§ 1. "That a number of Air Forces, not exceeding 32,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at Home and abroad, exclusive of those serving in India (other than Aden), during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."
§ 2. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,731,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, etc., of His Majesty's Air Force at Home and abroad, which will conic in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."
§ 3. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,720,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Works, Buildings, Repairs, and Lands of the Air Force, including Civilian Staff and other Charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."
§ 4. "That a sum, not exceeding £7,596,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Technical and Warlike Stores of the Air Force (including Experimental and Research Services), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."
§ 5. "That a sum, not exceeding £500,000, he granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Civil Aviation, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931."
§ First Resolution agreed to.
§ Second Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Sir SAMUEL HOARE
There are one or two questions I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Air. My first is with reference to the after-careers of the short-service officers. As the House knows, about half the officers in the Air Force are engaged upon a short-service basis. That means that after a limited number of years in the Air Force they revert to civil life, and it is obviously very important that the Air Ministry should behave as a 4.0 p.m. good employer, and should do what it can to find careers for these officers when their term of service is ended. The Under-Secretary of State 308 was asked a question on this subject in the previous Debate, but he did not in his answer quite cover the point that would ask him to touch upon this afternoon. When I was connected with the Air Ministry, we had a number of inquiries into this problem, and eventually, about two years ago, after a series of meetings with representative employers in London and the country, we were able to arrange a system under which certain big firma gave a chance of employment to short-service officers who a the end of their time bore good characters, and so successful were those endeavours that I was able a year ago, in introducing the Estimates, to give some figures showing that a very large percentage of those officers who had ended their short-srvice periods were able to find suitable jobs at a suitable salary in private employment. I know from my experience that this is a question in which Members of the House have always taken a very close interest. They have always felt that it was the duty of the Government to do what they could for these men who served them very well in very important years of their life, and I think t would be of interest to the House generally this afternoon if the Under-Secretary of State could give us some further information as to the progress of the scheme, and let us know whether a large percentage of these short-service officers are helped to find employment when thy come to the end of their contract.
There is only one other question that I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman upon this Vote, and that is connected with another matter. I meant to have given him notice of it before the Debate, and I must apologise to him for not having done so; but I dare say that in the course of the Debate he will give me an answer. It is in connection with what is called the high-speed flight. The House may remember that when during the last few years there was a British entry for the Schneider Trophy, a unit called the High Speed Flight was organised for training the pilots and the crews, and generally developing high speed. We heard in the Debate the other day that the Government. were not intending to give any further assistance either by way of officers or machines in any future entry for the Schneider Trophy. This afternoon I do not wish to enter 309 into any controversy on the subject as to whether the decision is wise or not, but I should like to know from the, Under-Secretary of State whether the high-speed flight is still going on and whether experiments are still being made with these high-speed machines. My own view, for what it is worth, is that it is most important that in a highly technical, scientific service like the Air Service, a unit of this kind should continue. The Air Service and flying generally have much to gain from the high-speed experiments that have been made in recent years, and which, I hope, will be made again in the future. As one who has very much interest in this class of flying development, I should be grateful if the Under-Secretary could give us a little information on the subject during the course of the Debate. These are the only two questions I wish to ask at this stage of the Debate. There are others I should like to raise when the particular Votes are called from the Chair.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Air two questions on this Vote. The first is as to how those officers who are posted to Iraq and the Sudan, and are not allowed to take their wives and families with them, will fare under these new allowance schemes which the Estimates state wilt come into force on 1st April, 1930. If I am correct, married officers previously have drawn their allowances, I believe, when stationed in Iraq or in the Sudan. They have to keep two homes going, one in England, and are entitled to the maximum rates. In the Estimates I see it is statedThe presence of wives and families in Iraq and Sudan is not recognised for allowance purposes, and married officers in those countries therefore draw the rate for single officers.If it is a fact that these officers are to be deprived of a very great proportion of the allowances which permit them to keep their wives and families in a respectable state in England, I should be glad to have that information, and as to how much these officers are to be penalised.
The other question I should like to ask is on the item "Recruiting Staff and Expenses." I presume that it is the desire of all parties in the House to cut down expenses as far as possible con- 310 sistent with efficiency, and I want to know if the hon. Gentleman could tell me whether it has been considered that the recruiting staff of the Air Ministry could get through their work possibly at a cheaper and quicker rate if certain inducements were given at the time of enlistment, particularly the inducement that men of the Royal Air Force should be allowed to leave their stations in the evening and wear plain clothes, as can men, for instance, in the Brigade of Guards. I know that every man in the Royal Air Force is, doubtless, quite rightly, proud of his uniform. At the same time, when they leave their stations in the evening, men like to change into fresh clothes, and go to places where they will not be conspicuous in their uniforms. Once a recruit in the Brigade of Guards—and remember the Air Force discipline started with the non-Commissioned Officers of the Brigade of Guards training the Royal Flying Corps—once a recruit has passed his drill and is a credit to the Brigade, he is allowed to put on plain clothes to go out in the evening. I venture to think that if the hon. Gentleman could say that the Royal Air Force is considering copying such a practice, "Recruiting Staff and Expenses" might appear as a lesser item when the Estimates come up next year.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Mr. Montague)
The first question I was asked by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) was in reference to the after careers of short service commission officers. I think it is possible for me this afternoon to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman and to show that the Air Ministry is fully alive to the interests of the short service commission officer, and is at least endeavouring to be a model employer so far as the after-service interests of these officers are concerned. I have in front of me an analysis which shows the present position in regard to short service officers seeking employment. The machinery of the scheme has been indicated by the right hon. Member for Chelsea. The number of officers whose names have been on the books of the association during the year is 245; 20 of these have been granted permanent and medium service commissions; 64 of them are known to have been placed privately; 33 311 are presumed to have been placed privately, as they have failed to keep in touch with the association; 107 have been directly placed by the association, leaving only 21 who are still to be placed. I think it will be agreed that that is a very satisfactory record.
The other point which the right hon. Member for Chelsea raised was the question of high speed flights. The Air Ministry is fully seized of the importance of the research work that has been done, and the desirability of research work of that kind in the future, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this question is one of very great importance. The answer is that high speed research of this character will go on at Felixstowe and, as the right hon. Gentleman probably knows, high speed officers have been posted there and will carry out, with the aid of the Air Ministry's high speed aircraft, further research work which will be as valuable to the force as the work that was done previous to the Schneider Trophy Race.
The hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) asked me a question with reference to the allowances of officers when they go to Aden, Egypt, Palestine and Transjordan.
§ Captain BALFOUR
I asked the question about the allowances of officers when they go to the Sudan and Iraq, and I do not know about Aden. I asked about places where married officers' establishments are not allowed, as they are in India.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
The Colonial allowance is reviewed periodically, and that revision is made entirely on the basis of the difference in the cost of living.
§ Captain BALFOUR
I do not think that is quite an answer to my question. I am referring to the allowances, which are presumably for lodgings, fuel, and so on, on married and single scales.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
The hon. and gallant Member will see that those are dealt with on pages 11 and 12 of the Estimates, and I do not think he desires me to go into elaborate detail.
