§ 23. Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the total number of first-line aeroplanes at present in Great Britain and available for home defence; and what is the total number of similar machines in France?
§ Sir P. SASSOON
The present number of first-line aircraft in this country, excluding those allotted for embarkation with the Fleet and the second-line aircraft of the Auxiliary Air Force, is approximately 420. The corresponding number in France, according to the latest available published information, is 1,210.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
Are any steps being taken by the Government to remove this great inferiority in the air?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Is it not the fact that this country and France are bound to render each other support against an aggressor?
§ Sir W. DAVISON
With respect to the very small number of 420 first-line aircraft, are they all now in this country? That is the question on the Paper, and the hon. Gentleman did not answer it.
§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
Does the Under-Secretary consider that 420 first-line aircraft are sufficient for this country?
§ 24. Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether the 42 squadrons of aeroplanes now possessed by this country are kept fully equipped and ready; and whether it is proposed in the coming Estimates to increase the minimum establishment to 52 squadrons, in view of the extension of the air programmes of other nations?
§ Sir P. SASSOON
The figures quoted by my hon. Friend relate, of course, to the strength of the Home Defence Force and not to the Royal Air Force as a whole. Of the 42 squadrons, 13 are non-regular. The 29 regular squadrons are fully equipped and ready, with the exception of two, which are in course of reorganisation and re-equipment. As re- 342 gards the last part of the question, I cannot at this stage anticipate Air Estimates for 1934.
§ 47. Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Soviet Air Force, which 10 years ago was negligible, now ranks second in the world, and is over 60 per cent. stronger than the Royal Air Force; that the Soviet Government has announced its determination to attain first place in the near future, and that priority is accordingly being given to the Russian aircraft industry by government decree in respect of technicians, labour and raw materials; and whether His Majesty's Government will take due account of this and other foreign air programmes in considering Air Estimates for 1934?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
The answer to the first two parts of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the third part, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston-upon-Hull (Brigadier-General Nation) on the 29th instant.
§ Captain BALFOUR
Can the Prime Minister give any sort of indication as to the time which His Majesty's Government will allow to elapse before they consider it necessary to take steps to achieve parity?
§ 48. Captain BALFOUR
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that His Majesty's Governments in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have all decided to strengthen their air defences in the coming year and are providing substantial credits for the purchase of additional aircraft; and whether, in the light of their action and of our weakness in the air, His Majesty's Government will consider what contribution the United Kingdom should now make to placing joint Imperial air defence upon a secure basis?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My attention has been called to reports of public statements by Ministers in the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand and the Union 343 of South Africa to which my hon. and gallant Friend no doubt refers in the first part of his question. As regards the second part, His Majesty's Government are, of course, considering these together with all other relevant factors, in determining the provision which should be made for the Royal Air Force in 1934.