HC Deb 21 May 1924 vol 173 cc2239-79

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

4.0 P.M.

A few weeks ago the House ratified the scheme of home defence inaugurated by the last Government and accepted, for the time being, by this Government. Part of that scheme involved the creation of an Auxiliary Air Force and the formation of an adequate Reserve. The Bill, therefore, does not enlarge in any way the Air preparations which have already been sanctioned. It does not involve any new expediture other than that which has already been outlined and agreed to by the House. It places no obstacle in the way of our coming to an agreement with other nations for a reduction of armaments, if ever that happy event is possible. It carries out the promise I made to the House on 19th February, repeated on 28th February, and again in March. The Bill, I am pleased to say, has had a smooth passage in another place and I am confident, from the very friendly reception which the Air Estimates received at the hands of this House, that the Bill will have an equally friendly and pleasant passage here. The Air Force Act, 1917, Section 6, already enables us to raise and maintain an Auxiliary Air Force and Air Force Reserve, but the powers under that Act are not regarded by us as being sufficiently adequate. Under this Bill two new powers are sought. First of all, we seek to establish County Joint Associations under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, which may be administered by both the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Air Force representatives within the county, or alternatively to have them, if necessary, administered separately. The second new power that we are seeking in the Bill is to provide for immediate mobilisation in case of actual or apprehended attack in defence of the British Isles, whether or not the Army Reserve or the Air Force Reserve has been called out on active service. The Bill adds no powers to those which are already in existence for sending a single man abroad. The power of immediate mobilisation refers both to the new Auxiliary Air Force which it is proposed to create and also to the Reserve. This power of mobilisation in case of emergency is to be conferred by Order-in-Council. Without this Bill such power will not exist. It is therefore imperative that we should have it. We have to face the facts as they are to-day. We know that in the unhappy event of war we might have an invading force of aeroplanes in this country at the actual moment of the declaration of hostilities. In so far as I am responsible to this House for the Air Force, I feel that I should be guilty of a gross dereliction of duty if I failed to seek efficiency. I cannot neglect its equipment; I cannot seek to deprive it of adequate powers to act. Though I hope there may never be another European war, though I disbelieve in wars as a means of righting wrongs or of serving mankind at all, though I fervently hope that none of my Department—splendid young men—will ever be asked to slay or will ever be slain, still I feel that it is only consistent and honest to ask Parliament for powers which are solely for the purpose of rendering the Air Force a still more highly efficient weapon.

The air weapon has altered the whole character of war. It has destroyed the advantage which this country formerly possessed through being an island, and an attack may now be as immediate as if there were no seas intervening at all. This Bill gives us the power to meet, so far as we have means to do so, such an emergency. We also propose to utilise in full the county territorial associations which are already in existence. Subject to certain exceptions which I shall mention, the new Auxiliary Air Force to be set up will be administered by county associations reinforced by air representatives acting jointly. The county territorial areas may not always meet the Air Force requirements, so in Clause 1, Subsection (2), we are seeking authority in such cases to set up special machinery. The county joint associations will have the duty of raising and administering their own air squadrons, and the training will be supervised by Royal Air Force Home Defence Headquarters. Two facts govern the selection of appropriate stations. The first is the nearness, or otherwise, of an engineering population from whom to get our skilled mechanics, and the second consideration is the possibility of adequate aerodrome facilities.

The territorial associations have shown themselves both willing and anxious to help this new scheme, and a scheme has already been drawn up in consultation with them and the War Office. While the county joint associations proposed to be set up are expected to be the general rule for administrative purposes, we do provide for exceptions. It is possible that in odd cases the most suitable administrative unit may be a large town or a group of towns, or it may be even two counties. The Bill, therefore, gives us freedom, in Clause 1, to administer separately in those cases.

Every recruit, officer or man, agrees on enlistment to be called up and serve in the British Isles against actual or apprehended attack. Clause 5 defines the procedure for calling out for home defence purposes both the Auxiliary Air Force and the Reserve. Clause 3 gives power to form a new kind of Reserve for home defence service only. This is not so much a fresh recruiting power as it is an alteration of conditions of service, so as to create a new class of Reserve. It is, in fact, a Citizens' Air Force. The new conditions of service hon. Members will find set out in Sub-section (2).

It may be asked why we need to form an Auxiliary Air Force and a Reserve Force as well. The reason is that both are experimental, and we wish to explore them. We want to try them, and we want to gain experience as to the best shape that our air defence will take. The last word in the shape of that home defence has not yet been said. I believe that this Bill will help to develop our defence plans more scientifically and also more economically. The Bill is quite simple in terms. It forges no new weapon, but merely sharpens an existing one. Above all, it provides no new facilities for offence. It is purely and solely defensive in its character, and it is, therefore, a menace to nobody. Until the nations agree otherwise, I see no escape from the duty of asking Parliament to provide for defence. Hon. Members opposite have shown me once or twice that I have a dislike for such a task. Because I have been somewhat frank about it, they have also shown me that they fear that I may be seeking secretly to undermine the efficiency of the Air defence weapon. I want to tell them that those fears are groundless. What I dislike to have to do, every hon. Member of this House who thinks twice would also dislike having to do. The whole business of defence is a wicked waste of national substance. It is forced upon the world by the disease of international fear. I hope that some day that disease of international fear may be eradicated. It may be the heritage of the League of Nations to destroy that disease and bring about an era of sanity for all people, and I move the Second Reading of the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir SAMUEL HOARE

The Under-Secretary of State for Air has asked the House to place no obstacle in the passage of this Measure. So far as the Members on this side of the House are concerned, they are most anxious to see it placed on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment. Indeed, what other action could we advise the House to take? So far as I can see, this Bill is word for word the same Bill that was drafted when we were in office, the same Bill that we included in the King's Speech, and the same Bill that, had we remained in office, we should have placed upon the Statute Book with the least possible delay. It is even more than that, for the Bill that was drafted when I was Secretary of State for Air was in many respects founded upon proposals that I found already in existence and that had their origin when the right hon. Member for the Stroud Division (Captain F. Guest) was my predecessor. The House, therefore, will observe that the original idea of the Bill was formed by a Liberal Secretary of State for Air, it was developed by a Conservative Secretary of State for Air, and it is now being proposed to the House by the hon. Gentleman opposite, representing the Labour Government. In view of those facts, I suggest that no party issues need cross the discussions that take place this afternoon, or when the Bill goes to Committee.

When the late Government were in office we had, as the House will remember, a very long inquiry made by the Committee of Imperial Defence into the whole question of air defence. During that inquiry two or three features special to air defence impressed themselves on members of the Committee and induced the Government of the day to make the proposals that it outlined a year ago. First of all, there was the basic fact that what was wanted was a force of home defence and not a force to go overseas. In that respect, the problem was somewhat different from the military problem of the Territorials, who, it might be supposed, would in the ordinary course go overseas as any war developed. Indeed, that was what actually happened in the last war. In this case, it is difficult to contemplate a situation even after the outbreak of war in which we should desire that the home defence force against air attack should be removed overseas. It is obvious that, as long as there is an air menace, an adequate defence force will have to remain in this country to defend the capital of the Empire, the great munition works, and the whole life of the country from any possible air attack. That fact somewhat differentiated the problem of air defence from the problem either of sea or of ground defence. That being so, it is obvious that if we are to build up a force for home defence it is our duty to build it up upon a home defence basis and not to be drawn into equipping it with transport and other services of that kind that would only be required if the units were in the ordinary course of events transferred overseas. That was the first feature that led us to adopt the proposals in the Bill.

There was another factor in the problem. There was the question of economy. Obviously, any Government, when it is embarking on a scheme of expansion, particularly of military expansion, must make every attempt to keep the expenditure as low as possible. On that account we were anxious to introduce, so far as was safe, non-regular units in the scheme of home defence, for the obvious reason that units of that kind would, from the point of view of national expenditure, be much cheaper than fully established regular units. In the third place, and this is a side of the question that cannot be exaggerated, there was the great need, in the scheme of home defence, somehow or other to broaden the basis of air defence—to develop it from what it is now, a small professional force, into something larger than that, to extend its roots and make the knowledge of air defence more general, and, if possible, to extend the interest in air defence and the knowledge of air problems on the same kind of lines on which the knowledge of military defence problems was extended in earlier days by the formation of the Territorial Force.

