§ Miss LAWRENCE
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsin view of the growing menace to national security and international peace arising from the competitive development of Air Forces, it is incumbent upon the League of Nations to strive for a common agreement to reduce these forces and to set limitations upon their use as steps towards their ultimate elimination; and this House urges that proposals to this end be initiated by His Majesty's Government in the Preparatory Commission for the forthcoming Disarmament Conference.The House listened in a holiday mood to a holiday speech by the Minister responsible for the Air Service. We all listened with delight, and some of us with envy, to his description of his delightful journey, and the House laughed and laughed again at the humorous anecdotes with which he interspersed his speech. But it was the Prime Minister who recalled the House to a sense of the realities of the situation. In a few but very weighty words at the end of his speech he brought the House back from 1455 those holiday feelings to the feelings with which in time of war the ordinary population regarded the dangers from the air. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for recalling the House to what is at the bottom of this problem. We have had speeches by many experts, and it is quite right that they should put their view, but there is also the point of view of the non-combatant, and that ought to be expressed when we are dealing with weapons which are enormously powerful for attack and destruction, and especially weak in defence. The generals and experts have told us that the whole face of war has been changed within the last few years by the progress of this invention. Once upon a time we used to read, in the history of barbaric wars, with a sort of incredulous horror, of the massacres of the civil population and the blotting out of whole towns by fire and sword. We used to say to ourselves the progress of civilisation had put an end to that particular horror. We were right in saying it, because not only the theory but the practice of all civilised nations, over a long period in which there were many disastrous and bloody wars, was not to engage in the killing of women and children and the aged and of non-combatants generally, except in the case of taking fortified towns. If we can trust the generals and the experts, that is not so any longer. The main preoccupation of every chief of staff will not be as to what the soldiers are doing in the field, but how to destroy the enemy's towns, to smash up his industrial plant, to break his seat of Government into pieces, to produce such terror, disorganisation and disorder among the civil community and the country generally as will make it impossible for a government to carry on a war; in short, to do what Marshal Foch has described as "Demoralising a people and thus disarming a Government." That will be an enormously effective weapon. Anyone who was in the slightest touch with the Minister of Munitions during the War and watched his continual efforts to keep the supply of munitions going, must have realised that anything like a panic amongst the industrial population would have brought the War to an end in a very few weeks. It would have been so in the autumn of 1915; it would have been so in the spring of 1916, and on three or four other occasions, at any rate, 1456 in the progress of that War. There will be cause enough for panic in the next war. I will quote what Brigadier-General Groves, Director of Air Operations, said in a memorandum:There is little doubt that the belligerents will resort to gas bomb attack on a large scale. This form of attack"—these are the words of a professional man who knows what he is talking about—This form of attack upon great cities such as London or Paris might entail the loss of millions of lives in the course of a few hours. The gas bombs employed would contain gas in liquid form; the liquid would be released on intact and expand to many hundred times its volume. The gas clouds so formed would be heavier than air, and would thus flow into the cellars and 'tubes' in which the population had taken refuge. As the bombardment continued the gas would thicken up until it flowed through the streets of the city in rivers. All gas experts are agreed that it would be impossible to devise means to protect the civil population from this form of attack.That is the picture General Groves draws of what the air arm will be able to do to civil populations during war. There is very often a sort of feeling among the ordinary population that to spend money upon armaments is an insurance against attack. That is the root of the great popularity of the Navy. The Navy did keep every seaside town in England perfectly safe from bombardment. But the frightful truth about this new weapon is that there is no effective means of defence at all. Ground defence —and again I quote Brigadier-General Groves —is altogether futile. He discusses whether it will be possible to protect great cities by aircraft defence, and he shows that it would be fallacious and useless. I am summarising what he has said in official documents. While it is true that the fighting aeroplanes can be used against the bombers, the fighting aeroplanes cannot, according to military experts, do very much in the way of shooting down bombers at night. That is to say, our cities lie open to that attack.
One does not like even to hint at the contingency of war between us and one of our allies, but if I take the Power that is geographically near to us, it is true that at the present time it takes about 20 minutes to cross the Channel, and it does not take more than two hours, with a good wind, to go from London to Paris. So that if you are 1457 given a dark night, a good wind and a little luck, in two or three hours we could break up Paris, and they could break up London. War would not have gone on very long before all those little pleasant seaside places on either side of the Channel would have been just like No Man's Land in the War. I am saying this to the War Minister, but who knows it better than he does? He has discussed it himself. I have a quotation from one of his speeches when he occupied the same position that he does now. He said in October, 1925:London was of all the great capitals of the world the most vulnerable to air attack owing to its geographical situation. The attacks launched against London during the War, judged by the standards of to-day, and still more by the standards of the future, were on an altogether insignificant scale. The Government proposed to press on with the policy of peace. They wanted to make the possibility he had hinted at remote, and to lose no opportunity of reducing the great burden of armaments expenditure. As Secretary for Air, the more he saw of the possibilities of air warfare in the future, the more anxious he was to take every legitimate opportunity of making impossible developments which, if left to themselves, might destroy civilisation.What we are here asking the Minister to do is precisely what he said was most desirable. We are asking him to do that, and to take the opportunity of a Disarmament Conference. And not military aviation alone, because civil aviation, I think, is more dangerous to the world than military aviation. It is not merely, as was said by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), that commercial planes can be readily converted into bombers if they are built from the beginning with that possibility in view. That is not the main thing. The main thing is that inventors accustomed to turn out commercial machines of a particular type, can as easily turn out great quantities of bombers if the type is arranged with that in view. The truth is that so frightful are the predicted casualties in the air arm both in men and machines, that a very large reserve is necessary if the country is to have an Air Force, and if its air fighting is to Last more than a few weeks in a war. You want to have great resources for factories and material. You want personnel, organisation and, in short, all those things which developed civil flying give you.
1458 When the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury (Sir A. Burgoyne), who knows what he is talking about, said how necessary it was to have a great reserve of civil flying, he was speaking in professional language what I am trying to say as an amateur, that if the country is to have an air force, if its air fleet is not to be wasted and destroyed in a very few weeks of war, you want to have behind you all that machinery and all that personnel both on the ground and in the air. That organisation is being developed now. Just consider the number of aerodromes and stations in all that elaborate system of lines—London-Paris, London-Rotterdam, London-Rotterdam-Berlin, Berlin-Moscow, Paris-Warsaw, Paris-Copenhagen and all the intermediate stations. Every one of those aerodromes and every one of the men employed there could be, and would be, used if war broke out, as depots for bombers. That civil aviation is a reserve for military aviation was said in so many words here by the hon. and gallant Member for Aylesbury, and that is why our Government subsidises civil flying. We are not spending £460,000 a year these hard times in order to allow some people to go by what is, after all, the easiest and most delightful mode of travel. It is not in order to give a few people a pleasant trip that this country spends £460,000 a year. It spends it with a view to those possibilities which Brigadier-General Groves has mentioned. And when I saw Sir Alan Cobham come back, and everyone ran to see him, and when I heard the Minister of Air telling us how pleasant, how delightful, how interesting it was to travel in the air, what was behind that was precisely the reports I have read of the military experts, the wiping-out of millions of lives according to Brigadier-General Groves, in a few hours.
I think there is no greater amusement in the world than travelling by air, but in the present state of the world it is too dangerous a toy for us to play with. I think it is a toy of which the world should restrict its uses until this world of ours has a little more sense, and the danger of war is a little more remote. No one can say the world is free from the danger of war. I think many of us last Thursday, when listening to the debate, felt that the possibility of war was very great indeed. Therefore, I say 1459 this country ought to go to the Disarmament Conference with a formal proposal for a Treaty of Disarmament, which should deal with military flying and with civil flying. Sub-committee A has prepared general technical schemes by which disarmament might be possible, given good will among the nations. They have spoken of the three principles of limitation and I have seen technical papers showing how it would be possible to have effective tests for the limitation of military flying—such tests as the number of men in training, the limitation of the trained pilots, the limitation of the total horse power, and so on. Such things are things which the experts and military men can work out, and, therefore, I soy chat Britons should go to the Disarmament Conference and offer an arrest of our own programme. An hon. Member said it was not a time to do it, because the matter was fluid. Is there a better time for disarmament than before we establish exactly what we want, before we build up a great power, while the potentialities are still in an imperfect state? That is the ideal moment. We cannot deal with military flying unless we deal with civil flying as well. This subject is more difficult technically, but it is much less difficult politically. The great thing is that the industrial countries, the developed countries, the countries which have the industrial groups of skilled men capable of putting forward a great war construction, should get together. Those countries are ourselves, not in the first line as regards civil flying; France, which has a great deal of civil flying; Italy, which has a formidable fleet but not so much civil flying; and Germany, which is hardly armed in the air, but which has by far the best system of civil flying in Europe. Those are the countries which should get together. If they got together the countries which buy their aeroplanes would be of very secondary importance.
It was said in the Debate on land disarmament that we could not do anything because of the wickedness of Russia. I am not going to discuss here the fact that Russia will not come to a disarmament conference because it is held in Switzerland, and that if we wanted to have Russia at such a conference, we 1460 should go to some place outside the borders of Switzerland. But I am going to state this fact. Russian flying would be nothing at all if it were not for her agreement with Germany. Everybody knows that the Russian company is to a great extent a Germany company. You have the arrangement of a German company in Berlin and then that stops and you go on with a German-Russian company to Moscow. Anybody who has been in a Russian aerodrome knows that they are in Germany when they get there. The industrial countries—America, and at present they cannot come here and we cannot get there—France, Italy to a slight extent, ourselves to a pretty considerable extent and Germany to a dominating extent—those are the countries where civil flying is important as a reserve to military flying. If we had an agreement, even if it were only a limited agreement, between these countries it would be of the first importance if we could treat all aeroplanes as munitions of war and make them subject to an arms treaty and controlled, as the export of arms to a certain extent is controlled. If we could do this, we should then get on with this matter of the limitation of aeroplanes. I am told, for instance, that General Chang has bought 150 aeroplanes under another label. I do not know whether that is so or not. I have seen it in the paper, but I do not know whether it is true. But whether that is so or not, there is nothing in all the arms treaty with China to prevent his importing aeroplanes that might be used for war purposes.
