§ Order for Committee read.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
This is the fifth successive year in which I have had the honour of introducing Air Estimates to this House, and bon. Members may well have become tired of hearing me so often upon the same subject. Fortunately, from that point of view at any rate, the subject has presented itself each year in very different aspects. The Estimates that I have the honour of introducing to the House this afternoon, at a gross total of approximately £43,500,000 and a net total of £39,000,000, are by far the largest that Parliament has been asked to vote to the Air Ministry since the War. This is, indeed, a melancholy reaction from the high aspirations with which the Disarmament Conference opened at Geneva four years ago. As the House well knows, the inexorable logic of events has left His Majesty's Government no option in the matter. We were compelled to set in hand last year an urgent programme for the rapid and extensive development of the Royal Air Force. The events of the past few months must have brought the facts of the situation home even to the most sceptical. The foreign policy of His Majesty's Government remains firmly based upon the system of collective defence against aggression. Unless this country is in a position to make a solid and effective contribution to that system, the course of Europe and the world is set once more for a regime of international anarchy. The whole fabric of civilisation may well be imperilled.
My Noble Friend's Memorandum issued with these Estimates sets forth the scale and nature of a programme undertaken, not in our national interests alone, but in the interests of the whole community of nations. It provides for the formation by the end of the present year of the Home Defence Force announced last May. Completion of the May programme 260 was designed to give the Royal Air Force a metropolitan strength—that is a strength in these islands—of 123 squadrons with some 1,500 first-line aircraft. The term "first-line" is often misunderstood. Let me explain that by it I mean the fighting strength of Service squadrons. That is to say, the term excludes all aircraft in training, experimental and similar establishments, as well as aircraft in reserve, whether actually held in units or in depots. These aircraft, of course largely outnumber the first-line figure. They will be greatly increased with provision of war reserves. I will return to that later.
In the light of developments abroad and the successful emergence in this country of a number of new types, certain modifications of the May programme have recently been decided on. As a result, the metropolitan squadrons will ultimately be increased to 129, with a first-line strength of approximately 1,750. The actual defensive and offensive power of the Home Defence Force will, however, have been augmented far in excess of this numerical increase. In addition, a further 12 squadrons are to be formed by 1939 for duties overseas. That will make a total of 37 squadrons outside these islands. All these figures exclude the Fleet Air Arm which is to be increased by 27 first-line machines in 1936 and on a much larger scale in 1937 and 1938. By the end of the financial year 1936 the first-line strength of the Force will have been doubled in the short space of two years. I do not think any Fighting Service has ever been set a comparable task in time of peace.
That is the programme upon which we are at present engaged. No programme, however, can be intelligently considered apart from what I may call the war potential. If we are to be secure here at home and throughout the Empire, and if we are to possess an Air Force effective as a deterrent to aggression, we must have three things: First, we must possess an Air Force of adequate strength, equipped with the best machines, flown by highly trained pilots-and maintained by a skilled and efficient ground personnel. Secondly, we must have adequate resolves both in men and in machines. Thirdly, there must be behind our Fighting Force and our Reserves an industry fully able to turn over at short notice to war production 261 on the largest possible scale, and to do so rapidly and efficiently.
The House will want to know how the country stands in regard to those three points. As regards our fighting strength. The Air Force now in formation is designed after careful review of character, quality and numbers. We have every reason to believe that it will be a most efficient instrument for our purpose. On present calculations we also believe it to be adequate. As to the second point, reserves of up-to-date machines are being created in what—again on present calculations—we are advised are adequate numbers. The Short Service Commission Scheme has given us a fine Reserve of pilots, which we have supplemented for some years past by direct entry into the Reserve from civil life. We intend to modify and expand the direct entry scheme in the early future with a view to a largely increased intake.
Thirdly, as to the industry behind our Fighting Force and Reserves. Plans are being laid for large units of civil industry to turn over to airframes and engines and to parts and equipment. In order to cope with possible war demands, that would be necessary in any event, even if the existing professional industry could fulfil the requirements of our present programme. But, in point of fact, the professional industry will need reinforcement to enable it to cope with that programme. Therefore, arrangements are being made under which those firms upon which we should have to rely in the event of war will to-day create large extensions to build aircraft for the programme now in being. When this is done, those firms will form a very valuable part of a War Potential, which will be ready at all times for instant service. I think the House will be interested to know that two great motor firms—Messrs. Austin and Messrs. Rootes, who control the Humber-Hillman combine—have already most public spiritedly agreed to give us the benefit of their great production experience.
As to the adequacy of the expansion programme, I can only say this: Judged by all the information which we have obtained from many different sources, the numbers I have just given to the House are sufficient as things now stand and as far as they can at present be foreseen. The situation may change, either for the 262 better or the worse. The situation from day to clay will have to be most carefully and constantly watched. But the most vital thing of all is to be sure that the War Potential is adequate and able to function rapidly. In this, least of all, is it possible to work to precise figures. A war effort is the maximum effort of any country. Industrially we have very great resources. Our object must be to see that, in case of need, we are able to exert and use them all without delay.
To return to our present progress. Under every head—personnel, material works—new problems have emerged from day to day and from month to month. Yet so far I think we may claim that they have all been, or are in a fair way to being, successfully surmounted. Let me take first the field of personnel. Here the problem is particularly complicated for the Royal Air Force—firstly, because of the very large number of new pilots required; secondly, because of the very specialised functions which have to be performed by mechanics on the ground. These functions call for the highest technical skill of a kind which cannot in general be obtained from direct civilian experience. Our original requirements in 1935 and 1936 amounted, as stated in the House last July, to 2,500 pilots and 20,000 other personnel—a total of 22,500. The modifications and extensions to which I have already referred have increased the total to approximately 25,000. The public response already made to our appeal has been magnificent; but I should like to emphasise that our requirements in the coming months will still be extensive. Generally speaking the standard of applicants has been good. Obviously, a flying service needs the best it can get. Inevitably, there have been disappointments amongst those we have had to reject as a result of the keen competition. That was only to be expected. I trust that the effect of the high standard set will be to encourage rather than deter future applicants.
Of the 2,500 pilots we require, we have taken 500 from airmen already serving. This gives our ground personnel increased opportunities to fly, which have been much appreciated. Of the balance of 2,000 pilots to be obtained from civil life, we have already secured nearly 1,200. Of ground personnel, we have to date obtained 14,500. Of these 1,100 are reenlisted airmen and 13,400 are new re- 263 cruits. We have thus got to date 15,700 of the 25,000 personnel we require over the two years.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I think it is 16. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all those Members of the House, as well as the Press and the general public, who have given us their aid during the past year. Without it, we could not have hoped to have done so well. Our further requirements can only be met by a continuance of the same public support. The flow of applicants must be maintained or we cannot fulfil the programme in time. I hope all who hear or read this speech will interest themselves actively in assisting us in this formidable undertaking.
The training of so large a new personnel has presented many problems. On the flying side, as the House is aware, we have organised 13 civil training schools, whilst the six previously existing service flying schools have been increased to 11. Despite the short space of time in which the civil schools in particular have been organised, they are functioning with marked efficiency and success. I should like to compliment all those concerned with them on their achievement. The training of mechanics and other ground personnel is hardly less important. On their skill depends the safety of pilots and aircraft. It is being catered for at the existing schools at Halton and Manston, both of which have been largely extended, and at a new school at Henlow. Here, again, good progress can be reported though naturally our instructional resources have been strained to the utmost. Increase of personnel on the active establishment must of course be accompanied by a corresponding increase in reserves, especially on the side of the flying personnel. We shall shortly be inviting applications for a large number of reserve pilots. We aim in the next three years at enrolling 800 of these pilots each year.
