HC Deb 15 March 1932 vol 263 cc197-235

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, 1933."

2. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,930,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, etc., of the Royal Air Force at Home and abroad, exclusive of those serving in India (other than Aden), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933."

3. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,650,000, he granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Works, Buildings, Repairs, and Lands, 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, 1933."

4. "That a sum, not exceeding £7,350,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Technical and Warlike Stores (including Experimental and Research Services), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933."

5. "That a sum, not exceeding £473,000, be 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, 1933."


On a question of Order. As the Eleven o'Clock Rule has been suspended, item No. 8 on the Orders of the Day—Dangerous Drugs Bill—may come up for discussion. I would like to ask whether your attention has been called, Mr. Speaker, to the two Amendments to that Bill which are on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and which are as follows: In Clause 1, page 3, line 14, to leave out the word 'dihydrohydroxycodeinone,' and in line 15, to leave out the word 'acetyldihydrocodeinone.' Can anything be done to illuminate the House as to the precise pronunciation of the two words which appear in those Amendments? It will be extremely difficult to approach them without some explanation.


That is not a point of Order.

First Resolution read a Second Time.


I beg to move, to leave out "32,000" and to insert instead thereof "31,000."

The House devoted a considerable amount of attention to the Air Estimates last Thursday, on which occasion I ventured, on behalf of my hon. Friends, to raise certain general proposition that seemed to us to merit discussion. To-day, in moving to reduce the number of men from 32,000 to 31,000, I should like to direct the attention of the House to one or two details that I think will be of interest to it. We have been told quite frequently that the Government are prosecuting a policy of limitation of the armed forces in so far as conditions, in their judgment, will allow. Last week the Under-Secretary of State for Air took credit to the Government that, in respect of one of the Votes, there was a substantial reduction in the amount of money to be expended. When we consider Vote A which is now before us, and its particular reference to the personnel of the Air Force, we find that there is no provision for the reduction of that personnel by one single individual upon the 1931 standard. In point of fact, the figures were exactly the same in 1931 as they are in 1932. Whatever economy may have been effected in other sections of the Estimates, it is clear that the Ministry do not propose to reduce the personnel.

A closer examination of the figures discloses the interesting fact that, while there is a reduction in regard to certain categories of men, there is no change whatsoever in regard to the officer class. The number of officers last year was 3,238, including air officers with other commissioned officers. The number this year is also 3,238. If my calculation has not greatly misled me, the Air Force is officered in the proportion of one officer to nine men. Taking a similar estimate of the Navy Vote, the proportion, so far as I can make out, is about 1 to 14. I wonder what is the explanation for the extraordinary disparity in the proportion of officers of the Air Force, as compared with the proportion of officers of the Naval Arm of the Service. I notice, in support of my proposition that there is no effective reduction on this side of the Service, and that in the White Paper, which was published by the Ministry for Lair guidance and information, there is the specific claim that, so far from there being a reduction, there is an actual increase in the strength of the Force. The second paragraph on page 2 of that document reads as follows: The increases in the strength of the Royal Air Force foreshadowed in last year's Memorandum, namely, three new regular Squadrons for home defence and one additional Flight for the Fleet Air Arm, have been duly implemented. That sentiment meets with the approbation of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. On behalf of my hon. Friends I want to say clearly and specifically that it has our disapprobation. [Interruption.] An hon. Gentleman opposite asks me if I will tell him why. I propose to give him the reason why we express our disapproval. The reason is not far to seek. Whatever argument there may have been last year in favour of a force of 32,000 men, conditions have undergone a certain measure of alteration.

4.0 p.m.

In our judgment, the conditions under which this Vote is being presented to the House have very largely, if not fundamentally, changed from those under which the Vote was presented a twelvemonth ago. We have at this moment a highly important international discussion going on at Geneva at which our country, and most of the leading nations of the world are represented, and the very fact that that conference is now in being and is subjecting the whole question of the arms of the respective nations to a minute examination is, in our judgment, adequate reason for expecting that the approach to this problem must necessarily he different from that which we employed 12 months ago. This discussion which is now proceeding is not something which is suddenly sprung upon the nations of the world. It is something which has taken place almost, one might say, as a direct consequence of certain promises which were given by our own country, among other countries, as long as 11 or 12 years ago when the late War was brought officially to an end through the medium of the Treaty of Versailles—and I repeat this to remind the House, if it is necessary to do so, of the fact which we have no right to forget—that when the great instrument of peace was signed, the leaders of the Allied forces, speaking in our name as well as in the name of other countries, gave a distinct pledge that the victorious Powers regarded disarmament in Germany as a preliminary to similar action on our part. Since then we know that to implement that, various conferences have been held for the discussion of the matter, and, in particular, a special Commission representative of all the nations concerned has been sitting, namely, the Preparatory Commission, examining proposals whereby these Votes with which we in this country are now directly concerned shall be reduced, if not entirely eliminated. The Preparatory Commission is over, and the actual full Disarmament Conference is now in being at Geneva, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the actual existence of this Disarmament Conerence at Geneva is, in our judgment, an adequate reason for demanding a different psychological approach to this problem from that which must necessarily have been the case some 12 months ago.

I have given some careful and sustained study to the various proposals which have been made by other countries. Of course, I have no right to criticise them, because it would not be appropriate to do so on this occasion, but we are concerned, after all, with whatever contribution was made on our behalf by our own country through its representatives there, and I repeat the point, which I made very summarily last Thursday, as to my very intense regret that the Foreign Secretary, speaking on behalf of our own Government, did not adumbrate at Geneva, a week or a fortnight ago, definite proposals on behalf of our own country, with a view to the elimination of aerial forces in this country as our country's contribution to the discussion at Geneva. I want to make this point in passing. The significance would be sufficiently great of itself that a great nation like ours made no reference to it, but its significance is vastly intensified when we recall the fact that a large number of other nations, big and small, did, in point of fact, in their proposals submitted to the Disarmament Conference, indicate their willingness to make a contribution by way of eliminating or reducing the strength of their aerial forces. I know what a vicious circle we can get into in connection with these armed forces, be they army, navy or air forces. If one of my hon. Friends later to-day demands a reduction in the Naval forces, we shall be told that we require all those forces for our defence, because, after all, we are the leading Naval Power of the world, and we must maintain our prestige. That will be the argument, but the right hon. Gentleman opposite cannot say that with regard to the aerial force, because he said last Thursday that we are not in the first place, but only in the fifth place in regard to aerial forces, so that we give away no prestige in that sense, anyhow, if we make such a contribution.

