HC Deb 17 March 1936 vol 310 cc363-99

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a number of Air Forces, not exceeding 50,000, 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, 1937.

10.29 p.m.


I beg to move, That a number, not exceeding 45,000, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service. I am moving this reduction in order to deal with one subject. I desire to get information from the right hon. Gentleman as to the act Lai measures which are being taken for defence against air attack. There has been a great deal of discussion on the matter, but the Under- Secretary has not up to the present been asked to specify actually what is being done, and, therefore, I would ask him to take this opportunity of discussing the broad question that has constantly been raised, and also the question whether, whatever precautions are taken, there is no possible effective defence against air attack. I raise this question because of the speech made by the Prime Minister about three years ago, which gave the country the impression that practically all efforts to defend ourselves against air attack are wasted. I will read the actual words of the Prime Minister: I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth which can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people tell him, the bomber will always get through."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 632, Vol. 270.] I want to know whether that represents the view of the Air Ministry, because whether it is the doctrine of the Air Ministry or not it must have a most profound practical result. It will determine what proportion of our planes shall be bombing planes and what proportion fighting planes for defensive purposes. It has generally been assumed that this is the view of the Air Ministry, but during the last two years a rather new element in the community has been giving its mind to these problems; that is a number of scientists whose reputation is certainly not exceeded in this country, and who, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, have been called into consultation on the committees of the Air Ministry and have been sitting on committees for about 15 months. Some of these scientists have expressed their view in public, but the new element which has come into the discussions does not accept the view that there is no effective defence against air attack. They take the view that that is a defeatist proposition and do not agree by any means with the statement of the Prime Minister. Having gone into the matter I find that their view that there can be built up an effective defence is supported by technical papers like "The Flight," and also by men of great experience like General Ashmore, who was responsible for the air defence of London during the last War. In order to make the matter clear let me repeat what General Ashmore said. He said: No scale of defence, however great, can secure complete immunity from bombing, but by suitable arrangements the attacker may be made to suffer such casualties that his efforts will die out. That is a very different perspective from that which the public has had in mind as a consequence of the statement by the Prime Minister, and I think it is important that we should now know what is the perspective of the Air Ministry on this question. I have looked at such information as is available to a layman, and, while I admit that it is not precise, what General Ashmore points out is that taking the experience of the War—I agree, of course, that much has happened since then—the defence overcame the attack. On 19th May, 1918, Germany made her great culminating air attack upon London, and sent over 30 machines. Three of those machines were brought down by fighting in the air, three were shot down from the ground, three were so badly knocked about that they crashed, and one landed in Essex because of engine trouble. Therefore, one third of the attacking force was wiped out.

As a result of this, it is rather strange that we should now take it for granted that there is no defence against air attack, for in the last War, following on experience of air attacks, there were no attempts to attack London at all during the last six months of the war. It is suggested in the technical papers and by the new elements entering into the discussion of this subject, that the Air Ministry is defeatist upon this matter. and is not showing in building up air defence the same intense zeal which it is showing in building up the method of attack by bombing.

I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman some questions about the policy of the Air Ministry, and I would ask him to give such replies as are possible. I will begin with the moment when the attacking force crosses the Channel and comes to our shores. I am told that there will be only eight minutes between the time the attacking force comes to our shores and the time it is in London. That is the shortest estimate made by qualified people. When the attacking force reaches our shores the first persons on whom the Air Ministry will rely for information as to the direction in which the attacking aeroplanes fly will be the observers. I would like to have some information about these observers. They are in groups all round the coast, but they are not in any way expert or even skilled. They consist of the local parson, the schoolmaster, the postman—little groups of civilians; and these people are dealing with an issue in which every period of 10 seconds matters. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied that this observer corps has a sufficient stiffening of professionals of experience to help out its work.

I see from the Estimates that the entire amount of money spent to give them any professional assistance is £900 a year. That strikes one as extraordinarily small when one considers the vital importance of the work which they have to do. When the attacking force passes the observer corps, the next information about them comes from the searchlight battalions with their sound beaters. That would be the last information which Uxbridge would have on which it would be able to give any indication to the patrolling force where to go. There are several questions about the searchlight battalions which I have to ask, and which I see the technical papers are raising. They are not professionals but Territorials, and they are doing work in which every second matters. It is skilled and complicated work. Again I should like to be assured that the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that they have a sufficient professional backing for work of this complexity. General Ashmore points out that he began during the War with the same system of volunteers, but he had to abandon them—


Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to point out where on the Estimates this particular force is borne. I understood it was carried on the Votes of the Army.


That is true, and it shows how exceedingly unfortunate it is that one cannot really discuss this subject in these circumstances in any intelligible way. We can discuss the observer corps, but when it comes to the searchlights which are doing the same work, we are not able, owing to the rules of the House, to carry the matter further. I think, however, that I may raise the question on this Vote whether this particular work would not be better done by the Air Ministry than by the War Office. It again strikes one who inquires into this question from the outside as very anomalous that this work should not be in the control of the Air Ministry. Again, I find that the technical papers are complaining that it is neglected because the best instruments are kept for the purposes of the War Office and that this work is hit until last. In the air exercises of last year, great complaint was made upon this topic. Air exercises are of little value unless searchlights are working all the time. The complaint was made that in those air exercises the only searchlights were at two points in Kent, and the bombers were able to proceed without any searchlights playing on them. That was due to the fact that the War Office decided that when the air exercises were taking place, they would send only one searchlight battalion into camp. None of the other searchlight battalions were in camp at the same time. Owing to this dual control, not only was there no practice in searchlight work, but, as far as I can see, the value of most of the exercises was greatly reduced.

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman wishes to express any opinion on that point, but I hope he will bring it to the attention of the new Minister, and point out that it is just the kind of question which he has been appointed to give a decision upon. I come to the last method of defence, about which I should like to have such information as the right hon. Gentleman feels he can give. During the War, according to General Ashmore's account, a very great part of the success of the defence of London was due to the system of kite balloons carrying nets. I need not go into the technicalities of the subject, but they compelled the attackers to fly at a certain height. He actually quotes a report which, in March, 1918, was made to the German High Command by the German Air Force: If kite balloons are increased and improved much more they will make a raid en London almost impossible. General Ashmore proposed that this system should be retained, but owing to the need for economy it was not retained, and, as far as these Estimates show, there is no 'indication that there are three of these kite balloons left. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is giving ear to the advice coming to him on this subject from scientific quarters and following the experiments which ore being made in the Welsh mountains on methods of defence which, if not of that type, have something of the same idea behind them. I put this question because the public is completely befogged. We have the Prime Minister making one definite statement and a vast body of expert opinion saying that it is wrong, and that if the Air Ministry would give as much attention to this side of the question as it does to methods of attack we might find, as is the case with operations at sea, that in the end defence conquers attack. If that should prove to be the case it would make an enormous difference not only to our feeling of security but to our whole policy. I will end by reading General Ashmore's conclusions: Defence in this country will put a stop to raiding in a much shorter time than any counter-bombing could hope to do. It is time that a redistribution of strength between our bombing squadrons and our fighting squadrons should therefore be considered. Those are the questions on which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give such information as he feels that he safely can give.