I would like in this connection to make an appeal to all employers of labour to give active encouragement to their staffs to join the Reserve and to afford them all the facilities they can for training. These men are giving up their time and 264 leisure to a public service and deserve consideration on that ground alone. As far as the Ministry is concerned, there are alterations being made to the conditions of service so as to make the performance of these duties as easy as possible. I appeal to all employers to help as much as they can and, in particular, to give their men the necessary training leave without encroaching on their annual holiday.
As far as the works programme is concerned, although this is very formidable and we have had difficulty in finding suitable sites for our new aerodromes, I need only say that out of some 50 new stations that we require, sites for 29 have already been acquired or are in process of acquisition. Good progress is being made also with those stations which are needed for occupation this year.
Now I will turn to the field of technical equipment and say a few words about some of the new types of aircraft that we are introducing into the Service. This is a subject in which I know the House is keenly interested, and upon which many hon. Members can speak with expert knowledge. We have every reason to be satisfied with the new types which have emerged or are emerging from the shops. The House will not expect me to give full details of the latest developments in design and technique. In fact there are only a very few of these developments which I can mention at this juncture without prejudicing the public interest. We have a. new single seater fighter which has already achieved a speed of well over 300 miles an hour. We have another one which has just begun its flying trials and from which we expect at least the same speed. The first of these will go into immediate production. From information that we have in our possession it will be the fastest aircraft of its category in service in the world.
Another key type in the programme is the medium bomber. In this category we have two or three types of outstanding promise about to go into large-scale production. One of these is a development from the machine presented to the Royal Air Force by Lord Rothermere. This aircraft affords an interesting illustration of the different characteristics that are increasingly being called for between the purely civil and military types. To adapt it to a military 265 purpose the designer has had to recast drastically the whole lay-out of the machine. From being a low-wing monoplane it has become a mid-wing monoplane, and all the indications are that in speed, range, and load-carrying capacity it will be quite outstanding. Machines which promise excellently are also in course of development in other important categories. The House can rest assured that, over the Force as a whole, our equipment will be second to none.
I should like to emphasise that in the air, as in so many other spheres, there is something more important even than numerical strength, and that is quality. We have always known that British designers and British craftsmen could, given the opportunity, produce the best articles in the world. They are proving it yet again. It is no wonder that British aircraft are in use in 26 different countries and British engines in 25. It is not to be wondered at that requests from foreign countries for the purchase of British machines and engines are being continuously received.
I have so much ground to cover that I cannot delay hon. Members too long in this technical field, fascinating though I find it. They will like, perhaps, to hear of a new and very interesting form of metal construction which is called the geodetic system. In this system there are no internal struts or bracings, either in the wings or in the fuselage. The loads are taken by the surface structure, which is built rather like a somewhat open basket, of a series of metal strips. These strips are always placed correctly with relation to the amount and the direction of the stresses which they have to bear, and the result is a light and strong system with unrestricted internal stowage space, and a substantial saving in weight as compared with our previous best systems of monoplane construction. Other interesting systems are also being developed; for instance, what is called the "stressed skin" construction. It is too early to say which of these systems will prove to be the most effective, but the vitality and the ingenuity of our designers are abundantly proved by the variety of methods which they have developed during recent months. Along another, but highly important, line of development good progress is being made in methods of preventing the forma- 266 tion of ice on wings. An effective device has been invented at Farnborough and has been put into commercial production. It makes use of a strip of leather kept moist by ethyline glycol and attached along the leading edge of the wing. Of course ice can form elsewhere than on the wings, and another method which has also been developed is that of bringing forward the exhaust pipe to within a short distance of the propeller blades.
My Noble Friend explained last July the steps we were taking to get new developments and improvements more quickly into production. By giving the manufacturers greater responsibility and freedom, we took certain risks. We felt that we were justified in doing so in order to speed up production when new design and developments held good promise. The manufacturers' response has been all that we could have desired. I think I can say with confidence that the risks we took have been fully justified.
I have already said something about the part that industry is playing in our programme. The very largely increased output which we are demanding and shall continue to require raises naturally a good many problems of shop capacity, plant and labour. The decision to build up adequate reserves of aircraft, engines and spares has added to that problem. The House will not expect me for obvious reasons to give the exact figures of our requirements; but I can say that we anticipate taking delivery during the next three years of a substantially larger number of aircraft than during the whole of the 17 years since the War. The problems which confront us cannot be solved in a moment by a wave of a magician's wand. We can say that they are at least in process of solution, although there is a great deal of hard work and planning still to be done. In this matter we have the benefit of the help and advice of Lord Weir, to whom our thanks are gratefully and sincerely due.
As a measure of the progress which we have achieved, I would say that the total output of the British aircraft industry for 1935 was approximately equal to that of the United States of America. The House may perhaps be interested to hear that the number of employés in the aircraft industry proper, that is, in the manufacture of machines and engines, rose during the 267 last three months of 1935 by 6,500, and is steadily increasing. I am glad that our demands have already absorbed so substantial an amount of labour, and will continue to do so.
I should like to turn for a moment to the question of prices in which I know all sides of the House are interested. My Noble Friend explained last year some of the steps that we were taking. The House may wish me to recapitulate briefly some of the steps that we have already taken or are about to take. The departmental machine for price control has been greatly strengthened. This particularly applies to the technical costings staff who investigate manufacturers' costs, as well as the costs accountants who deal primarily with the firms' overheads. Work is proceeding almost entirely upon a basis of what are called. I.T.P's., that is, Instructions to Proceed. This form of contract incorporates a clause whereby, if a fair and reasonable price cannot be agreed, the final price will not be determined until after a full examination of the contractor's books by Air Ministry accountants on completion of the contracts. Meanwhile, the contractor is receiving what are called progress payments, which are made as the work proceeds and are based on a percentage of a "provisional" price. This price of course is a lower price than the one which the Department may ultimately expect to pay.
I would like to say, in passing, that the fixing of contract prices has absolutely nothing to do with market value. The Government deprecate as strongly as any Member the tendency that there has been to an excessive advance in quotations on the Stock Exchange.
§ Mr. GARRO-JONES
Before the Minister leaves the question of contracts, will he be good enough to tell the House whether the aircraft manufacturers have accepted the system of provisional instructions to proceed?
§ Sir P. SASSOON
Obviously if work is proceeding the people who are doing that work must have accepted the system.
I want—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—I am entitled to ask these questions. We have found 268 that if we leave them until afterwards we do not get an answer at all. I want to ascertain, as I have heard on creditable authority that there is a considerable amount of delay, whether aircraft manufacturers have refused in some cases to proceed on these lines. Is there any foundation for that statement?
§ Sir P. SASSOON
All I was saying was that the contracts which are now proceeding are proceeding on those lines, and that there has been absolutely no delay. I was also saying how much the Government deprecated the recent tendency on the Stock Exchange to excessive advances. I was pointing out that contract prices have nothing to do with that movement, but that such prices are fixed by the procedure and on the principles which I have just outlined. We have not been content to rely merely upon our departmental resources and experience in this matter. From the very outset, we called in an advisory committee consisting of Sir Hardman Lever, Mr. Ashley Cooper, and Mr. Judd. The outstanding qualifications of these gentlemen for the work which they are so ably performing will be within the knowledge of all hon. Members. The work which Sir Hardman Lever did in this field at the Ministry of Munitions during the War and the vast economies which he effected are matters of history.
