§ Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am glad that the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Hersford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) is present to hear what I have to say about his speech. If I may be allowed to say so in such distinguished company, I agree that of our expenditure on national defence so called, there is far too much spent on the Army and Navy in comparison with the Air Force, but I do nor, agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that all the savings ought to come from the Navy. I object to an officer of the hon. and gallant Admiral's distinction suggesting that the Navy is entirely inefficient, and that the Army is at the height of efficiency. We have both seen something of both Services, and I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has allowed prejudice against his own Service to divert him from his usual just judgment. It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was for many years at the Admiralty, and he had a very distinguished career in the Navy, and I do not think he has any cause to say anything against his own Service. There are good and bad in all Services.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
It is not a question of fouling one's own nest, or anything like it. One's duty to one's constituents is to try to get these Estimates in the most economical way possible. If we keep in commission battleships which many distinguished naval officers in this country, and Admiral Sims of the United States, have said have only a slight potential value, it is not running down the efficiency of the service to say that we can well put some of these battleships out of commission. It does not mean that the rest of the service is inefficient. I have the greatest admiration for my service, but I do not believe in keeping a lot of battleships in commission, particularly after the signing of the Kellogg Pact, 657 when we are not likely or ought not to fight America or Japan. In such circumstances there is no sense in keeping them in commission.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I would not have objected to that statement, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman said that there was nothing but good in the Army. Apparently the cavalry are perfect and the lifeguards are perfect, and it is only the Navy that should be cut down. I understand, however, that he was speaking as a politician and not as a naval officer. I suggest to the Secretary of State for Air that one of the duties that might well be taken on by the Air Force is the duty now performed by the Navy with great difficulty, and that is the suppression of the slave trade in the Red Sea. The use of seaplanes, I think, would be quite practicable there. Another duty is the suppression of piracy in Chinese waters. If we can send shallow-draft gunboats up the Chinese rivers, we can easily send aeroplanes. I want to strengthen the Minister's hands in obtaining supplies from a close-fisted Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to protect him from the overwhelming bullying of the Admirals and the Generals. But I have this criticism to make about personnel: I am sorry to see in the Minister's memorandum a sentence about the permanent officers—that they must be offered a career sufficiently favourable to attract the best material from the public schools and universities. I do not think that such a sentence should appear in a Minister's memorandum. We want the best material from the whole nation, irrespective of class.
As I have taken upon myself to point out on many occasions, as long as the fees charged to Air Force cadets at Cranwell make it impossible for the sons of poor parents, however brilliant and worthy of commissions, to enter the Air Service, the right hon. Gentleman will necessarily confine his choice to a very narrow class. That is unfair to the nation as a whole, because there might be a great genius who by poverty is prevented from embarking on a career in which he might be of great service to the nation. If the Japanese and the Americans are able to subsidise the fees for their cadets, so that poor boys can enter the commissioned ranks, we should be able to do the same thing here.
658 I must also protest against the setting up of a bombing range near Bridling-ton, a beautiful seaside resort on the east coast of Yorkshire. Six miles away it is proposed to establish a bombing range, against the protest of the local fishermen, whose livelihood will be threatened, and very much against the wishes of all the inhabitants and those who depend on the amenities of that resort. I hope that the proposal will be abandoned. There are plenty of other places where bombing practice can be carried out. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to make this service thoroughly unpopular, he will continue with the proposal.
The fault with civil aviation to-day is two-fold. First of all there is the monopoly or virtual monopoly of Imperial Airways. It would be far better to have no subsidy at all and not to assist civil aviation in any way, than to have this monopoly. It would be better to leave civil aviation to private enterprise than to encourage any monopoly. The alternative, of course, is to provide far more money for subsidies, and to allow greater freedom to anyone who can start air lines. The other difficulty is that the Ministry looks upon civil aviation too much from the national point of view. Placed as our Empire is, we cannot have all-red routes. We must co-operate with other countries and obtain facilities from them. There was the ridiculous hold-up through the obstruction of the Persian Government. There will be a great many more of these hold-ups if we play a selfish role. One of the difficulties with Persia was that we used our influence to prevent a German-Russian line coming down from the North to Teheran and to our territory. As a reprisal the Persians prevented us from flying to India.