Before I put the reduction I ought to refer to one observation that fell from the right hon. Gentleman about which I had some doubt at the time. That is the question of how far it is in order to discuss the ground defence of London on this Estimate. I am bound to say that except for a very passing reference this question will not be in order. I sympathise with the Committee that the Rules of Procedure make it difficult to discuss the question.

10.51 p.m.


It has been the fashion to-day, as in past years, to congratulate the Under-Secretary on the admirable manner in which he has introduced these Estimates. It is true, as has been said, that he introduced them this year with even greater skill than before, if that be possible, but I do not think that he is to be congratulated on that, for practice makes perfect, and in five years a practice of lulling to sleep the suspicions of this Committee with regard to the adequacy of our air service ought indeed to be perfect. He spoke with great feeling on the future of aviation, and reassured us that, owing to the generosity of Lord Rother- mere, we have an extremely effective military machine. But it is not the actual number of machines that we have that will be vital in time of war; it is the capacity for producing those machines in large numbers. Not one word has been said this afternoon about whether we have the jigs laid down which can produce those machines in large quantities in time of war.

The Under-Secretary spoke with tremendous feeling of commercial aviation and of his own faith that aviation is the greatest power the world has been given for promoting peace. I whole heartedly concur in that belief, but I cannot feel his extraordinary satisfaction with the commercial aviation of this country. He told us that Bishop Wilkins said 300 years ago that the day would come when people would call for their wings as regularly as they called for their boots. What matters is what countries' wings reply to the call. To-day there is a danger that the call will be answered by Pan-American Airways.


There is a separate Vote for civil aviation, which will come on later. If I admit a general discussion now, and if it is the will of the Committee I have no objection, but it must be on the strict understanding that the discussion will not be repeated on the Vote. I am in the hands of the Committee.




Last year the Under-Secretary told us that it was the intention of this country that there should be four or five services a week to India, three to East Africa and Singapore, two to South Africa and Australia, seven or eight services a. week to Egypt, and that he hoped later on we should do even better than that. We know it was not intended that these services should come into operation until 1937, but the Under-Secretary said then that the years had a habit of passing quickly, and 1937 is not very far off. In view of such a rapidly approaching date we have a right to expect that the ground organisation should be laid down to make these services effective.

When we look at these Votes, what do we find allowed for ground organization? The sum of £204,000 to supply adequate ground organisation, meteorological service, radio beams and night-flying installation. Anyone with a knowledge of the cost of such services will agree that the sum voted is hopeless, and that we have a right to say that our commercial aviation is being starved. For meteorological service the increase in the Vote is some £6,000, and £2,000 of that is to be voted to the Navy. The safety and efficiency of our Empire transport depends upon this. As the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said, we have in this country installed at only one aerodrome the latest system for directing and landing in the fog. Only the other day we learned of the lamentable condition in a fog of 15 foreign aircraft, which were flying over Croydon for some time and were obliged to return to their own landing grounds. It was fortunate that they were, like the wise virgins, supplied with sufficient oil to enable them to do so. One feels little consolation from recent lamentable evidence which was given following a crash, and which showed that had they been machines of Imperial Airways there is very grave doubt whether the quantity of oil they carried would have enabled them to return to their bases.

When we hear of the services that are to be inaugurated, we feel that we have a right to know what the machines are going to do. We are told that 29 flying boats and 12 land machines are under construction. Doubtless, we think that when those machines have taken the air, the whole world will be edified at the perfection of British design and the magnificence of the weapon given us by Imperial Airways to conquer the airways of the world. What do we find in actual fact? I believe that these machines will have a maximum range of about 1,500 miles. They will not be completed until 1937. In America there is the "S. 43," which is already two years old and has a maximum range of no less than 3,000 miles. It is able to carry a pay-load of from 3½to 5 tons. Another machine, which is already one year old, has a range of about 3,000 miles, and aeroplanes which are on the stocks in America will probably have a range of about 5,000 miles.

We boast of the machines that are being constructed by Messrs. Short, and whose range is 1,500 miles. Hon. Members are going to be taken to see them to-morrow, and if Imperial Airways are going to give us all a champagne lunch before we see them, Heaven knows we shall need the champagne. Hon. Members opposite have said that they are not against a monopoly service, and we have been told that the monopoly has been granted to Imperial Airways on the score of economy. If the Under-Secretary argues that it is economical not to have competition on a line where aeroplanes and seaplanes are already running, we might have to accept that, but will he explain what economy there is in having a monopoly service which is going to prevent any other line operating a route, although the Imperial Airways have not a machine with which they could possibly fly that route? Statements have appeared in the Press, doubtless inspired by Sir Eric Geddes, to the effect that we are shortly to have a service flying the Atlantic. There is no possibility of flying the Atlantic with any machine which has a lower range than 2,700 miles. I shall perhaps be told of that extraordinary abortion, the Short Mayo composite aircraft, but, even if it worked, that can never be an economic proposition because it needs a large plane and a small plane at every stopping place, and it is only going to carry mails.

If Imperial Airways say that they are going to fly the Atlantic before 1940 then I call their bluff and I say that they have no machines with which they can do it. Yet to-day not only is that route reserved and a monopoly of it given to Imperial Airways, but, if a private line were prepared to build aeroplanes to fly the route, owing to the interference of the Air Ministry, they would not be allowed to do so, neither would they be given Post Office contracts. I ask the Under-Secretary, again, wherein is the economy? In answer to a question the other day the Postmaster-General told me that we were paying no less than £60,000 to French and German lines for flying the South Atlantic. I think this country has the right to ask why we should be paying that sum to foreign air lines. Why not to British air lines?

I believe that if the development of commercial aviation had been left to private enterprise we should not be in this lamentable position. I believe we can construct the machines. That has been proved with regard to military machines. When Lord Rothermere asked that a good machine should be built, a magnificent machine was forthcoming because we had not the lamentable interference of the Air Ministry in the technical design. I believe, with the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), that civil aviation ought to be taken out of the hands of the Air Ministry which has proved that it cannot deal with it. It ought to be put under the Board of Trade. I shall have more to say about the deplorable services of Imperial Airways on the Air Navigation Bill, but I do not want to detain the Committee longer at this late hour. While congratulating the Under-Secretary on his rather deplorable skill in hiding the facts I cannot congratulate him or those whom the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey described so felicitously as his fellow back-scratchers, on the service they give us in Imperial Airways.

11.4 p.m.


As I am anxious to keep strictly in order on this Vote I have analysed the figures dealing with the technical training of aircraft apprentices, metalworkers, woodworkers, and others who are dealt with in it. It has now been ruled that we shall be able to discuss this matter on the lines followed by the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) and I want to raise issues that have not been raised yet except by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister. I ask him not to ride off from the issues which I am about to raise as he did earlier in the Debate, but to deal with them specifically because they concern thousands of men throughout the country. In introducing the Estimates, he outlined the main principles of the Air Ministry, and I want to relate this to the policy that they are pursuing in industry. He said that we must have an industry capable of turning over to war production and a plan for large units of civil industry to manufacture parts, and he said that arrangements are being made for firms to carry out large extensions for war potential. He also said that our equipment must be second to none in quality and that British craftsmen are the greatest in the world.

