HC Deb 21 March 1922 vol 152 cc342-94
Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS

I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words in the opinion of this House, to enable the best use to be made of the Air Service, all defence forces should be represented on and their activities co-ordinated by the Committee of Imperial Defence, which should meet regularly and frequently; and that a Minister who is not departmentally responsible for any of the fighting Services should be appointed as permanent Vice-Chairman of the Committee, to take the Chair in the absence of the Prime Minister. I do not propose to follow up the controversy which has arisen in this Debate as between an independent or a combined Air Force, because I believe whichever solution is finally accepted it will be equally necessary to have proper coordination from above. There is a very interesting feature in this year's Air Estimates, namely, the Appropriations-in-Aid which appear in respect of Iraq, Palestine, and Trans-Jordania. These new responsibilities have not merely a strategic interest. The Geddes Report has stated that the use of the Air Force in the Middle East has caused the Estimates for that area this year to be cut down from £27,000,000 to £13,000,000. There-fore there is a great deal of money in the right use and co-ordination of resources in cases of this kind. One is bound to ask, from the point of view of national economy, if for no other reason, whether the most satisfactory method exists for exploiting the possibilities of the young Air Service, or whether it is merely being given this new opening because the Colonial Secretary happens during his varied career to have presided over all three of the fighting Departments. In this year's Debates on getting you, Mr. Speaker, out of the Chair, there has been one curious feature. The Members who have secured precedents for their notices of Motion have in no case used the opportunity for discussing matters of internal departmental interest. They invariably brought forward proposals on the wider issue of the relations between the fighting Services themselves.

I do not think this feature in Debate was due merely to the recognition that Imperial defence must be considered as a single problem. Distinguished members of both the Army and Navy agree that the present system of organisation and coordination is very far from satisfactory The hon. and gallant Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Rear-Admiral Sir R. Hall) wished to secure the co-operation of air and sea forces by killing the Air Force and dividing its corpse. The hon. and gallant Member for Bute (Sir Aylmer C. Hunter-Weston) did not commit himself in favour of such an amalgamation, but proposed a Commis- sion with a very wide reference to consider how to deal with defence organisation and the co-ordination of operations and administration on air, sea and land. The Under-Secretary of State for War answered, "Leave us alone; cannot we have a little rest?" I do not think the country can afford to give them a rest in this respect. The time for reform of war administration is after a war, as was the case with the Esher Commission after the South African War. It would be disastrous to allow haphazard improvisations to harden into a system. If reform is not tackled now, when experience is still fresh in the minds of the experts, it will never be achieved. Ten years hence the country will have forgotten Gallipoli and how that amphibious operation was undertaken without any joint consideration between the naval war staff and the general staff. It is common knowledge too, that proper co-ordination has not yet been achieved, and we must increase co-operation if we are to make the best of our resources.

I am sure many examples will occur to the minds of hon. Members, and I need only mention one. It is well known that a great difficulty which confronts the Air Service is that it offers permanent careers to a far smaller number of officers than it is desirable to train in the Service. The conditions of air fighting are so exacting that only officers of, say, up to the age of 30 can bear the strain of actual air service. If you are to have reasonable promotion, if you are to get over the difficulty of having a pyramid with a huge base and very narrow apex, the obvious solution is to arrange for the attachment, for a few years, of officers from the Army and Navy. In addition to giving the necessary number of officers of flying age, you will produce flying men who, being soldiers and sailors first of all, will be able to co-operate efficiently, as we are told is most necessary on the part of both Services. Both Senior Services have practically blocked this proposal, and this deadlock can only be ended by some coordination being proposed by an authority superior to the executive Departments. The Government have refused the proposal of the hon. Member for Bute that an inquiry should take place. I trust that this means that they feel there have been enough inquiries on the subject, and that they can now make up their minds. What is the position? The Haldane Report on the machinery of government recommended that there should be a general supervision over the three Departments of Defence by the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Geddes Report advocated the setting up of a Ministry of Defence. The Government should surely now be capable of deciding between these two proposals, because they are only different in method. It is only a question of whether you will begin with a short step or a long one.

There are obvious and overwhelming difficulties in the way of creating a Defence Ministry at one stroke. Until the General War College has had time to produce experts with far more balanced training than is possible in the staff colleges of the separate forces, the Minister responsible for co-ordinating these services must get his professional advice from the present specialists—experts who have been trained in the Army, Navy or Air Force, respectively. Eventually we must come to an Imperial combined general staff, as has been admitted in very definite terms by the Colonial Secretary himself. It is useless to set up this staff until the personnel with which you are to man it has been trained. Even if you could, by a miracle, improvise a great Department of this kind, the Minister who runs it would quite overbalance the system of Cabinet government as it is administered at present. Unless he is to be a Triton among minnows, it would be necessary to extend the principle recommended by Lord Haldane's Committee and have a super-Cabinet and super-Ministers, placed, like the proposed Ministry of Defence, over the pre-occupations of a Ministry of detail, and responsible only for the widest lines of policy and coordination. It may be that eventually the Ministry of Defence will be achieved, but if so, the Minister and his Department will most easily be evolved from the present machinery of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Such evolution seems to me far more consistent with our institutions than the method of special creation of a full-fledged super-Minister presiding over a super-Department. The Under-Secretary of State for War stated the other day that the Committee of Imperial Defence already has power to carry out all the sugges- tions which were put forward in the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Bute and Ayr, to which I have already referred. That is so, but the point is, that the constitution of the Committee of Imperial Defence is such that it is not enabled to make the best use of those powers which it possesses, and my Amendment seeks to strengthen and regularise its machinery. It urges that all defence forces should be represented on and their activities co-ordinated by the Committee of Imperial Defence, which should meet regularly and frequently; and that a Minister who is not departmentally responsible for any of the fighting Services should be appointed as permanent Vice-Chairman of the Committee, to take the Chair in the absence of the Prime Minister. The trouble is that the Committee has no executive or administrative power whatsoever. Its control used to be exercised through the Cabinet by the channel of the Prime Minister, who presided over both those bodies. Before the War the Prime Minister was the only—and, indeed, I suppose he is now—permanent and regular member of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and other members were merely summoned by his choice. The late Prime Minister recognised the importance of this institution and gave very much time to it, but no Prime Minister is physically capable, in view of his other pre-occupations, of giving the necessary attention to such work if it is to be adequately conducted. If the Prime Minister is either inattentive or asleep during the discussions, it means that the advice of the Committee of Imperial Defence does not get through to the Cabinet, where alone policy can be finally settled.

Since the War the position seems a little different. From an answer which I received from the Leader of the House yesterday, it appears that sub-committees have been very active, but they have no direct access to the Cabinet. The full Committee appears now to have ceased to meet. The Leader of the House told me yesterday that, as far as he knew, they had not met at all last year; anyhow, they had never met under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, and a Standing Defence Sub-Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Lord President, appears now largely to be taking over the functions formerly performed by the full Committee. It seems to me that this present position is unnecessarily haphazard and makeshift. We do not even know who s on this Standing Sub-Committee. I could not get the information when I asked for it, on the ground that there was no precedent for disclosing these details. Surely, for the important work of co-ordinating these Departments, we ought to have a body openly appointed and publicly responsible—probably the head politician and the head professional representatives of the three fighting Services at the present time—but we do not know, and why should the matter be veiled in secrecy? Is it not time to admit that the co-ordination of the direction, operation, and supply of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force should definitely be the duty of a body with a permanent organisation? It is, above all, important that this co-ordinating body should have this independent chairman, as to which the right hon. Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely) has put forward such strong arguments on two previous occasions.

It has been suggested to me that the work of Chairman could efficiently be carried out by the senior of the three Departmental Chiefs. Under present circumstances, however, any such Minister presiding over these deliberations would almost certainly be biassed in favour of the claims of his own fighting Department, because he would necessarily know their case in much greater detail than the case of the other Departments. It would often be a question of substitution, of one Service being cut down to enable another Service to expand, and even if the Minister did not listen to his own professional advisers, he would always be suspected of doing so, and you would get endless friction and jealousy. Here again, therefore, our proposal would merely regularise the position which now exists, because I gather that the Lord President has already been presiding over this Standing Defence Sub-Committee, of whomsoever it may consist, and certainly there is no Minister more pre-eminently fitted by knowledge and long experience for such a responsibility. I am very glad to see that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is apparently going to deal with this question, because in addition to his unrivalled administrative experience of the fighting Departments, he has a hereditary tradition in this matter. There is a Memorandum of Lord Randolph Churchill in the Report of the Hartington Commission, in which he urges the creation of a Secretary of State and Treasurer of the land and sea Forces of the Crown, a Chancellor of the Exchequer for those very important Departments. He recommended this proposal, firstly, because it would ensure proper financial control by Parliament and the Government, and, secondly, because it would provide a much needed link between the two Services. Lord Randolph Churchill made this very prophetic recommendation in the limited liability, bow and arrow days of 32 years ago. Since then warfare has been absolutely transformed. It has become infinitely more complex, and its coordination has become a far more urgent and exacting problem. Warfare has now broken the old boundaries. It is no longer limited to the surface of the land and sea. Modern fighting lurks above the clouds and dives under the sea,' and it even poisons the very air, and in the emergency of large scale mobilisation all public Departments are brought in, because this process involves for a great war, not merely the entire manhood, but the whole economic and industrial resources of the nation.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not propose to go into the quarrel, which has been waging to-day, between a separate and an independent Air Force, for the proposal which we have put on the Paper is, I believe, inevitable, whether your Air Force be independent or not. I only wish to make three points, of which the first is this: The Committee of Imperial Defence was indicated in the Geddes Report as the co-ordinating authority for defence, and, therefore, all the economies suggested in the Geddes Report can be obtained by passing our Amendment, and to get them we need not go as far as a Ministry of Defence. I think it is sometimes thought that you cannot get the full effect of the Geddes economies unless you take the very much bigger and rather questionable step of setting up at once a Ministry of Defence, but it is not so, because the Geddes Committee very carefully guarded themselves, and they themselves have pointed out the Committee of Imperial Defence as being the co-ordinating authority, and, as my hon.

and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness) said, the same suggestion was made by Lord Haldane's Committee on the Machinery of Government.