There was another example quite recently in the case of the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin. Permission was sought for it to fly over a number of countries, including Egypt. I understand that there is an objection to a regular air line being established by the Italians over the Suez Canal zone. That. I can understand. I think these are short-sighted objections, but I dare say treaties exist and the objections have to be upheld. But this Zeppelin flight was an experimental flight, a great 659 adventure. I think it was extremely short-sighted to prevent the Germans from flying over Egypt. They are going to fly over North Africa, and we have been made to look very small and ridiculous.
I have a word to say of praise about the extraordinarily fine work of our aeroplanes in rescuing the people at Kabul. It was a splendid piece of internationalism. I am sorry that more enterprise and generosity were not shown when the Italian airship under General Nobile was wrecked in the Arctic seas. It was very deplorable, too, that we were not able to send an aeroplane to Southern Spitzbergen, where there was a sea clear of ice, in order that our aeroplanes could have gone to search for the heroic Amundsen when he was lost. I understand that we were asked to do so. I dare say it could not have been done at the time, but the moment we got news of the disaster to the Italia we should have sent an aeroplane carrier to the nearest point from which we could render any assistance. That is internationalism and neighbourliness, and it will be needed if we are to develop civil aviation on the great scale that is required for Imperial purposes. The Italia's crew were rescued by the combined efforts of Swedes, Norwegians, Russians and their own countrymen. I would have preferred an Englishman to have done what the heroic Russian aviator did—one of the greatest deeds of aviation that has ever been done. It is that sort of thing that shows that at the Air Ministry there is no drive, no imagination, no foresight, no energy and no statesmanship.
§ Major HILLS
At this time of night I should not speak if I did not want to say one word for civil aviation, which in the eyes of the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) has no merit whatever. He said that we have made no development in six years, that we have no seaplane or flying boat worthy of the name, that Imperial Airways has done nothing to develop the service, and that we stand at the bottom of the list of all countries that fly.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
The right hon. Gentleman is not quoting me with 660 any sort of accuracy. I said that there had been no development within the seas of Great Britain or within the territory of this country or these islands. I paid a tribute to the development of safety and security on the existing air lines to the Continent.
§ Major HILLS
Does the hon. and gallant Member really think that our scientists and inventors have stood still for 6½ years? If so I do not think, with all respect to him, that he can have kept in very close touch with civil flying because great advances of all sorts have been made. I wish to come to the gist of the charge made by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Bean) against civil flying in this country. It is a charge which we have often heard before. Certain figures are reeled off as to the mileage of routes in Germany and France, and then those figures are compared with a much smaller mileage here. But the hon. Member must appreciate that these routes may mean very different things. The routes which I have seen, of the German air service for instance, have a line ruled from Berlin to Teheran. That route may be flown but it is not flown every day. I do not think it is flown every week. You cannot compare that with routes such as some of the Imperial Airways routes on which there are four services a day each way.
§ Major HILLS
The total air mileage is the most misleading of all figures. The only comparable figures are those of passenger mileage or ton mileage. If you take total air mileage you are comparing some of the French machines which fly to North Africa carrying perhaps one or two passengers with the big Handley Pages that tarry 12 and more passengers. It is an entirely fallacious comparison, but such figures are used constantly. I think that comparison was not used this time by the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney, but I know he used that figure last year. I would say to hon. Members opposite, let them attack Imperial Airways and the flying services as much as they like, but do let them use comparable figures. Air miles mean nothing at all because you do not know whether they have been flown by a machine carrying a few pounds 661 load or by a machine carrying 2½ tons or 3 tons load. Then when hon. Members talk so gaily about expansion do they realise that no company in Europe—I do not know about America—is paying, "on its own"? Hon. Members ask, why do we not fly to the West Indies, why do we not fly here and there? But all this requires money, and a great deal of money. I believe and hope we shall see a seaplane service in the West Indies, but can you ask the over-taxed people of this country to find the money for flying in the West Indies? It is all very well to talk about showing the flag all over the world and of flying from the Humber to Hamburg as the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has put it, but these services do not pay. No service pays of itself. The German subsidies are very high. We do not know what they are—at least I do not know—because, in addition to the Government subsidy, the big towns pay additional subsidies to planes that land in their areas and I believe they are immensely more than ours. The last time I was speaking to a prominent French aviator we compared notes and it appeared that the French subsidy was two and a-half times the amount of ours and we are getting just as much flying. I do not quite know what the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney wants. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull was quite specific. He wants us to disband Imperial Airways and to pay no subsidy at all. That would involve break-a contract, but, assuming that you got over that difficulty, if you pay no subsidy you get no flying.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I said that would be better than the present system but I want much bigger subsidies and a free field for anyone who flies.