My first observation is that young men trained in secondary schools and in universities have been brought from all parts of this country to London in order to undergo examinations and have interviews with officials at the Air Ministry. Many of them have failed to pass those examinations, and, being unemployed, they have been left stranded in London, and many of them have not had their return fares. But I want to deal in the main with the factories that are manufacturing for the Air Ministry, and I would like to obtain some assurance from the right hon. Baronet. We find that scientific methods are being adopted in order to produce aeroplanes, but the same scientific methods are not being used in order to deal with the labour that is necessary. Huge capital is being sunk in the aircraft industry, but the exploitation of the men employed in it is greater than in any other section of industry.

The expansion of the aircraft industry in this country coincided with a great slump in heavy industry, with the result that there is very little organisation in the aircraft industry. The methods of production that have been introduced, as, for example, piecework systems of all descriptions, are being applied in the production of aircraft. There is no guarantee with regard to piecework prices. In the heavy engineering industry, once a price is mutually agreed upon, no matter what the piecework earnings of a man are, that price is not reduced. Only in that way can you maintain confidence between the employers and the men, but in the aircraft industry as a whole there is no guarantee so far as the fixing of piecework prices is concerned. When a man makes any piecework earnings at all, every excuse and every loophole is taken in order to reduce those piecework prices. Then stop-watch methods have been introduced, and in scores of factories in this country men are standing over those engaged on production with stop watches, in order to fix the amount of time that a man must be engaged on a particular operation. In addition to that, all kinds of time-study methods have been adopted. Skilled men are being taken off production and their employment is being concentrated on manufacturing jigs. All this is undermining confidence in the factories and bringing about a seething discontent which is reflecting itself in many aircraft centres in this country.

I want to put two specific questions to the Minister at this stage. Does he think these methods of production tend to make for airworthiness in the production of aircraft? Do these methods of production conform to the Fair Wages Resolution passed in this House in 1910? There must be reasons why the aircraft industry is seething with indignation. Here are one or two more of the reasons. The exploitation of the distressed areas is being carried to a greater degree by aircraft manufacturers than by any other industry. Here is one typical example. One aircraft factory is recruiting its work-people from men obtaining grants from the Lord Mayor's Fund. They are starting boys and youths at fourpence per hour plus 10 shillings subsistence allowance. After a few weeks their pay is increased to sixpence per hour, but the allowance is dropped, which means in reality a reduction of twopence halfpenny per hour.

Then we see the introduction of trainees and the dilution of labour to an extent we never thought we should see again. Lawyers, doctors, and professionally trained men are well protected. There is no danger of dilution so far as they are concerned, but when it comes to working-class lads who have been trained in skilled trades, and who, as the result of sacrifices by their parents, have been able to serve seven years' apprenticeship to a trade and spend five years in evening classes, developing themselves technically in order to qualify in the aircraft and heavy industries, we find that from 1922 to 1934 they have been subject to unemployment and the means test. Now that there is a possibility of full employment, they see coming into the factories trainees, and the introduction of dilution again.

The Government in their papers have stated that they have met the Federation of British Industries. They have had assurances from the employers, and no wonder this strike is taking place in many of the aircraft factories of the country, because the men engaged directly on production are just as capable of reading what the Government have done as anyone in this House. They have seen that so far as the employers and manufacturers are concerned their interests are being safeguarded. Assurances are being given to them, but this Government is showing very little interest in the main- tenance of the conditions of the organized workers.


Is it not a fact that these strikes are unofficial strikes, and have not the sanction of the trade unions?


Yes, Sir. I thank the hon. Member for that interjection. It enables us to deal with the issue that is raised. We must remember that this is an expanding industry. There is more capital being put into this industry than into any other, and the result is that the industry is not yet organised in the same way that others are. The men's grievances cannot be ventilated in the same way that they are in other sections of industry, and it is reflecting itself in this way. Unless this matter is dealt with, you will find it will reflect itself in a bigger way than some people think.

I want to contrast that with the policy of speculation on the Stock Exchange. In May, 1935, the Prime Minister gave an assurance in this House. Very briefly this is the main thing he said: The whole Government are determined that, in the efforts we regard as necessary for the next couple of years, there shall he no profiteering in what I must call an emergency. The Under-Secretary was equally emphatic. The possibility of profiteering, he said, had not been overlooked, and the Government would take every step they could to prevent it. And yet we have seen the speculation which has taken place on the Stock Exchange. I know that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, including the right hon. Baronet, have said that speculation on the Stock Exchange has nothing to do with what we are discussing, but this is what the Financial Editor of the "Manchester Guardian" wrote on the 25th February last: That the considerable reaction of prices during the last few days spells the end of the armament boom, not one broker among a dozen thinks for a moment. We have seen that the values of aircraft shares on the Stock Exchange have increased, according to the "Economist" of the 29th February last, in the following way: Fairey Aviation shares, in April, 1935, were 23s. 6d.; they are now 37s. 6d. Hawker Aircraft shares, in April, 1935, were 25s. 3d.; they are now 32s. Hawker Siddeley shares, on the 1st October, 1935, were 23s. 6d.; they are now 30s. In the light of the pepper case, does not the right hon. Baronet think that the new flotations indicate some need for more control over prospectuses?

Do the Government think it desirable, now that they have introduced this defence programme, that this speculation should be allowed to continue? Will they, in placing orders, take into account the effect on costs of this speculative inflation? We see new issues with no evidence of public subscription for new plant. From the "Financial Times" and the "Financial News" to-day we see that more capital is to be put up in the aircraft industry, but none of that is going into new plant; it is mostly reorganisation for the purposes of company finance, the promoters taking the cream off before the manufacturing takes place, leaving the managers employed direct on production, and the workpeople, to make the dividend. Hon. Members may ask: "What has all this to do with what we are discussing?" [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I anticipated that they would say "Hear, hear," and that is the reason why I put the question in the way that I did. Perhaps they would like to be reminded of our experience. If they had lived in Lancashire, they would not have replied "Hear, hear" to a question of that kind, but would have been sufficiently interested in their own system of society to know how their frignds the capitalists in Lancashire have suffered by speculation. This is how it affects, not only the workpeople, but the managers employed in production. Suppose that one share in any of these firms stood at £1 12 months ago, and that it now stands at £5, and that one of those hon. Members who said "Hear, hear" had bought a number of those shares a few years ago, as many people did. The value of those £1 shares would now probably be £5 and instead of the managers of the firms and the workpeople having only to make dividends on £1 they would have to make dividends on £5.

Captain Sir IAN FRASER

Were these ordinary or preference shares?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Gordon Macdonald)

I have allowed the hon. Member large latitude. I must ask him to relate his speech to Vote A.


