HC Deb 13 March 1924 vol 170 cc2616-7

As I have mentioned the steps taken to secure co-operation between the three Services, I think the House would like to know what progress has been made in securing co-operation between the Army and the Air Force for home defence. This, as the House is aware, is one of the chief and most difficult problems with which we have to deal. In March, 1922, the late Cabinet decided that the Air Ministry was responsible for the defence of the United Kingdom against air raids. In December, 1922, the Committee of Imperial Defence approved the arrangements made between the War Office and Air Ministry, that the War Office should remain responsible for raising, maintaining, and controlling, both in peace and war, the ground troops which are required to assist the Air Force in the air defence of the United Kingdom, and for the design and provision of equipment for the anti-aircraft defences on the ground. These troops were to be commanded by a military officer responsible, as regards operations, to an Air officer, who is himself responsible to the Air Ministry. During the winter of 1922–23 a joint committee of the General Staff and Air Staff drew up a general scheme for the defence of certain portions of England. The allotment of ground forces in this scheme was reduced to the minimum limits compatible with reasonable security.

The War Office is responsible for supplying ground defence formations proportionate to the air formations employed, and the ground troops required to meet the scheme are estimated at some 22,000, which represents an increase of about 19,000 to the formations now authorised. It is intended to raise these troops as part of the Territorial Army. The annual financial cost of this increase when the scheme is complete has been estimated at £600,000, but the initial cost is still not determined. I have indicated some of the military commitments abroad which the War Office has to envisage, and I have outlined the steps taken to secure co-operation with the Air Force for defence at home.