My second point is, that our suggestion is much more modest than a Ministry of Imperial Defence, and is not open to the very serious objections which, on Thursday last, were stated by the Leader of the House against a Ministry of Defence. He said, for instance, that that scheme required more consideration. I quite agree that it does, but this suggestion which we bring forward gives the occasion for that consideration, for it enables all the three defence forces to be brought together round the same table, and the problems that are common to all to be worked out. It also gets over the difficulty that we do not now possess a trained, common Staff. Under our suggestion each branch of service would retain its Staff as at present, and then if, as time goes on, a General Staff is required, it could be built up gradually; and it does not suppress the individuality of the three Services, nor does it set up a super-Minister, and it does facilitate all the unification, to which the Leader of the House pointed, of transport, supply, intelligence and education. Therefore, all the advantages lie on the side of our suggestion.

8.0 P.M.

My third point goes rather wider. I have listened to the whole of the Debate to-day with the interest that we always feel when a subject is being discussed by people who know much more about it than we do. I represent the ordinary man who does not know what the future of the Air Force is going to be, but I want to know, and until you get the heads of these three great fighting forces in the same room and round the same table you will not know what the future of the Air Force is going to be. The House has had two absolutely conflicting views put before it. The first was represented in its most extreme form by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rochester (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), who envisaged a world where the Channel was as dry as the Red Sea once was, where the Fleet was obsolete, and where, I think he said, the Army was obsolete or obsolescent, and to his mind there was nothing at all, no force of any good, except the Air Force. No doubt he produced some strong arguments to enforce that view, but I cannot help recalling that when the last War started, and when trench warfare started, it was thought the rifle was obsolete and that the bomb and the grenade were going to be the only weapons, but when the War ended we came back to the man with the rifle, and he was more important even than he had been before. So, I think, often we exaggerate the last new invention, and the mind goes round it, sees all its points and puts too much weight on the last new thing. Upon the other hand was the view represented by the hon. and gallant Field-Marshal who wants an Air Service that is subsidiary and subservient to the Army and Navy. Anything that I can say cannot carry any weight against a military opinion so important as his. Still, my mind did go back to our fighting on the Somme in 1916. At that time it so happened that the British aeroplanes were much stronger than the German, and, so far as you can get command of a substance like the air, we had command of the air. But supposing we had again to attack and take those trenches, is it not quite conceivable that the man who plotted out that attack would have been an airman, and would not we have seen the air-trained general in charge of the air and also of the attacking infantry, and would not the controlling and deciding factor have been the preliminary air bombardment of those trenches? I think it is quite possible. I do not express any opinion, but, after all, the Navy fights on the water, and the Army on the land; but the wind blows over both sea and land, and where the wind blows the Air Force fights.

I was tempted to favour the view of the more extreme air advocates, but, again, I was checked by this consideration. I think all those extreme advocates forget that you do not win a war by staying in the air, and that your objective is either a fleet, an army, a fortress or a factory. Those are either situated in the sea or on the land, and you have to come down to destroy or occupy them, and that is not done by aeroplanes. You do not win a war by shooting. You win a war by the occupation of the enemy's country, and I am not quite sure that my mind goes quite so far as to envisage aeroplanes leaving the whole of this country flat. I do not believe that. I think the defence against aeroplane attack will not stand still, and our depots and factories will be protected against their bombs. I know that when you get an aeroplane engine which is more powerful than our most powerful express locomotives, flying at the rate of 200 miles an hour, and that can carry a bomb of 2 tons, you have got a very formidable weapon, but, after all, it is a pretty big thing to destroy a country. It is a pretty big thing to beat a country, and in the end you will require the infantry and the ships. So that I do not at all subscribe to the extreme view of either party. But the main opinion left on my mind is one of ignorance. I do not know. I can imagine all sorts of things occurring, but I want somebody there who will collect together the best brains of Army, Navy and Air, and will preside over them, and will advise the country on what is an enormously important point.

Nobody, whether he wants the Air Service as a subsidiary arm or as an independent Service, will in the least minimise the enormous importance of the air. Can you conceive a better body than the Committee of Imperial Defence? The Prime Minister is chairman of it, and, if he be not present himself, he appoints his deputy, who, I presume, would be a Cabinet Minister, and so you keep the Committee in touch with the Cabinet. Until you do that, and unless you do that, you will have these three great forces, the Army, Navy, and Air, all working out their own problems, working them out with great courage and great skill, but on their own lines, and you will not have anybody who will look to defence as a whole. The mere saving of money, the allocation of money, cannot be done unless you have somebody who can look to the whole of the defence of this country and the Empire. Therefore, from all points of view—from the point of view of immediate saving of duplication, from the point of view of the best way of spending the money that we can spend, and, lastly, from the point of view of making proper use of these three great factors of defence, I do hope the Government will accept the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend.

Rear-Admiral SUETER

I should like to congratulate the Air Minister on the way he has presented his Air Estimates, and on his very able speech, and then deal with the Amendment brought forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. For many, many years, we had a Subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely) and he had on it representatives of the Army and the Navy, officers who dealt with their particular Air Forces. We met two or three times a week very often, and the right hon. Gentleman presided over that Committee with very great success. We made great strides in the Air Service on both the military side and the naval side, and we have to thank that right hon. Gentleman for his great vision in turning over the small airships to the Admiralty, and so enabling us to train the pilots, who did such good work in the small airships during the War in hunting submarines. The great fault of this Sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence was that it had no executive power. It could recommend anything to the Admiralty or to the War Office for their flying services to carry out, and those authorities adopted them or not, just as they liked.

I have listened to all the arguments this afternoon with great attention, and I consider that a most splendid case has been made out for a Ministry of Defence. The experiments in America and France show that the battleship now is quite obsolete, and I should like to see some of the money voted for the Navy turned over to the Air Service. The right hon. Gentleman has put forward very modest Estimates indeed, and I do not think anybody can complain on the ground of economy. He says he is going to get a 37 per cent. reduction, and I think that is very satisfactory. But all these arguments to-day show that we want to have an authority in power to tell the Navy, the Army or the Air Force exactly what to do. If you can only do that, you can make very great economies indeed. It is argued by the hon. Gentleman opposite that we have not got the staff to do it. I say, we have the staff existing now, and the Government could appoint a Ministry of Defence to-morrow. You could draw your staff from the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, from men who have had experience in the War, and I guarantee to get it going within 48 hours. I hope the Minister for Air will give us his opinion on this question of a Ministry of Defence.

The Estimates are signed by six gentlemen, and none of them has any experience of the Navy. That, I am quite certain, is one of the reasons why there is so much criticism from the naval side on the Air Service. The Secretary of State for the Colonies is largely responsible, because he set up this Air Service on military lines, and I think the right hon. Gentleman has followed in his footsteps far too keenly. If you take the people who signed these Estimates, there is only one, and that is a secretary, who was at the Admiralty and had been secretary to a Sea Lord. That is the only connection any of them has had with the Navy at all, and I would ask the Air Minister whether he could not in the reorganisation of the Air Service put an admiral there, or somebody who has experience of Fleet work, aeroplane carrier work, and submarine work. You want to get those people on it—the younger men who have had that experience in the War—and then we would not have all this criticism from the naval side. If you will only do that, I feel quite certain that things will go far more satisfactorily, and people will not be able to criticise your Air Service and say it is being developed as a cavalry regiment.


I should like much to follow the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) in the very amusing speech and the many fallacies to which he treated us; but I desire to pay attention strictly to the Resolution put before the House by the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness). I would emphasise here to-night that I do not intend in what I have to say to make any reference to what I advocated to the Government in speaking on the Army Estimates. What I propose to say has nothing whatever to do with that. I think the Resolution which has been brought forward by my hon. and gallant Friend has this great advantage amongst others. First, that it urges on the Government the great importance of the Committee of Imperial Defence and the necessity of making what is a most excellent thing even more effective than it has been in the past. Secondly, a great point is that it proves to the Government the great interest that is taken in this matter by the House generally. In this matter it really is essential, and an essential portion of our organisation for defence.

The third point is that it will recall to the House the important functions that are being played by the Committee of Imperial Defence in our defence organisation, because I think it is certainly taken as accurate now that, unless the House of Commons itself takes an interest in any matter, unless it presses upon the Government the demand for action, the Government of these days, with the great strain and great stress in matters financial, domestic, and foreign, are apt to place anything that is not so brought to their notice in a secondary category that can be dealt with at a more convenient opportunity. I fully agree that the work that has been done by the Committee of Imperial Defence, about which the Resolution treats, has been of the very greatest importance to the country both in the past and in the present; that there has been an immense press of work for many years on every Cabinet and on every Secretariat to get through, and it has been very difficult therefore—we all realise it—for Members of the Government, who are the heads of the great Services, and for their technical assistants to give that attention to that Committee work which I know they would under other circumstances have desired to do.

A discussion of this sort does give the House certain knowledge of what the Committee of Imperial Defence is, and, therefore, gives the House a greater knowledge and greater interest in it. It is essential for national security that we should have a knowledge of this Committee of Imperial Defence, and should press on the Government for its more effective action. It is important, as the Seconder of the Resolutions has said, because of the great effect the Committee of Imperial Defence doing its duty well would really have in the co-ordination of our administrative services, and therefore the finances of the country. That point, I think, was very clearly brought out by the Geddes Committee. Not only shall we recognise, therefore, that without the effective working of the Committee of Imperial Defence we cannot get the right eoconomy or efficiency, but also that we have, on the other side, the fact that unless the Committee of Imperial Defence acts, and acts regularly, we cannot get the best results out of the other side of the services, that is to say, the operating side—the general staff, the War staff, and the Air staff as they are respectively called in the three services. In order that the Committee of Imperial Defence may do the best work in the way that everybody desires it shall do, the factors that were brought forward by the Mover of this Resolution are, in the opinion not only of himself, but of all who have had to do with it, essential: that is to say, that the Committee of Imperial Defence shall meet regularly and frequently, and that it shall have a permanent Chairman or Vice-Chairman.

We say Vice-Chairman because, according to the constitution of the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Chairman must necessarily, and rightly, be the Prime Minister. As has, however, been pointed out in these days when the Prime Minister has such an infinity of different things to see to, it is practically impossible now, and in any immediate future that we can see, for the Prime Minister himself to give that continuous attention to the Committee of Imperial Defence that is necessary if we are to get the result that we require. Therefore it is as the Mover of this Resolution and all those, both inside this House and outside of it, who think with him in this matter, feel it should be laid down as a principle that some definite Minister, who is not the head of one of the great Departments, shall be appointed as a permanent vice-chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, should attend all its meetings—those regular and frequent meetings to which I have referred—and himself should take the Chair if the Prime Minister is not present.