These three principal factors in the problem convinced us, and, I am glad to think, have convinced the present Government, that in the scheme of air defence within these shores it is vital to include proposals for starting a certain number of non-regular units upon the lines suggested in this Bill. I can conceive only one objection being made to these proposals. I can conceive its being said that, in a highly technical service like the Air Service, nothing in the nature of an amateur or non-regular service is of sufficient value to justify its inclusion in a scheme of air defence. I freely admit that I do not myself believe, however greatly these proposals may succeed, however keen may be the service that is put into these non-regular squadrons by the men and officers who join them, that we can ever reach a point when, in the Air Service, non-regular units will be able to achieve the same efficiency as regular units. I think that that must be obvious to any hon. Member who has studied the highly technical nature of air problems. But, in spite of that fact, I venture to say that it is wise to make this experiment.

It is an experiment which, after all, is only being made upon a comparatively small scale. The home defence force, when it is completed so far as its first stage is concerned, will consist of 52 squadrons, and it is now proposed that, of those 52 squadrons, 13 should be upon a non-regular basis. I am inclined to think that, in making this modest proposal to include only a quarter of the squadrons upon a non-regular basis, we are not taking any undue risk. The scheme, as the Under-Secretary has said, is experimental. It may be that it will not succeed as well as we hope it will. If that be so, the experiment is upon so modest a scale that I cannot see that it need, even if it fails, endanger the general efficiency of our home defence force. It may be that, as the experiment progresses, the proposals will have to be modified in one direction or another, and I am sure the Under-Secretary will agree with me when I say that, in a Service in a state of great development, a comparatively new Service, like the Air Service, it is most important to keep a scheme of this kind as elastic as possible.

I suggest, therefore, to the House, that it is wise to propose that there should be two kinds of non-regular squadrons—the one the auxiliary squadron, somewhat on the basis of a Territorial unit, a unit fully established with non-regular officers and men, and with merely the adjutant and one or two regular non-commissioned officers that Territorial units possess. That is a unit that may well appeal to many men in this country who are interested in air defence. In the same way, there may be others who prefer the somewhat more military, the more regular, character of the special reserve unit—a unit in which one squadron will be entirely regular, and he other two squadrons will be kept up on a cadre basis. It is wise to have those two proposals, giving an alternative choice to men and officers who wish to join. It may well be, as I have said, that as the scheme develops other proposals upon these lines may also be necessary, and that one or other of these kinds of units may develop better, so that it may, therefore, be better to develop the one more quickly than the other. In any case, the experiment is on a modest scale, and on that account I urge upon any hon. Members who are in doubt as to whether it is wise to include the non-regular element, in the scheme for home defence, that the proposal is so restricted that, in my view, even if it fails, it will not endanger the success of the scheme.

If, however, it succeeds, let the House think of the great advantage that will be gained, not only by air defence in this country, but by British aviation generally. It has always seemed to me, and I cannot help thinking that the Under-Secretary will agree with me, that the great problem in air defence, and, perhaps, still more important in the field of British aviation generally, is to get the knowledge of the air much more extended than it has been before, so that, instead of having, as I said just now, a comparatively few highly expert officers and highly trained men, with almost a monopoly of air knowledge, and almost a monopoly of flying experience, you should have, over the whole country, and particularly in our great industrial centres, a knowledge of flying, a knowledge of the parts of the aeroplanes—a very technical and complicated subject—a knowledge of the main outline, at any rate, of what I have always thought is the most urgent part of our national defence at the present moment.

I am inclined to think that the formation of these non-regular squadrons, particularly in our great industrial centres—and it is there that we look for their formation—will help to diffuse this knowledge of the air and its problems in a very remarkable manner, particularly if it is supplemented in a number of other directions, such, for instance, as the encouragement of light aeroplane flying clubs, in which I was always very much interested when I was at the Air Ministry and which, I am glad to see, the present Government appear to have every intention of developing. Another direction in which the spread of this knowledge of the air might be encouraged is by giving prizes, and there are a number of other ways of that kind. I regard the proposal that is being made to-day as, perhaps, the most important of these very necessary proposals for developing air knowledge and widening the basis of British aviation generally; but, as I have said, it should be supplemented in these other directions to which I have ventured to make a passing allusion.

I hope I have said enough to show that these 13 squadrons, which it is proposed under this Bill to form, are much more, from the, point of view of aviation, than a few experimental units. I believe they are going to be the basis of a great citizen national Air Force. I believe they are going to succeed, and that their success is going to mean a great widening of the whole basis of national defence, and a great extension generally of air knowledge and air experience. On that account, although the Bill is as I hope, a non-controversial Bill, and although, as I hope, it will pass quickly, it is none the less, in the view of hon. Members on this side of the House, a very important Measure—important, as I have said, from the general point of view of British aviation, and important, also, from the very urgent point of view of air defence against possible air attack. It is an important step in the formation of a home defence Air Force, and I am glad to think that the air units for home defence are, in a short time, to be placed under a single command. Hitherto, there has been no separate command for home defence against air attack. These unite, unless the Government change the policy upon which we agreed last year, will form an integral part of this single, unified air command within these shores. The formation of this single command is, I believe, a very important step in the development of our home defence. It will mean that all the various measures of home defence, the non-regular units included in this Bill, the regular units that are already being formed, the antiaircraft units, for the drafts, will all be under the direction and control of the central air officer. That does not mean that the Air Ministry will have to administer the anti-aircraft ground units—


I am afraid that I must interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. The point he is now developing is one for the Air Estimates, and not for this Bill.


I am sorry that my enthusiasm carried me further than I should have gone, Perhaps I shall be in order if I emphasise the point that I desire to emphasise, that these units form a part of the home defence force, and I am glad to think that they will be under a central command with the regular units. I hope I have said enough to commend the proposals of the Bill to hon. Members behind me. Perhaps I might also commend the proposals to the Territorial Associations outside, who, under the Bill, will have to administer the non-regular units. We had a number of consultations with representatives of the associations last year, and it was then a matter of satisfaction to everyone concerned how anxious they all seemed to be to make the scheme a success. There is no question at present of having non-regular units in every county. It will be a question of selecting five or six suitable centres and basing upon these centres a strictly limited number of non-regular squadrons. Wherever the squadrons are formed, it seemed to me that there was, quite obviously, full willingness on the part of the associations concerned to try to make them a success. As far as the Special Reserve squadrons are concerned, may I take this opportunity of pressing upon the Under-Secretary of State for Air the extreme urgency of getting some of the Special Reserve squadrons formed with the least possible delay? I remember, as a member of the London Territorial Association, and as a London Member of Parliament, how anxious the City and the County of London were to form two London Special Reserve squadrons. I hope, therefore, that as soon as the Bill is passed, the Government will proceed with the proposals, and that we shall have two London Special Reserve squadrons formed before the end of the year.

I do not think I need say anything more about the Bill, beyond expressing the hope that, while there will be points upon which hon. Members will want further information, the Bill as a whole will proceed without any opposition, and that at the earliest possible moment we shall see not only the Bill upon the Statute Book, but these squadrons, the Auxiliary and the Special Reserve, actually formed.


In this matter the Government have been forced by circumstances to follow the lines of their predecessors. The Under-Secretary has frankly admitted that. Whatever may be their aspirations, as regards their practical programme they have been compelled to take exactly the same steps as would have been taken by my right hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, or by any other Air Minister. That is the first point that was clear from the Under-Secretary's speech. When it is said that the men who enlist in these Auxiliary and Reserve forces are not for service overseas, the word does not imply restfulness or safety in the sense that no overseas service might conceivably be interpreted as regards a Volunteer or a Territorial. These men will have work to do quite as arduous or dangerous, perhaps even more dangerous, as men who are so fortunate as to be sent to distant parts where, if there be a war, it would not possibly be of such an extremely acute kind as it might be here.