There are two general principles which should be followed. The direct subsidies of individual Governments towards civil flying ought to cease altogether and entirely because of the danger of their influence on the type of aeroplane, and because I think we have, already more civil flying than is good for the nation. Secondly, flying should be taken away from the nation, from the control of each Government, and the civil flying of the world should be carried out by an international board, under the rules laid down by the League of Nations. From the business point of view that would be a perfectly simple thing, for the reason that the present commercial companies interlock. They use each other's planes and aerodromes and they have an 1461 arrangement for that purpose. Anybody who has ever travelled by air knows how they alternate their planes; how a German plane comes here and an English plane goes to Berlin; how you change at Amsterdam, sometimes into a Dutch plane, sometimes into a German plane, and sometimes into a Scandinavian plane, and go on to Germany. The technical difficulty of collecting these airways under a common management has been solved. The scheme which I think would do more for the peace of the world than anything else would be a proposal from Great Britain that the civil flying of the world should be given over to an international Commission, and that all direct subsidies of Parliaments to civil flying in their countries should end. We should in that way do away to a considerable extent with the development of civil flying which leads to military flying. I am quite frank about it. I do not think the nations ought to he allowed to play with this dangerous toy any more than children should be allowed to play with boxes of matches. Such a proposal would prevent the diversion of the civil aeroplanes to aeroplanes of a military type. If this country were to give a lead in the matter, the other countries of the world would do away with this dangerous thing. In conclusion, let me quote the words of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, the present Chief of the Imperial Air Staff, who, speaking of flying, said:I feel that all the good it will do in civil life cannot balance the harm that may be done in war by it, and if I had the casting vote, I should say abolish the air.He means by that, air flying. He goes on:I feel that it is an infinitely more harmful weapon of war than any other.Because that is so, I ask our Government and I ask the Secretary of State for Air to put into force that which he said in 1925 were his own dearest hopes.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
I beg to second the Amendment.
Those of us who are on this side of the House have been looking forward for many weeks and, indeed, for many months now, in order to see what would be this year the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to this third and new fighting service of this country. 1462 We have been saying to ourselves over and over again that 1927 is a very critical year in Britain's foreign policy. Great Britain has to decide this year her attitude to the League of Nations in regard to a policy of general disarmament. While that does not in itself contain any binding pledge which would influence the actual Estimates put forward in the year 1927, yet it is perfectly clear that with so momentous a decision lying before the British nation—a decision that must be taken this year in terms of the British Army, in terms of the British Navy and in terms of the British Air Service—it seems to us, and particularly those who sit on this side of the House, appropriate, from the point of view of creating an atmosphere that carries success with it, that there might have been in all three sets of Estimates, some very definite and very special reference to the programme of general disarmament that lies before the country. We listened on Monday to the explanation of the Estimates for the land forces presented by the Secretary of State for War. We had not only his speech, but a number of speeches from the other side of the House. We had to record at the end of that day that there was not so much as a single reference, either by word of mouth or in any of the important printed documents bearing on the subject of the Estimates this year, to this outstanding fact of the general Disarmament Conference which is to be held this year at Geneva.
In seconding this Amendment I have to begin with regret that, so far as the Air Estimates for this year are concerned, there is not a single reference or hint to those Estimates having been influenced by this important Conference which lies so immediately ahead of us. On the contrary, in looking through the Estimates and in reading carefully through the Memorandum which the Air Minister has prepared for us, there is nothing there except the continuity of the policy of expansion which was laid down some years ago to govern the air services of this country. The Secretary of State for Air this afternoon emphasised what was laid down in the Memorandum itself. This year 1927–28 is to see a further definite piece of expansion work with regard to the British Air Service carried out. We are to see approximately 1463 six new squadrons built and established in the course of this year. We are reminded that when this year comes to an end we shall have a Home Defence Force of 28 squadrons and that this represents only a little more than 50 per cent, of the expansion programme that was laid down four years ago. We are reminded that there have been such remarkable changes in the technique of the Air Service that the Air Minister was able to tell us with considerable satisfaction this afternoon that in this year there will be no wartime aeroplanes in the Service. There will be no wartime machines or engines employed in the future Air Service of the country. So wonderful and rapid have been the changes and improvements in technique, that even the 1918 warplane is already an obsolete instrument. We have been reminded by the Air Minister this afternoon that, in the work that has been done in carrying out this policy of expansion and improvement since 1922–23, not only from the point of view of this mother island but from the point of view of the Empire as a whole, he sees us this year at the dawn of a new period in Air matters, whether we think of Air matters in terms of commercial policy or whether we think of Air matters in terms of defence. All this remarkable policy of expansion has been carried out under the cover of the limiting principle that the results obtained have been obtained by retarding temporarily the expansion of the Royal Air Force.
All this extraordinary development has taken pace with the brake on. If we had had more money to spend it is perfectly clear that the brake would have been removed before this year. We have been reminded that our stocks of munitions built up during the War period are running out and the House has been warned that from the point of view of maintaining existing supplies a policy of increasing expenditure will be inevitable at a very early date. When we remember that all this has been done under a policy of limitation, and that under these circumstances this amazing policy of expansion has been carried out we are led to ask where the Air Minister will take this country when once he takes the brake off, and what kind of Air Service we may expect when financial reasons 1464 will not restrain him and when he gets into his stride with the full policy of the Government.
I can understand the Air Minister thinking of himself, not as being responsible for a military policy but as being essentially concerned with civil aviation. I think part of the great charm of the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon lay in the fact that he outlined the wonderful triumphs of the human mind in this department of human achievement from the point of view of civil aviation. The Air Minister followed that rule at the late Imperial Conference, but I think he will appreciate that Members on all sides of the House will be impressed with the dual personality of the Air Minister. While the right hon. Gentleman aspires to be "a guide, philosopher and friend" to civil aviation, he is also the responsible person for the military policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to aviation. I can well understand that he would like to feel he is Dr. Jekyll as often as possible because to be reminded of the other is to be reminded of what must constitute the most terrible problem which concerns not only this country but the world as a whole. I received from Professor Charles Richer a book entitled "Idiot Man, or the Follies of Mankind." In turning over the pages of this book in the small hours of this morning I came across a passage dealing with aviation which I will summarise and it shows what we feel about the Air Minister in respect of his policy:Aviation is a very fine thing, a decisive victory over gravity, that relentless gravity which seemed destined to keep us tied to earth until the end of time, and I give it due reverence. But when we make it the essential function of aerial machines to scatter bombs and terror over peaceful towns at midnight, then at once my admiration withers, and I prefer the society of the penguins and the bisons who know nothing of aviation.That is something of the temper of realism which the House will appreciate because it shows the Minister of Air in his dual capacity. In trying to work out the relation between civil and military development in the air I took the trouble two days ago to read what the Air Minister had to say before the Imperial Conference last year. I noticed there that he was dealing exclusively with civil aviation and he left the whole matter of military development in the hands of one 1465 of his experts. I regret that there is not a word to be found in that important Command Paper 2769, which reveals the Government's military policy, and I can only find in the whole of that extraordinarily lucid and informative speech made by the Air Minister from the point of view of civil aviation one paragraph which reveals his mind from the military point of view, and I will read his peroration to the House:Hitherto the air has been the scene of glorious though terrible conflicts; it has been the background from which death and destruction have been hurled upon camps in cities. The purest of the elements was not intended for the destruction of civilisation by high explosives or poison gas. The invention of the flying machine which the pioneers of successive centuries strove to achieve was meant for something better than an instrument of concentrated frightfulness. With the horror of the last War in our memories, and the limitless terrors of any future war in our minds, let us make the air a highway of peace, and the aeroplane an instrument not for severing nations and destroying civilised life, but for making closer and more constant the unity of Imperial thought, Imperial intercourse and Imperial ideals.In this peroration the Air Minister in his civil aviation speech at the Imperial Conference talks of what I want to say in regard to the Amendment which I am seconding. I hope that every hon. Member in this somewhat empty House will agree with me that nobody could have express with a more sensitive or a more artistic mind the dangers that lie before mankind from the pursuance of a military policy of aviation. What I want to put before, the Air Minister in the first place is that in that peroration I do not see how anything that is to be found in these Estimates, or in the Memorandum which has been placed before the House, or in the Air Minister's speech this afternoon will help in the least to make good the very desirable ideal, or the very desirable programme which was outlined before the Imperial Conference last year. I want to ask in the very plainest way whether the Air Minister thinks that the Estimates which he has submitted to this House are in fact going to contribute to the peaceful development of the nations of the world, and whether that policy of expansion as laid down in the Estimates to-day will achieve the civil ideal which the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind.
It is clear, from our past experience of war, and especially of the only war in 1466 which aviation has played a large part, that the policy enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman to-day is the reverse of a peace and civilian policy. He is laying the foundations of a rapid building up of military aviation, not simply in this country, but in every other State polity throughout the world. What is the policy which His Majesty's Government are pursuing with regard to aviation? I should like to think there had been some change in 1927. The forthcoming Disarmament Conference warranted the announcement of some change, but I am afraid I am strictly correct in taking the view that the policy which the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing to-day is that which was laid down in the Imperial Conference of 1923, and which was reaffirmed in the Imperial Conference last year. If I may quote the actual text which binds the present Government with respect to military air policy, it is this:The necessity for the maintenance by Great Britain of a Home Defence Air Force of sufficient strength to give adequate protection against air attack by the strangest air force within striking distance of her shores.I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will deny that that is the policy he is pursuing. His Estimates this year are a reaffirmations of that policy which was laid down in 1923. That means, I take it, that since 1923 we have adopted a 50/50 standard in relation to our nearest neighbour, France.
