§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Air Forces, not exceeding 1,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919."
§ Mr. BILLING
On Thursday last I had occasion to refer in this House to the number of engines which the Air Service had standardised in the past, both of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, and I think I called the attention of the House to the fact that forty-four engines had been so standardised. That statement was so hotly contested, both by members of the Government and also by private Members in the House, that I took the opportunity of refreshing my memory on the first chance which presented itself, because I would say, in extenuation of the mistake which I made, that I was only speaking from memory when I said that forty-four engines and spare parts for forty-four engines were being, or had been, employed by the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps respectively. I want to apologise to the Committee for misleading it. In stating that forty-four engines were standardised I was wrong, and I freely admit it; but, when I refer to my books in the matter, I discover that the figure should have been sixty-one, and, having regard to the fact that I was particularly calling the attention of the Committee to the mistake which was made in standardising so many types, I think I should for the benefit of the Under-Secretary to the Air Council call his attention to the particular types of engines which have been so standardised, so as to enable him, possibly in reply, to speak in support of any type of engine which he thinks is justifiable. In order that we may get this matter perfectly clear on the question of standardisation, and in order that the Committee may be satisfied that these facts are correct, I would call the attention of the hon. Member on the Front Bench to this: At the present time we are carrying spare parts to the extent in London alone, I think, of something like £15,000,000 value for aeroplane engines. I have heard of a sum almost equalling that, I do not say being wasted, but lying dormant in other parts 1202 of the country, so that spare parts may be ready for all these engines to which I propose to refer.
I do not wish to go into any great detail with regard to the possibilities of reducing the standardisation of engines to something like 10 per cent. of the present number. I may say that our enemies, the Germans, have succeeded in reducing their standard engines to approximately 7 per cent. They employ 160 6-cylinder Mercedes and 260 6-cylinder and 240 8-cylinder Mercedes; 130 6-cylinder and 240 6-cylinder Benz; 250 6-cylinder May bach; 100 120 h.-p. 9-cylinder rotary Mono-Oberhursel; and 160 or so Austro-Daimler. With one or two exceptions, this is practically the whole output of enemy aeroplane engines. I think that even we, the enemy of Germany, must admit that, so far as their engines are concerned, their aircraft programme has been exceedingly satisfactory, although anything but satisfactory to ourselves. Seeing that our enemy has efficient engines, seeing that we who have far greater access to the raw material than have our enemies, and seeing that we have access both to the assistance of America, Italy, and France, three of the greatest engineering countries in the world—America for production and France and Italy for high efficiency—we yet find ourselves at the end of three and a half years of war without one engine that we can really rely on Is it not reasonable that engineers and those interested in this problem should ask the question "Why?" The answer to that question is provided by the list which I have in my possession. The power-unit of an aeroplane is simply the efficiency of the horse-power for the minimum weight. A certain amount of experiment is justified, but, provided you can get the engines which will run efficiently at a horse-power weight of 2¼ lbs., which is not a very great deal, is it not advisable rather to test the engine under all possible conditions, and not merely the test - bench conditions, which do not assist one in arriving at what an engine will do under all conditions in the air? An engine which may run very well under test-bench conditions may have enormous trouble with lubrication directly it is put into the fighting machine, when there is banking or looping, or it is upside down, throwing the whole system of lubrication out of gear. But having tested the engine in all respects, and having found that it is an 1203 engine of approximately 150 or even 200 h.-p., and is to be relied upon, then I suggest that you should standardise such an engine, and carry only the spare parts for such an engine, instead of what we have been doing in the past. I make these criticisms, not as destructive criticisms, but as a means of showing where there are faults, so that in the forthcoming programme at least some heed may be paid to the mistakes of yesterday in preparing the programme of to-morrow.