The Committee of Imperial Defence in its work and discussions must necessarily be technical, but a knowledge of the reasons for the existence of the Committee are quite simple and quite commonsense and ought not to be a mystery, as it seems to me. A general knowledge of the Committee of Imperial Defence itself and how it is constituted ought to be the common knowledge of all in this House. I do not for one moment say that the various matters which it goes into and which necessarily are very technical, and others which must necessarily be secret, should in detail be given to this House, but I say that this House should be made acquainted with what it is, how it works, how it is constituted in order that hon. Members may take that interest to which I have referred; and all this to my mind is a matter of considerable interest and, indeed, importance. The Committee of Imperial Defence before the War was found to be very valuable, because even when we had only two Services, the Army and the Navy, it was found that there was a great deal of overlapping, and not that proper co-ordination between the two fighting Services themselves, and the various Departments on land, which are quite necessary for the proper defence of this country. Now that the War is over the functions of this Committee are enormously increased.

The decision of the Government that was given on Thursday last by the Leader of the House, that the Air Ministry was to remain a separate Ministry in the immediate future or so far as he, the Leader of the House, could foresee, and that there should be a separate Air Force; that is, or ought to have, as a necessary corollary that the Committee of Imperial Defence should be strengthened and made even more effective than before. For you now have, not two Services operating in separate elements, the sea and the land, but you have three Services operating in elements that are to a very great extent inextricably mingled, and unless you have a sufficient co-ordinating authority you will have a great deal of overlapping, a great deal of duplication, and a great deal of waste. Had there been an Air Ministry, of course, it would have been the duty of that Ministry to co-ordinate the efforts of the three Services, but I agree a Ministry of Defence is not at the present time within the sphere of practical politics.

I agree with the Mover of the Resolution that the strengthening of the Committee of Imperial Defence is good, not only in itself, but as leading up to the possibility of such a Ministry of Defence ill the future, and that, at any rate, it is the only practical way that is to be got for co-ordinating the Services, and of directing them in common. The advantages of a separate Air Force were very rightly and clearly put forth in the Memorandum that was read by the Leader of the House. The disadvantages he naturally did not particularly deal with. They are known, and the disadvantages are mostly on the question of the danger of construction. I think that those disadvantages and dangers can only be got over by a strong central co-ordinating authority, such as the Committee of Imperial Defence, if it meets regularly and frequently, and not sporadically, and if it has a permanent Chairman who will attend all its meetings. Let us not be misunderstood in thinking that the Committee of Imperial Defence is not an important body and does not work hard. We know the immense work done by the Lord President of the Council, who has always been so keenly interested in the Committee of Imperial Defence. We know the work done in the absence of the President of the Council by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but the sporadic interest first of one Minister and then of another is not sufficient. I agree that machinery is not everything.

Criticism of our proposal has been made that we have too much machinery. I agree that is not everything. I agree that both good men and good machinery are necessary, but even if you have heaven-born men they cannot, in a great and complicated machine such as our defence organisation is, do their work without a good chief. It is of considerable importance that we should have an organisation which will have machinery for co-ordinating the whole. The essentials are regular meetings, a permanent vice-chairman and a good secretariat, which I know you have already. Beyond these, if we have the technical heads of the three Services, and the political heads meet once a week under a neutral chairman, we shall be able to create a feeling of corporate responsibility for defence. That is to my mind one of the most important things we can have.

Taking the analogy of the Board of Admiralty or the Army Council, you see there that you have the big officers of State who are in charge of each Department of the Army or the Navy. They come to the Council each charged with the interest of their particular Department, and they look upon the problem, not from the point of view of their own particular Department, but as a whole, and they feel that they are part of the corporate whole and responsible as a corporate whole for the Army or the Navy, and they take a very much broader view of their duties and are really Ministers or Counsellors of the Service as a whole, and not merely advocates of their own Department. This would be the case if the Committee of Imperial Defence met as a rule once a week and did not hesitate to discuss all matters of defence and not as at present avoid discussion of matters belonging to another service. I know there is a feeling that the other service will say, "Keep off my ground," but if each Department will look at the work as a whole we shall have made a large step towards getting our defence forces on a more healthy foundation. I trust the House will accept the Amendment. The Government must have a far greater knowledge of these matters than we can have, but we rely upon them for effecting the organisation or coordination as soon as possible.


The Mover and Seconder of this Amendment did not put their proposal forward in any antagonistic spirit towards the Air Service, but I do not belivee even if this Amendment be passed, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite put it into effect, that the Air Service is likely to benefit. The real difficulty about the Committee of Imperial Defence is this: On that Committee—and I saw a certain amount of its operations before the War—it is only the heads of the Departments concerned, and not even the heads of the small sub-Departments who come together on that Committee and talk about policy. The real thing is that that Committee has not got a staff. I fully appreciate the work of Sir Maurice Hankey and his assistants, but they do not really constitute a staff, and their work is only to co-ordinate the work of that Committee. Before the Committee of Imperial Defence or the sub-Committee outlined by this Amendment can really be an effective machine, not merely the heads of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Service will have to meet, but also the heads of those Departments and their staffs.

For example, the staff officers in the Planning Department of the Admiralty, and the corresponding officers who deal with the plans divisions of the Air Ministry and the War Office, must meet together and discuss their plans. The officers connected with the staffs of the Intelligence Sections of the Navy, Army, and the Air Ministry must also get together to think out and discuss the schemes which they have to put into operation. Until that is done, it will be a mere waste of time for the heads of Departments to come forward with prepared schemes arranged in the watertight boxes of the Admiralty or the War Office; it is no use coming with their schemes in black boxes to be discussed for half-an-hour at the offices of the Committee of Imperial Defence. If they do that they will come with prejudiced notions, either naval or military, and with schemes not prepared by experienced staff officers who can look at the needs of all the three Services together. Of course, the First Lord of the Admiralty will have a purely naval idea, and the Secretary of State for War will have a purely military idea, and the chances are that they will outvote the desire and ambition of the Secretary of State for Air. What must be done is to train up a Ministry of Defence Staff. Until you have trained officers to look upon all three Services from a centre point and in the right prospective, until you have a sufficient number of officers trained on those lines, both senior and junior, it will be futile to give executive control to anybody who will be in a position to coordinate the services of the Admiralty, War Office, or the Air Ministry.

That leads me to speak about the relations between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty. The Mover and Seconder of this Amendment were not unsympathetic in their action and attitude towards the Air Service, but even they were sceptical as to the possibilities which lay in front of the development of the Air Service. One hon. Member said he thought the time would be far distant when the Air Service would be secondary to the other Services. That time may come before very much longer, when wars can be won, and will be won, in the air, and when the land and sea forces will be a purely secondary consideration. This has already taken place in the Navy, because wars are won at sea without either of the two armies having to come into operation. The time is not far distant when we may see a war entirely conducted in the air. A war may commence by a great flight of 3,000 or 4,000 bombing aeroplanes, with bombs weighing a ton apiece, and they might destroy London before the Army or the Navy could come into action. To guard against this danger depends upon the defence which the Air Ministry will provide. I think a more important statement was made on Thursday last by the Government.

Those who have spoken in opposition to the retention of the Air Ministry as a separate Service never experienced the difficulties which we experienced during the War in building up the Air Service. People talk as if the Air Service were only a branch of the fighting Services, in the same way as they talk of the torpedo and gunnery branch of the Navy, or the artillery and Army Service Corps in the Army. The difference between the Air Service as a Service and as a branch is the difference between an adjective and a noun. The Air Service is working in a totally new element. We have Services working on land, and on the sea and under the sea. Now we have a third Service working in the air. Anyone who has had any practical experience of the working of the Air Service knows that it is impossible to draw a dividing line between the air over one part of the world and the air over another part. You must have uniformity of administration, of regulations, of recruiting, of education and of training, and all the paraphernalia which goes to make up the administration of a fighting Service—tactics, fighting in the air, meteorology, manoeuvring, arrangements for stores and training—these are all matters which require a highly trained staff to carefully think out and scheme and arrange Estimates for for years ahead. The designing staff must consist of highly technical experts.

The whole organisation is much too big and too delicate to be divided into two Services operating over land and over sea. I would ask hon. Members who want to get the Air Service back to the Army and the Navy whether they would like to have separate navies for the Pacific and for the Atlantic, whether they would like to have one army for Scotland and another for England. We want to have one Air Service to build up its own customs and regulations, and, what is more important, its own esprit de corps, entirely untrammelled by any other service. The Air Service has only just been built up. We have at this moment to carefully succour and nurture this delicate plant and to prevent it being strangled by the two senior jealous Services. There is an argument from the commercial point of view which bears out the necessity for a separate Air Ministry. Apart from the points I have mentioned—fighting, tactics, stores and so on—the technical side is a very important side. Under the Admiralty and the War Office sufficient skilled brains were never put on to the aircraft side—the technical side, but they tried to shunt it off under the Director of Naval Construction—a very excellent and worthy Department, a Department organised to build up fighting ships to float on the water. Can it be wondered at that this Department failed utterly to grasp the possibilities of the future of the Air Service? That is one point which shows that the Air Ministry should be a separate Ministry.

During the War we had a good deal of experience of the Admiralty's opposition to air work. Much more could have been done during the War if there had been an Air Minister with direct responsibility to the Cabinet, who could have launched out into schemes to the right or left, not trammelled by Admiralty conservatism. These schemes would have gone a long way towards hastening the victorious conclusion of the War. There were several areas in which the Admiralty declined to allow intensive air operations to be carried out. There was anti-submarine work in the Channel and in the Mediterranean. There were air offensives in France, in Sinai, in Asia Minor, the Balkans and other places. I remember seeing the minutes of discussions which took place on these matters. They were really childish. It would have been humorous had the matter not been so serious, to see the attitude taken up by the people at the head of affaire at the Admiralty and elsewhere during the War, when thousands of lives were being lost every week. There are other Members of this House who can bear me out with regard to the attitude of the Admiralty over the development of the Air Service. I would ask the Secretary for Air particularly to bear in mind how the Admiralty tried to strangle the Air Service in the past.