§ Major HILLS
If the hon. and gallant Member will vote for a bigger subsidy I will go into the same Lobby with him. I think we ought to spend much more. May I say what my experience taught me in Imperial Airways? The essential thing that we must get into the minds of the flying public is the impression that air travel is just as safe as travel by sea or by train, so that when a man is making up his mind how he will travel to India, he will not say that the air is more dangerous though faster. We have to 662 get to the time when people will decide according to the speed, the expense, or the convenience of the different modes of travel. The next essential is regularity. Aeroplanes have to link up with trains and steamers and it is not good if they arrive a half hour or half day late for their connections. They have to transfer their passengers and goods and they must be up to time. Now in regard to those two points—safety and regularity—we are out and away ahead. I do not know if the House realises that the Imperial Airways only had one fatal accident involving passengers. It was a bad accident and six or seven passengers and the pilot were killed, but still there was only this one single accident involving loss of life to passengers. Look at the records of any other company abroad. They are hard to get. They do not come to this country but I think hon. Members who inquire will find that we have far and away the best record in the matter of safety.
Further this is the only country which looks to the possibility of making flying pay of itself. Flying is no good if it is only to be run as a subsidised pursuit. I believe that flying is one of the big things of the modern world. I believe it is a great force for peace and a great force for commerce. I believe we are only on the threshold and that we shall see enormous developments in flying, but the first thing to be done is to make flying pay. If you do that, you will abolish all risk of flying being turned ever to military purposes. You will build up a tremendous international force—not an internationalised Air Force, but a pursuit in which all nations can join, an international movement, and you will be able to put on one side all thoughts of conversion. The more you develop the civil aeroplane, the more you tend to differentiate it from the military aeroplane and you will, I expect, get the same relationship between the two, as that which now exists between the great ocean liner and the battleship. The liner may possess some military value but it is very different from the battleship.
The hon. Member for North Aberdeen asked why we did not come to some agreement with our neighbours in Europe. It takes two to make a bargain. The hon. Member quite fairly admitted 663 that, and he quite fairly said that we could not disarm alone. I will give him another road to disarmament. If he will support those of us who are working for a Ministry of Defence he will give the biggest lift up, both to economy and disarmament, that can be imagined. The case for economy has been stated so often that I shall not restate it, but the case for disarmament is not always known. The great difficulty is that when we go to these various conferences we have the three separate Departments, the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, and it is very difficult to get a common line which can be adopted by them. More than that, if, as I believe intensely, a Ministry of Defence will cause a big reduction in the amount which we spend on our Navy, that would forward disarmament more than any other single fact in the world. The great difficulty now is that foreign nations say to us, "It is all very well for you to say that we should reduce our land armaments, but why do you not make a start with your Navy?" If the existence of a Ministry of Defence meant a big naval reduction, it would bring disarmament a great deal nearer. I believe it is the greatest reform that we can seek to achieve. I hope I have shown the House that we are not quite so behindhand or so antiquated in the matter of flying as some of the speakers have endeavoured to make out.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
I do not wish to be tiresome, but as the hon. and gallant Gentleman is speaking for Imperial Airways I should like to have some comfort from him. He rejects figures relating to commercial routes, figures of the mileage flown, figures of the number of machines and the number of pilots and the number of aerodromes. In what single respect do our figures compare favourably with the others? I wish to have some consolation.