My hon. Friends and I take the view that, if there is any place whatsoever where we ought to be able to afford to make a generous gesture in the direction of immediate disarmament, it is in association with this newest arm of our Forces. It is a young service. It has not had time to develop shall I say—I do not want to use the word offensively, and I hope that it will not be so taken—a prestige of such a long duration as that attaching to the Army and Navy. I think it will be agreed by everyone that it is a comparatively new service, and, not only so, but it is a service which is least able to give us a guarantee of that curious, indefinable thing which people call security. Let me remind the House of a passage in a most interesting speech we had last week from the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour). I will not quote the whole of the passage, but only that part which bears upon the particular point I am now trying to make. He was endeavouring to show how vastly more efficient modern air machines had become, and how, with the application of more up-to-date machinery and devices, it was now possible for men to overcome physical difficulties which were almost insuperable in the days of the late War, and that the presence of fog, wind or rain, or any of those physical obstacles was no longer of any account. This is what he said, visualising the leader of a group of men signalling to his colleagues who were flying, say, over London: He will wireless 'Conditions are good,' which will mean fog, rain, cloud—typical English weather. He will go on to the centre of London, followed by his successors at 10-minute intervals, they will drop their bombs, and they will fly back without ever having been seen by any of the anti-aircraft batteries or any of the fighter squadrons. They will be enveloped in the cloud, and will drop their bombs on their objective. I grant that they may miss it, may, indeed, miss it by a quarter of a mile, but they will have plastered their bombs over some residential or industrial area and annihilated civilisation in that particular area. If you get that possibility, I submit that it alters the whole scheme of the relation of the strength of our Air Force to that of foreign countries. I would alter that last sentence, and submit that it alters the whole question, not of the relation of the strength of our Air Force merely to that of foreign countries, but the relation to its actual necessity at all, because, after all, if it cannot give us a guarantee that a great city like London can be protected, then what in the world is the use of expending your resources and your energy upon developing a service of this sort which cannot give you, even in the sense in which hon. Members opposite use it, that thing which they call security? In my judgment—I speak, of course, merely as a layman in these matters—granting, for the sake of the argument, the necessity—I do not admit it—of instruments of this sort, these instruments are least defensible from the standpoint of defence, because they simply cannot guarantee security, for to guarantee that would mean almost keeping, one might almost say, the whole of our coast-line guarded by myriads of these things, and even then your opponent might be able to fly up in what a very eminent professor would call the stratosphere, and your outlay of energy and expenditure would become entirely useless and superfluous.

There is another observation which we want to make in regard to this young service. It not only is a young service in itself, but it is a service which cannot be maintained except by engaging the young. Older people will be of little use to this service. You will require for it the flower of youth, the very youngest, the most active, the most adventurous, the strongest, the most virile. It is those whom you desire and will require for this service, and it seems to me, and I think to my hon. Friends, that to organise a service of this sort, mobilising the young in an endeavour to which, no doubt, they will bring every possible element of adventurousness and zeal, is to concentrate on a service which in our judgment, in the ultimate resort cannot guarantee security not alone for those who are belligerents, but for the non-combatants involved in a great international struggle.

Therefore, I submit the point with same confidence—I know that it will not be a popular thing to submit in this House—that there is no-one on any side of this House who can get up in his place this afternoon and say that he can give this House an assurance that this instrument is an effective or a finally reliable instrument for the defence of these shores. As a matter of fact, there is no way out, except we seek some sort of security that is not merely individual in the sense of attaching to our own nation alone. It seems to me that we must inevitably and increasingly as the years roll by seek not individual or national security, but collective security. We are emboldened in putting forward the idea of collective security this afternoon through the medium of some sort of international organisation as opposed to this form, because, in our judgment; it is the only safe way along which the world must move in the future. I would like very much, therefore, to hear from the right hon. Gentleman who speaks on behalf of the Air Ministry some reason, if you like some defence, of the line taken up by the Government in respect of its attitude of negation at Geneva in relation to air forces generally.

In my judgment here is an arm in which demonstrably, according to the proposals put before the representatives of the various nations at Geneva in the last month or so, there is a chance of arriving at some sort of common accord, if not for the absolute elimination, at least for the very substantial limiting of this force. I express no sort of apologies or shame for saying that I think the time has come when the nations of the world should consider deliberately and boldly whether they should not abandon entirely this implement of warfare, which inevitably must create great panic amongst the belligerent forces, and must, alas, lead to terrible destruction among those who are in no wise associated 'with the combatants in the struggle. For these reasons I move my Amendment.

Brigadier-General NATION

I had not intended to take any part in this Debate. I would have preferred to have left matters to those who are more intimately concerned with the Air Service. But the speech to which we have just listened impels me to rise and make a few remarks. I am astounded that an hon. Member who professes to know nothing about this particular Service should have made such a speech. Another Member of the Opposition Front Bench, the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) made a similar speech. He said he had been a miner and knew nothing about the Air. To make such speeches requires a courage that does not exist either in the Air Force or the Army or the Navy.


Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that no one except Army men and Navy men and Air men are to speak on these subjects?

Brigadier-General NATION

I leave the House to judge as to the quality of courage. I would like to state again my own experience in connection with the Air Force of a foreign nation. Four years ago a certain Air Force sent, a flight of 50 to 60 aeroplanes round the Mediterranean. It was commanded by its own Air Minister, who holds the rank of Lieutenant-General. That Air Force made a complete tour and returned to its own capital without accident. A year after a similar flight of 50 to 60 aeroplanes, commanded by the same Minister, went to the Black Sea, landed at Odessa and returned to its capital. Only 18 months ago that country sent a flight of from 12 to 15 aeroplanes across the Atlantic to South America, where the machines landed and were sold. That particular Air Force stands fourth among the nations of the world. It is second in Europe, and it is within a few hours' flying distance of the island of Malta. I think we have a right to be concerned about the defences of Malta and about our communications with the East. I am concerned about our Fleet there and about the troops that are there as a stepping stone to the East. I believe that that island is in danger unless it is supported by a considerably larger Air Force than we have at present.

I would not say this unless I had studied the subject carefully and devoted a good deal of time to it, from the enemy's point of view as well as from our own. I repeat that I think that island is in danger at the present time, and I would like the Government to consider whether it should remain as headquarters of the Mediterranean Fleet, or whether it should be handed over to the Air Force, to defend it and the communications to the East. I believe that the time is coming, if it has not come already, when we shall have to rely more and more on the Air Force and less on the senior Services. It hurts me to say this. I would not say it in this House for anything in the world, unless I had given the matter a great deal of study and thought. I am convinced absolutely that our future, the future of our communications, and indeed the future of this island, will rest more and more with the junior Service than with the two senior Services on which we have relied up to now. Only yesterday in the Press I saw that we had made overtures or proposals at Geneva for the reduction of the budgetary strength of the fighting forces, and that that proposal had been turned down by the foreign nations. We have cut down our Services, the Air, Army and Navy, to the bone. Our example has not been followed by any other nation. I submit that we have shown an example which deserves to be followed, but it has not been followed. If I may I would like to thank the Secretary of State for Air for restoring the grants to the Light Aeroplane Clubs— —


That must be discussed on a separate Vote.

Brigadier-General NATION

I mentioned the matter only because I wanted to show that our military side, the fighting side of the Air Force, is as low as it possibly can be. I do not know what are the proposals of hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench for protecting these islands, but I think that we have given an example to the world that should receive thought and consideration before we do anything more.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)

The hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion raised certain points with which it is now my duty to attempt to deal. I must say that I think both the points with which he dealt are very difficult to answer, and for this reason: They are for the most part the results of decisions taken by the Government of the day when the Estimates were introduced last year. The hon. Member deplored the fact that the new squadrons for home defence and the further flight for the Fleet Air Arm were formed last year. But I might say that the late Labour Government were in office until the late summer, that all the plans had already been arranged for the Conference at Geneva, and that there would have been ample time for the late Government to have altered their decision, instead of now signifying disapproval of the action that they themselves have taken. But the hon. Member went on to say that if any one of the Services were to make contributions to disarmament it should certainly be the youngest of the Services, because it had not the prestige which the two older services had. If prestige is to be achieved only over a long period of years, I venture to say that that is an argument which I would not expect from hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is obviously an argument, and a very good argument, for abolishing the Labour party.

