§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Major-General Seely)
In asking the Committee to accept the Air Estimates which are laid before them to-day, I cannot help recalling that it is almost five years to a day since I was privileged to submit Estimates of £1,000,000 to this House for the War part of the Air Estimates in 1914. We now submit Estimates of £66,500,000, and, as I shall presently show, had the War gone on, it would have been £200,000,000. Before we come to the financial aspect of the matter, I think it would be right, and I am sure the Committee would think it right, that we should pay some tribute to those who have been concerned in raising our air power to such a pitch of intensity as it had reached when 1505 the Armistice was signed. I do that more freely because I had no share in it myself, as I was away during the whole of this period. Of course so great an expansion of any war effort has never been seen. We started then with six squadrons. We finished with about two hundred. We were spending then £1,000,000. At the date of the Armistice we were spending £2,000,000. At the earlier date we could build comparatively few aeroplanes and very few engines. When the Armistice was signed we were building 4,000 aeroplanes a month, or nearly 50,000 aeroplanes a year. I suppose that credit must be given to those who directed affairs and to successive Ministers of Munitions, and those who worked with them for this marvellous expansion. The greatest credit of all is due to the personnel, the pilots and observers, who raised this country's air power to a point which I think we can say without fear of contradiction was not attained either by our Allies or our enemies, and at which we were indeed the masters of the air. That was due, in the first degree, to the astonishing valour of our airmen. It so happened that I witnessed in France the first air combat—it is referred to in Sir John French's first dispatch—when one German aeroplane was shot down. I remember Sir David Henderson saying to me on the same day:This is the beginning of a fight which will ultimately end in great battles in the air in which hundreds, and possibly thousands, of men may be engaged at heights varying from 10,000 to 20,000 feet.I said to him:Is it possible that human endurance and human courage will be equal to that stupendous task?4.0 p.m.
He thought so, and he was right. I hope I shall shortly publish to the House a record of the War effort of the Air Force. It will be, I am sure, a revelation even to this House—which is specially well informed on air matters, as it has so many Members who have served in the Air Force—of the wonderful things we have done in all the theatres of war. To take only one figure, from that one air combat which I remember witnessing in September, 1914, air combats grew until we have this astonishing figure: During the War just under 8,000 enemy machines were shot down by our pilots in all theatres of war; 2,800 of ours were missing and most of them similarly shot down When we think of what that figure means—probably 40,000 or 50,000 desperate battles in the air, 1506 sometimes far away into enemy territory, occasionally right across wide stretches of sea where an engine failure at any moment might prove fatal, we can only bow our heads in respectful admiration of the incomparable valour of our airmen. Of course, the great reduction which we must now make in numbers will cause considerable hardship to the manufacturers of aeroplanes and to their employés and it will cause great dislocation, but I think the people to whom our sympathies must first be due are the brave young pilots to whom I have referred who will have to return to civil life. It is extraordinarily difficult to demobilise an Army, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War and Air knows, and it is difficult to demobilise the Navy; but it is particularly difficult to demobilise an air force, because the training given to a pilot—although he gets a certain amount of engineering knowledge, and although the other knowledge which he obtains is of supreme value to the State in time of war, requiring as it does a standard of skill and courage almost greater than that required in any other walk of life—does not particularly fit a man for civilian employment. Therefore our pilots will find particular difficulty, as compared with the corresponding officers of the Army and Navy, in fitting in the ordinary work of the world, and if I might I would respectfully appeal to all concerned to help in that matter.
On that point may I say that we have come to a certain decision with regard to cadets. There were about 30,000 officers and 25,000 cadets under training when the Armistice was signed. Of course these 25,000 cadets will be required in comparatively small numbers for any purpose of the air, including civilian aviation. So vast a force cannot be required for many a long day now that peace is in sight. The hardest case is that of the Colonials from South Africa, from Australia, and from New Zealand, and some from Newfoundland, and others from other Colonies. We have decided that all Colonial cadets shall receive temporary commissions to be granted as from 12th February, 1919. They will receive gratuities on the men's scale and uniform allowance on the full officer's scale of £50 will be granted. They will have first-class passages for the voyage home to the Dominions and on arrival there the temporary commission lapses and they will receive an honorary commis- 1507 sion of the rank which they held. The cadets, other than Colonial cadets, whose training was discontinued oh account of unfitness, will be demobilised and will receive honorary commissions on demobilisation unless they express a wish to the contrary. It they graduated B before 31st December—and Graduation B means the completion of the first half of the course—they will receive full outfit allowance of £50. If graduated B after that date and not before demobilisation they will receive a refund of the actual expenditure, including issues in kind, up to the maximum of £35.
I hope the Committee will forgive me for having gone into detail on this matter, because the case of the cadets is the hardest one with which we have to deal in reducing our forces to the comparatively small limits which are now found on the Votes which I have read to the House. The total we ask for in money as a Vote on Account is £45,000,000, and that is out of a total estimated—and I dwell on the word "estimated"—of £66,500,000. It is quite impossible, until peace is signed, for us to commit ourselves to a precise sum as a total. We are pretty sure that this is an outside figure; we hope it may be less, but that is our estimate of the outside figure which will be required, and I think the House will see that in the case of the air it is peculiarly difficult to estimate in advance until peace is signed, for the value of Air Forces, especially in outlying parts of the world, such as the Near and Middle East, is so incalculable, as I shall have occasion to show in a few moments, that it might be necessary to reinforce squadrons in disturbed areas even though we were pretty certain it will not be required now. It might, conversely, be quite easy to withdraw squadrons if peace is made on terms more favourable than we think. We ask for £45,000,000 on account, and £66,500,000 is the Estimate which we have arrived at as the outside cost required for the coming financial year up to 31st March of next year. There is a note here comparing the £66,500,000 with £71,000,000 of last year. That is not an accurate comparison at all. The House might well say "this is a ridiculously small reduction of only £5,000,000 as compared with last year," but in last year's account of £71,000,000 there was only the Air Force Account not paid by the Ministry of Munitions and the War Office. The Ministry 1508 of Munitions added to that sum for purely Air Forces £113,000,000, the War Office £4,000,000. So that if we compare like with like we compare £66,500,000 with the total of £188,500,000. We have, in fact, reduced our Estimates almost exactly by two-thirds as a consequence of the Armistice. How difficult it was to make a reduction—and here again I say there are peculiar difficulties for the Air Force—will be seen by these figures. At the day when the Armistice was signed we had outstanding liabilities of £150,000,000 sterling for equipment for the Air Force, the greater portion of it being aeroplanes. We had facilities for making, and were, in fact, making aeroplanes at the rate of 4,000 a month, or nearly 50,000 a year. It is not a matter for which the Air Force can take credit, or discredit—but I think credit,—because the Ministry of Munitions had to deal with this question of the cancellation of contracts. We did not, of course, require anything like the material represented by £154,000,000. The Ministry of Munitions have been able to reduce that sum by just over £89,000,000, leaving a total war liability to be liquidated, some of which was required, but, of course, by no means all, of £66,000,000. Of that sum £39,000,000 will be expended this year and £26,500,000 falls in the next financial year. This is out of the £66,500,000 which we are asking for. One big item, the biggest item, is the £26,500,000 of war contracts, which represents the surviving liabilities which have been retained after the Ministry of Munitions have cancelled the other contracts.
§ Major-General SEELY
Up to 3lst March this year we shall pay £39,000,000; during the next year, from 31st March—this month—up to 31st March next year, we shall absorb the £26,000,000.
An HON. MEMBER
Might we know approximately how much goes in compensation and how much for goods delivered?
§ Major-General SEELY
I have some information on the subject, but I think I had better not give it. It is rather long and complicated, and really a matter for the Ministry of Munitions. When the Vote comes up the Ministry of Munitions will be able to explain fully how he has liquidated this and other contracts, if the hon. Member will put a question.
1509 It may be convenient to attempt to divide this sum of £66,500,000 into non-recurring and recurring expenditure. Of non-recurring expenditure we put first this £26,500,000, but, of course, although it is non-recurring expenditure in the sense that it is a liquidation of war contracts, it would not be fair to tell the House that it could be all regarded as non-recurring; because whatever number of squadrons we maintain will require fresh equipment, not up to anything like a sum of £26,500,000, but still a very considerable sum year by year; so that, although we say that for the purposes of strict accounting, £26,500,000 is non-recurring expenditure, it must be borne in mind that there is other expenditure of a similar nature that has to be met in succeeding years.
Now we come to expenditure which is really, as well as theoretically, non-recurring. The first big item is personnel, which is £6,000,000. That applies to all the personnel that is disappearing on the reduction of the Force, both officers and men. The next big item is lands and buildings. This represents part of the vast sums we were spending on aerodromes, hangars, meteorological stations, and all that portion which we cannot require, even when in times of peace we require a considerable expenditure in connection with military and civil aviation for the same purposes of aerodromes and hangars. The next big item is Canada—nearly £1,000,000. This represents repayments to Canada for her contribution to our Air Forces in men, for pay, allowances, and clothing. And here one may he permitted to say that, although this House and the country owes to all the Dominions a debt it can never repay for their help in securing the aerial supremacy of this country, the largest debt in volume is due to the Dominion of Canada. Of course, she had the largest population, and one would not make invidious comparisons as to the services rendered by the various parts of the different Dominions. Canada, it so happens, gave the largest contribution in numbers, and of her services those who know what Canadian airmen did will not require to be reminded. They were second to none.
I commanded Canadian troops nearly all through the War, and I sent more than 100 of my own men to the Royal Air Force. Of course, they corresponded with me, and I kept a friendly eye on their achievements, and naturally, therefore, it happened that I know perhaps better 1510 than most of the great services that Canada rendered to us during the War in the air as well as on land and sea. That brings up our total, if we add the miscellaneous charges of £1,000,000 for petrol, oil, and other miscellaneous charges which are non-recurring to the nonrecurring portion, to £39,000,000. There remain the recurring charges, which comes to about £27,000,000. These recurring charges are, personnel £18,000,000. Then we have for equipment £2,000,000. This does not represent any large number of new aeroplanes outside those included in the £26,000,000. I fear this will be bad news for our great aviation companies, because it means that after the existing orders have been completed there will be but few fresh orders for several months to come. I hope at the earliest possible moment to be able to give an intimation to all concerned of the probable number of aeroplanes, within very wide limits, which will be required in future years. It will be difficult to arrive at the exact figure we require, so that they may know what there is in store. But for the moment it is not possible to given even that estimate, because we canot tell what is the size of the force which it will be necessary for us to maintain until we know what kind of peace we are going to make.
In addition to £2,000,000 for equipment—and these, of course, are all proportionate to the £66,500,000; in the event of our asking for a decreased amount it will be correspondingly decreased, and in the the improbable event of our asking for an increase it will be correspondingly increased—there is a further sum of £2,000,000 for land and buildings. I have dealt so far with personnel and the technical equipment. This is in addition to the very large sum of £5,000,000 which I referred to previously for lands and buildings. This represents the minimum, sum which will be required to complete the aerodromes, hangars, and other equipment which we shall require for the Air Force of the future, and for the needs of civil aviation. A good deal of it is really very necessary, and I hope the House will sanction it in order to increase the comfort of officers and men of the Royal Air Force in all parts of the world, and especially in the remoter aerodromes in this country. Any hon. Member who has been to some of the aerodromes in this country which were necessarily put up in a great hurry during the War, will know how far more uncomfortable both officers 1511 and men are than any men in the Army or Navy, except in the actual theatres of war. I think it was unavoidable when you were expanding the force from 1,000,000 to a 2,000,000 basis. But now that peace is in sight, and hostilities have ceased, we cannot ask officers and men any longer to remain under these conditions. Orders have been given at once, in anticipation of the sanction by the House of these Estimates, or this portion of them, that all men are to have beds to sleep on in this country, and wherever hostilities are not prevailing, and that reasonable furniture for both officers and men shall be provided to give them some kind of modest but reasonable comfort such as is enjoyed by soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world. There is a large item of £2,500,000 for miscellaneous charges. This includes petrol, oil, lubricants, all kinds of miscellaneous services which, so far as I have been able to examine it, cannot be sensibly reduced. It allows, of course, for far less flying than was done in time of war, but I think the sum, large as it is, cannot be reduced. These two items recurring and nonrecurring together, come to a total of £63,000,000. There remains a sum of £3,000,000 which we have specially set aside for experimental research and civil aviation. I do not think the House will grudge this item when I explain the reason for which it is asked.
The Committee will want to know why we want this large sum. It is a reduction by more than two-thirds of what it would have been had the War continued, and by nearly two-thirds of last year's expenditure. I think the Committee will say that is a considerable reduction. I believe the balance has been just in endeavouring to save the taxpayers' money and at the same time in ensuring that there is no undue hardship in the cancellation of contracts on the one hand and no risk to the safety of the State on the other. We provide for the number of men I have stated in the Vote. We estimate a larger figure up to 31st July, thereafter sinking to what we estimate will be our peace figures, approximately 5,300 officers and 54,000 men. We have fixed provisionally the number of squadrons we require at 102. Of these we require a certain number at home. There is not much risk of this country being atacked at present from the air. However disturbed we may regard the state of Europe as being, especially in the 1512 Near East and on the borders of Russia and Prussia, we still can say for the moment that the risk of aerial attack is very small. But he would be a rash man who said there was no risk of this country being attacked in the future, and I am sure all hon. Members who consider the subject will see that the power of aerial attack is so great and so swift and that the preparations for it can be made so secretly that we should be gravely to blame, anxiously as we look forward to a more peaceful world, certain as we are that we shall secure a just and a lasting peace, if we neglected the defence of what I may call our air as we protect our surrounding seas. We therefore retain the nucleus and the organisation of our Home Defence force, and, although we do not want a great many squadrons for the moment, we must have them available for Home Defence in the same way as we maintain our Navy and that portion of our Army which is required for a similar purpose. But of course in defending our islands, and by so doing defending the integrity of our Empire, against hostile attack if it should ever come from the air, we do not rely so much on great numbers as on remaining in the forefront of aerial development, on aerial research, on being able always to have the best aeroplanes of the newest type. It is on being first in the art of flying that we must rely for our aerial supremacy.
In addition to Home Defence there is, of course, the large commitment of the proportion of the force for the Army of the Rhine and for the other Armies of Occupation of the countries with which we have recently been at war. The Secretary of State for War has considered very carefully, in consultation with the Chiefs of the Staff both of the Air Ministry and the War Office and the corresponding officers at the Admiralty, and with myself and General Sykes, as to what shall be the proportion of the Air Force to be maintained with the Armies of Occupation and with the Fleet, and we have arrived at what I think is a just figure. Speaking for myself, I believe the proportion of air force to land and sea forces will be an ever growing proportion. I am not at all sure that within a few years air power may not make fleets and armies as we see them obsolete. Certainly that would be so if the progress in the air were anything like as rapid in the next ten years as it has been in the last ten. But we are dealing with the present, and we have fixed upon 1513 a certain ratio, and as I think a comparatively modest ratio, of power to land and sea power, and on that is based the approximate figure of 102 squadrons which my right hon. Friend has fixed. Of course, in addition to the Rhine forces there are the forces required in Egypt, in Mesopotamia, a few in Archangel and elsewhere, but the greater proportion in Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Near East, and it is there where air power is at its greatest demand. It is there where air development will very likely have its greatest future as it has its greatest present.
