HC Deb 07 July 1932 vol 268 cc628-9

13. There is no aspect of international disarmament more vitally urgent than the adoption without delay of the most effective measures to preserve the civilian population from the fearful horrors of bombardment from the air. The Government of the United Kingdom would be prepared to go to any length, in agreement with other Powers, to achieve this object, and if more drastic measures are proposed from any other quarter and are shown to be practicable, they will examine them with the utmost sympathy.

They propose that the High Contracting Parties should agree between themselves in respect of their air forces that there should be:

  1. (1) the complete prohibition of all bombing from the air, save within the limits to be laid down as precisely as possible by an international convention. Attacks upon the civilian population would be entirely prohibited;
  2. (2) a strict limitation in the unladen weight of all military and naval aircraft (troop carriers and flying boats excepted);
  3. (3)a restriction in the numbers of all kinds of military and naval aircraft.

14. In this last connection the United Kingdom Government wish to add an observation. They sincerely desire to see numbers of military and naval aircraft restricted, and here again regard must be had to the course of recent events. In 1913–14 air armaments were negligible, and no comparison with that date can usefully be made. At the end of the War, Great Britain was one of the two leading air Powers in the World. Her colonial possessions are widely scattered, and since the War her responsibilities have been increased by her various mandates from the League of Nations. More than any other Power she relies upon aircraft to discharge her mandatory duties and to police and control undeveloped regions. Yet in 1932 her first line aircraft had been reduced to little snore than 20 per cent. of her post-War strength, with the result that the United Kingdom now stands, in the number of its military and naval aeroplanes, only fifth in the list of States. Of aircraft authorised for Home Defence in 1923 by the United Kingdom Government, with the approval of Parliament, 20 per cent. have not, in fact, been constructed.

15. Great and far-reaching as these reductions in all three arms have been—beyond comparison greater than any which have been effected elsewhere outside the countries disarmed by the Treaty of Versailles—His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are ready and eager to join in the further measures of disarmament for which general agreement can be attained. The proposals which, accordingly, are now made, constitute an additional contribution, practical and extensive, to the effort to relieve the heavy burdens which the maintenance of existing standards imposes upon the world and which the world expects us, by a great common effect, effectively to diminish."


As the Lord President of the Council has just informed the House, we hope to discuss this statement wits the Prime Minister personally. Perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, will allow me to say, or rather, perhaps the House will allow me to say in their name, how grateful we are to the right hon. Gentleman for making his statement in so clear a manner this afternoon, and we shall reserve anything we have to say on it until later.