§ Captain BALFOUR
I apologise for interrupting, but what I want is a comparison with what they were last year 312 before these new scales came in, in order that I may know how a married officer is worse off when he is posted to one of these stations now as compared with his income if he had been posted to the same station last year.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
Speaking generally, although the matter is complicated by differences in rank and so on, he is no worse off, and my answer in reference to the general question of Colonial allowances is that the review takes place periodically on the basis of the cost of living. The other point raised was in regard to airmen who may desire to wear civilian clothes when they are not on duty. That question has been raised in the House on a number of occasions, but I do not think there is any real evidence of that desire existing to any appreciable extent. The hon. and gallant Member must remember that when an airman goes on leave, he is entitled to wear civilian clothes. It is only a question of whether he may wear those clothes in the evenings or at the week-ends round about the camp or barracks, and the feeling of the Ministry is—and I believe it is a feeling generally shared among the members of the Force—that the uniform is a proud one to wear and that there is no reason, except perhaps when going on leave, for relaxing that particular restriction. So far as the comparison with the Guards is concerned, I am afraid I cannot enter into that. That is the Air Ministry opinion on the matter, and I think it is the general feeling in the Force.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Third Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Sir S. HOARE
I should like to ask a question about a subject in, which many of us have been interested very closely during the last few years, and that is in regard to the progress of tIe new building at Cranwell. Cranwell, the House will remember, is the cadet college for the training of the permanent officers in the Air Force. Hitherto these young men have been housed for the most part in War-time huts, which have year by year become more unsuitable for accommodating the Air Force cadets. Last year we were able to make a start with the permanent building for the college. 313 There was a ceremony of laying the foundation stone at the college nearly a year ago, and, as the House has always taken a very close interest in this question, I should like to know what progress is going to be made this year and whether the Government are going to press on with a very necessary building—perhaps one of the most necessary buildings connected with the Air Force in any way. I shall be glad, therefore, if the Under-Secretary of State can assure me that during the next 12 months the Government are going to press on with this very necessary building.
§ Captain BALFOUR
I should like to ask one question with regard to the items on pages 85 and 86 of the Estimates dealing with the work to be done in Egypt. In the Memorandum published with these Estimates, the Secretary of State said that only as little work as was necessary was being done in Egypt, owing to the probability of troops and Air Force being moved to the Canal zone, but I think it would be well if the House could be informed whether, when this move to the Canal zone is made, we are to obtain such good quarters and such good technical equipment as is being provided in these Estimates for bringing these stations up-to-date. For instance, at Aboukir there is an additional generating plant, and at Heliopolis there is an additional hangar. It seems rather a late date for a hangar to be replaced at Heliopolis, even although it is structurally unsound, when perhaps there would be accommodation for machines at Aboukir, Helouan, and other aerodromes in Egypt, whose strategic importance need not now be considered. I think it would be well if we could have some details as to what this additional electrical generating plant is for, whether we are going to take it with us when we remove, and whether we have guarantees that such fine equipment as it is customary to put into these stations will be provided, brand-new or at least in as good a state of repair as the equipment which we leave behind when we go to the Canal zone.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
I want to refer to Item No. 80 on page 89, in regard to the provision of a base and accommodation at Singapore. I see that £100,000 is to be voted in 1930, and a further 314 £167,000 for completing the work later. Would the Under-Secretary of State be good enough to let me have an answer to the question as to what exactly is going on at Singapore at the present time? Has the work been suspended, and can the hon. Gentleman give us some sort of idea of how we stand at that important base for the Fleet?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
With regard to the work at Cranwell, I can assure the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) that the Ministry is pressing on with the greatest possible speed with the object of completing that establishment, and there need be no doubt about an assurance of that kind. The question in reference to the Canal zone is one which has been raised in a number of connections, and I do not think it is necessary to say more at this stage than to assure the hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) that in all those cases where work has to be undertaken outside the Canal zone, it is work which it is absolutely necessary should be done. It must be done at present apart from considerations of the Egyptian Treaty, and no expenditure is undertaken that will be unnecessary or that will be wasted. I think that is a sufficient answer to that question. With regard to Singapore, I must remind the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) that the Air Force station at Singapore is really a Far Eastern air station, apart altogether from any question of policy with regard to the Singapore base as a whole, and as far as I know, there is no likelihood of the efficiency of that station being interfered with in the slightest degree.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
I did not suggest that it was being interfered with I wanted to know whether the hon. Gentleman could say that the work was going forward, or whether it is being suspended.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Fourth Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
§ Sir S. HOARE
There are two or three questions of detail that I should like to put to the Under- 315 Secretary of State in connection with this Vote, and I should like to ask in particular about a certain experimental machine called the Autogyro. I dare say several hon. Members have seen it at recent Air Force displays. It is a machine invented by a Spanish scientist, that is claimed to rise almost vertically off the ground and to descend almost vertically upon the ground. Obviously, if we could develop a machine of that kind, it would prove of the greatest value in extending flying opportunities in the future. A machine that can rise vertically and alight vertically would be of the greatest value. As a civil flying machine it might land on the flat roof of a house or railway station, and a civil flying machine coming to London would not, therefore, have to land at Croydon or some distant aerodrome, with the consequent loss of time to the passengers who have to spend half-an-hour or so in coming into the centre of London from the aerodrome.
Obviously, therefore, a machine of this kind might in future be of the greatest value as a civil flying machine. It also might be of great value for certain military uses. If you can develop a machine that can rise vertically, without the need of a long take-off, and that can descend vertically, you would have a machine that could rise easily from the deck of any big ship and descend again upon it. From the point of view, therefore, of aeroplanes working with the Fleet, the development of this machine might be of very great value in the future. I am glad to say that when we first heard of this invention, now some years ago, we were the first country in Europe to take it up seriously, to buy the rights for developing it in this country, and to make a series of experiments with it. Since then, I admit, as is often the case with a new scientific development, the experiment may not have progressed as quickly as many people thought it would two or three years ago. To-day I should be grateful to the Under-Secretary of State if he could give us some further information about this experiment, and let us know, in general terms, what stage it has now reached, how near we have got to being able to make use of it, either for civil flying purposes or for spotting purposes 316 with the Army, or for deck landing purposes with the Fleet. is a very interesting experiment, and I am sure an answer from the Under-Secretary will be of value to many hon. Members in the House.
There was another experimental machine, somewhat of the same kind, called the "Pterodactyl," a tailless machine which has been exhibited at recent Air Force displays, and has very much impressed the spectators, and anyone who has seen it by its very remarkable controlability in the air. I shall be glad if the Under-Secretary can tell us how that experiment is progressing. In these Estimates and in the Secretary of State's White Paper, allusion is made to flying boat development. Here again there are very important developments in the field of aviation. One of the most satisfactory features of technical development in aviation during recent years in Great Britain has been the development of the flying boat. New types have come into use, and new uses are being made of flying boats. In the last 18 months we have had a conspicuous illustration of this development in the unit of flying -boats that flew out to Singapore, and is now being based upon that place.
I need not deal in detail with all the many uses to which the flying boat might be placed, both in our system of defence, and in our system of Imperial air communications. Recent years have shown occasion after occasion when the possibility of flying boats have become more and more apparent. I am therefore very glad to see in these Estimates further progress being made with this very important line of development. I should imagine, from what I remember of developments of this kind in the past, that there must now be quite a number of new types of flying boats, that is to say, flying boats with a greater range, speed and carrying capacity, now actually coming into use. I shall be greatly interested if the Under-Secretary can tell us a little about the developments which he actually contemplates in these Estimates.
Lastly, I should like to ask a question about the development of civil flying machines. We have always in the past included in the Estimates the expense of a certain experimental machine for civil flying purposes. There, again, these machines are becoming every year more 317 and more important as greater use is being made of Imperial air communications. It is most important to press on with these developments of civil machines side by side with the developments that are being made with military machines. I gather from the Under-Secretary's speech the other day that he is fully alive to the needs of this development. He alluded, for instance, to the investigations that are being made by the Aeronautical Research Committee and other scientists into the question of noise. Noise is a very important factor in flying generally, but particularly important in the case of civil flying machines.