Quoting from the "Economist," these were ordinary and not preference shares. We find that the workpeople engaged in industry are having to make more profits on debentures than they have ever done. These capital charges are greater than ever they were. All this is bringing about a greater degree of exploitation in the aircraft industry than there has been in any other section of industry. What do the Government propose to do with regard to the introduction of dilution, the introduction of the trainees in the aircraft industry and the other issues that I have raised on behalf of the men employed in that industry

11.22 p.m.


So far as the hon. Member's first observations are concerned, he admitted that the strikes of which he complained were unofficial strikes, of which the unions disapproved and, when he says the unions are not strongly represented in the aircraft industry, he only shows how little he knows about that industry. The unions are in quite a strong position and the strikes are due to certain undesirable manifestations that I thought hon. Members were as anxious to stamp out as we are. I will not follow the hon. Member into the City, because some of his arithmetic would take rather longer to correct than I have at my disposal.

The right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) referred to the Prime Minister's oft-quoted statement that the bomber will always get through. This is an indication of what the Prime Minister on another occasion called the many-sidedness of truth. The right hon. Gentleman was understood by everyone who heard him to mean that a certain percentage of a fleet of bombers would get through. I do not think that can be questioned. The number that will get through depends largely on the weather and on the pessimism or optimism of Members in this Committee. Whatever is the position on this matter of defence against air attack, hon. Members opposite, it seems to me, cannot forsake the position that they have so unhappily assumed in the country and the House of refusing to approve the Air Estimates for this year. I some- times wonder when I listen to speeches of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they have ever taken the trouble to familiarise themselves with conditions and feelings on the Continent of Europe. How many hon. Gentlemen opposite have been in Europe during the last three months or even during the last year? Some, I dare say, who speak volubly on the European situation have not been outside these Islands at all. That is a matter for regret, and it would be an excellent thing if all hon. Members in this House were obliged to spend a certain number of months each year abroad, and then there might be better international understanding and less chance of war.


Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to advocate from those benches that the money be supplied by a subsidy from the Government to enable us to take the trip which he so desires us to take?


I will not enter into that discussion to-night for the very obvious reason that it is not a suitable time in which to do it, but, frankly, the Government and many Labour organisations might spend money in that way rather than in many other directions in which it is now expended. If we look abroad, it is obvious that the Government are only doing what they are obliged to do in view of their responsibilities in present circumstances. I had the good fortune to be in Germany a fortnight ago for a few days when the White Paper was published. I had an opportunity of talking to German men of all classes and to hear frankly their reactions. They were universally, as they were voiced to me, reactions of disappointment at the White Paper, and, in. particular, as far as the provision for the Air Force was concerned. Hon Gentlemen immediately will say, "Of course they were disappointed. We have told you all along that these increased forces were unsettling Europe." Quite the contrary was the truth. Their disappointment was that, whereas they expected to find an increase of 2,500 aeroplanes, there was only an increase of 250. The average German knows that if there is one thing that will prevent him from being dragged from his desk and from his home to take part in some foreign adventure it is a strong British Air Force. That is casting no reflection on any ruler in Germany to-day because everybody knows that circumstances are largely uncontrolled; and there is a left wing in the Nazi movement which, even if Herr Hitler's proposals be honest to a degree, may in the end prevent us from reaping the fruition of the peace that he suggests. Therefore, it is an absurdity for anybody on the opposite side of the House, either here or in the country to suggest that the increase in the Air Force, small as it is, is going to cause the slightest flutter in any foreign country. On the contrary. Hitler himself has said that a strong Britain in the air will be a guarantee of peace in Europe. Many hon. Members will share the view that in the present international situation the Government might have gone a lot further in the way of increasing the Air Force. If you are dealing with a nation which places its faith in force it is not a sufficient deterrent to say that if they increase their forces we shall increase ours. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech at Birmingham, said that we have the ability to outstrip all others, and I believe that if the Government had said boldly that we were to have 5,000 more aeroplanes, unless the international situation improved to such an extent that we could reduce that figure. we might have prevented the militarisation of the Rhineland. It is because we were not prepared to say boldly that we intended to have certain armed forces, which Germany in her present Economic situation could not hope to reach, that we are having difficulties on the Continent.

As the Government have not been bold in the matter of the home defence Air Force, so also they have not been bold in the matter of an Imperial Air Force. I asked the Under-secretary the number of first-line aircraft available, excluding the fleet air arm, for the defence of the Empire when the 12 proposed squadrons were added, and the reply was 430. If hon. Members will cast their eyes round the world and think of the responsibilities of that small force, from Hong Kong and Singapore to Aden, Egypt, Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar and the West Indies, they will agree that 430 aeroplanes are a fantastically small force for such an immense purpose, and we have therefore the fear before us that the policy of recent months of drawing on the home defence forces to augment our Imperial forces will become a precedent. It is a most dangerous precedent. A force of 1,750 aircraft should be maintained for the defence of this country, and if the Under-Secretary is able to give the Committee any assurance on that point it will be appreciated in many quarters.

In view of the lateness of the hour, I will keep my remarks exclusively to the Service point of view. There are three or four points which arise in connection with production—[Interruption]—and they are as important to hon. Members opposite as they are to hon. Members on this side of the Committee. I want to raise two or three points—and the measure of my remarks will be gauged by the minutes I occupy—with regard to the production of this vast force which the Air Ministry now has in hand. Production depends on tools, machinery and men. I want to emphasise to the Committee that the production of to-day is being seriously prejudiced because we have not adequate tools and adequate machinery, and we have not the skilled men. Of one of the greatest organisers whom I ever had the pleasure to meet, it was said that he had no limitations, and I believe that what the Air Ministry and what we have to say to all the Departments of the Government is that they must cast aside the normal limitations of their spheres of activity in order to solve this problem.

I instance the case of skilled labour. A little while ago I inquired of the Minister of Labour whether he would facilitate the return to this country of British citizens who went to the United States in better times, are now out of employment and would, I believe, come back here to fill some of these skilled jobs which are at present waiting. His reply was that there was no statutory provision to enable these men to return.


In speaking of skilled labour, does the hon. Gentleman mean engineers?


I speak of those skilled workmen of which there is a dearth in the aircraft industry. If my hon. Friend is unaware of the specific categories in which there is a dearth, I shall be happy to supply him with those trades.


It was not my ignorance I wanted to expose, but that of the hon. Member. I asked whether there was a lack of engineers because I want the hon. Member to know that there is no such lack of skilled labour in the country.


I trust the hon. Member has exposed what he desired, but I am telling him that there is a serious shortage of skilled engineers in certain branches of engineering. These are key men, and as a result of their absence we shall have to wait in some cases six months and in some cases nine months in order to get the tools which we need to-morrow. That is a serious position.


Is it not a fact that there is any amount of these skilled men over 45 years of age to whom industry will not give employment? Answer that.