Before the War there were two alternatives. First, the Admiralty might have taken over the whole of the Air Service, and run it both on naval and military lines. That would have been a possible alternative, but they failed to grasp the situation; they failed to realise that there was any possibility in the air at all. I will give one little incident which shows the mentality of the Lords of the Admiralty in this respect. It was about the time when I applied for a commission in the Royal Navy. I wrote to a distinguished officer at the Admiralty asking to have my name put down for the Air branch of the Navy, and he wrote back: "My dear boy, the Admiralty will never waste their time over these new-fangled toys." I give that as an example, and a very good one, too, of the mentality which the Admiralty showed towards the Air Service. At any rate, in 1913–14, the Admiralty refused to see a future for the Air Service, and to run it. The other alternative which is to be carried out now is that the Air Service should be completely separate. One must not cast aspersions on the Admiralty or their predecessors. I remember reading that even in the time o*f the reign of James II. the same sort of opposition was brought forward to the establishment of a new service. Before the time of James II. there was no Army and no Air Service. A suggestion was brought forward by the Radicals at that time, who wished to improve our fighting services, that instead of carrying soldiers on board ships, they should start a new service and call it a Navy. A hurricane arose from the Army officers of that time. They called the soldiers who went to sea in ships by various nicknames, and it was some time before James II. was enabled to establish a new service which he called the Navy. Later, the same kind of opposition was raised by the Admiralty when steamships were introduced in the early part of the nineteenth century. Whenever you get improvement, whenever you have to have new things, the people at the head of affairs, who have been brought up under an old school, do their best to hinder the growth of the new service.

We found during the War that the Admiralty simply would not tackle the question of air administration, whether in regard to big questions of strategy or small details of tactics. Even in connection with the fitting out of seaplane ships, they used to put the photographic room next to the boilers, which shows the sort of technical ability that the old admirals displayed in dealing with the Air Service. All the large operations—the operations, for example, which led to the successful raid on Cuxhaven on Christmas Day, 1914, the operations at the Dardanelles, where the first torpedo-carrying attack was carried out, reconnaissance in Palestine and elsewhere—all these operations were carried out in spite of, rather than with the assistance and co-operation of, the Board of Admiralty. I should like to pay a tribute now, although I do not agree with him on many points, to the work of the present Colonial Secretary in forcing through some of these schemes and operations in face of the united opposition of the then Board of Admiralty. What happened when he left? When the present Colonial Secretary left the Admiralty, those who had worked with him were subject to the jealousy and spite of the civil servants at the Admiralty. What is all this about? Why it is that this old Service will not allow a new Service to grow up I The fact is that these people have got jobs which have been built up on old lines. They have got staffs of civil servants, who see that, when a new Service is quickly and audaciously growing up to be a real rival, those staffs of civil servants and so on will have to be cut down, and so anyone who tries to do anything in that way to improve the nation's fighting Services is bound to get up against the Admiralty and the staff of civil servants at the Admiralty. When the present Colonial Secretary left we found all this backdoor work being started by very distinguished civil servants at the Admiralty—and I am only saying this because they are still there, and are still, probably, working against the new Service. People who held high positions in the Secretariat of the Board of Admiralty went round canvassing senior officers to get the Air Department officers relieved, and so to get a hit back at the present Secretary of State for the Colonies. While we were trying to do our little bit in some obscure part of the globe, these civil servants at home were scheming and intriguing and plotting and wire-pulling, hitting us in the back at every opportunity they could find. The A'dmiralty's air administration is a blot on its record, and finally and irrevocably excludes any consideration of the question of allowing that Department again to throttle the development of the air resources of the nation. The Admiralty have had every chance, and I hope the Government will never allow them again to fiddle with the Air Service. I should like now to make one or two general observations about the Air Estimates. It seems to me, looking at the Estimates, that the personnel charges are far too great.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

I must ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the subject of the Amendment. General criticism of the Estimates will only be in order when the Amendment is disposed of.


The other and most important point in connection with the Amendment which is before the House is that, if you co-ordinate the work of the three Services, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, under this Committee, composed simply of the heads of the three Services without any staff, the civil side is bound to suffer. I look upon the work of the civil branch of the Air Ministry as quite the most important work which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has to do. We are told by the Cabinet that there is not going to be a war for another ten years. The most important work in the meantime, from every point of view, is to see that the civil aviation side is given a great deal more encouragement. The speech which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made at the Guildhall on 7th February was, if I may say so, a very depressing speech. It was only brightened by contrast with the speech of the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State on the same day. It seemed to me, reading those two speeches, that they were diametrically opposed to one another. It seemed to me that they were, written by two different people, and, if I might hazard a guess, I would say that the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was written in the Department of the Chief of the Air Staff, while Lord Gorell's speech was written by the Department of Civil Aviation. That is very regrettable, because it shows that these two Departments are not in entire accord with one another. It shows that there is some competition going on between the two Departments—the fighting Department and the civil Department—inside the Air Ministry. I hope the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will do his best to bring them into accord. Lord Gorell at the Guildhall said: In the future the main air lines of the British Empire will be primarily airship lines, with branch aeroplane lines running off from them. At the same time we are told that air ships are going to be abandoned. What is the meaning of it? One Air Minister says that airships are going to be the thing of the future, while the other says they are going to be abandoned. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that, rather than waste money on airships, it is better to commence de novo. Has he had any experience—


I cannot see, on the face of it, how this argument is really connected with the question of the representation of the Air Force on the Committee of Imperial Defence.


The point I was making was that I do not think this civil side of aviation, which I am now elaborating, will be adequately represented on this Committee. I feel that civil aviation will be strangled if it is subject to being outvoted by the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War. If it is subject to the control of the Admiralty, you get back to the old days. I believe the disaster to the "R38" was largely due to the Admiralty. If only the facts were known, the responsibility for that regrettable incident, causing the loss of, I might almost say, dozens of lives of gallant pioneers—officers and men—of the Air Service, was a result of the negligent policy adopted by the Board of Admiralty in past years. All that must be kept clear from any chance of control, either directly by the Admiralty or indirectly through the Committee of Imperial Defence, in which the Admiralty will have a determining vote. I do not feel that even now, without the Committee proposed in this Amendment, as much as possible is being done in regard to civil aviation. Looking at the constitution of the Department of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, I cannot find any section of that Department which is really doing useful work. There are five sections of this Department, a Controller of Planning, a Controller of Information, a Controller of Communications, a Controller of Aerodromes and Licensing, and a Director of the Meteorological Office. These are all vital sections of the Air Service, but they are only adjuncts to the successful organisation of commercial aeronautics. What does this Department of the Controller-General of Aviation do? I have read through the Command report dealing with the last six months' flying and I cannot see that the Department is encouraging aviation as things stand at present. Does the Controller send for the firms and say, "What can you do to further civil aviation? What routes ought we to get authorised? What can I press the Government to do for you?" Is he constantly meeting the leading organisers of Air Transport? Even in regard to these essential details as much is not being done as could be clone.


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member. The first part of his speech was perfectly in order, but I cannot see that criticism of the internal organisation of the Air Ministry can be made relevant to the question whether the Air Ministry should be represented on the Council of Imperial Defence.


I was trying to show that even now, under the present administration of the Air Service, the civil side of aviation, which is the most important side, is badly organised. How much worse will it be when it is subordinated to the voting power of the Admiralty and the War Office? I think I shall be in order in pointing out one or two big defects in that Department as it exists at present. These defects are likely to be made much worse when the right hon. Gentleman opposite is subordinated to the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister for War. I was giving him one or two little details which his civil Department ought to do now. They ought to erect wireless stations at both ends of the London-Paris route.


This is clearly out of order. It would be in order on the Main Question or on Vote A, but on this Amendment the considerations the hon. Member is putting forward clearly cannot be in order.


I think I have covered most of the points relating to the question of co-ordination and I shall reserve these matters for a later Vote.

9.0 P.M.

Captain Viscount CURZON

I regret that I was not able to be in the House when the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment made their speeches, but I was present during the whole of the rest of the discussion, and also during the Debate the other day. One thing that has struck me is the attitude of all those Members of the House who speak with a recognised weight of authority from the Air Force side upon this question. There is one current which has run through all the speeches I have heard, and that is that there is some attack upon the Air Force of a malevolent description. I wish to tackle that question. I look upon this question from a naval point of view, and I can say from my own personal knowledge that those Members who speak for the Air Force make the greatest mistake, of their lives when they think the present administration of the Admiralty is in any way antagonistic to the Air Force. Absolutely the reverse is the fact. The position is to-day that the Navy recognises in the Air Force a magnificent weapon of which they desire to make the very greatest use, and they feel that they are unable to do so under the present system. With regard to the terms of the Amendment, it may be that some sort of central organisation may be necessary in order to co-ordinate the forces. I know the last thing the Admiralty desire at present is the abolition of the Air Ministry, and I say that without fear of contradiction. The position is that the aeroplane, so far as the Navy is concerned, is a most valuable adjunct, but it is looked upon from quite the wrong point of view by those who are chiefly interested in the Air Force. I have an extract from a newspaper which has a most skilled aeronautical correspondent. Hon. Members may have read it. It is called the "Times." The aeronautical correspondent says: The secret of success in war lies in bringing the greatest possible force to bear at a decisive point. How is it possible under the present conditions, for the Admiralty to do that? The Navy is responsible to-day for aircraft carriers. They are ships of war. The Navy has no concern whatever with what is put in them. The Navy may go in for a scheme of aircraft-carrier building, but it has no sort of guarantee whatever that when the aircraft' carriers are completed there will be a single aeroplane put in them. The tonnage of aircraft carriers was limited at the Washington Conference, but there was no sort of standard for what you were going to put into them fixed at that Conference. The Admiralty provide the carriers, and they have no concern in "the machines or the personnel to go in them. That is a situation which is thoroughly bad. It cannot make for the good of the Air Force or for the good of the Navy. It cannot make for the best utilisation of the most valuable weapon which is placed in them. Such a situation arises as that to which I alluded the other day. The very few pilots in the Navy who are capable of flying off—and I believe in their number there was only one who was capable of flying on to an aircraft carrier—-were all suddenly withdrawn at a given moment and sent to Iraq.

Captain GUEST

I have been unable to trace that incident.