Anyone who has flown a great deal in civil machines—and I suppose that I have flown as many miles as most people—will agree with me when I say that what tires a passenger more than anything else is the noise. I am sure that, looking to the future, one of the most urgent questions with the civil machine is the elimination, so far as is possible, of the excessive amount of noise. I admit that year by year we have made great improvements, and that the newer civil machines are a great deal less noisy than the machines were three or four years ago. I quote this instance to show the great importance of providing in this Vote substantial sums for experiment on civil machines, and for further investigation into such questions as noise and the other features of civil flying that are apt to make it unpopular with many people who would otherwise make use of it. If, therefore, the Under-Secretary can give me some information about the way in which the money for experiment with civil machines is to be expended during this year, I shall be very grateful.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I would also like to put one or two questions to my hon. Friend. I agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) in one or two of his points, but I am afraid that he gave rather a wrong impression with regard to noise. The noise is, of course, rather a nuisance, and prevents people talking, and I have heard that that is why civil aviation will not make progress in some countries. As the right hon. Baronet also said, however, there have been great improvements here in this direction. I think that if the right 318 hon. Baronet's speech receives credence and notice, people may get a bad impression. I have also done a good deal of flying recently over some of the ground over which the right hon. Baronet blazed the trail, and I found that passengers were able to sleep peacefully in aeroplanes. I hope that it is not going to be noised abroad that the noise is so excessive that it tires people. The progress made has been very great in this respect, and especially in the very latest type of flying boat. Of course, anything that can help to lessen noise will be very useful, and will help to popularise flying.
The Government have devoted in this Estimate a considerable sum of money for research purposes, and I want to be certain that the result of the research and experiments carried out by the Government, where they are applicable, are made available for civil aviation. I will give an example. There are still two enemies of flying—in the northern latitude, fog, and in the southern countries, dust—and anything that can make landing in fog or flying in dust safer, will be of enormous advantage and save much life and property in years to come. I understand that important experiments have been undertaken with regard to flying in fog, both here and abroad, and I want to be sure that the results of these experiments are made available for civil aviation in this country. I have a feeling that there is still a certain amount of hush-hush policy with regard to the results of very valuable experiments which are carried out with public money, and which would be invaluable to civil aviation.
As an example of that, I believe that there is still on the secret list—although I do not see any reason why it should be on the list—a special gyroscopic compass, which is extraordinarily useful for flying in fog, and it is not allowed to be sold to the ordinary commercial user because at one time it was secret. There is a terrible tendency in Government Departments to make things a mystery when they ought not to be a mystery at all. Government officials love to write "Strictly confidential," "Secret," and "Very Secret," and put their documents in red or green jackets to show that they are terribly confidential, and that they must not be exposed to the world. That is all part of the bureaucratic plot to 319 maintain their short lease of power, but it can be very obstructive in the case of a rapidly developing science like this, which even still is only in its infancy and depends so much on research and experiment.
Furthermore, I would like to know whether we pool our discoveries, as far as we can, with those of other countries. Have we, for example, any liaison with the civil aviation departments of Germany, America or France? Have we some arrangement for exchanging information, not of a military nature, but of a scientific nature, affecting all flying? In the general scientific world, there are no frontiers at all, and I hope that aviation will eliminate all kinds of frontiers, but we can do a great deal, I am sure, by pooling knowledge where there is no danger to military secrets, so-called. I did not give my hon. Friend notice about the special compass, and, if he is not able to answer me on that point, perhaps he can let me know a little later on.
§ Captain BALFOUR
There are one or two points which I would like to ask the hon. Member on this Vote. I do not propose to embark into the realms of the bureaucratic plot, or what we would call practical Socialism, which was raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I would, however, comment on one point which he made with regard to noise. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) said that he had flown a great many miles. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, who recently carried out a long-distance flight, has also flown for a considerable number of miles. I can speak as one who has flown as a pilot for 15 years, and still survive. Noise is the most tiring, and the most monotonous and devastating ordeal with which a pilot has constantly to put up. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that people sleep peacefully while this terrible noise is going on. One of the peculiar factors of this noise problem is that there is some sort of monotony which sets up a vibration. Medical experts will tell you what it is. It is a vibration which makes the passenger sleepy, and certainly makes the pilot sleepy; but there are some sleeps which give rest, and others which do not, and I can assure the hon. 320 and gallant Gentleman that after this particular type of sleep the passenger will wake up, as some people might wake up from another type of sleep, not at all rested, but feeling tired at the moment of waking.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Perhaps I did not notice it so much because I had been inured by 11 years' experience of this House.
§ Captain BALFOUR
The noises set up are very monotonous. I have one or two questions to ask about the direction of technical development under the Air Ministry. We are voting a very large sum of money in these Estimates for technical development and new machines, but is any money allocated for the development of soaring flight gliding? As the hon. Member probably knows, aviation started about 1850 with gliding experiments by Lilienthal and Pilcher. We have got away from the practice of gliding by putting more and more horsepower into our machines, but at last we have completed the circle and have come back to the original experiments of the pioneers of the middle of the 19th century. In Germany there are something like 400 gliding clubs, schools and technical colleges. The Air Ministry undertook certain gliding experiments in 1923, but dropped them pretty quickly. Germany, on the other hand, persevered, and has undoubtedly secured an enormous amount of meteorological data as to air currents and the aero-dynamics of soaring flight, all of which is of tremendous value to civil aviation, in which we want flight with the least possible power, in which we want to get our aeroplanes into the air with the least possible cost, as represented by petrol, oil and horsepower. I would like to know whether the Air Ministry are turning their eyes in this direction, and if they propose to help the newly-formed British Gliding Association in any practical form, such as giving data regarding meteorological conditions in various parts of the country, and, possibly by purchasing for a comparatively small sum a number of gliders from Germany, carrying out their own experiments and disseminating the information thus gained over the widest possible field.
Next I want to ask about the development of night flying. Are we getting away from the sort of "Guy Fawkes' day 321 flares" which are lit at the bottom of the wing tips, and advancing towards the American system of proper searchlights, electrically operated, with highly-scientifically developed lenses to cast their rays in a particular direction? I expect every hon. Mmeber who has seen the evening papers to-day has read of the most regrettable accident which took place, apparently last night, at Worthy Down, in which a Royal Air Force machine was involved, and which resulted in the loss of the lives of two members of the Royal Air Force. If we could be assured that constant research is being carried out along these lines I feel that possibly those who have been killed might feel that their sacrifice had not been entirely in vain, feel that they were pioneers in a line of progress which is to be constant, and will, I trust, be pursued to the logical conclusion of making night flying as safe as day flying. Another thing I wish to know is whether a sum is included in the Estimates for the construction of another experimental long-distance machine to endeavour to secure the world's record for a long-distance non-stop flight. Tributes have been paid in this House to those gallant officers who have lost their lives. I would wish to add my personal tributes to them, as both were very dear friends of mine of long standing; but knowing them well I know that the one thing those officers, wherever they may be now, would desire would be to see some of their comrades seize the record for this country, an achievement which would have a great effect in heightening the national prestige in the matter of civil aviation and would bring credit to the Service which set out to secure the record. There has been no declaration as to whether a second long-distance flight is to be undertaken. It may be said that these long-distance flights serve no useful purpose, but I would assure hon. Members that every such flight is of great scientific value in the development of aviation, not only as regards the flight itself, but also in bringing home to the minds of the rising generation, who will be the air-minded people of the future, the fact that the sooner they become air minded the more modern they will be, and the more credit they will be to their country if they help it forward in aviation.
322 The last point on which I am seeking information, refers to the Vote for the aeroplane and armament experimental establishment at Martlesham Heath. The salaries of all the officials there are accounted for under Vote 3, and not under the heading of Civil Aviation, but a great many of those officers are, I suggest, carrying out work which ought to come under the Vote for Civil Aviation. By allowing this Vote to go through without raising this protest the Committee would be countenancing a principle which does not exist in any other walk of life. I must detain the House for a few moments while I endeavour to explain the point I am making, because it is a somewhat technical matter. When a new type of civil aircraft is being built it is inspected all the time by the designers of the firm, under Government supervision. All the materials used are under inspection, and all the workmanship is inspected. The design itself is stressed by experts, who very often take many weeks to do it, although the firm themselves have stressed it. When that machine is built it is sent to Martlesham Heath to be tested; and here is where I take issue with the policy of the Air Ministry. That machine, built by a civilian firm, designed by a civilian firm, and on which, possibly, the whole future of that firm depends, is subjected to tests by Royal Air Force pilots. They are scientific officers in the employ of the Air Ministry primarily to deal with Royal Air Force aircraft, but doing civil aircraft work as a sort of extra duty. I say it is all wrong that any civilian firm should have its future dependent on the report of test pilots—let me say that they are the finest test pilots in the world—who have not got commercial minds. Those pilots ought not to have commercial minds. Their job is to test aircraft for the Royal Air Force. They have gained wonderful experience in undertaking Service tests in Royal Air Force machines, but it is not their job to test civilian aircraft.