The purpose of the scheme is to popularise a knowledge and love of flying amongst the people of this country. No one is better qualified to advocate that than my right hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, because by his personal example as Air Minister he did a great deal to make people accustomed to the idea of going from place to place by air. It is a very important feature of the scheme that in various industrial centres we shall have squadrons, not of professional soldiers or airmen but of civilians, who will have an opportunity of coming into practical touch with the problem of flying. The low-power aeroplanes, the glider and slow-landing machine all make flying easier and cheaper, and if these squadrons result in the setting up of little circles of enthusiasts in various parts of the country, they will have done a great deal, apart from their important military value, towards doing what we all desire, namely, to implant an air sense in our people. If we were saved in the past by having a sea sense, it is necessary that we should develop an air sense if we are to be saved in the future.

That brings me to my one criticism or inquiry in regard to the Bill. These county associations were formed, of course, for the purpose of soldiering. They consist of people who are used to soldiers and military ideas. There is nothing that is so important and vital as to apprehend that the Air Force is not an army and is not a navy. It is a different thing altogether; it has a different outlook and a different mentality, and if you are going to hand over the development of this infant, on which such hopes are set, wholly to people whose experience is of marching and countermarching, camps and tents, you will not be doing the right thing.


The hon. and gallant Member is wrong in supposing that the Members of the County Associations, or even the majority of the members, are members of the Territorial Force. They consist of citizens of all classes.

Captain BENN

I would not for worlds be supposed to be criticising the Territorial Associations in the exercise of their functions. I know very little about them, but everything leads one to assume that they have done their work very well. It is, however, no good putting an Auxiliary Air Force into the hands of people whose minds are concerned with military things, because the Air Force is something quite different from the Army. For instance, the General thinks that you must put all your tents in a row. That is what a hostile airman would like, because if he misses the first tent he will get the other tents when he throws his next bomb. I mention that in order to show that the two conceptions, that of the Army and that of the Air Force, differ. I assume that the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will assure me that for the purpose of this Bill he intends to reinforce the County Associations and, if necessary, to form separate associations of people who have the air idea—people who are technicians, and who are more concerned with science and research than with the goose-step and things of that kind. If the Under-Secretary, as no doubt he will, in nominating members of the County or Joint Associations, will bear this point of view in mind, he may succeed, and I hope he will succeed, in forming in different districts a nucleus of people who are enthusiasts for a force which in time, whatever the length of service of the others may be, will be the premier force of the country.

Captain BRASS

I was very interested to hear the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down, with most of which I entirely agree, but I think he stretched the point, so far as the Army was concerned, rather too far in suggesting that the Army is going to dominate in some way the Air Force in the county associations. If he looks at the Bill he will see that two county associations can be formed if need be. There can be a Joint County Association or two separate associations, an Army association and an Air Force association. Therefore, he need have no fear that the Army is going to dominate the Air Force any more than the Navy is going to dominate the Air Force.

The speech of the Under-Secretary for Air, with his customary essay on pacifism, was extremely interesting; but I do not agree with what he says when he made the remark that the weapon was going to be sharpened. When you are going to substitute a non-regular service of 13 squadrons for what might have been a regular service of 13 squadrons, I cannot see how you are going to sharpen the force. I should have thought that it would have been the reverse, and that you would have blunted the weapon I do not oppose the Bill, because we are all in agreement with the principle of it. As far as I can see, the principle of the Bill, is that we should form a Territorial Air Force, and alter the enlistment of the Air Force Reserve so that a man entering the Air Force Reserve can be a man previously regularly employed in the Air Force. That is a very laudable object. We want to try to imbue, if we can, the air spirit into the people of this country. We want to try to make them learn the air sense, and we also want to identify air defence with the national life of the country.

We also desire, so I gather from the speech of the Under-Secretary, to effect a certain amount of saving in what we are doing and to tap, if we can, the amateur engineering skill of the people of this country. That, in itself, is very laudable, but I want to examine a little more closely what is going to happen if we do this. Let us take the Auxiliary Air Force, to start with. I do not want to speak so much about the Reserve. It is suggested that it could be run in the same way as the Territorial Army. Therefore, you would have areas for recruiting exactly in the same way as you have areas for recruiting under the ordinary Territorial scheme. But examine what would happen. Take the Sussex area, for example. You might have Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Chichester, Arundel, Bognor and Littlehampton. In all these places, in the case of the Territorial Force, you would have platoons, if there were infantry, under the officers who lived in the particular area. If there were yeomanry, you would have a troop and in the bigger towns you would have troop headquarters. How are you going to do that in the case of the Air Force? How are you going to arrange for recruits to be taught anything of the slightest value in Arundel or Chichester or Littlehampton?

You can do that if you are merely going to drill them, as you would drill infantry men or cavalry men, but how can you do it if you want to teach them something which is purely technical? The people whom you are going to recruit are people who are going to be able to rig aeroplanes, overhaul engines and fly. How can you teach individuals air mechanics at Chichester how to rig an aeroplane or overhaul an engine? How can you teach a man at Chichester, assuming that he belongs to the Sussex part of the scheme, how to fly? For the work of rigging aero- planes and overhauling engines you must have workshops and the people to teach those persons how to do the work. I happened to be in the yeomanry in the Territorial Army, and we used to collect our men and have a troop drill, and in the infantry they drilled them at infantry drill, etc., but I do not see how you can apply that to a service which is so technical as the Air Force is.

Assuming that it would be possible to do it—and I have great doubt about it—that is not the whole of the problem. One of the great difficulties is how to teach these people to fly. I understand that, as far as this Territorial scheme is concerned, the county is going to be a unit just as in case of the infantry or the Yeomanry, and therefore you are going to have a Sussex or a Lancashire or a Kent Flying squadron as the unit, which has in it flying officers, air mechanics, and so on. How can the individual people in that unit learn to fly? They will have to go away somewhere, possibly to some place like Croydon. Are the officers going to learn to fly in the units when they go away for a fortnight in the summer, or are they to learn to fly with the general units in the Flying Corps? When I learned to fly it took me a long time, and it does take a long time in this country. The weather conditions are against learning. You might go into a camp, like a Territorial camp, for a fortnight in the middle of summer, and you might say, "I am going to learn to fly in that fortnight," but you might easily find in that fortnight not a single day on which a machine could rise from the ground. How are you going to teach people to fly in that way? Is it not very much better to have a reserve and teach people to fly in a general flying place, and not to try to arrange a technical service on the same lines as those which suit a non-technical service like the Yeomanry?

In view of the increase in aerodromes which will be necessary in order to carry out the scheme, I would like to know if the Under-Secretary has got in view the aerodromes which are necessary for the County Associations? Then a word as to the machines. As the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) has said, it is a very dangerous thing to learn to fly, and I want to be convinced that these Territorial airmen are going to be given new machines and not merely to be given the old machines that have been thrown away from the regular force. That is a very important point. If you are going to have a Territorial Air Force, and it is going to lead to a large number of fatal accidents in this country, the result will be exactly the reverse of what is desired. Then if you have amateur air mechanics, teaching in various towns like Chichester or Brighton how to rig aeroplanes and overhaul engines, are you going to ask officers to go up and risk their lives in aeroplanes rigged by amateur engineers?

On the question of home, service, as I read the Bill it means that if an officer or an air mechanic, a pilot, goes up in this country and lands back in this country or within its territorial waters that is to be considered as home service. If an officer orders a pilot to go from London, say, to Paris and come back here, will that be considered as flying on home service? Will a man on home service be allowed in that way to fly somewhat outside the home area? I am not saying that that is wrong. I merely want information on the point. Personally I would say, as far as home service is concerned, that it is essential for the Air Force, if they are going to send officers to fly, to be able to send them abroad, because the only defence against air attack, as far as one can see, is to go and attack somebody else. It is no good saying that you will wait until aeroplanes come over London and then send out machines to attack. The only way to prevent people attacking us is to go and attack them. If the Clause provides, as I read it, that a man can go up in a machine in this country, fly to France and come back again and still be considered on home service, I have no objection, but I want to know if that be so.

I have two fears as far as this Bill is concerned. One is a fear that we may get into a condition of false security in this country, that we may have a great deal of publicity as to having 13 extra squadrons, Territorial flying squadrons, to defend this country, and that those squadrons may not be in the least efficient. If so, that is a great danger to the defence of this country from the air. My second fear is that if you are going to have amateur mechanics rigging machines, overhauling engines, putting engines into them and starting engines, and so on, you are going to create a con- dition in which it will be extremely dangerous for pilots to be forced to go up in them at all. Those are two points which I want the Under-Secretary for Air to consider very carefully. I do not want to oppose this Bill, but if this is, as he says, purely an experiment to see whether it works or does not work I want an assurance that if after a short period he finds that it is not developing properly, and that some of the suggestions which I have made are true, then 13 new regular squadrons will be substituted for those which are now proposed, so that the defence of this country in the air may be assured.