Viscount CURZON

I regret that fact because I elicited it by a question. I shall be delighted to furnish the right hon. Gentleman with the particulars in order to prove what I say. What I want the Air Force members to get over is the attitude of hostility towards the Force. I cannot see any attitude of hostility on the part of the Navy or the Army towards the Air Force. I know it is not a fact and to take up that attitude now is to prevent the best possible utilisation of the weapon we have. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) below me very likely does not take that view, but he has had nothing to do with the present Board of Admiralty or the present administration, but with a former administration.

Rear-Admiral SUETER

I had so many years of the former administration, and I can say we had no assistance whatsoever from the Sea Lords.

Viscount CURZON

Exactly, that is just my point. The lessons of the War have gone home. The Air Force is an admirable weapon and they are not advocating its abolition. What they want is some power of control over the Air Force. A naval war of the future will mean the employment of a number of aircraft carriers. Supposing this country had to wage war on the other side of the world. It would have to take floating aerodromes with it. If this country went to war with such a power as Japan it would need aircraft carriers, which would have to work as part of the Fleet, and it is essential that the senior naval officer should have these aircraft carriers under his control and under his command. If I understood the Leader of the House aright, I am correct in assuming that that will be so. I do not want the Air Force all the time to think that the Navy is up against them; it is not. The Secretary of State for Air, in introducing his Estimates this afternoon—and I allude to this in order to emphasise my point that the present system does not work properly—made only one reference to the Navy, and that was in the allocation of the aircraft squadrons. He said that one and a half squadrons were allocated for work with the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. He made no reference whatever to the Fleets in home waters.

Captain GUEST

There are four squadrons in home waters. I think I read that out.

Viscount CURZON

I took down what the right hon. Gentleman said, and he never made any reference whatever to the fleets in home waters. All he did say was that there was one squadron in the home station, or in the home area, for work with the Army, three in reserve, and three for home defence, and one miscellaneous squadron.

Captain GUEST

The remaining four will make up the 12 at home.

Viscount CURZON

The right hon. Gentleman never said anything about the remaining four working with the Navy. That is the point I want to get at. It is one of those things that gives cause for anxiety to those who care for the welfare of the Navy and also for the welfare of the Air Force. Several hon. Members have assumed that the battleship is obsolete. I know the gallant Admiral the Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) will endorse that. I am quoting his words. He said that the battleship was quite obsolete. It is astounding that a distinguished and gallant officer such as he is should arrive at such a conclusion. I suppose he bases it upon the results of the "Oestfriesland" experiments in America. If that is so, it astonishes me, because he will recollect that the "Oestfriesland" was a German battleship of by no means recent construction. That ship was moored as a stationary target, and it did not incorporate any of the latest ideas for countering the very serious effect of charges of high explosives exploding in water close to the ship.


It had a stronger and thicker armour under water than any of our ships.

Viscount CURZON

The under-water armour did extend further below the water line than is the case in most of our ships, but at the same time the ship was not of recent construction, and it did not embody the more recent lessons of naval architecture. Therefore, when it is claimed by the Air Force that they have been able to make the battleship obsolete by that experiment, they should be careful not to claim too much. First of all, they must remember that the Navy of to-day takes into consideration the possibility of counter aircraft action. Every battleship to-day and most of the light cruisers are equipped with a certain number of aircraft themselves, apart from those aircraft carried by the aircraft carriers. It is important from the point of view of the Navy and the Air Force that the Navy should be able to make the utmost possible use of these aircraft. Under the present system they do not get a chance. I have had the opportunity of talking with Air Force officers working with the Fleet, and I find that they very largely share that opinion. I know that the Admiralty are most anxious to make the greatest possible use of what they know to be a most formidable weapon. Therefore, I do think that if there is anything in the suggestion made by the Mover and Seconder of this Motion to set up some co-ordinating Ministry or some co-ordinating control of the three Services, I shall certainly support it for all I am worth. What do the Air Force do when it comes to a matter of co-ordination? The Military for years have had a staff college at Camberley. A short time ago the Navy was to establish a staff college, and they established it at Camberley.

Captain GUEST

The Air Force staff college is at Andover.

Viscount CURZON

How can you get perfect co-operation between the three staffs if you have your Air Force staff college at Andover?

Captain GUEST

An aerodrome is very necessary in connection with an Air staff college.

Viscount CURZON

Would it not have been possible to get your aerodrome nearer to Camberley? I want co-operation between the Services, and if we have that, I feel certain that we shall get the best possible value for the money we are asked to spend. I cordially support the Motion, and I hope the Government will see their way to take it up, and that they will be able to adopt the suggestion made by the gallant Field Marshal the Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson) that the Army point of view should also be considered in conjunction with the Navy and the Air Force in the Committee which the Government are going to set up. It-is most important that the question should be considered as a whole, and not as one merely between the Navy and the Air Force.

Captain BENN

The Noble Lord who has just spoken was very anxious to reassure those Members of the House who are interested in the Air Force that there is no ill-will on the part of the Admiralty, from the naval standpoint, towards the Air Force. As regards personal ill-will or friction in that sense there is naturally none, but the Noble Lord pointed out that the naval authorities and the naval side in this discussion are very anxious to make the best use of the Air Force, and then he went on to make a point about the position of the Staff College at Andover, overlooking entirely the fact that you cannot have a flying establishment without an aerodrome.

Commander BELLAIRS

Surely the staff ought to be kept entirely from the material side. It is so in the Army and Navy.

Captain BENN

That does not affect the point I am making, that those experts who are so anxious to make the best possible use of the Air Arm overlook an elementary fact of that kind. Nobody can make the best use of the Air Af1" except the people who have devoted their whole lives to the study of the Air Arm. Whenever I hear this point of view put, whether it is by an eminent soldier or by a gallant admiral or captain of the Navy, we never get a true realisation of the fact that the Air operates in an element of which the Navy and the Army must be by their whole training totally ignorant.

Viscount CURZON

Is it not possible for the other Services to co-operate with the Air Service in any way? I can quite understand that you require aerodromes, but I cannot understand why you require an aerodrome right alongside your staff college.

Captain BENN

Co-operation with the naval authorities always means the cooperation of the rabbit with the boa-constrictor. Co-operation on equal terms by all means. Some people think that the battleship is obsolete. No one has ever said that the aircraft is obsolete. We know that other Services are obsolescent, and we know that the Air Service is crescent. The hon. Gentleman spoke of concentrating forces at one point at a given moment. That applies to aircraft as well as to ships and soldiers. Suppose you do divide the Air Service and give part to the Army and another part to the Navy, how is the Air Chief of Staff ever to get his men together if he wishes to concentrate on one spot? The same principles which apply to the concentration of ships apply to the concentration of aircraft. On that point it is important that each branch of the fighting service should have the same principles. The Noble Lord went on to complain that the Admiralty had control of the seaplane carrier but had no control of what went into the seaplane. That seems to show that the Noble Lord regards the seaplane carrier as the most important part of the Air Service. What is most important, in my opinion, is what the seaplane carrier is carrying.

How can the Admiralty know anything of the quality of the men or the develop-men of the machines which are carried in the carrier? I served in a very subordinate capacity in the Air Service under the Admiralty, under the Army, and under the Air Force, and so I had an opportunity of seeing what the control of the two Senior Services was. It is said that the man in the seaplane carrier should be under the control of the captain or the admiral. The man has got to fly. What does the Admiralty know about the apparatus or about the conditions 10,000 or 15,000 feet up? It knows nothing at all about it. These things never came within the sphere of its experience and its instruction. Then as to code service, co-operation with the Navy is likely to be much easier than the Army, because the wireless service is much better in the Navy than the Army. But take photography, the eyes of the Air Service. What is there in the curriculum of the sailor, or any man who starts in a cadet class, and later becomes a distinguished officer in the Navy, to bring him into close touch with aircraft photography?

Viscount CURZON

The Admiralty have now established a definite photographic branch.

Captain BENN

At one place in which I served, the Admiralty arranged that the place where the glass plates are developed is exactly under a battery That is a measure of the appreciation which these people show. Photography is not a naval subject at all.

Viscount CURZON

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman know that the Admiralty are now making a great use of photography and that they established two years ago a special branch to deal with it?

Captain BENN

I am very glad to hear it. I hope that they will avail of the Air Service, which has got so much experience in this matter. We all know that photography has been developed to such a point that it has become a matter for experts, which must be left in the hands of people who have studied it thoroughly and know exactly how to interpret the plates, and whether something which is photographed is real or whether it is merely camouflage, and know all about many other points on which I suppose those who serve in the Air Service have often to get special information from those highly skilled in photography. Then take the case of maps. What is the good of one of the Noble Lord's maps to a man who is going to fly in the air? He does not want to know how deep the water is. He is not going to paddle. He is going to fly. Why, then, should you put under the Navy this Service, which is in a different element, operating altogether apart from the Navy, and which is in the hands of people who have developed the wonderful amount of knowledge of the element in which they work, certainly passes my comprehension.

On this question of the co-ordination of the Army and Navy it does seem to me that by having an independent Air Service and an independent Air Ministry you may introduce a very valuable link between the two. I do not know what the Noble Lord's experience is, but my experience was that it was not very easy to get close and direct co-operation between the Army and the Navy. I think that that very frequently does happen. Something is going to be done, and the ships do not turn up, or the soldiers are not there when the ships are. But suppose you had the Air Force divided part under the Army and part under the Navy you lose a certain fluidity which has been on many occasions extremely useful. In the War in the Eastern Mediterranean there were in one place a seaplane station and a flying corps squadron. Sometimes the seaplanes worked for the Army—in fact the best part of the work was done from seaplane carriers with the Army—and some of the work of the Navy took a squadron of the Flying Corps. How much more friction there would have been if, instead of taking a Service which was independent and using it as a link between the two, they required the Navy to take part of the Army work and the Army to take part of the Navy work I leave the House to imagine. The Noble Lord argued in favour of what he called co-ordination which really amounts to domination of the Air Service by the Navy. It has amounted to that in practice. The scheme of things which he likes, as was pointed out by the Leader of the House the other night, has been tried before. Everything which the Noble Lord and the Field-Marshal ask for has been tried before. The only chance they have of setting up their scheme again is a period of profound peace. When there was war we were driven to take the other course. It was created by the necessities of the War and it proved a success in war.