I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question last year, in the hope that he would make a little more explicit, in terms of numbers of machines, just what was included in the policy laid down at the Imperial Conference. I did not get any satisfactory answer, but I think I shall be well within the limits of that policy if I say that, so far as the Home Defence Force is concerned, the British Government intend to have at least as many aeroplanes and at least as much equipment as France herself has, and that, if France should increase her air policy, Great Britain would not be content with the existing policy of expansion, but would continue to climb after whatever new limits France might choose to set up. I take it, in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon, that the policy of Empire mobility—which means that the British Air Service would be as efficient a 1467 striking unit in any part of the Empire as it is here in London—would mean that the nearest striking force to our own shores would include, say, the United States of America or Japan; so that this policy of a 50/50 standard does come to mean, in effect, that we are going to have an Air Service at least as great as any that can be built up in the world. If that be so, I take it that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to encourage every other State in the world to set up this 50/50 standard. I do not think they could object, or would desire to object, to any other country adopting that kind of policy under the same terms and conditions.
If that be so, it is clear from our experience from 1906 to 1914 that the air policy of His Majesty's Government, described as a policy of defence, would tend inevitably to lead this nation to war. It is, therefore, perfectly legitimate to describe it as a policy which is stimulating competition in air armaments, and is encouraging a policy of mutual rivalry that will achieve the same kind of result as the same policy achieved from 1906 to 1914. I remember, in those pre-War years, the enormous amount of discussion that took place in this country, particularly after the ex-Kaiser announced his policy of Germany's future being on the water. I remember the military experts of this country saying definitely that we had not, in principle, any objection to Germany so long as she simply claimed to build up the largest land Army on the Continent, so long as she followed a one-power standard in respect of militarism; but, the moment Germany set herself to become a two-Power standard, and not only to have the largest Army on the Continent, but also to build up in addition the second greatest Navy in Europe, we all began to say in this country that Germany was embarking upon a policy that would lead to war.
We have insisted, as part of our naval policy since 1919, that we should have a Navy than which there should be none greater in the world, and I understand that from 1923 onwards we have been committed to the principle that we shall have an Air Service than which there shall be none greater in the world. In pursuance of that policy, we are giving 1468 the most powerful stimulus that can be given to the modern world in the direction of rival armaments, and in a direction, therefore, that makes for a second world war. If we persist in the pursuit of this policy, by whatever name we may describe the results of our action, we are falling into the policy which Lord Grey, for example, has so roundly condemned. As I understand Lord Grey's point of view, and his mature conclusions looking back over a lifetime of experience in these grave and solemn matters, he has stated emphatically that the nation which embarks upon a policy of increasing armaments is, in principle, committing the world to a second world war. Therefore, I want to press the Secretary of State for Air to state, when he replies, in view of the imminence of the Disarmament Conference, whether he is not prepared to say that there is an alternative policy which His Majesty's Government can pursue with regard to aerial armaments; whether he is not prepared to see if proposals can be put forward this year at Geneva for a mutual limitation and reduction of air armaments; and whether His Majesty's Government are not prepared to say definitely that they have some alternative policy in mind—that they are not irretrievably bound to the policy of catching up to France, that they are not irretrievably bound to the conception that they will in any and all circumstances insist upon having an Air Force as great as any that can be built up in the world.
We have a certain amount of practical guidance as to an alternative policy. The Secretary of State for Air knows, perhaps better than anyone else in the House, that in the light of our experience of aerial warfare, especially from 1915 to 1918, and the events to which the Prime Minister referred this afternoon, that in the carrying out of stage one of the policy of world disarmament in Paris in 1919—in applying the policy of disarmament to Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria—it was made perfectly plain there by the experts and as the considered judgment of the Paris Conference, that aerial weapons were definitely aggressive weapons. When the principles of disarmament were applied to these four States it was definitely and clearly laid down, not that Germany or Austria or Hungary or Bulgaria should be made in- 1469 capable of defence. There was no Utopian ideal pursued. They were all practical mining men. They were not anxious to denude Germany or the other three States of the armaments they possessed. They only wanted to make peace secure, to make it impossible for Germany to pursue in future the aggressive policy of which she had been deemed to be guilty in 1914. It is a very remarkable fact that in working out that very practical policy the Allied experts laid down the condition that Germany should be, in respect of air arms, totally disarmed. That was not done with regard to the Army or with regard to the Navy except in the case of submarines. It is very impressive, as the judgment of the military experts of the world, that when it came to the problem of trying to prevent aggressive war in the future the policy of total disarmament should be laid down with regard to air armaments.
With regard to the forthcoming general disarmament conference it is clearly necessary that we should have some common principle. I should like to ask the Air Minister whether he proposes to recommend to Lord Cecil, when he speaks on his behalf from March onwards at Geneva, that there shall in future be two standards of disarmament, whether he is going to have the 1919 standard for air disarmament for four States who have now all been admitted to membership in the League and have all been given a clean bill of health in respect of having done their duty with regard to these proposals for disarmament—whether he is going to advocate the continuance of one principle of disarmament for them and another for the whole of the rest of the States both in and out of the League of Nations. If he is not prepared to do that, if the policy laid down in 1919 was deemed to be good for all practical purposes for those four States, if it was deemed that they would be secure and that they had still enough armaments left for any reasonable defensive policy that could be defined, it is reasonable to take the view that the 1919 standard of disarmament should become the standard to he aspired to, the guiding, limiting principle in any consideration of general disarmament in this year before the League of Nations. I do not want to see Germany—I see no alternative if he does not agree with me—or Austria or Hungary or 1470 Bulgaria being allowed to come back to some new standard we are going to set up this year. I cannot see how we can, with any sense of legality or public decency or morality, apply from this year onwards a higher standard for 51 States within the League and persist in this 1919 standard for the other four States. I shall resist strenuously any policy for Germany, for Austria or Hungary to climb up to some new and undefined level which we may fix this year. I want to see the 1919 standard for these four States remain unchanged. But if I am going to will that end I have to will inevitably that all the other States shall set up the 1919 standard as their ideal.
I want the Minister to face up to this most real and most urgent and most practical of issues. What is to be the principle that will guide this country with regard to recommendations for disarmament before the League of Nations 6hia year at Geneva? I am not suggesting that the 1919 standard should be absolutely realised in the course of 12 months. I am not suggesting that in every detail we can work it out in the course of 12 months, but there should be some clearly defined ideal lying behind the whole of the movement and the detailed propositions that we are going to put forward. If we cannot work along these lines A is clear that the logic of the policy the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing is not in the direction of civil aviation, but is very definitely and very rapidly a movement in the direction of warfare. May I remind the Minister of the position he has reminded the House of more than once in the last two or three years? In the light of the able address given by my hon. Friend in moving this Amendment it is clear that the fighting air service is very rapidly destined to become the most important of the three fighting services. It is rapidly destined to become the outstanding weapon of warfare in the future. He himself, speaking in 1925, underlined very definitely the danger which would come from the pursuit of the present policy when he said:The more he saw of the possibility of air warfare in the future the more anxious he was to take every legitimate opportunity of making improvements and developments which, if left to themselves, might destroy civilisation.He has reminded the House on more than one occasion of the revolutionary develop- 1471 ments which have taken place in the technique of aviation since the conclusion of the first world War. He said in 1925:In the late War some 300 tons of bombs only were dropped upon this country. The Air Force to-clay could drop the same weight in the first 24 hours of war and could continue this scale of attack indefinitely. I need not dilate upon this terrible and repulsive picture.I was looking at an American book two or three weeks ago which reminded us of the development that took place from 1914 to 1918. The writer said the first bombs that were used by Germany in their first attack on Paris were little larger than oranges. He went on to relate the position in 1918, when the American laboratories had invented Lewisite gas, and were preparing to make, in co-operation with this and the French Government, their attack upon Berlin. I read Professor Raileigh's book, in which he regretted very much that that raid had not been carried out. I understood from him that had the War lasted three weeks longer it would have been an accomplished fact. I gathered from the American account that the bombs proposed to be used in that raid on Berlin, which was to conclude the War, had grown from the size of an orange to being eight feet high, considerably taller than the tallest airman who was to use the material. The weight of those bombs was something like half a ton. One American expert said that, given a favourable wind, 12 of those bombs would have been enough to have destroyed the whole of the population of Berlin. If that were the case in 1918, it is perfectly clear that our efficiency in destructive methods has been greatly advanced since then. The Secretary of State for Air has been responsible for developing a policy of co-operation with the universities of this country, not to mention the programme which is directly under the control of His Majesty's Government. He is in touch with all kinds of scientific associations in this country, and he knows perfectly well that he has at his command the very best and the ablest scientists which not only this country but the world can produce. That co-operation has been going on for seven years, and, therefore, we may take it for granted that if such great changes took place from 1914 to 1918 in 1472 destructive methods, there have been very great changes in the same direction from 1918 to 1927.
I want to plead with the right hon. Gentleman that we are dealing now not simply with the continuity of policy, but we are dealing in 1927 with the great revolution that has taken place in the technique of warfare. We are discussing now the possible continuity of the existence of civilisation. I appreciate as well as any hon. Member in this House, and certainly as well as hon. Members opposite, the value of all that is best in our traditions. I love the good old customs of England; I love whatever is beautiful, and I find pleasure in this illustrious part of our common civilisation, but it is only commonsense that we should compel ourselves not to use words like "continuity" when we are dealing really for the first time in the history of the world with a challenge to the continued existence of civilisation. I therefore plead with the right hon. Gentleman to implement the peroration of the civil aviation speech which he made at the Imperial Conference by a definite statement of ways and means as to how he can become a great civilian Air Minister in this country, and what steps he is going to take this year in order that Great Britain in the terms of an aerial policy shall set an example and give a concrete, reasonable example as to what we are prepared to do to keep the military policy in the air definitely under control, to keep under control this militarism in the air, this poison in the air, this thing that sullies and renders ghastly what he described as the purest of all our elements.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not reply, like the Under-Secretary for War replied on Monday, by evading the questions which I put to him. I want him to advise Lord Cecil when he goes to Geneva to give expression to an aerial policy which will make his ambitions in regard to civil aviation come true. I want him to say not merely in terms of men, of machines, of gas bombs, fire bombs, disease bombs, explosive bombs, in terms of laboratory experiments, in terms of assistance from the scientific associations, but I want him to say in concrete terms what we are prepared to do not only in regard 1473 to the military side of our present aviation policy, but what we are prepared to do in connection with the other side, the civil aviation side which is so closely bound up with it. We cannot separate the two. The weakness, the kink in the 1919 policy from the point of view of securing disarmament is that Germany by means of her Air policy is well away again from the point of view of potential warfare. Everybody knows that Germany by her civil aviation policy could release bombers in any number for the purpose of warfare at short notice. Everybody knows, therefore, that unless these two matters are taken together and until we are prepared to develop civil aviation, because it underlies and cannot be separated from our military policy, we cannot hope successfully to deal with the problem.
