficulty which we labour under on this side of the House in satisfying hon. Member's opposite. He complained of the courageous course which had been adopted by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary for War in getting intimate first-hand knowledge of this new development of military and naval defence. If these right hon. Gentlemen have not done this—we all recognise the courage with which they have done it—we should have been told by hon. Members opposite that none of us, especially Members of the Government, knew anything whatever about the subject.
§ Colonel GREIG
I quite agree, but I also wish to point out that hon. Members can never be satisfied. I will now pass to what was said by the hon. Member who 1828 opened the Debate. He objected to the disclosures made by the Secretary for War as to the numbers of our aeroplane fleet. He said he did not think it was quite advisable to make all the disclosures which had been made.
§ Colonel GREIG
I gathered the impression that the hon. Member said that disclosure was not wanted at the present time.
§ Colonel GREIG
We will see to-morrow. I should like to know who has been most inquisitive on this point during the last six months.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I must ask your protection. The hon. Member has put into my mouth a sentiment, and I never said anything like it. When I get up and inform him that I never said anything of the kind, he calmly says he will wait and see to-morrow morning.
§ Colonel GREIG
I certainly do, but I certainly understood him to say it had gone far enough. I will pass from that. With regard to this change in policy as regards airships, I have no particular expert knowledge on the subject, and I dare say most hon. Members are in the same position; but I had an opportunity during the recent manœuvres last summer of seeing something of the dirigibles and the work of the aeroplanes, and the conclusion I drew from what I saw was that the actual dirigibles that we have were very excellent machines and admirably managed, and the paraphernalia and necessary adjuncts were most admirable. But what impressed me was the enormous amount of baggage and impedimenta and other necessary details which would have to accompany these machines, and the House must recollect that these are what are called small airships, and are nothing like the enormous machines that foreign nations have. They are large enough when they are on the ground, but they are relatively very small ones. The amount of impedimenta that they have to carry about with a moving Army, constantly shifting their base, is to my mind a very great 1829 argument against having them. One can quite well understand handing them over to the Navy where they will have permanent bases on the coast, and where possibly in time we may also be able to start airships from warships, though I very much doubt it. They have not even got to the point of starting aeroplanes from warships. But to expect the Army to carry about with it all this enormous amount of impedimenta must, I think, drive conviction home to the mind of anyone who has seen it, that it is a very wise departure on the part of the War Office to hand over these machines to the Navy. As for the suggestion of the military critic which we have heard from the other side (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) that this sort of thing should be sent out to Somaliland to replace the Camel Corps there with, I suppose, a number of scouts clinging round the outside of the machine, the thing is perfectly ridiculous. One other point; the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lee) said, "Suppose you have got your complete establishment for your Expeditionary Force of the Regular Army, what are you going to do about the Territorial Force?"
Here is another point of view which hon. Members opposite, and those who are occupied in the campaign against the Territorial Force, ought to take into consideration. They say, "Assume that the whole Expeditionary Force is abroad, that all the aeroplane service has gone abroad; assume that our Navy has been defeated, and that a foreign army had invaded this country; assume everything possible against our military position—what are you going to do?" To begin with, it is hardly probable, though it may be possible, that at the same moment when we have the whole of our Expeditionary Force abroad, our Navy should be defeated, and that an actual invading army should be coming in here; but assuming that something of that kind was possible in this country, it should be remembered that voluntary effort is supplying practically the whole of our Home Defence Force. I do not know to what extent the Army Council has pursued the consideration of this subject, but it appears to me that it would be perfectly possible in connection with the Territorial Force to form an aerial section in order to supply this necessary equipment. If hon. Members would only encourage the Territorial Force and get it on a firm basis, so that these further developments could be obtained, I have no doubt that a Territorial Defence 1830 Force such as I have indicated would soon be provided. I will not deny that hon. Gentlemen opposite are actuated by patriotic motives in their efforts, but I wish to point out that we have this demand made by them for extraordinary and enlarged expenditure for defensive purposes, though whenever we come to the question as to how the funds are to be provided, we are immediately attacked, opposed, and told that we are the most extravagant people in the world. All I suggest is that when we come to discuss these questions, and when hon. Members ask more money for the provision of a Home defence aerial squadron, they should also give us some suggestion as to the source the money is to come from.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I will not follow the hon. Gentleman (Colonel Greig) into the discussion as to where the money is to come from. Neither will I follow him in his military arguments, which, as a civilian, I fail to understand. So far as I could make out from him, a defeat of our Navy would be possible if we had an Expeditionary Force abroad. I do not see that the two things have anything to do with each other.