The Committee, I know, likes a definite fact. Here is a definite fact. Our political officer at Bagdad not only can but does do the same inspections, where necessary in order to secure continuous friendly relations between the inhabitants of those regions and ourselves, as it is desirable to maintain, in two days as he could do before in two months. I think that one fact is an astonishing justification for this claim that especially in those regions where there are wide spaces with a perfect climate and an almost complete absence of the airmen's real enemy, mist and fog—not wind—and where communications of other kinds are so faulty, you can do things by air which you could not possibly do in any other way. It is there where air travelling might even at once be profitable for all kinds of mails and samples and goods of a like nature. But I am not dealing now with the civil side. On the military side the fact that our political officers at Bagdad can do in two days what he could do in two months is only a symptom of the immense power that is exercised by a squadron or a flight of aeroplanes in these regions. General Salmon himself flew from Cairo to Karachi and on to Calcutta, and another aeroplane did the same trip. General Salmon told me that flying over these regions, which are hardly ever visited by white men and the natives of which had never seen an aeroplane, before, as he saw the houses in the distance, they would be crowded with people looking up to this strange new portent, the aeroplane in the sky, but that as the aeroplane approached in every case they disappeared and not one man over all these hundreds of miles of country ever dared to come out and look the aeroplane straight in the face. As time goes on, no doubt, the natives of 1514 these countries will cease to be so much afraid of our aeroplanes, and their value in securing quick communication and in preventing, perhaps, misunderstanding which would result in a war by the immediate presence of the officer concerned, cannot be exaggerated. I hope, therefore, that the Committee, in sanctioning these Estimates, will bear in mind the great advantage they will be to us in the Near and Middle East.
It may be convenient here, if I say in a phrase, it must be only a phrase, that the possibilities of carrying the mails from. Cairo to India are extremely favourable. How best to do it, whether by carrying them by members of the Royal Air Force or by putting it up to public tender, or by means of a chartered company, something on the lines of the original East India Company, is a matter for future consideration, though not for long delay. What I would like to tell the Committee is that we have the aeroplanes there now which could, in fact, carry the mails. A careful estimate has been made by a responsible officer who has been there, which shows that in his judgment it would be profitable to carry the mails, and the Postmaster-General himself, having gone into the matter, is enthusiastic in support of it, and will co-operate in every possible way as soon as that service can be started. My right hon. Friend the Secertary of State has always said that he believes that this is the first service that could be wisely and profitably undertaken by the air, and he proposes to concentrate the efforts of the Air Ministry on this first. There are, of course, other routes which I will refer to, but this one, having a peculiar strategical value, is the one where we can well make our first start.
We have got a force which we are reducing by three-quarters, the cost of which we are reducing by two-thirds. The Estimate may seem to the Committee a large sum for military aviation, but I do not know that it is so very large when you consider how great a reduction has been made. But I would add this in turning, as I now do, to civil aviation, that you cannot measure in terms of money how much of this will be for the advantage of civil aviation and how much for military aviation. We specifically say £3,000,000 for civil aviation, experiments and research, but far more than that is of advantage to civil aviation which comes out of the military £63,000,000. First of all there are all the military machines which 1515 we are building. No doubt there will be constantly increasing divergence of type between the military and the civil type of machines, nevertheless the building of the military machines is a means of keeping the aircraft industry going. Then there is research for military purposes which is of value for civil purposes also. The great expenditure on meteorology is, of course, of equal value to both. In the case of aerodromes we must obtain and maintain a considerable number all over the world, and nearly all of these will be available for civil aviation, and even those few that are retained, that are retained exclusively—and they are very few in number—for military and naval purposes will, of course, be available on emergency for emergency landings. Therefore we cannot measure in terms of money how much of our military expenditure is of value to civil aviation; but we can and do say that the whole resources of the Royal Air Force, as far as is consistent with the purpose of their military duties, are and will remain at the service of civil aviation. On the side of civil aviation, pure and simple, I might say that we take of this sum of £3,000,000, specifically, £2,000,000 for research and experiment, £500,000 for special new types of machines, £500,000 which has been asked for by General Sykes, Chief of Civil Aviation for the special purposes of his Department, in addition to the other large sums which are available for civil aviation, as I have described them. I cannot say that that £500,000 is a final figure. General Sykes himself said to me, "The worst thing to do is to definitely lock up money which you do not want at once to use." Therefore, it is much wiser to take a modest figure to start in order to see how far it will go for the necessary purposes which I hope now to describe to the Committee.
What is to be the duty of the Controller-General of Civil Aviation, who has charge of the civil side of the Air Ministry? His first duty will be to complete the international agreement in Paris in regard to the future of flying. Flying is and must remain in many respects an international; business. There are no natural boundaries in the air, and you cannot have successful civil aviation unless you come to an agreement first with the Allies, and then with the rest of the world, as to the way in which flying is to be conducted. We have done much already, and General 1516 Sykes was our representative in Paris all through the earlier stages of the negotiations. We are far more advanced than any other country in the preparations made for civil flying. I am very glad of criticism, and the more we are criticised the better it will be for us. If the suggestion is that we have not done enough—well, I quite agree, we can never do enough—but if the suggestion is that we have done less than other countries I would say that that is erroneous so far as our information goes. We are far further advanced than any other nation. We are the first nation to have legislation such as we passed the other day. We are the first nation to have regulations for our own civil flying agreed to by all concerned. We are the first nation who have drawn up a draft of an International or Inter-Allied Convention. The draft of this Inter-Allied Convention has been agreed to, I am glad to say, by the Dominions and India. We have shown it to the other Allies, and I hope and believe that in great degree they will accept the principles contained in our draft. There has already been the first meeting of the air side of the Peace Conference, and the next meeting as at. present arranged is on Monday, when my right hon. Friend has directed that General Sykes and myself, with technical officers, shall represent this country in Paris. I hope I shall be able to report to the Committee before very long that the principles of the draft aerial convention we have drawn up have been generally assented to by our Allies, and if they are, I have little doubt that the other nations of the world will shortly join.
The next duty on the civil side will be to plan air routes at home and abroad, and not only to plan them but to get them ready. The Controller-General has already drawn up a list of the aerodromes that will be required in this country for civil aviation, as well as those required for military purposes. As soon as we have settled, as we practically have done now, on the required aerodromes, we shall set to work to equip them properly with meteorological stations, if not all, a great number with sound and light signal stations, with beacon stations, with aerial buoys; in fact, balloons with special marks, with telephone and telegraph stations, with directional wireless as well as ordinary wireless, enabling you to direct your aeroplane from the ground by information you send by wireless, and, I am glad to say, with wireless telephony, in which during the last few days we have 1517 achieved a result which the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Sir H. Norman) knows we have been trying to achieve for many years. We have got a wireless telephone with which on the same machine you can both send and receive from the same operator. Until a few days ago it was possible for one aeroplane to communicate to another, but it was not possible for the same aeroplane to receive an answer. Now the difficulties are overcome and we have got a satisfactory instrument which does this remarkable thing, which will be of immense value to military flying. Therefore the second duty is that we have to complete the aerial routes at home and abroad.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Can the right lion. Gentleman say whether the completion of these routes and the fitting up of aerodromes is to come out of the £3,000,000 for civil aviation?
§ Major-General SEELY
For this year we estimate that is all we shall be able to spend. A good deal of what I have described is already in existence at the stations. Some new things will have to be put in. We have taken this money, and in this case I am glad to say we have not been hampered in any way by the Treasury. We have got what we asked. I think we have. At any rate, I am sure that if the Committee approves, the Treasury will raise no formal difficulty to a sum which they have already provisionally approved. Abroad much has already been done which is not known in the making of aerial routes. We have surveyed the whole aerial route from Africa to India—that is, from Cairo to Karachi—andaeroplanes have actually flown from Calcutta. We have surveyed the route from Cape to Cairo. There are surveying parties out there at this moment. There are three parties in Africa between Cairo and the Cape who are choosing aerodromes and making plans for the great air route to be opened. I say nothing about the Atlantic route, because that is a difficult matter, and the less said about it the better until we are sure we can do something at it. It is no good boasting that you can do this, that, and the other until you have seen your way clear.
The next duty in the Civil Aviation Branch, under General Sykes, will be to examine and advise on all schemes of aerial transport and to assist them in any way in which the Air Ministry can do so. 1518 And the Air Ministry can assist a great deal, because, owing to the fact that the whole of this great system has grown up during the War, nearly all the pilots and, in fact, all the best brains are either in the Royal Air Force or the Air Ministry or are found among the different firms and inventors who worked for us during the War—because everybody who had a plan, an idea, or a factory ungrudgingly threw it into the common stock during the War. As we have so great a proportion of the pilots and the brains, we can help very greatly in all aerial plans. Fourthly, there will be the registration and licence of pilots and aircraft for all civil purposes. We are bound to perform functions such as fall upon corresponding Government Departments with reference to vessels at sea. But as much is taken from the shoulders of the Government in the case of ships by the co-operation of Lloyd's and "Lloyd's Register," we hope that those two great bodies will assist particularly in the matter of inspection. I had the privilege of meeting members of both bodies within the last few days, and I think that they will co-operate with us. Certainly we will be very grateful to them if they will. And a scheme of insurance such as they have adumbrated will be of great value in setting the industry on a sure foundation, the Government mean time maintaining, as in the case of the sea, its special responsibility for the safety of the public.
I would like to pay a special tribute to various men of science who have been good enough to advise and help me in considering the various subjects on which I have touched to-day, notably Lord Rayleigh, Sir Richard Glazebrook and members of his committee, and Sir Charles Parsons and many others have been good enough to write me fully their views as to the possibility of future aerial travel and transport, because, after all, this is a scientific question first and foremost, and it is men of that type, and the younger men of science, who can alone lead us along the right path and help us to secure good results in peace time after the tremendous advance which has been made in air travel during the time of the War. Everyone of these men dwells upon the enormous advantages of continuous research, the vital importance of providing money for it, the essential need of the experiments which must be carried out on methods of propulsion, on the structure of wings, on stability, and on retarding machines on 1519 landing. All these and kindred subjects are of vital importance, and on them depends really the future of civil aviation.
It is not a dream to think that we may make great advances. We have made many remarkable discoveries during the War. I have referred to one—wireless telephony—which we have at last perfected. There are many others. I have here a long list of the things that have been done. I will only mention one or two. There is one which will interest this House because a Member of this House, the Member for Chatham (Colonel Moore Brabazon), had a very large share in inventing a most useful apparatus—the air camera—by means of which we can take a. series of photographs from the air and from great heights which will give yon a more accurate survey of the land over which you pass than you could obtain by weeks or months of surveying in the ordinary way. That has been of incalculable value during the War. This only requires to be stated to show what its value will be in time of peace. Another remarkable invention, if you can call it an invention, because it is an adaptation of what was known before, is directional wireless. The Germans were the first, I am advised, to use directional wireless with effect, but fortunately for us we could always intercept them, and as we had got their code the directional wireless which enabled them to fly enabled us to know exactly where to attack them. Bat we had a system of directional wireless which had most of the advantages but none of the drawbacks of theirs Now that peace is come there is no need to further conceal the fact that we have been able to direct machines from the ground with complete success, and, in the view of the experts who have charge of this particular arrangement, is in its infancy. One of the greatest problems of the air—to know where you are after a long flight in misty weather, through a medium not travelling a few miles an hour as on the sea, but fifty or sixty or seventy miles—may by this means be overcome.
In the way of actual experiment it will interest the House to know that before the War ended we were experimenting not in the way of laboratory experiments, but in actual design, with various types of a novel kind. There is one machine now being built, a seaplane of a very novel type of a very great size. This one has advanced so far that it has actually been flown. It 1520 has five Rolls-Royce engines, and carries 13,000 lbs. at the rate of 100 miles an hour, which is a very large weight to carry at that speed. Another experimental aeroplane is being built which is even larger. It was not intended for peaceful purposes, but we hope that it will be of use now that peace has come. It has a span of 141 feet, it is 85 feet long, and will carry a useful load of just under 20,000 lbs. This is not completed, but if we can take a line from the performance of the seaplane it should probably be a success. Moreover, we have another aeroplane of which the plans are completed, far larger than either of those, with eight engines, developing possibly a very considerable speed, and taking a much larger load than either of those two to which I have referred. Then we have under construction an entirely novel type of aircraft, which I will not particularise, but of which one can say, although it is quite possible that it may not succeed, that the mathematicians say that it should attain a speed hitherto quite undreamt of, and, of course, having qualities of a kind quite different from anything which we have seen. I hope later on in the year that I may be able to give some information about this somewhat remarkable invention. But even if it fails we shall learn useful lessons from it.
Sir Charles Parsons tells me one thing which I think will be new to most Members of the House. It certainly was to me. It is as to the properties of airships which, in his judgment, contain immense possibilities in the future. The tractor power required to pull a given load, given the same speed, varies almost exactly inversely with the size of the vessel. Suppose you take an airship 750 feet long and assume it to have a speed of 60 miles an hour and a displacement of 64 tons, the estimate is that you will require 5 per cent, of that 64 tons in order to pull your vessel at 60 miles an hour. But if you increase the length to 1,500 foot and get, as you would do with the same form, not 48 but 164 tons, you would require not 5 per cent. but 2½per cent, in order to give that the same speed—that is, by doubling the size of your vessel, you require only half the horse-power to do the same work. Sir Charles Parsons pointed out to me further that although this does not apply in the same degree to sea vessels, it is to a certain extent true with regard to them. But here designers are limited and have throughout been limited by the fact that harbours do not accommodate vessels of 1521 more than a certain size without the expenditure of dredging which would, of course run into tens of thousands and millions if you once got vessels eight or ten times their present length. But in the air there is no such limitation. The atmosphere reaches up to 50 miles and the depth of harbours is limited as a rule to 40 feet. So, in his judgment, there is an immense possibility for the airship, and I quote Sir Charles Parsons, who has been good enough to write me a memorandum on the subject, because of him you may say that he has that most valuable brain which combines great speculative power with, as everyone knows, the power of concrete application to turbines and other practical things in the highest possible degree.
There are other things of great possibility. There are flying boats which may do wonderful things, especially on the great navigable rivers of the world. From the sea to the source of the Nile is, I think, between 4,000 and 5,000 miles. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill) travelled it the whole way and he ought to know. There you have a perfect landing ground the whole way for a flying boat. The sea is not a perfect landing ground because the waves are rough, but a thing like a river does, so those who fly seaplanes inform me, provide a perfect landing ground. When one looks at a map of the world and sees the navigable rivers, up which ships can only slowly toil at an average of six or seven miles, and are then constantly stopped by rocks and other obstacles, all of which are nothing to a seaplane, one sees the immense possibilities of scaplane travelling in the future, in commending those Estimates to the Committee I must apoligise for having spoken at greater length than I had intended, but the subject is of such absorbing interest and of such vital importance that I trust I may be forgiven. Nobody can ever be certain he is right in this matter. It is so speculative, the whole business is so new, that everyone must be prepared to make a fair number of mistakes. But that is no reason why we should not try and try our hardest, and why we should not enlist the best brains in our support as we have had during the War, and I am quite sure that if we do that we shall be able to retain that which we now most certainly have, the first place in the world in air development.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I only rise to ask the right hon. and gallant 1522 Gentleman one or two questions on matters which I think he has not touched upon in his extremely interesting speech. I am in a rather peculiar position in this matter, because, taking the figures for war services generally, it seems to me an extraordinary thing that we should, after winning the War, spend six times as much on armed services as we did before we started the War. But if you are going to spend six times as much, I do not consider that the right hon. Gentleman has taken an excessive if he has even taken an adequate proportion in the figure which he has set aside for aerial purposes. The first question which I wish to ask is this: I believe that the old practice of the House was to give a general sum under Vote 1, but when Vote 1 was asked for all the details of the other Votes were given to the Committee at the same time, so that although by Treasury sanction money given to Vote 1 was actually used for the air, the Committee was in possession of all the figures at the time when they gave the money to Vote 1. We are not so to-day. We are not in possession of the figures under the various heads, and yet we are voting to-day for the Service £45,000,000, which may be sufficient to carry on the Air Office until the time when the remainder of the Votes can betaken under the guillotine, so that the right hon. Gentleman will see that we are giving him the money without being apprised of the particulars, and without any guarantee that we shall be in possession of the details at all. I would, therefore, like to ask him whether he will give us another opportunity before the end of the Session of debating the Air Service in a general manner when we are in possession of the details under the various heads? I was gratified to hear what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said about the amount of money to be set aside for research, navigation, meteorology, laying out of routes, and also experiments in material, with engines, and so forth. I hope that in the matter of the large new designs of which he spoke, practical experiments will be made before too much money is spent, because everybody who knows these seaplane stations in the country is aware that during the War there were immense machines, absolutely new, lying in the seaplane stations which had never flown at all, and on which very large sums had been spent, on excellent plans, but without the necessary practical 1523 tests having taken place. I do not know whether it would be possible to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in the management of the research branch there should be associated, outside the fighting Services altogether, the services of distinguished men of science who take a general interest, but are not associated directly with the Air Service. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of our foremost position in civil aviation. Of course, we want to be first; but he must remember that for months past in the United States of America they have been running mails and publishing the costs month by month, showing the results achieved; and, while that is so, we can hardly claim, although we may desire it, to be absolutely in the foremost position.