I hope, therefore, that that right hon. Gentleman to-night will give us some hope that there is an alternative policy which is being seriously considered by the Government, that it can be implemented by detailed figures and statements, and not that we are going to have to-night merely a repetition of pious phraseology and generalities, and in addition, the application of the 1923 Imperial policy. I sincerely believe that the policy of His Majesty's Government in respect to the Air Service at the present time is leading to competition, to rivalry, and is stimulating all over the world an increasing policy of aerial armaments, and is therefore not laying the foundations of peace. I want some definite statement as to what 1927 is to signify in regard to aerial armaments for the guidance of the League of Nations in the forthcoming disarmament policy. We have followed only too often the policy of excellent statements on paper but of bad policy in deeds. We sent out an excellent Memorandum to China, making for conciliation and negotiation, but we implemented that by a very considerable despatch of His Majesty's fighting forces. Last year, we had domestic trouble. We had an excellent doctrine in Sir Herbert Samuel's Report, and excellent professions coming from the Prime Minister, but the actual practice of 1926 was civil strife for nearly half the year. The citizens of this country are waiting for this dualism, this policy of Dr. Jekyll 1474 and Mr. Hyde, to be brought to an end. I hope that the present Air Minister will look into the question as a whole, and that we shall have some repudiation of the military policy of the Government and the setting up of a concrete policy of peaceful aerial development which can be looked at in detail before the judgment bar of the world, and which can be implemented at Geneva in 1927.
Sir HARRY ERITTAIN
As one of those who some time ago signed a requisition to Mr. Speaker that speeches should be limited to ten minutes, I will not keep the House long in putting before them as briefly as I can one or two points. I am bound to say, having sat through the last two speeches, that I am intensely persuaded to side-track what I had intended to say and to follow them. There is a well-known historic question which has been repeated again and again, asking what Mr. Gladstone said in 1874. I should like to bring that question up to date, and to ask what it was that the Labour party did in 1924. What did they do? They had the very good sense to increase the Air Force of this country, which was badly needed. Tempting as it is to follow some of the arguments of the preceding speakers, I will limit myself to one or two points.
In the most interesting speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) there was one point which I should like to emphasise, and on which I believe I have the full sympathy of the Minister, that is, the necessity of spreading the programme for orders for aeroplanes, engines and everything connected with the Air Force. I see no reason why that should not be done. It is done in the Navy, and if it could be done in the Air Force it would mean not only that a great deal of unemployment would be done away with and that men could be regularly employed throughout the year, but that the concerns which make aeroplanes, engines, etc., could run their regular orders. That would mean a great saving to the Air Ministry, because by ordering stuff ahead it could be ordered at a great deal lower price than if it has to be done on the hit and miss principle as it is done now from Budget day to Budget day. Last year I endeavoured to the best of 1475 my poor ability to make a few suggestions with regard to our Imperial air policy on the civil side, and I put forward a few lines on which I thought new routes could be opened. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that the suggestions would be considered at the Imperial Conference. Much has been done in blazing the trial for these Empire trade routes, and by no one more than the right hon. Gentleman himself in his splendid flight to India and back. But much remains to be done.
I should like to ask him what prospects there are of one particular line of planes which might be developed with great, advantage to an important section of the Empire—the seaplane service to connect up British Guiana with the Bahamas, running round the whole perimeter of the islands in the West Indies. I have been to every one of these islands and I can assure him that the steamship connections are very poor indeed. They average no more than 50 miles apart and I am convinced that a seaplane service running from Georgetown across Trinidad up to the islands of the Bahamas and on to the coast of the United States would be a paying concern. It would carry mails from North and South America, a large amount of merchandise and a considerable number of passengers. I should like to know whether any encouragement can he given in this direction. It would be most acceptable to the people of the West Indies. I should also like to suggest, if it is possible, that official encouragement should be given to the full to such bodies as the Aerial League of the British Empire. We have not developed to the same extent as countries on the Continent our air sense and love of the air. I do not see why we should not have as many members of our Aerial League as the Aerial League of France, which has well over a million members. There is one other subject which I should like to touch upon, and it is one which I believe the right hon. Gentleman has much at heart. It is the encouragement of the University Air Squadrons at Oxford and Cambridge. The term "air squadron" is slightly misleading, but the term itself does not matter.
I believe the possibilities of the work at Oxford and Cambridge in this direction 1476 are illimitable. They are the child of the great universities as well as the Air Ministry, and they have as their object, first, perhaps, a regular flow of candidates for commissions in the Air Force; secondly, to do what they can to teach those who wish to go in for aeronautics as a profession and, thirdly, the development of technical and research problems. In our two great universities there is today a wealth of scientific talent and immense scope for originality. They have the best type of man, and it is difficult to exaggerate the keenness with which they grapple with their work. I was at Cambridge only last week, and with Commander Bowen went over the school there, which is making great strides. I think they owe much of the keenness to the energy of the senior Member for Cambridge University (Sir G. Butler), who has devoted himself heart and soul to the development of this school. Research work, I am glad to say, is being carried out to a considerable extent in the Universities of Liverpool and Birmingham, and it is from these universities, particularly from the two older universities, that we are able to find magnificent material. I hope the Air Minister will do all he can to see that the apparatus in these schools is as up to date as possible—that is not the case at the moment—and that they have every chance to develop technical and scientific research. I hope he will do everything he can to encourage an air sense and love of the air in this country, and extend the opportunities for acquiring technical knowledge of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I am afraid it is not possible for me to follow the general lines which have governed this Debate so far, but I am encouraged to make the points I have in mind by the statement made by the Prime Minister during his very interesting speech in regard to accidents. I understand the Prime Minister to say that the Air Ministry had carried economy to the utmost limit. I am afraid that it would be extremely difficult to find any member of the Public Accounts Committee who is prepared to agree with that statement. I make so bold as to suggest that the few remarks I have to make are in no sense party statements but are statements which would be re-echoed by 1477 the whole of the members of that Committee, no matter to what party they may belong. I am interested to notice that in the Memorandum which the Minister for Air has circulated, he calls attention to the very long and careful examination which was devoted to his Estimates by the Public Accounts Committee, and announcing thatIn accordance with a desire expressed by the Public Accounts Committee in their Second Report of 1926, the Air Estimates are presented this year with inter-leaved sheets.I am sure that anyone who has done the Public Accounts Committee the honour of reading the long examination, which extended over a series of days, will think it is rather remarkable that the Minister should dismiss the very important criticisms against his policy and the practice of his Department by making such a great concession as the interleaving of the Estimates.
The first criticism against the Air Ministry has been in regard to its Estimates. In 1921–22, the Estimates were 26 per cent. out. In 1922–23, the net Estimate was 17.55 per cent. out. In 1923–24, they were 12.54 per cent. out. In 1924–25, they were a great deal better, and they were only 2.82 per cent. out. In 1995–26, I am glad to say that the Air Ministry has got to a point of being pretty exact because the difference is only '41 per cent. out. I give those figures because, having arrived at this standard it is important that it should be maintained I want to remind the Minister that although that point has been reached, and the Estimate is only .41 per cent. out, under Votes Nos. 4, 5 and 6 there are errors in estimating of 7.5, 14.6 and 24.6 per cent. respectively. But whilst the Ministry have made a great improvement so far as the Estimates are concerned, I and my colleagues are still very much disturbed with regard to their methods of handling contracts, and in many other respects. I want to refer to one or two contracts with which Members of all parties were very gravely dissatisfied. In January, 1926, the Ministry placed a contract with regard to the framework of the airship R.101. The tender was given to a particular firm, because that firm had done experimental work in that connection. The Ministry contended that it would be better to employ that particular firm 1478 than to throw the contract open to tender. The nature of the contract was unusual. The payment was to be the actual cost of labour and material, plus fixed sums for establishment charges, tools, plant and the preparation of designs. The fixed sums were arrived at on the basis of an estimate that the work would be completed by 31st December, 1926. The sum of £1,000 was agreed upon to cover any delay which might occur of a normal character.
When the date arrived on which that contract should have been completed, very small progress had been made. So far as I can understand, the delay was entirely attributable to the staff of the Ministry. The net result of the placing of this contract before the Minister and his staff were prepared to deal with the details, was that the Treasury had to make a payment of £14,800 in full settlement of all claims in respect of delays which had occurred up to September, 1926, and they had to make the condition with the firm that the contract provision should be so altered as to apply from 1st October, 1926, to 31st December, 1927. The Treasury came to the conclusion that the contract had been entered into prematurely by the Ministry and it is to be noted that not only was that airship not completed by the date which the Ministry had in mind but that the whole reason for not placing that contract out to open tender was absolutely destroyed by the Ministry's inability to secure the work in the time desired. So that the Ministry not only failed to secure the airship, not only failed to secure the lowest possible price by placing the contract out to open tender, but in addition incurred the expense of £14,800, with absolutely no necessity whatever.