That committee exists to give advice on questions of general principle as well as on individual prices. They can also be called in as arbitrators in disputed cases. We have also secured the assistance of other gentlemen of eminence in the industrial world who are giving us ungrudgingly of their time and experience. To date, few prices have finally been settled but the work is proceeding and the contracts are well under way. Under the system of I.T.Ps. and progress payments based on a percentage of the provisional price we are going full steam ahead, or perhaps it would be more appropriate in this connection to say that we are "revving up to the maximum." Our aim in all this new procedure is a dual one. First, to ensure that there shall be no opening for any form of profiteering; second, to see that private enterprise receives its fair reward and to encourage the efficient producer. It is there, I submit, that true economy lies. Hon. Members will forgive me for having gone at some length info this question of 269 price control, but I feel it is necessary to give some indication of our practice and intentions in this matter.
Let me turn now to the equally vital field of civil aviation. Hon. Members will have noticed, I am sure with satisfaction, that whereas subsidies, primarily to Imperial Airways, are down by about 15 per cent. the total Civil Aviation Vote—Vote 8—is up by £164,500, or approximately 28 per cent. The bulk of the increase is for technical equipment required for the improvement of ground organisation both at home and overseas. In the latter case, we wish, in particular, to facilitate night flying and to pave the way for services of greatly increased speed and frequency. These we hope to bring in with the new Empire Air Transport scheme which I was privileged to announce to the House some 15 months ago.
§ Captain F. E. GUEST
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the 28 per cent. increase to which he refers includes grants-in-aid and contributions from Dominion and Colonial Governments?
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I am not sure but that is a point which will be dealt with later. A scheme of this magnitude entails a great deal of preparatory work. Long negotiations are obviously necessary with the score or more of Governments and administrations concerned. I am glad to say that, as far as the African route is concerned, complete agreement has been reached with the Union of South Africa and, subject to a few points of detail, with the Governments of most of the other African territories concerned. As regards the Eastern route, negotiations are still proceeding with Australia which has experienced certain difficulties about our proposals. Our aim and our wish is to have the full co-operation of that great Dominion. All I can say at the present moment is that we still hope to arrive at a mutually satisfactory basis of agreement. One of the principal objectives of the Empire scheme is to give the public an "all-up" mail service, that is to say the carriage of all first-class mail matter by air without surcharge. I feel that in this particular the whole community will endorse that policy.
The House will wish to have some figures illustrating the progress of British civil aviation generally during the past 270 year. I think I can claim that these figures paint a generally satisfactory and encouraging picture. Not that we are, by any means, satisfied. Indeed, we hope in the coming year to move a great deal faster and a great deal further and we are laying our plans accordingly. One of the most far-seeing of our aeronautical prophets was Bishop Wilkins who lived 300 years ago and who was so versatile that he exchanged his episcopal duties for those of the first secretary of the Royal Society. He prophesied that the time would come when gentlemen going on a journey would call for their wings as regularly as they called for their boots. That should be our aim to-day.
Let me first deal with the progress of Imperial Airways, because that must continue to be our main, though not our sole, instrument for the development of British air transport. I suppose it is common ground that the objective of air transport is to convey by air, on the most economic basis possible, the maximum amount of mails, passengers, and freight. If that be so, ton mileage carried in relation to subsidy, must be the soundest criterion of progress. On that basis, the achievement of Imperial Airways is very satisfactory. Their subsidy last year was little more than one-third of that enjoyed by their French, and about two-thirds of that paid to their Italian competitors. I do not mention the comparative figures for the Dutch, because, in addition to their direct subsidy, they pay an indirect postal subsidy. The ton mileage carried by Imperial Airways in the last 12 months for which we have accurate figures was approximately 25 per cent greater than the corresponding French figure, 50 per cent. greater than the Dutch, and more than 150 per cent greater than the Italian.
I think that would have been a satisfactory achievement even if Imperial Airways had been receiving the same subsidy as the National air transport undertakings of France and Italy. But, as they received a far lower subsidy, I think it reflects considerable credit upon the firm's organisation and management. It is not surprising, therefore, that the prestige of Imperial Airways abroad—and with it the prestige of British air transport—stands very high, a fact of which I shall give one further example. In 1935, Imperial Airways' share of the cross-channel passenger traffic between 271 Croydon and the Continent was once more substantially greater than that of all foreign companies—French, Belgian, German, Dutch and Swiss—combined.
I know that some hon. Members feel some doubt about the wisdom of our so-called "monopoly" policy, and if the House will bear with me I should like to make just four propositions in that connection. First, I would remind the House that Imperial Airways was created 12 years ago to salve the wreckage of the four previously existing companies which had been operating in competition. In effect the Government at that time was subsidising competition against itself, and the result was breakdown and bankruptcy all round. Secondly, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating," and we have proof in the comparative figures which I have just quoted. Third, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and the great Continental nations have all studied carefully the success of our Imperial air transport organisation. One after another—Germany, France and Italy, for example—have merged or are merging previously competitive organisations into strong centralised undertakings. There are now no fewer than 12 Continental countries each with a single national air transport organisation. In the only comparable field of operation, namely external air communications, the United States have directed all their resources to backing one single organisation—Pan-American Airways and its affiliates.
My fourth point is one which is hardly open to argument, and that is the undesirability of dissipating public and private money and effort over a number of competing undertakings 'instead of concentrating them to the best advantage. Surely the lessons learned by such painful and costly experience in almost every other field of transport and communications must apply also to the air. But, though we are convinced that our policy is basically sound, we do not want the House to think that we are not fully alive to the dangers of monopoly nor yet that we overlook the possibility that, with units of organisation too great and a sphere of operations too vast, efficiency may begin to suffer. Imperial Airways will remain our instrument for the development of Empire air routes including the North Atlantic. In other spheres, where no wasteful competition 272 will ensue, we are prepared, within the limits of our available resources, to assist any other organisations which may seem to us to merit support. It is in accordance with that policy that we have lately entrusted to British Airways, Limited, the operation of Scandinavian services. We may follow the same course elsewhere at a later date.
I do not think it would be right to leave this subject without paying a tribute to the public-spirited action of Sir Eric Geddes and his board who, without any compensation whatever, have waived their contractual rights in respect of Continental services north of the line London to Berlin, and have also undertaken to co-operate fully with any new organisation which the Government may select to operate in this field. We have, for a long time past, been engaged on plans for a Trans-Atlantic service. Certain long range machines are already on order for this purpose, and others are about to be ordered. We aim at making an experimental begin ling this year, if possible, or at any rate early in 1937. There are other new services overseas which have already been, or will shortly be, brought into operation. These are a new link service from the Sudan to West Africa, a similar service between Penang and Hong Kong, both of which are already operating, and a service between Bermuda and New York.
Four years ago the route mileage of our Imperial air lines was 8,320; to-day it is 21,243. When all our projected services are in operation, it will reach a total of 41,405. I may add that those figures exclude throughout the very extensive internal services operated by our great Dominions—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa—and by India.
Let me now pass briefly under review certain other fields of civil air development on which I should have much to say, did time permit. Internal services have continued to make satisfactory progress. There are now 12 companies operating regular services in these islands, with a route-mileage of over 5,000 miles. As compared with two years ago the increase in the number of civil registered aircraft engaged in regular service in this country is no less than 100 per cent. There has also been a satisfactory growth in the volume of flying carried out by private owners and 273 the light aeroplane clubs. At the end of December last there were 589 privately owned machines on the Register, as compared with 478 twelve months previously—that is, an increase of over 23 per cent. There were a total of 1,535 civil aircraft registered in this country at the end of 1935, which shows an over-all increase of 30 per cent, above the figure for 1934.