5.0 P.M.


The Under-Secretary has told us that this Bill forges no new weapon, but merely sharpens the existing weapon. The speeches which have followed have strengthened the conclusion to which I came when I read the Bill, that we are taking a great departure and, as some of us think, a great step forward. That is, we are going to place the air defence of this country by the citizens of the country in the position in which it should be placed. One Clause which I rather dislike in the Bill is that the officers and men are to be enrolled for service in the United Kingdom only. I am a man of peace. I do not believe in war. But I think the lesson we learnt at the beginning of the last war was that the men who are ready to defend this country must be prepared to leave this country, and it is a mistake to enlist them in time of peace and then, when war breaks out, to say to them, "We want you to go abroad." The conditions should be made clear to them when we enrol them in the service. We may as well face the facts now as later on. I rather differ from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Benn) with regard to the County Associations. The County Associations are not military bodies at all. They are members of town and city councils who are prepared to assist, as honourable citizens of the country, with the equipment of the citizen forces, and they are merely assisted by military advisers, and, to my mind, the powers taken in this Bill for constructing separate associations would not work very well. One association is perfectly well equipped to carry out the work in each county. The work consists of finding the clothing, the buildings, the ground for the aerodromes, and so on, which is perfectly competent for a civilian body to do assisted by military or Air Force officers, and I think for the defence of the country a closer co-ordination between the Air Force and the military forces of the country is better for the defence of the country. The more the work can be entrusted to civilian bodies in securing uniforms and ground for aerodromes, the better for the country.

The other matter I should like to refer to is this. I feel diffident at intervening, not being an airman, but sometimes in these matters the voice of one who sees from the outside brings ideas which the experts do not see because they view it from the position of an expert. Before the War the practice was prevalent of arming and equipping our auxiliary forces with what can only be described as cast off from the Regular forces. The rifle that the infantry had was the old pattern rifle which was not fit for modern warfare. The machine gun they had was the Maxim, compared with the Vickers. The artillery were armed with obsolete weapons and we expected those men, whom we had enlisted for home service only, whom we trained with obsolete weapons, to proceed against Continental armies armed with the latest and most modern weapons. If we are going to enlist our citizens into a citizen Air Force, although the Under-Secretary the other day used the phrase preparation for war was a wicked waste of national substance. I should be prepared to waste money rather than to waste life, and if we are going to send those men to fight against an air force equipped with the most modern aeroplanes and the most modern machinery of all kinds, we should vote the money readily to equip them with the most modern instruments of warfare. They risk their lives and it is only fair that we should risk the money to see that they are equipped and the lesson of the last war, which has sunk deep in many of our hearts when we think how the men had to go with this bad equipment, should not be forgotten.


Like several other speakers, I want to begin with a word of congratulation and to end with some questions. I think, on the whole, one can congratulate the Under-Secretary on the slightly more martial note that is creeping into his speeches. With the permission of my Noble Friend the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon), I think and feel that we may perhaps hope that, like the chief character in "Paradise Lost," having once fallen from grace, he will take to what was a distinctly uncongenial job with increasing gusto. Secondly, this Measure is one that I have spent a little time in studying in connection with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, legislation which is associated with the name of the present Lord Chancellor. It is extraordinarily interesting to see with how much sureness of touch the permanent officials and those responsible to the nation for handling these services are able, in the light of experience since 1907, to improve the law and to show a very lack of simplicity, which seems to me an entirely good thing about this Measure, a new and highly desirable feature. But, in casting up the impression one gathers of that great Measure of 1907 and the impression one forms on reading the Bill we have before us, one notices that at any rate in the experimental stage—it may not be more—there is a concentration of effort which was absent in the former and more elaborate effort. You see that we are starting practically only in those centres which the Lord Chancellor referred to as "the large towns where work is performed which bears very closely upon the construction of aeroplanes and the provision of material for the Air Force." So far so good, and the reasons for that are obvious. But besides the mere geographical centres there are surely what one might call propagandist centres, and in the light of what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and others to the necessity of spreading an air sense throughout the country, it seems to me that here is a point of view which ought not to be overlooked.

I wish to put in a plea for the universities as centres in which you may be able to plant the beginnings of an air sprit and inaugurate a work which will inevitably spread throughout the country. You have there a constant flow through of men who will take up work—engineering work very often—in all parts of the country, and in connection with more than one of the bigger universities you have, of course, aerodromes close at hand. I do not pretend at this moment to suggest how the touch between the Auxiliary Air Force and the university centres can best be inaugurated or maintained, and I understand it is already to some extent engaging the attention of the Air Ministry. But I think there is probably, more now than ever before, a chance of really fruitful action in that direction, and for this reason, that you have got, rightly or wrongly, the younger generation less enthusiastic on joining the Officers Training Corps than they were before the War. It is more difficult to get them to join, and for two reasons. In the first place, I think there has been a great overdoing of the Officers Training Corps work at the schools, particularly the less interesting branches of it, and they come up, to some extent, fatigued in mind, and secondly, a great many people saw when the last War broke out that it was no advantage to them in getting a commission to have been actually in an Officers Training Corps. The numbers enrolled are not entirely unsatisfactory, and the spirit of the place is as satisfactory as over. But what those responsible for working up enthusiasm in the Officers Training Corps say is that the more complicated branches of the Service—engineering, wireless, the medical section, gunnery, and so forth—are the branches which attract more than any others. Surely that is illuminating in any idea of setting up there work in connection with new auxiliary branches of the Air Force. Of course it would not be included in this Bill. In the Territorial and Reserve Force Act, 1907, Section 2, paragraph (f), authority is given to undertake negotiations with the authorities of cadet corps and the like throughout the country. The only other point I wish to raise is as to the suitability of these local Territorial associations for taking on the work. Surely it is not necessary to take either extreme view, because I understand from the speech with which the Debate opened that it is the intention to incorporate into the Territorial Association those who are in touch with air ideas and air thought, but upon that point one would like very much to be reassured by the hon. Gentleman.


I rise to supplement one or two remarks which have been referred to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith (Captain Benn), and the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken with regard to the difficulty of getting the youth of the country interested in flying qua flying, not necessarily from the military point of view but flying in general. We have been a seafaring nation, largely due to geography, but also, there is little doubt, because to go upon the sea and to sail a boat is the heart's desire of every boy. Although this Bill invents machinery to get people into the Auxiliary Air Force I do not think—and I believe the Under-Secretary will agree with me—that you really make an appeal to the youth of the country to take up a thing like flying by trying to make him become a soldier. If that is right I think some other form of encouragement should be given to the youth of the country that he may face the joys of getting into the air, because I feel that the associations are going to have great difficulty in getting men to go into the Auxiliary Air Force. The only large section of people I can imagine who would take it up are the members of the Universities, especially Cambridge, who have shown enormous interest in aviation in general. I maintain that we have in this country plenty of good material, plenty of men who want to fly. You can see most of them riding motor cycles at a hideous speed every Saturday and Sunday, generally with a girl on the back of the motor cycle. That, of course, is a much more dangerous pastime than any flying. What the Under-Secretary has to do is to get that man off his motor bicycle and on to an aeroplane, and to let him have the same super-cargo tucked in behind.

I have had a good deal of experience of running an aeroplane as a hobby, and I only wish that I had all the money that I have spent upon that particular hobby, because it is a very expensive thing to do, and I do not think that to-day you can get many people to do it. But just as things have changed in aeroplane organisation in this country, so there has come over aeronautics a very great change from the point of view of machines. It will be within the recollection of the House that the Aero Club, which is responsible for the flying side, organised two years ago a competition for gliders. They are a very inexpensive form of machine. The competition was a great success; one man stayed up three hours without any engine. The natural development of that was to fit a small glider with an engine more or less of motor-cycle type. Many Members, who take an interest in these things, will remember the trial that took place last year at Lympne. I maintain that if encouragement is given to flying, qua flying, by the young men of England, there would be a demand for that type of machine, which can be bought at a price varying from £100 to £250. If you are to get the youth of this country air loving instead of sea loving, you must encourage as much as possible the sporting side of flying by seeing that that type of flying, with the light and cheap machine, is popularised in every way.