What do we find? Despite the protestations of certain hon. Members, or the protestations of the representatives of the Air Ministry in this House, that I am utterly wrong as to the forty-four types which were standardised, or forty-four engines which were carrying spare parts, I find on referring to my old Service notes, and to information at my disposal to-day, that at least sixty-one engines have been standardised, and that is anything but a complete list. I find that 90, 110, and 130 Clerget, 100 and 120 Mono-Gnome, and 80, 110, and 130 Le Rhone, three distinct types of engines, have been in the recent past standardised engines of both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, the spare parts blocking up the stores of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. If any engineer were asked to give a report he would tell you that there is nothing between the Clerget and the Le Rhone, either the 80 or the 110 or the 130. It is simply a case of one man who says the Le Rhone is the engine, and he goes off and orders 500 or 1,000. Another holds that the Clerget is the engine, and he orders 500 or 1,000 of that engine. What is the position? Very shortly it is discovered that neither is the engine, and they all go back. So far as the Naval Air Service is concerned, they have got the 100 h.p. Mono-Gnome, and another standardised engine, the 120 Mono-Gnome. The two engines are practically alike, one works under a higher compression than the other, and one having a different spring from the other, with the result that the parts of the two engines are not interchange able, and that if one aeroplane is out of order its parts cannot be supplied from the parts of the other aeroplane, so that, instead of one, both are put out of use. There is the 80 ordinary Gnome. I do not know whether it is established or whether it has been wiped out.
1204 There is the 250 Sunbeam 12-cylinder, the 860 Sunbeam 18-cylinder, and the 275 Sunbeam 12-cylinder and 8-cylinder. I would make the guess that the Sunbeam Company must have been paid something like millions of money for Sunbeam engines, if you add all the money that had been paid to engineers for tinkering with those engines. Hero we have four different types of engines and four different complete sets of spare parts to be attached to every squadrilla. We come to the Eagle Rolls Mark III. 12-cylinder and Mark IV. 12-cylinder, and the Falcon Rolls 12-cylinder and the 175 h.-p. 6-cylinder, and we come to the Green 80, 160 and 360, all involving sets of complete spare parts. I understand that it was insisted that there should be some thousands spare parts of a particular part of the Green machine, despite the fact that the people who know best must know that there is no likelihood of the particular part ordered going, for never in the history of this engine has the part to which I refer gone wrong. Somebody must have seen the books and noticed that some spare parts of this particular part were provided for the Sunbeam 225, and thereupon determined that there must be similar parts provided for the Green type. We come to the Renault Mercedes, the Lorraine Dietriche, and the Beard more Daimler 120 and 160, and the Smith 140. We come to the Curtis, and this country, I may almost say, is littered with Curtis's. First of all, the Curtis was found to be no good, and we took the engines out of them. Still it is a standard engine, never washed out, and spare parts must be provided. Now is the time for the Air Minister to adopt a firm attitude on this question. As he does not know these matters himself, he must put his trust in somebody and must go nap on somebody's decision. He should say that out of these sixty-three types of engines there should be one on which we can rely for training and one or two for fighters, and two, three, or four for bombers, and that we will put our faith in those, and he should cancel all the contracts of all those people, who are simply wasting priceless materials and workmanship, making engines that will never be employed. He should also cancel the vast orders for spare parts and concentrate on about six types of engines and devote all our energies to making those engines as perfect as 1205 possible. We come to the Hespano-Suiza 150, 150 geared, 200, 200 geared, 200 Possee, 200 Surcomprise, Reugest, Brazier, Wolseley. We come then to the Wolseley Adder and Viper, two more types, and we have the Aerol Johnston 120 h.-p. and 150 h.-p., and the Galloway 160 h.-p.—another lot of engines with none of them interchangeable in any way. Imagine a store filled with spare parts for all those engines. We come to what has been the cause of half the tragedy of our experiments, the R.A.F. 90 h.-p. 8-cylinder, 100 h.-p. 8-cylinder, 130 h.-p. 12-cylinder. We have the Renault 70 h.-p. and 80 h.-p.