On the Service side, I want to ask the Air Minister one or two questions. He gave a very interesting description of the possibilities of airships. Can he tell us anything about the present relations of the Air Ministry to the Airship Department? I think the personnel is trained by the Ministry and left to the Admiralty, and I think the construction is undertaken by the Admiralty. We should be interested to hear whether any further step has been taken in the direction of associating the Airship Branch with the Air Service, because, in the matter of international routes and mail-carrying, pioneer services of one kind and another, it is quite obvious that the airships must play a very important part. I would like to ask the Air Minister, also, whether he can renew the assurance he gave during the Debate on the Address that nothing whatever is being done to disrupt the integrity of the Service, and that there is no danger whatever of either of the fighting Services desiring to take away from the unity of the Air Service? I, and many others I am sure, regard that as an extremely important point. In the Debate on the Address the Air Minister spoke about the advantage of the association of the two offices. I am afraid, although he may have convinced all the others, that he did not convince me, but he said that, among other advantages, one was that it enabled them to keep in step with demobilisation. That, of course, is however, only temporary. Then he spoke on the question of the redistribution of the garrisons in accordance with the possibilities of Air Service and Army. I have no doubt the Chairman will stop me if I get out of order, but this is a Vote for the Air 1524 Service and the right hon. Gentleman said that one of the great advantages of combining the two offices was that the Air Service would be able to do work previously done by the Army. I should like the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to explain a little in detail, if he can, what has been done in the way of taking over by the Air Service some of the work in distant garrisons previously done by the Army, as that is one of the reasons he gave for the dual arrangement. The Under-Secretary spoke of publishing a record of the work of the Air Service. That would be very welcome, I am sure, to all who take an interest in it, and I wonder if it would be possible for him to publish an official record of the enemy aircraft destroyed by squadrons. I throw that out as a suggestion, because the esprit de corps of squadrons is a very valuable factor, and I think the members of a squadron, while they may desire no personal or individual glory for themselves, are justly anxious that the fame of their own squadron should be known. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor gave a definite pledge to the House that a separate medical service would be set up for the Air Service. That was given in terms, and I would like to ask what steps are being taken to fulfil that pledge?
There is only one other point to which I would allude, and that is the position of observers in the Air Service. I speak with some feeling in this matter, but, constantly observing things from a very subordinate position in the Service, I have been struck with the mistake which is being made by not giving a sufficient status to the observer. Let me speak clearly of what I mean. The pilot is a man who must be young, because there must be that quick response I from the brain to the hand to enable him to make a good flyer. A pilot's flying life, certainly in war-time, is very short. I do not mean that he is killed, but that his nerve, as everybody knows, goes after a certain time under war conditions. The pilot is a young man who rejoices in the thing just as a horseman rejoices in riding, and he is proud of the way in which he can manipulate his machine, and proud of his superior ability over other pilots, but I the observer should be quite a different type of man, a man who is interested in the mechanical part of flying, in what are popularly called the gadgets. But at the present time and during the War, so far as my experience went, the observer was only regarded as a sort of apprentice 1525 pilot, and was treated with the very proper contempt with which a journeyman would treat an apprentice. That was all right if he was only a tyro and was going to become a pilot, but by that system you discouraged a large number of people who had the necessary experience to make very valuable observers in the air indeed, although they were not young enough to make good pilots. If you take such things as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to—aero-photography, for instance—the ordinary pilot regards it as a bore, and would much rather be flying about and exhibiting his skill. The same applies to bomb-dropping, although I hope it will be many years before that is again called for. The ordinary pilot did not want sights for dropping bombs, and could do it better with the eye, and as a matter of fact I believe that with the amount of training they got with the bomb sights they could drop them better by eye than with the sights, but it does not make for the success of aviation. In wireless the thing is worse still. The ordinary pilot will not be bothered to learn. He gets up to a figure of eight words per minute. and, of course, any boy in the Naval Service can do twenty or twenty-four words a minute, and if you will not have in the machine a man who will train himself and will take an interest in it, if you are only going to have a man who is regarded as a, permanent inferior, you will shut out all those people who are prepared to take the trouble, and you will not get the mechanical development that is so desirable. One way in which you will get it will be by differentiating between functions. When there is a big machine there will be one man entirely for wireless, for instance, and one man for another job, but the point is that you want a man whose prime interest is in the mechanical part, and until you give the observer a definite place in the Air Service you are throwing away a good deal of useful material. In the French and in the Italian services, certainly in the latter, an observer was in command. The poet D'Annunzio was in command of a big raid on Vienna, He is an observer, and it was the custom to put observers always in command of the Reconnaissance Squadrons, and the result was that you did encourage a type of man which is very useful, whereas in our squadrons I have repeatedly seen men keen on wireless or photography turned down and discouraged, and practically forced into becoming second-rate pilots because they had no chance of promotion or honour in 1526 the Service in their own special lines. I commend that point to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I shall be very grateful to receive a reply to the various questions I have asked.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Speaking on the Air Service opposite to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman carries my mind back a good many years, to the time when we used to join in controversy as to the future of the Air Service of this country, and I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating my right hon. friend in having put before us such wonderful Estimates, and in a way which I am sum commended itself to the entire Committee. May I take up the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down, that of the alteration of the position of the observer. I quite agree with what he has said. It takes me rather to another point, which I proposed many years ago, and that is in regard to the position of the non-commissioned officer pilot. My right hon. Friend knows that many of the German squadrons were piloted entirely by non-commissioned officers, and the observer was really in command of the particular machine, and whether that could be so in our Air Service or not I do not know, but I suggest to my right hon. and gallant Friend that he should extend the position or the number of non commissioned officer pilots. The commissioned pilot, if I may say so, is rather an expensive article to use, and I also think that as flying goes on you will find a very large number of what I may term the chaffeur type of engineers who would make excellent pilots, and do it at much loss cost to the country than the officer pilot I should like to join my right hon. Friend in what he said as to the magnificent gallantry of the Air Force. I do not know that the country really realises even yet all that it owes to the efforts of our airmen, both in France and in the other theatres of war. I cannot add anything to what he has said, but I wholeheartedly join in everything he did say on that point.
I am very glad also he told us that he is going to deal fairly by the cadets whose career was cut short by the Armistice. There have been many young men who, after having been training for a few weeks or months—some of them have come over from Canada for the purpose—have had their flying career cut short. I am very glad to hear my right hon. Friend is going to deal handsomely with them, and that 1527 the cadets will go back to Canada feeling that they have been well treated by the Mother Country, although their services are no longer required. With regard to the Estimates, of course it is only because we are just recoverng from the War that this Committee is asked to pass a lump sum of £66,000,000 without the detailed Estimates we were used to prior to the War. I am not complaining of that, but I am going to ask my right hon. Friend to realise that on the next occasion he presents Estimates we shall ask him to present the ordinary detailed Estimates, and to tell us beforehand exactly how much is allocated to aerodromes, the number of squadrons, and so forth. I am also glad to note that the non-recurring expenses—what I may call the wiping-up of the War—will all be cleared up by March, 1920, so far as the Air Force is concerned, and by that time we shall be able to start afresh with all the wreck of the War cleared away. Then we shall know—and I speak as one who demanded higher Estimates in the past—whether the country will be able to afford £45,000,000 per annum for the Air Force in the future.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The primary necessity of the country is economy, economy, economy, even in the Air Service, which I have tried to increase so much in the past. I am very glad to see that the Secretary of State agrees with that view. I am perfectly certain that the aviation companies and the engineering companies, who may feel, in the language of the Air Service, "a draught" when these large orders are cut off, will realise it is impossible for my right hon. Friend to go on giving the same orders as during the War, and they will cut their coat according to their cloth. I was exceedingly glad to hear about the improvements in the aerodromes for officers and men. I had the privilege last year, under one of my right hon. Friend's predecessors, of inspecting a large number of aerodromes, and I made a report on the conditions of the accommodation for officers and men. The conditions were very bad indeed in many aerodromes, and not merely with regard to such things as chairs, tables, and beds. I wonder whether he would be able to include arrangements for outdoor amusements and recreation, such as football grounds, cricket grounds, tennis courts, 1528 swimming baths, and the like. After all, a pilot cannot spend more than a couple of hours at the outside in the air, and very few are able to stand that. They may spend after that two or three hours at lectures and so forth. The remainder of the time they have been at a loose end. I do not want to make accusations against them at all, but my right hon. Friend knows that in certain squadrons there has been a lack of discipline, and I put that down entirely to the lack of recreation. In dealing with the question of the beds and chairs referred to, it is only quite a small point, but, as I am on economy to-night, may I suggest that probably the Army and Navy have thousands of these things which might be taken over, instead of buying new things. One figure that my right hon. Friend did not give—or, if he did, I missed it—is the number of pilots he intends to have in the future. He told us there were to be 102 squadrons, and, I think, 5,300 officers. I should like to know how many are to be devoted to staff work in London and other centres, and how many actual pilots he is going to have, because pilots are the backbone, and you cannot make them in an emergency?
Will my right hon. Friend forgive me if I criticise one point with regard to military aviation, and that is the connection between the Air Service and the War Office. I think my right hon. Friend, if I could see into his head, would rather agree with me. It seemed to me that, in dealing with the future of the Air Service, he was rather fettered by the fact that he was directed by the man who is also responsible for the Army as well as the Air Service. I cannot imagine why it was felt necessary to put my right hon. Friend in command of these two Services. Here is a right hon. Gentleman practically in the position of a Secretary of State coming here to-day and putting before the House an enormous Estimate of £66,000,000. He does not do it on his own authority, but according to the directions received from the Secretary of State for War. It is only a year ago that they made up their minds to have a separate Air Force, and to have a separate Secretary of State for Air. They did it after very careful consideration, and I believe I am right in saying that the present Secretary of State for War was a member of the Government which decided that it was necessary to have a separate Secretary of State for Air. He did not resign; he 1529 did not show that he disagreed with the Government. That was done when it was most difficult to accomplish it—in the middle of a great war. Even then it was thought to be necessary to have a separate Secretary of State, and if it were desirable to go through all the possibilities of disruption in bringing together the Naval and Military Air Services, and all the trouble which we know there was in welding them into one Service during the War, now that they have fully justified themselves and the action of the Government, the Government go back and put my right hon. Friend in as sole Secretary of State for the two Services. My hon. and gallant Friend (Major Baird) who was in charge of the Bill was asked by an opponent why it was necessary to have a Secretary of State, and the answer of my hon. and gallant Friend was,The head of the fighting Service will have to discharge various duties row discharged by the Secretary for War, and which cannot be performed under our Constitution except by a Secretary of State. I will give one example. I believe the channel of communication between the Sovereign and an officer who feels himself aggrieved is only through a Secretary of State. It would not be satisfactory if an officer of the Air Service felt aggrieved that he should have to apply to his Sovereign through the Secretary of State of another Department.Which is exactly what he has to do at the moment. My right hon. Friend shakes his head. I know he is a super-man, but I am not sure he is able to take on both forces. Another reason which the Government gave for a separate Secretary of State was this:To give to the Air Force the same status as we give to the Army and Navy to recognise that the air is an element in which it is as necessary to make provision for national defence and offence as it is for us to do on sea and land"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1917, Vol. 134, Vol. 99.]That Bill was brought in by the Government, and backed by the whole force of the Government, and I believe the Leader of the House and the present Lord Chancellor took part in the Debate and supported a separate Secretary of State for Air. What did my right hon. Fried say the other day? He merely reiterated the Air Council's statement thatThe status of the Ministry is in no way changed; it remains completely separate and independent.How can it be separate and independent when he is Secretary of State for War and 1530 he is on the top of the Under-Secretary? The Under-Secretary actually used these words in his speech to-day:I have been directed by my right hon. Friend to proceed to Paris.There is independence!. He cannot even proceed to Paris without being directed by the Secretary of State. What can the Under-Secretary do? I have the greatest respect for him, and I should be pleased to see either him or my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War as Secretary of State for Air, but I am not sure that I like the combination. Is not every decision which he makes liable to be revoked by the Secretary or Slate for War? Cannot the Secretary of State for War come down and say, "I want this or that done," and I put it to the Secretary of State for War that his views as to the needs of the Air Service and the relation which the Air Service bears to the main offensive and defensive needs of the country, must be tinged by his position as Secretary of State for War. In other words, he is nine-tenths Secretary of State for War and one-tenth Secretary of State for Air. What is the position of the Naval Air Force at the present time? Is the Naval Air Force going to be now and in the future under my right hon. Friend? Is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War going to be the arbiter between the Army and the Navy as to how many squadrons, seaplanes, balloons, and so forth are to be allocated to the Navy or Army? It is not quite fair on the Navy that it should be so. There was grave difficulty in bringing those two Services together, and I venture to say that before a year or so is passed we shall find a demand from the Admiralty to get back their own Service, and keep it independent from the Secretary of State for War. I agree with my right hon. Friend that demobilisation of the Air Service will walk in step with the War Office. Of course, it will be so if he is at the head of the War Office, and he sets the step.
I want frankly to put this point—because I have been rather a fanatic on the subject of the air, and my right hon. Friend never said a word about the Independent Air Force—is that force to be continued? Of course one is making a speech on the basis that there may be another war; the Estimates are brought in on that basis. Of course a League of Nations may supervene and be a great success, and there may be no more war so long as the youngest Member of this House 1531 lives, but we must base this on the possibility of another war. What are the preparations for an Independent Air Force? One of the greatest things done in the War was the work of the Independent Air Force under General Trenchard, which had more to do with breaking the morale of the Germans than anything else on land or sea. Is that force going to be continued?
§ The SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Churchill)
Certainly. There will be an Air Force separate from the squadrons allocated to the service of the Army or the Navy.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Who is to be the controlling factor of that Independent Air Force? Up till now it was the Air Ministry; after now it will be the Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Really, it suggests the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, or perhaps I might say Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Which is going to represent the Air and which the War Office I do not know, but I know what some of our friends of the Air Force would think. I do want to plead for the independence of the Royal Air Force, and I cannot help thinking there is behind this dual Secretary of State the question as to whether the Air Force is going to be a mere adjunct to the Army or a separate means of killing war on its own account. The old type of Army officer looks upon the aeroplane as a kind of flying tank or long-range gun. They do not even at this date realise the possibilities of complete air warfare apart from land warfare. The Under-Secretary does. He sees the possibility of aerial warfare in the future almost without land warfare, but I do not believe for a moment that is the view of the Army Council or of the gallant soldiers who, necessarily brought up in land warfare, advise the Secretary of State for War in whichever capacity he chooses to be advised.
