HC Deb 11 March 1935 vol 299 cc21-3

asked the Prime Minister when the departmental committee on air defence is expected to make its report; and whether he will appoint a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence with wider powers and sufficient funds for experiments to devise methods of defence against night-bombing?

The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)

I am unable to forecast the duration of this committee's work. As my light hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Air indicated on 27th February, the committee are conducting an investigation into possible means of countering air attacks. Their task involves the examination of recent developments in scientific and technical knowledge and the duration of the investigation must depend on what emerges. I fully realise that the committee will wish to follow up promising lines of experiment and inquiry and every possible facility will be given to them. They have already recommended that practical steps should be taken to follow up one very interesting proposal, and this is being done without delay. The report or reports of the committee—for there may be interim reports—will be brought at once before the Committee of Imperial Defence. As the House has already been informed, the composition of the committee is elastic. It can and will be enlarged if the course of its investigation makes this desirable.


As this is a question which must inevitably affect more than one department and more than one of the defence Services, does my right hon. Friend think that a purely departmental committee is adequate to deal with it?


I do not think we ought to stress too much the word "departmental." Even if it were the fact that the Air Ministry were finally responsible for setting up the committee, it consists of gentlemen of first-rate scientific eminence who are not attached, so far as I know, in any way to any department. I was going to mention something on this subject in the course of my speech this afternoon, but I may say that the question is very much before us, and I am sure that there is nothing between my right hon. Friend and ourselves in the matter.


I propose to defer any further questions on the subject until after my right hon. Friend has spoken.


asked the Lord President of the Council whether his present information shows that the German Air Force is still under 50 per cent. of the British Air Force in Europe alone; and that this proportion will still hold good if the programme of the two countries is maintained at the already approved rate of acceleration?


I am not in a position to add anything at present to the statement which I made in the Debate of 28th November last.


As the figure given in the question is that which the right hon. Gentleman gave in that Debate, may I ask him has he any reason to believe that it will hold good; and, if so, does he accept the conclusion that should Germany join an air pact her contribution would fail to be decisive until she, like us, gradually increased her air forces?


I gave very full particulars in the course of my speech last November. "Having reason to believe" is a different thing from certainty, and I would rather not answer that question before my right hon. Friends return from their visit to Berlin.