Leaving that particular side of the matter for a moment, I want to call attention to a practice which grew up in Iraq, where the Ministry permitted certain native tradesmen to occupy official lands in order that they might trade with the troops. The native tradesmen were called upon to pay rent for their occupancy. The extraordinary position grew up that, as I understand, moneys which should have accrued to the national Exchequer were devoted to the benefit of the regimental funds. When that was challenged a Departmental witness, so 1479 far as I understood him, endeavoured to justify the position. A compromise was subsequently agreed to, whereby this national money should be divided between the Exchequer and the unit fund. I now ask the Secretary of State whether that irregularity is still being practised or whether we can have an assurance that national income is being paid into the national Exchequer.
There is a further matter relating to Iraq, and that is in respect of the sale of stores. Stores declared to be surplus to requirements were sold by private treaty instead of by public tender. There was very grave suspicion of bribery in regard to these transactions. Yet such is the benevolent attitude of the Ministry that they decided that it was in the public interest to leave the further employment of this contractor, who was suspected of serious bribery, to the discretion of the local Air Officer Commanding. I submit that the last man in the world who should have a discretion in a matter of this sort is the man who is to be advised by the persons who were probably concerned with the earlier incidents.
Stores and surplus stores are always a matter of very great interest. We find that stores, said to be surplus to requirements, of the ledger value of £41,534 18s. 6d. were sold for £6,893 15s. 4d., and on page 61 we have a stocktaking discrepancy and a deficiency of stores to a total of £39,827 13s. 10d., and there was an additional cash loss of £3,755 1s. 5d.
I want to come back for a moment to the question of contractors. On 3rd March, 1925, the Air Ministry advised the Treasury that they were likely to have a saving of £30,000, and then for some unexplained reason they, without authority, paid £268,000 to contractors, money which was not claimable under the specific conditions of the contract and which referred to goods which, in many cases, had not been inspected. The Treasury witness stated that the first he knew of this transaction was when he read the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I submit that action of that sort is entirely contrary to public policy and to the past decisions of the Government and of the Public Accounts Committee. I respectfully suggest that 1480 the power of virement should be entirely taken away from the Air Ministry until there is absolute certainty that incidents of this kind will not Occur again.
At Question time to-day I asked the Minister a question with regard to ferrosilicon. He admitted that this material, which was sold at £4 a ton, had been purchased for his Department at £22 a ton or more. When the official witness before the Public Accounts Committee was asked how it was that his Department was not aware of the price at which it was sold to the Disposal Board, he said, "The sale price to the Disposal Board was not relevant to us." I understood the Minister to-day to justify the position, and to agree that it was no part of his Ministry's duty to ascertain what the position was. That is not the opinion of the Public Accounts Committee. I would like to read to the Committee what was said by the hon. Member for Black-ley (Mr. Briggs) in this connection. He said to the witness:Can you convey this to high quarters? I will not let this matter rest. We are put in this extraordinary position: that, I believe it was the Prime Minister himself, at any rate it was a Cabinet Minister on the Floor of the House, said that they looked to the Public Accounts Committee to enforce some economy. How is this Committee going to onto see economies if they are merely to make platitudinous remarks and statements which they know will go no further than this room? I really will not rest content. It a Minister's statement, such as that made on the Floor of the House is of any value whatsoever, then this Committee must take up the position that it has got to live up to that.The "Morning Post," an organ of public opinion, favoured very much by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, said in connection with this contract that they were surprised that any Member of this House was willing to serve on the Public Accounts Committee, after the disgraceful way in which that Committee had been treated in a matter such as this. I am certain if the Public Accounts Committee felt that their recommendations and Reports were to be ignored in the future, as they had been in the past, it would be extremely difficult to recruit future Committees.
My last point is in regard to a matter which is to my mind of even greater importance and I wish to make it clear that I am speaking on my own responsibility 1481 as it is not a matter which has been before the Public Accounts Committee. In what I am about to say I do not impute anything dishonourable. I suggest no suspicion. I merely wish to draw the attention of the House to the facts because I think it extremely undesirable that such a state of affairs should continue. On 24th February I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he would make a statement as to the policy of his Ministry with regard to the holding of directorships by employés in his Department. The answer was:Members of the Air Ministry staff are prohibited from taking part in the management of any firm or company which would interfere with or affect detrimentally their official duties as, for instance, by involving at any time their attendance elsewhere during office or working hours or by giving them an active interest in undertakings which may have contractual relations with the Ministry. This is in accordance with the general practice of Government Departinents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1927; col. 1915, Vol. 202.]In November last year, I believe on 9th November, the "Times" reported a case which had appeared in the Courts during the hearing of which it became public property that two officials of the Ministry had been interested as directors of a private company. I know net the circumstances, and I am not concerned with the circumstances; but the remarkable fact is that as a result of that hearing these two officers tendered their resignation and those resignations were accepted by the Ministry. The point I submit is that if it were right for those resignations to be tendered and accepted, when the connection between these gentlemen and the private company became public property, then those directorships should never have been held. Because of the question which I have just quoted, someone was good enough to send me a copy of a public journal in which very disparaging remarks were made with regard to a very important official in the Air Ministry, the Chief of the Civil Aviation Branch, in respect of his connection with a petroleum company. This journal made most scathing remarks on the financial operations of this company. It reflected upon the managing director of the company, and when I tabled a Question to the Minister, which was answered to-day, I expected that he would deny the alle- 1482 gation. Any hon. Member who was in the House at Question Time to-day will be aware that the Minister not only admitted that the chief of the Civil Aviation Department was managing director of this petroleum company—a petroleum company which is doing so well—
§ Mr. BAKER
I think the allegation is clear. The allegation is that a very important official in the Air Ministry is connected with a public company which has been very disrespectfully spoken of in the public Press. That is the allegation, but I want to take the Minister on his own words. This particular gentleman is managing director of a company which, as I say, has been criticised very severely in the Press, and I imagined when I tabled the Question that the Minister would deny the facts. That was going to he a painful position for me, but I thought I was serving the public interest in placing myself in a position to receive a denial. When the Minister accepted the facts, and said that the holding of this position was in accordance with the policy of his Department, then, at grave personal and physical inconvenience to myself, I felt it my duty to repeat these facts to-night.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but, unwittingly perhaps, he is misrepresenting what I said. I did not say it was in accordance with the policy of my Department, but that it was in accordance with the policy of all Government Departments.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I am speaking of the Civil Service at the moment. As I say, to the best of my recollection this sort of thing is forbidden in the Civil Service. I have appealed to two gentleman, including the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the last Government, and they confirm my impression that it is irregular for a man in the public service 1483 to be director of a company which may have possible trading relations with his Department. The reply which I have quoted as given on 24th February definitely lays down that they must not undertake duties which will give them an active interest in undertakings which might have contractual relations with the Ministry. I do not know whether the Trinidad Friendship Oil Company, which is to be called something else in a few weeks time, is the sort of company with which the Air Ministry might have relations; but seeing that it sells petroleum and similar things, I should have thought that nothing was more likely. I contend in the public interest that no man connected with the Air Ministry or the War Office should be permitted to be a director of a public company. That is the rule where Ministers are concerned. How much more important is it that it should be the rule with regard to their advisers? I stand here open to be assured that that is the position. If it is not the position, I hope Members on all sides will appeal to the Prime Minister to make it the position. If, as I imagine, the Air Ministry is being a law unto itself, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will have it seen to and put right at the earliest possible moment.
§ Captain WALLACE
I am sorry that I am unable to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down into the details of the Air Ministry accounts. I have not the honour to be a member of the Public Accounts Committee. As to the last statement which he made, I must frankly confess that, like him, I shall await with some interest some further statement from the Secretary of State for Air on this subject. I should like to join in the congratulations which have been offered to the Minister on his somewhat remarkable feat of producing a 10 per cent. increase in the force for a reduction of 3 per cent. in the cost. It is a very remarkable thing for any Government to do nowadays. I should also like, to say how pleased I am to hear that we appear to have got to the end of wartime machines. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) stressed this point, but it cannot possibly be stressed too much that the man is much more valuable than the machine. It is far 1484 better for us to spend our money upon having a less number of flying officers and sending them up in the most modern machines than having a great air strength on paper and machines which are out of date, if not actually dangerous.
The point I wish to deal with for a few moments is one referred to by my right hon. Friend as the third principal feature of his Air Estimates, namely, the very satisfactory reduction of three-quarters of a million pounds in his expenditure in the Middle East. I am particularly glad that he spoke of the Middle East as one, because it is most important that we should not consider Iraq, Trans-jordania, Palestine and Egypt as being in any way water-tight compartments. The Air Minister was at pains to impress upon us the necessity of increasing mobility in the Air Force. Even the vast distances in the Middle East have been almost anihilated by the fast speed at which aircraft fly, and it is quite proper that the Middle East should be considered as one sphere of aerial activity. The figures the Air Minister gave of the troops required in Iraq in 1921 and of the troops required to-day need no comment at all. By them the success of the Air Command has been abundantly proved. But because the Air Command has been so successful, it is perhaps as well for us to remember what very risky experiment it was consider ed to be when the idea was first initiated. On all sides failure was prophesied. I should like to pay my humble tribute to the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the idea of an air command—the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has had to put up with, a good many hard knocks in his time and, from what I can see of the agitation of the bookmakers in my constituency, he has got to put up with a good few snore. Therefore, it is all the more fitting we should give him the credit that is due to him for the remarkable success if the Air Command. At the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer took this great decision at the Cairo Conference in 1921 and instituted the Air Command in the Middle East, he took at the same time an almost equally far-reaching decision, and that was the grant to the people of Iraq of a form of representative Government upon Western lines. Here again, in spite of the prophesies of failure on all sides, this ex- 1485 periment has proved very successful, and it is probably the success of the Chancellor's second decision which has gradually helped to ensure the success of the Air Command.