Then there is the A.R.1, a very excellent engine, I believe the result of designs in the Admiralty. There is then the B.R.2 and the A.B.C. 45 h.-p. 2 cylinder and 160 h.-p. 7 cylinder, and the Fiat engine, standarised by the authorities, and the Salmson 90, 160, and 200. The hon. Gentleman laughs at that, but I ask him at what date these engines were finally deleted from stock, and whether any firms, and how recently, have been engaged in making spare parts. He, might also inform us of what he knows of the latest type of this kind, and whether it is not the finest engine which the Allies have at their disposal to-day. We have the Auzain, 60 and 160, and the Sturtevant 120. Those are about the only ones I can remember at the moment. When I stated that there were forty-four different types of engines standardised, I what the hon. members and Committee to understand that I was speaking from memory. I misled the House into believing there were only forty-four, and to endeavour to correct that statement I have produced a list which totals sixty-one. If the hon. Member who represents the Air Service can think of any others to swell the list perhaps he will mention them in reply. Unless something is done to stop this almost criminal waste of highly-skilled man-power and material, which is getting scarcer every day, anything approaching a great Air Service will not be possible in this War. You must have first to secure the production of pilots and the specialisation of pilots into their particular types, and not try to teach men who will never be fighting pilots to be so when they will make excellent bomb-dropping pilots if left alone. The other condition necessary is the standardisation of engines. Those are the two 1206 most important factors, as the mere production of machines will follow in due course, and will be perfectly simple.
That brings me to this question of the production of machines and to another most important point which I do want the Air Service and the Government to appreciate. I refer to this new scheme, which has been lately brought into being, of acceptance parks. The old idea, the old methods, of accepting aeroplanes in my days was that each firm was called upon to pass its machine through a certain test, and if they passed that test satisfactorily they were accepted. Suddenly someone in the Royal Flying Corps had a brain wave that if they set up huge acceptance parks all over England, take down good service pilots and relieve the manufacturer of all responsibility of passing his own machine, it would increase output and hasten delivery. I have in my mind, in raising that point, one particular acceptance park. Let me take it only as an example of many other parks in this country. It is Kenley, which receives machines from Crayford, Richmond, Chelsea, and Acton. What is the process? There is an inspector at the factories at Crayford, Richmond, Chelsea, and Acton. The machine is made. It is completely erected, to the most minute details. Everything is tested and made right for flying inside the factory. Then the inspector passes it. Next the erectors take it all to pieces again, pack it in great wooden cases and put it on a lorry, and it is carried by this lorry some four or six miles to the acceptance parks at Kenley, where the crates are unpacked, and the whole machine erected and trued up again. A service pilot gets into it, tests it, and reports it all right, and then in many cases that machine is taken all to pieces again, packed up into its crate, and sent perhaps to some aerodrome where it is required.
I put it to any hon. Member who has any experience of aviation and aeroplanes at all that by the time you have taken an aeroplane in pieces three times, and put it together again, it is practically a second-hand machine. Nothing injures an aeroplane more than this constant taking to pieces, packing, and assembling again, and especially having regard to the fact that many of the mechanics, and most of the erectors in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, are not nearly so efficient as the erectors 1207 and mechanics in the private firms, and some of them are just learning their business, and it is a very easy thing to do several hundred pounds worth of damage to an aeroplane if you have a fellow learning his business. If you could not help this, I should not raise this point, but you can. help it. When the inspector passes that aeroplane in a factory, it is either right or wrong. The question of doing its work depends absolutely on whether the power is there and whether the builders have carried out the design according to the drawings which have been passed by the Admiralty, plus the skill of the pilot. Why is it necessary to tear that machine to pieces? Where there is an aerodrome adjoining the shed where it is erected, it could be wheeled straight out, a pilot could get into it and put it through the test, and, if necessary, dismantle it at once, and then send it to whatever place it is required. It is simply because they have this acceptance parks stunt; they have a huge organisation, and made a colonel into a real live brigadier-general so as to be in command of it. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Brigadier-General Jenkins, who is in command of it, but, so far as I know, before the War he was a dealer in second-hand motor cars, and as such must have a very good commercial experience. No man could be a successful dealer in second-hand motor cars in England without being a business man. How, then, can he possibly look upon this as a business proposition?