Viscount CURZON

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that right up to the end of the War the Air Ministry never controlled the aeroplanes working for either the Navy at sea or anywhere else, or the Army in France; that all the aeroplanes working for the Army in France were controlled by the general officer commanding and those working for the Navy were controlled by the Commander-in-Chief on the North Sea, and further that the Independent Air Force was controlled by the Admiralty?

Captain BENN

Yes, the answer is quite simple. It was not until the Air Force was released from the paralysing control of the Army and Navy that it achieved the position which put it in a position almost to end the War. Everybody knows that at the end of the War the power of the air had so increased that if the War had gone on a short time longer we could have delivered blows from the air far exceeding in power any blows previously delivered. That was entirely due to the fact that an independent Ministry and control was the child of necessity. It was brought into existence by the lessons of the War. It was not in 1919 that the Noble Lord and his friends proposed to sever it, nor in 1920 that they proposed to break it up, nor in 1921. They must wait for a period of profound peace before they try to impose on the public and Parliament views which the lessons of the War show to be utterly erroneous. I am glad to see that the Noble Lord and his friends have not developed in the House the arguments; which they, or at least some supporters of their views, develop outside, namely, that in some way the subordination—or as I think ultimately, the destruction—of the Air Ministry would be an economy That view, I am glad to see, has absolutley disappeared. How, creating from one Ministry four Departnicnts, a Naval Air Service, a Royal Flying Corps a Research and Supply Department, and yet another under the Board of Trade, a multiplication of Departments quadrupling what is now single, would produce economy, one cannot imagine.

The real economy, and the reason I think it is possible for one to be anti-militarist, economist, and yet a keen and ardent supporter of a unified and autonomous Air Service is because the Air Service does provide, as the Gcddes Report points out, the means of advancing in power and economising in cash by the substitution of scientific advance for man-power. It is the substitution. The gallant Admiral who spoke the other night (Rear-Admiral Sir R. Hall) and the Noble Lord to-night said they were anxious to use the Air Force, ana were delighted that this scientific experiment should be made, but that is not the point of view of those who see the future of the air. We say that in the Air Force there is a power which may ultimately supersede to a large extent the functions of the Navy and the Army. I think, and I believe many others do too, that it is by substitution that you will get economy as well as your greater power. How can you go to a ship's captain and suggest that he should dovise a plan for the substitution of the very instrument of which he is in command, or how can you go to a cavalry captain and suggest that he should supersede the work of his skirmishers by a small number of airmen? His tradition and his whole interest is in the Army, the Admiral's tradition and whole interest is in the Navy, and the only people who can develop the Air arm are those brought up in the Air tradition and who believe in it. Those who have seen the cramping and crippling effect of the tradition of another Service introduced into the Air Service will understand what I am saying. If a man is a sailor first and is lent to the Air Service, or if he is a soldier first and is lent to the Air Service, his eye is always on the older Service, He thinks, "If I do this, what will the General think?" or he thinks, "If I do this, what will the Admiral think?" What he should think is. "What will the Air-Marshal think?" His whole interest, his energy, his imagination and power, all that he can put into his work should be for the Service in which his whole life and promotion and the whole of his interest lies. For these reasons I express the view that co-ordination and co-operation between the three Services, certainly, but only upon terms of a perfect equality between the two.

Rear-Admiral ADAIR

There is nothing whatever in this Amendment which conflicts with the desire of the Navy, which is solely that whatever Air Force is attached to them and is being utilised by them for maritime warfare should be administered and controlled absolutely by them. This Amendment that there should be a C.I.D. controlling the whole three forces is absolutely agreeable to the Admiralty and all those who, like my- self, none the less support the desire of the Navy to control such Air Force as is attached to them as an auxiliary. That is all they ask, and no more. The only reason adduced by the Lord Privy Seal the other day when speaking of the breaking up of the Air Force between the Army, Navy, and an independent force, was that during the War, owing to the great difficulty of supply, there was great, confusion and overlapping, and that one Service was kept in conflict with the other. That was in the days, the very early days, of aerial warfare. There were very few and small firms in this country supplying the necessary material, the aircraft themselves, and, more important, the air engines. But as the War went on all the great armament firms took this up and the supplies became ample to meet the requirements of each and every Service that wanted it. If there were any claims in the future of there being a difficulty of supply, I should agree at once that it was impossible to break up the Force at all, but I cannot foresee any such difficulty. The difficulty arose in the last War because the development of aerial fighting was sudden, unexpected, and wonderfully developed. So it was that the sources of supply could not possibly meet the requirements of the two Services. In future, however, given a proper allocation of these sources of supply, each Service getting its supply from the firm that can supply the most suitable material, I foresee no such difficulty, and therefore I cannot accept the argument of the difficulty of supply as being one opposed to the desire of the Navy to control their own Air Force. That was the only argument the Lord Privy Seal brought forward.

I am not a bigot about this at all, and the conclusions to which I come are arrived at after hearing the arguments on both sides, of Air Force officers, Naval officers, and debates in this House. I do put this to the House. Why was it that after two years of existence as the Royal Flying Corps the wing of it—the Naval wing—that supplied the Navy with its Air Force broke off from the Royal Flying Corps and was re-constituted as the Royal Naval Air Service, a thing entirely apart? It was the natural evolution of the Naval Air branch. If that has occurred once already, I say it will probably occur again, and rather than go off on these lines at all I am for starting on the right lines, which, as the Colonial Secretary is well aware, led to the separation of the Royal Naval Air Service from the original Flying Corps. I foresee that the same thing will occur again, and rather than that it should occur again in such a manner it would be much better that we should start off on the proper lines. I have been arguing this matter for about three years on every occasion I could in this House, and I am not going to repeat all the arguments I have used. They have been put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Rear-Admiral Sir R. Hall) and by my Noble and gallant Friend above me (Viscount Curzon), but I do say that the Navy feel, as I do, that until they control absolutely such Air Force as is essential as an auxiliary to the Navy they will never have that efficiency in it which is absolutely essential. That, I think, is a fair statement of their contention. They want the control and administration of such Air Force as is the necessary auxiliary of the Navy, and no more than that. They do not want to interfere with the Air Ministry; not at all. Neither do they want to interfere with the independent Air Force, nor with the Air Force of the Army. They do not want to break it up. Their argument is that the essential branch of the Navy ought to be under their control. There is no reason whatever why there should not be a common flying school where every officer, whether of the Navy or Army, is educated in aeronautics, theoretical and practical, and there is no reason why there should not be a common Board for the supply and construction and development of air materials, a Board such as the Ordnance Board, which dealt with the whole of the ordnance of the Army and Navy. Let them work together and co-ordinate their work, and there need be no friction whatever in the matter.

In what I am about to say I do not want anyone to suppose that I am belittling the Air Force in any way. No one appreciates more than I the splendid work they have done, and the splendid work they probably will do in future, and the great importance of it; but I would ask the House to bear in mind that we are now looking to the future maritime warfare and not dealing with close waters, as we were in the last war. We have to consider great oceans and thousands of miles of waterways, and I say that it will be many, many years, if ever, before aircraft will be able to control those waterways. At present the radius of action of aircraft is so limited that they have to be carried in ships to the scene of action. I am speaking of maritime war. Those ships are vulnerable to attack from other ships, and the other ships, again, are open to attack by bigger ships. So it goes on until we reach again the capital ship of the future, whatever it may be. We come to the capital ship simply because aircraft cannot, so far as we can see, for many years cover the enormous distances which we have to consider in maritime wars of the future—wars which may be in the Pacific or over waterways thousands and thousands of miles away. For that reason I am sure that, for the present at any rate, the aircraft used in maritime warfare can only be auxiliary to the Navy, and as such they ought to be part and parcel of it.

In the speeches we have heard to-day that point has been badly overlooked. An hon. Member referred to their being 270 squadrons, possibly at Calais, ready to bombard this country. That is not the point we have to look at in connection with maritime warfare. We have to look at the Pacific, at far distant parts of the Atlantic possibly, at the Indian Ocean, and so on. The creed of the Air Ministry, which is supporting the idea that the Navy should not have this control of its Air Force, resembles closely that of St. Athanasius. They say there is an Air Force of the sea and an Air Force of the land, and an independent Air Force, and yet there are not three Air Forces, but one Air Force. That belief is all very well in the profession of which St. Athanasius was so shining a light, but it does not do when you come to so brutal a profession as that of the Navy and the Army. I hope the Admiralty will persist in the demand for having the control of such Air Force as is working with the Navy as an auxiliary to it. I feel sure that such control is bound to come.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Churchill)

This has been a valuable, if somewhat discursive, Debate. It has ranged over a very wide field, at one moment descending to the most intricate technicalities of naval and aerial warfare, at another rising to those elevated tablelands occupied by the League of Nations and the future international peace of mankind. We had very interesting speeches by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who led for the Labour party. They were both speeches which trespassed on the regions of philosophy, and, in my opinion, were far remote from the practical considerations with which the House is concerned to-night. The Noble Lord, in his amusing reply to the Secretary of State for Air, showed us how easy it was to baffle a military argument by the thorny dilemmas of the expert metaphysician. He also imparted to the Secretary of State for Air some confidential information as to the talk which goes on in the subalterns' mess after a visit of inspection, or the visitation of some distinguished officer in high command. The hon. and gallant Member who spoke for the Labour party could not resist the opportunity of showing how very hopeless the world would be unless we modelled ourselves immediately upon the principles of the Labour party—those great pacific principles of international brotherhood and goodwill for world-wide humanity which are so strikingly exemplified by the government of Messrs. Lenin and Trotsky.


I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are now on a specific Amendment.


Surely I shall be strictly within the limits of that if, in reply to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, which dealt with these very elevated principles, I point out, as a passing reference only, that some of those who are professing these elevated principles in the most extravagant degree have shown themselves the most marked defaulters. I do not press that, but I think it shows that if the solution of these difficulties is to be found, it is certainly not to be found in the promulgation of idealistic principles coupled with the basest laxity in practice.


Surely it cannot be found in the destruction of the whole of humanity.