I had the privilege nearly two years ago of going out there with my right hon. Friend the Air Minister and I was most impressed—as anybody must be impressed who has been there—with the remarkable keenness, efficiency, technical skill and airmanship of the Flying Corps out there, both officers and men, and the success of the Air Command could obviously not have been achieved without the greatest efforts on their part. I was particularly impressed during some of my expeditions to the more remote parts of Iraq by the resourcefulness of even the most junior officer. I cannot help feeling it would be a very good thing if we could make the term of service in the Middle East even shorter than now and by that means ensure that almost all our flying officers are sent, for a short period of duty to the Middle East. However much you may train an officer for flying in England, you cannot really reproduce the semi-active service conditions that exist in Iraq where a man may land in a semi-hostile country without a telephone within a hundred miles. I was also very impressed by the, faith which the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Dobbs, and his assistants have in the Air Command. It is not perhaps usual to find that High Commissioners and such officials, especially one with such great experience as Sir Henry Dobbs, take very readily to new ideas. One might well imagine that the High Commissioner might have been anxious for the safety of the country with such a very small force in actual numbers to look after it, but that is not the case at all. I do not suppose that anything has done more out there to encourage the higher officers of the Air Force than the implicit faith and confidence which the civil authorities have placed in them.
The Air Command has been a great success, first of all, of course, because of the tremendous economy in the number of troops employed and, secondly, it has been a great success on account of its actual effect in keeping in the peace and keeping law and order. I can remember the time in 1922, when I was first in the House, that we used to hear from the 1486 benches opposite speeches about the ruthless and indiscriminate bombing of villages. I believe that hon. Gentlemen who made those accusations were speaking under a complete misapprehension. If anybody takes the trouble to get the actual figures of the casualties caused by the Air Force in Iraq, he will realise that the system of air policing, which is really the best name for it, is not only the most economical system from our point of view, but also the most bloodless that there is. The reduction in expenditure owing to the introduction of this form of defence in Iraq is, of course, enormous, as all Members know. It would not be too much to say that, in the 02 years since this system has been in operation, the taxpayer has been saved considerably more than is being asked for in the whole Air Estimates to-day, if you compare its cost with the probable cost of using ground troops. Of course, there would have been considerable reduction in ally case. Nobody pretends that the Estimate of £20,000,000, which was the figure in 1921, could not have been reduced, but I am perfectly certain that it could not have been reduced to anything like the same extent if it had not been for the use of aeroplanes instead of ground forces. I am not speaking here merely for the sake of flattering the Air Minister, although I am very pleased to have had my opportunity of paying my tribute to the officers and men of the Air Force who flew me some 3,000 miles in complete comfort and with no damage.
The success of the Air Command in the Middle East opens up the very interesting question how far it can be applied in other spheres. When I was out in Iraq, it seemed to me—I think it has probably been the experience of other Members who have been there—that there were two great "ifs" beyond our control. It was all very well that it was a success in Iraq. Would it be equally successful, first, where ground conditions were not so favourable and, secondly, where the weather was more uncertain? The Air Force officers themselves were the first to point out that they were acting under almost ideal conditions in a country where one could land anywhere and under weather conditions where visibility was excellent and storms very infrequent. The Air Minister, in his speech, has more or less settled our doubts about the question of the ground, because he has pointed 1487 out the great success of an air expedition last year on the North-West frontier, and in spite of the information which his officer informant gave him, I feel certain that that success was not entirely due to the adventitious advent of fleas. The second doubt, about the weather, has really been resolved by the trip of the Air Minister himself, because if the weather is nearly always perfect in Iraq for flying, I am certain that during that long trip from here to India and back the Air Minister met with every kind of weather.
The second question affecting the success of the Air Command in Iraq is that which has been referred by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford, that is the question of consultation between the Services, the question of a Ministry of Defence. It is very difficult for us to discuss either the adequacy or the duty of the ground troops in Iraq on an Air Estimate, and it is equally difficult for us to discuss, on an Army Estimate, the details of their transport by air, and I think it all points to the necessity, I hope in the near future, of some co-ordination in the direction of a Ministry of Defence. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend the Air Minister that he is the one of the three Departmental chiefs who has most to gain by the creation of such a Ministry, and that he should do his best to impress upon the Prime Minister the necessity for creating this, or at any rate the necessity for letting us have a debate about it in this House. As has been said from the benches opposite, aviation is by no means only—I hope indeed not chiefly —military. We have heard from the Air Minister a considerable amount of interesting information about the progress of our military aviation. I hope, before we part with the Air Estimates, if not to-night on some other occasion, we shall hear from the Under-Secretary, whose particular duty, I understand, it is, a good deal of information about civil aviation.
May I conclude by adding my congratulations to those which have been much better expressed by other Members to the Air Minister and to his wife upon the very remarkable flight which they made to India? I am quite sure that the fact that the Air Minister went himself will be a great encouragement and in- 1488 spiration to everybody in the Royal Air Force, from the Chief Air-Marshal down to the last joined private.
§ Mr. DALTON
The Debate has ranged over a wide field, in the course of which the Secretary of State has received some bouquets and some criticisms. I propose to return to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence) and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith). We make no apology for raising again an issue which we have raised before upon the Army Estimates, namely, the relation of the Service Estimates for the year to the forthcoming Disarmament Conference. We intend to raise it again and again, pending the conclusion—we hope, the successful conclusion—of the work of that Conference. It is probably not necessary at this stage to reaffirm the point that we are not favouring from these benches any scheme for unilateral disarmament. We are not proposing that this country should reduce expenditure on armaments irrespective of what other countries do. We are proposing only that a British initiative should be taken in making concrete and, we hope, bold and far-reaching proposals for conditional disarmament in the air, as we are discussing it this evening, ant in other connections with regard to naval and military expenditure. We are only asking that this country should take the lead in putting up bold, conditional propositions.
The grounds on which we are speaking are, briefly, three—first, conditions of security; second, conditions of economy; and third, Treaty obligations. To take them in their reverse order, on the point of Treaty obligations, it will be in the knowledge of hon. Members that, under Article 8 of the Covenant, it is laid down thatThe members of the League [of Nations] recognise that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point conisistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. The Council…shall formulate plans for such reduction for the consideration and action of the several Governments.That is quite a specific statement, subscribed to as long ago as 1919, and we wish to ask when some rather more active step is going to be taken towards carrying out the obligation then entered into by us, in common with other States, 1489 members of the League. If it be replied that other countries, France, Italy and the rest, have been backward in carrying out their Treaty obligations, or in taking the first steps to do so, it is all the more reason why we should set them a good example by showing ourselves to be more keenly conscious of the obligations which we undertook under the Treaties which terminated the War. Many of us feel that this country and its representatives are being rather slow in meeting the obligations which they have undertaken.
In the second place, I would like to emphasise the importance of economy in this connection. There has been great discussion during the past few years about economy in public expenditure, and if one examines dispassionately the various heads of expenditure, it will be seen that the big opportunity for really far-reaching economy, provided that we can get corresponding economies carried out by foreign countries, is in the sphere of armament expenditure. It has been remarked before, and I merely recall it to the mind of the House, that whereas before the War, in 1914, we were spending on armaments £72,000,000, that sum has grown at the present time to something in the neighbourhood of £115,000,000 or £120,000,000. Even allowing for the increase of prices since the War, if we scale down the present expenditure to pre-War expenditure, we find that the present expenditure is worth some £78,000,000 in pre-War prices and that still leaves an increase of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 on £72,000,000, or an increase of 10 per cent. in the cost of expenditure on armaments at the present time as compared with 1914. That is a remarkable fact, regard being had to the disappearance of the German Fleet, the destruction of the German Army, and victory crowning our efforts in the War. I submit to the House that we have not yet made a sufficiently vigorous effort to explore the economies that might be achieved by international agreement in this sphere of expenditure.
The Secretary of State this afternoon made no reference at all to the relation of these Estimates, if any, to the forthcoming Disarmament Conference. But he did tell us that considerable reductions had been obtained in respect of expenditure in the Middle East, due, as he said, to increasing stability and law 1490 and order there. I am sure we were very glad to hear that, but what about Europe Can it not be said that there is increasing stability and law and order in Europe, particularly in that part of Europe where our chief competitors are? Is there not an increasing possibility of international co-operation as a result of the stabilisation of economic and financial conditions, of bringing about the same conditions in Europe which have permitted reductions to be made in the Middle East At any rate we on this side appeal to the Government to make some effort on the lines I have suggested when the forthcoming Disarmament Conference meets. We are not satisfied with the phrase, already quoted by my hen. Friend the Member for Penistone from the Memorandum issued by the right hon. Gentleman, that we have secured a temporary retardation of the expansion of the Royal Air Force. We would like to see, by international agreement with the other countries chiefly concerned, not only a further temporary retardation but a permanent retardation, and, indeed, a diminution in the expenditure so far as it is military and not civil.
It has been pointed out by many technical experts that there is no real defence possible against attack by enemy aircraft. It has been laid clown on several occasions, and not contradicted by more recent authority, that the only possible defence against attack by hostile aircraft is counter attack upon the enemy's chief centres of munitions and population, and counter attacks of that kind would be a very poor consolation to those who would be sustaining the weight of the attacks on this country. The right hon. Gentleman himself has frequently emphasised the vulnerable character of London and other centres of this country to attack from the air. We have not only a Treaty obligation to promote disarmament, not only a very strong incentive on the grounds of economy, but an extremely strong incentive from the point of view of national self-interest in face of the extreme dangers we run from the gradual development of the air arm in other lands.
May I be allowed to interpose a few words arising out of the speech made by the Prime Minister on the subject of accidents and the personal qualities of 1491 the personnel of our Air Force? I am sure that all of us, and certainly I for my part, pay a tribute to the personnel of the Air Force, and fully recognise the splendid human quality of that Force. I read only this morning of the death of an airman, who, unhappily, was a constituent of my own. I have not seen full accounts of the affair yet. He was Corporal East, who appears to have been killed through leaping from an aeroplane at a height of 6,000 feet and delaying too long before putting his parachute into action. I read in the Press that he was attempting to break a world record held by an American airman for the longest drop from an aeroplane before opening the parachute. I mourn, and I am sure we all mourn, the death of one more of these gallant pioneers in the cause of aerial science.