This country does not recognise as some foreign countries do bodies such as the Aero Club as being of public utility, and does not give them particular advantages. The Government cannot run a small competition, cannot organise clubs which own their own gliders and small machines. The Government cannot do that, but they can help very much another body in organising such forms of competition and in popularising flying as it should be popularised. I have been on many deputations to the Air Ministry in order to get that sort of help, with a view of getting the youth of this country up into the air, and I must say that, although we have always received courtesy, I have found the Air Ministry exceedingly sticky. I think that that word describes their attitude. I hope that the Under-Secretary will assure us to-day that he intends to give that part of the subject a little more sympathetic consideration. I believe that the youth of this country would make the finest flyers in the world. But how is the young man to approach the subject at all? Under the Government scheme he has to become a soldier. I do not think he wants to become a soldier always. He wants, first of all, to have a taste of it, and afterwards he will get enthusiastic. To give him a taste of it you have first of all to awaken his interest in the sporting side of the matter. If the Air Ministry will encourage throughout the country, under the direction of a body like the Aero Club, local clubs which organise gliding competitions and own small-power machines, there would be started in that way a love of flying which would react finally on the military machines for which this Bill is brought before the House.


I am sure that the House will agree with the last speaker as to the great desirability of creating this air sense among the young men of the country. The sea sense has, of course, been created by the fact that we are a maritime nation, and because, from childhood upwards, so many of our population actually live on the sea or are accustomed to going upon the sea. I confess that I find soma difficulty in seeing exactly how this air spirit is to be encouraged, except by some such stimulus as the holding of competitions. I see no reason why competitions should not be held under the auspices of the Government by encouraging civilian undertakings of the kind referred to, and by the giving of prizes, not large, for skill in the air. That may seem a somewhat material point of view from which to approach the subject, but the really essential thing is to get young men interested in the air and willing to run the risks necessary to learn flying by going up fairly continually. It was not for that purpose that I rose, but rather to ask the Under-Secretary to make clear exactly what is meant in various parts of the Bill where the words used are: liable to be called up for service within the British Islands. It looks to me rather as if there had been a little carelessness in drafting. I have no doubt that in preparing the Bill the Under-Secretary and his officers have been governed by the ordinary form in which similar Bills providing for the calling up of military reserves have been worded. How can yon lay it down that a man who is going to join the Air Reserve for the purpose of defence, in case of an actually apprehended attack, is only to be called up for service within the British Islands? It may be necessary for you to send your defending squadrons—I speak subject to correction by experts—some distance beyond these islands in order to meet attack. Is what is behind the Bill this—that they are to be called up only for defensive, purposes, not to be called up to go into the air until there has been given notice to the Air Ministry of a hostile fleetapproaching these islands, or are they to be liable to be called up to take part in preliminary operations which could quite correctly be described as defensive operations—preliminary operations before a hostile fleet has left the shores of an enemy country—for the purpose of warding off a possible attack? I hope that my hon. Friend, in replying, will make quite plain what is to be understood by the words I have quoted. In Clause 3 the words are even more specific. They are: to provide for the enlistment of men into the Air Force Reserve as special reservists with a liability to serve within the limits of the British Islands only.

Captain Viscount CURZON

I am glad to be able to take part in the Debate, having listened to all the speeches made so far. The Under-Secretary said that this Bill was accepted for the time being by the Government. I do not know what he meant by "for the time being by the Government."


Not in connection with the Bill.

Viscount CURZON

I do not know in what connection the hon. Member used the words.


I used them in connection with the scheme of home defence.

Viscount CURZON

That seems to be a distinction without a difference. But let it pass. The hon. Gentleman went on to point out that the fears of hon. Members on this side, with regard to his well-known principles in the matter of national defence, were perfectly groundless, and that we need not fear anything at all. But almost in the same breath he said that defence was a wicked waste, of national substance. On that I would like to cross swords with him. I cannot understand the hon. Gentleman's idea of defence. I look upon defence as the expression of the right of a nation to live, to be able to live. I say also that the greatest pacifist in the world is a pacifist only because he believes in peace. If you really believe in peace, surely you want to be able to ensure that you will have peace? I can imagine the hon. Gentleman going to someone who may annoy him and asking him not to do so. That may work in the case of individuals, especially in the case of those who have the hon. Member's special methods of pleading, but it will not work in matters of State.

The hon. Gentleman gave us a certain amount of explanation of the Bill, but he did not say whether there was any extra cost to be placed on the State. We have no idea as to what this scheme is likely to cost, and that is a very material point. I would like to have relative figures, if they are known, as between a reserve squadron and a squadron on an active service basis. Then there is the question of efficiency. I suppose that this scheme has been modelled, partly upon the scheme of the Admiralty with regard to naval reserves, and partly upon the scheme of the Territorial Army. With regard to the training to be given to the Auxiliary Air Force and the Air Force Reserve under this scheme, when units are called up for training is it intended to call out an entire squadron or to call the men out as individuals and to draft them ino active service squadrons to serve their time? That is the system which is adopted in the case of the Naval Reserves. There men are drafted to sea as and when they are able to go. That is a very important point in dealing with auxiliary forces, because you cannot order men all into camp or all to undergo training at the same time. If you are able to study their convenience a little and so to arrange things that, when they get their holidays, they can do their training, you are much more likely to get all the men to do the training with the minimum of difficulty. Can we have some idea as to what is intended with regard to training?

One or two Members, notably the hon. and gallant Member for Bootle (Major Burnie), raised a point which is absolutely vital to the success of the whole scheme. That is the question of what sort of training the men are to undergo. What sort of equipment are they to have? When you send these fellows out for training, if you are to form these squadrons, are they to be given their own machines or are they to be expected to go away just as individuals and to descend upon some active service squadrons and to use its machines? The point ought to be made clear. If they are to be drafted to active service squadrons, it is important that they should be able to train upon the most modern type of machine which they can be given. That raises a very important point, not only as regards the training of the Auxiliary Air Force and the Air Force Reserve, but as regards the Air Force itself. A great many of us are very anxious indeed with regard to the equipment of the Air Force itself. We have not got in this country, in any service squadron, a single machine which could catch the machine used by that very gallant Frenchman who is engaged in a round-the-world flight. We have not got a single fighter which could catch him. Our fastest fighting machine on service could not catch the fastest two-seater in any foreign country in the world. People do not realise these facts. The particulars are not given, but what I have stated is perfectly true, and I can substantiate my statement with details of the actual speeds realised.

All these questions are of the greatest possible importance, and we desire to know upon what basis these men are to be called up and what sort of equipment they are going to have. A great deal has been said as to getting students of the universities to go into training, and I am entirely in favour of that view. I want to see our air service grow up in the same way as our sea service, and it is probably vital for us that it should do so. But one point arises. If a young man goes in for the Air Force Reserve, and is in an ordinary occupation in civil life, how will he stand with regard to life insurance? Take the case of young men employed in banks. I understand that in some banks, if not in all, the clerks have to insure their lives, and the policies are held by the banks. Will any difficulty be placed in the way of this scheme by employers, and, if so, what attitude is the Government going to take? The question of life insurance enters very largely into civil life, and it is obvious that, in the popular mind at any rate, flying is regarded as a dangerous pastime, though I am not quite sure as to the relative amount of risk, comparing flying with other pursuits. At any rate, I think it would be generally accepted that flying is somewhat dangerous, and the question of life insurance is likely to be one of considerable importance, and might easily have a considerable effect upon recruiting under this scheme.