The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Air Service is unable to give us a guarantee of security. That is quite true. But I should be very doubtful whether the Navy or the Army could give a guarantee of absolute security. The police cannot give a guarantee of absolute security against burglary, but they do their best to protect us, and, with all the crimes that are committed, it would be a very peculiar argument to say that as the police cannot give an absolute guarantee we should abolish the police force. No, Sir. I think and I know that the arguments about disarmament which have been advanced to-day and in a previous Debate by the hon. Member, are arguments which must find a great deal of sympathy among Members of this House. We are all mindful of the horrors of the last war. We are all aware that they were as nothing compared with the horrors of the next war, and we are determined to do what we can, so far as human wisdom may contrive it, to see that there shall not be another war. The difference between us and hon. Members opposite is not one of aim, but rather one of method. How are we to ensure that there shall be no more war? Which is the better method, that of the strong man armed, or turning the other cheek? Perhaps there is a great deal to be said on both sides, but I think that the wiser and surer course is a combination of both methods, pursuing both in reason but neither to destruction.

We have seen the race in armaments culminate in war. That is the first method, but I think that adoption of the view put forward for unilateral disarmament would represent the other extreme, and this method, if carried out, would result in the complete break-up of the British Empire, and the sweeping away of the greatest instrument for peace that we have in the world to-day. There must be a change of heart before there can be safety in such a complete change in method. I do not believe that any Government in this country could remain in office for a week if they committed themselves to the proposals of unilateral disarmament. The hon. Gentleman asked us what our proposals were at Geneva. What are the chances of disarmament, partial or complete? Hon. Members must realise that this is a very difficult moment at which to discuss the question. The Disarmament Conference is in full session and all these matters are sub judice. It is difficult to think that anything which is said here will not have some reaction on the discussions there. It is impossible to know whether those reactions will be for good or for ill. Therefore my view is that the less said here the better.

4.30 p.m.

But the matter has been raised, and in courtesy to hon. Members opposite I must say briefly and on broad lines what the views of the Air Ministry and of the Government are on this matter. I say at once that the objective which the Conference has in view has our sympathy and our full support, as indeed it must have the sympathy and support of all men of good will. But we cannot afford, in this imperfect world, to neglect or fail to see what are really great difficulties. There are two lines of approach favoured by some hon. Members. The first is the endowment of the League of Nations with sufficient armed forces to enable them to over-awe indivdiual states. The second method advocated by my hon. Friends opposite is that of practically abolishing all military air forces and internationalising all civil air trans- port. I think no one will deny that there are many and great difficulties in the way of both proposals. Have we sufficient confidence in any international body that we can conceive of, to put in the hands of that body the fate of the British Empire and the safety of the 8,000,000 inhabitants of London? Frankly, I have not. The proposal to abolish all military air forces also raises difficulties of a, different but no less forcible character. We have to-day a host of highly specialised military machines which are vastly superior for their special purposes to the various types of civil machines. Sweep away all these military machines, if you can do so honestly and completely, and what is the result? The result is to shift the balance of air power from the country which has the largest military air force to the country which has the most numerous fleet of civil machines. These are only some of the difficulties.

I cannot go into the question of internationalising civil aviation because it would not be in order to do so on this Vote. I have mentioned some, but by no means all of the difficulties, which would confront hon. Members opposite if it were sought to carry out their proposals. I do not say that those difficulties are insuperable. I do not want to prejudice the discussion. I know that our delegation at Geneva will give sympathetic consideration to all practical suggestions. But I think they will consider that the most hopeful line of approach is along the most simple and straightforward road and Great Britain has already given clear and unmistakable indication of what that road is. At the end of the War, our Air Force was second to none. As far as any nation could be, we were predominant in the air. We had trained and available a larger number of pilots and flying personnel and, on charge, a larger number of machines and engines than any other nation. In the productive capacity of our aircraft manufacturing firms we were ahead of all the belligerents. What we had accomplished it was in our power to maintain. What did we do? We ruthlessly scrapped seven-eighths of that magnificent air power. We deliberately allowed ourselves to sink to fifth place in front line strength among the nations of the world. While other nations have been increasing their air expenditure, some of them 2½ times, we have four times in nine years retarded our modest home defence scheme and we are now 10 squadrons short even of the figure which was indicated as requisite in 1923.

We have taken and are taking great risks and I think that a grave responsibility rests on the shoulders of hon. Members who would recommend us to take still further risks. I repeat, that by voluntarily abandoning our supreme position we have shown our devotion to the cause of peace and set an example to the world. That is what our delegation is in a position to say at Geneva and I cannot imagine stronger ground than that. We have, as a matter of fact, in the view of many hon. Members carried this policy too far, but we have not yet

pursued it to its disastrous extremes. Our Air Force, although it is small, compared with the air forces of other nations, is incomparable for its size. Our Air Force does not in any way offer any threat to any other nation. One has only to look at the map of the world and study the nature of our Empire, in order to see that to no other nation is the cause of disarmament so vital as it is to our nation. I maintain that no other nation has shown greater proof of sincerity than we have in this matter of air disarmament.

Question put, "That '32,000' stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 283; Noes, 31.

Division No. 105.] AYES. [4.36 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Cooke, Douglas Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Cooper, A. Duff Gunston, Captain D. W.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Cowan, D. M. Guy, J. C. Morrison
Albery, Irving James Craven-Ellis, William Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Crooke, J. Smedley Hales, Harold K.
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Crookshank, Col. C.de Windt (Bootle) Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Cross, R. H. Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Crossley, A. C. Hammersley, Samuel S.
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolle Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Hanbury, Cecil
Atkinson, Cyril Curry, A. C. Hanley, Dennis A.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Dalkeith, Earl of Hartington, Marquess of
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Davison, Sir William Henry Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Dawson, Sir Philip Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Denman, Hon. R. D. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Bateman, A. L. Denville, Alfred Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Holdsworth, Herbert
Bernays, Robert Dickie, John P. Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Donner, P. W. Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Doran, Edward Hopkinson, Austin
Blaker, Sir Reginald Dower, Captain A. V. G. Hornby, Frank
Borodale, Viscount Duggan, Hubert John Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.
Bossom, A. C. Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Horsbrugh, Florence
Boulton, W. W. Eden, Robert Anthony Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Edge, Sir William Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Edmondson, Major A. J. Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald Ednam, Viscount Hurd, Percy A.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Hurst, Sir Gerald B.
Broadbent, Colonel John Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Jennings, Roland
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y) Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Ker, J. Campbell
Burghley, Lord Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Kerr, Hamilton W.
Burnett, John George Everard, W. Lindsay Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Falle, Sir Bertram G. Knebworth, Viscount
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Fermoy, Lord Knox, Sir Alfred
Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley) Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Fox, Sir Gifford Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
Carver, Major William H. Fuller, Captain A. G. Law, Sir Alfred
Castle Stewart, Earl Ganzoni, Sir John Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Leckie, J. A.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J.A. (Birm.,W) George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Leech, Dr. J. W.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston) Gillett, Sir George Masterman Lees-Jones, John
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Chotzner, Alfred James Gledhill, Gilbert Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Christle, James Archibald Gluckstein, Louis Halle Liddall, Walter S.
Clarke, Frank Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. Lindsay, Noel Ker
Clarry, Reginald George Goldie, Noel B. Llewellin, Major John J.
Clydesdale, Marquess of Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick
Colfox, Major William Philip Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Lloyd, Geoffrey
Colville, John Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn.G. (Wd.Gr'n)
Conant, R. J. E. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
Cook, Thomas A. Grimston, R. V. Loder, Captain J. de Vere
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander penny, Sir George Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Perkins, Walter R. D. Somerset, Thomas
Lymington, Viscount Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Somervell, Donald Bradley
Mabane, William Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilst'n) Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Pickering, Ernest H. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
McConnell, Sir Joseph Pike, Cecil F. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J
MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
McKie, John Hamilton Pybus, Percy John Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
McLean, Major Alan Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Stones, James
Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Corn'll N.) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Storey, Samuel
Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Ramsden, E. Stourton, Hon. John J.
Magnay, Thomas Rea, Walter Russell Strickland, Captain W. F.
Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Reid, David D. (County Down) Tate, Mavis Constance
Mander, Geoffrey le M. Reid, William Allan (Derby) Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)
Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Remer, John R. Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Marsden, Commander Arthur Roberts, Aled (Wrexham) Thompson, Luke
Martin, Thomas B. Robinson, John Roland Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Train, John
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Rosbotham, S. T. Turton, Robert Hugh
Millar, Sir James Duncan Ross, Ronald D. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Rothschild, James A. de Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw- Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Runge, Norah Cecil Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Wells, Sydney Richard
Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan) Salmon, Major Isidore Weymouth, Viscount
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Salt, Edward W. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Muirhead, Major A. J. Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Womersley, Walter James
Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Nicholson, At. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Savery, Samuel Servington Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Normand, Wilfrid Guild Scone, Lord Worthington, Dr. John V.
North, Captain Edward T. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Wragg, Herbert
Nunn, William Simmonds, Oliver Edwin Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Patrick, Colin M. Skelton, Archibald Noel
Pearson, William G. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Peat, Charles U. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert
Ward and Lord Erskine.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Price, Gabriel
Attlee, Clement Richard Hirst, George Henry Salter, Dr. Alfred
Batey, Joseph Jenkins, Sir William Thome, William James
Cape, Thomas John, William Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Daggar, George Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lawson, John James Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Edwards, Charles Leonard, William
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Logan, David Gilbert TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Lunn, William Mr. Gordon Macdonald and Mr. Groves.
Grundy, Thomas W. McEntee, Valentine L.
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Parkinson, John Allen