There are now 41 light aeroplane clubs receiving subsidy. In addition, there are some 26 unsubsidised clubs. At the end of last year the total flying membership of the subsidised clubs alone was 5,968—a figure from which I think we may derive some satisfaction. Of course, not all these members had taken out their "A" licences. The number of such licences current at the end of the year was in fact 3,353. On a basis of comparative populations, there are again this year proportionately more private pilots in this country than the United States of America.
I apologise for this long recital of figures. They paint a more accurate picture of our rapidly growing civil activities than a long dissertation would do. This quick and healthy growth in every aspect of civil flying has brought in its train many novel problems of administration and policy. One result is the Bill now in the hands of hon. Members, of which I need say nothing to-day. I hope at an early date to have an opportunity to explain fully its scope and purpose. We have had to provide, also, more effective machinery for the co-ordination of the various State Departments concerned with civil aviation. After the Air Ministry, the Post Office is most closely concerned with air advancement, and I should here like to acknowledge the invaluable help which my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General and his advisers have given, and are continuing to give us.
But other Departments too are frequently affected, and accordingly two important Committees have been set up in the course of the year to ensure more effective co-ordination. The first of these is a Standing Committee under the presidency of the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury. Its primary function is to deal with questions of international air communications. The second is an ad hoc committee, of which Sir Henry Maybury is Chairman. This has been 274 set up to consider and report upon measures for the development of civil aviation in the United Kingdom. I hope that this latter Committee will be in a position to submit a report at an early date.
Civil aviation is a subject of such outstanding importance and absorbing interest that I should like to give it a speech to itself. All that I have been able to do in the time at my disposal is to select a few of the more salient developments of the year. I have been able to give but very little time to them, and of the results of our stewardship during the past 12 months. Indeed, I fear that I have already taken up too much of the time of the House and must draw to a close. Let me then pass back from the particular to the general, and in a few closing sentences pick up again a thread with which I opened.
Hon. Members in all quarters of the House may well ask me, "Where are we heading?" "You have told us," they may say, "the scale and nature of the expansion scheme; you have explained its difficulties and the rapid progress you are making notwithstanding. But what of the future? Is there no alternative to a rapidly accelerating race in air armaments?" Let me say with all the emphasis at my command that His Majesty's Government have not given up, and have no intention of giving up, hope of securing an Air Pact in Western Europe—and perhaps in due course a Pact of wider scope. We still hope to see a Convention for the limitation of air armaments at whatever figure other countries may be willing to accept. Whether our hopes will be realised may depend a great deal upon events already exercising the minds of the peoples and statesmen of Europe. We must hope that wise counsels will prevail, but the House may rest assured that the influence of this country will be exerted to the very utmost in the cause of understanding and appeasement. Meantime we cannot remain un-armed in a world that is rapidly arming, above all, in the air.
There are two all-compelling reasons for the course of expansion upon which we have embarked. In the first place, we must be in a position to make an attack upon these islands too dangerous to contemplate; and, secondly, we must be 275 strong enough to make an effective contribution to the system of collective security to which we are pledged, and to turn to more temperate views all who may be tempted to set force above conciliation. Those are the reasons and the justifications for the strengthening of our air defences.To her hurt the ant got wings,says Cervantes. We must see to it that this does not prove true also of mankind. Surely the great gift of flight was meant for something better than death and destruction. That, at any rate, is my personal belief. It is still my hope and my belief that the aeroplane will eventually become the most effective of all instruments for promoting and maintaining the peace of the world.
Meanwhile, the experience of the past few years has proved that unbalanced air armaments are a standing threat. Let us try the other road. Air Forces balanced by international agreement may well constitute themselves the most powerful guardians of law and order. They may approach most nearly to that International Air Police Force which I know some hon. Members would like to see, but which I do not myself believe to be practicable to-day, or for many a long year to come. When I speak of the influence of the aeroplane for peace, I am far from thinking of it as a deterrent only. Of equal, indeed of even greater importance, is its increasing power to break down the barriers of time and space, and to promote a better understanding among the peoples of the world.
Perhaps some hon. Members have seen a very striking film which has recently been shown under the title, "The Shape of Things to Come." Its later scenes depict a new and mechanised world which might not be particularly attractive to all of us. None the less, I think Mr. Wells with his vivid, penetrative insight, has seized on and illustrated two things which I believe to be profoundly true. In the first place, that there is a growing community of spirit among airmen of whatever nationality, which may ultimately exercise a profound influence upon world relations; secondly, that "Wings over the World," in the sense which I indicated a few sentences previously, may one day prove to be the greatest force for peace mankind has yet seen. Let us all hope 276 that it may be so. Let us hope, too that it may be achieved without the preliminary horrors and suffering of another great war, which it is the primary purpose of these Estimates to avert.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I congratulate the right hon. Baronet upon the interesting speech which he has just given to the House, and also upon the characteristically concise manner in which he has presented these Estimate s. They are important Estimates, particularly because, together with the Supplementary Estimate that the House has recently passed, they constitute a new and reasoned change in the air policy of this country. Because of that, I want to begin by assuring the Under-Secretary of State and the House that what has happened during the last few days and during a period a little more remote has not altered or modified the policy of His Majesty's Opposition. On the contrary, in our opinion it has strengthened the case for that policy.
First, I would like to examine the figures presented in the Estimates from the standpoint of the Estimates as a whole and with special regard to the increase that is contemplated in the air defences or offences of this country. As the right hon. Baronet has already pointed out, the gross figure is £43,500,000, an increase of £19,500,000 over the original Estimates for 1935. That increase of £19,500,00 is more than the total Estimates that I had last the honour of presenting at that Box to this House, and if we compare the figure of the gross Estimates with the Estimates of 1931, the year in question, there is an increase of 140 per cent. The home defence force, the Metropolitan force, is to be increased to 129 squadrons, totalling 1,715 aeroplanes, which compares with 53 squadrons last year and a total of 580 aeroplanes. That is a three-fold increase in one year. The overseas strength is to be increased by the end of 1939 by 12 squadrons and there are to be very considerable increases afterwards. The Fleet air arm is to be extended to a total of 217, from 27 aeroplanes last year.
Gathering these figures together, we find that the home defence force will amount to 1,750 aeroplanes, the overseas force to 403 and the Fleet air arm 217, which makes a total of 2,370 aeroplanes 277 constituting the Royal Air Force when this particular programme in the Estimates has been carried out. As the right hon. Member knows, and as I imagine every hon. Member knows, that figure of 2,370 will not represent the strength of the Air Force when the scheme has been carried out. It is only the beginning. People are talking about 5,000 and 10,000 aeroplanes for the first-line strength of this country. The actual number of aeroplanes that constitute the Royal Air Force is something of a mystery. I do not understand why it should be a mystery. I do not imagine that other nations are not well aware of the reserves we have, what training machines we have and what machines are being used for experiments or are in the experimental stages. The idea of secrecy is absurd, because if the policy of the Government is the policy that I shall show it to be, or what we believe it to be, that is, counter-offensive, with nothing whatever to do with the League of Nations or pooled security, but reprisals and threats, then the more we can let other nations know what our strength is the greater the deterrent ought to be.
We are told in the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates that:The changes now contemplated in the composition of certain squadrons will provide a substantial accession of first-line strength, and will, in other directions, greatly enhance alike the defensive and offensive power of the home defence force.An interesting speech was made yesterday by the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) in which he made some very startling and remarkable statements. One was to the effect that we were perfectly justified in entering into the agreement with Germany as regards parity in submarines and in gaining advantages from Germany in other directions, because we possess fool-proof methods of preventing the successful attack of submarines upon warships. That was a very remarkable statement to be made, among others equally remarkable, and it suggests that this idea of secrecy, this childishness, this nursery politics, this puss-in-the-corner sort of diplomacy does not serve any purpose of value either for this country or for international peace. According to the hon. Member's statement—and it has not been contradicted—we went with our tongue 278 in our cheeks gaining this advantage from Germany, leading them to believe that really they had an advantage in parity so far as submarine strength was concerned.