I hope we may have answers to these questions, particularly with regard to the question of cost. It is only when we know all the particulars that we shall be able to say whether this Bill is going to be worth while or not. Personally, I would rather see the Government going straight out for a scheme which would ensure us the necessary number of active service squadrons. I have grave doubts as to whether, under this scheme, you will be able to get squadrons worth anything at all, up to the required pitch of efficiency to enable them to take their place in a well co-ordinated scheme of national defence. I have seen it advocated that men should be allowed to serve in the force, and not wear uniforms, and it is suggested that in that way you might get more recruits from the engineering shops and from the working class in the great centres of population. I do not know whether it is intended to make that provision in the scheme or not, but I submit we should be given a little more information on all these points.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOSEPH NALL

I do not wish to be regarded by any means as an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill. As my noble Friend has just pointed out, it does not go far enough to meet the needs of the situation. As far as it does go, in establishing an auxiliary Air Force, and a reserve Air Force, I am rather inclined to believe that its possibilities may be over-estimated by its authors and a false sense of security or over-confidence may be engendered in the public mind, which in a few years' time we shall have reason to regret. It is necessary, when we consider the possibility of raising an Air Force on what is regarded as a Territorial basis or a system similar to that of the present Territorial Army, that we should visualise the conditions of training under which the Territorials are trained. The few evening drills in the year, the two or three week-end trainings and the 15 days in an annual camp, where the weather may be good, or may be extremely bad, provide all too few opportunities for attempting to make soldiers. But even so, nobody expects the Territorial soldier to take the field without some further intensive training if war breaks out. With an airman it is altogether different. I do not see how a pilot who is to be ready for immediate defensive purposes when war breaks out is going to be trained under any system similar to the Territorial system, and I do not see how financial provision can be made economically for training them on that basis.

In the case of the Naval Volunteer Reserve, obviously it would be quite absurd to apply the Territorial system of training. You could not have a battleship or a number of destroyers manned by Territorial sailors at Brighton or Blackpool. The Volunteer Reserve of the Navy consists, and must consist, of a number of auxiliary men who train with the regular force, and augment the regular force in times of crisis. If efficiency with economy is to be attained in providing this Air Force Auxiliary, a similar system will have to be adopted either in whole or in part. The question of the county associations, for which provision is made in this Bill, also requires consideration. An hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke previously was under some misapprehension in thinking that the Territorial Association to-day is a military organisation. The Territorial county associations are solely concerned with administration, and the present associations should be able to administer those services or branches of administration which it is their lot to undertake, as well for the Air Force as for the Territorial Army The provision of headquarters, land, buildings, clothing, equipment, the stimulation of recruiting—all these matters of administration are very similar, whether they relate to the Air Force or to the Territorial Army. To set up throughout the country, a separate and additional system of county associations, with the necessary offices and secretaries, apart altogether from keeping the necessary civilian personnel in the different areas, seems to be needless expense and to be creating overlapping.

I hope when the existing county associations are approached—as I suppose they will be in the first instance by the Air Ministry before any effort to raise separate associations is undertaken—they will regard the question from a broad-minded point of view. I understand that when lately, in pursuance of their present functions, they were asked to undertake the provision of supplementary reserves for the Regular Army, some county associations, in the backwoods of England and Wales, thought the Regular Army was quite outside the functions of the Territorial Association. If that spirit is to be manifested towards a new Air Force Reserve, obviously, the Ministry will have an excuse for setting up a separate system of associations. I hope, in case that should be necessary, that as few separate associations as possible will be created. One of the outstanding features of the present county association system is, that there are far too many separate associations. I believe in one case a county association administers less than an infantry company. The county boundary does not give the proper kind of zone for associations of this kind; nor is the county boundary the right kind of area for the allocation of personnel up and down the country.

In evolving establishments for this new scheme, I hope regard will be had to existing facilities in the country and that, the Ministry will not embark upon vast expenditure in new aerodromes and new quarters before every effort has been made to adapt existing property to their requirements. I believe these observations to be strictly relevant to the question of this Bill. I am not at all convinced that an Air Force on a Territorial basis is economically sound or that it will justify itself on an efficiency test. So far as this Bill goes, I urge upon the Government to apply it with a strict regard for economy, and to see that where it is necessary that new machines should be provided they should be handed over to new and untrained units. I urge them to see that the personnel, in the first instance, is trained with and by the existing regular squadrons. In that way alone can an efficient start be made It is true, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Lieut. Colonel Moore-Brabazon) said just now, the raising of Air Force reserves on a military basis will not appeal to many young men who might be attracted to aviation as a sport.

I do not quite follow the suggestion that the Ministry can achieve its object through a sporting organisation or even through the Aero Club, because, after all, public money cannot very well be applied in any large amounts in subsidising private sport, and I think the experience of the civil aviation subsidy a few years ago ought to be sufficient proof that money spent in that way does not provide an efficient military organisation. I think that all those hundreds of thousands of pounds that were spent under that old scheme produced something less than a score of pilots, who were not under any obligation to serve, and something under a score of aeroplanes, none of which could be adapted to military purposes. Do not let us repeat that kind of thing by granting public funds for the encouragement of private sport in aviation. I would rather that additional funds should be allotted for completing the equipment of the regular squadrons, that the number of squadrons retained at home should be increased, and that the personnel in those squadrons should be capable of training these new reservists in regular service aerodromes, and I am sure that by that means alone we shall best achieve the object aimed at by the Bill.


I want to approach this subject once more from the practical side. I was somewhat amused in the Debate this afternoon, when the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), who last spoke from the Front Opposition Bench, tried to draw a relation between a motor bicycle and a flying machine. The man who tries to draw a relation between a motor bicycle and a young man who goes out on Saturday with someone sitting behind him, and transferring that energy in the idea of sport to a flying machine, has not thought out the question, or else is trying to take a rise out of the House, as we say in Glasgow. There is no relation between the motor bicycle or the motorcar and the flying machine, for this reason, that you can train a man to take a car about and to do small running repairs, and, when absolutely beaten, to push the machine to the roadside and leave it there, but you cannot expect a young man who can handle a motor bicycle for an afternoon and do email repairs and then, when beaten, can leave it at the roadside, and both of them come home together—and when I say "both," I do not mean the bicycle, but the charge behind him—to be capable of flying a machine. What is the use of trying to discuss this subject by giving an illustration that has absolutely no relation to it? There is no relation between anyone with experience in running an engine on terra firma and anyone experienced in going into the air. Going into the air, you are in the position of the Irishman who was holding another Irishman by a rope. The man who was holding the rope said to Pat down below: "How are you?" The man down below replied: "Going on fine," and the man who was holding the rope called back: "Well, just hold on till I spit on my hands." A man may have running experience of his engine, but in the air, when anything serious goes wrong, he cannot take it into a side street; he must deal with it immediately.

My purpose in entering this discussion is to go back, as I always do, to the beginning, and that is to a thorough education. Whatever a man is going to do, he should know it from A to Z, and were I a dictator, what you would have to do in this country, if you wanted to go into the air, would be, first, to demonstrate that you knew every point about the engine in its construction, and, in addition, I should put before you all possible defects that can develop in the running of an engine, and, unless you could show to me that you could deal with every one of these likely things that could happen to the engine, you would not get it into the air. That is to say, you would require to be a first-class engineer before you would be allowed to drive that engine in the air. I saw a machine in the air yesterday, and I followed it on my bicycle for two miles. The man was in difficulties, and it was quite easy to see just exactly what happened. One of those little things took place of which the man had not been taught in this supposed school that you have, one of those little developments of which no one has any previous experience, and, of course, the man was caught. He was able to glide down on to terra firma, but he was caught.

Now, if we are going to have an Air Service, we must have it based upon absolute control, and you cannot control unless you have absolute knowledge of what you are to control. Take the suggestion of a Territorial Force; take some smart fellow who, after two or three Saturday afternoons, has been mounting with an engine and thinks he is now qualified to go into the air, and you ask some poor, innocent pilot to go up with him. The pilot with any brains, of course, will not go. It amused me tremendously to-day to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham, who said that we wanted rather to get the sporting side of this subject developed—that is to say, the sporting side of life-taking is to become something they want to develop. There is no sporting side to life-taking, and that is why I always oppose here the spending of any money or the giving of any facilities to anything in this line that is for taking life, but I will vote for any sum and give any facilities for the development of any science at all. I do not care what science it is. Some people may think that certain branches are useless, but I do not agree. There is no nation that can afford to ignore any branch of science, and I would be prepared to vote any money and give any facilities for the development of science, but not to specialise for the purpose of taking life, and that is just what has been put forward in this Debate.