§ Major HILLS
In safety, in regularity and in approaching the time when the service can pay "on its own." We are approaching that time and that is a 664 very great thing because, as I have said civil flying must be made to pay without Government subsidies. The whole future lies in that direction as the hon. and gallant Member must recognise. I had the honour at the beginning of Imperial Airways, of being on the board. I resigned when I became a Member of this House. I can say that the description which the hon. and gallant Gentleman gave, conveying that we did nothing except collar the subsidy, hardly represents the very difficult time through which we went. I claim no credit but we worked hard and some of the fruits of our work is being seen now. We worked that enterprise up from the time when it was losing money, to the time when it is coming near the point of being able to pay without a subsidy. It has done a much greater work than the hon. and gallant Gentleman—who seems, if I may say so, to have some animus against it—gives it credit for. At all events I agree with him that we ought to spend more money and that we ought to develop the building of aircraft in every way we can. I agree that we ought to fly more services. I am glad to hear that we are flying a Cape-Cairo service, and I hope we shall soon see the Australian service also. I am quite sure that aviation is a great means of communication for passengers and still more for letters, and I believe, also, that it is one of the great civilising influences in the world.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
It is very magnificent that although the Estimates of £20,000,000 are mainly for war purposes, with £500,000 for civil aviation, every speech which has been made this afternoon has dealt almost exclusively with civil aviation. It may be that that reflects a realisation on the part of the public as a whole that we are now within measurable distance of making civil aviation fly by itself, as was aid by the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) who last spoke. I think the Secretary of State for Air ought to be congratulated on firmly adhering to the policy of one monopoly company which was laid down in the initial stages, and not being influenced by the specious arguments of those who do not understand the facts of the situation. Having said that, I should like to refer to what I think are the two most important questions which have been 665 raised in the Debate this afternoon; I refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn), and that of the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore Brabazon). May I say this in passing: gallant Member for Chatham is correct, I feel sure that we shall have in the next If the election prophesy of the hon. and Government a most able and efficient Air Minister in the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen.
The two points which were raised were these: Whether you can develop civil aviation without at the same time starting a new armament race, because of the value which civil aviation would have as a reserve to the regular Air Force, and, secondly, the whole question of the consideration of the money which we spend on defence in this country. I believe that, if we are to examine those two questions properly, we shall have to consider both the military aspects and the economic aspects as they bear on this country; because what is this Vote that we are discussing? It is a portion of £120,000,000 a year that we spend on defence. The wars of to-day are fought by the civilians; they are not fought so much by the regular forces. In the last War, it is true that an Army of a quarter-of-a-million was extended to 5,000,000, and that, of the men employed by the Admiralty, three out of four were obtained from the Mercantile Marine and from civil occupations. If you take the whole Air Force of to-day, it does not provide a fortnight's supply of machines, of men, of stores, or of anything which is used in time of war, judged by the scale upon which we used them during the last War.
What is the result of that? It is surely this: That our forces as we have them to-day are nothing, and cannot be anything, but training organisations which are to be devoted in time of war to creating the main forces which we shall require. Therefore, the money which we now spend, this £120,000,000 a year, must be looked upon as an insurance to provide for the safety of this country and of this Empire during time of war; and, if we are to look at it correctly, I believe we must look at it upon the basis which I have just explained. Therefore, the real security of this Empire rests on the economic capacity of this country and of the Empire as a 666 whole. The United States to-day does not rest for her security on her armed forces; she rests for her security on the great predominance which she has in the world in manufacturing resources and economic power.
Therefore, we have to consider what is the position of this country and of Europe in that respect to-day. Europe most certainly, this country to a lesser degree, are I believe rapidly becoming but an economic appendage to the United States of America. Modern industry is developing in such a way that unless it is organised upon an international basis and upon a continental scale, it is impossible for a small country to compete in the economic sense of the word. Mass production may be organised on a national basis, but it requires an international selling organisation to keep it going. What I think has happened is that America, being the first continent which has been able to organise upon a basis of this character, is able to take advantage of that position, and, by the fact that her overhead charges on industry are perhaps 30 per cent. less than those on industry in a small country, she is able to compete with and undersell other countries, with the result that she is rapidly eating into the economic strength not only of this country, but of Europe as a whole.
Then you may say: How does that affect us? Surely it affects us in this way. If it be true, as I believe it to be, that the real security of this country depends upon our economic strength, one of the main things which the statesmen of this country have to consider is: How is the money which we devote to defence to be spent? Is it all to be spent upon armaments, or is some of it to be spent in developing our economic strength and security? What has given America that great economic strength which she has? Surely it is that she is a political and economic entity. Therefore, if we can do something to create a great political and economic entity of our Empire, then, and not until then, can we compete upon a basis of equality. For these reasons. I believe that we should put in the forefront of our defence policy, a method by which we can build up an economic and political entity of our Empire.