No one has succeeded more in destroying a large portion of humanity than the gentlemen to whom Mr. Deputy-Speaker has said I should not be in order in referring. They have achieved the record up to date, but on very idealistic principles. The question which really lay at the root of our discussion to-day, a question of the first importance, was Ought there to be a separate Air Service or not I That question is settled, surely, for the time being, at any rate. It is a settled and established fact that there is a separate Air Service. It exists, and it exists not in virtue of some momentary fancy or caprice of an individual or an administration. It exists under an Act of Parliament; it is by law established. There is a Secretaryship of State for Air and a separate Air Force. How was it established? It was established in the War. It grew out of the War. It was born in the convulsions of that struggle. My hon. and gallant Friend is acquainted with every detail of what took place in those days, and he knows perfectly well that in a great clash of opinion, at a time when it was vital to choose rightly in these matters, the decision to create a separate Air Service, under a separate Air Ministry, was wrung from this country, from this House, and from the great military Services by land and sea, and a Bill was passed on which the Air Ministry to-day rests.

My hon. and gallant Friend asks on whose advice was this created. It was created by force of circumstances, in the most bitter school that men had ever lived through. That is the position. It is not a question of our asking, Shall we create a separate Air Service? The separate Air Service exists, and the question which we have to consider—indeed it is the question before us—is, ought we to repeal that Act, ought we to destroy the Force, and go back on the experiences which we went through in the War and on which, in the War, we acted. My hon. and gallant Friend says that the Air Force was under the Army in the War. That is not quite an accurate statement. It is perfectly true that the so-called independent Air Force which was established under Air Marshal Trenchard in France was, like all the units operating on French soil, under the command of Marshal Foch. That is quite true, but the independent Air Force ought not to be confused with the separate Air Service. They were quite different. The Air at the disposal of the military commander in one particular theatre of war was rightly under his complete control, but the Air Service of this country had an altogether separate existence.

Had the War lasted a few more months, or possibly even a few more weeks, there would have been operations conducted from these coasts upon Berlin and in the heart of Germany, and those operations would have increased in magnitude and consequence had the campaign been prolonged all through the year 1919, but we reached peace at an earlier date. It is not true to say that in theory the Air Service was placed under the command of the supreme military commander in a single theatre of war, nor ought it to have been. The developments which we never reached in the War, owing to our having run short of Germans and enemies before the experiments were completed—the developments which were in progress but were never reached in this War must be looked to. Had it been continued for another year, or a year and a half, we should have undoubtedly seen an entirely new consideration being brought into the struggle that was proceeding. We must take for our start in the future, not the War that we know as it actually happened, but the position of military science as it was at the close of the struggle. That must be our starting point, because the year 1919 would have assumed an entirely different character from any previous year of the struggle, and it is that which invests the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force with their extraordinary significance at the present time. We were only just beginning when, thank God, the torture of humanity was arrested, and this terrible evolution of the science of destruction came to a more or less abrupt conclusion.

My hon. and gallant Friend asked for the name of a single military officer in any of the four great countries of Europe, which still maintain large forces, who is in favour of a separate Air Force. I am informed that General Castelnau, a distinguished military commander, who has the successful conduct of great battles to the credit of his reputation, has reported to the Chamber as head of the Army Commission. His Report has been presented by Colonel Fabry, Secretary to the Commission, and he states: The Army Commission are of opinion that aviation will never have its proper influence and take its proper place until it is given complete autonomy and independence and a status of its own. That is an opinion which has come to hand within the last few days, and I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend agrees that it deserves respectful consideration. My first proposition to the House is that there is a separate Air Force by Act of Parliament, and what we have to consider is: Are we moving in accordance with the spirit of the future in retaining it, and in continuing its existence, or are we to break it up and resolve it into its constituent elements I Personally I have a very clear view upon that. I think extraordinarily strong arguments would have to be adduced by those who wish to make a change from what has now been established and is a result of our experiences in the War.

Let us just consider what the future holds for us. We are no longer an island. When once the navigation of the air has been brought to a high degree of perfection, as it must undoubtedly be in the generation which lies in front of us, we have lost to a very considerable extent that distinctive insular position on which our safety and our greatness have hitherto depended. Clearly then events are in progress in the region of this new element which are of the very highest consequence to us, second not even to the Navy and the salt water, by which we have hitherto been secured. I am not in the least discouraged by being told we are the only Power which has established a separate air administration. It is perhaps some deep instinct which has taught us that this is of more consequence to us than to any other Power, and we must be sure that in these great developments which are taking place—which no doubt will not be of great consequence this year, or next year, or the year after that, or the year after that, but which will be of great consequence 15 and 20 years hence—we must make sure that we have leadership in the science of the air, that we have real leadership in the knowledge of all that is possible in the art of flying and in all forms of aerial defence, of aerial war from a defensive point of view. In an aerial war the greatest form of defence will undoubtedly be offence. Does the House think that the Air Service will get its chance if it is separated into two parts and one mutilated fragment handed over to the Navy and the other handed over to the Army?

10.0 P.M.

As soon as there was an aeroplane in the Naval Service I became responsible for settling questions connected with it, and I am quite certain that the whole prejudice of the Army and the Navy, of the higher officers of the Army and the Navy, must lead them to diminish and depreciate the value and the possibilities of this entirely new and extremely subversive element. It is a question of scrapping all sorts of prepossessions at every step, of handing over functions dearly prized and highly valued, of dispersing subsidiary services which have become vested interests, of turning the back upon the conventions, the experiences of a whole life; and to give this new arm, this new auxiliary, entirely into the hands of generals and admirals would, I am certain, be to crush it in the period after the War just as those generals and admirals did their best to crush it in the period before the War. No one can doubt it. It is quite true that they say now, "We have learned by experience, and we see that it is a most important thing." Yes, but developments are proceeding all the time. Every day something new is coming along, and every year you will find the Air Service laying its hand on one cherished possession of the Army and Navy after the other. Are you going to make the military and naval chiefs the sole judges of the rate at which that process shall be accomplished? If you do, I am quite certain that you will be told on the highest professional, expert authority that this Is impossible, that that is impossible, that we have tried that and it does not answer, just in the same way as the tanks were choked and stifled and only made their appearance after years of obstruction. I therefore deduce that the future of the Air Service is of special importance to this island and that it will not be fully realised except upon an independent and a separate basis, and that during the long years of peace which we hope and expect lie before us it will be in the highest interests of this country to give free rein to it, having regard to the limitations of expense by which, of course, all the Services are bound.

Let us see, then, what should be the relations between the Air Force and the Army. I will deal with ordinary relations in a moment, but I must say one word about an extraordinary instance of the present relations, and that is the Iraq-Palestine episode. My hon. and gallant Friend commented on this, and said the Air Force there have been starting armoured cars, infantry, and so forth. They are taking over the defence of a whole region. When the late Mr. Chamberlain secured those great provinces in Nigeria for the British Empire, he found that the ordinary, regular methods of the British Army were much too expensive for the country to support. It is the business of the War Office to create units which can stand up in the line against the best troops in Europe. When you have to deal with natives in a country like Nigeria, with the kind of revenue which is got under those conditions, in a region without railways, without wealth, without settled government, you have got to fall back on very much less expensive methods, and so the Colonial Office 20 years ago was equipped with a private army of its own in Nigeria, which endures to this day. Something of the sort has happened in Iraq and Palestine, and we should not be able to hold either of those places unless something of that kind had happened. We have had to fall back on methods which are very much less expensive than those kinds of methods which would be necessary to hold the centre of the front in France or Flanders. That is how the British Empire has been built up. You say to me, "Is there not some risk in it?" I say, "Of course, there is a great deal of risk in it." The British Empire has been built up by running risks. If we had never moved an inch beyond the range of our heavy artillery, our Empire would have been limited by probably that same scope. I explained the other day to the House how the Middle East, Iraq, and Palestine were being held and administered, particularly Iraq, mainly by the agency of politics agreeable to the people of the country, but with the control from the air.

Was it not quite natural that when the Air was much the greater part of the Imperial Force in the country, much the most powerful part, the most expensive part, the most numerous part, as it will be—was it not natural that the odd details of other troops that were in the country should be placed under the command of the Air, and is that not in itself a measure of economy? Fancy having a great war establishment in command of armoured cars side by side with an Air Force establishment. The Air Force establishment requires workshops to keep the aeroplanes in good order—large, important, complicated workshops. Why should they not be the same workshops which keep the armoured cars in order, and keep the two or three gunboats on the river also in order? Why should we say, "You are usurping the function of the Army when you mend an armoured car," or "You are usurping the function of the Navy when you mend a gunboat on the river"? That is nonsense. We cannot afford to have the whole British Admiralty watching over the cradle of the infant kingdom at Bagdad. We cannot afford to have the stately and magnificent array of the Army Council brooding over every small decision that is taken to send an armoured car into this jungle or into that territory. These things have to be done, and they are being done, and I cannot refer to them without repeating that I give no guarantee whatever on the subject; but still I say, you would have crushed this experiment if you had stuck the whole weight of the Board of Admiralty and the Army Council on top. I am delighted to think that in Air-Marshal Trenchard and the Air Ministry we have found a vehicle which is enabling us, I think, to get through some of our serious difficulties there.

Before I pass on from this question as a thing that does not concern this Debate on the relation of the three Services, and is a matter between the War Office and the Colonial Office, I ask the House, as we have the onus and burden of obtaining the money from the House of Commons, what is it to the War Office? We are paying, and we are entitled to hire the aeroplanes and the Indian soldiers we require. At the present moment we do not require the heavy foot of the British Grenadier. No one has a greater respect for it than I have, but, at the present moment, it is not quite the article we require. But apart from this, what is the quarrel over the relations between the Air Force and the Army? I cannot see that there is anything unsettled in the relations which prevail there so far as the present year is concerned. A certain number of squad- rons are required for training with the Army. These squadrons are formed by the Air Ministry. When they are placed at the disposal of the War Office for training with the Army, the War Office have the control. They are able to use them in combination with their troops just as much as if they were artillery.


Who decides the number of squadrons to go to the Army—the Army or the Air Force?


In my view, that is a matter which the Army are perfectly entitled to raise. For instance, there would be no objection whatever to the Secretary of State for War coming forward, on the advice of his Council, and saying, "We desire to have another half-dozen squadrons for use with our experimental brigade, for use at Salisbury or Aldershot with our troops, and we are willing, if we can get them, to reduce so much expenditure on cavalry, on artillery, or on infantry.' I am perfectly certain if such proposals were put forward by the Army Council, my right hon. Friend would provide, with the utmost punctuality, the very best squadrons with the very best air science behind them. They would be entirely at the disposal of the War Office for the purposes of training troops, and in war they would be absolutely under the orders and control of the military commander who is conducting the operation, and who must insist upon having at all times the tactical integrity of his operation established. I do not believe there is any real difficulty over the Army. I quite agree that the Army should be entitled to say, "We wish to have more air squadrons, and fewer cavalry squadrons," or something like that. A Committee has already inquired into this subject. I do not say they agree. They disagree absolutely. You never could obtain the slightest possible agreement between my hon. and gallant Friend and the representative of the Air Ministry. They differ entirely, but the Lord President of the Council, whose experience is unequalled in dealing with these matters, after weighing them carefully, came to certain definite conclusions which have been read out to the House, and which I venture to think deserve the test of at least a year's experiment. They are very carefully considered, and it seems to me they solve our problem in this period.