§ Mr. DALTON
We can, at any rate, say that attempts to break a world record are a form of international rivalry and competition for which no one will have anything but the keenest and warmest admiration. Like the Prime Minister, we all feel the fascination which the Air Service holds for the young and the adventurous and the brave, the best among our rising generation. Our hope is that the gallant service which they will do in the future will be done under conditions of peace, and not in the midst of the horrors of war.
May I turn from that point to some of the dangers which we and other countries will run in future unless we carry through to a successful end schemes for the very drastic reduction of military aircraft. The Prime Minister himself, speaking only Last year to the Classical Association, voiced the opinion of all thinking people when he said:Who in Europe does not know that, with one more war in the West, the civilisation of the ages will fall with as great a shock as that of Rome?The right hon. Gentleman himself, in a speech which was referred to this afternoon but has not been quoted, said in the Debate on the Air Estimates on the 26th February, 1925:With Air Force development as it is, with developments in bombs, with develop- 1492 ments in range; with developments in chemicals, with developments in liquid gas—if we go on as we are now, air warfare in the future may well mean the destruction of civilisation as we know it to-day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1925; col. 2210, Vol. 180.]In the light of all this, is it not surprising that any speech should be made in this House which should not show some appreciation of the perils which confront us? I recognise that a large number of speeches do recognise that, but I am afraid that outside the House, and, to some extent in it, the public are not sufficiently awake to the enormous dangers which we are running almost unawares. A passage from Brigadier-General Groves has been quoted to-night which gives in the most lurid colours, in language which, were it not so exceedingly true, might be regarded as melodrama, an account of the way in which gas bombs might be used over London or any other large city in such a way as to make it impossible for the crowded millions of the population to escape a horrible death. I am told some people think the remedy lies in gas masks for babies and small children. That such a suggestion should even be propounded shows the horrible possibilities which still lurk in the civil life of the present day.
It is as though the whole were walking in its sleep. There is a certain lack of imagination and a certain lack of will, the responsibility for which, I admit, is widely dispersed; but in view of the possibilities which open before us now that at last an attempt is to be made, through the mechanism of the League of Nations, to try to get an understanding for a limitation in the first instance, and subsequently a severe reduction, of this and other forms of armament, I do hope the Government will realise that if they will only step forward boldly they will have the support, not only of their own party, but of the whole country. There arc few enough occasions in the tumult of modern politics when it can be truly said that, if the Government will take a certain course of action, the country will be behind them, but I believe this to be one of those rare occasions. I do not believe a single thoughtful person, or group, or body of interests would come out into the open and denounce a Government which went 1493 forward along the line of all-round drastic disarmament with regard to air forces and every form of military expenditure.
§ Mr. DALTON
Yes, simultaneously, certainly. The hon. and gallant Gentleman came in after I started to speak. I made it quite clear from the very beginning that I was not speaking, and my hon. Friends behind me were not proposing, any unilateral disarmament by this country, but that all we were asking was that this country should take a bold line in proposing reductions conditional upon other countries falling into line with us; and any consideration which would lead us to make a reduction should also lead other countries to do it, because in the present condition of world trade the question of disarmament, security and economy must appeal exceedingly strongly.
This, therefore, is my appeal to the Government, that they should recognise that the proposals embodied in the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Ham, are proposals that might well he accepted by this Government and might well be accepted by other Governments who will send representatives to the League of Nations Conference, if only some first step could be taken. With regard to the Navy, the first step was taken in Washington, in 1921, as a result of which it is no longer possible to maintain that further developments with regard to naval disarmament are impracticalble. They have been proved to be practicable. I believe the first step might be taken with regard to air armaments at an early date in connection with this Disarmament Conference, and if the first step were taken, I believe it would lead on, by common consent, and for the benefit of all nations, towards the removal of the terrible burden of taxation, and still more, to the removal of the horrors of a future war in the air, with all the agencies of modern chemistry and bacteriology for the destruction of mankind, towards an end which would be welcomed by all members of the community regardless of their political affiliation.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)
The hon. Member who has just sat down was voicing the opinions that were put forward by the hon. Member for North East Ham (Miss Lawrence) and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. R. Smith) in the Amendment, and I think that no Member of this House will treat lightly the appeal which they made. The memories of the War experience are too recent, and the potentialities for wholesale destruction inherent in the rapid extension and development of the air arm are too apparent for any reasonable person to reject any practical plan that might be put forward for the limitation of so terrible a weapon, and I can confidently say that, quite apart from the earnest desire of the Government to see progress made in the direction of general disarmament, we are seriously anxious to see a limitation of air arms. Unfortunately, difficult as questions of disarmament by land and sea undoubtedly are, the problems of air disarmament are still more complex and difficult, and especially so to us. I do not think it could be within the range of human possibility to wipe out the achievements of the past 25 years, and to abolish the art and science of flying. I do not think that anybody would seriously wish to do so. I do not think the hon. Lady who moved this Amendment would think it anything else but a counsel of perfection impossible of attainment. But, great as is the power of evil which the conquest of the air has placed in the hands of man, it has also conferred upon him opportunities for good in a far greater degree, and I do not think that you could abolish the one, without losing the other.
You cannot take advantage of the immense benefits which the development of air transport has conferred upon humanity without running a definite, and, I think, an unavoidable risk. Moreover, both as regards this evil and this good the people of this country are in a very peculiar position. There is no people or group of peoples who stand to gain more by the shortening of space and time which has resulted, and will result still further, from the development of the means of air transport, than have those widely scattered communities which with their vast territories make up the British Empire. 1495 On the other hand, no country has its problem of national defence so vitally affected by the development of the air arm. The experience of the War, limited though it may be according to our modern day possibilities, showed us all too clearly what a very vulnerable target of attack was London, which is the political and commercial capital of the Empire.
Our attitude, therefore, toward the limitation of armaments must be directly controlled, as I think would be the attitude of whatever Government were in power in this country, by two fundamental factors—first of all, the urgent and insistent call of our Empire for the development of aerial transport as a means of communication within the Empire, and, secondly, the no less imperative need of providing adequate protection to the vital centre of our Empire. It follows from these two factors, and also from the further fact that we are not to-day, and we shall not be even if our present expansion programme is completed, by any manner of means the largest Air Force in Europe—it follows we cannot either in justice to our overseas Dominions or with safety to ourselves act alone, or take the initiative on the question of air disarmament. But that does not mean we would not welcome any practical proposal which might be put forward for any air disarmament. Far from it. But the movement must be a general one. It must be based on a formula which is a broad and simple one, which is accepted by all the other air Powers, and which is easy to put into practice.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I am developing the reason we cannot take the initiative. We cannot, because it is not safe for us to take it.
§ Mr. DALTON
Is the hon. Member's argument that it is not safe for us to take the initiative by suggesting such a formula for disarmament to other Powers?
§ Sir P. SASSOON
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to develop my argument. What I said was that we shall not be able to get down to the question of air disarmament until we can get a formula which can easily be put into practice and understood by everybody. I hope we may be able to get 1496 such a formula, but until we do, I think la must remain the duty of this Government, or of any other Government which might be in power, to take adequate precautions for the safety of the civil population. I need only add on this subject that the provision made for the development of the Royal Air Force cannot fairly be described as provocative or excessive, inasmuch as we are, and shall be when our programme is completed, inferior in the air arm to our nearest Continental neighbour. But, as the hon. Member for Penistone said, the Preparatory Commission for Disarmament is meeting in Geneva in a very few days, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is going, I understand, to put forward very definite proposals of the British Government for disarmament. I think the House realises that it would be impossible to make public these proposals, as it would vitiate, perhaps, a great deal of the chance of success, but I am sure Members of the House realise also that the whole question of disarmament could not be in the hands of a better or more strenuous advocate than the Chancellor of the Duchy, and that he will do everything that lies in his power to try to achieve a definite advance in this matter of disarmament. The hon. Lady the Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence) put forward the suggestion that all the civil air forces of the world should be under some kind of International Board which would be under the control of the League of Nations. I do not think that those kind of proposals are of any use at the present time. I do not think that, even if you could get them through, they would be of any use. It is far better to move slowly in this question of Government control.
I should like to turn now to the question of civil aviation, which has had rather a hard time in the House to-day. Some hon. Members have said that we have got too much civil aviation and others have said that we have got too little, and that what we have is rapidly in process of decay. I think, however, that the past year has shown a very steady progress towards the development of that air sense which is so necessary if we are to develop and utilise to the full the material benefits which civil aviation has conferred and will confer on this country and on the Empire. In the first place, 1497 there has been a large and very satisfactory increase in the traffic carried by Imperial Airways. Twenty thousand passengers and 498 tons of goods have been carried in the past year, as compared with 14,000 passengers and 454 tons of goods in 1925. The passenger mileage also shows an increase of 41 per cent. and the goods ton mileage an increase of 7 per cent. All this has been accomplished without any accident involving loss of life having taken place. British civil aircraft have flown 2,500,000 miles, which is equivalent to about 10 or 11 trips to the moon and back, with only four accidents involving loss of life. The amount of joy-riding, hon. Members will be glad to hear, was greater than in any previous year, the total mileage flown reaching 215,000 arid the total of passengers reaching 82,000. There has been a considerable awakening of interest in the possibilities of air survey. The Aircraft Operating Company have just despatched an expedition to Northern Rhodesia under contract to carry out a photographic survey of 20,000 square miles of country. Two important exploratory flights were carried out last year by the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services of Australia to the order of an American mining engineer, who was carried as a passenger on each flight.
