HC Deb 07 March 1929 vol 226 cc675-709

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: in view of the growing menace to civil communities in the development of methods of air warfare, this House regrets that His Majesty's Government have failed to make any proposals for securing international agreement on the question of aerial disarmament, and urges them to take the initiative in proposing a programme for the abolition of military and naval air forces and the establishment of international control of civil aviation.

Commander BELLAIRS

On a point of Order. This Amendment urges the Government to take the initiative in proposing a programme for the abolition of military and naval air forces. May I ask whether we shall be able to discuss the Army and Navy on this Amendment?


The wording of the Amendment is strictly correct and speaks of military and naval Air Forces, and hon. Members Will have to keep themselves strictly to Air Forces of the Army and Navy, and not deal with naval and military forces other than Air Forces.


In addressing the House for the first time, I ask that indulgence which is always accorded to a new Member. The majority of the speakers who have addressed the House are intensively interested in this question from the point of view of actual association with the Air Force, the Navy or the Army. I want to approach this question from the civilian point of view, because it occurs to me that the civilian is very closely interested in the question of the future of the Air Forces of the world. We had some experience of the effects of aeroplane warfare during the late War, and I am confident that that experience has led people to the conclusion that an Air Force is not only bar barous and inhuman in its attacks on women and children, but that the development of aeroplane warfare means the ultimate end of civilisation. Subsequent developments force one to the conclusion that in any future clash between nations the field of battle will be changed. Whereas in the last Great War Flanders and Franco were the actual seat of war, it occur; to me that in any future clash the seat of war will be the industrial towns and great cities of those nations which go to war. I am supported in that conclusion by our own Field Service Regulations which states that: The aim of a nation which has taken up arms is therefore to bring such pressure to bear upon the enemy people as to induce them to force their Government to sue for peace. In future you will only be able to get at the enemy people by attacking them exactly where the people live. The science of aviation has made extraordinary strides. I was reading the other day the views of Brigadier-General Groves, who says: The science of aviation, which has already forged the paramount weapon, is still in its infancy. Its ally, chemical science, stands merely on the threshold of its possible application to explosives and poisons. The whole apparatus of aerial warfare is changing constantly in a swift and stupendous progress towards perfection. Not long ago the "Times" newspaper, in a leading article, said: It is very probable that the critical battles of the future will be fought over our great cities and the chief sufferers will be civilians—men, women and children. In the late War some 300 tons of bombs only were dropped upon this country. Air forces to-day 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. In addition to that, I want to point out the great development of speed. I listened with interest to the Minister of State for Air when he told us that steel was being largely used for our fighting aeroplanes. We have two sections, the fighting and the bombing section. The fighting aeroplane is becoming every year a more highly specialised machine, and the only thing considered in its construction is its maximum performance. A writer in a book the other day dealing with fighting aeroplanes, says: The fighting aeroplane of the future will be a very small all-steel monoplane mounting a 1,000 h.p. gas turbine engine and possibly incorporating some form of jet propulsion. It will be capable of 400 miles per hour on the level and will have the tremendous velocity in the dive of nearly 800 miles per hour. In other words it will be able to travel faster than sound. It will climb to 20,000 feet in four minutes, and its service ceiling which is the height at which the rate of climb falls below 100 feet per minute will be 60,000 feet. That is the view of Major Oliver Stewart in his book, entitled "The Strategy and Tactics of Air Fighting." Great developments have taken place in fighting planes and bombing machines, and Mr. Noel Baker, writing on "disarmament," says in regard to the most recent bombing machine: It can carry bombs of far greater calibre and destructive power than any shell that can be thrown by a gun. The shell of a 16-inch gun is in great part composed of steel and the quantity of high explosive is therefore relatively small. The aerial bomb is only of light steel casing and thus the proportion of explosive is much greater. Not only so, but bombs have already been used which are much greater in actual weight, and therefore unfortunately greater in destructive power than any shell could be, while there is literally no limit to probable expansion in this respect. An aeroplane may quite soon be produced which can carry 20 or 30 tons of high explosive. That is the prospect which the civilian population of this and other nations have to face. I think that I am justified in calling the attention of the House to another aspect of that question, and that is the development which has taken place in the manufacture of chemicals for use in bombs. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood), speaking in this House, in 1927, said: Lewisite is invisible. It is a sinking gas which will reach down to cellars and dug-outs; if inhaled it is fatal at once; if it settles on the skin it produces almost certain death; masks alone are no use against it; it is persistent; it has 55 times the 'spread' of any poison gas actually used in the War. Indeed it was estimated by an expert that one dozen Lewisite air bombs of the largest size known in 1918—far larger sizes could now be used—might in favourable circumstances have wiped out the entire population of Berlin."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1927; col. 941, Vol. 203.] The United States Chemical War Service say that a new deadly poison liquid has been discovered, three drops of which on the skin would kill a man. The Chief of the Department says that one aeroplane carrying two tons of this liquid would be able to kill every man in a space seven miles long and 100 feet wide. In the next war, says Lieut.-Colonel Fuller: Fleets of fast-moving tanks, equipped with tons of liquid gas, against which the enemy has no possible protection, will cross the frontier and obliterate every living thing in fields, farms, villages and cities of enemy countries. Meanwhile fleets of aeroplanes will attack the great industrial and working centres. Three hundred machines, says the French Air Service Report, carrying 5 cwt. each, manipulated from a single control station in Paris, within 24 hours could unload 2,000 tons of bombs in Berlin, Geneva or London.

I have used these quotations to support the contention that is made in the first portion of our Amendment. It may be said, and we have been told, that we have an increasing number of squadrons for defence. I make no apology for the number of quotations I am giving, because they are all from men who are experts in their line. I, as a civilian, a railway engine driver, have spent my time largely in railway transport, and any contention of mine in this direction might be questioned; but Brigadier-General Groves who was Director of Flying Operations in the Royal Air Force in 1919, used these words: It may be argued that it may be possible to protect the great cities by means of anti-aircraft defences. The following considerations will show that that view is fallacious. In 1918, the London Anti-Aircraft Defences consisted of 11 specially trained night-flying squadrons, 180 guns on the ground in addition to a number of guns mounted upon motor vehicles, 10 balloon aprons, and a large number of searchlights. The number of aircraft was nearly 300, and the total number of men employed some 30,000, an equivalent of two divisions of infantry. In addition there were a number of specially prepared night landing spots, extensive telephone installations, and a large headquarters staff to co-ordinate and direct the home defensive organisation. Great as was the scale of these defences, London was bombed, although the largest number of aeroplanes in any single raid was only 36. Obviously, it will be impossible to maintain defences on the above scale for every city and other nerve centre in a State. But even if it were possible, such defences would be useless against aerial attack delivered by thousands, or even hundreds, of aeroplanes. I think that one would agree with that statement, in view of what has been said even during this Debate.

