HC Deb 14 March 1923 vol 161 cc1616-7

I have put before the House the principal facts as they appear to me upon the military side of British aviation. I wish to say a word or two on the other very important side of it— the side of civil aviation. I have left the question of civil aviation to the end, not because I think it unimportant or because I think it can be dissociated from the military side of the problem. I believe that civil aviation can in future be a very valuable asset to us, an asset which it is the more important to develop in view of the fact that our military Air Force, at any rate at present, is comparatively weak in comparison with the Air Force of other great Powers. Civil aviation can be a very valuable asset; but I should not like hon. Members to think that civil aviation can be a substitute for military aviation any more than the mercantile marine can be a substitute for the Navy. In point of fact, I believe that civil machines will tend to diverge in type from military machines, and however much civil aviation is likely to develop it can never provide a first line of defence necessary to meet the shock of air invasion. I wish to see civil aviation develop, not because I believe it can be a substitute for military aviation, but because I believe it can be a very valuable supplement to it. Civil aviation, like every other industry, fell upon bad times during the trade slump. The Air Ministry, struggling to bring its Estimates down to the Geddes' Committee level, had very little money except for the bare necessities of home and Imperial defence. The result has been that our expenditure on civil aviation has been restricted almost entirely to certain subsidies to air transport companies, to the provision of certain aerodromes and to a certain amount of civil aviation research.

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