Let us take this parallel. Would any shipbuilding firm, building a liner such as the Cunard Company are to lay down with the object of regaining the blue ribbon of the Atlantic, consent to send that ship to Portsmouth or Chatham for tests by the Admiralty, the ship being manned for the purpose by naval officers? If I may use the expression of the hon. 323 and gallant Member for Central Hull, we are allowing civil aviation to come under the influence of this "bureaucratic plot" which always exists in Government offices directly any new scientific development arises. Their attitude is "Let us keep it under our wing; we will give it enough rope to allow it to progress, but we must not let it get independent, or it may get out of our control." That is the usual point of view towards the development of any new science which has to run parallel with or in contact with Government Departments.
I wish to know from the Under-Secretary how much of the salaries and how much of the time of these officers employed at Martlesham Heath is represented by their work in testing civilian aircraft, and whether we are to countenance this principle for all time in the future. Ought not the testing of civilian aircraft to be brought entirely under the Department of Civil Aviation? Certificates of air worthiness are, of course, very necessary; we have a high standard and we must keep it; but could not that standard be maintained, and even developed quicker, possibly, by letting the Department of Civil Aviation do the work with a civilian test pilot? He should be a pilot who has flown many hundreds of hours in civilian aircraft of various types, and who has the civil aviation mind and not the mind—for which I have the utmost admiration, having aimed at it myself for many years—developed along the lines of testing high-speed aircraft for manœuvring, looping, rolling, spinning and all the hundred and one movements which cause a very unpleasant sensation to the old man of the air who has grown out of these habits of the young pilot. At present all these aircraft are tested by these splendid test pilots instead of by pilots who have flown hundreds of thousands of miles on civilian air lines. It is wrong in principle for a commercial firm's future to be dependent on a report from Martlesham Heath, which is confidential to the Air Ministry and confidential to the firm, which says how much useful load the machine can carry and to what uses it can be put. Such a report really has the effect of determining the future of the particular type of machine, in which 324 the firm may have sunk thousands of pounds of capital in the hope that the building of such machines will give employment to hundreds of hands in the locality where the firm's works are situated. I admit that the system cannot be changed in a moment, but if we can know that civil aviation is not to be subject to bureaucratic control, that this new industry will not be stifled by regulations designed for service pilots, we could agree to this Vote with a much lighter heart as to the future of aviation.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
I have a few questions to ask the Under-Secretary on the subject of airship research. The airship R.100 has a petrol engine, and I would like to know if anything is being done in the matter of research into the capabilities of heavy oil engines, in case we build airships equipped with heavy oil engines. Further, have any experiments been carried out at the National Physical Laboratory or in any of the Departments to get a better aluminium alloy than duraluminium? The structure of this airship is largely composed of duraluminium, but I have heard that the National Physical Laboratory have been undertaking research work to see whether a better aluminium alloy could be found, and I am wondering whether after all these years, they have produced anything better. Then, again, is the experimental department carrying out any research work to find a good substitute for gold beaters' skin for lining the gas bags of airships. Everybody knows that it takes thousands and thousands of skins for these gas bags, and, if we could find a better substitute, it would be an advantage in connection with gas bag work. I also want to ask if any gas bag material or outer cover material has been sent out to India or Egypt in order to test it out against the actinic rays of the hot climates of those countries. If we are to send airships to India or Egypt, we should know the effect of these rays on the outer covers; otherwise, we may find them deteriorating and trouble ensue.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
Quite a number of important questions have been asked me on this Vote and I think it would be better if I deal with them seriatim as they were put. The first question asked 325 was in regard to the position and possible progress of the gyroplane. Three gyro-planes are at present under trial in addition to an autogyro flying boat, which is still under development at Messrs. Short. A new autogyro will be ordered this year to embody all the experience that has been obtained up-to-date. Progress has been fairly satisfactory in the development of this particular type of aircraft and a mechanical means of speeding up the "rotor" before getting off is also being developed. Most of the essential fundamental work is within sight of completion. At the moment it is too early to predict exactly what particular advantage the autogyro may have. There is no doubt about the possibility of its service for ordinary civil flying, and there is every indication that we are well on the way towards successful completion of the experiments. But it is obvious that for many service purposes an aircraft of this character would hardly be suitable. That is a matter which will have to be gone into when we get nearer the completion of the experiments.
I was asked about the pterodactyl. The original machine has been modified as the result of trials and will shortly undergo further tests. A new design has been put in hand of a three seater cabin aircraft with a 112-horse power engine.
The new types of flying boats include a boat that is heavier than the Southampton, which will be introduced this year into the Service. The type will be selected from four types now under consideration. The Calcutta is being tried out this year as a military type and three boats are being purchased. I do not think it is desirable to give details of design of other boats which are in prospect at the present time for reasons which the right hon. Member will understand. There were two general purpose civil aircraft in the 1929 programme and also a large twin-float seaplane which is being manufactured by Messrs. Short. Details of other and later types I cannot give to the House at the present time.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) raised the question of noise in aircraft. I stated in my speech last Tuesday that this subject is being thoroughly examined at the National Physical Laboratory and there are 326 possibilities in the near future of being able to overcome a great deal of the disadvantage. So far as differing points of view as to the effect of that noise are concerned I think perhaps I cannot do better than give to the House my own experience. While flying over the uninteresting country of Northern Germany—uninteresting from an air point of view I mean—I found it was easy to obtain sleep or to read. To a, certain extent, of course, the question of noise depends on the type of aircraft used. Some machines are better than others from that point of view. The effect on me was that the monotony of the noise enabled me to sleep when I required it, and I was able to awake refreshed. With regard to gliding, the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull knows there is greater opportunity for the development of gliding in Germany and on the Continent than there is here where there is not much country suitable for this development. However there are signs of the development of the glider in this country and I am not sure how far people who are interested in that subject may associate themselves with the light aeroplane clubs.
With regard to the question of international pooling of ideas of research, I can assure the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull that this principle has been recognised and has been carried out in the past. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautical Research of the United States of America have been in close touch with the Aeronautical Research Committee in this country and the development of the R101 airship was carried through in close touch with airship development and experience in. that country, and also with Germany. The airship staff visited Friedrichshafen during the building of the ship, and there was a useful exchange of ideas. The hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) asked about Martlesham Heath and the question of civil aircraft being inspected by test pilots.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I meant to say tested. I am not quite able to follow the hon. and gallant Member's objection to test pilots undertaking these tests. I should have imagined that from a testing point of view it would have 327 been satisfactory, though I can understand that there may be commercial complications. Although for the moment I cannot give a statement as to how much time is spent on civil work and how much on other work I can tell the House that the whole question of airworthiness is now being considered by the Civil Aviation Consultative Committee. I do not think I can say more now on that point, but when the Committee reports we shall know exactly what the commercial objections may be suggested by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Captain BALFOUR
Could the hon. Gentleman say when this Consultative Committee will be likely to complete its deliberations on this point, and, secondly, would it be possible for some sort of time limit to be placed on this Committee, as these committees are liable to go on and on and nothing to happen, and we wish to develop civil aviation aircraft without delay.