The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk also said that we possessed antiaircraft guns, for use on warships, which made it quite safe for portions of the British Fleet to go to Alexandria, the presumption being that it was safe for battleships to be in harbour. If we possess such a weapon why should there be secrecy about it? Why should not other nations know? Why should not Germany be placed in possession of the fact that we have these methods of preventing attack, if what we want to do is to secure peace? Surely, there is no advantage in keeping from Germany or any other nation the fact that we have foolproof methods of preventing submarine attack. Let Germany or any other nation have foolproof methods. If they all had foolproof methods, whether against submarines or against aircraft, we should be bound to get peace in consequence. This nonsense about secrecy is beside the mark and is characteristic of the old-fashioned cocked hat sort of idea that used to be associated with our policy and diplomacy in Victorian times.
In the quotation that I have made from the Memorandum published with the Estimate the words "defensive and offensive" are used, and I noticed that the Under-Secretary used that phrase in his speech He began by saying that the policy embodied in these Estimates is in the interests of the whole community of nations. It is a remarkable thing that his Noble Friend does not make the slightest reference to the question of pooled security or League of Nations policy. It is all a question of the supposed defence of this country. The defence of this country is not defence in the proper sense of the word, but the questionable defence of counter-offensive. The question of distance and the question of speed have a great deal to do with this matter of defence. I do not know whether the rumours that we hear about anti-aircraft methods are correct, but something is being said in the newspapers and by people of some authority about the existence of an apron round London and about wonderful anti-aircraft guns. If those methods of defence exist we ought to know about them, but if they 279 do not exist, then in the circumstances there is no such thing as the defence of this country from the standpoint of possible air attack. The policy of the Government is not a policy in the interests of the whole community of nations, but the Government have definitely given up all hope in pooled security and in the League of Nations.
Let us consider the question of distance. A statement was made by the Under-Secretary about fighting aeroplanes with speeds of over 300 miles, but he did not tell us the speed of the latest bombing aeroplane. I imagine it is something a little less. I do not think that there can be very much margin between the two. If Germany occupied as much of Belgium as she did during the War it would require an aeroplane with a range of 260 miles to get to London and back, but if we wanted to get to Berlin and back we should need to have aircraft with a range of 1,040 miles. It is true that there are objectives other than Berlin. Imagine the effect of a bombing raid on London and the panic that it would cause, even leaving gas out of account. During the Belgian manoeuvres one single aeroplane loaded with small thermite bombs started 300 fires. I do not imagine that the panic that would be created in London as a result of even a small number of hostile aircraft getting through would be set off by blowing up one or two munition dumps near the capital city of Germany, if Germany happened to be the enemy. In regard to this question of distance it means that German bombers would need to carry much less fuel to get to London than we should need to get to Berlin, and therefore they could carry a very much greater number of bombs.
Take the matter from another point of view. At the speeds to which reference has been made it is possible for a hostile body of aircraft to get to London from the coast in less than 15 minutes. Within half an hour of the first intimation of a surprise attack it would be possible, if they were not prevented, for a hostile body of aircraft to reach London. Imagine the situation. They would be flying, say, in cloudy weather with a ceiling of 20,000 feet. Although we might have fighting planes with a speed capacity if over 300 miles an hour, they 280 would have to get warmed up, get off the ground and climb 20,000 feet and get sufficiently far away from London towards the coast for practical purposes in order to meet the oncoming enemy. Of what use, therefore, is it to talk about the defence of London from the standpoint of aircraft? There is no defence, only the defence which is definitely stated in the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates and has been stated even more definitely by leading Members of the Government. We learn that full-scale manoeuvres took place over London last year, followed by other test exercises in air defence over the Plymouth and Portsmouth areas. More secrecy. We do not know the results of those manoeuvres or what lessons they taught. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech at Birmingham on the 6th March, and I suggest that what the right hon. Gentleman said at Birmingham is the real policy of this country and it is not in the interests of the whole community of nations. He said:We are determined to build up an Air Force possessed of such terrific striking power, power to inflict such terrific damage on an enemy, that anyone will think very long before they start hostilities which might bring that Air Force upon their heads. Therefore, we desire to get on with the arms production prograinne as fast as ever it is possible.I am not here on behalf of the Labour party to put the extreme pacifist case, which is represented, and rightly represented, within the Labour party, but we do not believe that the policy of reprisals is a sound one. I should like to put to the Under-Secretary one argument which I think is a logical one in order to justify the Amendment which is going to be moved at a later stage in the proceedings to-day. The policy of threats and reprisals is based on the fallacy that you h Lye only one motive or sentiment to consider, namely, the motive of fear. I suggest that you have two—the motive of fear and the motive of respect, the motive of integrity, or belief in integrity.
Perhaps I might put the matter in a very homely way. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that I were truculent and foolish enough to threaten the right hon. Gentleman with physical chastisement, and suppose that he threatened with reprisals in consequence. If I said to him, "I am going to punch you on the 281 nose"—I said I would be homely—and if he replied to me, "If you do that I will punch you on the nose, only harder," that threat might prevent me from taking the action I contemplated, not because of fear alone, but because of my faith in the right hon. Gentleman's integrity, because I think that he would be gentleman enough to refrain from punishing me if I refrained from attacking him. Suppose, on the other hand, that I had not that faith in his integrity, suppose that I imagined that I was going to get it, to use a vulgarism, where King Charles got the hatchet, that is to say, in the neck, whatever I did, whether I attacked him or not—suppose that I had seen him engaged in exercise in a gymnasium, and he had said a great deal about going for me at some time or other—of what value would his threat be against my threat that I was ready to punish him, or to attempt it? Obviously, unless I was satisfied that I should be safe if I refrained from action, the threat of reprisals would have no weight at all. The danger would be that I should take the other course and rely upon the element of surprise in the hope that I might get in a lucky blow first, and at any rate counter some attack that I anticipated against me.
I think it is a logical argument that the whole value of threats and reprisals is based upon the common integrity and the common faith which, by presumption, will be absent in the circumstances that are envisaged. We on this side do not believe that a policy of reprisals is of the slightest use, and for that reason we oppose that kind of re-armament which has no justification in the needs of world security. We do not know what is required in the form of aeroplanes or any other methods of warfare to carry out our obligations to the League of Nations, and, so long as we are asked to sanction the expenditure of money to build up this and other forces in order to carry out a unilateral policy of defence, it will be valueless without the security of international agreement. The Labour party is bound to do its best to put the position, and, by a token vote at any rate, as will be the case presently, to put down the reasons for our opposition.
Turning to the question of civil aviation, Vote 8 shows a substantial increase of nearly 28 per cent. as compared with the corresponding figure for 1935, the gross total being £908,000, and the 282 net £760,000. This increase, we are told in the Memorandum, is due to a series of far-reaching developments in British air transport throughout the world which are already in progress or in prospect. I agree with the Under-Secretary that the policy of monopoly, which was begun by the Report of the Hamlyn Committee, has justified itself by results, and I would like to point out, to those Members who are opposed to the monopoly principle in regard to civil aviation, that you do not do away with monopoly merely by dividing monopoly up, and that the idea of any kind of control or development of civil aviation that is not going to lead to chaos involves monopoly of some kind, especially so far as long routes are concerned. But the Labour party look upon this question from a different standpoint from the right hon. Gentleman. We say that, where public money is being given to monopolies, there should be an equality of public participation.