I do hope, when the hon. Member replies, he will say that this question of acceptance parks is going to be very carefully looked into, and I should like to know, roughly, what it has cost. So far as I know, Kenley is perfectly useless as an aerodrome. It is surrounded by trees and high hills. It is very difficult of approach, and while it might possibly be justified as a defensive aerodrome for a defensive squadron, it is the last place in the world out of which any reasonable man would dream of ever flying a new machine, because if a man lost his engine when he got out of that aerodrome a quarter of a mile he could not possibly get back to it if at a height of 5,000 ft., and there is no place to land, as the aerodrome is surrounded by trees and hills. I believe it happens to be quite close to the residence of the Brigadier-General in command, but we 1208 must in this case bring Mahomet to the mountain; we must not look for the mountain to be brought to Mahomet. I do put it to the Committee that if these acceptance parks have proved to be what I say they have proved to be, one of the greatest wasters of public money, one of the greatest deterrents to efficient output, then we must do away with them, even if we have to scrap a complete unit of the Flying Corps in the process.
I would like to say one or two words on the question of spare parts generally. An aeroplane is a very sensitive piece of mechanism. When an aeroplane wing is made—I do not want here to go into anything approaching technical details—but before it is covered with cloth it is trued up by interlacing of wives which are adjusted. It is then covered with cloth, and that cloth is doped, and to all intents and purposes that wing can never be touched again. If that wing is true all is well; if it gets out of the true it has either got to be scrapped or it will kill the man who flies the machine. And yet all round London to-day there are thousands of sets of wings which have been made called spare parts. If only the Committee knew the amount of public money which is locked up at the present moment, particularly in spare wings, ribs, tails, rudders—all very sensitive and fragile pieces of workmanship—and if those things are stored, as some of them are, in places where the temperature is wrong, when they are brought out to use, if it is an inefficient commanding officer he may possibly pass it and an accident may happen; but if the commanding officer is efficient it is simply scrapped.
What I want the Air Service to do now is to put its house in order. I know it is asking a great deal. It has got all the sweepings of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps to take up, but, for Heaven's sake, I would appeal to the Minister of Air to put his house in order, to take stock and see where he stands. He can do it without relying upon anybody else. If he goes to his office at nine o'clock in the morning and simply calls for the list of firms in England doing anything with his Department, when he has that list before him it will surprise him, and I personally should not like to be in the position of the person who is called in to answer some of the questions he asks. That would be making a start. Let him call for a brief stocktaking of all the 1209 spare engine parts. Let him also apply for the prime cost of that stock. He will find it runs into many, many millions. Then let him ask what proportion of that stock of spare parts would ever be employed in the fighting machines of this country. That will be another shock. I also want him to call for a complete list of spare aeroplane parts, wings, chassis, complete sets of controls, which have been made in three or four cases, and duplicates still being made for aeroplanes which will never be used.
Here is an opportunity for the Minister for the Air to show courage and decision. He does not need any technical experience to do what I suggest, and that is ruthlessly to scrap every contract the output of which has not some direct relation to the winning of this War, or employment either in France or some other of our fronts, or in our training schools. Surely that is not too much to ask of him? I do ask him not to be put off with fair words or the advice of his multitude of counsellors. The men who were in command of the Air Service in the past are responsible for the position to-day, or rather the position of yesterday, because the Air Service in the last twelve months has undergone a wonderful change for the better. No critic, no matter how much he would desire to be a destructive critic, can possibly fail to admit that the men working on the constructive side of our policy have had enormous moral support from people outside, and critics in this House and in the Press. In consequence of that they have been able largely to reorganise the working of the Service, and to put up its efficiency enormously. They, however, are carrying on their backs—these inside reformers, like reformers must carry !—an enormous load of other people s mistakes. Now is the time for the Air Minister to go in and to say, "I will sweep this away irrespective of any person, place or thing; I will lay down a definite policy, an offensive policy, which will demand so many men and so many machines. Anything we have, any orders we have given, which will not tend to accelerate the success of this policy shall be scrapped ruthlessly. I will devote the men and material at my disposal to the making and perfecting of a system and organisation which will bring success to the definite fighting policy in France and a definite offensive policy in England."