We have two great enemies, time and distance. The telegraph and wireless 667 have defeated distance so far as the spoken word is concerned, but it is. I believe, to aviation, and to aviation alone, that we can look to defeat time and distance so far as physical contact is concerned. Therefore, if the foundations of this argument be true, namely, that the Fighting Forces can be nothing but training forces and that our real security depends upon our economic capacity, and if our economic capacity depends upon creating a great political and economic entity of the Empire in order to compete in a continental fashion with America, and if, further, it be true that industry which is organised upon a continental basis is bound to crush out other countries which cannot so develop economically and to make them economic appendages, then I say that the main policy of any Government ought to be to create these great air fines to all parts of the Empire upon the foundation of which we shall obtain a beginning to build this great Empire of ours into an economic entity.
Those are the fundamental conditions which I believe are before this country to-day, and it would not be too much if 10 per cent. of our total defence funds were devoted to the furtherance of civil aviation in pursuance of that policy. You may say that 10 per cent. is a great-sum—£10,000,000 a year; but, if those arguments which I have put to the House be true, what is the use of spending it in other ways? Surely, it is better to go along an avenue which will give us real security, instead of this false security of armaments which we may not be able to keep up in the years to come. Therefore, I would ask the Secretary of State for Air to consider, if a Conservative Government be returned at the next election—[HON. MEMBERS: "It will not be!"] Well, I will ask the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen to consider this also, as he will, I hope, be the Secretary of State for Air if a Labour Government is returned. I will ask him to consider whether he should not get out a comprehensive long-distance programme, which people would know they were working for, of a daily service to every Dominion of the Empire, linked up with every great town in the Empire, so that no part of our Empire should be more than five or six days 668 distant from this country. Then we should have the basis of a great political and economic entity, upon which we could extend.
I go further than that. Obviously, if we are going to develop our Empire, it is essential that there should be a peaceful Europe. A Europe divided and always on the brink of a war is a condition which detracts from the development of our Empire, and anything which tends towards creating greater security in Europe is to our advantage in developing our Empire. In this respect, I believe that the development of civil aviation will do more to bring about a condition of affairs which will be the prelude to a United States of Europe, on the same conditions and upon the same lines as the United States of America, than anything else which could take place. I think, therefore, that what we want to do is to create some scheme whereby we can carry out what I would term a peace offensive. We have, I think, been so interested in eliminating the causes of war that we are apt to forget that the best way to do this is to consolidate all chose positive causes which are working for peace. If we do launch a peace offensive, it ought to be as ruthless and as dynamic and as comprehensive as the steps which we took in prosecuting the War.
We come then to an important condition. Civil aviation, if it is to develop, must be developed upon an international basis; it cannot be developed in any other way. You get into an aeroplane to go from one country to another, perhaps across two or three intervening countries of Europe. Therefore, if civil aviation is to develop, it must be developed upon an international basis, and that, again, is the greatest step that we could take towards a peaceful Europe; because the more civil aviation develops, and the more we break down international barriers, the more we shall get people to think internationally, and we shall create an international spirit which for the first time will enable us to make war perhaps too difficult for any European country to undertake, and make people begin to realise that war between highly civilised and contiguous countries is to-day nothing but civil war. Therefore I would suggest to the Secretary of State for Air that he might arrange with the other Members 669 of the Government to put up some definite and concrete proposal to Geneva to start the internationalisation of the civil aviation of Europe.
The first two steps which I think he should take would be these: First of all I think we should agree upon an international certificate of air worthiness. To-day each country has its own certificate of air worthiness; and I believe I am correct in saying that the machine which carried Lindbergh across the Atlantic two years ago, would not have been allowed to fly in this country because it would not have been passed as air-worthy. I think it is essential that there should be some general concensus of opinion between the countries as to what is wanted for that, because otherwise machines licensed in one country would perhaps not be licensed in another, and moreover it is unfair to manufacturers who are manufacturing their machines in those countries where the regulations are more stringent. When I was in the United States lately I was informed at Detroit that they are manufacuring any quantity at a rate of 12s. 6d. or 14s.—three and a half dollars—per lb. weight, whereas in this country it costs something like 25s. per lb. weight, and when I asked the reason, they said it was mainly because they were not fiddled about with by a lot of regulations from the Government. The next step which I believe could be taken by the British Government would be to suggest to Geneva to internationalise all aerodromes.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member seems to be going some way beyond the powers of the Air Minister. Any question to be settled at Geneva could not be done by the Air Ministry.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
I suggested that the Secretary of State for Air might represent to the British Government, but I will not pursue that line of thought. If we say that our main defence is to obtain the peace of Europe, and if it be true that the peace of Europe can be more readily and more easily obtained by some system which will help towards internationalism, I think perhaps the best way to do that would be to internationalise all aerodromes, and, in the same way that the Italian Government has recently ceded a portion of Italy to the Pope, I would 670 like to see every country allied to the League cede all aerodromes to the League of Nations, so that the citizen of this country or of any country in Europe could fly about Europe or about the world as easily and with as little interruption as the citizen of the United States can fly about the United States.