With regard to the second point in our Amendment, one reads with very great interest the record of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference. One has read with great interest the proposals that have been made on behalf of the British Empire, but I think that, when they are carefully considered, it will be felt that, while we appreciate the attempts that have been made, they have only gone a very small way to limit the number of aeroplanes, and have not actually dealt with the point with which we deal in our Amendment. The net effect is not to give to the people that security for which they are entitled to ask. I suggest that, at the coming Conference in April, our representatives ought to take a stronger line, that the course laid down in this Amendment should be adopted by them, and that the proposals made by our Government should have that as their ultimate aim, no matter what course may have to be pursued in order to attain it. One would also like to know whether the Government are going to follow up the conclusions of the last Conference with regard to civil aviation. I was interested in the recommendation made this afternoon by an hon. Member opposite, with which I think we can all agree, that civil aviation should be controlled on the lines of the proposal in our Amendment.

I should like to ask the Government what line they are proposing to take on the Russian proposal for disarmament. While I hold no brief for Russia, I do think that the proposals submitted by any country attending a Conference of that description are worthy of consideration, and that, in so far as they show sincerity, we might go a long way to meet them. I understand that during the past few months we have had some conversations with France. France, I suppose, from the aerial point of view and from other points of view, is our greatest potential enemy, and yet, in the conversations between the two nations, there was, so far as I know, no mention of or agreement upon aerial methods for attack or defence. I would ask whether we are serious even in the proposals that this country has made to the Conference. Are we really strengthening the hands of our delegates to the Preparatory Conference, in view of the statement that has been made as to the position of our own Air Force? It occurs to me that, if we wanted to strengthen our delegates' hands, we could do it better by a reduction than by an increase in the number of squadrons that we have. I would point out that in 1918 we had 300 squadrons In 1919 the peace establishment was laid down, I understand, and accepted by the Government, as 31 squadrons. That was increased in 1925 to 54, in 1926 to 61, in-1927 to 63, in 1928 to 69, and now, in 1929, it is increased to 75 rising to 82. It occurs to me that we might have shown a gesture that would have been accepted probably in a better spirit had we made a reduction rather than an increase in the number of our squadrons.

I now come to the final portion of the Amendment. In the interests of peace and economy, we suggest that civil aviation should be entirely divorced from the military services. We should be only too willing and anxious to help any Government which desired to spend money on civil aviation, but, when it is under the control of one of the military Departments, one cannot dissociate oneself from the point of view that the money is being given in order that, when needed, you may have an additional arm to your military or aerial force. It does not seem to me that it would be difficult to divorce it if, as we suggest in the Amendment, one can have international control of civil aviation. It occurs to me that through the Bills that have been before the House during the last few days whereby the transport services of the country are going to take up aerial work, and the existing aerial ways, we could divorce the services entirely, and any moneys that might be spent to help civil aviation could be given in that direction asking no quid pro quo from any of those who are serving those companies to serve us in time of war. Some time ago the Prime Minister said: "Who in Europe does not know that one more war in the West and the civilisation of the ages will fall with as great a shock as that of Rome?" Sir Josiah Stamp tells us the abolition of armaments would mean an increase of 10 per cent. in the standard of life of the peoples of the world. I am sure I could not bring a greater authority to help me than Air-Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard. Speaking at the Cambridge University Aeronautical Society, he said: I do not want you to think that I look upon air as a blessing altogether. It may be more of a blessing for this Empire than for any other country in the world, but I feel that any 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 would say abolish air. I feel that it is an infinitely more harmful weapon of war than any other. 9.0 p.m.

Many of us agree with that view. When I won my place in the ballot, a Member congratulated me on my luck and said. "Do you know anything about the Air Force?" I said: "I only know that it claimed my son," and it is because of that, because I feel that, if we do not make every effort that a Government and a nation can make to abolish this diabolical means of warfare, we shall stand convicted, not only by the people of our own day, but by our children and our children's children, that I commend this Amendment to the House.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I trust I shall be voicing the feeling of all Members of the House in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Bellamy) on his admirable speech. I sincerely hope he will give us many more contributions on the same line. I do not think there is any topic, or any policy, more vital than disarmament. It is necessary at the outset to underline one or two things which the Amendment does not mean. As I read it, it is a very moderate proposal. It does not mean a policy of scuttle. It does not mean a policy of disarmament by example. It is simply a proposal to call a conference to discuss certain policies and certain proposals. It may be asked: Why is the question of disarmament raised on the Air Estimates? One must underline the fact that, owing to the difficulties of procedure, it is impossible to discuss all the Services in a proper way in which a disarmament discussion should take place. Disarmament should be approached from a consideration of all three Fighting Services. There is a very strong feeling in the House, which has already been expressed, for the formation of a Ministry of Defence. I believe it would receive support from Members of all parties, because there is no staff at present able to weigh all the claims of the different Fighting Services. There is no Department to-day which considers the claims of the Air Ministry, the Admiralty, and the War Office. It is true there is a Committee of Imperial Defence, but that is only a meeting together of the heads of the Fighting Services. There is no staff and no Department thinking out the details of those Services. I should be going a long way from the Amendment if I developed that point to-night, and I should be out of order if I referred to the failure of the Government at the Coolidge Conference, or if I discussed the question of the freedom of the seas and the consequent freedom of the air. I will confine myself to the air.

I should have thought that the Government would have been only too ready to adopt the Amendment which is before the House. The Air Minister, in his opening speech, said that the Government would welcome a mutual reduction, provided this country was not left in a vulnerable position. Supposing that it can be shown that the country is in a vulnerable position to-day, then the arguments in favour of universal disarmament will be increased tenfold. The fact is that we are gradually losing our air position. We have to consider, not merely the military situation, but both the military and the civil situation. We are usually charged on these benches with running down the country, with running down one or other of the Government Departments or Services, but there has hardly been a single speech to-day which has not been critical of the Government's air policy. What is the defect? There is nothing wrong with the technique of the Air Service. We have pilots who have shown as much skill and as much audacity as any pilots in any other part of the world. We have designers and factories producing machines which surpass the aircraft in any other part of the world. We have produced engines which have carried our machines on the longest flights and under the most difficult conditions as far as duration is concerned. With all the material at our disposal, the best possible personnel, the best technique, the best possible designers, the situation is all the more appalling.

I have been in some difficulty in making a comparison between the air power of this and other countries from the military point of view. As far as I am able to ascertain the relative military position can be gauged by regarding France as six, Italy as three, and Great Britain as two. I know that it is difficult with different types of aircraft and with different numbers of this or that machine to obtain a real numerical comparison, but that, I think, is a just comparison. A friend of mine has put the relative difference between France and Great Britain as much as eight to one. In fact, it is very doubtful if this country can guarantee its international commitments. Great Britain agreed at Geneva and at Locarno to certain arrangements with other States. As far as the Air Service is concerned Great Britain is not able to honour her signature in regard to France and to the other parties to the Locarno Treaty. That is the position in regard to military aviation, and I think it increases by tenfold the necessity of the Government to take some steps to arrive at an international settlement. It was admitted by the Air Minister in his speech to-day that, as far as home defence is concerned, he has only an establishment of 31 squadrons out of an approved establishment of 52 squadrons.