The answer to that is quite definite. It is that all the Employment Exchanges up and down the country have applications for men with this experience, and, irrespective of age, if only the employers could get these men, they would jump at the opportunity and would pay good wages. If only hon. Members on the other side would take the trouble to go to their Employment Exchanges and make themselves acquainted with these deficiencies, they would come to this Committee a little better informed than they appear to be.


We go there more often than you do.


The second question, so far as production is concerned, is the difficulty of what I will call multiplication. If there should be an outbreak of war, we must immediately multiply our sources of supply. If I may take one example of the Rolls Royce works at Derby. It is giving no secret away to say that so far as aerial power in this country is concerned, the Rolls Royce works at Derby are the very heart, because a very large number of our aircraft are powered with that engine. It is also well known abroad that these engines are built nowhere else except at Derby. If, therefore, an enemy air force could wipe out these works, they would have struck a blow at the heart of the British Air Force from which it would take a considerable time to re- cover. Therefore, it is essential that all the firms that are manufacturing skilled products such as engines should at once manufacture for storage by the Air Ministry complete sets of jigs and tools which could be farmed out in an emergency. We should thus spread out the risk over the country and not be in the hopelessly vulnerable position in which we are today.

The last point I want to raise is in connection with State factories. I have heard it suggested from the other side that the Government are remiss in not beginning State factories. On the contrary, I think the Government have chosen the best of both worlds in the arrangement they have made of supplying the money for the factory and the machinery and handing them over to private enterprise in order to carry through the manufacture. I want to emphasise that this is a most serious problem which I trust all Members on the other side will appreciate. The Air Ministry at the moment is the judge of the varying qualities of the products of the aircraft industry. One of the worst features of aircraft production during the War was that while the then Royal Aircraft Establishment judged the whole of the industry, it also produced its own aircraft. It was thus both judge of the industry and a competitor with the industry. That was a hopeless position which does not, at the moment, vitiate the relations between the industry and the Air Ministry. It will be well to observe, therefore, that in the arrangement which the Government have made with the private engineering manufacturing companies to operate their own plants in Government-owned factories, we have achieved a compromise which avoids excessive expenditure on the part of these firms and yet prevents unwholesome competition between State-run factories and the aircraft industry. I congratulate the Air Ministry on the boldness with which it has proceeded to order a certain experimental craft before the period which my hon. Friend mentioned would in the ordinary way have been the case. I know the features of some of these craft. The technical officers in the Ministry who have approved the order of these craft have taken a risk that civil servants do not usually take. I believe that their judgment has been sound, and the Com- mittee and the country owe the Air Ministry staff a great deal for the way in which it has risen to the important task which the country has allotted to it.

11.45 p.m.


We are indebted to the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) for making fairly clear the difference between the two sides of the Committee on this matter. His case evidently is that the way to peace is by increased armaments and his complaint is that the Government have proposed to add only a few hundred machines to our air force when they ought to have added thousands. I do not see why he should stop at thousands, because if that is the way to peace the more machines we have the quicker we attain peace, apparently. He presumes to be an authority on mathematics and multiplication, and if that is the way to peace the more machines there are the sooner peace will be achieved. We dissent from that view. We say that the day has arrived when the way to peace is by increasing goodwill among men. The method he advocates has been tried century after century and with the same inevitable and tragic results. He and his friends do not seem to have profited from the lesson that that is the way to war.

He chided us on this side for not visiting the Continent. I suppose he has been over for a week-end trip and seen just a few German people. It is absurd to think that because we sit on the Labour Benches we are not as interested in the world and international affairs as are hon. Members opposite, although we may not fraternise with the same strata when we go abroad. I had the privilege last ear of making an extended tour through a number of Continental countries, including Germany. Austria and Italy, and studying that new type of Government at first hand, and the supreme impression made on me was that just as the spontaneous desire of the people of this country is for peace so the people in those countries, enduring the same tragic poverty and insecurity and threats of war, find a common expression with us in the desire for peace. I yen though modern dictators in countries like Germany are making preparations for war all their public utterances are of a purpose with the utterances of hon. Members opposite, who claim to be apostles of peace.

I wish to elucidate something which was implied in the peroration of the able speech with which the Under-Secretary presented his Estimates. He believes that in the Air Force we have a, powerful factor making for peace. We can appreciate his sentiments, but on this Vote A, for men, we should like to know how airmen can become agents of peace. Is there to be included in their training special lessons in international good will? If not, are they to be made so utterly human and so international that they will not do the work which was resented so much in the War, of dropping bombs on innocent, impotent and defenceless people? We are told that we are to have a new type of bombing machine, and fighters that will travel at 300 miles per hour. I do not think it will be possible for the Under-Secretary to persuade our Continental friends that these new machines must be recognised as doves of peace. If it can be proved that they will be ambassadors of peace, bringing enlightenment and understanding and a spirit of good will into the world, let us know how it is to come about.

There is one human aspect on which both sides of the Committee will be in agreement. These young men who enlist in the Air Force are the finest type of young manhood in the country. In this service they are doing essentially experimental work, and taking for the country abnormal risks. It would come as a shock to the country if the people were told that while the country is prepared to accept their services and encourage them to take these risks, if disaster befalls we practically wipe our hands of any responsibility. I had to appeal to the Under-Secretary recently regarding a young man who met his fate at Port Sudan. That young man was one of the finest lads I have known. He entered the Air Force, studied and became efficient, received successive promotions. His widowed mother was proud of him. One night the news came that lie was no more. He had been contributing the bulk of his earnings to his mother. Now, because his father had been able to save and leave a house for his widow to live in, because there is a daughter who is working, because the income of the household is £1, we are told that the Government can take no account of the fact that this lad was supporting his widowed mother. She is infinitely poorer by the loss of her son, to her almost everything in the world, she is financially far worse off. Before we go any further and ask any more young men to take up this Service, the least the country can do is to say that it will honour their responsibilities to their families. I appeal to the House and to the Minister. If we are to be highly proud of this Service, we ought to take responsibility and play the game by these young men, so that they will know, whether they live, or die in this great Service, that those for whom they live and labour will not be at a, loss because of disaster.

11.56 p.m.


Many hon. Members have to-day drawn attention to the importance of encouraging civil aviation. I make no apology for again turning to that subject. I believe that by developing our commercial air strength we can secure in the cheapest possible way the objectives which we have set ourselves. Attention has been focussed in recent Debates on the importance of organising industry, and, in particular, the human element, in preparation for war. Experience in the last war showed how important it was that the Royal Navy should have a large Mercantile Marine at its back to safeguard food supplies, to help man the ships of war and to do the trawling that was necessary to clear the seas of mines. It was necessary also to have a large Mercantile Marine reserve. What was important for the Navy 20 years ago is more than ever important for the Royal Air Force to-day. It is of the utmost importance that this country should have behind it a large reserve of efficient, experienced and skilled pilots and of commercial aeroplanes that can, if need be, act as bombers.