§ Colonel GREIG
It was an assumption made by the hon. Gentleman in front of him (Mr. Lee) that our Expeditionary Force might be at war abroad, and that an invading force might be coming into this country.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Why should our Navy be out of the way then or defeated? If the hon. Member has read history, he will have found that Nelson was out in the West Indies chasing the French when we were threatened with invasion. But assuming that it is quite possible we might have an expedition abroad, and that our Navy might be defeated, then the hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, there is the Territorial Force, and we might have airships and aeroplanes for that force." But you have to get them. You cannot make them on the spur of the moment after the defeat of the Navy has occurred. He may be right in saying that there should be aeroplanes in connection with the Territorial Force, but you must have them now and not later. Personally, I am very sorry that anybody ever invented aeroplanes; but I suppose the right hon. Gentleman shares my view that, having been invented, we must do our best to keep up with the times and see that we have a proper number of aeroplanes. The 1831 hon. Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow (Mr. Dundas White) criticised my hon. Friend because he said that about eight or nine months ago the Secretary for War had stated that certain machines were efficient, and that these machines had since been scrapped. The hon. Member went on to say that although these machines were not absolutely first class, still they were efficient in a certain degree. He missed the point altogether. What my hon. Friend said was that we were told eight months ago that these were the best aeroplanes money could secure. I would like to ask the Secretary for War a question from the financial point of view. I see that the amount to which this Vote is Supplementary was £2,027,000. An increase of £216,000 is asked for aeroplanes. Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much of that £2,027,000 was originally intended for aeroplanes, because the amount apparently includes armaments, engineer stores, etc.? The point of my question is this: If there was any very large amount in the original Vote for aeroplanes, an increase of £216,000 is a very large one. It looks, on the face of it, as if there had been a very bad budgeting on the part of the financial officials at the War Office.
With regard to the factory, I am not able to agree with my hon. Friend. I think the right hon. Gentleman is quite right to have a factory for the manufacture of aeroplanes. I hope he is not going to manufacture the whole of the aeroplanes in it, because if we were in such a position as to require an increased output, we must have private people to whom we can go, and you cannot expect them to keep up factories unless they occasionally get orders. I think that it is essential, in the interest of economy, that we should have a factory of our own, so that we may be able to check prices when tenders are sent in by private manufacturers. In this matter I think the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing an absolutely right course. I wish to know what happened to the fifty-two aeroplanes to which the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division referred. Were they scrapped or sold? If so, what did the right hon. Gentleman get for them? If they were sold as old iron, the criticism of my hon. Friend was very good, for it would appear, from their being so disposed of, that they were not efficient. That is what my hon. Friend has been saying for a, longtime. In regard to the Navy 1832 I am not an expert, and I should not like to express a very definite opinion on the matter. The right hon. Gentleman said he thought the Navy were more fit to navigate airships than the Army.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Hitherto the Navy has not gone into the air, and the Army has not gone into the air. It is a new thing for both, and I rather agree with my hon. Friends that in time of war we should have Army airships. The right hon. Gentleman has greater opportunity than I have for knowing what should be done, and it may be that he is right, but it does not seem tome a reasonable thing in carrying on the defence of the country to entrust to the Navy what properly belongs to the Army, and vice versa. I wish to know why it is that the engines of aeroplanes wear out so quickly. I understand that they only last two years. That seems a short time. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why in the case of a motor car an engine will last for a considerable number of years, while in the case of an aeroplane an engine lasts such a short time?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Harold Baker)
The statement made by my right hon. Friend earlier in the afternoon appears to have produced only a limited sense of satisfaction in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) is very difficult to please. He admitted that considerable progress had been made with respect to aeroplanes, and he endeavoured to obtain some of the credit for himself, but he was not at all anxious to allow any credit to my right hon. Friend. The (hon. Member for Fareham (Mr Lee) was more generous in his expressions, but even he was at some pains to safeguard himself against anything like positive praise. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) has asked two or three questions, and I will deal with them first. He wished to know how much of the £2,000,000 voted originally was intended for aeroplanes. I am afraid it is impossible to disentangle that figure and give it alone. The original Vote covers a great deal besides aeroplanes. The hon. Baronet asked what had happened to the fifty-two machines which had disappeared since July last. On the question which has been raised as to the value and efficiency of these machines I would only add to what has been said by my hon. Friend the 1833 Member for the Tradeston Division, that it is not only a question of the efficiency of the machines, but also a question of safety. They may be quite efficient, but at the same time have just an element of risk attaching to them, and as we have gradually raised the standard of our aircraft it was considered that the standard of safety in these machines was so low as to condemn them. The best possible use has been made of them in the circumstances. As they were tainted with an. element of danger it would have been a very wrong thing to sell them in the open market. They have been dismantled, and such parts as were serviceable as spare parts have been kept. In that way they have been put to proper use.