It is time that the Air Force put down its foot and demanded supreme control of 1210 everything aeronautical in so far as it does not really and actually relate to the Expeditionary Force or to the Grand Fleet. It would be a most unfortunate thing if the Air Force were going to trespass on the very special duties of the Grand Fleet or the very special requirements of the Grand Fleet or the Expeditionary Force, or operated against cither. Everything beyond that should be under the absolute and supreme control of the Air Minister. I should look to him for an adequate defence against raids. I am no alarmist, but I tell the Committee here and now that we have not seen the overture of the spring offensive of the enemy in the air. Before it comes is the time for the Air Minister to say, "If I am going to take the onus of the Air Service on behalf of the people of this country, if they are going to look to me to defend them, I must have the supreme and absolute control of the whole personnel and the whole material of the Air Service."
We must, however, have some form of co-ordination in the firing of the guns and the sending up of our airmen. One of our machines passed over my house last Monday night. I should say from the sound of it, for I can generally recognise them by their sound, it was a Clerget Stop with machine. That it was one of our machines there exists no doubt in my mind. I would sacrifice my reputation, whatever it may be worth in the aeronautical world, that it was one of our fighting machines which passed over my house. Within two minutes the guns at Goose Green and all around were letting go at it to their heart's content. There were shells flying in all directions. I want to know who gave the order for those guns to fire? Was there a great brain sitting at Whitehall, who, with an illuminated map in front of him, and, basing himself on information which was supposed to be most reliable, instructed those guns to fire? Were they all sitting round waiting for intelligence, while the others were firing into the inky darkness and trusting to luck for the rest? Surely that is an impossible policy. It is quite possible by a very simple system, which I had the pleasure of suggesting in this House a couple of years ago, by a process of luminous maps, to indicate the movement of the enemy airships over London, or even over England. It is possible for one man to be sitting at Whitehall with a finger on every gun in the country and operating those 1211 guns like a young girl does a typewriter. There is then one man who knows what he is doing instead of a hundred or more men, some of the Army and some of the Air Service, each having a pot shot at the enemy. When it comes to the barrage in London, think that it is possible to set up a service which, as I witnessed, set up a barrage twenty-five miles away from my own lawn without an enemy aeroplane being even within a hundred miles of England. Such a circumstance reflects enormously to the discredit of the organisation of our anti-aircraft force. All I plead for is co-ordination between all our defensive methods—between the operations of the aeroplanes and of the guns. I repeat here now, and I shall continue to repeat, that one man in supreme command of the defences of England is absolutely essential to any scientific defence. It is not only necessary, but upon it to a very great extent—as I pointed out before—the moral of this country will eventually depend. One man in supreme command of the offensive possibilities of our Air Service is that upon which, I repeat again, the ultimate decisive result of this War entirely and absolutely depends.
Mr. CARADOC REES
We have listened to a very interesting speech, full of facts, but I think the hon. Member has been flying far too high for me, and he seems to have got right above the clouds. I have been impressed by the very small number of Members in the House during this Debate because we are discussing an extremely interesting subject, and I hope the hon. Member for East Herts will not think I am saying anything offensive when I say that he ought to look a little to himself, because I think he rather over colours things, and is inclined to overstate things, and make a lot of broad, general sweeping statements which, as far as I could see, were not verified by the facts. The hon. Member says we have standardised sixty-one engines. He has referred to the Curtis engine and the spare parts of the Sunbeam, and he stated that if we concentrated on a smaller number of standardised engines we could increase the output by 200 or 300 per cent That seems to me to be a statement far above the mark.