When we turn to civil aviation, the situation is very much worse, and as long as civil aviation is controlled, as it is, more or less by Stale subsidised companies, more or less by Government concerns, then we must regard civil aviation as a potential war weapon. I believe that properly handled and directed civil aviation can be the greatest factor for world peace that we can possibly imagine. The whole history of the development of peace has followed closely on the development of new forms of transport. Hundreds of years ago we used to fight on this island. There were the Wars of the Roses, the wars between England and Wales, and the wars between this and that tribe. As railways developed and as there was greater human intercourse between one part of the country and another part, the whole idea of one tribe fighting another passed away into obscurity. In exactly the same way, when you get rapid means of communication taking the people of this country across another country and into another country, you will gradually reduce, if indeed you will not ultimately eliminate the chances of the people coming together in deadly combat. I should like to say a few words about the situation of civil aviation to-day, because is is apposite to the discussion, in that under present condition civil aviation is a war factor. Several hon. Members have compared the position of this country with that of certain foreign Powers. It was mentioned earlier in the Debate that, as far as route mileage is concerned, Germany had 18,000. France 12,800, America some 13,000, and Great Britain only 2,200 miles, including the Cairo-Basra service—a mileage which has not altered during the last five years.

The hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) told us that these figures meant nothing. I will give him some more figure, and they are figures to show what we are doing on these routes. What has happened on the London to Paris route? On the London to Paris air service, Imperial Airways are rapidly losing their traffic. In the first eight months of 1028, compared with the same period in 1027, the French air lines increased their passenger traffic by 117 per cent., and the Imperial Airways by less than half, by 56 per cent. The reason for this is that Imperial Airways have not a sufficient number of aircraft to carry out those routes efficiently. Exactly the same thing is going to happen when the London to India service is started on the 1st April, because it is going to be a purely skeleton service. Already there are three competing services to carry passengers from this country to the East. There is one service already running, the German service via Berlin and Baku to Teheren. It is a twice weekly service which you can pick up in the ordinary way. There are two more projected services which will probably be operating very shortly: a French service via Constantinople and Angora and another service, I believe, via Italy and Greece. Take the German service which runs right across South Russia to Baku and Teheren. Supposing they put on another 20 machines—and the Luft Hansa company can very easily do that—it will mean that they will take the whole of the central European traffic out of the hands of Imperial Airways. This is bound to take place, because the Imperial Airways in regard to their equipment, not only on the London to Paris service but on the London to Geneva service and so on, have only 21 aeroplanes in commission.

So far as new machines which are likely to be delivered in the course of the next 12 months are concerned, I am informed that there are only four on order, three large aeroplanes and one seaplane, of the Calcutta type. What is happening elsewhere? Whilst we are developing on these lines, the output of the American factories for the next 12 months is estimated to be over 12,000, an increase over last year of nearly 7,000. That shows the situation in regard to our commercial air routes. We have lost the London to Paris traffic, and we shall probably start losing the London to India service if any of the foreign competitiors put machines on to these competitive routes, which they are able to do very easily from their vast resources.

Let me turn to the attitude of the Government towards the whole question of developing these tentacles for international peace, namely, civil air routes. It is very fortunate that there is no chance of war for the next 10 years.

What line ought the Government to take towards the air routes? The first thing that they ought to do is to after international air agreements, conventions and treaties in order to get greater freedom for flying over other countries. I do not believe that this policy of all-red routes and all-black routes, of aeroplanes flying from London to India, and jumping off at red spots on the map, counteracted by German aeroplanes flying to black spots, is likely to develop the best policy in the end. It is likely to antagonise and increase the bad feeling between the two countries. I should like to see the air liners of the future calling at the capitals of Europe, at London, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere, just as the tramp steamers and the liners of the seas call at Marseilles. Southampton and Hamburg. That, surely, is the direction in which we ought to work; to get the freedom of the air and the freedom of air ports all over the surface of the globe. Until we get that, we shall not get air traffic moving with that freedom that it ought to do.

Then there is the question of international supervision. I was very glad to receive the cordial support of the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney) to our proposals for international supervision. The hon. and gallant Member has received the confidence of the Government in regard to his airship policy, and as the Government place such confidence in the air knowledge of the hon. and gallant Member they may rely upon his judgment and support this Amendment. There ought not to be much difficulty in the supervision, control, and employment of civil aircraft. Some machinery could be devised, through the League of Nations or otherwise, to supervise and control all civil aviation, employing, if necessary, individuals belonging to all nationalities. As the Governments have the power to grant certificates to all aeroplanes which fly, it ought not to be very difficult to deal with this matter, especially as it is practically a new service, starting de novo, which makes it very much simpler.

The Government have not really appreciated the value of air power, while other countries have. The Government do not realise what the next air war will mean, and they do not realise the value of encouraging international air transport. That is partly due, I believe, to the absence of a proper planning department at the Air Ministry. There is nothing at the Air Ministry corresponding with the plans division at the Admiralty. It took two years of war, and then only when the country had nearly been defeated by the submarine menace, to set up a new plans department at the Admiralty, entirely separate from the administrative work, to think out the future. That is what is wanted at the Air Ministry to-day, not merely on the military side but on the civil side also. It is because the civil side is so important that I should like to ask the Secretary of State for Air why it is that he has not put the Director of Civil Aviation on the Air Council. Having regard to the important position which the civil division holds in the work of the Air Ministry, in my opinion the most important work of the Air Ministry, the Director of that Department ought to have a seat on the Board of the Air Council.

The trouble is due partly because the policy of the Government—I am not allowed to develop it to-night, because we are unable by the terms of the Vote, and the terms of the Amendment, from discussing the fighting services as a whole—is still largely dominated by the old blue water school. The Air Ministry comes in a bad third after the Admiralty and the War Office. The Navy gets its £57,000,000 and the Army gets its £41,000,000 and the Air Ministry gets its £16,000,000. I am in favour of the abolition of war, but so long as we have to have some fighting services they ought to be as cheap and economical as we can possibly devise. We cannot go on spending these enormous sums on the weapons of war. I believe that we could cut down the Army and the Navy by tens of millions of pounds, and devote some of the money to the Air Ministry, and we should not impair the defensive measures of the country. The reason why we do not do that is because the Government and the Cabinet are dominated by the blue water school, the old-fashioned blue water school which thinks in terms of naval strength, in terms of the conditions of 1914, when private blockade was the policy. That policy is now almost universally regarded as being morally intolerable, physically indefensible, and technically impossible.