The question of home and foreign service has been mentioned, but why do you not feel that you are able to deal with this question at once? A man rises, say, in this land, and he is on home service until he lands in a foreign country, and then he is on foreign service. If he comes back and lands here again, then he is again, on home service, and that seems to me to be an absolute solution of the whole problem that has been discussed for so long this afternoon. When you come to the question of the price of the machine, at £180 to £250, that would be handed our to people who want to kill a Saturday afternoon by flying instead of going out on a motor bicycle, what is the type of engine supplied in that machine? Would it be an engine in regard to which all running tests had been applied, and with a guarantee that, provided the "juice" was getting right to the spot, the engine would continue running for a certain number of hours? You would have no such guarantee as that, because the machine that would be put out at £250 maximum would not have a reliable engine. It could not be produced at that price, or, if you produced the engine, you would have to cut the branches of the trees to make up the aeroplane wings, because you could not supply both the engines and the flying parts for £250—nothing reliable. You could get a sort of Woolworth type of thing, but not a reliable type of thing. If you want to increase your death-rate, this is how to do it, on Saturday afternoons, at £250, and cheap at the price. If there had been anything serious to-day in the arguments from the Front Opposition Bench, we would have heard something about the wonderful helicopter down at Farnborough. Why was it not suggested that on Saturday afternoons we might have young men, instead of going about on motor bicycles, going about in helicopters?


Would it be in order?


Yes, I think so, because we are dealing with flying. But I will say this, that I would not have been in order if I had been saying that the helicopter we knew of had ever done any flying. I would have been out of order then, because I would not have been—


The hon. Member is not right in saying that anything connected with flying is in order. We must deal with what is dealt with in the Bill, which is for raising an Auxiliary Air Force.


I thought that, instead of providing an ordinary aeroplane for that, we might introduce something new in the way of a helicopter, because, if we want to increase the death rate, this would do it more rapidly than anything else. The serious question, however, is that of having the men efficient, and the only efficiency you can have is to have your engineer able, not only to understand his engine, but to build it and design it, if need be, and to work it and put right anything likely to go wrong; that, with the absolutely highest skill that can be obtained in the pilot, would give a combination with some chance of something being done, but to go on the lines of the niggardly business of this Bill, suggesting that you can turn Saturday afternoon sport into what you require for flying, is ridiculous. If it were going to be a real development of the science of aeronautics, then, of course, I would gladly spend any money.


There is a complete answer to what the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) has just said, and I am afraid that he, with one or two other hon. Members, has misunderstood the purpose of this Bill and the class, both of flying officers and men, whom it is proposed to enlist. Before giving that answer, which I am sure is the same as that which the Under-Secretary will give when he comes to reply later on, I should like to observe that I have listened throughout the Debate, in one of the thinnest Houses I have seen in this Parliament, to a discussion on a Bill which may have fundamental results upon the defence of this country, and I trust that no hon. Members opposite will think I am offensive when I say that, in my experience of Parliament, all the best schemes for the defence of this country have got through when there has been a thin representation of both Liberal and Labour Members in the House. We have had the advantage this afternoon of a complete absence of the pacifists. I, of course, exclude the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn), because he, like myself, has had a long experience of this matter, and I think he will admit that the most bitter speeches against armaments before the War came from the Liberal benches, just as the most bitter speeches against armaments now come from the Labour benches.

6.0 P.M.

We have had this afternoon, as I say—and all who are interested in the Air defence of this country are grateful for the fact—an almost complete absence of pacifists, both from the House and from the Debate. The one exception was the Under-Secretary, but with the exception of a reference to his own personal view, which, I think, none of us on this side of the House will blame him for making, the Under-Secretary put forward the case for the Bill—which, I believe, is a more important Measure than the House realises—in a most moderate and reasonable speech, in which he explained clearly the object of it. I, for one, feel exceedingly grateful for the fact that we have got through the Debate without hearing those speeches which are common on these occasions against air armaments, or any other armaments. The first thing about which I should like to say a word is the case of the Territorial Associations. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith, in one of those delightfully genial speeches to which we are accustomed, made a certain amount of fun of the Territorial Associations and their military attitude, or what was likely to be their military attitude, with regard to flying. He said, for example, that the military mind insisted upon uniformity, and he went on to say that the exact opposite was needed where protection from air attack was concerned. He expressed doubt whether it was advisable that the Associations should be responsible. The point, I think, which escaped his notice is that the Territorial Associations are not meant to be, primarily, a military organisation. The Territorial organisation was founded by a Bill introduced in 1908 by Lord Haldane, who said at the time that he was anxious to divorce the new Territorial Force which he was setting up from the direct control of purely military authorities. He wished it to be, as it should be, an auxiliary volunteer force, the responsibility for raising which rested primarily upon the shoulders of the representatives of all classes and all opinions in the different districts and towns.

That was the original conception of the Territorial Associations, and it has been, in the long run, very fairly carried out. You get on these associations—I have been a member of one for the last 16 years, ever since it came into being—men, I am glad to say, of all professions, of different positions in life and of varying political opinions. I may mention, in passing, that I happened to see the other day a return, which was printed for the Territorial Association of which I am a member, of recruiting in the different counties and areas in England, and it was interesting to note that three of the divisions which were first in the best recruiting results, as it happened, came, in one case from a county predominantly supporting hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, in the second case from a county predominantly supporting hon. Members above the Gangway opposite, and, in the third case, from a county predominantly supporting the party on this side of the House, so that politically there was nothing in it. It goes without saying that those associations are non-political and non-partisan, and I think they are far more valuable than the public as a whole realises. It would, obviously, be out of order to enlarge on that subject this afternoon, but as these associations are going to have devolved upon them very important new duties under this Bill, I should like to say a word further about their position.

I have just said that I think they have done in the past, and are doing to-day, very good work, but, at the same time, I am convinced that these Territorial Associations not only cannot do the work they are being asked to do now, but will not be able to do the work they are being asked to do under this Bill, unless the public and the authorities as a whole back them up. For example, I do not remember to have read a speech—I am saying it in no spirit of criticism—by any leading member of the present Government urging the public to join the Territorial Force and to support the Territorial Associations in the work they are doing, quite irrespective of party, and I would suggest that a speech, for example, from the Secretary of State for War, or the Air Minister, advocating support of the Territorials generally, and especially of this Auxiliary Force we are discussing this afternoon, would be of benefit. Then, too, I think this would be an appropriate occasion, when we are enlarging the powers of these associations, to urge upon local authorities, upon mayors of boroughs, upon chairmen of urban districts, and upon all those in authority generally on local bodies, that they might do more to help the Territorial Associations in recruiting, and to help units to obtain recruits. I think it would be a very appropriate occasion to call attention to what is really their duty in the matter, in view of these fresh responsibilities which are being put upon the associations.

I come to the argument which has just been used by the hon. Gentleman opposite, and which, I think, was used to some extent also by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Captain Brass). It was, as I understood, to this effect: How are you going, in the limited time which, we all know, is at the disposal of the average Territorial for the annual training, and for the weekly or fortnightly half-day or evening—it may be two hours—given up for training, adequately to train people for service in the air, one of the most technical services that can possibly be undertaken? The answer to that, I think, is this, and it is a complete answer to the hon. Member opposite. As I understand, it is not proposed to enlist as a pilot in this force anyone who has not already got a pilot's certificate. It is a very well-known fact that there are a great number of ex-air officers at present doing other work, who have done gallant work in the War, who have a complete knowledge of flying, and, of course, it goes without saying they have a pilot's certificate. It is hoped, as I am assured by my right hon. Friend who sits beside me, that from that class you will get the nucleus of this Force. But, in the second place, as air operations increase, as the value of the air for commercial purposes becomes more and more developed, which we all hope it may become, there will be, presumably, a large number of fresh pilots trained for commercial purposes every year, and I hope among those pilots will be found every year a number of recruits to this Force. In fact, I can conceive the time coming very soon when there will be far more pilots in this country trained for commercial purposes than this Force could contain if all the squadrons it is proposed to form were filled up. I think that is not an exaggerated statement when we think how air development is coming along. I am very glad the Government have brought in this Bill, because I think it is the clear, absolute duty of any Government at the present time, faced with the situation we are in the air from a commercial and defence point of view.


The point with which I was dealing was this. You want to train young men, do you not? The right hon. Gentleman has not shown in his speech how these men are to be trained.