The Air Navigation Bill, which will come before the House before very long, proposes to sanction a maximum of £1,500,000 for civil aviation subsidies, which is an increase of 50 per cent. over the present figure. Among the questions that have to be considered in relation to these subsidies and the series of far-reaching developments referred to, is the question of the North Atlantic route. We are told that, as the result of a provisional agreement reached at Ottawa last December between representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, the Irish Free State and Newfoundland, and of subsequent discussions with the United States authorities—I notice that Pan-American Airways is not mentioned—arrangements are being made for the undertaking of experimental flights by Imperial Airways, Limited. We have no objection to the idea of monopoly, but we say that if there is to be monopoly, as there must be for the reason I have given, there ought to be an organisation of a different character from that which at present exists.
I admit the value of Imperial Airways to civil aviation so far as its progress is concerned, but a number of people whom I have met in civil aviation circles agree that you cannot stop development. With the advance of civil aviation, and the huge number of aeroplanes that people are going to have when, for instance, 283 they can take off from their back gardens, the whole question of the organisation of civil aviation will have to be looked at on a bigger scale. We have just had the Ullswater Report in connection with broadcasting, which recommends the tightening up of Government authority over the use, not of the air, but of the ether, if the ether be the medium through which wireless waves go. I am not scientist enough to judge as to this, but we hear about etheric waves. If public participation and control is good enough for the ether, it ought to be good enough for the air.
I can understand the objections that many, if not all, people interested in air matters have to some aspects of present Ministry control. We shall be able to discuss that question when the Air Navigation Bill comes before the House. But surely an organisation on the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation would be an effective, practical and efficient method of dealing with the problems with which we are going to be faced during the next few years in connection with aircraft development. That does not mean that certain interests are going to be taken over and confiscated; I need not go into issues of that kind; but, as I have said, many people are prepared for an enlargement of the structure of civil aviation, on the transport side at any rate, so that it can be brought under a control which shall be effective from a public point of view, in return for the subsidies given by the public towards the development of aviation in general. Finally, I should like to come back to the question of policy, because I am seriously concerned about the statement made by the right hon. Baronet with regard to the Western Air Pact. The statement is made in the Memorandum that:The difficulties of the international situation have unfortunately precluded further progress in the negotiations which were initiated in February, 1935, for an Air Pact "—
Mr. MONTAGU E
The Memorandum goes on to say:It remains, however, the firm purpose of His Majesty's Government to continue to work for such a Pact and for an agreement for the limitation of air forces.284 I am very interested to hear the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman, because it is not very clearly indicated in the Memorandum that the idea is an international air pact. If there is to be an international air pact, by not the internationalisation of civil aviation, and why not an international air pact inside the League of Nations? Why talk about something outside the League of Nations and its machinery as regards the air? Everyone knows that that is the justification for the assumption that the proposed Western Air Pact, which was the air pact considered in 1935, was coming to the front again as a matter of practical possibility. What is the danger of it? The danger is that that Western Air Pact is not, as it is frequently Said to be, an Air Locarno. It is outside the machinery of the League of Nations, and not inside. The Locarno Treaty of Mutual Assistance is inside the League of Nations. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the limitation of aircraft, and I can understand that if it is to be an international air pact; but you cannot have limitation of aircraft if it is to be a regional pact. There is Russia to be considered, and Russia is not coming into a Western Air Pact in any case. The danger is that you are creating, outside the League of Nations, a form of pact which is bound to lead to misapprehension and misjudgment on the part of the nations.
It is outside the League of Nations and its machinery, on the specious plea that the air arm is so rapid in its effects that we have to be ready at once, and the other signatories will have to be ready at once, to rush, in answer to an S 0 S, to the protection of any Nation which suffers aggression. That is all very well, but as a justification for something outside the machinery of international discussion and judgment it simply will riot hold water? Why? You could not answer an S O S in that way. No one, surely, imagines that you are going to send an air force from this country to another without coming to a judgment as to what the aggression is and what justification there is for the statement that there is aggression. Suppose it is said by each side that the other has acted aggressively. What are we to do? I can imagine the British Air Force going up in the air and deciding there, by wireless, I suppose, which frontier they should make their objective. 285 It would be something like the classical donkey, which was so uncertain which was the choicer bundle of hay that it starved to death.
The danger of an air pact of that kind is the one I have referred to, because if there is justification for judgment and consideration it can just as well be done at Geneva as in London and the obvious reason for these ideas is, if not to encircle any European nation, to encircle, or the equivalent to encircling, a more Eastern nation. I hope, when the question of an air pact of whatever type comes before the House, we shall be very critical of it and examine its proposals very thoroughly. There will be a Motion in due course from these benches. It will not embody what is called the purely pacifist position. Frankly, that position is represented inside the Labour party, as it is inside religious and other organisations outside. If I could be sure that a policy of pacifism was one that could be put to the nation with any great hope of support, I feel that it would be much more worth while than anything that is being presented by the Government—much more than any race of armaments. If we could be Christian enough to say that we would disarm unilaterally, I believe we should get through, because I have faith in spiritual power over material power. But you must have the whole nation behind you for any kind of method for dealing with the situation in that way. I am not asking for moral or sentimental consideration of the question. I should like the question of the effectiveness of reprisals and threats to be examined from a practical point of view, if you like from the point of view of military considerations, but there is no guarantee in increased armaments of the peace of the world or the defence of the country.
I have said more than once from that box that disarmament by a process of progressive inefficiency is out of the question. It is perfectly true that there is no halfway house between full efficiency and complete unilateral disarmament. A great deal depends upon what you mean by efficiency. We demand that the pledges that were given by the party opposite during the General Election shall be the basis of our conception of efficiency, and that it shall be based upon an understanding between nations, which 286 we have not got and have not asked for, in which what is required to carry out our obligations is collective security rather than a panic-stricken reliance upon an impossible unilateral defence and an equally impossible reprisals theory. Our obligations are the same whether it is to the League of Nations or to any pact, whether we take into consideration the events that are troubling men's minds to-day or whether we are considering the question from an academic and abstract point of view. There can be no reliance placed upon a. mere race for armaments, and the right hon. Gentleman has said nothing to disabuse our minds that the policy of the Government is a race in armaments.
We oppose the Vote, not because we want to reduce the Air Force necessarily, not because we want to stand in the way of any increase of the Air Force which will make for adequate efficiency, but because we want that conception of efficiency to be based upon the real needs of the nation in relation to the whole conception of international security which I have said, and I think have gone a long way to proving, has been given up by the Government. Therefore, I hope that we shall have some closer statement during the discussion as to what there is behind the new idea of an expanded Air Force which is necessary for the purpose of defence outside the perfectly futile, panic-stricken notion that by threatening anyone else you are going to achieve the defence and security of this country.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
In congratulating the tight hon. Gentleman on the admirable manner in which he has introduced these Estimates, I should like to say that it would have sounded all the better if the statement had come from the lips of the Secretary of State. When we have this enormous programme before us, of vital importance to the country and with a vast expenditure, we feel that it is only right that the Secretary of State should be here to answer personally for his Department. While we on these benches voted against the White Paper the other night because we distrusted the policy associated with it, we are going to vote for these Estimates to-day because we do not feel that we are in a position to say that the proposals of the Government are improper in the present grave 287 crisis, though there are certain points in connection with them about which we shall have to press them very strongly. We deplore the situation that has arisen, in my judgment very largely through the past faults of the Government, and we must see that in taking our part in collective security it is worthy of our great influence in the world and that we take an adequate share in that task. I do not feel that the Government have up to the present, in any statement that they have made, or in the statement made to-day, shown that keen desire to work the collective system which is absolutely essential, and I am very much afraid that, unless they take more active steps, we may drift back into purely national arming once again. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government were just as keen on a disarmament policy and on getting the Western air pact as they ever were. That is not very encouraging. They will have to do very much better than that. I hope they intend to be very much more active in this work of disarmament and an air pact in the future than they have been in the past.