§ Captain BALFOUR
I also asked the hon. Gentleman if he would get information about the possibility of another long-distance flight and whether any money was allocated for another experimental flight for this country to get the record.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Fifth Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I wish to raise one or two points on this very important Vote. This Vote is one regarding which I have great hopes from the present Government. I once told the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) that I should like to impeach his Government in regard to this matter of civil aviation. He took what I said to heart and made improvements. My hon. Friend has a great opportunity here, and I am certain that he will do his best to take advantage of it. I will begin on a slight note of 328 regret. I am sorry it has been announced that no help can be given for the next Schneider Cup Contest. That is a decision which indicates lack of imagination, for no event rivets public attention more on air matters than does this contest, and I am very sorry that this small amount of money has not been made available. When £325,000 has been voted on the doubtful proposition of airships, I regret very much that a smaller sum could not have been made available, so that this trophy could have been retained. An attempt will be made to keep the trophy, but it will be a strain on public-spirited men to put the necessary team into the air next time.
I am afraid that the Air Ministry has not yet recovered from the general blight of the last Government. The Government were very sticky in regard to aviation. I refer to finding the necessary means for providing an air service from the North of England over to the Continent of Europe and to Germany. It would be better if that route could be joined up with the West of Ireland. At the present time, you have the Atlantic passage from America to Galway Bay, and from there you could land your mails straight across, leaving letters in. Dublin and in England, and then passing across the North Sea to the Continent, and in that way you would quicken the delivery of the mails. We have been told that this is e matter for the Imperial Airways, that it is not a paying proposition, and that it cannot be undertaken for those reasons. I think it is a great pity that an attitude of that kind is being adopted, and I have my doubts whether this matter has been considered seriously by the Air Ministry. I do not mind a German Company running the service as a German Company, but I should like to see British aviation playing its due part, and I would like some assurances as to how far the negotiations have gone in regard to this matter.
The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Oldfield) will not be surprised to hear that this matter has received a lot of attention in the part of the world which I represent in this House. In Hull we have laid down a large aerodrome which is one of the finest in the country, and it was constructed on an old racecourse in the estuary of the 329 Humber. It is the only deep-water estuary that is landlocked between the Forth and the Thames. You get very little swell there, and this spot was examined from the point of view of its suitability for holding the Schneider trophy contest, and it was found that meteorologically and climatically it was very good. You do not get much swell there, the short waves do not trouble the sea planes, and it is altogether a, very suitable spot for these purposes. The local people at Hull have been pushing on with this matter, but we do not seem to get very much forward. Of course I do not expect the Air Minister to do everything at once, or to perform miracles, but I would like some hope held out that his eyes are not only on the jungles of Africa and the deserts of Arabia with regard to aviation, and I hope he will recognise the fact that it is necessary that the important industrial centres of Northern Europe should be joined with this country. If Imperial Airways say it would not pay, some other means should be taken of establishing this important link to join up with Ireland and the Trans-Atlantic mails.
This Vote provides only £500,000 for the whole of civil aviation, which has been established as an approved means of transport. We are spending £325,000 on airships of doubtful utility which seem useful only for the newspapers, and for people to be able to see, on a fine day, these huge airships in the air with or without Members of Parliament. All this may be very interesting for the crowds who witness airship flights, but you have in the aeroplane and the seaplane an approved means of transport which is coming more and more into use in all parts of the world. I know that there is a slight increase in this Vote, but I would like to see far more money spent upon civil aviation, and more efforts devoted to encourage its development.
I said that I regretted that Imperial Airways have taken up the attitude that they cannot run a service unless it pays. I do not want to be supposed to be criticising aviation, because I think that Imperial Airways run their services very efficiently indeed. A distance of 6,000 miles has been covered by their machines, and they have got in their personnel the same skill and feeling of sacrifice that you get in the' naval and military 330 services. I know there is not the same commercial spirit of making the service pay. In distant parts of the world the airmen have a very monotonous job, but that shows what they are prepared to do in order to develop the Air Service. I do not criticise the Air Service, but I do say that it needs a great deal more encouragement, and I will proceed to show how I think it can be encouraged. I see that we have been told that it is hoped to extend the African services. May I ask the Under-Secretary what is being done in regard to the most important flight in the Empire, a flight which, I suppose, will one day be a regular feature in our communications, that is from Croydon to Sydney, Australia. I am told that it can be done now,, and that there are no technical difficulties in the way. I believe that flight can be made in 10 or 11 days.
To-day a business letter, a contract, an interesting document, a cheque or an engineer's specification takes six weeks to send to Australia, and you can send the same thing by air in 10 or 11 days. That would give a tremendous boom to business between Australia and this country and the countries in between. There is the service to Alexandria and then on to Karachi, and there the service could join up with the India service, which, I understand, is to be a Government service. I want to know what steps are being taken to extend this service to Northern Australia, to join up with the rapidly developing Australian Continental Air Service. The Government should be more energetic in developing these air services, and I ask the Under-Secretary to pay attention to these matters.
Let us consider the difficulties. The principal difficulty up to the present has been the out-of-date parochialism of the countries we have to traverse in order to establish air services. The entire service to India, was held up for two years, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea was Air Minister, by the Persian Government, who refused to allow our machines to fly over Persian territory. Why did the Persian Government hold up our Air Service? Simply because we refused permission to the Persian Government to fly aeroplanes to Bagdad.
§ Sir S. HOARE
That was not the reason at all. The Persian Government never asked for that permission.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put a question to the Minister for Air on that point.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
That was the reason which was given to me for that refusal. It was given to me on the highest authority.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Apparently the right hon. Baronet is not fully informed upon his own job. What happened was that a German-Persian private company was established which is now flying to Jask, and they were not given permission to fly to Bagdad. It is superfluous to say that the Persian Government did not ask for that permission, and if it was a German company that is far worse still. At the present moment we all know that German aeroplanes come to Croydon almost every day of the week. We were told that public opinion in this country would not tolerate German aeroplanes or Persian-German aeroplanes flying to Bagdad, but now you see German aeroplanes landing in Croydon, and we do not care whether German or Persian or even Russian aeroplanes fly to Bagdad.
These are only examples. Is it true, or is it not, that we have had to abandon the Italian part of the Britain to India flight because of the restrictions of the Italian Government? I know that they demanded a very large share of the profits of that part of the flight, and that difficulties were made in that way, but the difficulties were there, and we had to abandon the Italian part of the flight. After great trouble and delay we established the Greek part, arid but for the fact that the Greek Government have been most generous and helpful, that part of the flight would not have been possible at all.
Then we come to Egypt. No particular obstructions have been put in the way of Imperial Airways by the Egyptian Government. It is true that the Govern- 332 ment in Cairo have to have long notice before a new pilot or a new machine can fly over Egyptian territory, and that is rather awkward and irritating, but, if we turn to the Treaty—the exchange of Notes for a proposed Anglo-Egyptian settlement—in which this mater is mentioned, and which was drawn up by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the late Egyptian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mahmoud Pasha. we see it stated, in the part dealing with aviation, that:Unless the two Governments agree to the contrary, the Egyptian Government will prohibit the passage of aircraft over the territories situated on either side of the Suez Canal and within 20 kilometres of it. This prohibition will not, however, apply to the forces of the two Governments or to services maintained by genuinely British or Egyptian organisations operating under the authority of the Egyptian Government.This is not the sort of Clause that I should have liked to see in a Treaty drawn up by the Labour Government. It is restricting the rights of flight over a very important part of the world for communication between East and West. How can we, then, blame the Italian Government for all kinds of restrictions on aeroplanes crossing their territory? Again, it says:The Egyptian Government will give all necessary facilities to British military aircraft"—and so on, and that we will give appropriate facilities to Egyptian military aircraft In the same way. That is particularising and creating special favours for British and Egyptian aeroplanes over the Suez Canal area. I am talking now of civil machines. I think it is a most unfortunate spirit to display, and it is to be seen in aviation all over Europe. Our own service to Prague was held up by the Germans; we made difficulties by stopping flying across Persia, and we have made difficulties in other parts of Europe. I cannot hold the present Government blameless. I do not, of course, mean my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who, I am sure, deplores these matters, but I cannot hold the present regime blameless.