§ Mr. BILLING
You could increase the output 200 per cent. or 300 per cent. by Abolishing many of the types of engines, 1212 because this would release many thousands of those engaged in building those types, and all these men would be able to concentrate themselves on an increased output.
§ 9.0 P.M.
When the hon. Member states that the increase would be 200 per cent. or 300 per cent., we do not feel that we are getting anything near exactitude, and if he had said about 30 per cent. or 50 per cent., one might have been inclined to agree with him, but 200 per cent. or 300 per cent. seems to be a great deal more than ho was justified in putting to the House. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say one word with regard to the hon. Member for East Herts' last statement, which I hope will not go un contradicted. I mean his statement that our machines go up and our guns fire at our own machines. This seems to be a very general statement, for the hon. Member says he saw this twenty-five miles away whilst standing on his lawn, when he hears some buzzing noise and guns go off, and then he comes down here and makes this statement to the House. I hope his statement will be contradicted, for it would be deplorable if it went forth that our machines went up and our own guns fired at them. In the speech we have just listened to, great credit was given by the hon. Member to the German engineers, and I am not going to say that that credit has not lightly been given. I read the papers, and I hope equal credit will be given to our own engineers. I see that our aeroplanes have been bombing the Germans here and there, and that they all come back, and. as far as I can understand, as a mere man in the street talking in this House, our engines appear to be as reliable as those used by the Germans. Those are the only words I wish to say. I was greatly interested in the speech of the hon. Member for East Herts, and I do feel that he has an amount of knowledge on this question, and I only wish it could be better focussed and better directed than it is.
§ Major BAIRD
I received no notice that any question was going to be raised, and therefore I have not got specific replies, but it is not difficult to reply to the speech of the hon. Member for East Herts. I need hardly say his description 1213 of this country turning out to-day sixty-one different types of standardised engines is quite fantastic.
§ Mr. BILLING
The hon. Member makes an alarming statement and puts it into my mouth. If he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will not find any reference in my speech to German engineers. What I stated was that the German system of standardising six or twelve engines made it much easier for them to build aeroplanes than by standardising sixty-one engines, like we do.
§ Major BAIRD
Surely, if the hon. Member's statement means anything, it means that the six engines standardised by the Germans are better than our sixty-one.
§ Major BAIRD
Therefore, the hon. Member suggests that we should adopt the six standards of the Germans. Does the hon. Member suggest that the Flying Corps would enjoy the announcement that we have decided to adopt the German equipment instead of our own? Does he suggest that we should exchange the machines we have supplied to our flying men and give them the German machines?
§ Major BAIRD
The Germans to-day are imitating the engines we used to make some time ago, but which we have improved upon lately. The hon. Member talks with very little knowledge on these subjects, and when he suggests that we have standardised sixty one engines or implies that we are still making them by giving a list of certain engines which have 1214 been used since the beginning of the War, all I have to say is that very few of them are being used to-day, and the idea that we are now wasting the energies of this country on the production of parts for sixty-one different engines is perfectly fantastic.
§ Mr. BILLING
Will he state one engine of which the spare parts are not being kept in regard to all these sixty-one engines? Will he answer by fact, and not by rhetoric?
§ Major BAIRD
Rhetoric on this subject is the last thing I should indulge in. I merely state that we are neither making sixty-one engines nor making spare parts for sixty-one engines. The hon. Member made an attack upon our system of acceptance parks for aerodromes and he suggested that the acceptance park at Kenley had been because the commanding officer happened to live near it. That assertion has not the slightest foundation in fact. There is no connection whatever.