It is not the slightest use talking about disarmament or doing away with aircraft for war purposes unless and until you are prepared for universal disarmament, and no country at present is prepared for that. Therefore, the only thing, as it seems to me, that it is open for us to do to-day is to inculcate, not only in this country, but throughout the world, the truth that if you are to have peace you must have internationalism, and if you are to have internationalism, you can only have it by abrogating to some extent the sovereign rights of each nation and at the same time restricting the freedom of the elective assembly of each national Government. If we can do that, there is a possible prospect of peace in Europe, the development of the British Empire, and security at home; but if, on the other hand, every nation is prepared to contemplate the catastrophe of another world war rather than take any steps which they may to prevent its occurrence, I am fearful of the future of this country. I do not believe we have the economic substance to-day to take our place in another race of world armaments, and it is upon those broad and general grounds of the development of the civil aviation as a weapon to use for the peace of Europe as a whole that I ask the Secretary of State for Air to contemplate suggesting to the Cabinet that not less than 10 per cent. of the amount which is spent upon defence, namely, £10,000,000 a year, should be devoted to fostering and furthering civil aviation.
Before the hon. and gallant Member sits down, could he tell us approximately when the first flight to India is to be made by his airship?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member must not thus ask a question of another hon. Member who does not hold an official position in the Government.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)
We have had a very interesting Debate, and I think that on the whole the House has been very kind to us. The fact has been borne in upon me that we have not asked for nearly enough money, and that if we had asked for a great deal more the House would apparently have been more satisfied. Some of the speeches have dealt with questions of disarmament and the internationalisation of civil aviation, and I will deal with those when the appropriate Resolution comes before us, but I will answer the other points that have been raised now, and remind the House that there will be an opportunity of raising any of these points again on the Votes, and that my right hon. Friend will be speaking later in the evening, and he will then be able to deal with them. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn), in the course of his very brilliant speech, if I may say so, produced certain figures that seemed unfavourable to ourselves in regard to aerodromes in this country and mileage flown by civil air lines. I think the figure he gave was 18 aerodromes in this country, but that is not the correct figure. The correct figure, including the service aerodromes and landing grounds, is 115.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
My hon. Friend knows quite well that service aerodromes are not usually available for all civil flying, but they are aerodromes which can be used in emergency, and I think that the figures which he gave for other countries included service aerodromes too. But we are fully alive to the fact that we have not sufficient aerodromes, and that is one of the reasons why my right hon. Friend is so anxious for this National Flying Services scheme to be established, because it will supply us with 100 more aerodromes and landing grounds. With regard to mileage flown, the service to India will shortly be in operation, and the African service, when it is in being, coupled with extensions to Australia and elsewhere, will eventually give to the British Empire a total mileage of 22,000, which is better even than that of Germany. The hon. Gentleman asked if we were trying to develop a system of combined train and air service. In this new service to India, which is 672 beginning on the 1st April, part of the route is travelled by aeroplane, part by flying boat, and part by train; and, of course, the railway companies in this country are seeking powers to develop air services and establish aerodromes, so that I think that the hon. Gentleman's wishes will in the near future be realised.