Take the case of India and the Dutch aeroplanes flying to the Dutch East Indies. They asked for 12 experimental flights to the Dutch East Indies, and they undertook the 12. Then they asked for another 12 experimental flights. Of 333 course, it may be said that they are making use of our aerodromes and skimming the cream off the aeroplane flights. I have heard expressions of that sort used, but is it quite wise to hinder or delay, without very good reason, the Dutch aeroplanes flying over Indian soil? It may be said that the aerodromes are not ready, but that is their look-out. It may be said that they may damage the aerodromes because they are not properly covered with gravel, or are soft, but what if they do? It would not cost a very great deal to put it right. But when the flight to Australia is ready to be inaugurated, we shall then have to go to the Dutch for the use of their aerodromes and seaplane stations. In fact, nearly all the nations concerned in aviation to-day are being extremely shortsighted. What is needed is the freedom of the air. We hear a good deal about the freedom of the seas, but the seas are absolutely free in time of peace. Any vessels can navigate the seas outside territorial waters. An international sleeping car to-day can go all over the frontiers of Europe into Asia Minor and as far as Vladivostok, down to Turkey, or throe the North of Europe, without let or hindrance beyond the ordinary formalities of the Customs. There is the International Transport Committee sitting at Geneva under the League of Nations, which is trying to make the same arrangements, and is making great progress, with regard to goods wagons. You can send a wagon of goods now from Havre right across Europe into the Balkans, and it goes under seal and is not interfered with over the railways as a matter of course. There are no particular restrictions about motor cars taken by tourists to Europe. Why should these ridiculous restrictions and obstacles be put in the way of aeroplanes on their lawful occasions, and legally registered, flying across one country to another and across frontiers?
Unless these artificial restrictions can be swept away, they are bound to hamper this wonderful means of transport, that may mean so much to humanity in the future. I do not blame the Air Ministry exclusively in this matter. It is because this is a new means of traffic, and we are not air-minded enough that the matter has been allowed to remain in this state. I believe that we did press for the freedom of the air at the last Air Conference. but we did not press hard enough. If 334 it had been a question of holding up a British ship, if our trade bad been held up from using some international waterway, the whole force of the Foreign Office would have been thrown into the argument; diplomatic pressure would have been brought to bear, and public opinion would have been aroused, if our merchant ships and liners were treated as civilian mail and passenger aeroplanes are treated to-day. We are not exclusively to blame; all nations are to blame; but there is a lack of international spirit here, a lack of the give-and-take that is required if we are not to hamper civil aviation in the future.
I have spoken with some little vehemence on this matter because I feel very strongly about it. Like the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last. I have been flying, off and on, for about 15 years. I have flown a good deal in Europe, and have covered a good deal of ground quite recently, and this matter was brought very noticeably to my attention. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) chooses to joke a little about this, but it is not a matter for joking. Imperial air communications are tremendously important to our trade. If we can carry our mails quickly enough to our Dependencies and Dominions, it will help orders for this country. Because I am not talking about workhouses, or hospitals, or whatever the hon Member for Leith specialises in, he must not think that this is an unimportant matter. It is very important, and I am glad to know that the Under-Secretary views it in the same light. I do not criticise him, or the Air Ministry, or the Government, but I hope that this matter will receive attention, and I shall be grateful for assurances on that point.
§ Mr. EVERARD
I do not intend to follow the arguments which have been put before the House so very clearly and lucidly by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), but I want to ask the Under-Secretary one or two practical questions about the Vote which we are at present discussing. Some time ago he made a statement, in reply to a question by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), as to the renewal of subsidies to light aeroplane clubs. It is, certainly quite clear, from the Memo- 335 randum which was sent out by the Air Ministry, that as regards the old clubs, whose agreement with the Government comes to an end during this financial year, they are to receive subsidies on the terms given to National flying services; but it was not at all clear what was the position of those clubs which have been formed at a later date, and which therefore, were outside the terms of that subsidy. I am not quite clear on these points myself from the reply of the Under-Secretary to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, or from the reply that he gave to me to a question on the 17th March, which reads as follows:Any light aeroplane club which conforms to the conditions of membership and otherwise of the existing subsidised clubs is now at liberty to apply for official recognition as an approved club. If so approved, it will be eligible for payments in respect of such of its members as qualify, at the rates applicable under the new arrangements, as from 1st April next."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1930; col. 1734, Vol. 236.]There are several points on which I am not quite clear. In the first place, I am not clear as to what is an approved club. What exactly does the Air Ministry require from a club in order to know whether it is going to pass the test and may be considered to be approved under the terms of this answer? Turning to the agreement, published in Command Paper 3264, which was made with National Flying Services in 1929 I see that it speaks of:Grants to each club member who qualifies for the issue or renewal of a pilot's licence, except those who have served in the Royal Air Force since the 31st August, 1921.Does that mean that, for every member of one of these light aeroplane clubs who holds an A or B certificate, the club will receive £10 every year, or only once on the granting of the licence? Further, I should like to ask whether the Government have any idea of laying down any term of years for this agreement. I see that, in the case of National Flying Services, for the first three years it is £10 per pilot, and for the next seven years £5 per pilot. Is there any suggestion of any arrangement being come to on lines of this sort, so that these clubs may have some idea in the future of the exact position in which they stand? I should also 336 like to ask whether there is any maximum which any particular club will be able to get under this new scheme. I understand that under the old scheme the maximum that any club could obtain was £2,000 a year, but it is quite clear that no club will receive anything near that amount under the new scheme, because the whole amount allotted is only £15,000, and I understand that there are 25 or 30 clubs that will be able to qualify for subsidy in future, so that it leaves a very small amount for each club.
I should like also to ask the Under-Secretary whether he is aware of the difficulty of running these clubs at the present time. I personally have been associated since its commencement with one of the new clubs that has been formed in Leicestershire, and I should like to take this opportunity of tanking the Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State for Air for their great kindness and for the assistance they have given us in personally coming down to get the club started and assist in every way that they could in its formation. In spite of that, the hon. Gentleman will realise that with these smaller subsidies it is difficult to see how these clubs are going to carry on in the future. The expenses of running them to-day are just as heavy as they were in 1925, when the original subsidies were put into operation. The price of aircraft has not diminished to any extent, and the cost; of running has increased, because the engines used to-day in these lighter aircraft are of larger size than they were five years ago, and are, therefore, more expensive to run, while the insurance is also very much heavier than it was in those days. Therefore, I cannot see that there is any case at all for any reduction of the subsidies which have been granted to these clubs in the past.
From the point of view of the air in this country, these clubs have probably done more to arouse interest among the ordinary people in the country than even the Royal Air Force itself, or any other section, including the great Transatlantic flights and everything else. People can go and see the planes actually flying, and realise that what they real in the papers about an aeroplane disaster is something that is most unusual, and is reported at far greater length than it should be in comparison with what ordinarily happens 337 in aviation. When you go day after day to these clubs and see novices being instructed, and the extraordinarily small number of accidents of anything like a fatal nature that occur, the average person begins to realise that civil aviation is something that is coming very fast to the front and is of vital importance to all sections of the community.
I should like to put one other side of the problem before the Under-Secretary. Owing to the low amount of Government subsidies which are still further to be reduced, no club can afford to give an hour's instruction under 30s., and some of them charge up to four and five guineas an hour. We ought to aim at making it possible for everyone in every class who has any aptitude or any desire to fly to be able to learn just as well as well-to-do people. If you have to pay 30s. for an hour's instruction, and it may probably take 10 hours to get the A certificate, and possibly more, it is a very expensive pastime and one that cannot be utilised by the vast section of the people. If it were possible, by an increase of the Government subsidies, or even keeping them at the old scale, to enable clubs to make a reduction, it would be of real advantage to the poorer section of the community, who cannot at present afford to learn to fly but who are as keen to do so as any other section of the community.