The hon. Member who has just spoken made reference to certain dangers in connection with a Western air pact. I quite agree that if that is going to be a means of giving freedom to certain States, say Germany, to do what she likes in the East, it would be most undesirable, but I feel that at this moment it is a little difficult to discuss particular air pacts and whether they should be under the League of Nations or not. When the Government come to deal with the problem, as they will be bound to do, it will probably be under entirely new conditions. For example, if Germany came back to the League, it would create a new situation. I do not, therefore, feel that it would be useful to follow the hon. Gentleman in the points that he has mentioned in connection with the Western air pact, but I feel that to rely on our own defences is perfectly futile. We cannot defend ourselves by a one-Power standard. It is only by relying on the. support of others in an emergency that we can protect ourselves, and this is where I want to press home certain points in connection with an air pact in whatever form it may arise in the 288 future. We must really get down to technical discussions with the various Powers concerned—discussions between staffs. I know there are great and unprecedented difficulties, but they will have to be faced, or the consequences will he extremely unpleasant. I do not put forward what I am going to say without having discussed it with service experts, who are quite n agreement that something on these lines should be attempted at any rate.
Conversations should take place in due course not only between the British and French technical staffs, envisaging an attack by Germany, but between British and German staffs, envisaging a possible attack by France. The questions to be asked and answered are few. First of all there would be the question, "How many machines, and of what type, are you prepared to supply in the event of an aggressive attack?" Secondly, "What area are you prepared to deal with? How ate you going to divide up the various towns and cities where munition works and docks are? How are you going to allocate them between the various parties?" Thirdly, "What aerodromes in the country concerned are going to be made available to the various States participating?" If you are going at any time to make a reality of collective security in the air you will have to get down to questions of this kind. You may find that there are inherent difficulties so great that no progress can be made. If that is so, I come back to the question that the right hon. Gentleman referred to. You may be driven to adopting the scheme put forward by the French for an international aerial police force, and the internationalisation of civil aviation. In the long run I believe we shall come to that as part of the policy of the abolition of military aviation. We have had some experience recently in dealing with the arrangements made in the Mediterranean in the event of attack. I presume the Air Staffs have been in contact and have made certain arrangements what to do and have asked each other the questions that I have been putting. It is on record, I believe, that as the result of the Czechoslovakia-Soviet Air Pact discussions have been taking place in Czechoslovakia as to exactly what aerodromes and other works should be used in the event of the pact 289 coming into operation. That is obviously common sense. I urge on the Government that they should not hesitate to go resolutely into all these problems as and when they arise, as they are certainly bound to do.
Will the Under-Secretary be able to give any information about the work carried on by the Defence Committee which is considering various possible ways of defence in England against hostile air attack? I have an impression that it has not produced any very great results up to the present time, but if any information of a general kind can be given, it will be of great interest. The Under-Secretary in his speech referred to the supply position, and in his statement of the Estimates he says that much greater progress than it was safe to forecast in July has actually been made. I am very glad to know that fact, but such information as has come to me causes me to think that there has been very considerable delay in the carrying out of a number of Air Ministry contracts, and that we are a very long way behind Germany in many respects. I should like, if possible, to have some reassurance on this point. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, as a matter which deserves the attention of the Air Ministry in dealing with contractors, that they should take steps to satisfy themselves that the personal staff of some of the manufacturers producing aeroplanes and other parts is really effective for the purpose. I believe that there are cases where the people in charge, not in all cases but in some, have not had the experience that is necessary, and it might be very useful to strengthen staffs on the engineering and business side.
There is also room for improvement in the organisation and production of small parts, which is not in as effective a condition at the present time as it ought to be. It has been suggested that we ought to go in for the development of national factories, and some steps in that direction ought to be taken. The Air Ministry might usefully give consideration to Hen-low, and ask whether there are not facilities there for starting a Government factory. The Under-Secretary made reference to the system of costing and cutting down of the profit on Air Ministry contracts. I believe that that does good, and is working remarkably well in many respects. But I wonder whether they have provided for economies in the sense that 290 it is to the advantage of the manufacturer to produce articles at as low a price as possible. If you allow a small fixed profit the manufacturer has no great incentive to economise, and I hope that that point is not being overlooked. The Under-Secretary did not make any reference to the matter to which the Secretary of State for War referred the other day. It is a very interesting point, and affects the air also. The Under-Secretary referred to many interesting new developments, but he did not tell us whether it is proposed to do what films have shown that the Soviet Air Force is doing. Not only can they carry, and drop 6,000 armed men by means of parachutes over a certain territory, but they cart follow it up by great aeroplanes containing many more men and landing them, with tanks carried between the wheels of the undercarriages. It is a very startling proposition. I hope that he has seen the film, and has the possibilities fully in mind.
Corning to the question of civil aviation, I wish to raise the question of the position of Imperial Airways. It may well be that the right thing is to make Imperial Airways your one and only way of dealing with civil aviation—I have no very fixed views about it—but it is essential that the country and the various people interested in these lines should know exactly where they stand, as they do not know at the present time. In their interesting annual report, Imperial Airways say that they are "virtually a national undertaking" and it might be worth while making them entirely a national undertaking. I believe that it is commonly said that the civil aviation section of the Air Ministry is situated at the office of Imperial Airways. There may be a good deal in that. In the annual report of the Imperial Airways, and dealing with the safety of flight, this statement is made:The insurance rates for passengers travelling by our services were (and, of course, still are) the same per day of travel as those quoted for land and sea transport; owing to our greater speed the rates for the voyage are therefore lower than by rail or sea.It should be appreciated that it is less dangerous to travel by air than it is by sea or on land. The question with reference to the position of Imperial Airways and others not associated with them, is whether other firms, who are prepared to run services without subsidy 291 of any kind, are to be permitted to do so. Will they be obstructed and discouraged in any way by the Air Ministry if they start to operate services? There are certain firms in existence. There is the Jersey Airways carrying 20,000 people in a year without any accident or any subsidy at all or any mail contract. It is doing quite well. There is another firm willing without subsidy to organise a service to South America and to South Africa, going by the West Coast and doing the journey in 2½ days, as against the seven days which are now taken, and also prepared to undertake a service across the Atlantic via the Azores in 36 hours. It is vitally important to shock Americans out of their isolation and bring them as close to us as possible. We are entitled to be told specifically whether, if such a company desired to start a service of that kind to any of these places, they would be allowed to do so? Is there any legal objection or any objection on the part of the Air Ministry I Would they be allowed to compete for mail contracts on equal terms with Imperial Airways? I am not concerned as to what the answer may be, but it should be a very clear and definite answer for the benefit of the firms concerned.
There is the case of a company well known to the right hon. Gentleman—the Irish Trans-Atlantic Corporation Limited. They have, for some time past, been in touch with the Air Ministry, and for a number of years have been engaged—contact has been kept with them and information has been given—in various schemes for flying the Atlantic via the Irish Free State and Londonderry. Suddenly in October last this contact was cut off and they were told that there was nothing doing and that Imperial Airways held the rights. That may be in order, but it was most unfair to encourage this company all these years in believing that they had any chance at all. I feel that the Air Ministry has not at all happily handled these particular questions.