War in future, I think, will be air war. My right hon. and gallant Friend told us of new inventions which he hopes to put before the House in a few months which would ensure far more rapid flight than anything we have known. I remember—and I am quite sure hon. Members will 1532 remember—that five years ago the difference in speed, parts, and the altitude of aeroplanes—well, the difference between then and now is marked with emphasis. I remember in this House asking the Under-Secretary if he could produce machines that would rise 5,000 feet high and fly 50 or 60 miles an hour, and I said if so we should be satisfied. Now they rise 30,000 feet, and fly 150 miles an hour. There is no reason whatever to doubt that the progress in the next five years will be as great as in the last five years. In the last five years we have had to fight against difficulties. Now we find that all that the War has accomplished is in our favour. I am perfectly certain that the progress of the last five years will be as nothing as compared with the progress of the next five years. May I remind my right hon. and gallant Friend of a speech he made a few weeks ago, not in this House, but at the Imperial Air Force dinner? He said:We shall have an Air Force for military purposes still. People say to me you must have an Air Force equivalent to your land and sea forces. I say, 'Oh, yes, but it would be wise to have an even greater proportion of Air Force.And it might be wiser still to have a larger proportionate Air Force than either the sea or land forces. That is the real thing I want to get at—as to whether the views of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary are to prevail as to the enormous possibilities—nay the certainties, of aerial warfare, or whether the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, coloured by the views of a quite large number of very gallant officers of the Army Council, are to prevail, and the Air Service is to be—quite a useful adjunct of the forces of the Crown! If I may say so, I think the future of the land force will be to march in and to wipe up the mess created by the bombing squadrons of the Air Force which will go across the land ahead of the land army and the army by sea, and by their flying squadrons will range over every part of the country.
I have spoken of the military side, because I have always felt that perhaps the greatest force of aerial industry will be the military engagements. At the same time I was very glad indeed to hear that my right hon. Friend is taking the steps necessary to help on civil aviation. Years ago we had command of the sea because we had the coaling stations of the world. To-day we can have command of the air, 1533 because we have the landing-stages of the world. We are in a better position, a great deal, in respect to aviation, than any other country of the world can possibly be, because throughout the world we have in our Colonies and Dependencies the great facilities which are enjoyed, and can be enjoyed, by no other country in the world. Consider the whole of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, East Africa, the whole of the Middle East, Canada, and the islands of the Pacific! We can develop, and we must develop, civil aviation, because we have the facilities which no other nation can possibly have. I want to ask, in dealing with civil aviation, in regard to the arrangement made by General Sykes at the Paris International Convention: Will my right hon, and gallant Friend tell us whether that has been taken into consideration in the draft treaty which was drawn up by the Civil Aerial Transport Committee some little time ago, which dealt very largely, and I think very carefully, with these subjects? I do not desire to press for details of the treaty, but if my right hon. Friend can assure the Committee that the points raised in the draft treaty have been or will be considered before any final arrangements are made in Paris, I shall be satisfied.
Nothing whatever was said by my right hon. and gallant Friend about the question of safety. Civil aviation depends almost entirely upon the safety. I would like to tell ray right hon. and gallant Friend—though there is no need to convince him—as to the future safety of flying, some of the few facts which I took the opportunity of noting down at a lecture I heard given by General Sykes within the last few weeks. War-time training during the last year or two was, of course, far more intense and far more difficult than that necessitated for civil aviation. There was only one fatal accident in the course of 1,170 hours flying. That, I think, should interest people who have sons going into the Civil Air Service, and who may feel now that it is not nearly so dangerous as they may imagine. Since January, 1916, 3,340 officers have been killed on the Western Front in the Air Service. Nearly all of them were shot down by German aeroplanes, while the proportion that died from landing or from machine accidents was very small indeed. During the last two years no less than 1,000,000 hours, amounting to 114 years, have been 1534 flown by the Royal Air Force in France, and the proportion of accidents and deaths have been very small indeed. The Committee, of course, knows that the wonderful performances made by the Communication Squadron some few months ago in order to provide the quickest means of transport between here, and France, Belgium and various parts of England. There were 279 cross-country flights in the last four months of last year—Paris, Nancy, Manchester, York, Birmingham—without one single crash. In these various flights passengers have been carried, including a large number of the members of His Majesty's Government. One is delighted to know that there has not been a single crash. If anybody wants to know the pace they go, in such a recent flight between London and Manchester the rate was 170 miles which was flown in 1 hour 20 minutes. That would not have been done a year or two back, but it will be done as a matter of regularity in a very few years. My right hon. Friend will remember that only a few months ago two D.H/'s carried two American diplomats across to Paris, and the journey took 4 hours and 20 minutes. This shows a very different state of affairs to what we discussed before the War five years ago.
The only anxiety I have in regard to civil aviation is not a very great one. It is, however, that it should not be too much fettered by Government control. We gave my right hon. Friend his Bill a while ago in which was power to make temporary regulations for flying. We gave it to him because we felt it desirable that he should have the power in order that safe flying should get on its legs perhaps the more appropriate simile would be wings—in Great Britain. I do trust that my right hon. and gallant Friend will see that safe flying is not, as military flying undoubtedly was five or six years ago, fettered and hampered by too many restrictions, by too many examinations. Of course, in passenger-carrying flights there must be examination of the machines that are used. I am one of those who believed in the past in military aviation, and I think the Committee will agree that nothing that has fallen from those of us in this House who had that belief has failed to come true. Every prophecy that has been made has been justified, and more than justified by the skill and ability of the Royal Air Force, by the efforts they have made in conjunction with those great scientists who have helped my right 1535 hon. and gallant Friend. I believe the future is equally great in regard to civil aviation. We have the most wonderful pilots at the present time. We have the most wonderful machines. While I sincerely trust that there will be no more war for many, many years to come, I am convinced that our future in war—if there be war—lies in the air. I am equally convinced that by means of civil aviation we shall be able to link together the great Dependencies of our wide-flung Empire.
I desire to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in congratulating my right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary on the very comprehensive and far-sighted statement he has given us to-day. This is the third occasion, I think, on which we have had an opportunity of discussing the air since the House met. Possibly the absence of Members shows that they are getting tired of discussing this very important subject. Just, however, so long as those measures come before the House, and just so long as the organisation and administration of the Air Ministry is conducted on lines that are not efficient or effective, so long shall we require to voice our criticisms and objections. The matters which I shall raise to-night are—firstly, of principle, and, secondly, of detail. First, then, as regards the position of the Air Ministry. On 12th February the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, as a result of the pressure from our Amendment to the Address from the Throne, informed us that nothing would be done in the future against the integrity, unity, and independence of the Air Force, which would be sedulously and carefully maintained. Later, in the same Debate, he informed us:There is no question whatever of rupturing the integrity of the Air Force.The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken made some remarks about the Admiralty. I do say, and I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman himself must know, that in the last few weeks the Admiralty have made an offer to the right hon. Gentleman to sever the naval side of the Air Service from the Royal Air Force. I am sure he will not deny that. It is common knowledge. We cannot help hearing these matters, for any correspondence which comes from the Admiralty or the Air Ministry by way of the Strand is 1536 bound to be intercepted by the public. This seems to indicate to me some slight lack of co-ordination between the Ministers in charge of these Departments. The idea of severing the naval side from the Air Force as a whole is a small-minded point of view. We have already seen in the few results of the Independent Force what are the possibilities of a large, powerful, Independent Air Force. If there is another war it will probably be a very terrible war indeed. It is quite conceivable that the air side of it may commence by the launching of enormous flocks of bomb-carrying aeroplanes from the centre of some wild country, such as Russia. Those operations or counter-operations, or the offensive or defensive measures, cannot be said to be either really naval or military. To be prepared for this War—I regret we have to discuss war when we are discussing these Estimates—to take I really a broad vision of the future of the air, requires a specialist air staff and a specialist air-planning section. If this important section of warfare is to be left in the hands of the naval and military staff the scope of operations is bound to be restricted within the limitations of the sea and military frontiers. You cannot really expect to have that long-sighted vision which a specialist air staff alone can give you.
There are a great many other reasons why it is necessary to maintain an Air Service as a separate Service. There is the question of materiel. During the War the need for organising the aircraft industry was the primary cause which brought about the organisation of a separate Air Service. We have got to look upon this matter from the point of view of national economy. What more can you do than to keep the production and inspection, and all the commercial side, in one office? If you have this side split up into two Government Departments, you will have competition, overlapping, and a waste of public money and energy. There is also the question of training, personnel and providing equipment and stores, all of which, from the purely economical point of view alone, as well as from other reasons, are sufficient to justify the retention of an independent Air Ministry. The Air Ministry will have to control the vast civilian reserve of pilots and materiel, and we cannot really say that this can be done by the Admiralty or the War Office, or by either of those Departments.
1537 Then there is the rather subsidiary point of meteorology. At present the meteorological services are divided among four Government Departments—the Admiralty, the War Office, the Air Ministry, and the Meteorological Office at South Kensington. It seems to me that is a question where, from an economical point of view, criticism might be brought to bear. What better Department could look after the elements than the Air Ministry? My right hon. and gallant Friend on the Front Bench opposite mentioned a special Air Medical Service. Anyone who has had any practical experience of the air knows how important it is to make a special study and investigation into the peculiar physiological requirements of air pilots. I offered the suggestion that my hon. and gallant Friend might make a special endeavour to produce a special atmosphere in the Air Service by developing Special Regulations, a particular uniform, and special titles. He might, with the vast service of officers at his disposal, appoint a small Commission to inquire into this matter and report what changes are required. The existing Air Force Regulations are really compiled by cutting up the existing Army and Navy Regulations and gumming the two together, and they are not really conducive to the production of an Independent Air Service. The terms of reference to such a Committee might well be to investigate the existing Regulations, to see what new ones are required to suit the particular requirements of a third Service. That is all I want to say about the Air Ministry.
Before we pass this Vote, I want to ask the Secretary for Air to give us a definite and binding pledge that so long as this financial year continues he will see that no attempt is made to sever the naval and military section from the Air Ministry? On a previous occasion we discussed the question of the subordination of the Air Ministry to the War Office. I associate myself with those hon. Members who are not really convinced with the arguments that were put before us. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churhill) informed us that the Ministry of Defence could not be formed until we had an omniscient staff capable of dealing with the needs of all three Services. There may be a great deal in that, but how much more does that argument apply to the junction of the two Services? Does the right hon. Gentleman claim that he has now a staff which can deal with the 1538 Air Ministry and the War Office? I hope he realises that by this lopsided form of administration he is creating a great deal of unrest in the Air Force, especially on the naval side. I yield to no man in my admiration of the work which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee has done in the development of the Air Force. I remember before the War, when he lifted up the Royal Naval Air Service out of the chasm of indifference and apathy, and how it was largely due to the prevision, the initiation, and personal energy of the right hon. Gentleman that the raids on Cuxhaven and Friedrichshafen, and the development of the torpedo-carrying seaplane, were assured, in spite of opposition. We must remember, however, that Ministers may change, and surely we should not base the organisation of the Air Ministry upon the idiosyncracies of individuals. I hope we shall have some better argument for the subordination of one of the most important Departments of State under the War Minister.
There are one or two minor details I wish to deal with before I close. In the first place, there is the question of airships, which are at present "nobody's child." They are built by the Admiralty, the material is partly supplied by the Air Ministry, and the personnel is completely supplied from the Royal Air Force. That is a most anonymous position. It is detrimental to the efficient growth of what will now probably be a very important section of the Royal Air Force. You cannot apply to airships the argument which you applied to "heavier-than-air" craft, in respect to floats and wheels, because if any type of aircraft are amphibious, surely it is airships. The progress of airships in the War has not been very great. When the Armistice was signed everyone will agree we were a very long way indeed behind the Germans in the development of airships, and I think it was largely due perhaps to the right hon. Gentleman who was then Minister of Munitions that more money was not spent on that development. Perhaps as a war measure he was right, but now that we have peace upon us we have a chance to develop what will certainly be an important commercial commodity, and I cannot see how its development can be really assured if it is retained as a side-show to a great naval Department. It is bound to get out of touch with all the latest technical air developments, and also with the develop- 1539 ment of tactics and strategy. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to rope in this important section of the Air Service as soon as he possibly can.
Whilst I very much deprecate raising the question of any individual officer on the floor of this House, either male or female, I would just like to ask whether it is proposed to employ the services of that distinguished officer who was connected with the inception and development of airships? I understand he has been out of employment for a very considerable time indeed. I know the question if his re-employment has been constantly considered, and injustice to this distinguished officer's great career and reputation, I hope that it will be possible to come to a definite decision one way or the other as soon as possible. I take this opportunity of saying that I hold no particular brief one way or the other for this officer, and I have had no communication at all with him for a very long time, and I put this plea forward on purely impersonal grounds.
There is another side to this question which has been dealt with briefly to-night, and it is the commercial side. Everyone who has spoken to-night has foreshadowed the enormous developments which will take place on the commercial side of aeronautics. Can this side be really efficiently developed as a side-show to the War Office? The developments in the War have been very great indeed, but developments of aircraft in the next few years will be very much greater. At the beginning of the War both the Admiralty and the War Office failed somewhat because they did not appreciate the association necessary btween this and what we call the civilian nation. Consequently, at the beginning, the Admiralty had to divert energy that should have been employed in getting on with the War to organising the Mercantile Marine and the fishing fleets as an auxiliary service. Similarly the War Office had to disgorge many mechanics employed by them in order that the supply of munitions should not be lacking.
The Air Ministry of the future must retain its finger on the pulse of all aerial possibilities. I am not quite sure that everything is being done to further the development of commercial aeronautics. It is only some few weeks ago that we passed the Air Navigation Act as the first real attempt to further this Service. I hear that within the last few days a contract 1540 has been made between the Chinese Government and a well-known British firm for a large supply of aircraft to run a State. Service to China. I am credibly informed that not a single order has yet been placed in this country by the Government for any aircraft for commercial purposes. Not only this, but no Regulations have yet been issued which will enable a private firm to start, organise, and equip a commercial route. It is hardly necessary to tell the House of the enormous possibilities and commercial developments which lie before civilian aeronautics. Take, for example, the case of South Africa. If it were possible to transport by air some of those valuable commodities such as diamonds or gold, instead of sending them by sea, enormous sums could be saved amounting to several hundreds of thousands of pounds due to the saving effected in insurance. I am informed that any risk involved by air transport would be adequately recovered by the insurance companies, and that is only one example. I have not had any practical experience of diamonds myself but, at any rate, that is one example. Another example is the case of the Colonies, where transport is lacking, where there are enormous facilities for air work transporting the commodities of life—food, the mails, and individuals. In fact, there is almost limitless possibilities to developments in the Colonies. If there is to be a future for commercial aeronautics, my right hon. and gallant Friend must pay very special and individual attention to the matter as soon as possible. It has got to be nurtured and suckled most carefully and most assiduously. It is almost impossible to foretell what its future effect upon civilisation will be. As the Channel Tunnel, when it is constructed, will bring about a great bond of sympathy between France and England, so the development of aircraft will be a very potent factor in annealing this great idea of a League of Nations. To-day the Air Minister is passing over the zero hour to a great development I appeal to him to devote particular attention to this side of his work. I rather gather that General Sykes is to be subordinate to the Chief of the Air Staff, which is placing it in a very subsidiary position indeed. I look upon the development of civilian aircraft as so important that it ought almost to be the work of a separate Secretary of State. The Secretary of State for Air has indeed a magnificent opportunity to render a 1541 great and glorious service to civilisation if he will devote himself with special zeal to this side of his work.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I intervene in this discussion with some diffidence because this House, unlike the previous House of Commons, is very rich in the number of Members who have a very much more thorough experience and a much deeper knowledge of the Air Service than anything that I can pretend to possess. My only claim upon the attention of the Committee is rather to be founded on the circumstance that I am a politician than that I am an officer in the Air Force. A politician is by profession an observer of human nature, and in the main part of the observations that I propose to offer it is as an observer of human nature rather than as an expert in aeronautics, which I am certainly not, that I presume upon the Committee's time and patience. Before entering upon the main topic to which I wish to devote myself, let me associate myself with my hon. Friend opposite in saying how important it is to develop the amenities of the quarters and stations at which the Air Forces are placed. During the War, inevitably—it was nobody's fault—they were almost squalid in their accommodation and in the consequent atmosphere. There were some excellent stations to which that observation does not in the least apply, but there were necessarily a good many which were in a very unsatisfactory state. My right hon. and gallant Friend, in his very interesting speech, said that the problem of demobilisation was a very trying one, and that the utmost sympathy ought to be felt for the officers whose services it was no longer possible to retain. That was a very just observation, and I earnestly hope that in making selection of officers to be retained—necessarily a very difficult task—the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary will ever keep before their minds the immense importance to the future of the Air Force of retaining as many as possible of the officers who have had actual and important combatant experience, flying over the lines in France and in the East.