An examination of the position of the Royal Air Force will, I think, prove my argument. The duties of the Royal Air Force may be classified under four main heads. First, there are the fighters, the machines and the pilots whose duty is to obtain and maintain command of the air, and to protect and defend these shores and the shores of any other country as may be necessary under the obligations that we have undertaken in the cause of collective security. Then there are that second section of aeroplanes and pilots who have to co-operate with the Army, whether by reconnaissance, photography or artillery co-operation, or whatever may be required. The third section is required for fleet co-operation and for the protection of our ships and merchant convoys coming to our shores. Finally, there are the bombers, the offensive arm of the Royal Air Force. Bombing machines have a long range. Their job is to go into the enemy territory and to destroy communications and factories and in general to play havoc with the enemy's country. That is their job in time of war, and a very terrible job it is. It is to bring fear; it is to retaliate, too, and a powerful bombing strength will definitely show foreign countries that this country has a power of retaliation. That is an important factor, because if this country has a large bombing strength behind it, it is clear that no other country will enter into aggression if it is well known that this country has behind it the means to retaliate if need be.

The objective of this country is security, security to be obtained with as little expenditure as possible, and I believe that this can be obtained by encouraging the development of our civil aviation. If this country has as many civil aeroplanes as possible, with pilots trained and accustomed to fly day by day, night by night, wider all conditions of weather, under every kind of difficult circumstance, then in time of necessity those self-same pilots will be the most efficient and the most able to pilot their machines and carry their bombs into enemy territory. Therefore, by maintaining and developing a large commercial air strength, we are at the same time building up a reserve of pilots and machines which will be available if necessary in time of war, for a machine can just as well carry bombs in war as passengers or mails or other goods in time of peace.

It may be that operating services cannot be done at a profit, but surely it is far cheaper to obtain this large reserve of pilots and machines by using them for commercial services in time of peace and having them available in time of war, if need be, than to spend money on a large number of bombing machines which cannot be usefully employed in time of peace. The position of the Royal Air Force is therefore different from that of the Royal Navy or the Army, because in the Navy it is not possible to turn your trawlers or your merchant shipping into submarines, destroyers, or cruisers, nor can you use your tanks in time of peace to convey goods or for commercial purposes. They are there only for war operations. But civil aeroplanes can be used both in peace and war. Therefore it is of importance that this civil aviation should be developed as much as is humanly possille.

There is a further reason. In flying to-day it is possible to fly to an enemy country unseen in the midst of clouds. It is not necessary to have the latest and most up-to-date machines available for that purpose. A slower machine or an obsolete type of machine in the clouds, unseen by enemy aircraft or by hostile defences on the ground, can reach its objective on account of the development that has taken place in blind flying. Therefore, so long as a machine has a long enough range to get to its objective, it does not matter that it is not of the latest type or is not able to fly as fast as a fighter or other machine. Therefore all our aircraft and all our pilots that are available in the country must surely be counted in our first-line strength. I have seen many references made to commercial pilots and machines, but surely if it is possible for commercial machines to be used for war purposes, and if your most valuable bombing pilots are your commercial pilots, they should be taken into account for first-line comparisons.

I have asked one or two questions in this House recently as to the number of pilots in possession of "A" and "B" licences and the equivalent in foreign countries, and the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State, in his remarks earlier to-night, pointed out that this country was in a fairly satisfactory position. He suggested, for example, that proportionately to the number of people in this country and in America the number of pilots in possession of "A" licences was approximately the same, but my information does not quite bear that out. My information is obtained from the United States Chamber of Commerce Bulletin last month, which states that the pilot licences active were 14,800, that the scheduled air transport pilot ratings active were 734, and that the student licences active were 25,500. If you compare those figures with the 3,300 "A" licences in this country and the 583 "B" licences, it does not put such a happy complexion on the state of affairs.

With regard to Germany, I asked what was the position in Germany, and I was told that no figures were available, but I think it was the right hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest) who said earlier that he understood there were something like 18,000 to 20,000 pilots available in Germany. My information, obtained from reliable sources, is that there are at any rate not less than 12,000 pilots in Germany available and ready to fly machines if need be. Surely that evidence is sufficient to show that it is of the utmost importance that greater encouragement should be given to civil aviation than has been given in the past and that is being given now. I appreciate all that the right hon. Gentleman said about how civil aviation was being encouraged and the great strides that are being made, but surely a great deal more could be done and ought to be done than is being done now to ensure that this country does have that adequate reserve of skilled and experienced pilots ready and available in case of any emergency.

In conclusion, I would urge that no steps be left untaken to promote the development of civil aviation. I appreciate that this country compares ill with America. We have not the great spaces here that America has for the development of commercial aviation, but we have something far greater; we have world-wide communications and we have a far-flung Empire and Dominions at the other end of the earth, and the best way to shorten the distance, to abolish space and time, and to promote social intercourse between ourselves and the Commonwealth over the seas is by urging forward with all possible speed the development of commercial aviation throughout the world and in that way very cheaply obtain the security which is so essential for peace.

12.9 a.m.

Lieut. - Commander FLETCHER

I should like to refer to one point that was made by the hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) on the necessity for adequate factory equipment behind our Air Force. The wastage of aeroplanes through accidents, wear and tear, and becoming out of date is enormous even in peace time, and it will rise to something tremendous in war time. There must therefore be an enormous and adequate factory equipment behind our Air Force. It is quite a mistake, in my opinion, to try to reckon your Air Force in terms of first-line machines. It is to be reckoned in terms of factory equipment, able to maintain a rapid and ceaseless flow of aeroplanes to the front line in war-time.

There are two questions which I would venture to put to the Minister—and may I say in view of what was said in the House the other day about his preferring written to oral answers that I shall be satisfied with written answers. The first has reference to the question of experiments which may have been carried out on this very vexed subject of the aeroplane versus the warship. Has the Air Ministry received every facility and every co-operation which it has asked for from the Admiralty in that respect? It is certain that experiments have been carried out by the Air Ministry, but they ought to be carried out with certain equipment and under certain specific conditions, and I ask if the Air Ministry requirements have been fully met by the Admiralty.

The second question I ask is with a view to bringing the Debate back to the very important subject raised by the Mover of the Amendment, and that is the question of defence against air attack. In the White Paper which was issued last March, the question of defence was referred to, and these words were used: Increase in speed, range and height accentuates the difficulty of bringing defensive aircraft into action to repel an attack. The only deterrent seems to be counter-attack. In the second White Paper which we debated last week, the words used are these: The prime function of the R.A.F. is to provide an effective deterrent to attack. The language used is not quite so emphatic as in the first White Paper, and I would like to know if the first White Paper still holds the field, and if it is still considered that the only deterrent to air attack is counter-attack. In other words, if Birmingham is bombed and laid out, is the only consolation we can offer to the survivors the fact that we have bombed and laid out Essen or some other town? Is it considered an effective defence against air attack to attack enemy aerodromes or enemy factories where aeroplanes are constructed or to attack enemy towns by way of counter-attack? I have only risen for the purpose of putting those two questions to the right hon. Baronet, and I shall be most grateful if he can see his way to give some reply.

12.14 a.m.