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I do not think the Committee ought to allow this item to pass without a word or two of criticism upon the sum to be expended, but I would like first to clear up a doubt, which was in the mind of an hon. Member below the Gangway, when he said that my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) and myself had declared that we knew very little about this subject. He thought we were not entitled to speak on the air because we did not know much about it. Strangely enough, during my 10 years in this House, the most eloquent speeches I have ever heard in this Assembly have been from those who knew very little about their subject. Consequently, I am emboldened to say a word or two on a subject of which I know but little. I have heard agriculturists in this House speaking very glibly about coal, and fishermen talking eloquently about cotton, silk and boots, and surely we are entitled, as Members of this House, because we are taxpayers, to contribute what we can to the discussion on any conceivable subject. If I may say so without being too conceited, I think we, on this side of the House, can do that as well as hon. Members on any other side, and I desire to carry out the traditions of my party by saying something on this particular subject.

I think we are entitled to some information from the Under-Secretary of State for Air on two or three points, and I may be pardoned for asking again a question which I put to him last week. I believe the Minister for Air as a rule has told us in his annual statement whether the number of accidents per 1,000 of those engaged in the Air Force is declining or increasing. I think I am right in saying that happily the number now is declining, but it would be interesting if the right hon. Baronet could give us information on that score, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly has so well said, this is a very dangerous occupation. It attracts in the main young men to the force. We are dealing now with civil aviation, and I think I can see on a bench opposite -the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) who is well versed in this problem, and perhaps we shall hear from hint later some of the details connected with civil flying.

Here we have the only item in which there is an actual increase in the expenditure of the Ministry, and if the right hon. Baronet will turn to page 127 of the Estimates he will be able to follow me. He has claimed in the White Paper that there is no increase this year consequent upon the financial stringencies of the State, but for civil aviation there is an increase, from £470,000 to £473,000, a sum of £3,000. We are entitled to ask, therefore, on civil aviation, as having connection with the work of the State in providing security for the people of this country in the event of war, seeing that we decided not to increase our Air Force itself by a single man, how it comes about that we are increasing the subsidy to private firms in this connection. I could understand it if these firms were in a bad way financially, but they are not, and the right hon. Gentleman knows very well the financial status of these firms.

As a matter of fact, there was a speech delivered the other day by the hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour), and I pressed the right hon. Baronet to be good enough to cause an inquiry to be made into the allegations made by that hon. and gallant Member against Imperial Airways. He called them Messrs. Imperial Airways, Limited, and it apparently offended the right hon. Baronet very much because he used the word "Messrs." I do not know whether he pronounced it properly, but if any Member of this Committee cares to read the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the allegations that he made against Imperial Airways, Limited, I venture to say that if the Labour party in this House had been the Government—and we shall be some day—and such allegations had been made, the first thing we should have done would have been to ask him to table his facts and figures and to prove his case. I think the right hon. Baronet, in fairness to the community, to his own Ministry, and to Imperial Airways, ought to cause an inquiry to be made into those allegations. I do not think I have ever heard anything so violent since the Marconi scandals, and that is going a long way back.

Let me now come to the point that I desire to make. The State is giving money away, and unless we are careful, the granting of subsidies to these firms will grow to such an extent that they will be so much abused as to reach almost to the extent of the beet sugar subsidy. I made the statement last week, which I -should like to repeat, that in the main the State in every country in the world, if it grants a subsidy, does so for the deliberate purpose of helping an infant industry along, but as soon as that industry is able to find its feet financially, then the State withdraws the subsidy. Let me go over some of the firms which may be concerned. I am almost sure that I have the correct information as to some of the firms that are being subsidised. This House ought to know, in documents, in the report of the Ministry itself, what these firms are, and I have looked rather carefully, but I cannot find any word about any firm except Imperial Airways. After the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Thanet, I ought perhaps to say Messrs. Imperial Airways, Limited, but I would like to put the words to grand opera; they would sound better that way.

Let me mention some airship firms, in order to prove that they at any rate do not require a subsidy. I think the Fairey Aviation Company, Limited, is perhaps the most important manufacturing firm in this country making aeroplanes at the present time, and in addition to supplying orders to the Australian, Irish, Argentinian, Chilean, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, and Greek Governments, this company has just obtained a very large order from Belgium. We claim that if a firm can draw orders to itself from all over the world, and probably make profits out of other Governments as well, it is not fair to ask the taxpayer in this country to subsidise that firm. Then I believe I am right in saying that the de Havilland Aircraft Company, Limited, could be subsidised in some way by this Vote, and I am informed on good authority that this firm as well is doing remarkably well financially.

Some of these firms are paying 10 per cent. profit. In fact, if the figures were analysed properly, I should not be surprised if 5 per cent. out of the 10 per cent. profit would come from the State, and those of us who are on these benches object to that system of finance. Here is another firm, Handley Page, Limited. According to a speech delivered by the chief of that firm the other day, they feel themselves well-to-do. Surely the time has arrived when the Minister should take into account the financial condition of all these firms that we may be subsidising and say at any rate that if he is in power next year—I am not sure whether he will be, but if he is lucky enough to be at the Air Ministry in 12 months' time—he will scrutinise further these subsidies and find out whether the time has not arrived to stop them entirely. Although, as I have said, I know very little about this problem, I know sufficient to say that aviation, at any rate as a whole, has found its feet at last in the air. That might be regarded as an Irish bull, but that is the only way I can put it. It has found its wings, as it were, and there is no reason for this subsidy being continued to civil aviation.

Then there is another point. In this Vote a great deal of money is given to private clubs. I do not know who runs them, and I think the House is entitled to have a list of these clubs and the amounts granted to them, as well as a list of the firms, with the amounts paid to each one of them, because I feel sure that all subsidies in the past have been so tabled in reports to this House. Let me deal with these clubs. I imagine that no individual person can form a club for civil aviation unless he is in the first instance very well to do. That must be the case, because I cannot conceive of a farm labourer starting a civil aviation club, and I am sure a coal miner would not do it; he has not the means.