There is inevitably a tendency in a public office to overlook the desirability of first establishing and afterwards maintaining a true tradition in a force like the Air Force. It is impossible to talk to any of the real combatant officers, fighting officers, bombing officers and the like, without being struck by the fact that there is growing 1542 up a most interesting tradition, which might be lost, I suppose, if too many of them left the Service, and which is in many respects strikingly different from what it might be supposed to be by those who are not intimately acquainted with these officers. A very much severer standard—to name one point which has struck me—of personal courage is exacted by combatant officers of each other than anything which we who are outside would presume to exact. The language of eulogium which is often most deservedly uttered in this House with regard to the gallantry of pilots and observers is not uttered by themselves without great exception. They would tell you that there are many officers who fail in their duty, and it is exceedingly important in the Air Force that a distinction should be drawn between those who have done their duty and those who have not. It is, of course, well known among friends who fall into the one category and who fall into the other, but if all distinguished combatant officers are lost to the force there will not be that tradition for what counts in good service in war handed down to the future as I should like to see it handed down. It will not come to be understood, as I think it ought to come to be understood, that to fight with your patrol is a much finer thing than to fight alone, that to be responsible for working with others in the air and not to think only of your own selfish distinction, is one of the great qualities of an Air Force officer. I must not go into detail, because I know too little of these things to deal in detail without blundering. All I would venture to say is that unless you keep a large number of distinguished combatant officers in the force you will not make your true fighting tradition. You will not have something handed down from mouth to mouth so that young officers in the future may have something to attain and live up to.
I mainly wish to speak of the construction of the force and its expansion. The reason I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill) has taken the two offices does not spring from any distrust of himself. I do, indeed, trust him much more completely as the War Minister than I do as the Air Minister, because I think he shares an infirmity very common among Englishmen, of thinking that the Air Service is a very easy thing to understand, and that, therefore, he understands it. I have often, observed that all Englishmen think that 1543 they understand theology and politics without study. I have recently come to add a third topic which every Englishman thinks that he understands without any study—I mean the Air Service—and I am afraid that I sometimes think that my right hon. Friend overrates his grasp and knowledge of the Air Service. That is to some extent a snare to a man of his extreme energy of mind and decision of will. But my main reason for distrusting the union in himself of the two offices is that it necessarily means that his War Office advisers will advise him about air matters, and I am convinced that eminent generals and eminent admirals are totally unfit to form an opinion or to express an opinion about anything that is at all intricate in the Air Service. It is difficult without discourtesy, in talking to them, to explain how utterly and distantly remote they are from any grasp of the subject which could be helpful. For anyone who has even the superficial knowledge of these matters that I possess to talk to eminent generals and admirals about the Air Service is like talking to a colour-blind person about pictures. It is not merely that they do not know, but that they are not really aware of the depth or, density of their ignorance. It is perhaps more the density than the depth. They are absolutely out of touch with the realities of the thing. It is merely that they do not know the technicalities or the details. It is much more that they are quite out of touch with the mind of the flying officer.
This brings me to the great and main reason above all others for having a distinct Air Service. An airman is quite as distinct from a soldier or a sailor as the soldier and sailor are distinct from one another. An airman in his way of thinking and expressing himself is quite as unlike a soldier or a sailor as they are unlike one another. Compare a flying officer with a military officer. The very essence of a military officer's life is to be a leader. It is the sense of leadership that really underlies all that elaborate structure of discipline which is sometimes admired and sometimes derided, but which on the whole is the main support of the efficiency of the Army. But an air officer is not a leader in the sense that a military officer is. I suppose that the young and imaginative flying officer, when he first enters the Service imagines himself alone in the air shooting down a number of Germans. The military 1544 officer imagines himself leading his men over the trenches to victory. The contrast between those youthful imaginations really penetrates through and through the Air Service. The flying officer does work with others, and no doubt in the future will work much more with others than at the present time, but the working together more resembles a football team that the leadership of an officer in the Army. It is because you lack the great quality of leadership in the Air Service so far as the junior officers go that you have all these difficulties in respect to dicipline. Discipline in the Army is a natural thing felt to be necessary by everyone who considers the matter of leadership or who thinks of himself as being an officer at all. A young officer in the Army readily assimilates what he is taught about discipline because he feels the importance of it when he thinks of himself as leading and commanding other men. That does not apply to anything like the same extent to the air officer. He has indeed a certain number of mechanics under him—and his relations to them, I think, in some respects ought to be different from what it is—but his relation to them is not that of a man who leads in war but rather that of a man who superintends mechanics at their work. He does not require the qualities of leadership in respect to his men. Of course, it is quite true when you get to the ranks of flight commander and squadron commander that you do get an element of leadership, but it is very different from the leadership of an officer over his soldiers. That goes through and through the Service from the very beginning, and it colours the man's mind all his life. I go so far as to say that even the senior officers in the Flying Service, if they have not had, as most of them have had, very large experience in the War and service in flying, notwithstanding their immense knowledge, ability, and experience of the matter, nevertheless speak the language of the Air service, in what seems to some to be like a foreign tongue. I shall never think that the Air Force is in a completely healthy condition until, and this cannot be for many years, it is possible to put it entirely under the authority of those officers who themselves have had experience in this War in flying in the air and combatant flying service in the course of the War. It is not until you get that generation grown up and attaining to a sufficient age to enable them to be in full 1545 command of the Air Force, that you will get it into a completely healthy condition.
That brings me to the next point. It is sometimes thought that you do good to the Air Force by importing senior officers from the Army to instruct them in discipline, and, of course, some of the officers other than those who have been regularly flying, are men of extreme ability, and have rendered extremely valuable service to the Air Force. Others may be described as disinterred examples of military eminence. But whatever their quality, some very bad, and some not so good, they must be regarded as a temporary expedient. It is quite true that flying officers commonly are very ill trained in administrative matters and by no means good Staff officers, and that without the assistance which the Army and the Navy has given, the Air Service would be very ill served in all the staff part of its work. Nevertheless, that must be a temporary expedient until you have trained up genuine flying officers and taught them staff work by proper training and education. Therefore, the great problem in the Air Service is the future training of the air officer. I do earnestly hope that every air officer in the future, whether administrative officer ultimately or flying officer, shall always begin by learning to fly. I am quite sure that that is essential for the efficiency of the Air Force. I hope also that as much as possible you will get people to learn to fly when very young. I should like to see people learn to fly under the security of dual control as young as sixteen, and that they should go in sole control as young as seventeen and a-half. I believe with proper precautions and careful training, and, as my hon. Friend opposite has just pointed out, with the increased security which inventions are constantly giving, and which further experience is giving to the arm of flying, that that would be quite safe. I believe that if people learned to fly as young as that they would be able to fly far beyond the age at which they at present fly, and, indeed, unless prevented by actual infirmity. I speak in the presence of those who know much more about the matter than I do, but it is ray strong conviction that if flying were learned young it would not be regarded as having much more difficulty than running up and down stairs. I imagine when stairs were first invented that there was all the alarm that 1546 has now been excited by the more hazardous feats in aviation, and that it was only the young who lived on the first floor, and that anybody over forty lived on the ground floor. Possibly it was thought that it was all very well for young men to go upstairs, but that for elderly persons it was essential that they should live on the ground floor. Because we learned to go upstairs when young we do it with extraordinary precision and accuracy, and the other day I even ran down a moving staircase at Paddington with dexterity. I am sure if the air officer learned young that the great difficulty which stands in the way in the minds of so many people of a completely Independent Air Force, namely, that there is no future for middle-aged men, will disappear. I believe, even apart from the large administrative opportunities and scientific opportunities which are necessarily associated with flying, that you would in sheer flying be able to continue practically as late as the period of activity in human life extends in any profession, and that until they actually become infirm it would be possible for people to be able to fly.
Therefore, I earnestly plead for a scheme of training by which officers shall be trained, as they are in the Army and Navy, for the Air Force. They should be brought up to be airmen, and made in every possible way to feel a pride and pleasure in their Service, and regard for its honour and glory, At present there is no doubt that the Air Force is divided by a great schism. The officers who can fly regard, sometimes with patience and sometimes with impatience, but always with contempt, officers who cannot fly. Nothing can exceed the unsatisfactory nature of the relations of those who are in charge of administration, and to whom it is necessary for the flying officer to go at every turn, but who nevertheless do not enjoy in the least degree the confidence and respect of the great body of flying officers. Constantly the administration of the Air Force and the Air Ministry falls, very often quite undeservedly, into discredit because the persons in charge of it are supposed to know nothing whatever about the subject of flying or the requirements of aeroplanes and the like. The air officer who flies has no confidence whatever in the judgment of those who cannot fly to decide administrative questions. That weakens the authority of the administration and 1547 discipline in the Air Force, and it produces a great deal of discontent and friction. Therefore what you want to do is to bring it to an end by making everybody of one type, the airman type. You want to recognise quite frankly that soldier, sailor, and airman are three different types, and that the Air Force is independent not merely by Act of Parliament, but by something which is more fundamental than an Act of Parliament—by the laws of human nature. You have a different Service, different because the mental atmosphere and interests are made different by the profession. Just as you never would, whatever the motives of administration or organisation, hand over the Navy to the War Office, so neither must you ever dream of handing over the Air Force to the War Office, because the War Office is just as incompetent in that case as it would be admitted to be in the other.
We cannot completely deal with the problems of the future now, because we do not yet know what is to be the size of the Air Force in time of peace, and all other conditions of organisation depend on that fundamental element. But this, indeed, we may say, that the probabilities are that the Air Force will maintain its claim upon the country for support and organisation as long as either the Navy or the Army is a combatant force. Of course, we all hope that all combatant forces will gradually sink and become less and less, until they become altogether superfluous. But, as long as they last, the Air Force will be one of them. We must, therefore, make the Air Force as efficient as it could be made in time of war. We can make it efficient most of all by cherishing the spirit of the flying officer. My hon. and gallant Friend who spoke from the Front Bench spoke very interestingly, I thought, of the importance of encouraging observers. I imagine what he said was entirely true, but I am sure it would be a mistake if, in the desire to encourage observers, we did not maintain what has been the practice of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force, the ascendancy—the substantial ascendancy—of the pilot in the running of the Force; because the pilot is naturally the sportsman of the Force, and unless you maintain the sporting spirit you will not maintain the element which. I think we may say without national vanity, has given us the finest Air Force in the world. It was 1548 because the pilot was in command that our Air Force was, I think, more enterprising, by all the accounts I have received, than the forces either of our enemies or of our Allies. Do not let us lose that great tradition or the source of it. The source of it is in making the sporting spirit of the Air Force the governing tradition, the governing motive, which shall run through the whole force from top to bottom, and in order to do that you must exalt the position of the pilot not, of course, to the exclusion of the recognition of technical officers, but because it is in the gallantry of that sporting spirit which has distinguished the flying officers in this War that we have found the victory which has come to our arms. It is in the hope that our posterity may, if they ever have laid upon them the tremendous burden which we have borne so manfully, and in order that they may have the great assistance of the tradition and spirit of sporting courage anxious to meet with enterprise all opportunities of war that we will hand down to them a force unspoiled and with undiminished vigour, so that they, too, may in the end thank Heaven for victory and look forward as we do in hope to a lasting peace.
§ Mr. RAPER
In rising to make my maiden flight in the House as a new Member, I crave its indulgence. I wish to take part in the discussion on the Estimate before the House, not with any desire to obstruct or attack the Government but with the hope and idea of assisting, if I can, in the control and development of aviation, as I believe it to be the duty of anyone who has practical knowledge of this subject, and as a pilot I have some, to contribute his widow's mite of information to the general store. The full importance of the Vote before the House is not, I think, generally recognised by the public. Too many people are apt to look upon aviation, and especially civilian aviation, as a new toy for the Government to play with. The part, however, which flying, both civilian and military, is capable of playing in the future destinies of this country is so vast that the greatest care must be taken to avoid any possibility of mismanagement or mistakes at the outset. If the Government proposes to control not only military but civilian flying, every precaution must be taken to protect the latter from official lethargy, as well as from an excess of official zeal. Commerce has never thriven in fetters of red tape, and it is essential 1549 that commercial aviation should not be tied too tightly to the apron strings of Whitehall.
With regard to the control of the Air Services during the War, it is common knowledge that the management of the different Departments left much to be desired, and that millions of pounds were thrown away. On the other hand, nobody who gives a little consideration to the matter can but marvel at the wonderfully effective fighting force which was so quickly created. Even if a number of men were appointed to senior positions for which they had no qualifications, and even if some millions of pounds were thrown away, the main point is that the building up of the British and Colonial Air Forces was a most wonderful achievement, and that our Air Service played one of the most important parts in forcing the enemy to seek an Armistice. Now, however, that the War is won, provided we keep our heads and we have time to look round, there can be no excuse for further mistakes. As a business man I consider it is our immediate duty to put the Air Force on a proper business basis and take care that it is treated in a way that its future position as a fighting force demands. It would be a grave mistake to stint a single penny that can be usefully employed in enabling this country to continue to hold its position in leading the world in aviation, both military and civil, but it is equally essential that we should receive full value for our money. There are certain points to which I propose to refer, points which would appear to a certain number of hon. Members to recall unpleasant memories. I only propose to revise them with a view to suggesting most respectfully to my right hon. and gallant Friend that these were mistakes which the stress of war might condone, but which, under the conditions of peace, which we hope may soon be reached, would be inexcusable and be bound to militate against the interests of the future of aviation.
Dealing first with the financial aspect of the Air Estimates, I should like to have from my right hon. and gallant Friend full particulars of the data on which the Estimates are based. These Estimates have the appearance of having been compiled by Civil servants who, however great their experience in Government Departments, cannot have experience of commercial methods and 1550 accounting such as to justify their drawing up Estimates so complex and presenting such new problems as those we are discussing to-day. I should like to have an assurance from my right hon. and gallant Friend that in drawing up these Estimates he has had the aid, not only of men versed in the science of flying, but also of men thoroughly acquainted with the intricacies of its pounds, shillings, and pence.