§ Major BAIRD
The hon. Member has made some extremely unfair and altogether unfounded aspersions on General Jenkins, who, as he said, is an extremely able business man. He forgot to mention that he is what the hon. Member is not—an extremely capable and efficient flyer, which is a very necessary thing in a man who has to accept the machines on which our men have to trust their lives when they are fighting the enemy, another thing which the hon. Member has never done in a flying machine.
§ Major BAIRD
Under the present system, a machine is accepted by the Flying Service at the door of the factory. Up to the point when it leaves the factory the Ministry of Munitions is responsible. It is designed according to specifications, the material is also according to specifications, and the machine is built in accordance with the drawings and all the specifications that have been given. The Ministry of Munitions is not responsible for the flying quality of the machine. Long ago the first Air Board, when it was 1215 started, made a point of this. They said, "If our men have got to use these machines, we must be satisfied through our own men that the machines are correct, safe and sound to fly." That point is achieved, so we think, by the acceptance of the machines at the door of the factory. Sometimes they are accepted after they have been flown, and sometimes they are accepted unerected. It is merely a question of the manufacturers' convenience. It is possible and convenient—and, indeed, it is the only way to liberate the floor of the workshop—in some cases to send the machines out and have them erected in the acceptance parks. In other cases it is possible to fly the machines away; but whether they are flown away or taken away by road, they have to undergo a test at the hands of the acceptance parks, which is in command of the extremely able officer to whom reference has been made and to whose efficiency I am glad to have the opportunity of testifying. These machines are then submitted to the highest possible test by him, and there is no intention whatever of altering the system, which gives complete satisfaction. The other question raised by the hon. Member was the aeroplane which he heard going over his house. I dare say that he did hear one going over his house, and did hear guns firing later, but to suggest, because he heard an aeroplane going over his house twenty-five miles away from London, that those guns were subsequently fired at that machine which he heard is perfectly ridiculous. Everybody knows, indeed, the newspapers have already described, how at times the Germans, who, I am thankful to say, do not nowadays go away unscathed, are some of them brought down by machines and some by gun-fire.
§ Major BAIRD
To imagine that there is no proper regulation for the employment of machines and the employment of guns is to imagine that the people in charge of the defences of London are perfectly mad and insane. I think that I can assure my hon. Friend on that point.
§ Major BAIRD
I come now to the real point of this Debate. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to repeat the 1216 speech which he made on Thursday, because it is customary when Vote A is introduced to raise every subject connected with the Vote, but the matter which we are met here to discuss to-night is the number of officers and men in the Air Service. The number is put down as 1,000, but hon. Members will find from the note to the Estimate that this is only a token number, and that the effective strength of the Air Force required to be authorised for 1918–19 is included in the number taken in Vote A of the Army. That was provided for by Section 12, Subsection (2), of the Air Force Constitution Act, which states that during the present War the number of forces mentioned in the Preamble of the Army (Annual) Act shall include the number of the Air Force. Obviously, it requires no explanation to the Committee why that system has been adopted. We do not desire the enemy to know how many men we are raising for our Air Force, and the round figures given for the Army will be sufficient to cover the Air Force. The Section of the Act showed roughly the conditions under which the officers and men of the Air Force are to be transferred. We are at present compiling at the Air Ministry a pamphlet, consisting of 29 pages, showing in detail the exact conditions under which officers and men will transfer. I hope the Committee will not expect me to read them any considerable portion of this pamphlet. It will be scattered broadcast in a very few days, when it will be in the hands, not only of Members, but, what is more important, of all the officers and men who will constitute the Air Force. In the first instance, of course, the Air Force will be formed by combining the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps. The conditions under which men will be transferred are contained in the Air Force Act, and since there are not yet any men in the Air Force there is very little to say on the subject. No particular point has been submitted to me, and therefore I have not prepared any reply, but I have the pamphlet hero, and I hope it will be convenient to the members of the Committee to bring forward any points that they desire to raise.
§ Question put, and agreed to.