Very soon after the next war has started, if a war does start, and no attempt is being made to prevent it so far as this Government are concerned, air craft will be the first service. The Navy and the Army will be auxiliaries to the Air Force. Except perhaps in some remote field of warfare, the Army and the Navy will only be playing a very subsidiary part. I am glad to think that facts will prove more important than generals, and realities will be more convincing than Admirals. It may be said by some, what are you going to do with the officers and men in the Air Force and in the other services. I do not think that ought to be a consideration against disarmament. Even if you pension off the whole of the services, it would be far cheaper than the cost of maintaining the services, coupled with the cost of warfare, and the trouble and misery that comes from using these forces for war. There is a further question about which I feel very strongly, and that is, what the next war will mean. In the next war, if it comes, the horrors will dwarf the horrors of the last war into insignificance. The next war will be a civilian war. On a small scale in past wars women and children have suffered from bombing raids which were generally looked upon as accidents. They may have been intentional, but the ordinary public looked upon these events as not being deliberate. The mere fact that in any future war we shall have the whole of our women and children put into the conflict of war within five minutes of the declaration of war, is in itself a sufficient justification for our trying to prevent any air warfare whatsoever.

I am concerned with disarmament because of this effect of the next war. A few months ago the Air Minister carried out a trial bombing raid on London. There has been far too much reticence about the experience that has been gained by the Air Minister in that direction, but I do think from what has leaked out in the newspapers that the ordinary man-in-the-street can gain some appreciation of what the next air war will mean to the population of London. What is certain is that the civilian in the next war will be a helpless combatant. There is no security for the 10,000,000 or so of population that makes up Greater London. There is no security for the industrial population in any of the great towns in this country. We have heard a good deal about poison gas. I believe as far as London is concerned—spread as it is over an area with a diameter of 30 miles—that 30 or 40 tons of diphenylchlordarsine, or any of the more recent poison gases, would destroy nearly the whole population that happened to be above the ground. The Government have done absolutely nothing, except to produce two Blue Books dealing with chemical warfare, a manual of the medical aspects of chemical warfare issued by the War Office and a tract published by the Red Cross Society. As I said just now, every town in this country is liable to annihilation within five minutes of the declaration of war, and if reason does not finally triumph over force, the writing in the sky will mean the end of modern civilisation.

Every year that passes makes disarmament harder. The further you get away from the experiences and results of the Great War the more difficult it is to influence public opinion in favour of a great measure of universal disarmament. Day in and day out there are more people reaching the age of maturity who did not experience the horrors of the last War. Even if they are employed, they go daily to a long, irksome toil at the factory; or those working in the city go up regularly every morning, hanging on a strap for an hour, sitting on an office stool in a dirty, dingy office, and then hanging on a strap at the end of the day going back to their homes. In the event of another war, then to all these people who have not seen the last War, and who have no memories of the last War, the call to enlist would come as a bright interlude in a life of drab monotony; and I say that the longer we go on the more difficult it will become to prevent another war. War is also inimical to social progress. Every war that takes place means that the hands of the clock of social development are set back by scores of years. The colossal expenditure we have put into armaments, and the money put into paying debts for years afterwards has meant starvation of the social services. While we are paying to-day £114,000,000 for the Air Service and other fighting Services, the Ministry of Health has to cut down milk supplies for babies; the Ministry of Labour has to cut down unemployment benefit; and the Ministry of Health has to reduce housing subsidies. We are spending to-day something like £200 a minute on armaments. Since the Conservative Government have been in office, we have spent no less than £582,000,000 on war. Think what that sum might have meant spent in other ways! Think what one-fifth of that sum might have meant if spent on social services, housing, education and the health of the people! What have we spent on peace? While we have spent £582,000,000 on war, we have spent a paltry £360,000 on the League of Nations, and even that the Government representative at the meeting last year tried to cut down still further.

There is no question more important than this question of disarmament. The Government have messed and muddled disarmament conference after disarmament conference. I believe that in the end disarmament will come about. Up and down the country, and up and down the world, there is a growing feeling that war is a terrible infamy and a crime against Christianity. I believe the time will come when the wars which now take place will be looked upon as the dreadful barbarities of the mediaeval age of 1928. Just as we have abolished wars between England and Wales and other parts of this country, so shall we abolish ideas of war between England, Germany, France and the other countries of the world. I am sure that this moderate little Amendment, which does not go very far, will receive the support of the Government. The Air Minister, whoever he may be, has a very great opportunity. He has got the greatest opportunity of all the Ministers who control the fighting Departments. Negatively he can use his influence through the Cabinet and through the Foreign Office, and work through enemy channels to bring about international agreement with regard to the air services of the world. But he has a greater power. He alone of the three fighting Services has got a positive weapon. He has got the positive weapon of civilian air power. He can use that weapon, and if it is properly handled it can and will be a determining influence in the cause of world peace.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Malone) has said that we are all in favour of the abolition of war. Certainly I know no party in the State, no individual Member, and certainly no one who took part in the last great War, and has a wife and children dependent on him who is not in favour of the abolition of war. But as I listened to his speech I thought he ought to have been addressing not the Minister for Air but the Archbishop of Canterbury and some of the leaders of the other religions and denominations, because where they have failed to agree the hon. Member must not expect the Minister of Air or any political party in this country to succeed. What does the whole of his statement really mean? It is a propaganda statement on pacificism and disarmament. The world is not sufficiently advanced and civilised to accept the total abolition of all naval, military and air forces. The words of the Amendment refer only to the air forces. I do not think hon. Members intend that they should stop there, but would include the Army and Navy as well. It would he absurd to have total disarmament of the air forces and leave the naval and military forces as they are. I presume that hon. Members opposite mean to abolish the lot. Does the hon. Member for Northampton think that uncivilised countries would agree to such a proposal? This country is only a tiny- item, a very small oasis, in a desert of uncivilised communities. We are actually on the fringe of civilisation. It does not stretch many miles away; it only reaches to the borders of Russia.

This brings me to the difficulties under which we suffer in this country as far as aviation is concerned. We are hemmed in north and south by the sea and also on the Atlantic side. Our only expansion is towards the continent. We are at the geographical land end of this continent and, therefore, compared with America and Germany and other countries, which have made enormous strides in aviation, we are at a great disadvantage. What have we to replace it? We have the British Empire Route. What we want to do is to develop our air communications with the Empire. I think the Air Ministry has been unfairly criticised in what they are doing in this respect. Other countries can carry out the whole of their developments with land machines. We are differently situated. We have to experiment with seaplanes airships, and other forms of aviation; and when I hear hon. Members opposite read out large figures of the flights carried out by America and Germany, and hold them up in order to criticise our own Air Ministry, I think they are somewhat unfair to the Air Ministry, and are unduly critical of our civilian capacity for flying. I am convinced that we are on the right lines, providing we encourage the air sense in this country. At present it is not being sufficiently developed. There is the greatest difficulty in getting landing grounds and aerodromes outside our principal towns. They are not included in town planning schemes; but I am convinced that, with sympathetic attention and consideration, we shall presently develop the flying sense amongst our youngsters and when that takes place, and it becomes natural for our young people to take to the air, we shall overtake nations like Germany and the United States of America who at the moment are ahead of us. I think the Air Ministry is on the whole developing this service on the right lines.