I further ask my right hon. and gallant Friend if he will acquaint the House with the exact reasons given by a well-known public auditor for resigning at the end of last year from his position as voluntary auditor of aerodrome accounts? It is very disquieting that this gentleman's place should have been filled by a Civil servant, who, however capable in other capacities, could not have the same knowledge of commercial accountancy and the experience necessary for dealing with prime cost contracts, and who would not be able to look at them from the same determined standpoint of criticism. The tendency should be to draft a strong commercial strain on to the Civil Service tree in the case of new Departments of such momentous importance and wide scope. The mistakes made excusably during the War should be turned to account as warning posts for the future, and it is well that one or two examples should be pointed out. It is remarkable to me, as a business man, that adequate accounting arrangements were not made when aerodrome building contracts commenced. The system followed made it very difficult, if not impossible, to draw up a correct account of the exact amount of money expended on the construction of each individual aerodrome. Extravagance by this system, or lack of it, might very easily be concealed, although I do not for one moment suggest that this was the reason for its adoption. I certainly do suggest most respectfully that it was probably and possibly due to this most peculiar manner of bookkeeping that a very long time appeared to elapse before the authorities began to appreciate the enormous sums of money which were being thrown into the Loch Do on quagmire. Because of this peculiar system of bookkeeping the cost of other aerodromes must be a matter of guesswork. When it is borne in mind that there were no less than 300 contracts made for the construction of aerodromes. 1551 ranging from £100,000 to £1,500,000, the serious need for expert commercial accountancy is amply demonstrated.
Take the system of contracting for construction work on a cost, plus profit basis. Unless controlled and carefully controlled by suitably qualified accountants with large commercial experience, such a system cannot but leave a very wide door open to corruption. I should be interested to learn why the system which was adopted of allowing the contractors a certain profit on materials supplied to them by the Government was made retrospective? Did not the Air Ministry think that these contractors had already made sufficient money out of the country for all the work they had undertaken? Another question I should like to ask my right hon. and gallant Friend is how much has been written off as a charge against the public for stores deficiencies of squadrons stationed in Great Britain since the War began, and what percentage of this amount has been recovered from the officers responsible for such deficiencies? The whole system of provision during the War was most unbusiness like, and I contend strongly that the position of Director of Air Equipment is a post to which an officer of good business experience should be appointed, and not a Service man who, however fine an officer, possesses no commercial experience. It is my opinion that real and lasting efficiency in the Air Force can only be secured by inspiring general confidence in the administration and a friendly rivalry between all the different units. I should like, too, to receive an assurance from my right hon. and gallant Friend that the break clause has been imposed in the case of all contracts which were in force when the Armistice was signed for the supply of aeroplanes, engines, and spare parts, and that in no case has the imposition of this break clause been subsequently varied. If this break clause has not been thoroughly applied in the case of any contract, we Air Service members would be most interested to have particulars of those contracts and to know whether there were any exceptions made and, where that has been done, the reasons for their special treatment. Although the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to this matter in his speech and said it was a matter which, to an extent, was controlled by the Ministry of Munitions, at the same time is it not a case 1552 where to a great extent it must depend upon the willingness of the Air Ministry to take delivery?
A post has been created called the Director of Production and Research, and an officer has been given this appointment who joined the Royal Air Force in April, 1917. Is this officer under General Sykes or General Trenchard, and what exactly are his duties? Where has he had the business training which is necessary in the case of an officer who controls production, or the scientific training which is necessary in the case of an officer responsible for research? With regard to the proposed Air Service to Karachi, through Egypt, and to other far-away spots, although the idea of these schemes is most praiseworthy, I do sincerely hope that a reliable calculation has been made of the total cost to the country, and that my right hon. and gallant Friend is satisfied that the result will be worth the expenditure and that proper and full accounts will be kept. Nobody could be more anxious than we Air Service members are that our Air Service should continue to occupy the leading position in the world, but it is because I appreciate that this cannot be accomplished by either faulty administration or prodigal expenditure that I have ventured to draw attention to these various points. I specially desire to urge upon my right hon. and gallant Friend to appoint a small but permanent Committee, composed of two or three hon. Members of this House and two or three gentlemen outside the House who have a knowledge of commercial organisation, to assist the Air Ministry authorities in drawing up their Estimates, and to assist them also in finance and business matters generally.
If the Committee will grant me its indulgence for a few more minutes, I would like to make a few remarks regarding the opinion of Air Service Members relative to the development of civilian aviation. The air, despite the great developments we have witnessed during the past few years, is still such an unexplored and uncharted region that those of us who have been initiated into its possibilities feel that every chance should be given to the Air Services, both military and civil, of the future. This, I consider, is not likely to be the case while flying is subordinated to another and quite terrestial department like the War Office, even under a celestially-minded chief like the present Secre- 1553 tary of State for War, who has done so much to encourage and foster aviation. While far from being a visionary, I, like most other men who have flown, have caught a glimpse of the boundless future prospects of aviation, and feel that these prospects would be severely curtailed if flying is to be treated merely as an adjunct to the War Office The point which has to be kept steadily in mind is that the Air Ministry may not in the future be primarily a weapon of war, and its aims will become increasingly divergent from those of the War Office. The main development of flying is likely to be in the commercial direction, and I do not think anybody can pretend that it would be a desirable state of affairs for any phase of the commerce of this country to be under War Office control. It is entitled to distinct and separate control and administration. My view is that it is as unfair to the War Office as to the Air Service to couple these two Departments together. The War Office has its own great tasks to perform, its own difficulties to contend with. We have to ask whether it is right and fitting that this new immense problem should be added to its other burdens. The demobilisation of the old and creation of the New Armies, the entire recasting of the military horizon, and the preparation of plans to meet a hundred possible future contingencies will keep the War Office more than fully occupied for the next few years. These years would be the very ones when it is imperative that full and undivided attention should be given to the Air Service. If devolution of administration is found to be necessary in respect of pensions, which are controlled by a separate Ministry, how much more must this be the case with a Department which has to deal with such enormously different subjects and with such great problems as those of the air traffic?
One of the arguments used in defending the present scheme is that the Air Service is simply one branch of the Army, just as Cavalry and Artillery are others. Leaving civilian flying on one side for the moment, that, surely, is taking a very circumscribed view of the potentialities of aviation. Far from being a mere branch under the larger organisation, it may, and I think will happen that the Air Service will in the future provide the major portion of the defensive and offensive organisations of this country. I look forward to a time when the Air Ministry, 1554 besides having its own financial, commercial, technical, meteorological, and other Departments, will have its own separate War Department which will, however, form only one phase of its far-reaching activities. The potentialities of the Air Force as a destructive agent have been thoroughly demonstrated, but I think my right hon. Friend will agree that much remains to be done before its full scope in the constructive field has been investigated. The question which we ask is whether this constructive flying is likely to be adequately developed under the ægis of what is essentially a destructive department. In the considerations I have ventured to submit, I have been prompted solely by a sincere desire to seek out the best way to further aviation in this country, believing, as I do, that this young science is destined to play a most distinguished part, not only in war, but in commerce, travel, and civilisation.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
With the enormous Estimates that have been put before this House during the last week, I hope that the growing spirit of economy will not culminate against the newest. Service of all; and it is on the matter of economy that I want to raise my voice from the point of view of organisation. The first matter is with regard to the operations side of the Air Force. That is a thing which has changed from day to day from the beginning of the War. We have seen that the Royal Flying Corps started off to do nothing but reconnaissance, and ended up by taking a very large part in offensive operations. The same thing happened in the Navy. From doing nothing but scouting, it has changed to offensive operations against submarines. I want to get an answer from the right hon. Gentleman as to the probability of establishing, now, an Air Staff, so as to train people to deal with this new weapon in the most efficient way possible. I have seen the use of aircraft right through the War, and I know the way it was done really. Anything new done by the Royal Flying Corps was always very wonderful, and if you did not do quite what was expected of you, you turned round and blamed the Air Ministry. There is an enormous future, but it must be studied out, and the only place to study it out is in an efficient Air Service Staff College. Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can let us know, now, what 1555 policy he is about to adopt with regard to the importation into the Royal Air Force of Regular officers from other Services? I should like to know where we stand with regard to that. We have found ourselves saddled with Staff officers, and with all sorts of Regular officers, who knew nothing about the subject at all, and who arrived at a minute's notice. I should like to get, straight away, to-night, a guarantee from the right hon. Gentleman that this will not occur again; and that, if you belong to one Service, you do belong to that one Service; that you cannot be amphibious, and change about every half-hour. There is, I believe, a proposition that officers should be seconded from one Service, or from the Army to the Air Service, for a period of years, as was done in the Royal Flying Corps before the War. I think the Secretary of State for War has it at the bottom of his mind that in that way they can get a knowledge of all the Services which will lead up to that dream of his, which is, I believe, an Imperial War Staff. Now, if we can second officers of the Army and Navy to the Air Force, will be give us an assurance that we can also second Air Force officers to the Army and Navy. Otherwise, we shall soon see that when this big Imperial Staff College arrives the people who will be on top in it will be sailors and soldiers, and not airmen. We have suffered in the Air Force from Staff officers of the Regular Army who have no technical knowledge at all. I do want to impress the Committee with the fact that the Air Force is the most technical Force that can possibly be imagined. You meet technicalities the whole way through, and in order that officers can understand the way to use the power that is in their hands they must know the technical part of aviation. I remember very well a Staff officer, on what they call the "G" side, jumping on me because I was doing a matter of training which involved some certain mathematics—trigonometry and the calculus. He took it from me; you know how particular soldiers are in never allowing others to do their work. I handed the thing over to him—he had something to do with training—and after ten minutes he came back to me, and said, "What is 'perpendicular," is it up and down, or is it sideways?" With a technical Corps like the Royal Air Force you cannot carry on with that type of mind.
1556 May I raise a point with regard to the pay of flying officers. I should very much like to be told, and for the Committee to-know, what are the percentages of fatal accidents which arise, first of all, from the enemy, and secondly, through training. I think, if the figures were put before the Committee, it would amaze them to know what enormous casualties have taken place, not from the enemy, but through quick training and, perhaps, careless landing after a flight over the lines. I want to impress upon the Committee that this is a dangerous calling. If you are in the Army or the Navy during peace time you may get run over by a, motor lorry, or get your feet wet, but you are not going to be killed. If, in the Air Service, you make one error of judgment landing, you may be killed. I think, from the point of view of remuneration during peace time, that that consideration must be borne in mind, and that liberal pay for flying officers must be provided. Now with regard to men. I listened with very great interest yesterday to a speech by the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) with regard to the Navy, and to the organisation within the Navy, so as to enable the men to bring any grievances to the notice of their commanding officers. The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of a true democracy in our Services, so that you could, providing you had any ability, rise from the bottom to the top. I do hope the same idea is going to be embodied in the new organisation of the Royal Air Force, so that anyone who has any ability can rise really to the top, because I have heard rumours that the new Air Force is going to be a crack corps Do let it be a crack corps of efficiency and not a crack corps of social snobbery. Can we be assured that the men who really are not soldiers, but tradesmen dressed up—you have to remember that that is the difference between the airman and the soldier. One is, first of all, a soldier, and the other is a tradesman really, taken away to do his job—will the right hon. Gentleman say that these men are going to get the pay they would have got in ordinary commercial life, if, instead of working at their specialised jobs for the Air Force, they were doing it in civil life? The thing has got to be levelled up, so that there will be no great disadvantage in serving a Service rather than a private firm.
I am afraid I have imposed myself too much on the Committee in a very short 1557 time in regard to the question of aviation and on the military side. Now I am going to stop, because I think, with the appointment of General Trenchard, that we ought to give him a fair chance to get ahead and see if he can organise something out of what is left over after the War. I know he has been very ill, and I, and I am certain the whole Committee also, hope that he will soon be able to get back to work. But he is the type of man who will get back to work too soon, unless he is ordered about by the right hon. Gentleman; he will come back too soon, unless you look after hm. I hope that criticisms against the Royal Air Force will be almost entirely postponed until he has had a chance of getting the thing going. Now just a word on the technical side. Of course, I am keener on the technical side than on anything else, because I have always considered it the very heart of aviation. We must remember that a war now is not brawn against brawn, but absolutely brain against brain, and the only way we kept ahead in this War was because we were relying on the civil side that was making our machines. A very eminent admiral, in a speech here yesterday, said that if we looked after the men the material would look after itself. I think that that is a most fallacious statement. We saw it in the Air Force, where the very best men, mounted on bad machines, were brought down time and again. It is up to the House, and to the civil side of the Air Ministry, to see that the best people in our wonderful corps are mounted on the very best machines.
The liaison between the man who is going to design the machine and the person who is going to use it in war, I think, presents a little difficulty, and I should like to have the scheme disclosed to me to-night. During the War most of the active service people got on one side of the Channel, and there they stuck, while the Air Ministry got into a groove on this side. There was no liaison between the two; indeed, at one time during the War, there was the bitterest feeling between those in France and the Air Ministry, and it was only during the last year that there was that wonderful interchange of officers and of ideas that really made us go right ahead. Can we be assured that actual pilots in squadrons will be able to be interchangeable on the technical side? The technical side will provide to the Air Force not what the technical side think it wants, but what the Air Force actually wants. A word as to factories. The Royal Air- 1558 craft Factory is one of the most abused institutions that exists in England to-day. I should hate to see it disappear, because, although during the War civil firms have produced aeroplanes that have beaten the Aircraft Factory, yet you roust have in England a centre where you can see that your civilian firms are up-to-date and. where you can possibly beat them. Without an organisation like the Royal Aircraft Factory you may get yourself in just such a fix as happened in France.
I have listened to the Estimates for the three Services, and not one single word of thanks have I heard from any right hon. Gentleman for what has been done during the War by all the women in the organisations connected with the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. I speak with regard to the Air Force, because I know that for every man you send up in the air you want more people on the ground to look after him than is the case in any other Service. It would be advisable to keep them on, and I should like to be informed whether the Women's Royal Air Force will continue after the War, and, if so, will you give them some more amusing part of life than they have had hitherto and not let the women get all the dull things while we get all the glory. Will they be allowed to fly?