The Secretary of State for Air has referred particularly to the very remarkable flight taken in the two light aeroplanes—Moths—from England to India, and I think this constitutes a record for light aeroplanes and is a notable example of the reliability and the efficiency of those small engines. It should also give no small encouragement to those light aeroplane clubs which already exist in this country, and I think it will encourage the formation of a great many more. These light aeroplane clubs are going ahead very fast, and, apart from the six officially assisted clubs, six other clubs have been started independently, and also a private owners' club, and eight others are in contemplation. The number of aircraft registered in the names of clubs and private owners has increased steadily, and on 3lst December last it had reached a total of 58, so that altogether the outlook in this direction is distinctly encouraging. One hon. Member—I think it was the hon. Gentleman the Member 1498 for Acton (Sir H. Brittain) mentioned the University Squadrons, and said that he had been there himself and had seen how efficient they were. These units were started about a year ago with a maximum number of 25, and halfway through the year this membership was increased to 50. These units have provided excellent candidates for commissions in the Air Force and also in the auxiliary Air Force, and have diffused a general knowledge of and keenness for flying throughout the universities. The total amount of flying done by the Cambridge University Squadron in the course of last year has already reached a total mileage equivalent to once round the world.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I am glad to hear the hon. Member for Cambridge behind me, and I was equally glad to hear the tribute paid to him in this connection a very short time ago. I believe that it is in the diffusion of this air knowledge and air skill among the general population that lies the greatest hope against the misuse of air power. So long as a powerful offensive weapon remains exclusively in the hands of professional armies, there is always the danger that its mere existence will provoke its use. The more general the habit of flying among civilians, the greater will he the number and influence of those who possess the necessary skill to enable them either at once or with a minimum of training to be made available for air defence purposes, and yet possess also the will to peace. If you want peace in the world, I think one of the best ways is to get the different countries to know each other, and there the aeroplane is the hest factor. For the same reason the development in the Reserve and Auxiliary Air Force squadrons should present special significance to those know are anxious to maintain peace and to minimise as much as possible the risk of air warfare. Such units are an unfailing defence and the stronger and more efficient they are the more reliability can be placed on them for the defence purpose for which they are designed. The fact that they are included specifically in the air programme shows that the whole aspect of British air power is definitely given a non-aggressive character. While I am mentioning the 1499 auxiliary squadron I must point out that I am sorry to see that the right hon. and gallant Member for North Bristol (Captain Guest) who made such a good speech this afternoon is not here. I must congratulate him on the fact that he has taken over the command of one of these squadrons. I think the Air Ministry are congratulating themselves also on having secured the assistance of such an efficient commander.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Chatham Division of Rochester (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) made some inquiries as to what progress had been made with regard to entering machines for the Schneider Cup. We entered three machines through the Royal Aero Club, and whatever the result of the race the fact that we have been building very high speed machines will be valuable because of the experience we shall gain. With regard to accidents we are making progress towards solving the problem. We have been making experiments with slotted wings, with the Pterodactyl and the Cierva. We are making progress with all these machines and we hope to get rood results from them. With further experience of those kind of machines we shall make great strides towards solving the problem of stalling. As far as carrying mails is concerned I think the line chosen from New York to San Francisco is purely a national line and cannot be compared with international lines. We must, however, realise our difficulties in this matter. Not only are there technical difficulties, but the machines that will enable mails to be carried across the Mediterranean have not yet been sufficiently perfected.
The questions put by the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) are of such a highly technical character that I hope he will allow me to study them a little bit more carefully, and then I will send him full answers in writing. I was surprised, however, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had not read these Estimates so closely as he usually does, because had he done so most of the questions which he put about Farnborough would have been unnecessary. The answers to those questions are to be found in Appendix 2 of the Estimates, where I think he would have found all the information he re- 1500 quired. The hon. and gallant Member also asked about the super-cut. I may point out that that cat goes over the whole Vote equally, but as a matter of fact the experience of the past has been that it has never limited expenditure on aircraft. The hon. Member who spoke last asked a question about the accident which took place to-day. I should not like to answer that question fully just now because we have not had the report, but the hon. Member may be assured that there was absolutely no question of trying to break the world s record and that does not come in any way in Royal Air Force training. The hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) said that all alcoholic liquor should he prohibited in the Air Service.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
That is a gross misrepresentation of what I said. [Laughter.] I regard this as a very serious matter, and it must be so regarded. What I said was that it ought to be laid down that no flying officer should be allowed to take alcoholic liquor on any day before he has finished flying on that day.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I am very sorry if I misrepresented the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I did think he said that. We are very anxious and careful to see that there should be as little drinking as possible in the Air Force, and I think there is very little drinking. If the hon. and gallant Member saw the wine bills of Air Force officers, I think he would agree that that is so, and that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would also agree.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
Perhaps the hon. Baronet will read what I said to-morrow. It was a lot more than that.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
The hon. and gallant Member, who was in the Air Force, knows that drunkenness is an offence under the Air Force Regulations, and it is very carefully watched. I am sure he would be the first to realise and admit that. I think I have answered most of the questions that have been raised. There will be an opportunity on the Report stage of answering any that have not been adequately dealt with, and I 1501 hope the House will now agree to the Motion, in order that we may get on with the Votes.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Perhaps I may be allowed to deal with that question. The hon. Member asked, in particular, about an official of the Air Ministry who held a directorship. The official in question was not a permanent civil servant. He was in the service of the Air Ministry on short notice of, I think, six months, and his position was quite distinct from that of a permanent civil servant. Before he accepted the appointment under the Air Ministry, he was already a director of the company to which the hon. Gentleman referred. It would not be in accordance with the rules in a Government Department to ask such an official to resign a directorship, in view of the fact that he was only temporarily employed. Moreover, he was not in any way connected with the Contract Department of the Air Ministry and it would have been quite impossible for him in his official capacity to have any relations with the company of which he was a director. If there had been the least risk of that happening, no doubt he would have resigned his position, either on the board of the company or in the service of the Air Ministry. The case is not peculiar. There have been other cases of the same kind in the Government service, and the Air Ministry have been acting in strict accordance with the general rule which has been in existence, not only under this Government, but under the Government
§ of hon. Gentlemen opposite and all previous Governments.
§ Mr. BAKER: May I ask a further question? I referred to three separate and distinct cases, and I was not making it a party question. If it had been the last Government, I should have condemned them just as much. May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman's reply referred to each of the separate cases to which I referred, and does it mean that what is not permissible in the case of a permanent civil servant is permissible in the case of a temporary civil servant?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not know whether I am in order in answering that question, but certainly the case of a temporary official must be regarded differently from the case of a permanent official. Obviously, if a man is in employment which he may lose in six months' time, his position is different from that of a man who has security of employment for the whole of his life. The hon. Gentleman, I remember—I am sorry I forgot it—did allude to another case, but that case was quite different. There there were allegations of improper action, but I do not think myself that the allegations were proved. At the same time, we thought it right to accept the resignations of the two officials concerned. There is no contradiction between the two cases.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 225; Noes, 112.1505
|Division No. 40.]||AYES.||[10.26 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Briscoe, Richard George||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (lslingtn, N.)|
|Alnsworth, Major Charles||Brittain, Sir Harry||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)|
|Albery, Irving James||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Crookshank,Cpt. H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Dalziel, Sir Davison|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Burman, J. B.||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)|
|Atkinson, C.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Dixey, A. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Campbell, E. T.||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Carver, Major W. H.||Ellis, R. G.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth,S.)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston.s.M.)|
|Bethel, A.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Clayton, G. C.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fermoy, Lord|
|Brass, Captain W.||Colfox, Major William Phillips||Fielden, E. B.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Forrest, W||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Loder, J. de V.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Looker, Herbert William||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Lougher, L.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Gates, Percy||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon, George Abraham||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sandon, Lord|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lumley, L. R.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mac Andrew, Major Charles Glen||Savery, S. S.|
|Golf, Sir Park||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Sheffield, Sir- Berkeley|
|Grace, John||Maclntyre, Ian||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||McLean, Major A.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Greene, W. p. Crawford||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Smith, R- W. (Aberd'n & Klnc'dlnt, C.)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Malone, Major p. B.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Margesson, Captain D.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Meller, R. J.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden,E.)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Meyer, Sir Frank||Storry- Deans, R.|
|Harland, A.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd,Henley)||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hilton, Cecil||Neville, R. J.||Vaughan-Morgen, Col. K. P.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wallace, Captain O, E.|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L. (Kingstonon-Hull)|
|Holland, Sir Arthur||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Homan, C. W. J.||Nuttall, Ellis||Watts, Dr. T,|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Oakley, T.||Wells, S. R.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Penny, Frederick George||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Withers, John James|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Phllipson, Mabel||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hutchison,G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wood, E. (Chest'r. Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Radford, E A.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Jacob A. E.||Ramsden, E.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Reld, D. D. (County Down)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Remer, J. R.|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.&|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rice, Sir Frederick||Major Sir Harry Barnston and Major Cope.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Stan., Cannock)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillibro')||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Kennedy, T.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Gardner, J. P.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Gillett, George M.||Lansbury, George|
|Baker, Walter||Gosling, Harry||Lawrence, Susan|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Greenall, T.||Lawson, John James|
|Barr, J.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lindley, F. W.|
|Batty, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lowth, T.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Groves, T.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvill)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Bromley, J.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||March, S.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hardle, George D,||Montague, Frederick|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Naylor, T. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayday, Arthur||Oliver, George Harold|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hayes, John Henry||Palln, John Henry|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Paling, W.|
|Connolly, M.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Dalton, Hugh||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Potts, John S.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Richardson, R. (Houghten-le-Spring)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Riley, Ben|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Ritson, I.|
|Dennison, R.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)|
|Duncan, C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Dunnico, H.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Sullivan, J,||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Scurr, John||Sutton, J. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Sexton, James||Taylor, R. A.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Whiteley, W.|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thome, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Thurtte, Ernest||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Tinker, John Joseph||Wlison, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Smith, Rennle (Penistone)||Viant, S. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Wallhead, Richard C.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. A. Barnes.|
|Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Stamford, T. W.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. JAMES HOYE in the Chair.]