It is not often that I address the House and I only do so to-night because of the interest I have in the subject under discussion. The Amendment which has been moved calls attention to disarmament and invites the Government to accept a certain policy in relation to it. Since I have been a Member of this House there have been a number of motions similar to this submitted to the judgment of this House, and every one has been rejected, as I have no doubt this will be when the Division takes place to-night. No one watching the proceeding's on an occasion like this, noting the comparatively empty benches, and noting that at the end of the Debate the decision given by a majority of this House, would ever dream that in this matter of disarmament this country placed, itself years ago under pledges of a definite and most binding character. I want to refer tonight to one only of those pledges; the pledge employed in the reply made en behalf of the Allied and Associated Powers to the German Peace Delegation's observations on the Peace Treaty, on 16th June, 1919. This declaration has been referred to on previous occasions in this House, but I make no apology for returning to it to-night. The terms are as follow: The Allied and Associated Powers wish to make it clear that their requirements in regard to German armaments were not solely with the object of rendering it impossible for German to resume her policy of military aggression. They are also the first steps towards that general reduction and limitation of armaments which they seek to bring about as one of the most fruitful preventives of war and which it will be one of the first duties of the League of Nations to promote. That declaration was made 10 years ago. Since that time, there have been a succession of conferences on war and disarmament. Agreements have been signed and treaties and pacts have been entered into. The last of these pacts was that signed in August of last year. On 27th August, 1928, the representatives of 15 nations, headed by Mr. Kellogg, the American Secretary of State, signed a treaty by which the signatory nations pledged themselves to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. I imagine that even the most enthusiastic supporter of the Kellogg Pact would hardly claim for it more than a certain moral value, and even that moral value has been reduced considerably by the reservations insisted upon both by the French and the British Governments. Fifty Notes had to be sent to and from Washington in order to accomplish even so little in the interests of peace, and it took Mr. Kellogg 12 months to remove the objections of the chief signatory Powers. I realise, of course, that in these matters concerning international agreements Governments cannot hurry. There are all sorts of difficulties to be overcome and all sorts of obstacles to be removed. But the Kellogg Pact was only one of a number of agreements. Is it to be wondered at that people become cynical and apathetic when they see these long-drawn-out negotiations yielding such very meagre results? After all, the people of this country are essentially a practical people, and they want to see practical results. They apply the practical test, and they are perfectly right to do so, for the real test of the value of an agreement such as the Kellogg Pact is, does it make real disarmament possible? Ultimately, that is the test by which the value of any such agreement will have to be judged.

I want to put a question to the Secretary of State. I want him to tell us what to-day is the real mind of the Government on this question of disarmament? Have the Government a disarmament policy? Does it regard disarmament to-day as practical politics? If it does not, I think it would be just as well for the Government to emulate the frankness of some of its own friends. Some months ago I read a leading article in the "Sunday Times" under the heading, "The Disarmament Phantasy." That article was written during the sittings of the Preparatory Conference at Geneva, and the "Sunday Times," in commenting on that Conference, said this: This is the 5th Session and the 500th is not likely to find it any nearer its goal. The article concluded with the following: The dream of disarmament or even of any universal agreement to limit arms, is as baseless as the dream of a universal religion. It can at least be said about that article that it was an honest view, frankly, if somewhat brutally, expressed. I want to ask whether in any sense that attitude represents the present view of the Government with regard to disarmament? For my part I would infinitely prefer the attitude expressed by the writer of that article to the attitude of those who are ready to pay lip service to disarmament, but who in their heart of hearts reject it as a wholly impracticable and unattainable ideal. I ask again, how does the Government regard disarmament? I shall be told, of course, that the Government is sincere in its desire to promote disarmament. Every other Government declares exactly the same thing, and every Government has been declaring that for the last 10 years. But nothing has happened up to now. Not all the conferences and pacts and agreements put together have really helped the world forward by a single step towards the realisation of a measure of disarmament. After all, in this matter deeds are much more impressive and convincing than declarations.

There is certainly very little evidence of the sincerity of Governments in anything that has happened since the year 1918. As a matter of fact, we appear to-day to be living wholly in a world of unreality. Everybody pays lip service to the ideal of disarmament. Governments pay lip service to the ideal. Yet every nation continues to perfect its machinery of slaughter at a vast and increasing public cost; new and formidable weapons of war are being devised, and more deadly instruments of annihilation than were employed in the last war are being prepared for the next war. The truth, I am afraid, is that every Government to-day is sceptical as to the possibilities of any real measure of disarmament. The Minister to-day made a claim. He said that while aerial expenditure was bounding up in other countries, in matters of aerial disarmament our own record is unassailable. I would like to know exactly what the Secretary of State means when he talks about aerial disarmament. The fact of the matter is that for years past the strength of our aerial service has been growing. The figures of that increase have been quoted to-day. They show a progressive increase in the strength of the Service. Is that what the Secretary of State means by aerial disarmament?

I can find very little connection between the actual facts as they are known, and the claim of the Secretary of State that in matters of aerial disarmament our own record is unassailable. It is true that in comparison with certain other Powers our present expenditure on the Air Force is a low expenditure. That we have limited our expenditure, I am prepared at once to admit. But what is the reason for whatever limitation has up to now been imposed on aerial expenditure? It is not that we have sacrificed anything to peace; only that we have sacrificed something to economy. We have had a good many so-called disarmament conferences. As a matter of fact, those conferences have been economy conferences; they have been concerned with the question of how national Budgets might be lightened by a reduction in armament expenditure. But economy conferences are not disarmament conferences. We have yet to hold the first real conference for the purpose of considering the problem of disarmament.

The Air Minister last year warned the people of this country of the inevitability of further increases of expenditure on the. Air Service. I am perfectly certain that the Minister was right in giving that warning. It is true that this year there has been a small saving, but the Minister knows how inevitable further increases and developments in the Air Force are, provided that there continues to be an absence of international agreement to deal with the question of the limitation of aerial armaments. The question has been asked: Where is this kind of competition going to end? The answer is clear and definite. It will end as every race in armaments has ended, in war between the civilised nations of the world. The time has come when we ought to be prepared, boldly and frankly, to meet the facts of the situation. If disarmament is not a practical ideal, then let us continue to plan and prepare for war. Let the scientist and the inventor increase and multiply the powers of death and bring the mechanism of destruction to its highest point of efficiency. After that, let us resign ourselves, with what tranquillity we may, to the catastrophe that will sooner or later follow. No sensible man in this country wants war. Everybody views the possibility of it with dread and horror. War, under modern conditions, has become an extremely horrible and utterly inhuman thing.

Yet I sometimes think that even the horrors of war are not so appalling as the stupidity of war. War, under modern conditions, is the last word in human folly and futility. It squanders wealth and life. It frustrates the work of social reform and strengthens every power of evil in the world, and, after all, its appalling waste and sacrifice settle absolutely nothing. War is an affront to reason and an affront to the moral sense of mankind. The effort to end war by making reason and good will effective through international agreements is one to which we should all be prepared to dedicate ourselves—Governments not least of all. I belong to a party which is sometimes accused of lacking the quality of patriotism. I do not admit the truth of the accusation. It is true that the view of patriotism and of what patriotism means and involves held by us may differ from the view of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. But my patriotism at least impels me to wish for my country the best that is possible. It impels me to desire to see my country helping all good and righteous causes, and, above all, to see this country take the lead among the nations in helping to prepare the way for the new international era, when peace, securely set upon her throne, may exercise dominion over the minds and hearts of men.