Major-General SEELY

Why only a year?


Because we shall be able to discuss that, this time next year.

Major-General SEELY

You may not be there.


After all, we only live from year to year. At any rate, it does seem to me that these principles are well adapted to the period with which to-night we are specially concerned. Let me turn to the Air and the Navy. There, again, I feel that it is the business of the Air to cater for the Navy, just as they cater for the Colonial Office. My right hon. Friend the Air Minister caters for me, and I pay him—at least, the British nation pay, and I transmit to him such portions of their wealth as Parliament allots me. I think the Navy, in the same way, has a right to expect that the Air Service will cater for them, and I think one must not try to be too logical and symmetrical, and say that exactly as you do here for this service, so you have to do for that service. It seems to me the naval problem is the more difficult one to solve. After all, we know how easily the relations of the Army with the Air Force in France were adjusted in the course of the War. There really was no difficulty at all in the field under the Commander-in-Chief. But the Navy is more specialised in some ways, and it does seem to me that it would be a great mistake for the Air Ministry not to put the Admiralty at their ease in this matter. The vital part of the great sea battle must be fought by aeroplanes out of ships. The whole course of that action must be intimately regulated by the aeroplanes which rise from and alight upon ships. Then there is the proportion of the money devoted to naval expenditure which has to be assigned to the air forces operating in the battle, and it seems to me that is a matter which the Admiralty, which still retains prime responsibility for the safety of this country, must regard as most vital.

A Committee has been set up to examine and explore the question of the relations between the Admiralty and the Air Force, and we must not anticipate the results of that examination. I myself, however, hope that, although the Committee is conducting its inquiries, there will be an effort on the part of the Admiralty and the Air Ministry all tha time to continue to reach some agreement, if possible; an agreement between the Departments as to the points which have been raised When I see my Noble Friend the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon), now resting after the conflict in which he was engaged a few moments ago in deadly grapple with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith (Captain W. Beam), I found myself thinking: "Here you see the same difficulties which arise when these two elements, the air and the sea, are at variance; there is no limit to the controversial position which can be developed on the one side or the other." But we must not allow them to come into the relations between the two. They ought to try to come to agreement, and I believe they will be able to do so. I will now deal with the co-ordination of the three Services, because, after all, as has been so frequently stated, they are only one. No satisfactory line of division can really be drawn between the Navy and the Air, between the Air and the Army, and between the Navy and the Army. Every attempt to draw such a line has failed. My hon. and gallant Friend put forward some hard cases. Take the question of the cost of our defences. To which of the three Services would you assign that cost? At the present time it is divided between the Army and the Navy, and the line of division is the low-water mark. Here you have guns which are fired by the Army from forts on the shore in which they have to recognise the different forms of naval craft which are coming in, to tell friend from foe, and so on. Here are lights which have to be directed by, and are largely also under the control of, the Army, and which have to be co-ordinated with the working of the guns. There are mine-fields laid by the Navy which are intimately interwoven with the arrangement of the lights and the guns. The whole of these are placed under a military officer, and if there was no such thing as co-operation and goodwill and everybody pushed every claim to its most extravagant limit, of course, you never could carry on. In this pro- posed defence scheme we have a third party, the Air Force, which is responsible for helping the military guns, which goes out and fires its own torpedoes at the enemy craft, or drops bombs upon the craft. It is perfectly clear that in the case of defence every one of the three Services has equal claims.

Some may think that the Air Force, being neutral, is the one which should most properly have responsibility assigned to it, but the point is, not the division of the responsibility, as if it were booty to be shared between the three Services, but the harmonious association of the three Services in the discharge of a common duty. How are you to achieve this co-ordination in the year 1922–23 I have formed the opinion that there is no final solution of a harmonious kind to be found from those difficulties except in a Ministry of Defence and in inculcating a feeling in the three Services that, although they may specialise in the Air, the Navy, or the Army, yet, really, they are all concerned with one problem, and it is to that their loyalties are due.

It will take a great deal of time. By the time the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have really sacrificed their particular prejudices and have shaken down to the broad basis of a common Service of defence, probably the nation will have laid aside their respective points of view, and the ideals which have received such tributes from the benches opposite will have been achieved. At any rate, the essential solution of all these difficult problems lies in a common Service. You could not possibly achieve that at the present time. In the first place, if you are to move towards a unified Service, you must have officers, a body of officers trained to look at the problem of war as a whole and not merely from a land, or sea, or air point of view. That has not been undertaken at all.

A Minister of Defence who had at his service no experts who could speak with a certain measure of professional authority on the air, land, and sea would be in most difficult position. Such a Minister of Defence would be such a dazzling super-Minister that he would dwarf all the rest of his colleagues, and he would have an extremely difficult task if he had to defend the Army, Navy, and the Air Services in his own person during the late crisis of the Geddes Committee. I should be glad that each Service should have its own spokesman, because the recommendations of that Committee would undoubtedly expose an individual Minister to a burden which no human being could have supported. The practical steps which are open to us are being taken. The creation of the brain of a-common Service is to be the subject of an inquiry by a Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The establishment of a State college for a training that will unite officers of the middle rank in the three Services, who will go up in time to the higher positions, ought not to be delayed by a single year, and the Committee is being set up with a direction to formulate such a scheme, and not merely to debate the question. Then again there is the question of the duplication and the triplication of common services—three kinds of transport offices, three kinds of accountants and three kinds of contractors. There is no reason why considerable public economy should not be effected by co-ordinating these services. It is an extremely intricate problem, and a year is very little time for an expert Committee to hammer out a scheme. It has been decided to set up such an inquiry, and that will certainly occupy fruitfully the whole of the present year. Nothing more than that can be done at the present moment. When we are in possession of definite plans for pooling the administrative services and for creating the beginnings of a common brain for the three Services, then the question on which no decision has been taken at the present time, of establishing a Ministry of Defence, will have reached the threshold of practical politics.

Major-General SEELY

Can the right hon. Gentleman answer the question raised by more than one speaker tonight? Will the question of co-ordinating the Army together with the Navy and Air Force be added to the other questions to be considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence?


I am afraid I have not made the point quite clear. There is to be a Ministerial inquiry to adjust the relations between the Air Force and the Navy.

Major-General SEELY

Will the Army be added to that?


No, that has nothing to do with what I am now speaking of. The relations of the Air Force and the Army are settled. The relations of the Air Force and the Navy are to be the subject of a special inquiry. But quite apart from that there will be set up an inquiry under the Committee of Imperial Defence to formulate a scheme for the creation of a common brain for the three Services and another inquiry to make proposals for pooling the administrative services on which they depend. These two inquiries are quite separate from the other. The one is a question of policy and the relations between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty. The others are questions of machinery which have to be hammered out by technical persons and a final scheme presented. I think that is really all that it is wise and practical for us to do this year, and that it is not only the best step we can take, but the only one, towards the realisation of that unification of the Services which every thinker on this subject must regard as the only satisfactory final solution. In the meantime, the coordination of the Services must be achieved through the agency of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Committee of Imperial Defence has, as my right hon. Friend well knows, nearly always discharged its important functions through the agency of special or standing sub-committees, and it is very rarely that there have been meetings of the whole Committee of Imperial Defence. I think that in the, year 1912 there were only six meetings, and yet during that year and the year following, the, meetings of the Invasion Committee were very frequent indeed, and the Sub-committees met almost continuously. A Standing Subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence was appointed early in the year before last by the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister intended himself, if possible, to take the chair frequently; but in practice, with the great pressure of these times, he has left this position to be taken by the Lord President of the Council, and, in the absence of the Lord President in the United States, the task has devolved upon me. This Sub-committee has held frequent meetings, and other Sub-committees of the Committee of Imperial Defence, as the Leader of the House described yesterday, have aggregated nearly 150 meetings in the course of last year. This Standing Sub-committee is really the only machinery which exists, at the present stage in our development, for the coordination of the action and policy of the three Services. All three Services are represented on it, not only by their political heads, but also by their professional chiefs and by other expert advisers. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer usually attends, and one or two other Ministers who have been specially drawn into this class of work. Any question of policy between the three Services must in the interim period be threshed out by this body or some similar body.

To sum up, the Air Force is a fact, established by law, and the onus rests on those who wish to overturn this law and to destroy the Air Force. The relations of the Air Force with the Army have been adjusted by a Committee presided over by the Lord President of the Council, and there is no reason whatever why they should not proceed satisfactorily on that basis during the present year. The relations of the Air Force to the Navy require further consideration, having regard to the enormous and vital part which the Air Force is likely to play in a supreme trial of strength in the future. The co-ordination of the three Services can only effectively be attained through a process of unification, of realisation by all members of those Services that their business is to defend the country as a whole. Whether they serve in the air or at sea or on land ought not to be a cause of differentiation anymore than exists between the cavalry, artillery and infantry, who are all gathered under the War Office. No solution of a harmonious or symmetrical character will be achieved in the co-ordination of the Services except through the agency of a Ministry of Defence, but it is not possible to create such a body at the present time, nor will it be possible for a considerable time. In the interim the only steps which are open to us are to create machinery for pooling the administrative functions of the three arms, and to create a common staff brain, from whose exertions in the future the responsible advice given to the Cabinet of the day in regard to matters of defence must and can only effectively originate.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to the satisfactory efforts which are now being made to co-ordinate the three Services, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

Mr. RAPER rose

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)

I would appeal to my hon. Friend to allow Mr. Speaker now to leave the Chair. We have had a long discussion with you, Sir, in the Chair. Of course, the general discussion can be continued on the first Vote in Committee.


Do you propose to take the Committee stage to-night?


Yes, we must.

Considered in Committee.

[Sir E. CORNWALL in the Chair.]