HC Deb 03 July 1919 vol 117 cc1148-50

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether, at the out break of war, the Admiralty purchased a flying boat of new and successful design, by Mr. Norman Thompson, built by Messrs. White and Thompson (subsequently renamed the Norman Thompson Flight Company in 1915), a pioneer firm, established in 1909; whether in 1915 the Admiralty placed an order with the Norman Thompson Flight Company for ten flying-boats of such size that the firm were compelled to lay out considerable money in additional buildings to their existing works; whether for twelve months after these extensions were completed in May, 1916, the Government were aware that the firm were only able to work at about one-third full output owing to constant changes in design ordered by the Admiralty and shortage of orders; and, if so, whether he will explain why in the autumn of 1916 the Admiralty refused to allow the War Office to place orders with the firm?


With my hon. Friend's permission I will circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The following is the reply referred to:

In August, 1914, the Admiralty requisitioned a seaplane from Messrs. white and Thompson. The seaplane was an improved form of the ''Curtiss" single-engined flying-boat, of which Messrs. White and Thompson were sole concessionaries.

Trials of this machine were successful, and as a result of the trials the machine was purchased and six further machines were ordered. A further order for ten ''America," type seaplanes, to be fitted with engines to be supplied by the Admiralty, was placed with the firm in July, 1915, tender price being finally accepted 28th December, 1015. An advance of 25 per cent. of the contract price was made with the acceptance of tender at firm's request, the firm stating that the greater part of the profits they might derive from the contract would be spent on new factory extensions and land which they were making arrangements to purchase. The firm did not state that such extensions were necessary on account of the size of the flying-boats.

Shortly after the order was placed it was decided to fit 140 horse-power instead of 100 horse-power engines in order to improve the performances of the machines. At this time the firm had in hand eighteen S.38 type school aeroplanes; delivery of the last of these was made on 7th June, 1916. In July, 1916, an order for twenty F.B.A. flying-boats was placed with the firm. Various orders for spare parts were also in hand. In August, 1916, the War Office asked the Admiralty whether there was any objection to firm's resources being utilised for supply of spare parts.

The ten "America" and twenty F.B.A. flying-boats were then under construction, and it was under consideration at place an order for small flying-boats of the firm's own design, in which circumstances the War Office was informed that the Admiralty orders would absorb the firm's whole output for some time.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether a design of flying-boat by the Norman Thompson Flight Company, known as type N.T. 2 B, and officially adopted by the Air Ministry in April, 1918, as a standard naval instruction machine, was ordered in repetition from them and from other firms; whether, in June, 1917, the Air Board required the firm to increase their works for the production of one of their designs of flying-boats, type N.T. 4 A, and subsequently agreed to advance £20,000 for new buildings; whether, after placing considerable orders in the autumn of 1917 for N.T. 4 A flying-boats, the Air Board cancelled those orders in January, 1918, and gave no new orders until May, 1918, after the appointment of a receiver for the debenture holders; whether the Aircraft Finance Department of the Ministry of Munitions in October, 1918, refused the recommendation of the Lubbock Committee of the Treasury to pay off the debentures issued to Messrs. Cox and Company as security for advances and revert the control of the company in the directors; and, if so, whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?


The answer to the first three parts of this question is in the affirmative. No such recommendation was ever made by the Lubbock Committee as is suggested in the fourth part of the question, and the fifth part does not accordingly arise.


Will the hon. Gentleman make an investigation into the whole transaction of the Admiralty with this particular company, and allow Mr. Thompson to appear before him?


Not on the information I have at present. If my hon. and learned Friend will give me any more information, I shall be delighted to act upon it, but at present his premises, I think, are wrong.


As the hon. Gentleman's information is so meagre, will he take the steps I suggest, so as to get the necessary information?


I take it that it is for my hon. and learned Friend to supply me with premises on which I can reasonably act.