10.0 p.m.


I should like, at the outset of my remarks, to congratulate the Mover of this Amendment on his very excellent maiden speech. I am very sorry that it was so eloquent, as I have to reply to it. In so far as the supporters of the Amendment have urged us to be willing to take our part in a scheme of all-round reduction of air armaments, or, better still, of armaments generally, they are forcing an open door. The Air Ministry does not yield either to the Army or the Navy in its desire to be associated with a general scheme of that kind. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Bellamy) drew a terrible picture of the effects of the bombing of a great city. One does not need to accept these pictures, very often highly coloured, which are drawn of the horrors of air warfare to admit that the possibilities of the air weapon are terrible, and that everything that can be done ought to be done to avoid these possibilities being realised. The Air Ministry is also concerned equally with the other Service Departments in the question of national economy, and would welcome a reduction in the Estimates. Even on that ground alone, the expenditure of from £120,000,000 to £130,000,000 a year on the defence services is a serious matter, and, although the Air Ministry's share of that expenditure is not a great one, we should be very glad to contribute to its decrease if we thought we could do so without endangering the national security.

As a matter of fact, the Air Force is the last of the three Services which can be used as a peg on which to hang an Amendment of this kind. By that, I do not mean that either of the other two Services are proper for that purpose. All I am saying is that the Air Force is not suitable for such a purpose. Its record since the War shows that to be the case. I do not need to remind hon. Members that, drastic as have been the reductions made in the military and naval forces, the reduction in the Air Force has been even more drastic. From being the first air Power in the world, we have sunk to the position of the fifth and that in spite of the fact that the advent of the air weapon has lost us our age-long security as an island nation, and has left the greatest city in the world more open to the dangers of air attack than any other of the capitals of Europe. This Amendment complains that the Government have failed to make any proposals for securing international agreement on the question of air disarmament. The simple and sufficient answer is that we have made such proposals. At the Preparatory Commission on Disarmament at Geneva a provisional formula for air disarmament has actually been reached and has been reached very largely on the British initiative. We set out from the start to advocate a simple clear-cut formula, namely, strength of first-line machines.


Has that formula been agreed?


We should have liked to have retained that very simple and easily intelligible formula, but, when the other nations were desirous of having samething rather more elaborate, we were only too ready to meet them and eventually agreed to a formula which is a combination of strength in first-line machines and horse-power of engines. The position, therefore, is that whereas no acceptable formula has been reached in the spheres of naval or military disarmament, a formula in the sphere of air armament has been reached and is ready for application; and it is due chiefly to this country that so much progress has been made. Once the method and principles to be applied have been agreed, there is little more that the Preparatory Commission can do; it is then for the Governments concerned to apply the agreed principle.

I should like to say, and I should like to prove if I can, that this country is not the country which should necessarily take the first step in that direction, because no one could fairly say that Great Britain has ever shown the slightest intention of engaging in a race of air armaments, or indeed of going in for a race in armaments at all; but to-night we are discussing the Air Estimates, and so I will keep to them. As I have said, we have now sunk to the fifth place among the Air Powers of the world; but that is not the whole story. We are the only nation which can show in the past five years a consistent reduction in our Estimates below the figure of the year 1925. Last year I gave the House detailed figures showing that our air expenditure in 1928 was over 10 per cent. below the 1925 figures. This year, for the first time since 1925, our gross Estimates show a slight increase, but our net figure shows a slight decrease. If one looks at the Estimates of the principal foreign Air Powers one finds a very different state of affairs. The Estimates of every one of the four Powers which come before us in comparative air strength show that in each year since 1925 there has been a very considerable increase upon their respective figures in 1925.

I gave the House last year some detailed figures showing the really surprising scale upon which these increases are taking place. In the present year the United States and France are carrying the process of expansion still further. The precise figures, owing to the different methods of administration and budgetting, are difficult to ascertain quite accurately, but it is not at all difficult to discover that in each case a very substantial increase, ranging from 25 per cent. to 100 per cent. or more, over the 1925 figures, is taking place in the present year. Second on the list of the five strongest Air Powers comes the United States of America, the birthplace of the Peace Pact. In the Estimates for the present year they head the list of increases, with Estimates which will be more than double those for 1925.

Commander BELLAIRS

They are not passed.


But the Estimates are presented.

Commander BELLAIRS

They are presented, but they will not be passed.


The hon. and gallant Member knows that they will not pass; he has information which we have not got. France, the strongest Air Power in the world, is not very far behind with an increase of nearly 100 per cent. over her 1925 figures. The Italian figures for this year are not available, but the figure for each of the past three years has remained steady at a substantial increase over the 1925 figure. The original Italian programme of air expansion provided for the ultimate attainment of a first line force of 1,600 machines which is twice our present strength, and there is no reason to believe that that programme has been in any way modified. A rough but sufficiently accurate calculation indicates that the United States, France and Italy are all allocating substantially larger proportions of their total national expenditure to air development than is this country.

Even to-day our ratio of Air strength in terms of first-line machines as against France is approximately 8 to 13. Yet only a few weeks ago the French Air Minister, in the Chamber, when introducing his Estimates, said that he intended to proceed with a programme which would increase the number of French squadrons from the present number of some 150 squadrons to the truly formidable figure of 201 squadrons. In face of these figures it is scarcely reasonable that this country should be the first to cut down still further its scanty provision of machine.


Nobody is asking that.


It would be more reasonable for hon. Members to complain that we are not paying enough attention to the Air risks and Air responsibilities of our Empire. I know that I should find that kind of attack far more difficult to meet.


Is there anything of that kind in the Amendment?


The Amendment is a disarmament Amendment, and I am trying to show what we have done in the way of disarmament, and how we compare with other countries.


Excuse my interrupting, but the Under-Secretary of State for Air has misinterpreted the argument of the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. He says that we want to cut down the Air Forces without other Air Forces being cut down, but the Amendment clearly says that the Government should take steps to secure an international agreement on the question of Air disarmament, which is quite a different matter.


The Mover of the Amendment said in the course of his speech that if only our representatives at Geneva had been able to go there with a gesture saying, "We have been able to cut down our Air Force," the situation would have been greatly improved.

I was saying that it would be more difficult to meet an attack that we were not paying enough attention to our Air responsibilities as far as our Empire was concerned. The only way in which we could meet such an attack would be by stating the fact—which I am happy to say is a fact—that man for man and machine for machine our Air Force can more than stand comparison with the Air Force of any other country in the world. I wonder whether the Mover of this Amendment really believes that if this House were to decide this very evening to scrap the whole of our Air Force, the result would be to induce any foreign nation to delay the construction of a single aeroplane. I think, on the other hand, that such a decision would far more probably result in a further expansion in the Estimates of neighbouring Powers, who would see themselves deprived of the support which in certain circumstances they might think they were able to rely upon from the British Air Forces.