The hon. Member also asked whether these great trunk lines which we are developing are to be open highways for all countries to use with aeroplanes. That is generally so, but there must be certain exceptions. The difficulty we have had up to now is that in Iraq there have been no civil aerodromes, but, generally speaking, all these big trunk lines will be what the hon. Member described as open highways. The right hon. and gallant Member for Bristol North (Captain Guest) asked about auxiliary squadrons and whether they were being trained for the mobility which was necessary for them to be sent overseas. As a matter of fact, they are not supposed to be mobile in that way, as they are for home service, based on home aerodromes. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) asked some questions with regard to the service in the West Indies, and the hon. Member for Acton (Sir H. Brittain) also asked a similar question. Of course, we would like to see developed all services of that kind, but in the present condition of national financial stringency it is difficult to find money for services which, although very important, are, like this one, purely local services. He asked us what we were doing about assisting in securing orders from abroad for our aircraft constructors. We are doing everything we can in that respect, and as a matter of fact last year more orders came from abroad for them than ever before. That inquiry was combined with a suggestion from him that we should look ahead. We are, I need hardly say, looking ahead as much as we can. In his speeches every year the hon. and gallant Member is rather severe upon us with regard to Farnborough and this year he said that all that Farnborough had been able to produce in the year was a flow-meter. I know that he meant his criticisms in a kindly sense, and that he really recognises more than he acknowledges the extraordinarily good work 673 which emanates from Farnborough. He mentioned one out of many productions. I should like to mention the automatic slot device, which I hope will do more to prevent accidents than anything else which has been invented. I do not think there has been any invention in aeronautical science produced of late years which has not benefited very greatly from the experiments which have gone on at Farnborough. The one or two questions which he asked me with regard to airships are of a very technical nature, and if he does not mind I will write to him to give him the information.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
It is a movable feast in this country. The hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) was rather critical of our civil air lines, saying that so far as this country is concerned civil flying was in a lamentable and shameful condition. He said, it is true, that our civil aircraft fly regularly and safely, and that Imperial Airways run their lines economically. That result is exactly what we are hoping for. He complained very much about what he called the monopoly of Imperial Airways, and then went on to say that another company was to be brought into the projected service to Africa. There seems to be no pleasing him. When Imperial Airways carry on the service on their own he is not pleased, and when they bring in another company he is equally displeased. He also inquired why some of the money for subsidies was not allocated among other companies. There is only a certain sum of money and it is given to the company which my right hon. Friend thinks is the best company. There is not sufficient money to be usefully employed if we distributed it amongst a great many different companies. I could not quite follow what was his grievance in connection with National Flying Services. For many 674 reasons we welcome them. We think we shall get payment by results, that they will give us more pilots, and that we shall get a great many more aerodromes and landing grounds. In spite of all that, we shall not in any way interfere with existing light aeroplane clubs, but, on the contrary, we shall in a great many cases help them. They will not be adversely affected; their subsidy is not being taken away or reduced. The more clubs of that kind we have and the greater the airmindedness of the country, the better it will be. The Secretary of State himself was the originator of the scheme of light aeroplane clubs, and no one is more sympathetic than he or more anxious that they should achieve the aims which they have before them. He is the last man in the world to wish to deal a blow at them, and I am sure that these criticisms have arisen more out of misunderstanding than anything else.
I will deal next with the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I am sorry that I did not hear the whole of it. One of his points was that we did not help General Nobile. We made an offer to the Italian Government—we had to do it in that way—to do everything we could. We told them that if there was anything we could do they had only to call upon us, and we would instantly render every assistance in our power.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
That is not the way to go to the help of people in distress. Were we not asked by the Norwegians to supply seaplanes, and we could not do it?
§ Sir P. SASSOON
We offered to send any machines we had. As a matter of fact I believe the machines we had were not suitable for this particular purpose, but I believe we offered to send machines without pilots. We offered to send some Moths up there by sea. We did everything we could, but our offer was not accepted, and our help was not asked.
The hon. and gallant Member also asked about the bombing range at Bridlington. I think that range was decided upon in 1927. All the local authorities and all the different interests affected were consulted, and matters were arranged between them and the Air Ministry. It was only in the following year that some of the fishermen became alarmed, and 675 thought that bombing practice there might hurt their interests. In the meantime, some £20,000 had been spent in preparations for the range. We have had a great many conversations with the people concerned, and have been in communication with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and with the local authorities, and also with the fishermen themselves. We are anxious to meet them in every way possible. One of the chief difficulties arose out of the work of the crab fishermen, who lay their pots between two and eight in the morning, I think. To meet that objection we have arranged to delay our practice until after 8 o'clock in the morning. We have also arranged to interfere as little as possible with the herring fishers at the end of September and beginning of October. We are meeting them as far as we can, and I have every hope that everything will be arranged satisfactorily.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Does the hon. Baronet understand that the trouble is that the bombs themselves will drop into the water and injure the crabs and other fish? That is what the fishermen fear—not that they will be hit, but that their industry will be hit.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
Hardly any of the bombs are live bombs, they are only practice bombs. We have inquired into that aspect of the matter, and there is little in it. I think the fishermen will eventually be the first to welcome the fact that we have settled on Bridlington for a bombing range.