The hon. Member for Fareham dealt with the question of airships and the Navy. He called it a startling change of policy. In regard to the criticisms made in respect to that, I would say that it obviously must be an essential part of such an arrangement that so long as the Army require airships, as at present they do, they must be provided by the Navy. The hon. Member for Brentford spoke of the rapid development that is taking place in regard to aeroplanes, and the justification for the change is that development will be all the more rapid if conducted under single control. With regard to the position of the officers which was brought forward by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), I can assure him on the authority of both my right hon. Friends that the position of those officers will certainly not be less advantageous under the new arrangement. They have had a perfectly free option as to whether they would transfer or not, and I believe that all except one decided that they would. I cannot state the precise arrangements which have to be made, because a number of technical points are raised by this transfer under the Naval Discipline Act, and so on, but I can give an absolute assurance that the officers will be in no way damaged, but will rather gain an advantage by the change.
§ Mr. BAKER
The question is not settled yet, because a number of difficult points arise in regard to Commissions and so on, but they follow the Airship Service, and whatever is legally necessary will have to 1834 be done, and everything will be done to see that their condition is, if anything, improved by the change.
§ Mr. LEE
If an officer transfers permanently, he will lose the possibility of promotion to higher ranks, such as that of General, and even perhaps that of Field-Marshal, and he will be absolutely excluded from rising to high commands in the Navy. Therefore it is important to know at this stage whether the transfer will shut him off from the possibility of rising to higher ranks in the Army, or whether it is only a temporary transfer, and that he will go back to the Army and resume his place in the line of promotion?
§ Mr. BAKER
I have given the hon. Member the assurance that their position is not going to be prejudiced. He will agree that it would be very wrong of me to try to develop it, when I say that the matter is not settled. It has, first of all, to be put on a proper legal basis. The hon. Member for Brentford dealt with the question of the number of English engines. I am afraid that the answer to his question will not be very satisfactory. If the records of the aviation service are examined it will be found that the number of British engines offered to us was extremely small. That, I hope, is going to be remedied by this competition, which takes place in a few months' time. On that the hon. Member wished to know why the promise of an order for £50,000 was not made definitely. I am not sure what he meant. Does he really suggest that we ought to take £50,000 of the taxpayers' money and say that whether a machine is serviceable for its purpose or not, that money is to be handed over to the English maker? He must see that that is not quite reasonable. What has been promised is if the engine produced is of use for Army purposes orders for that amount will be given to the makers. The point raised with regard to the consistency of my right hon. Friend in reference to the manufacture of aeroplanes in the Royal Factory has been fully dealt with. As to the extent to which the original intention has been departed from, I can perhaps make it a little clearer by giving a few figures. Of the 100 new machines which have been added since last July, I think the Committee was told that eleven were made abroad and eighty-nine were made at home. Of the eighty-nine which were made at home eighteen only have come from the Factory and seventy-one come from private firms. That is the 1835 small proportion, but I do not gather that the hon. Member was opposing the policy of manufacturing to a certain limited extent in the manufactory itself. We know from unfortunate experience that aeroplanes have not come in as quickly as we would wish. There are various causes not due to the changes made in the course of construction by directions from the official side, but due to the fact that contractors themselves had over-estimated their power to produce these machines, and we have been put to great difficulty in keeping up our numbers. The general attitude which the War Office propose to adopt is well known. There is no intention entirely to cut off orders and to manufacture on an enormous scale, but we must in our own interest prtoceed to a certain point, and the hon. Member himself and other Members who have asked for explanations will agree that, on the whole, that is the wisest and best course to adopt.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The hon. Member seemed dissatisfied with us for not having complimented the Secretary of State for War on the increase in the aviation service. It is no duty of hon. Members on this side to compliment the Secretary of State for War, but, having said that, I am sure we see that a great advance has been made in this respect; but that advance was due very largely to the criticism directed against the Secretary of State for War from this side, notably by the hon. Members for Fareham (Mr. Lee), for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks), and for Wells (Mr. Sandys). I would like to dissociate myself from the remarks on both sides of the House as to Cabinet Ministers going up in aeroplanes. I think the reputation of both these Cabinet Ministers does not require any further enhancement from the fact that they went up in an aeroplane, but I think that to ask them not to do so is to interfere unduly. With regard to these Estimates, there is one point on which I would like to ask the hon. Member for information, and I also desire to ask him with reference to the mechanical transport for these aeroplanes. The year before last £42,000 was voted for mechanical transport. Last year in the Army Estimates there was an increase of something like £62,000 for that very Service. Now we are asked to vote another £35,000.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I think that the hon. Gentleman is now referring 1836 to a question arising on Vote 6. We have already passed that point. Vote 9 is now before the Committee and we cannot go back