It might be laid down as an axiom in all questions of international disarmament that the Power which is strongest in the weapon concerned is the one which can put forward proposals for reductions with the greatest hope that its proposals will be accepted, and without fearing that with each reduction which it makes in its own forces without inducing others to follow its example, it is lessening its chance of realising its aim. The history of our own action in the sphere of Naval armaments is a proof of this axiom, and is conclusive, I think, against the possibility of our taking the next step in any question of Air disarmament. As a matter of fact, as I have already pointed out, we have already set an example in the reduction of Air armaments, which, if there were anything in the arguments which have periodically been put forward by Members opposite, ought to have succeeded already in checking the remarkable expansion which is going on in the Air Forces of other Powers. For four years our Air Estimates have been stationary or have decreased, amid general increases all round us.

We have not even yet completed the scheme of expansion for our home defence which was laid down in 1923. In that year, hon. Members will remember, owing to public anxiety with regard to our weakness in the air, a scheme for the expansion of our home defences was drawn up, after very long and careful examination of the question. That scheme was for the creation by 1928 of a force of 52 squadrons, and entailed an annual increase of £5,500,000 over a period of five years. That scheme was approved by the Government of the day and by hon. Members opposite, but it has not been carried out. Its completion was first of all put off till 1930, and it was then still further deferred. Surely we might reasonably have expected that, if example was all that was needed, our action in this respect might have been reflected in the Air Estimates of other Powers. I believe that our gross Estimates to-day are within £1,000,000 or less of the sum at which they stood when that scheme was introduced. We are spending to day less than two-thirds of the sum for which the United States of America are making provision in this coming year.

It is true that, in spite of the postponement of the completion of our home defence scheme and the reductions in our Estimates year by year, we have been able to make some progress, and the fact that we should have been able to do so reflects great credit on the Air Ministry, but we are still 21 squadrons below our 1923 scheme, and the responsibilities of the Air Force have increased. The Air Force has undertaken new responsibilities in many spheres abroad, in Aden, in Iraq, in Transjordan, in Palestine, and in India, and, as has been said to-day, there was a remarkable achievement at Kabul recently when nearly 600 men, women and children were evacuated without a single casualty. In undertaking all these extended responsibilities and carrying them out, they have saved great expenditure to the Exchequer. By careful economies and organisation we have been able to make some additions to our first line strength and to re-equip all, or nearly all, our squadrons with up-to-date machines.

I do not think anyone is going to suggest that, because we have been able, without increasing our Estimates, to create an efficient Air Force within the resources at our disposal, that fact can be said to have been the cause in any way of the remarkable increases in foreign Air Estimates, or that cur action in any way constitutes a threat to any other nation. On the contrary, the true position is rather different. We alone, among all the great Air Powers, have not only postponed our home defence scheme, but for years have steadily reduced our Estimates. We have done this, despite the fact that the position of our Empire and its needs show more opportunity for the use of air power than do those of any other nation. What reasonable likelihood, therefore, is there that, by any further postponement of our home defence scheme or by any reduction in our Estimates, we shall cause any other nation or air Power to change its policy? The policy of those nations depends on quite other considerations.

If that defence scheme is to be proceeded with, it will in years to come entail further increases in the Air Estimates. We have not got to bother about that to-night. But if and when that time comes hon. Members who are now asking that we should reduce our Estimates still further will have to reflect on the results of the lead we have already given to other nations in the last five years, and weigh against those results the responsibility which this House has of ensuring the safety of our people against the horrors of air attack.

The concluding sentence of the Amendment advocates the international control of civil aviation. That proposal was also made last year, and I think the House was then satisfied with the arguments advanced against it. The situation has not changed since then, and the arguments presented then still hold good. It must be remembered that the air transport companies of Europe are not State owned. They are commercial enterprises and the difficulties in the way of inter-nationalising them would really be insuperable. Moreover, if by some miracle, those difficulties could be overcome, the object which hon. Members opposite seek to obtain would still be no nearer, because in order to meet the needs of the nations concerned the machines would still at any given time be located in centres and at aerodromes as they are to-day, and it would be no more difficult than it would be to-day for any ill-disposed country to commandeer all the machines in its territory and put them to any military use which was desired.

Brigadier-General CHARTERIS

Will the hon. Baronet explain to the House whether the application of the agreed formula of disarmament alters in any way the present relative strengths of the forces of Great Britain and other countries?


It is only the categories of comparison which have been settled, and not the numbers.


Does the addition of horse power mean that civil aeroplanes will be counted as military aeroplanes?




From two points of view, the hon. Baronet has made a somewhat alarming speech. In the first place, he painted a rather serious picture of the insecurity of this country from the point of view of its aerial defence by comparison with the Air Forces of other countries. I will say a word about that in a moment. In the second place, he made a rather alarming speech in the sense that he seems to suggest that His Majesty's Government are quite unaware of certain very grave risks inherent in the present situation and in the competitive development, of which he himself spoke, of the Air Forces of other countries. As I listened to the figures given to us of the increases in the strength of the Air Forces of the United States, France, Italy and other countries, and as I heard the hon. Baronet referring to home defence, I had a feeling that if in reality the position be as serious as he suggests, there is no possibility of a substantial defence, either for us or any other great Power, threatened with air attack. I read the other day a very interesting speech made by Lord Halsbury, who held a high staff appointment during the War. He repeated as recently as 6th December, in a conference on disarmament held in connection with the League of Nations Union, a statement which I had heard made before and which, if it be still true, is exceedingly serious. He was dealing with the development of German civil aviation and the possibility of its being converted to military uses; but the same argument would apply equally to France or any other Power. He said: It seems to me the only possible solution is to have enough force in this country so that, if Germany were to attack London and obliterate it, we should have enough force to make reprisals on Germany. I want to couple that statement with one other remark: We must get a campaign of publicity, so that all the public in every country shall know that if there is an attack by one country it means the obliteration of the capital cities of both. Does it simply mean that if we happen to be engaged in war with another country that London would be blown to pieces and reduced to a mass of poisoned ruins, while our defence force would be carrying out similar destructive operations in Berlin, Rome, or Moscow? As far as I have read the judgment of experts on this question they are to the effect that there is no possible defence against a mass attack from the air with poisoned bombs and so on. The Air Force upon which such a large sum of money is being spent by this country is a complete bluff because it is not a defence force at all but a counter offensive force. We are to ruin the cities and towns of other countries in the same way as they are going to ruin our own. We are not getting much satisfaction for the large sums of money we are being asked to spend upon the Air Force. I think the Secretary of State for Air himself has admitted that there is no effective defence against air attacks on a large scale.