What about the London omnibus drivers? They started a club.

5.0 p.m.


They are obviously better off than the farm labourers or the coal miners, and in any case they will have done it collectively, in a co-operative way. I do not mind the co-operative principle being applied to even this sort of thing. It seems to me, however, that we ought to have all these clubs and all civil aviation under the control of the State. In the end, we come back to the very serious point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly, that we, on these benches, feel that the time is fast approaching—and I dare say the question will some day be taken up by a Government of some political colour in this country—when there ought to be international control of all this sort of aviation. Within this small country aviation does not mean very much. But our aircraft travel all over the world, almost to every country, although I do not remember many foreign aircraft coming here, except during the War. We had a grand picture the other day of the right hon. Baronet travelling to Arabia and Persia; he avoided Wales, I think; but I understand that he went very far afield. Let me sum up my two main points. We ought to have a list of the amounts granted to civil aviation and to clubs and firms, not in bulk, but separately, showing how much money is paid to each firm and club. The House is entitled to that. The right hon. Gentleman ought to explain his ideas a little more with regard to internationalism in the realm of control of civil aviation. I imagine that it would be better for every Government in the world if there were international control. There should be a sort of centre from which all flying machines were controlled in such a way as to benefit all countries. We on these benches are not against aviation. I rather admire the courage of the young fellow who can drive one of these machines through the air, though it requires just as much courage for a miner to go underground. I press the right hon. Gentleman to remember the points that I have made, and I ask hire to be good enough to answer the question which I put the other day and which I have repeated to-day. I feel sure that the community, if it be the case, will be glad to know that the number of accidents per thousand miles flown is declining in the Air Force and in civil aviation.


I am sure that the House has listened with great interest to the words of wisdom which have fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I feel sure, however, that he spoke with insufficient knowledge with regard to subsidies, for the only subsidies which are given by the Government are those given to Imperial Airways, light aeroplane clubs, and National Flying Services. No subsidy has been given to any aircraft manufacturer as a manufacturer. Therefore, I am unable to understand why my hon. Friend should try and decry the aircraft industry, which is one of the few industries in this country which is expanding and increasing employment. The export of aeroplanes and aeroplane parts from this country is larger than from any other country in the world, and the hon. Gentleman ought to be pleased that there are such firms as Faireys, De Havillands and others who are able to show a profit, not only out of the Air Ministry, but out of foreign Air Ministries. He also ought to be pleased to know that foreign countries recognise that they have to come to this country if they require the best aeroplanes and aeroplane engines. With regard to clubs, the hon. Gentleman is a little amiss. If he examines the Questions, he will see that we obtained only on 9th February last a long and complete list of all the light aeroplane clubs of the country, giving details of how much each received this year and last year in subsidies. If the hon. Gentleman had examined that list, he would have found that there was a great diminution in the subsidies in the current year as compared with the year before.

I wish to ask my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary one or two questions with regard to the light aeroplane club movement. After the excellent maiden speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ashford (Captain Knatchbull), who put forward very well the case on behalf of the light aeroplane clubs, and received the support, of a large number of speakers in the Debate, the right hon. Gentleman said: I might broadly say that a revised scheme will be introduced under which payments for new licences will be on a more generous scale than at present. Our object, naturally, is to enable as many clubs as possible to earn larger sums than they are doing now, but as a condition of these more generous terms, it will be necessary to effect a considerable reduction in the permissible annual maximum, which up to the present has been £2,000 for any one club."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1932; col. 2111, Vol. 262.] As I understand the Estimates, it seems that we are exactly halving the amount of subsidy that light aeroplane clubs are to receive. Last year the amount was £15,000 maximum far the clubs, and £5,000 for National Flying Services. It seems that these Estimates have been worked out on the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave me in answer to a question, in which I asked him how much of the £15,000 and £5,000 respectively had been gained by the clubs and by National Flying Services this year. He told me that in a full year the figures would be approximately £8,500 for the clubs, and £1,500 for the National Flying Services. This exactly corresponds with the figures in the present Estimates. I should, therefore, like to ask him how the position of the light aeroplane clubs is to be improved if the amount of subsidy is the same. There may be, of course, some small alteration in the method of administration, but it seems to me that we are not going to be on so generous a basis even as last year. I was hoping that the figures of last year would be allowed to stand, and that the scheme recently put forward to the Air Ministry by the Associated Committee of Light Aeroplane Clubs would be adopted to enable the clubs to earn a sum nearer to the amount of the subsidy.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will realise from his knowledge of these clubs that no organisation has received such world-wide respect. Practically all foreign countries and the majority of the British Dominions have followed our example. The undying gratitude of this country is due to the late Sir Sefton Brancker who helped so much in the initiation of this great scheme. If the amount of the subsidy is to come down to a maximum of £400 per club per year, I can say definitely, with a considerable knowledge of these clubs, that in a year's time only about half the number of clubs will be in existence. That will be a very serious thing, not only for the aeroplane manufacturers and to the instructors, but to the whole of the air organisation of this country, because it will mean far fewer A and B licence pilots trained. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us a little more information as to how the new scheme will be put into operation, and whether he will enable the clubs to get a larger amount of subsidy than they were able to do last year. It really puts a premium on efficiency to reduce the maximum to, say, £1,000 and to make it easy to obtain that £1,000. It enables the small club with only one or two machines to obtain the same subsidy as a large club which has to maintain seven or eight machines. The club with the largest amount of upkeep and overhead charges clearly deserves the larger subsidy.

Coming to another side of this question, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend what the position of National Flying Services is in this matter. My right hon. Friend will remember that an agreement was come to with National Flying Services in 1929, whereby, for the first three years, they were to receive £10 per pilot trained, and for the next seven years they were to receive £5. That agreement comes to an end as to the first three years in August this year. Will National Flying Services have a new agreement or will the Government carry out the terms of the agreement made at that time? How far are National Flying Services proceeding under the agreement in the laying out of the 20 new aerodromes and 80 new landing grounds which the agreement calls for in the first three years? I understand that they have six or seven aerodromes, but no landing grounds, so that they have until the 1st August to provide 80 new landing grounds and 13 or 14 aerodromes.

I should like to say a word about municipal aerodromes. We heard with great satisfaction the remarks of my right hon. Friend on that question. Clearly we are not able at the present time to extend as far as we would wish, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will use every means to induce local authorities to make these aerodromes in order that we may see civil aviation improved. Now that we are a Protectionist country, there will be a considerable amount of transport of dutiable goods to and from this country and the Continent, in which case it will be necessary to have certain customs aerodromes in various parts of the country. There is now, outside London, one at Manchester, one at Bristol and one at Lympne. Have the Air Ministry formulated any scheme whereby certain districts will be served by particular customs aerodromes, or are these customs facilities to be allowed to spring up haphazardly all over the country? Are definite centres to be established for the clearing of customs and goods and passengers from overseas? With regard to the meteorological station which is being put up in Manchester, the Memorandum says that it is to be equipped with wireless and to be used for sending out weather reports to serve the north of England. Am I to understand that that is an experimental station, and are there to be similar stations in other parts of the country so that wherever a station is it may be possible to receive the same report that will be sent out from Manchester? I know that the Automobile Association have a station at one of the aerodromes in London, but that is not connected with Government enterprise at all. Is it intended to extend the system throughout the country?

Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to do anything further to extend the system of aerial signs? I know that there is great difficulty and difference of opinion on this point, but I think that I can give him sufficient evidence, after working at the problem for years, to show him that, certainly as far as one district is concerned, we have been able quite satisfactorily and with a minimum amount of expense, thanks to the cooperation and help of the gas undertakings in that area, to mark with white letters the names of places on the tops of gasometers with no expense to the Government or to the ratepayers. I believe that if the National Gas Council, which I understand is not adverse to this scheme, were approached by the Air Ministry, it would be possible to make a great extension of the scheme without any great outlay of money. In putting these points to the right hon. Gentleman, I realise, of course, the present financial difficulties. I am sorry that they have prevented our extending the great air route to Australia. I hope that at the Ottawa Conference we may be able to discuss with the Government of Australia whether it is possible in the near future to proceed again with this vital link in our Imperial air communications.


It is with some trepidation that I rise to speak on the Air Estimates, because I have never been higher in the air than the clock tower of Big Ben. I have had many invitations to go into the air, but I am not sure whether I would like to get so far up that I should have both feet off the ground at the same time. But I have a real interest in flying. In the county of which I represent one of the Divisions there is one of the light aeroplane clubs, the Essex and Herts Club, and I have follc.wed the progress of that club with interest and have a general interest also in the light aeroplane club movement. I still feel that the support given by the Government to light aeroplane clubs is not such as they have a right to expect. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies), appeared to criticise these clubs under the impression, apparently, that they are not the kind of clubs that miners would join. In the present state of the mining industry that may be true, but it is equally true that some of the better-paid artisans and better-paid workers, such as busmen, have a flying club, and I would like to see these co-operative flying clubs extended. Flying has now reached such a stage that it has become of general interest not only to those who take part in it but to the people generally, who recognise its future possibilities. People are showing a sufficient amount of interest in flying to enable them to have some judgment about its possibilities, and there is a general feeling, I believe, that flying, and par- ticularly civil flying, ought to be encouraged.

One of the greatest encouragements to flying has been the setting up of these light aeroplane clubs. They were first started in 1925, when five were established; by 1931 the number had grown to 23. They are entitled, under certain conditions, to a grant of £2,000, but I think it is true to say that none of them has ever earned anything like that sum, probably as a result of the conditions attached to the grant. There is considerable feeling amongst the members of all these clubs that the present basis on which the grant is paid is unsatisfactory, both from the point of view of the clubs and of the development of aviation generally, and I think the Minister should closely examine the method of making the grants. It cannot make very much difference to the Ministry under what conditions the grants are made so long as the clubs satisfy the object for which they were formed, which was to encourage flying, and to increase the number of pilots who would become available.

I understand that it costs a minimum of £2 10s. per flying hour to use the machines, whereas the charge which is generally made—it is certainly the charge in the club of which I have knowledge, the Essex and Herts Club—is £2. I am told by the members of that club that if they attempted to raise the charge practically all their members, who number about 160, would be compelled to give up flying altogether. They are anxious to fly, but they are not the aristocrats the hon. Member for Westhoughton appears to think they are, many of them being ordinary working men who make a very considerable sacrifice to indulge their love of flying. They would like to take a flight once a week, but because they are not sufficiently well endowed with this world's goods they cannot do so; they can afford a flight only once in three or four weeks, and have to save up for that. If the main object is to encourage flying I submit that the policy of the Ministry as disclosed in the Estimates is not very much encouragement to these clubs. It was said by the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) that the vote has been reduced from £15,000 last year to £8,500, this year's figure being based, apparently, on the amount actually expended last year. In my opinion the whole £15,000 was not spent last year on account of the conditions attached to the grants, which make it almost impossible for clubs to get anything like the full sum, and therefore I ask the Ministry to reconsider the conditions with a view to enabling clubs to take fuller advantage of the offer of the Ministry. Even if the full amount were not spent last year the grant of £15,000 might have been continued in this year's Estimates.

The other matter on which I would like to say a word has also been touched on by the hon. Member fox Melton. Great minds run in similar grooves, I expect; at any rate, the two principal points which he raised were the only two on which I desire to say a word. The second point concerns municipal aerodromes. I am particularly interested in municipal aerodromes, although not professing to have very much knowledge of them. With the development of the aeroplane industry and the extension of flying which, it seems to me, must take place in the near future, there is a growing necessity for better landing and taking off places, particularly around London. In my own constituency there is a site which, it appears to me, might be developed as a municipal aerodrome; but it is a matter for future consideration. The Air Ministry ought to encourage municipalities to keep the question of sites for aerodromes in mind when their areas are being developed. From communications I have had with some of them, I know that private companies are experimenting in this direction, perhaps with some encouragement, if not with financial assistance, from the Government. If they were getting such financial assistance I should not object to it, so long as the money were applied to a national object such as the development of flying generally. The Government should also make some kind of survey, particularly round London, where building is going on very rapidly, and where sites which are at present available may easily be lost in the next year or two. The Government should encourage municipalities to retain sites for aerodromes.


As one of the few owner-pilots in the House, I would like to ask the Under-Secretary one or two questions and to make one or two criticisms and suggestions. During the Debate last week and this afternoon hon. Members of all political parties have advocated the continuation of the subsidy for flying clubs, and others have openly advocated not only its continuation but its extension. They said that these flying clubs are turning out in large numbers pilots who in time of war would form a kind of reserve of pilots, a pool on which the Air Force could draw. We have been told that in the last four or five years these clubs have turned out nearly 6,000 pilots. I cannot agree that more than 600 of this 6,000 would be of the least use to this country in the event of our finding ourselves at war, and I propose shortly to describe the four or five types we find among this 6,000. First of all, there is the pilot who joins a flying club and, after 100 or 150 hours flying, gets his "B" licence. That type is very limited, and I put it out as a suggestion that perhaps not more than 10 per cent. of those 6,000 pilots have taken the "B" licence. Of course, any pilot with a "B" licence would be of the greatest service.

5.30 p.m.

I will go through the other kinds. We find that there is a very large number of women pilots, and that a large number of women are being taught to fly, largely at the expense of the State. It is common knowledge among pilots in this country that, with certain exceptions, women in the air are notoriously inefficient, and notoriously dangerous. Personally, I would rather find myself flying in formation with a winged dragon than flying in formation with a woman pilot. Women pilots would be absolutely useless if we found ourselves involved in war, because we could not make use of them in any way, the reason being that we are tied hand and foot by a national convention. Therefore, the money given by the nation to these women to subsidise them is a pure waste.

I would like to mention another type, and that is the old gentleman pilot. Last Sunday I visited four or five light aeroplane clubs, and I found men of 50, 60 or even 70 years of age going up in the air, and they were getting their licences. I think that it is indefensible to spend large sums of money in order to give these old gentlemen cheap or free flying in the hope that they might be of some use in future wars. It is a great mistake to pour out public money for a lot of purposes that would be useless in case of war. The most important group of all consists of those men who cannot afford to fly. If you go to any large flying club in the country you will find continuously every hour or two hours new members joining the club who want to learn to fly. They come full of enthusiasm. They meet the club secretary, who is equally full of enthusiasm, because he sees in them a chance of getting a subsidy from the Government. These men do eight or nine hours' flying. Then they do their first solo flight, and after 10 or 15 hours' flying they obtain their pilot's licence. From that moment the club has no more interest in that pilot, because there is no chance for 12 months of obtaining any further subsidy from the State. An investigation of this type of flyers will show that a very large proportion of them give up after they have flown for 20 or 30 hours, because the club will not help them, and they cannot afford to continue flying without financial aid from the Government.