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Having regard to the explanation of the hon. Member, and the fact that we shall have another opportunity of raising the question on the general Estimates, I shall be glad to withdraw my Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
The opening remarks of the Secretary of State for War gave expression to his increasing hopefulness that the supply of aeroplane machinery was becoming increasingly possible in this country. I am not at all sure that the meaning of the expression which he used may not be this: that we have already come to the time when within the four corners of this country engines could be set up that would be equal to all probable demands that might be made upon them. I suppose that he is still prepared to leave himself open to the best that the world has to show us along this line as in any other. But I should have been glad if he could have given us a line indicating the progress that our mechanics are making in this matter so that we might see how far we might hope to supply this industry within our own border. I was glad to notice the tenacity with which both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member stuck to the point as to their unwillingness to say what was to be done with these transferred officers. After all, if in a service which is in its very babyhood, as aviation is, increasing knowledge requires the country to ask from such splendid fellows as are working this service for us, a change from one side to another, it is necessary for them to take certain risks and chances. If it is decided in the interests of the country that they should go from he Army to the Navy, or vice versa, I think that to drive the line too closely in the interests of these men, splendid fellows as they are, might possibly hamper the great efficiency in future of this branch of the Service.
§ Mr. LEE
I feel bound, after the last remarks of the hon. Member for Stafford, to make a protest against the attitude adopted by him towards the officers. It is very easy for him to get up in this House and say that these officers should take their risk of being transferred without regard to what their future may be. It does not make any difference to him. It makes 1837 a difference to them. I do not think that any officer should be asked to make any change with regard to his own position until it is clearly explained to him how his future will be affected. The Financial Secretary, in dealing with certain questions which I put on that point, was not able to give satisfactory information. I do not blame him for that, because it was obvious that he did not know. The matter probably is not settled. I do not propose on this occasion, therefore, to press the right hon. Gentleman to go any further, beyond saying this, that I shall raise it again when the Army Estimates come on, on the main Vote for Aviation. But before the right hon. Gentleman gets his Vote, I do ask him whether he will undertake to make a perfectly clear statement as to the position of these officers when the main Estimates are explained, because It is not sufficient from the officers point of view to be told by the Under-Secretary that nothing will be done to affect their position. That has been said over and over again in the history of the Army.
When I was serving in the Royal Artillery, and when what they called the bifurcation of the regiment was undertaken, we were assured solemnly by the Government of that day—I forget whether it was a Conservative or a Radical Government, but it makes no difference—that the officers who were transferred permanently to the Garrison Artillery would not suffer in any way, either in their prospects or promotion. In three or four years that hope was entirely falsified, and officers who were made to transfer on the strength of that assurance from the Government have been permanently and fatally affected in their prospects since then, and there is no reason why what happened on that occasion should not be repeated. At any rate, the assurance which the hon. Gentleman has given us is, I think, not really sufficient to justify these officers in making such a grave change, which may affect their whole future, and I do ask the right hon. Gentleman, at a later date, clearly to explain, if he wishes these officers to transfer, whether or not their ultimate prospects and career will or will not be affected, or in what particular their career will be affected; because, otherwise, it is not fair to ask them to transfer and to subject themselves, as suggested by the hon. Member opposite, to risks which we have no right, as the House of Commons, and, indeed, the country has no right, to call 1838 upon them to incur. It is our business to see that their future is adequately ensured.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
Surely the hon. Gentleman will admit that the interests of the whole Service are greater than those of the individual.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
In regard to the matter in which you ruled me out of order, Sir, perhaps I may now be permitted to say—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot refer to that point, for, even though the reduction has been withdrawn, we cannot go back to the consideration of the subject to which it related.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. You have now, Sir, to put the question of the whole Vote, and on that is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman entitled to speak in regard to that portion of it to which he objects, because certain things have not been done?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman can vote against the whole Vote, certainly, but he cannot debate an item previous to that on which a reduction has been moved. The Rule is that when the Question has been proposed, either to omit or reduce any item, no Motion can be made or debate allowed on a preceding item.
§ Colonel SEELY
I have been asked whether I will make a fuller statement in regard to the officers who have been referred to. I shall be very glad to do that on the Estimates. With regard to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman on which he was ruled out of order, I will send him a memorandum which will fully explain the whole matter.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.