I should like to say one word as to the future of aviation in general. Neither your Army nor your Navy nor the Air Service was able to come to a decision in this War. All three Services adopted defensive measures while the great inertia of the commercial possibilities of the country were developing, and when that was really organised and going forward nothing could stop us. If that is so, you only have to knock out the civil engineering part of the country and you could never win any war. I do not think hon. Members have realised quite enough what bombing is going to come to in the future. The ordinary bomb of to-day is as the bow and arrow to the howitzer compared with the bomb of ten years hence, and we have seen even during this War that it is possible to sail your aeroplane to a definite point by directional wireless in a fog, and when you got to that point there is no defence against night bombing by directional wireless. That is a very serious thing. In the future it seems to me the only way of dealing with the situation is to have in your hands the possibility of 1559 hitting back a good deal more than you can be hit, and for that mason I hope the House will pass these first Estimates.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I should like to make one or two comments on the financial situation to the seriousness of which the Vote adds. Taking the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force together, for the present year there is no less a sum than £650,000,000 to be voted. That is only £1,000,000 short of the total of our National Debt when the War began. We all appreciate the great seriousness of that, and I had thought to endeavour to obtain more details of the policy and of the expenditure which were proposed, but one is always met, quite properly, with the statement, We cannot tell what we may require until peace comes. I know the Leader of the House is as deeply concerned about the finance of the country as any hon. Member of the House or any man out of it. Very few people equal him in his knowledge of file gravity of the problem or in his seriousness in attempting to grapple with it. I really think the illustration which was given to us by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Moore-Brabazon) in regard to the confession in the military mind as to what is the meaning of the word "perpendicular" applies to this, and really the word "economy" has lost any meaning For us. We do not know where we stand or what lies before us. I should like to make what I think is a practical suggestion. We all hope, with a certain amount of confidence, that by July, or perhaps June, peace will have been signed. Difficult as the outlook is before the world now, at any rate we may hope something will be a little more clear then than it. is at present. These Votes in effect really are nothing more than Token Votes. We do not know neither does the Government what expenditure will really be required. I suggest that when the time comes, say in June or July, we might have an opportunity of reviewing these Estimates, because then we should have some idea of the position which lies before us. Happily I have been able to look up a precedent in Erskine May, a volume which I might commend to the perusal of the large body of enthusiastic new Members. It is a volume which, owing to the industry and ability of the clerk assistant at the Table, to whom we owe a very great debt for his industry and zeal in this respect, practically covers almost any Parlia- 1560 mentary situation with which we may be faced. On page 452 we find a statement which I think affords a foundation for my suggestion.When, owing to the course of events, Grants voted on Account, as in the case of the Army and Navy Departments, exceeded the requirements of the current financial year, statements were presented by command shoving the amount of the original scale of expenditure, together with reduced Estimates for the sums ultimately found to be sufficient, which were referred to the Committee of Supply. In one case a Grant made on Account was in excess of the total amount required. The due amount was accordingly voted de novo in Committee and the previous Resolution was rescinded before the new Resolution was agreed to by the House.That would give to the House of Commons in Committee an opportunity, which I am sure the Government and the public would welcome, of reviewing these Estimates, which are at present cast in the dark, in the comparative light of peace, and of what may be the requirements of the nation for its Civil Service, for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.
In addition to that, I find there are two precedents almost on all-fours. They are so good, speaking as a lawyer, that one begins to doubt them. But here they are. After the close of the Peninsular War this process was gone through, and the Votes which were taken during the year before the War ended came again in Committee of Supply, and were reduced in accordance with the prospects then before the country and the obviously much reduced needs of the Army in that case. The same thing happened after the Crimean War. Peace was declared in April, 1856, and on 1st May, within two or three weeks of the conclusion of peace, the Government said, "This money has been granted to us for the financial year. We find we do not require so much. We put the thing back before you in Committee again. Give us the reduced sum which you, with us, think necessary for the needs of the nation." In all fairness I should add that after the conclusion of the Peninsular War there followed immediately the hundred days, and in the case of the Crimea we had in the following year the Indian Mutiny. Absit omen in each separate instance. Still there we have a practicable suggestion founded upon precedents, and I suggest that is an example which we might well follow, and I am certain it would have a very good effect on us. The Government is asking for these sums not to aggrandise the spending Departments 1561 for the mere sake of getting them, but they are doing it under a serious sense of responsibility. I am quite sure it would help us in the House of Commons and it would give the country confidence if we knew that when the time arrives for the conclusion of peace the House will have another opportunity of exercising its ancient, but none the less modern, privilege and very useful right of checking expenditure and shaping our course in the spending of money according to the approved policy and the interest of the country.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)
I need not say I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that the present method in the present circumstances must be, if not unsatisfactory, at least disquieting to every Member of the House of Commons. Of course we have had the feeling, and I gave expression to this while still Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the system of Votes of Credit, by which all this expenditure is paid for out of one Vote, was a very bad system even under the suspension of hostilities, not to speak of after the conclusion of peace. I, therefore, gave a promise that so far as possible the system of ordinary Estimates would be adopted this year. But the right hon. Gentleman is quite right. Though we have a nominal system of Estimates, in effect they are really Token Votes, and what the House is doing is granting a sum of money which cannot be particularised, but which must largely be guessed either by the Government or by the House. Obviously that is very unsatisfactory, and I have not the slightest doubt that as soon as peace comes, as soon as we know where we are in that respect, it will be the obvious duty of the House of Commons to have some complete discussion on the question of policy as to our armed forces. There must be some complete discussion as to what we mean to do with our armed forces in peace time in contradistinction to what we have been doing during the War. That is absolutely inevitable. As regards the particular suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, I have not given consideration to that. I have thought it quite possible that new Estimates should be presented when we know exactly where we are, but I am sure neither he nor the House will expect me to give any promise in that respect. But his suggestion will be considered, and in one way or another some opportunity must be given 1562 to the House of Commons of considering, as a whole, the total of our expenditure for the armed forces after peace.
§ Mr. PERRING
I do not propose to deal with these Estimates as an expert or in regard to technicalities. I am more particularly concerned with the relationship which these Estimates bear to the needs of our defensive forces, and to our financial and economic situation. I have no desire to travel over the ground covered by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean), but it seems to me that, having regard to the long period of war which we have passed through, and the large number of hon. Members who have passed from the various Services connected with the Naval and Military Forces, there is atendency, and I believe there will be, a. tendency, to look up all those Estimates for military purposes through military spectacles. A remark that escaped the right hon. Gentleman (General Seely) who introduced these Estimates, that it was a difficult thing to demobilise, suggests to me that that difficulty is accentuated by the fact that we have developed the military spirit in this country in an endeavour to kill the military spirit. Speaking as a man associated with commerce, I cannot approach the question from the same point of view as the hon. Member who spoke a few minutes ago. The Estimates are framed according to some hon Members as though we were at war, while other hon. Members speak as though we were approaching peace. I submit that as a straw shows the way the wind blows so should the Armistice terms, and the prospective Peace terms give us some indication of what are our requirements in regard to the defensive forces.
If we look at the proposed Armistice terms, together with the Peace terms, we see that the German Army is to be stripped of aeroplanes, more or less, and will be practically helpless in a few months' time, while we, as a Great Power, are to-day stronger than we were when the Armistice took place on the 11th November. We have been told to-day of the large expenditure which has taken place between 11th November and the close of this financial year. In view of that fact, and in view of the large expenditure which the Government have been compelled to pass, having regard to the large contracts which existed on the Armistice day, I suggest that our Air Force will be so overwhelmingly strong, and our Allies will be 1563 so overwhelmingly strong, that there is not the same necessity in the ensuing financial year for this great expenditure. Reference has been made to the large Estimates for the Army, the Navy, and now the Air Force. I calculate that the sum asked for, at a time when we are approaching peace, and when our enemy is supposed to be prostrate, represents something like £50 per head for every family in the country. We have been told that the War is not over, and that we must be prepared and be cautious in what we are doing. I submit that such a suggestion is a very serious reflection upon the military advisers of the Crown in regard to the Armistice and the Peace terms, because if the Armistice terms permit of the enemy again resuming hostilities, or of having any prospect of resuming hostilities, it will be a very serious reflection upon them, and this House would have good cause to complain. I am content to believe that the military advisers of the Allied Powers have made such terms that there is no possibility of the resumption of hostilities, and that, having regard to the fact that we are overwhelmingly strong and the enemy is extremely weak, we need not speak in this House as though we were in the midst of war.
I should like to emphasise the point that has been made as to the efficiency of the Air Force. Would a force such as we have to-day, efficient both as regards machines and pilots, and with each machine worth three or four old machines, and having regard to the power of the efficient machines and of the efficient pilots, a smaller force can accomplish what a much larger force was able to do in times gone by? That being so, with the highly efficient force we have today and the enormous number of pilots we have in the country I suggest that it is a mistake to go on training pilots, seeing that we shall have no use for them, for in the near future we may reasonably expect such a peace as will not necessitate the use of these aeroplanes. We are budgeting to-day for the requirements of the next financial year, and only for the next financial year, but some hon. Members talk of bombing and the technique of aviation as if we contemplated in the very near future going into another war. They speak in the military spirit. They are breathing the atmosphere of militarism and looking through military spectacles. I am surprised that the busi- 1564 ness men in the House—we were given, to understand at the last election that we were to have a business Parliament and business methods—do not make themselves heard more. When we have had discussions on these three-Service Estimates I have hardly heard a single great industrial magnate getting up to combat the military spirit which is getting hold of this House. I think it is deplorable, because if we are talking of reconstruction, and talking, as we do from day to day, of production, as the only means of providing revenue for this semi-war expenditure, we must remember that we cannot have that revenue if we are going to keep more men in the military forces than are necessary for the defence of the country. It will be far better for the Government, knowing that peace must come soon—and if they do not know it is a serious reflection upon their military advisers—to spend a certain portion of this money in developing commercial aviation and other sources of commercial development than to pursue a policy which indirectly restricts the trade of this country. Expenditure which, assuming that there are twelve or thirteen million heads of families in this country represents £50 per head, means a serious tax on industrial development. It is because of that economic fact that I have risen to speak amongst the experts who are more concerned with the development of aviation, the development of our military glory and the technique of the respective forces than they are to consider the matter in its relationship to our economic position and to the development of a reconstruction policy.
I notice that the number of officers and men provided for in this Estimate is 150,000, which is to be reduced gradually to 79,000. Of that 79,000 some 20,000 are for foreign service in the various theatres of war, and 59,000 are for Home and Colonial establishments, including Russia and the Grand Fleet. We have been told that we are not contemplating anything of great magnitude in Russia in regard to military operations. Therefore when we are budgeting for 59,000 men after demobilisation it seems to me an enormous force, having regard to the future needs of our defences in regard to the air. If you make a rough calculation of 150,000 men, to be demobilised to 79,000 men, you can take an average over the whole financial year of 100,000, which works out at £600 per man and woman per annum, 1565 which, having regard to the large number who are engaged as clerks and junior officials, seems to average a very big figure, for this 100,000 force—assuming that the 100,000 force is required. I suggest that this expenditure represents something more than appears on the paper.
Reference was made this afternoon by the Under-Secretry (General Seely) to two figures. One figure which was being spent in the present financial year was thirty odd millions, and another figure was twenty-six millions, which was going to be spent in the coming financial year in regard to contracts. I asked the question, how much of that money was being spent in compensation for contracts cancelled or going to be cancelled, and how much of that money is to be spent for goods delivered? I think that is a very important point. We ought to know in some way or another how much money is being spent in compensating people for losson contracts, so that we should have some idea whether the Government are—I do not say they are, but we do not know, and cannot know until we are told—cancelling contracts and will have to enter into fresh contracts in the next financial year for more aeroplanes. In view of the figures before us I think we ought to ask for more information because we are asked to sanction to-day forty million pounds, which is practically two-thirds of the total sum, without having any information. It has been said that while we are voting this money it may not be spent in regard to the Army and Navy, but a considerable sum may be saved, but that cannot be said about aviation. I think it is desirable that everything should be done to develop aviation, and that everything should be done to meet the needs of the defences of the country, but I do suggest that if we encourage commercial aviation it would be the best thing. We are told that large machines are being built for military purposes so that they can be adapted for commercial purposes. If we develop commercial aviation and we have a claim or a lien on these military machines for commercial purposes, it would be a far more honourable method of killing two birds with one stone than building up huge Government establishments which, in the opinion of most people, commercial people particularly, is always more costly because of the enormous staffs who are 1566 engaged in Government establishments, as against the possibility of buying through private firms or subsidising commercial development, and having a claim on the machines if circumstances require them. Something in that direction would be more economical, and, as I have said, would kill two birds with one stone. I may express the hope that before this Vote is taken we shall, at any rate, have a little more information than we have had.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) has brought us back to the question of expenditure, which is one of the main considerations which we ought to have before us in this Committee. While I am sure the Committee would gladly grant every penny that is required on this or any future occasion for the purpose of securing the place which we already occupy in the development of aviation, yet there is a widespread feeling against what is known in many parts of the country to be wasteful expenditure of public money. In Scotland we are well aware of the extraordinary case of what occurred at Loch Doon. The Select Committee which reported upon that matter said that Loch Doon would be remembered as the scene of one of the most direct instances of wasted expenditure that the records of the country could show, and I ask my right hon. Friend to believe me when I say that there is a very prevalent impression on the East Coast of Scotland that one Loch Doon has not been enough, and that in the case of Edzell there has been a wilful waste of public money which has staggered, I was going to say, the most conservative-minded men. I do not wish to be misinterpreted in a political sense, but it is an expense which has staggered all those who are least liable to be disturbed by what we see going on around us in the matter of disposing of other people's money.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee knows that we are supposed to be a thrifty people in Scotland, and we do trust that whatever is done as regards the future of flying, the right hon. Gentleman and those whom he controls will take steps to ensure that extravagant expenditure is put an end to without further loss of time. This matter is not merely the subject of irresponsible talk in the county, but actually the local authorities have had a conference on their own account 1567 to go into the whole question, for the wages paid at the Edzell Aerodrome, the methods of conducting the work, and the whole of the transactions connected with that enterprise, have been such as to demoralise the labour market over the whole county and to create a topic of conversation and derision among all classes of people. The local authorities take a strong position on the matter, claiming that until the Government takes effective measures to put an end to the scandalous state of things which goes on, there will never be in that part of the country, at any rate, any confidence in the business methods of the Government.
A matter of £200 in reference to the Vote which we are passing to-day seems, I know, a trifle. But I do ask my right hon. Friend to note one point in reference to the disposal of huts and other stores at the aerodrome in that part of the country. I read the other day that a county councillor in Forfar, a man locally well known and respected, stated that he had official information that Government stores to the value of £200 had been wastefully burned, although those stores which took the shape of huts, canvas, and other material were valuable, and could have been sold to advantage in the markets in the neighbourhood. The canvas alone, if my information is correct, being badly wanted by local farmers for stack covers. We have a right in this Committee when called on to vote vast sums of public money to urge upon right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench the extreme need of seeing to it that there is no wilful waste, such as undoubtedly—I say without fear of contradiction—lias been going on up there. So far as the development of civil aviation is concerned, use should be made of the stations which have already been erected, and the Government should see to it, as I think my right hon. Friend has already indicated it would, that every facility is given at existing military stations for the development of civilian flying. I should have wished to say something to my right hon. Friend in reference to the future of the aerodrome at Montrose, which is, though it may be presumptuous on my part as representing that burgh to say so, one of the best equipped in the country. But I am quite satisfied that since my right hon. Friend has promised to fly to Montrose at an early date to see what can be done 1568 with that station, that it will be satisfactory to leave that point for future arrangements.
§ Mr. BARTLEY DENNISS
For the next few years I suppose Members of the House will be apprehensive concerning the question of economy, and I would like to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend Mr. Perring, and his criticism of what he thought was the extravagance of the present Estimate. But it is impossible for any of us to criticise these Estimates because there are no details. I could a tale unfold about the aerodrome that would exceed in horror all that has been said this evening by several hon. Members—the aerodrome at Uxbridge, where I live, and the conversion of Oldham Mills into aeroplane factories. On one occasion a deputation of Lancashire builders waited on Lord Rothermere about the cost and he said that he was perfectly helpless in the matter, that there was no method of payment for these aerodromes except a percentage on cost of material, labour, and establishment expenses—the most ruinous kind of contract that either a private individual or a Government could go into. But it is quite useless now to talk about these things because it is all spilt milk and cannot be gathered up again. What we have got to see to is that in the future the Air Ministry and the War Office proceed as far as possible upon normal lines with regard to contracts and general expenditure.