I should like to say a word on a slightly different subject. There is a sum of £5,000 to be voted to National Flying Services. I should like to ask how many new aerodromes National Flying Services have started since the subsidy scheme came into operation and how many new landing grounds have been made. I see from the agreement the Government have entered into that National Flying Services is to provide and maintain 20 new aerodromes and 80 new landing grounds within three years. More than a year of that time has already gone, and I shall be anxious to know how this plan is progressing. I should again like to thank the Under-Secretary for the sympathy he has shown to the light aeroplane clubs, and to ask him to bear in mind these few small points and endeavour to meet us in every way he can.
§ Captain BALFOUR
There is one small but rather important point that I should 338 like to raise. We are voting £7,500 for the reconstruction of the Croydon aerodrome. I should like to know if any of that expenditure is going to be on account of improved public facilities. There is a sort of pen where anyone who is interested enough in flying can watch aircraft arriving and departing. In the summer it is hot and dusty, the grass is very scanty—it is more like the Arabian desert—and in the winter it becomes a sort of quagmire. There are no sanitary facilities, no shelters, and no facilities for refreshments. All sides of the House have expressed a desire that aviation should be popularised and that civil aviation should be made a thing of national pride. Surely, if we are to educate people to appreciate the worth of civil aviation, we should make it attractive for them to see a fine terminal air port of which you can be proud if you see it from an aeroplane, but of which you will certainly not be proud if you are put into a hot and dusty or a wet and damp enclosure without any possible shelter. The matter has been raised many times in the technical Press. While the Air Ministry goes on putting up beautiful buildings and luxurious offices, and things that are very desirable of which everyone will be proud, they neglect the person who has to pay for those offices, the taxpayer, who should have some definite degree of comfort and facility offered him when he goes to visit that for which he finds the money.
§ Rear-Admiral SUETER
I quite agree with the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) about giving up all interest in the Schnieder Trophy. I hope that on consideration the Minister will agree to help the race all he can. It is very good for the firms who produce new machines and design the engines, and those who take a great interest in the work, and it is not fair to private enterprise that it should be asked to take part in that very expensive race. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether there are any regulations for going into the question of Imperial Airways replacing their machines—whether they have any inspectors to look at the machines from the Government side? I do not think Imperial Airways replace their machines quite often enough. That is a point that 339 ought to be considered from the point of view of the safety of the passengers. I should like to ask what happened to the recommendations of the 1926 Conference with regard to the West Indies, whether they have been gone into at all and whether any foreign enterprise is carrying out air work in the West Indies, Honduras, British Guiana and so on, because I think we ought to carry out air work instead of saving money on the Supplementary Estimates. We ought to put it into the development of the West Indies air service. I should like the Under-Secretary to give us any information he can about foreign countries working in that part of the world.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I was very glad to hear the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I was greatly disappointed that he took no part in the first day's Debate. I could not remember any Debate in previous years in which he had not taken part, and I wondered really what had happened. I suppose the reason was that, having wished to impeach me year after year for my sins of omission and commission, he did not quite know what to say to his own Government when it had gone on with virtually the same policy. Let me congratulate the Under-Secretary upon a very wise continuity of policy. We have heard some of the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hull made before.
§ Sir S. HOARE
We all know, for instance, his great interest in the city and port of Hull. I well remember representations being made to me by various people in Hull in favour of making it a terminus for one of the air lines, and I remember some of the representations in which they said that if only the hon. and gallant Gentleman would ask fewer questions in the House about it, they would get on much faster. But, be that as it may, I was interested to hear from him once again that all the Governments of the world are short-sighted, and that even his own Government is shortsighted, and that we must comfort ourselves with feeling that there is at least 340 one just man in this wicked world, one potential Mussolini of the air who really understands this question. and that that one just man sits on that further bench. I imagine the Under-Secretary will answer his questions in very much the same way that I have answered them in the past. That shows once again the wisdom of continuity in this great programme of national development.
But I have risen for another reason, to add a word to what was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour), who was anxious to see civil aviation popularised and brought more closely and attractively into the mind of the man-in-the-street. Let me make a further suggestion in that connection. I cannot argue it on this Vote, because it world not be in order, but let me suggest to him that a very effective way in which he could further popularise civil aviation and get it into the mind of the country would be to convince his colleague at the Post Office of the necessity of starting air stamps. We are the only important country, as far as I know, which does not have air stamps. I would ask him—and I wish him better success than I had in the endeavour—to continue pressure upon the Post Office, for I believe, if we could start a system of air stamps, that would be a way of bringing the existence of these air lines into the minds of many thousands of people who at present know nothing about them. I should he very glad to hear that the Order-Secretary looked sympathetically upon the idea.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I assure the right hon. Baronet that I look sympathetically upon the proposal for air stamps, but it is a matter for the Postmaster-General to deal with, and there are certain obvious difficulties. One is the fact that a very large proportion of post offices are very small, subsidiary offices in shops, and their work would be increased. Those are points which will have to be settled before we get air stamps, and before we get the advertising value out of a proposition of that kind.
The speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) certainly imported an element of liveliness into the discussion. I was expecting him to raise the question of air services across the centre of England, and particularly a ser- 341 vice from Germany to Hull, across the country and over to Galway, or some other port in Ireland. There is no doubt that such a service would be highly desirable, but it is the kind of service which, obviously, rests entirely upon its commercial value and how far its prospective commercial value might appeal to those who have the fortunes of commercial aviation as such in charge. It is all very well to suggest that the Government should subsidise a scheme of this kind. There might be something to be said for such a subsidy, but there is a great deal to be said for subsidies of other kinds, and the Government are spending all the money that is available for such a purpose more upon the Imperial side of development than upon internal aviation. The reason for that is, that this country is not so suitable for profitable development of 6.0 p.m. commercial aviation lines as the Continent, and it is really necessary and desirable to concentrate more upon the development of Imperial lines than upon internal aviation in this country. I admit that the suggestion for a service between Germany and Ireland is rather different from a smaller internal service, but all these things are matters for the future, and, I hope, for the near future. The hon. and gallant Member can rest assured that every sympathy exists with such a proposal, and that if there is a possibility of encouraging and developing such a service, or such services the opportunity will not be last.
A great amount of misunderstanding seems constantly to exist with regard to the monopoly of Imperial Airways. It has a monopoly over certain routes, but it has not a monopoly of services as a whole. It would be quite possible for a private company to start a service such as the one which has been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member, but there must be a limit to the subsidies which the Government are able to put into commercial aviation for the time being, in the hope that it will soon be possible to run aviation upon commercial lines. What is being done is being done with the idea of furthering the most prospectively successful development, especially as I have said, upon Imperial lines.
342 I have also been asked a question about the position of the Australian service. The Indian Service, apart from the difficulty which is being overcome as to the route to Alexandria, has now been extended, as the hon. and gallant Member knows, to Delhi by the Indian Government, Imperial Airways aeroplanes being used. As far as the section from Calcutta to Rangoon and on to Singapore is concerned, there is the difficulty of organisation along the Burma coast, and especially the question of the monsoons in that particular area. But there is every prospect of a quick development and a quick solution of these difficulties as far as the last section of the route from Singapore to Australia itself is concerned. That. is a matter more for the Australian Government than for ourselves but we are in contact with them and we have no doubt that soon, quite as soon as the other sections are in order, that is to Rangoon along the Burma coast and so on, we shall have every prospect of satisfactory arrangements being arrived at with the Government of Australia. I cannot give the date, or even suggest the date, for the completion of this service, but we are doing everything possible because we realise that such a service to Australia will be of wonderful commercial advantage to this country and to Australia and the Empire generally.