May I put this consideration before the House? During the last War there were many interesting Debates in this House upon the progress of the War and the possible conditions under which it might be terminated in regard to the terms of peace. In the next war between highly equipped European Powers such discussions will be impossible because this House will go up in smoke soon after the declaration of war, and if Parliament does continue its deliberations it will have to seek some sylvan retreat in the provinces. In the next war the main shock of the air attack by the enemy will determine the issue of the war soon after its opening, and there will be a greater mass of casualties amongst the civilian population than was achieved by four years of military operations in the last War. General Groves and other experts have been quoted to-day, and it cannot be contended that these are mere dealers in melodrama. They know what they are talking about, and when they paint such a picture of the possibilities of another war between powerful national States and tell us that it will be fought mostly in the air, it cannot be denied that they are dealing with matters well within their knowledge.

The Government typifies a nation which is, as it were, walking in its sleep, striking matches in the neighbourhood of high explosives without realising what it is doing. Supposing every word of what the Secretary of State for Air has said is true and that the picture which has been drawn is as black as it has been painted. Does it not follow that we should be in a stronger position if we took steps to get the representatives of the nations together to come to some decision in regard to this question of disarmament? It is all very well to say that the Disarmament Commission agreed upon a certain formula for the number of machines in the first line and their horse power with no figures filled in. Can it be said on behalf of the Government that they have proposed any big scheme of disarmament or that they have endeavoured to push the whole thing to a concrete conclusion?

I have read some of the reports of the proceedings of the Preparatory Disarmament Commission, and the impression I have formed as regards naval, military and air force discussions is that the Government were not really pushing forward at all in this matter, that they were sitting still, letting other people make the running, and, in a great number of detailed cases, raising obstructions and difficulties about matters which were clearly of comparatively small importance. For example, it was proposed by the French that we should put a limitation also upon air effectives, upon aircraft in reserve, and upon military expenditure on aircraft. On all of these three points our representatives obstructed, and refused to agree to what were, as it seems to me, reasonable proposals. It is true that in the end this partial, empty formula was arrived at which the hon. Baronet so greatly prizes.

I submit that the whole course of the proceedings was such as to indicate that His Majesty's Government were not in earnest about the matter, did not seriously and earnestly desire disarmament, and regarded the whole thing as an academic and unimportant matter. It is against that attitude of mind that we have brought forward this Amendment. The Amendment has been either gravely misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented by the hon. baronet. It is not a proposal for unilateral disarmament; it does not suggest that we should reduce our own Air Force regardless of what is done by other nations. It expresses regret that His Majesty's Government have not made proposals for securing international agreement. I submit that the proposals which they have made are feeble and partial proposals, and that a great part of their activities has been directed towards blocking the proposals of other people, instead of putting forward proposals of their own. We express regret that they have not made greater international efforts to bring in these other great nations who are building up these powerful air forces, and we urge them to take the initiative in proposing, not a programme of unilateral disarmament, but a programme to which, if they were sufficiently persuasive in the Conference, other nations might give their assent.

We have put down this Amendment because a very large mass of opinion in the country outside is sick and tired of the obstruction and self-excuse which is continually going on with regard to this question of disarmament. Whatever the hon. Baronet may say in this House, whatever other spokesmen of the Government may say in this House, the truth remains that people outside are getting sick and tired of the inactivity, passivity and obstruction which they believe to exist in this Government in relation to expenditure on armaments. I regret, as previous speakers have, that we have to discuss these matters in water-tight compartments, that there is no opportunity for reviewing the whole problem of military, naval and air policy under one heading, such as should be afforded in an intelligent distribution of the business of this House. Therefore, we are making the best we can of such partial opportunities as come to us, and on this occasion, in view of the fact that the Air Ministry is on its trial and is bringing its estimates before the House, we put down this Amendment. We are exceedingly dissatisfied with the reply that has been made from the Front Bench opposite, and shall certainly carry the Amendment to a Division.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 152; Noes, 65.

Division No. 262.] AYES. [10.36 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Gower, Sir Robert
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)
Albery, Irving James Cope, Major Sir William Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Couper, J. B. Greene, W. P. Crawford
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Cowan Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn, N.) Gunston, Captain D. W.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Hacking, Douglas H.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Hanbury, C.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Davies, Dr. Vernon Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Bevan, S. J. Dixey, A. C. Harland, A.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Edmondson, Major A. J. Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington) Haslam, Henry C.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Elliot, Major Walter E. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.
Briscoe, Richard George Ellis, R. G. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)
Brittain, Sir Harry Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Fermoy, Lord Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Fielden, E. B. Hills, Major Join Waller
Bullock, Captain M. Ford, Sir P. J. Hoare, Li.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
Burman, J. B. Forestler-Walker, Sir L. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)
Burney, Lieut. Com. Charles D. Fraser, Captain Ian Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Campbell, E. T. Galbraith, J. F. W. Hopkins, J. W. W.
Carver, Major W. H. Ganzoni, Sir John Hore-Belisha, Leslie
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Gates, Percy Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.
Christie, J. A. Glyn, Major R. G. C. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N).
Cobb, Sir Cyril Goff, Sir Park Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer
Hurst, Sir Gerald Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Oakley, T. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
King, Commodore Henry Douglas O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Lamb, J. Q. Perring, Sir William George Templeton, W. P.
Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Ramsden, E. Tinne, J. A.
Lougher, Sir Lewis Renter, J. R. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Rentoul, Sir Gervals Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Ward, Lt. Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Lumley, L. R. Rice, Sir Frederick Warrender, Sir Victor
MacAndrew Major Charles Glen Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
McLean, Major A. Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint) Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Macmillan, Captain H. Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Watts, Sir Thomas
Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham) Ropner, Major L. Wayland, Sir William A.
Makins, Brigadier-General E. Ross, R. D. Wells, S. R.
Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A. White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-
Margesson, Captain D. Salmon, Major I. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Mason, Colonel Glyn K. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Winby, Colonel L. P.
Meller, R. J. Sandeman, N. Stewart Womersley, W. J.
Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Sanderson, Sir Frank Wragg, Herbert
Milne, J. S. Wardlaw Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D. Wright, Brig.-General W. D.
Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Savery, S. S. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Smithers, Waldron TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Moreing, Captain A. H. Southby, Commander A. R. J. Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain Wallace.
Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Griffith, F. Kingsley Ponsonby, Arthur
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Grundy, T. W. Potts, John S.
Barr, J. Hardie, George D. Purcell, A. A.
Batey, Joseph Hayes, John Henry Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Bellamy, A. Hirst, G. H. Saklatvala, Shapurji
Benn, Wedgwood Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Scrymgeour, E.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Kelly, W. T. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Bromley, J. Kennedy, T. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Buchanan, G. Kenworthy, Lt Com. Hon. Joseph M. Stamford, T. W.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Lawrence, Susan Stephen, Campbell
Cape, Thomas Lawson, John James Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Cluse, W. S. Longbottom, A. W. Taylor R. A.
Dalton, Hugh MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Tinker, John Joseph
Dalton, Ruth (Bishop Auckland) MacLaren, Andrew Tomlinson, R. P.
Day, Harry Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Viant, S. P.
Dennison, R. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Wellock, Wilfred
Duncan, C. Maxton, James Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Edge, Sir William Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Windsor, Walter
Gardner, J. P. Motley, Sir Oswald
Gillett, George M. Oliver, George Harold TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Owen, Major G. Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Whiteley.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)

Question put, and agreed to.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]