I submit that a very large proportion of the money given to these 10,000 clubs is utter waste, and if it is to be continued, I hope the Air Minister will consider whether it is not possible to alter the type of the subsidy and refuse it in respect of any pilot over the age of 40 years, because those men would be absolutely of no use in time of war. Would it not also he possible to refuse the subsidy to any man unless he does 30 or 40 hours in the air every year? Would it not be possible to refuse a subsidy to all women pilots? I would like to see civil aviation standing on its own legs, without any doles or subsidies from the State. I hope that the Government will stop subsidising inefficiency, and provide better facilities for flying. By that I mean that they should provide more aerodromes and aerial lighthouses and ground markings. In the early days of motoring, we had exceptionally bad roads in this country, and from the very moment that the local authorities and the State started paying out large sums of money to improve the roads, the motor industry began to develop very rapidly. The more the roads were improved, the better were the services provided on those roads, and the motor industry generally improved. I submit that exactly the same will happen in regard to aviation. The more aero- dromes and the more lighthouses we provide, the more rapidly will be the development of civil aviation. If some proportion of this money can be handed over to municipalities to encourage them to ear-mark a certain amount for the erection of aerodromes, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air will find a very big increase in private flying in that particular locality.

I will now refer to the question of providing more ground marks for airmen. Sometime ago I put down a question relating to the desirability of marking the tops of gasometers and the roofs of railway stations, and the answer was that it was not considered necessary because they had drawn up a scheme of ground marking of their own. I flew for about, five hours last Sunday and I went round looking for these ground marks, but I could not find one of them. I wish the Under-Secretary would tell me where are those ground markings. I hope the Air Minister will consider the various suggestions that have been made with regard to ground marking. Surely it would be possible to mark with white paint the roofs of railway stations and the tops of gasometers. That would not cost the State anything because the gas corn-panics and the railway companies have to paint the gasometers and the roofs of the railway stations, and it would cost no more to paint them white than it would to paint them red. If this suggestion could be carried out, flying across country would be greatly simplified. As soon as we start improving the facilities for private flying, I feel sure there will be a large increase in private owners of aeroplanes, and a great increase in the number of really efficient pilots in this country.


The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) has taken, I think, rather a narrow view in regard to the light aeroplane clubs. Those interested in these clubs never regarded them as a definite source for service pilots. I think these clubs are primarily means of promoting airmindedness in this country. Why do we want to promote airmindedness? Simply because in the past this country has been a carrier by sea of the world's goods and passengers, and if we are to maintain our mercantile supremacy, it roust be established in the air as well as on the sea. To this end an airminded nation is essential, therefore it does not matter much whether we teach members of these clubs to fly at 60 or even at a later age. I was sorry to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Stroud about women flying, because they are playing their part in promoting air-mindedness in this country. I feel sure that the Air Ministry is taking the right course by not interfering as to which sex should benefit by their subsidies.

As one who has to exist in the land of aviation I was immensely interested to hear from the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that this is a land flowing with milk, honey and subsidies. It has been pointed out already that these subsidies are not offered to aeroplane manufacturing companies. This attack on these slender subsidies shows once again how the enthusiasm for Socialism on the Labour benches beguiles hon. Members opposite into suggesting changes which can only inflict additional hardship on the British workman. At the present moment there is a great deal of unemployment in the aircraft industry, and if the Air Ministry reduces the little help they are giving to these light aeroplane clubs, unemployment must be increased.

I welcome the exceedingly hopeful promises which my right hon. Friend gave as to the new subsidy scheme. I suggest that possibly the larger clubs will be prevented from doing all they might do in their localities if the subsidy is definitely reduced below the £2,000 mark. The Minister may suggest that there is little likelihood of the £2,000 mark being reached, but I ask him to offer a further stimulus in that direction. I welcome the delightful speech which we heard from the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee). I had almost commenced to think that flying was a subject in which Socialists had no interest whatsoever, so I was delighted to find that there is, at any rate, one hon. Member belonging to the party opposite who has an intimate knowledge of civil aviation, and I am sure that all those who sit on this side of the House will join me in wishing that his enthusiasm will soon leaven the whole lump.


I hesitate to take part in this Debate, because I realise that I come in that category which has been described by an hon. Member as old gentleman, and I can only claim to have flown once. The point to which I want to draw attention is in regard to civil aviation. The hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) has emphasised one side of this subject, and that is the civil side. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) emphasised all the time that the chief point of civil aviation was to provide a background for war, and he regarded flying clubs and so forth as merely for the purpose of finding reserve pilots in case of war. I think we ought to look at this matter of civil aviation from two points of view. First of all, we want to consider very carefully what is our policy with regard to it. I am one deeply interested in flying, and I believe that we are going to develop enormously flying of every kind.

In regard to aviation, I believe we are in the same stage as motoring was at the end of the 19th century. It seems to me that in aviation we have an instrument that may be a potential menace to the human race, or it may be used with great advantage to the human race, according to the way in which we view aviation. The hon. Member for Duddeston took a more modern view than the hon. Member for Stroud, who dealt with civil aviation as an aid to air power in this country. I think that that is a mistake. The great point about civil aviation is that it links the world more closely than ever before. It annihilates distance, and it ought to lead more towards internationalism than towards combative nationalism. We are subsidising private enterprise on our main air routes, and we are subsidising private flying, particularly with regard to the air transport services. One might describe these services, as I think the Under-Secretary did, as a thin red line drawn across the map linking up the British Empire; but I would rather regard them as lines of no particular country, destined to link up the whole world. We should try to get out of our minds the idea of air power, of air supremacy. We may take pride in our people's achievements in the air, but we should try to get away from the idea that the air is merely a new element in which human beings can kill one another.

I am inclined to think that discussions on disarmament tend to range too much on a negative aspect, and not enough on a positive aspect. If you constantly discuss fighting, even from a disarmament point of view, you tend to think too much about fighting. A constructive policy of peace would be a great deal more effective. I should like to see in this country a policy of trying to internationalise the main air routes all over the world. The suggestion has been made, I think by the Under-Secretary, that at the present time we are subsidising private enterprise services on our main air lines with a view to seeing them in a comparatively short time flying on their own account without subsidy, but I think that we should take a different view—that the main air line services should form one great international service, and that, so far from wishing to see civil aviation developed merely as a support for a fighting air service, we should aim at developing it as a great support for world peace. I see no reason why this should not be done.

I was reading this morning a number of past Debates on Air Estimates, including a remarkable speech by the present Foreign Secretary, delivered in 1924, in which he stressed the terrible potentialities of the air as a weapon of destruction, and pointed out that air power practically annihilated international war as it used to be laid down. He did not go on to develop the other side, and that is that to-day we are trying to get some kind of international government into the world through the League of Nations. One difficulty that has kept the countries of the world apart hitherto has been the difficulty caused by long distances and the time required to overcome them. International airways should lead to the elimination of those causes of international friction which are due to time and distance. I should like to see a positive proposal put forward by the Foreign Secretary, who has himself been in the Air Force, who knows the danger of unrestricted air development, who, in the speech to which I have referred, laid it down clearly that there was no possibility of getting definite air supremacy over some potential enemy, and who at that time, when Air Estimates were being kept down, pointed out that merely to say that it was continuation was not enough.