I did not follow what, the hon. and gallant Member said in regard to the point raised as to the difficulties with the Persian Government over Bagdad, in view of the fact that, in the first place, this is a matter primarily for the Government of Iraq. Secondly, it is a fact, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) has pointed out, that neither any German firm nor the Persian Government made any application at all for the use of the aerodrome at Bagdad. I can give the hon. and gallant Member that assurance. I do not know what may be in the mind of the hon. and gallant Member with regard to his own investigations, but these are the actual facts. Application was not made for the use of the Bagdad Aerodrome, which is a military aerodrome converted to civilian purposes. German aeroplanes, or any other aero- 343 planes, are as free as Imperial Airways aeroplanes, to use that aerodrome at the present time.
Lieut. - Commander KENWO RTHY
I instanced this matter as an example, but was not an effort made to get permission to run a regular line, to extend the line to Bagdad from, I think, Teheran, or at any rate to extend the Persian system of air lines?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I cannot answer that question completely. In all matters of this kind there is a great amount of negotiation. The hon. and gallant Member raised the question of the freedom of the air. The record of this country is perfectly plain upon that question. This country stands for complete freedom of the air, but if other countries do not agree to that, the only thing we can do is to try to obtain reciprocity. Some negotiations of that kind may have happened in regard to Persia. I do not know, but upon the point originally raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman there is no general objection whatever to foreign aeroplanes using the aerodrome at Bagdad.
In regard to the Dutch East Indies, this is again a case where much misunderstanding, if not misrepresentation, has occurred. The original request of the Royal Dutch Company—the K.L.M.—was for a series of trial flights. The request was made originally in the winter of 1928, and the India Office was informed that it was proposed to start a regular service in 1931. The experimental flights were to begin in the spring of 1929, but they were postponed by the company until the autumn. Originally, 12 flights were contemplated, but the company reduced them to nine. Permission for those 12 flights was given, and the company then asked to be allowed to establish a regular service as soon as the trial flights were completed, but they were told they must finish in 1929, the reason given being that India was not ready for a regular service. They asked for further trial flights to continue until April. It would not have been practical to grant permission at once, but the request for these extra trial flights is still under consideration. I would like to point out to the House that in so 344 far as there is any restriction upon the Dutch there is an equal restriction upon the British.
The objections to the premature use of aerodromes in India is one which is recognised by us, but is really a matter for the Indian Government. They have laid down a programme of air development the carrying out of which depends upon the sums allocated for the purpose from time to time. It is all very well for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that if the Dutch company take the risk, why should they not be allowed to use the aerodromes whether the latter are ready or whether they are not? It is not a question of that company or of the Dutch Government taking the risk. The risk is a risk which falls upon us, apart altogether from the consideration of damage done to aerodromes which are not quite ready. It is all very well for the K.L.M. to say that they are prepared to take the risk, but the British Government would be held responsible for anything which happened. A parallel case would be a highway authority permitting the use of a road by those who were prepared to risk disaster before, in the opinion of the authority, the road was in a safe condition for traffic. Again I insist upon the fact that there is no preference exercised against Holland. The relations which we have had with the Dutch on this matter ale perfectly good and the difficulties are such as time will very quickly solve. There will be no trouble in the very near future and the objection to the premature use of that route is an objection of the Indian Government as well as of ourselves and it applies as much to British use as it does to use by the Dutch Company.
The hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) asked a number of questions with reference to light aeroplane clubs and National Flying Services. I think that the question of a grant to light aeroplane clubs was really satisfactorily answered both in the answer to a non-oral question given, I believe, to the hon. Member and also in what I said to the House on Tuesday last. What is meant by "an approved club"? Certain qualifications are necessary before anyone can say that a club is a practical and efficient flying club. Within the limits, at any rate, of the money available—as I said on Tuesday, if a miracle happened and every village started its light aero- 345 plane club we should have to reconsider the question—all clubs will be eligible. There is a considerable amount allocated to the light aeroplane clubs. Not only those in existence, subsidised or unsubsidised, but those which may be formed will be able, up to a reasonable limit, to obtain the grant, and the maximum will be the same, one of £2,000. With regard to the question as to whether the grant is to be of the came standard as the grant to National Flying Services, and whether it means that they will have the £5 at the end of the £10 period, that is a matter which I cannot answer at the present moment. The aeroplane clubs are being treated exactly the same as National Flying Services are being treated. The hon. Member must leave for the moment the question as to what would happen at the end of the £10 grant period.
§ Mr. EVERARD
With regard to the £10 for each licensed pilot of a club, does it mean £10 a year to everybody on the club books who holds a certificate, or does it mean £10 at once for the man when he gets his certificate?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
It is for every year. It is precisely the same as at present; there is to be no difference in that respect.
The present position concerning municipal aerodromes is as follows. There are municipal aerodromes at Blackpool, Hull, Manchester and London. There is a permanent ground at Chat Moss, and a temporary one at Wythenshawe, near Manchester. These are the municipal aerodromes in existence, but there are between 70 and 80 municipal authorities who are in some degree or other approaching the subject. Quite a number of them are negotiating for the purchase of grounds. Others have reserved sites in town planning schemes.
§ Mr. EVERARD
Have the National Flying Services formed any new aerodromes that come under the agreement?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
The contract with National Flying Services is that they shall provide 20 new aerodromes, either themselves or in conjunction with municipalities. The answer to the hon. Member's question is that the aerodromes 346 provided are municipal aerodromes, and I cannot at the moment give further information. With regard to Croydon, the greater part of the money allocated to improvements and reconstruction is to be applied to the surface. The surface is in an unsatisfactory state, and it will be brought up to date as a first-class aerodrome surface. In regard to the question of amenities for the general public, a great deal is going to be done. I do not know that everything will be done that is asked for, or that would be desirable, but a great deal will be done. Schemes are proposed for making the public enclosure much better for the use of the public than at the present time. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) asked a question in regard to the West Indies. He asked whether the conclusions of the Report of the 1926 Committee have been considered, and what has been done. I went rather closely into the subject of the West Indies last week. It is true that foreign enterprise has gained a considerable advantage in the West Indies.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
America, which has been operating in Honduras as well. The difficulty that has been found is the difficulty of capital and finance. Capital would, no doubt, be available if it were possible to guarantee a subsidy sufficient to cover the reasonable interest upon the capital, but 'that is not the way in which the Air Ministry can possibly approach a subject of that kind. If a definite plan and scheme, properly financed, were put forward, it would undoubtedly be possible for the Government to subsidise to a limited extent.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I cannot at the moment reply definitely as to the question of amount, but I do not think it would be possible to get as much as that for the subsidy. What was asked for was a subsidy of £30,000 a year for five years, one-half of which it was proposed should come from the Colonies and one-half from this country. The Colonies are exceedingly poor, and that is one of the financial difficulties and one of the reasons why it has been found so difficult to go 347 along practical lines in regard to West Indian development. We are hoping for die future that something will be done either by those who originally made the proposals for the subsidy or that it will be possible to develop the West Indies from a bigger Imperial point of view rather than an inter-Colonial point of view. Negotiations are taking place or, rather, the matter is being considered from both points of view. I sincerely hope, and I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member and the House hope, that it will be possible to overcome the financial difficulty and to have a British service in the West Indies, particularly in view of the fact that the West Indies are a natural link between South America, with her rich commercial possibilities, and our own Dominion of Canada.
I have neglected to answer the question which strictly speaking does not apply to this Vote, and that is in regard to the petrol engines in R 100. Petrol engines are used in R 100 because of the fact that it was found impossible to complete in time experiments that were going on for a certain type of engine, which ran partly by kerosene and partly by hydrogen, and it was decided by the company concerned to put in petrol engines. In regard to the Schneider Trophy, I am not quite sure what was the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
It is always possible to reconsider a matter, but the consideration of this situation has been very definite. I made it very definite last Tuesday that the Air Ministry cannot see its way to advocate or to ask for public money being spent upon this particular contest in the future, for the reasons which I gave, first, that the preparation for the contest does interfere seriously with the work of the Air Force, and, secondly, because it is considered that the race for the Schneider Trophy is in the nature of a sporting event, and over any long period of time it is not desirable that it should be financed by public money. I hope that we may get the Vote now.
§ Question put, and agreed to.