HC Deb 15 December 1919 vol 123 cc153-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £34,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Miscellaneous Effective Services of the Air Force, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, in addition to a sum of £169,000 to be allocated for this purpose from the sum of £45,000,000 voted on account of Air Services generally.

Captain W. BENN

In regard to the Grant for the Meteorological Office, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the sum, of £25,000, but I see the Grant here is given as £12,000. Is the Meteorological Office completely under the Air Ministry, because it would seem to me very proper that it should be? Obviously the airmen must know more about the condition of the atmosphere than anybody else, and I myself think they should supply information about the atmosphere to the other branches of the Service, so far as they require it, either for gunnery or for navigation.


The intention is that the meteorological staff and all investigations into that branch shall be brought, in practice, under the Air Ministry. It is said that the eye of the master maketh the horse fat. No one has an interest in meteorology comparable to the Air Ministry. No other Department of State can compete with it for a moment in the vital consequence to its daily work of meteorology, and therefore it is following a perfectly logical and defensible principle to confide the charge of that matter entirely to us. I do not think there is any discrepancy between what I stated, namely, the £25,000 which has been spent generally on meteorology and the £12,000 which is required for the particular expenditure of the Meteorological Office.


Will any of the expenses in connection with the Pennant inquiry come out of this Vote for Miscellaneous Services?


The extra expenses of the Douglas-Pennant inquiry, which amount to something over £10,000, I think, is a law officers' charge and is expended by the Treasury. Since the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned it, I take this opportunity of thanking the House for having been guided by me at the beginning of the Session in regard to the institution of that inquiry. We had the most stormy Debate we have had on any Air Office Vote and one of the most stormy I ever remember to have spoken in on a Departmental matter, but the House accepted the advice which was tendered in all good faith by the responsible, Minister, and certainly has no reason to repent of it. If that example had been copied elsewhere in other and less responsible assemblies—

Captain BENN

On a point of Order. Shall we be entitled to give our views on the case also?


I was not wishing to give any views, but merely expressing my sense of indebtedness to the House for having been guided by my advice on that matter, and my pleasure to be able to say that after these many months it has been found that that advice was not ill directed.

Lieut. - Colonel MOORE - BRABAZON

Before leaving the Grant for the Meteorological Office, might I ask why the charge is always marked to civil aviation? I should have thought that that particular charge should be on the military side.


As a matter of fact, civil aviation this year has not been able to spend the modest sum allotted to it. If there were a great shortage of money, and the expenditure was over the limit, I think it would be quite fair that it should be transferred to the military side proportionate to the amount of the service rendered to the military side.

Question put, and agreed to.