I should like to see the Foreign Secretary propose that the main air routes of the world should be international. A proposal was put forward by the French Government with regard to internationalising part of the fighting air services, and, whatever its merits or demerits may be, it was a proposal that was well worth consideration. I believe, however, that the best way of tackling this subject would be to start from the civil aviation aide. There is great difficulty in uniting the armaments of different nations, but I do not see why there should not be, on the civil side, an international personnel. During the War, there was probably greater camaraderie among the airmen of the different nations at war than in any of the other Forces. I do not see why that should not be developed, and why the airmen should not become truly international—trained together, working together, developing an international esprit de corps. If we could cut off a large amount of potential support for war by the development, not only of air-mindedness, but of internationalmindedness, we might go on to an international Air Force for policing the world, and do away with separate fighting air forces altogether. It may be said that this is a proposal which is "in the air," that it is only a flight of fancy; but I do not think we have sufficient imagination to realise what any future war is going to be like.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

I have been listening very closely to the hon. Gentleman for some time, and I must say he is getting very near to the line which he must not cross.


I am aware of that limiting line, and I admit that I got close to it, but I was not going to elaborate that point. The point that I was making was with regard to civil aviation, and I was going to conclude my sentence by saying that, if we wish to avoid these dangers, we ought to have a definite policy with regard to civil aviation. The policy expressed in the Air Estimates seems to me to be a nationalist policy, a policy which regards our civil aviation from the point of view of war, from the point of view of national rivalry; whereas I believe that this nation could take the lead in a great step forward in civilisa- tion by advocating the internationalisation of all the main air routes of the world.


I join in the protests that have been made against the suggestion of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) that the object of subsidising these light aeroplane clubs was the training of pilots for the purposes of war. If that were the considered view of the Air Ministry, many people who strongly support these clubs at present would take a different view. On every occasion on which this matter has been brought forward, we have been assured that this was purely civil aviation, and that the object was, perfectly rightly, to encourage people in this country to be air-minded, to make them realise that flying is one of the finest sports in the world, and to make Englishmen and Englishwomen as much at home in the air as on the sea or in a motor car. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say that that is still the policy of the Government, and that this is not simply a secret method of war preparation. If it were, it ought not to appear on this Vote.

I should like to ask the Under-Secretary if he can say something about the staff for civil aerodromes. I notice that there is quite a considerable staff, and I should like to hear what they are doing. Are they beginning to encourage municipalities to go in for aerodromes of their own? If so, they are serving a useful purpose, even though the times are difficult at present. I would also urge the right hon. Gentleman to give sympathetic consideration to what has been said from several quarters about giving indications, on the roofs or platforms of railway stations, as to the name of the locality. That is of great value, as anyone knows who has flown about the country. The Minister may not have compulsory powers, but he has great powers of persuasion, not only in this House, but in the country, and, if he would try to encourage railway companies and others to assist in this way, he would be doing a very good thing for civil aviation. The advertising value of ground signs that can be read from the air has hardly been realised. On one occasion, when flying over my constituency, I was very much impressed by the signs that I saw concerning a local brewery and its products, and, the more people take to flying about the country, the more will be the value of signs or advertisements on the ground.

With regard to the internationalisation of civil aviation, I referred in my speech last Thursday to the proposals which are being laid before the Disarmament Conference. A number of countries have proposed something of this kind, and it figures in what is known as the Budapest policy of the Federation of League of Nations Societies all over the world. I quite understand that the Under-Secretary will not be able to say anything definite on this point, but I hope he will be able to say that the Government are open to consider this among other proposals, and see whether, as the result of a general bargain on other matters, something on these lines could not be made to fit in. If he is willing to indicate the open-mindedness of the Government on this question, and their willingness to negotiate, I think we shall have cause to be well satisfied.

6.0 p.m.


I want to get the House down from the air to earth on the question of civil aviation. In connection with this subject, the one desire is to get people to travel by air. The whole world is divided into two sets of people—those who do not care a bit about the air, and the others who are over-enthusiastic. My position is between the two. I want to travel by air, but no one looks after me. The appalling noise, and the way that I am subject to seasickness, make travel by air really a most unpleasant thing. It is quite true that many more people would travel by air if they were not seasick and if it were not so noisy. An eloquent plea was made to the Under-Secretary the other day on the subject of noise, and I hope he will be able to say something about it. We have a very expensive and very efficient research department. Could they not turn their attention to the subjugation of noise, and also to the really difficult question of motion in the air, which, after all, from the point of view of seasickness, is infinitely worse than that of any boat. That is a very serious thing, and I believe it can be overcome. I am glad to see that after 14 years we have come to the con- clusion that aviation is not altogether military, but has some worth on the civil and pacific side, but if you go to the Continent by aeroplane and arrive, having been seasick for three hours and subjected to a tremendous noise, the net result of your labour in that country might be the reverse of pacific.


My hon. and gallant Friend is well known as one of the foremost pioneers of aviation, and it is with considerable regret that I hear from him what his sufferings must have been in the air during all these years. I have always looked upon him as a hero. Now I look upon him as something even superior to that. But I agree with him entirely that travel by air can be very unpleasant, both from the point of view of noise and the other causes which he so graphically described. As far as noise is concerned, we have made considerable strides and, in the matter of seasickness, we are doing what we can, but perhaps the aeroplane is more at the mercy of the elements than any other form of transport. I hope during the course of future years air travel will be more comfortable than it has been in the past. The hon. Member for Wolverhamption (Mr. Mander) and the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) made extremely interesting speeches and suggestions on the subject of internationalising civil aviation all over the world. I cannot say anything about that to-day because the whole matter is under discussion at Geneva at present, but the British delegation is certainly open to consider any scheme sympathetically. It is unnecessary for me to say that there are very great difficulties in the way before any scheme of that kind can be brought to a successful issue.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) surprised me very much, because he started off by complaining that there is an increase in the civil aviation Vote, and no increase in the military Vote. I was delighted to hear him take a line of that kind. I think on the whole it has given pleasure to hon. Members that there should have been a small increase in the Vote for civil aviation. It is principally due to the fact that we have been uncertain for some months past whether it would be possible to continue the link down the Persian Gulf and along the Persian coast to India. The agreement with the Persian Government was due to terminate on 31st March. We have an extension of two months, and I hope that may lead to a further extension, and perhaps greater security of tenure. As we did not know that it would be possible to continue the arrangement, we had to make provision for the possibility of using the Southern coast of the Persian Gulf and not being compelled to sever this very important link in the chain of our service from Great Britain to India. The hon. Member also complained about the subsidy that was given to Imperial Airways and said that in other countries infant industries were always helped until they found their feet. That is exactly why we are giving the subsidy to Imperial Airways. I think the hon. Member has been able to answer his question himself. He was in rather a muddle about what he called the subsidy given to other firms. What he calls subsidies to other firms are really contracts given by the Air Ministry to aircraft manufacturers. They give employment, and one would not have thought they would be the subject of attack.

Several hon. Members have discussed the question of aeroplane clubs from different angles. May I say what great pleasure it gave me to listen to the charming speech of the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee). He tells me he has never yet been up into the air. I think it is extremely remiss of him, and I should be only too glad on any available opportunity to see that in future he is unable to make a remark of that kind. He has been able to prove conclusively what excellent work these clubs do. They are in a sense co-operative. The people who join them co-operate and are thus able to fly. Many of them are people who would not be able to afford to do it otherwise. With regard to the new arrangement about which I was asked by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Everard) I am afraid I cannot say anything more on this occasion than I said last week. It was only at the last moment that I was able to make any announcement at all. The arrangements are still under review and under consideration and, if my hon. Friend will allow me to refrain from giving any further details at the moment, I shall be only too pleased as soon as possible to give him any information he likes, but he can rest assured that the light aeroplane clubs are going to be treated more generously. I do not think there are any other points that I need touch upon. Perhaps the House will allow us to have the Vote and bring this interesting Debate to a conclusion.