HC Deb 23 March 1927 vol 204 cc380-2
46. Captain GARRO-JONES

asked the Prime Minister whether, in his recent investigation into the cause of flying accidents, he made any inquiry into the rules governing the consumption of alcoholic drink by flying officers, engineer officers, and mechanics during flying hours; and whether he received any complaints of overwork by flying officers?


Before this question is answered, may I ask whether it does not offend the rule against offensive insinuations?


I do not think it necessarily does. It is not a crime to consume alcoholic liquor.


On that point of Order, may I say that if the hon. Gentleman had been present during the discussion of the Air Estimates, he would have been aware that I made no charge of excessive drinking at all, and had no intention whatever of doing so.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

For the reasons which I gave at some length in the course of the discussion on Air Estimates on the 10th March, I am not prepared to make public the detailed results of my investigation into the causes of flying accidents, though I have informed the House in general terms of my main conclusions. Accordingly, I deprecate inquiries on points of detail such as those contained in the hon. and gallant Member's question.

Since, however, it has been suggested in certain quarters that the consumption of alcohol has had some bearing on recent accidents, the House may like to know that I made very careful inquiries into this aspect of the matter, and satisfied myself completely that the consumption of alcohol amongst Royal Air Force personnel in general and officers in particular, far from being excessive, is very small. I also satisfied myself that there was no evidence to show that consumption of alcohol had caused or indeed contributed to any accidents.

I may add that there was also no evidence that overwork by flying officers had been the cause of any accidents.


While agreeing with the Prime Minister that there is no excessive consumption of alcoholic drink in the Air Force, may I ask if he is aware that the colleagues or even the commanding officers of flying officers are not likely to make definite charges which might get any of their comrades into trouble; but it is well known that in some few cases—I have some knowledge of this subject—moderate quantities of alcoholic liquor have been consumed immediately before flights, and all scientific opinion holds that this is a contributory cause of accidents. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech!"] May I have a reply to that question?


The hon. Gentleman is making rather serious allegations.


Apart from the question altogether of the drinking of alcoholic liquors, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the "Army Quarterly" has a special article dealing with all the various points, and which seem to indicate very definite reasons for these accidents Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that those cogent reasons are worthy of being answered, and a report being made upon them?


That hardly arises. I have not seen that article.