We cannot even say that the Estimates are very extravagant either in men or in money required for the Air Force, because we are in a transition period and we must prepare for what may eventuate into a serious war again. I remember quite well reading when I was a young man how in the throes of the French Revolution when the French people were perhaps very much in the same position that the German people are in at the present time, when the foreign invader put his foot upon France, that pulled the French people together, and the result was that Napoleon sprang up and defeated the whole of Europe. The thing that might possibly happen even now in Germany. Were our terms so severe as to arouse the indignation of the German people, they might join the Russian Bolshevists, who seem to be getting the upper hand in that country, and we might have another war. That is why I do not consider 150,000 men, to be reduced to 75,000, at all an extravagant number. The amount of money set 1569 aside for civil aviation nobody can say is at all extravagant—the small sum of £3,000,000. That leads me to ask the question, What is the form that State assistance ought to take with regard to civil aviation? In my opinion, industrial enterprise is rather crippled than helped by lavish Government assistance, because as soon as you have considerable Government contribution for the development of an industry you immediately have Government control, and the industry immediately more or less becomes paralysed.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the amount of assistance that the Air Ministry will give is not limited to the £3,000,000, but that civil aviation will have besides the advantage of all the assistance of the staff in the various Departments, including the Meteorological Department, and of the pilots, with various routes all over the world, and of these 75,000 men who are to be retained as a permanent portion of the Air Force during this year. What industry requires from the Government is that it should give every reasonable facility for private enterprise to develop. It has to do that internationally in the first instance. I understand that the Paris Conference has adopted, or will adopt very shortly, the rules which have been drawn up by our Government. There is a great deal more than that. Arrangements have got to be made with every foreign country for permission for our aeroplanes to have landing places and the use of aerodromes. That is the first thing that the Government have to do. Private individuals are powerless to do it themselves, and without it the aeroplane industry cannot possibly be developed. The next thing they have to do is to map out the routes along which the flying can be prosecuted in the future, and first it seems to me they ought to develop the routes throughout the Empire. Already, the right hon. Gentleman has told us, two flights have been made to India—from here to Marseilles, then to Rome and Taranto, then on to Suda Bay in Crete, from there to the African coast, and so to Cairo, Cairo being the half-way house to India. Then from Cairo to Karachi, thence to Delhi, and Calcutta. So far, so good, but the right hon. Gentleman stops there, and I suggest that he should continue that route to Australia. It was probably an oversight, but he did not mention it in his speech.
I thought so, and I am glad to hear that the Department are considering mapping out the route as far as Australia. In going that way they would touch Burma, Sumatra, Java, and, if they like to divert a little, New Guinea. They will find then that aviation is already developed in Australia. Australia has already been mapped out by the Australian Government, and as far as the carriage of mails and goods of a certain kind are concerned, arrangements have been made all over the Australian continent. The right hon. Gentleman is fully alive to the necessity of an all red route from London to Cairo down to the Cape. When I was a child—perhaps it is getting on now for sixty years ago—I read the Arabian Nights Entertainments, and it seems now almost as if we lived in those times. I well remember the magic carpet on which the magician took passengers from Damascus to Bagdad, and then to the Court of the Princes in Persia, and that route has already been flown over by British airmen. There was a book published some few years before the War by a friend of mine, one of the masters at Harrow, on the strength of nations, and there he says, "In a few years perhaps the German porter at Constantinople will be crying out 'Change here for Europe, Asia, and Africa.'" That situation very nearly arrived in the present War, as we all know now, but I hope the time will actually arrive when Cairo will be perhaps the great exchange, of air traffic for the world, when English airmen and not German porters will shout out, "Change here for India, for Europe, for Africa, and for Asia." But this will never happen, and can never happen, without enormous assistance by the Government, not in money, but in the provision of aerodromes, repairing stations, and depots for the supply of fuel all along these routes. I know quite well that the Department are ready to do this, but they have got to do it very quickly, otherwise the Allied and neutral nations will be in advance of us. We have got to do more than that, however, and I ask for the sympathy and assistance of the right hon. Gentleman in enabling British manufacturers with the greatest speed possible to exploit the present demand in Allied and neutral countries, and particularly in neutral countries in South America, for the introduction into those countries of aircraft.
I understand that the United States are at the present moment contemplating 1571 sending their machines into the Argentine. A finer country for the purpose of flying does not exist, with great, flat, level plains, young men whose pockets are bursting with money made during the War, accustomed to spend it in Europe every year, but who have not been able to come over here because of the War, and who will be just the sort of men who will be ready to learn flying and to buy machines; and if the British are first in the market, as they are first now in construction, in all human probability we shall lay the foundation of an industry there which will be extremely beneficial to this country. And so in the other neutral countries of the world. But it is for the Government to give manufacturers sufficient facilities in the directions I have indicated in order that they may be able to do this as quickly as possible before foreign countries come in and cut the ground from under our feet. It is not money that the industry wants, but it is the facilities that I have mentioned. I apologise for having detained the House at this length, but I happen to occupy a position on the Air League of the British Empire. It has no connection whatever with any manufacturers, nor does it make a profit out of the industry, but it is merely, like the Navy League, appointed for the purpose of seeing that the fighting side of the Air Force is kept up to its proper strength, and also, now that the War is over, to assist as far as possible in the development of the industry of aviation, not for the benefit of themselves, but for the benefit of our common country.
§ Mr. REMER
I should like first of all to join in the chorus of economy which has issued from various parts of the House. I do not think the hon. and gallant Member who spoke a little while ago need have had any fear that economy cannot be accompanied also with efficiency, and I do not think that he is quite in accord with my views when he speaks of what the Army wants. I think some-times, at any rate, we ought to think of what the British taxpayer wants. As far as I could make out from the Under-Secretary the amount of money which is going to be spent on aeroplanes during the coining year is approximately about one million sterling. We are asked for a sum of £45,000,000 in the Vote to-day. In other words, for £1,000,000 worth of aeroplanes we are asked to vote £45,000,000 to administer them. If we think this out 1572 carefully we shall come to the direct conclusion that there is a great deal of waste going on in the administration.
§ Major-General SEELY
In order that the hon. Member may not be led into a mistake by possibly not catching what I said, of course I did not say we were only going to spend £1,000,000. There are £26,000,000 to be expended during the coming year and £39,000,000 for the remainder of this year, the greater part of this for aeroplanes.
§ Mr. REMER
I am glad to have that explanation. At the same time, I should like to put before the Committee the view that I think this House, having got into the habit of spending £8,000,000 a day, is finding it exceedingly difficult to get out of it. I also press upon the House the view that it is necessary in the interests of the nation to get out of the rut, and try to think a little bit about economy. I know something about the administration of the Air Force during the War, and I know at the present time there is a very large amount of money which could be saved in administration. In my opinion there are far too many officials at the present time whose only job of any importance is to write on documents, "Passed on to you, please." I am sure we want to have an inquiry by strong men to see exactly what the work is that is required of these officials, and whether it is necessary to employ quite as many people as are there, because I am quite sure there is a tendency for work to make work, and it is a very difficult thing to get people out of jobs when they are in them. I do not want it to be thought that I wish to do anything to diminish in any way the efficiency of the Air Force, or to do anything to prevent money being spent on civilian aviation, a subject on which I am very keen, not only from the practical side, but also from the side of encouraging every industry in the British Empire. My only object in intervening in this Debate is to join in the plea that has been brought forward that economy is absolutely necessary at the present moment in the interests of the Empire.
§ Major-General SEELY
I understand that there is one other point which my Noble Friend (Lieutenant-Colonel Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) is anxious to raise, but, as there appear to be no other speakers on the general question, it may be convenient to the Committee if I make a very brief reply on the points 1573 raised in the Debate. First of all, with regard to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) and also my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, the principle on which we propose to act in the Royal Air Force in the future is the same as that for which the Royal Flying Force was first formed, namely, that everyone in the force shall learn to fly, and the future of the observer will then be found after he has flown probably, and not before. Of course it may be said that there are some administrative services which cannot be filled by flying men. I hardly believe that that is true. I do not know that there is any member of the force, except the chaplain, who would not be better or learning to fly, and even the chaplain, as my hon. Friend said, would get sooner to heaven in that way than in any other.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Major-General SEELY
I understood my hon. Friend to say so. The hon. Member for Brentford raised the point as to whether the recommendations of the Civil Aerial Transport Committee would be borne in mind in the draft aerial convention which we are submitting to the Allied nations. The answer most certainly is "Yes," and that most valuable document, the Report of that Committee, has been largely the framework on which we have founded all our proposals, and I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Government, of expressing my cordial thanks to Members of this House and of the other House, and to gentlemen outside this House who were members of that Committee, from Lord North-cliffe as Chairman down to those who joined later in the proceedings. Their Report to the Committee is one of the most valuable documents ever presented to a Government. Several Members have raised the importance of giving more comfort to our flying men, both officers and men, and my hon. Friend opposite and an hon. Friend behind me both suggested that arrangements should be made if possible for plenty of outdoor exercise and amusement. We do recognise that. The airman's life is a most peculiar one, in that he cannot be in the air more than a comparatively short time, if for no other reason than the enormous expense and the enormous distance covered in a comparatively short time. In two hours he can go 200 miles. Therefore 1574 there must be much leisure, and it is of the most vital importance, that that leisure should have the opportunity of useful employment and enjoyment. We shall do what we can in that matter.
All recent speakers have urged the importance of economy, but none, I think, has suggested that these particular Estimates are too high. Some have suggested that there has been waste in the management of aerodromes. I dare say that may have been so. In fact, we know that in one case a very important and impartial committee found there had been great waste. I welcome the knowledge that they bring to me of any occasion where there is wasteful or extravagant administration. Not only do I welcome it, but I invite it, and I hope any hon. Member in this House who believes there is anything wasteful or uneconomical being done will bring it to my attention. I believe there is no one who is not anxious in the abstract for economy, but it is quite clear that, during the desperate struggle in which we were engaged, when everything had to be sacrificed, regardless of expense, for getting on with the War, a standard may have been set and a scale of expenditure arrived at which is not reasonable now. Many people have forgotten it—I must have forgotten during the four years I was abroad—but I will do my utmost to ensure due economy, as I know will all the members of the Air Ministry Staff, who have the strictest instructions in that regard, and who, I may say, I have found—both members of the Council and others—as anxious to check waste wherever they can find it as anyone else.
I much regret that I was absent from the House for a few moments when the hon. Member for Leyton (Lieutenant-Colonel Malone) was speaking, but I understand he said the Admiralty objected to the present position of the Air Force and wanted to withdraw their Force. That is not the case, so far as I know; it is new to me. I do not believe the Admiralty have any idea of doing any such thing. I am quite sure that they, in common with the War Office, sec clearly that the only way to administer an Air Force is by an Air Ministry, and I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend would, I know, have said if he were here, that his holding both offices does not in the least mean that the independence of the Royal Air Force and 1575 the Air Ministry is in any degree jeopardised. Quite the contrary. The fact that my right hon. Friend is so keenly interested in flying himself, and was one of the first to encourage it—he has, I believe, with the exception of my I self, flown more than any other Member of the House, except of course those gallant professional officers we have with us—is a proof that he is not likely to allow the Air Force to lose a jot or tittle of its independence. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham made a most interesting speech and begged that the Royal Air Force should not be put under the heel of unsympathetic, unscientific, and occasionally incompetent Staff officers from the other Services. He told us that in a highly technical matter he was interrupted by a Staff officer, who said to him, "Let me see, perpendicular—what is it, is it up and down, or is it sideways?" He was, he said, ill-disposed towards officers of that kind who sometimes had a total absence of scientific knowledge. I give him with the greatest pleasure the assurance that he requires. I would add that I do not believe there are many such officers in the flying service. The Noble, and I think I may now say without any friction, the gallant Lord, told us that a man should begin to fly when he was sixteen; that he himself had learnt to fly and crashed down many a good machine, I understand, but all that without losing his determination to continue the flying art. Therefore, as my Noble Friend started to learn the business when at the age of, I think, forty or forty-four, or there abouts—
§ Major-General SEELY
In reply to both officers, may I say that we do realise that the airman is a different being to the sailor or the soldier. He has a different outlook on life. He believes that he should have his own Staff college, and he shall have it. He considers that there should be an Air Staff just as much as there is a General Staff at the War Office or a General Staff which is being created at the Admiralty. With those who think that there should be one great Defence Ministry, I may say that the necessary step to that end would be that matters which, appertain to the air should have a department even more than any other department, and a staff of its own, so as to make those con- 1576 cerned feel that their contribution of flying to the other two links them together very, very closely. Therefore, everything will be done to carry out the ideal put before us eloquently by the hon. and gallant Gentleman—that the Air Force should have its own pride of ancestry, pride of race, pride in its gallant and sporting spirit, pride in its highly technical and scientific knowledge, pride in the fact that in this War it has proved itself the greatest Air Force in the world, and that, while working in ever closer co-operation with the Army and Navy, will become more and more independent in its ideas, thoughts, and aspirations. I hope that that very definite pronouncement will satisfy my hon. Friends who are anxious to insist that the Air Force should retain its independent existence. I understand that the hon. Member for Leyton indicated, or, rather, it might be gathered from his speech, that he thought that General Sykes was in some way superior to General Trenchard and directed him.
I am glad to take this opportunity of saying what I intended to say in my opening statement on that subject. Of course, that is not so. There are three members of the Air Council, General Trenchard, who commands the military side; General Ellington, who is responsible for the production and research side; and General Sykes, who, as everyone knows, is the Controller-General of Civil Aviation. None of them can be said to be the boss of the other, to use homely words. Certainly, the last thing General Sykes or General Trenchard wish to do would be to say that the one was superior to the other. The line of demarcation of their spheres is quite clear. I know that they will work in cordial co-operation together for the benefit of flying. What I am anxious to say is that we do owe a great debt of gratitude to General Trenchard for his services during the War. That has been given expression to, I think, before. But it would not be proper in introducing Air Estimates not to refer to them. The Independent Air Force which, of course, would form part of our fighting forces if ever we went to war again at once, was under his command, and had a vital effect in bringing the War to a victorious conclusion. The fact that he at once, when asked to come forward to take over his present duties again, did so, places the Government and the country in his debt. I regret to say he has been seriously, not to say most dangerously, ill. 1577 I was glad to hear this morning that he was better and with every hope of a speedy recovery. I am sure the whole House will wish well to both General Sykes and General Trenchard. General Sykes, who takes up this most difficult and new post, and General Trenchard who took over at a most critical time.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman passes from that, will he tell us something about the staff organisation of General Syke's Department? He promised that.
§ Major-General SEELY
I did, and I had it on my notes, but, as in the case of other things, Iomitted to mention it as I intended to do. I am glad to say that all the senior officers of General Syke's staff have been selected, and that the whole staff is in process of formation. I have every hope that in a a very short time the whole thing will be in working order. In the meantime I muse admit that owing to the influenza having laid by General Trenchard and myself, and both having to be consulted in the allocation of these posts earlier through the temporary indisposition of General Sykes, but most probably due to my fault in catching the influenza, there has been delay. I can only apologise for it, and say we will catch it up at the first possible moment. The Committee may rest assured that I will not leave any stone unturned to catch up the unavoidable delay.
§ Major-General SEELY
There will be military and civil officers. Most of the posts, if not all, will be filled by officers of the Royal Air Force who have been in it, because, during the War, everybody who could fly or took an interest in flying joined the Force if he was young enough to do so. But it is not intended that it should be a military organisation in any sense of the word. So much is that the case that General Sykes asked to be allowed to retire from the Air Force in order to emphasise the civilian aspect of his duties. I do not know that there is any other point which I have not replied to, but if there is, and attention is called to it, I shall reply. Having said that, perhaps we may hear the point which my Noble Friend behind me wishes to raise, and then be permitted to have these Estimates as it is urgent to get on with the necessary work.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree to make a full statement in regard to the civil aviation side of the organisation as soon as he is in a position to do so, perhaps in answer to a question?
§ Major-General SEELY
Yes, Sir; I shall be glad to do that. If my hon. Friend will put down a question in ten days' time I hope I will be able to make a full statement.