I think I have answered the argument. I say there are to-day a large number of trained airmen in every sense of the word, and as flying develops, as it is doing to-day, there will be an increasing number of trained pilots.


Where are they being trained?


They are being trained through the civil training authorities. They are being trained as civil aviation develops. Just as, in the early days of steamships, there was only a small proportion of skilled marine engineers, as the steamships developed in the forties, 'fifties and 'sixties, there was witnessed a progressive development of that splendid profession, class, school, or whatever you like to call it, of trained marine engineers. Exactly the same thing is going on to-day in the air, and I hope it is not undue national pride when I say that I myself have not the slightest doubt we shall produce in the air as fine commercial airmen and pilots as we have produced sea- men and marine engineers. I think it is in the blood of Englishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, and everyone in these islands to be able to do that sort of work. In fact, I am told to-day it is a remarkable fact to see the difference in the number of passengers carried by commercial British and French machines. People go in the British machines because they trust the pilots.

Captain BRASS

There are only 24 British commercial pilots.


I am quite aware that the number is small, and an endeavour is being made to redress that state of affairs. It is those men we want to get hold of. Everything must have a beginning. If you were to say at the beginning of this great industry that we have not got enough pilots, and not enough men, and, therefore, we cannot possibly form a force of this kind, you would be making a mistake. The thing is to build up the Force as you build up civil aviation. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe referred to another aspect of the same matter. He said, for example, that in the Yeomanry you could train men comparatively easily in horsemanship, and for duties connected with the Yeomanry. In my experience, the men who joined the Yeomanry were, not entirely but in the main, men who had previous experience of horses. I think the same sort of thing will apply in this case. You will get men who have had experience in the air. The hon. Gentleman raised the question of how you would train them, and gave the case of a county in which I reside. It was an unfortunate analogy, because there is a large aerodrome there. He asked what would happen to a man at Chichester if he wanted to join. As a matter of fact, he would apply at an aerodrome three miles away.

Captain BRASS

But would the aerodrome at that particular place have the necessary mechanics?


My right hon. Friend's ideas were—and, presumably, they will be carried out by the present Government—in the first place, only to have six or seven of these associations contemplated in the Bill, and they would be mainly in industrial areas, or areas contiguous to an existing aerodrome, where, it was thought, they could get the right sort of men; but, as the thing grew, no doubt they would be able to extend the system, and, no doubt, with the growth of civil aviation, you would have more grounds available. It will no doubt be possible to come to an arrangement, such as is contemplated in the Bill, by which aerodromes might be used for this purpose. Anyhow, I suggest that the House will be well advised to support the Government; indeed, there is very little opposition to the passing of this Bill, and why I said at the commencement of my speech, as I did say, that we were really dealing with a most important and fundamental question this afternoon, was because we are really by this Bill making a start, and I think on the whole a good start, with the principle of a voluntary auxiliary air service in defence of these shores.

It cannot, of course, take the place of a regular air force, but it can assist the force, and if what I think—quite frankly—is the foolish refusal of this country to face the real problem of an adequate air defence equal to that of any other country in Europe—in the absence of any such inclination or possibility of public opinion on the question being brought round—this Bill, which had its origin in my right hon. Friend beside ms (Sir S. Hoare) is a valuable Bill, and I believe will do a good deal to increase the air spirit of which we have heard this afternoon. I trust the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Air will not listen to the suggestion made in some quarters during this Debate, and will not fail to provide adequate money to carry out the proposals in the Bill. I wish that this little Auxiliary Air Force in its early years shall be given not only the best attention of expert air opinion that the Air Ministry can give it, but that it also shall not be stinted in money; also that it will receive the blessing and good will of this House, and the encouragement of Members of the Government.


I am going to deal, perhaps inadequately, with some of the points raised in the course of discussion. First of all, I have to express appreciation at the friendly reception of the Bill. I realise that no real opposition has been expressed to the principle involved, although a good many inquiries have been addressed to me in regard to details and difficulties which hon. Members seem to foresee in the carrying out of the Bill. In this latter respect, I am indebted to the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), because he has, very successfully, I hope, cleared some of those difficulties away from the minds of hon. Members who have raised them. I want to make it clear—perhaps I should have done so better in my opening observations—that the Bill is in the nature of an experiment. It is not a big experiment, but it may be a big principle that underlies the Bill, The experiment is confined to limited areas and quite limited dimensions. The Auxiliary Air Force itself, it is proposed, shall consist of six squadrons, and we hope to raise them this year.

The total number of officers who will be enlisted for these six squadrons will be round about 160, and possibly there will be 1,000 men of other ranks. The Special Reserve Force which this Bill raises is also a limited experiment. We are suggesting seven squadrons for a Special Reserve Force, and this will involve 104 officers and 780 men for home defence purposes solely, so that the House will realise that some of the difficulties which hon. Members have been raising must surely appear rather smaller in view of the size of the experiment itself. We propose that no officer shall be given a commission in the Auxiliary Air Force except he has learned to fly. I will go further and say in order to enlist the extra number of men who are going into training in order to learn to fly that we are very favourably inclined to consider the question of making them grants for the purpose of covering the cost. Further, we are not proposing to raise any squadrons in areas where, as in Sussex, there is no population.


Let me at once remind my hon. Friend that the population of Sussex has increased to a greater extent, as shown by the last census, than any other county in England.


Very probably Sussex might in the course of time rank for a squadron or two under the scheme. We are not proposing, in our operations, to raise squadrons in the country districts, and I would further say that we are not going to employ amateur mechanics. The work will all be done by properly qualified people. The aerodrome question has not been lost sight of. We are investigating, in connection with the Territorial Associations, which are the most suitable sites in which to pursue operations. All our airmen will be trained mechanics. Then as to the Joint Associations, what we suggest I fell confident will work out as we think. Certainly others considering the matter are also confident about it, but it may turn out that the experiment is not successful, and that the proposed way of working is perhaps not the best form of administration. In that case the Bill does provide, if it be thought desirable, for the dissolution of the Joint Associations and the resumption of the status quo. I was asked by one hon. Friend to define what was meant by liability to be called up for service within the British Isles. If hon. Members will turn to Clause 5—and I thought the Bill made it perfectly clear—they will read in Sub-section (1) that: (1) It shall be lawful for His Majesty by Order in Council declaring that a case of emergency exists, to order a Secretary of State to give, and when given to revoke or vary, such directions as may seem necessary or proper for calling out to serve within the British Islands in defence of the British Islands against actual or apprehended attack all or any of the officers and men of the Auxiliary Air Force or Air Force Reserve who in pursuance of this Act are liable to be called out and to serve as aforesaid. Again, if they will look at Clause 6, Sub-section (5), they will see (5) For the purposes of this Act .… service on any flight of which the points of departure and intended return are within the British Islands or the territorial waters thereof, shall be deemed to be service within the British Islands notwithstanding that the flight may in its course extend beyond those limits. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not observed closely what that Sub-section says?


May I clear up that point? Attack is sometimes the best form of defence. Does the Clause imply a liability to be called up and sent forth to make an attack upon the air force of the opponent State?


Always as provided in the Sub-section I have just quoted. Therefore, if the foreign country is within the capacity of aeroplanes to fly under these conditions they will do it. I think I have dealt with most of the points raised by hon. Members.

Viscount CURZON

Will the Under-Secretary also deal with the question of cost, training, modern machines, and life insurance?


I cannot, I am afraid, give the precise cost, but the Estimates have already been presented and accepted by the House, and we do not propose to exceed the Estimates. Undoubtedly, we shall have to go in for new machines, and in regard to life insurance, the men will be under precisely the same conditions as in the Regular Air Service.

Viscount CURZON

May I make it quite clear? If a young man in civil life goes into the Air Force, he may perhaps have a life insurance policy. What is going to be the effect of enlistment upon that life insurance policy, or, alternatively, will it be necessary for him to take out a life insurance policy, and will the Government bear that in mind?


Certainly we have that in mind.

Captain BRASS

The hon. Gentleman has said that skilled mechanics would be employed. Where will he get those men from? Will he enlist the help of the Territorial Associations in this matter?


For The purposes of this Bill we will have to make our operations in those districts where we have an engineering population. I assume we shall be able to find those who are properly skilled.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.