I will not follow the hon. and gallant Member opposite in the questions he has asked. I should like to associate myself with my friends on this side of the Committee in their congratulations to my right hon. Friend, not only on the excellent way in which he has presented the Estimates, but on being able for the fifth time to present them, and to present Estimates which are more acceptable to those who sit on this side of the Committee than any previously presented.

I have had the opportunity of travelling by air through every country in Europe, including Russia, where I travelled last autumn, and no one can possible blink the fact that it is past time that we made up the deficiencies in our own Air Force. In the old days, when every country was willing and able to give full returns as to its strength, military and otherwise, it was more easy for us to take risks in regard to our own safety than it is to-day. There are to-day, in various parts of Europe, vast territories whose military preparations are almost unknown, and it shows the spirit of peace for which this country stands that, in spite of the increase in our Estimates for all three Services, I have seen no comment in any of the foreign Press to the effect that we are an aggressive nation or desire anything more than to be capable of defending ourselves. It was Great Britain that offered equality of air forces at the recent Disarmament Conference; we stated that we were prepared to have an Air Force no stronger than, but as strong as, any Air Force within striking distance of these shores; but unfortunately agreement could not be arrived at. We should be far more likely to get an agreement if we were of the same strength as other countries than if we were to remain the fifth or sixth air power and asked others to come down to our strength.

Some important questions arise on these Estimates. The first is that of the personnel of the Air Force. I do not wish to deal with that question now, as it has been already dealt with by others. Another most important item is the provision of reserves, to which I think my right hon. Friend and the Air Ministry should give every possible attention. Although in war there are great losses in both the other Services, there is a far larger percentage of loss of skilled pilots and others in a war in the air, and it is more difficult to make up leeway there than it is on the ground.

Another question is, have the Air Ministry carefully considered the training, in the use of present-type aircraft, of officers who have completed their service To-day aircraft are being made to be flown at over 300 miles an hour. The speed of the training machines in this country is probably in the neighbourhood of 100, or 90 miles an hour. The speed of the machine that a man used to fly in the Air Force may have been 150, and to expect him, after a short training at 100, to take charge of one of the new machines with a speed of 300 miles an hour would be rather like expecting someone who was getting elderly, and who had been accustomed to driving a smal motor car, to take one of the fastest cars round Brooklands and compete with a man who had been doing it for years. This is a very important point, which should be looked into in order to ensure that reserves have a proper training in the new fast machines, so that they may be capable of flying them in time of war.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend made an appeal to employers, who have not, I think, really played their part in the Territorial organisation, either with regard to the Air Force or the Army. That has been largely because they did not understand the necessity, and the men they employed have not liked to ask for facilities. I would suggest that this matter might be brought to the attention of the Federation of British Industries, and, through them, of the employers, because it is of enormous importance that we should have their co-operation.

Another matter of importance is short week-end training and some of the personnel for the reserve. It is impossible for a great many people to give up some weeks of time for the purpose of doing their reserve training. If they could go at the week-end within a short distance of home you are far more likely to encourage people who have gone through the ordinary light aeroplane club or other method of training to go into the reserve and become a useful adjunct to the Air Force. I believe more use could be made of the light aeroplane club movement itself in this respect. There is an enormous shortage of instructors all over the country. There has never been a time when the pay of pilots or instructors has been so high. It is all very well to say let us pay for new organisations and train people. The first thing we must do is to utilise to the fullest capacity the instructors that we have to-day. There is a vast amount of the time of the instructors in these clubs which could be devoted to other purposes if arrangements should be made in that respect.

There is a question on which I have had one or two difficulties myself. I understand that the Air Force has offered certain commissions to applicants from the Dominions. They have been able to obtain medical examination in the Dominions and have then come over here at their own expense and endeavoured to join. I have at least one case, and I believe there are more, where people who have been passed by doctors in Canada or elsewhere have been failed by the Air Force doctors here. Surely arrangements could be made for these people to be doctored in the Dominions and saved the expense of coming here only to be turned down.

May I say a word on long service commissions? I am not very satisfied, with the great expansion that we have in the Air Force, to see that the cadets from Cranwell have only gone up from 133 to 144. This is a two years' course and presumably half that number, 72, will on the average be coming into the Service in the year. That seems an extraordinarily small number. I agree that there is everything to be said for the method of the short service commission but I believe for the permanent stability of the Air Force it is essential to have a, larger proportion of full term cadets from Cranwell passing through and going up to the higher commands. I am very pleased to see the excellent results my right hon. Friend is obtaining from the new civil training schools. It is a very fine piece of business that the Air Ministry have done for these schools. They have got their pupils taught to fly very much cheaper than they could teach them themselves, and they have got 13 first class aerodromes made at someone else's expense which will be useful to the country in time of war. I am not so satisfied as to whether they will keep up the standard of the pupils in those schools. I have already heard that the second course pupils are not so capable as those who came forward at first, but as in other walks of life those who are keen, able and capable come forward first and then you get less capable people coming. I have no doubt the Air Ministry have their eye on that matter.

A great deal has been said regarding the question of profiteering in aircraft firms. I have never had any shares in any aircraft concern in my life, nor have I been associated with any aircraft firm. Therefore, I can claim to be entirely unprejudiced on this point. I agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite that none of us, either on that side or on this, desire for a moment to see anybody taking any undue advantage of the difficulties with which the country is faced at the present time. But let us look at the other side of the question. Here you are asking for the best brains of the country to come to the assistance of the Air Ministry to produce the latest type of machinery that is possible, and the finest machines in the world. I believe that if you can produce the best of anything in this world, you are justified in asking a reasonable price for the use of your brains and your intelligence.

There is another matter I should like to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend. He talked to us about the instructions to proceed. That is all right, but I understand from some of the people connected with aircraft firms that there is some difficulty about the position. It is not always easy, if you get the instruction to proceed, to proceed at full steam, unless you get some satisfaction as to the method of financing the increased organisation required in your business. I have heard it said that "The Air Ministry have not actually yet concluded a definite contract. They tell us that we are going to make a profit, but they do not tell us whether we are going to make a profit if we work day and night shifts as well." There is an enormous amount of extra expenditure put upon the aircraft or any other industry working night shifts. If that is not allowed to be charged against the agreed price these firms may well be working to-day at a loss. There is an enormous amount of new buildings which the Government have asked these firms to put up, but it is, I understand, in some cases being found rather difficult to finance these operations because this definite final price has not yet been agreed upon.

As one who has always been interested in the private side of aviation I look with some trouble on the position we are in to-day. It seems to me that all the efforts of the Government, and all the efforts connected with civil aviation, are to make it as difficult as possible for the private owner to fly about this country. There is now a method in operation, through the Department, of somebody being able to take the air over your own aerodrome for the purpose of blind flying. Whereas on the Continent they are waiving landing fees, and it is easy to fly over all the countries of Europe, it will soon be impossible without restrictions of all kinds to fly about this country. I wish to ask the Under-Secretary, when he is considering the Maybury Committee's report, to consider the position of London aerodromes in future. I do not like the abominable word "planning," but there must be some arrangement made in this matter. As the great bulk of our population live in the North of England, with the development of internal air services in future you are bound to have a terminal aerodrome on the North of London as you have Croydon on the South. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should consider whether it would not be possible to transfer the auxiliary squadrons at Hendon to the West or South of London in order that Hendon may be made the airport for the North of London. A lot of money is being spent by private owners of aerodromes and municipalities on the improvement of buildings on aerodromes. I think it would pay the Air Ministry to make some grant to owners of aerodromes where they could show that the buildings would be in a locality and of a type that would be useful to the country in time of war.

I cannot agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) regarding Imperial Airway s. They have many defects, but not nearly as many as she has put upon them. The answer to the question of British or American machines surely is that. 25 of the countries in Europe use British type aircraft, and that there is no country in the world which can compare with the quality of engines and aircraft which this country is turning out to-day. I thank my right hon. Friend for the great advance which he has been able to make, and hope that next year wt may see still further advance.

12.34 a.m.


The right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) raised a point at the beginning of the discussion on this Vote in connection with offence versus defence, and he appeared to suggest that we were perhaps devoting attention to and incurring expenditure on methods inconsistent with statements that have been made in previous debates. There is nothing inconsistent between what we are doing and what the Prime Minister said nearly three and a-half years ago. The primary method of defence against air attack is undoubtedly at present, and will perhaps always be, the ability of our own Air Forces to check the enemy at the outset by counter-attacks on his depots and aerodromes, and other centres of his offensive operations. But even if more passive measures of defence are at a, disadvantage in air warfare, it is still true that they may greatly and increasingly reduce the scale of attacks, and their effectiveness; and that they may serve to divert them from areas the protection of which may be of special importance. It would be an error of the first order to abandon the unceasing pursuit of further methods of defence. There are at the present time some of the very best scientific brains at work on that subject, and it may well be that, apart from the toll that cur fighters will take of attacking aircraft, further antidotes will be devised. I can only say that the Government attach the greatest importance to the outcome of the work that is proceeding, and intend to press on with it with all energy and despatch.

The right hon. Gentleman was right when he said that tae questions he was putting to me about observer corps were not really for the Air Ministry, but they do come under the Ministry on these occasions, and there is complete coordination between the Air Ministry and the Army. The questions of a system of nets which he raised, and kite balloons, are being carefully looked into. I cannot say more than that for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman understands, but it is being kept under careful review by the Government. The other speeches made were full of interesting points which have been covered to a great extent in some of the speeches I have made. I am very grateful for all the suggestions we have received. The speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) has been answered by others, and in my speech earlier I dealt at length with many of the topics that she discussed. Apparently I am unable to convince her, but the figures she has produced will be looked into. I would be interested to hear about the flying boats with a range of 8,000 miles and what load they can carry. Perhaps the hon. Lady has been looking at some American advertisements,

but I shall be glad to receive any information she has.

My hon. Friend who spoke last impressed upon the Government the necessity of utilising to the full the number of instructors, or utilising them more than we are at present. That is being done, because we need the services of all the instructors we can. With regard to candidates being passed before doctors in Canada that also is going to be done. They will be passed and accepted for training here by the Canadian Air Force and they will come here and go straight into training. If there are any other points that have not been dealt with I will deal with them either in writing or on the Report stage, and I thank the House for the indulgence they have given me to-day.

Question put, That a number, not exceeding 45,000, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 47; Noes, 170.

Division No. 105.] AYES. [12.40 a.m.
Adamson, W. M. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Rltson, J.
Anderson. F. (Whitehaven) Hall, J. H. (whitechapel) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Banfield, J. W. Hollins, A. Rowson, G.
Barr, J. Hopkin, D. Sexton, T. M.
Benson, G. Jagger, J. Silverman, S. S.
Burke, W. A. Kirby, B. V. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cluse, W. S. Leonard, W. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Compton, J. Logan, D. G. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Daggar, G. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Stephen, C.
Dalton, H. McEntee, V. La T. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Davidson, J., J. (Maryhill) Marklew, E. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Marshall, F. Tinker, J. J.
Ede, J. C. Maxton, J. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Milner, Major J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Oliver, G. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gibbins, J. Potts, J. Mr. Whiteley and Mr John
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Pritt, D. N.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Drewe, C.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Bull, B. B. Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)
Albery, I. J. Burghley, Lord Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)
Anderson Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Burgin, Dr. E. L. Dugdale, Major T. L.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Campbell, Sir E. T. Duggan, H. J.
Apsley, Lord Cartland, J. R. H. Duncan, J. A. L.
Aske, Sir R. W. Channon, H. Eastwood, J. F.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fuiham, E.) Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Eckersley, P. T.
Balfour, Capt. H. H.(Isle of Thanet) Christie, J. A. Emery, J. F.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Clydesdale, Marquess of Erskine Hill, A. G.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Colfox, Major W. p. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)
Beaumont, Hon, R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Everard, W. L.
Bernays, R. H. Courtauld, Major J. S. Foot, D. M.
Bird, Sir R. B. Courthope, Col. Sir G. L. Fox, Sir G. W. G.
Blindell, Sir J. Craven-Ellis, W. Fraser, Capt. Sir I.
Boothby, R. J. G. Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Fremantle, Sir F. E.
Bossom, A. C. Croom-Johnson, R. P. Furness, S. N.
Boulton, W. W. Crowder, J. F. E. Fyfe, D. P. M.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Cruddas, Col. B. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Boyce, H. Leslie Davies, C. (Montgomery) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.
Bracken, B. Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Goodman, Col, A. W.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)
Brass, Sir W. Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)
Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Salt, E. W.
Gridley, Sir A. B. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) McKie, J. H. Sandys, E. D.
Grimston, R. V. Maclay, Hon. J. P. Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Guest, Capt, Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake) Magnay, T. Scott, Lord William
Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Seely, Sir H. M.
Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N. W.) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Simmonds, O. E.
Guinness, T. L. E. B. Markham, S. F. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Gunston, Capt. D. W. Maxwell, S. A. Smith, Sir R W. (Aberdeen)
Guy, J. C. U. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Harris, Sir P. A. Mellor, Sir J. S. p. (Tamworth) Spens, W. P
Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Morrison, W. S. (Clrencester) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Holdsworth, H. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Holmes, J. S. Munro, P. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Insklp, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Patrick, C. M. Tate, Mavis C.
Joel, D. J. B. Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Perkins, W. R. D. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Petherlck, M. Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Turton, R. H.
Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Procter, Major H. A. Wakefield, W. W.
Kimball, L. Raikes, H. V. A. M. Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Ramsbotham, H. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Latham, Sir P. Rankin, R. Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Leckie, J. A. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmln) Warrender, Sir V.
Liddall, W. S. Rayner, Major R. H. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Wells, S. R.
Lloyd, G. W. Reid, W. Allan (Derby) White, H. Graham
Loftus, P. C. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Lyons, A. M. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
M'Connell, Sir J. Ropner, Colonel L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
McCorquodale, M. S. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Sir George Penny and Dr. Morris-
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Rowlands, G. Jones.

Original Question put, and agreed to.