I wish to ask the Under-Secretary a question following what I put to him a week or two ago—whether it is proposed in due course to publish in any form the Air Survey Report? It would be of great interest if that could be done. What steps is he taking to secure that 292 the system of directional and blind landing is put into operation at the aerodromes in this country? One is being tested at Heston at the present time, but the system is universal and compulsory in America. It enables landing in thick fog, and obviously should be encouraged and supported in every way. We seem to be a long way behind in regard to that matter. Can the Under-Secretary state the position with regard to the use of the Sperry automatic pilot which is very largely used in flying in America, but only to a very small extent here. In the long flights of imperial Airways, when there is only one pilot carried, it would greatly relieve the strain if the automatic pilot were available for use. I hope that steps are being taken to encourage the use of this device.
The question of fuel reserve arises in connection with the accident at Alexandra, and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could say what increase in reserve has been authorised or made compulsory. He said that there had been some increase, but I should like to know how much. In America the fuel reserve is 45 minutes more than the longest journey ever logged, which seems to be a very satisfactory arrangement. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider these various points and to give replies wherever he can. I am most anxious, as I am sure are all hon. Members, to see this country leading the way in the air, as we have led the way on the seas all down the centuries. I am sure that in the skill of our engineers and in the courage and daring of our pilots we have the material to enable us to do so.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. J. RATHBONE
I rise on this the first occasion I have had the honour to address this House to deal with one point, and one point only, which I propose to pursue to its logical conclusion. I was deeply impressed by the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) made recently, in which lie emphasised the essence of speed in a national emergency, speed in the mobilisation of our forces, military and industrial. I believe that our industries can be and will be mobilised in such a way that they will be prepared to meet a suddenly increased demand of material at the shortest possible notice. Aircraft and their component parts and 293 instruments can be replaced, but I am trying to make the point that, with every aircraft that is shot down or that crashes, there goes also a man, a skilled pilot, and perhaps with him an observer, a gunner or a wireless operator, who are not so easy to replace, and who have only been produced after long and careful training and careful physical selection. It is those men of whom I am thinking. Where is the source from which speedy expansion of personnel can be found?
Family tradition sends young men into the Army and into the Navy. The Air Force has not been long enough in existence for the family tradition to have grown up, Boys go from public schools through Sandhurst to the Army. Why not through Cranwell to the Air Force? Hon. and right hon. Members whose blue stripes have temporarily disappeared from their black ties will remember the existence of the Army Class. Why not Air Force Class? Young pilots are wanted, and they are to be found in our public schools. Sufficient encouragement is not given to the boys in our schools to draw their attention seriously to the openings there are for them in a Force which is becoming equally as important to the safety of the nation as are the Navy and the Army. Not all of those who are willing to go into the Reserve force are able to do so on account of their occupations, and I welcome as much as anything in the Memorandum the statement which announces that the whole system of training for the Reserve and Auxiliary Air Force is going to be arranged as far as possible to allow people going into the Reserve not to have to give long periods of their time at one stretch to their training. What really alarmed me was the passage in the Memorandum which says:With so large an entry of new personnel, it has been essential to increase the number of skilled and experienced officers and airmen in the Service. This has been secured, as regards officers, by retaining selected permanent officers beyond the normal age of retirement, and by granting extensions of service and additional permanent commissions to short-service and medium-service officers.I respectfully submit that that is not finding new personnel; it is retaining the personnel you already have for a longer period, and it is a procedure which cannot go on for ever. That is why I am trying to find new sources whereby 294 we can find the personnel not only to meet the present increase in the Air Force, but to meet what is perhaps even more important, the necessity which will arise in the most unfortunate event of our finding ourselves not merely on the brink of a national emergency but actually at war. It is only the small proportion of the civil population which is air-minded to which we can turn in. such an eventuality, and, therefore, it is surely important to give this small proportion of the air-minded population every encouragement to increase in keenness, in numbers and in efficiency. There are, I think, three serious discouragements to the expansion of civil flying; and when I speak of civil flying I am referring more to the owner-pilots. It is the owner-pilot who will be wanted in the case of emergency. First and foremost is the lack of aerodromes. There is not one single official aerodrome in the whole of the county of Cornwall, and only one official landing-place, which is without any amenities for housing, has no petrol pump and no services of any kind. The centre of Cornwall is some 250 miles from London, and if proper flying facilities were provided Cornwall could be brought three hours nearer to London.
The same principle applies to other outlying parts of the country. In the very fact that they are outlying is inherent the possibility of a great expansion in flying facilities; it is more worth while if you can save a lot of time than if you are only going to save a few minutes on a short journey. In these outlying districts civil flying is never thought of as being a practical and useful idea. It is looked upon as a sort of sport which a, limited number of people in the Midlands and Home Counties indulge in—people who can afford to drive out to an aerodrome and fly around for an hour or two without any particular destination in mind. Until you have aerodromea in these outlying districts and can show the people that flying is a practical proposition you will not get that increase in air-mindedness or an increase in the number of owner-pilots which we all desire. The Under-Secretary announced with some satisfaction an increase of 20 per cent. over last year. I am not suggesting that these aerodromes need be anything very splendid. The main essentials are an unobstructed piece of ground, a wind indicator, a 295 petrol pump and a hut for a telephone communicating with the nearest garage.
These reserve civil aerodromes are desirable not only from the civil point of view but from the point of view of the Air Force as well. From my own limited experience of flying I know how awkward it can be to have a bomb crater on one side of the aerodrome, such as there was at Manston, and I cannot imagine any hostile bombers desisting from doing all they can to create such craters on every possible military aerodrome within reach. These aerodromes are well known to the enemy. You cannot hide an aerodrome, and, therefore, I think the Air Force might be very grateful for these alternative flying grounds from which to operate. Another of the discouragements which I have in mind is the weather, which in this country is not very reliable. To a great extent it could be overcome if we could be told what the weather was really going to be like during the next 24 hours. There is a Vote for the Meteorological Services, and I hope that through an expansion of these services more localised news might be given in the local papers. A pilot might defer making his journey by the weather locally, but by looking at the weather news he would know that half an hour's flying would bring him into perfect weather for his journey. It is easier to know the weather conditions with an east wind coming across the Continent. The weather can be watched the whole way, but it is not so easy when the weather conditions are coming from the west, with a "depression centred over Iceland."
Another discouragement I want to mention are these great steel pylons carrying high tension wires across the countryside. They are not only a constant danger to aircraft but a blot on the countryside. They are going up in increasing numbers, and, therefore, it is even more difficult for the private owner to find landing grounds near his destination, because these high tension wires invariably converge near a town. I hope it will be considered possible, without any great increase in cost, to put these high tension wires underground wherever possible.
I have tried to make my point; the importance of encouraging civil aviation to provide a source of skilled pilots who may he called upon to step into the breach between the commencement of hostilities and 296 the time when new ab initio pupils are ready for active service. There is bound to be delay. If I have made that point it only remains for me with the greatest sincerity to thank hon. Members for the patience and indulgence with which they have listened to me.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Captain GUEST
I know that there are a large number of hon. Members who want to take part in the Debate and therefore I propose to occupy only a limited number of minutes of precious time, but I should like first of all to congratulate the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Rathbone) upon a speech full of charm, lucidity and value, and I hope that we shall hear him very soon again in these Debates. I also want to congratulate the Under-Secretary of State. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman introduce the Air Estimates on five occasions, and each time he has done it better than the time before. I have never heard it handled so well as to-day. It may be that those who are interested in Air matters are feeling that at last the Government have grasped the problem which has been confronting the country for the last three or four years. I and my Friends have been pressing this question in the best way we could during the whole of the last three Sessions. Events have turned out more or less in the way we predicted, and now the Government are grasping the problem with courage and determination. I have very little comment to pass upon the programme they have presented to the House. A Debate on the Air Estimates, however, is a chance of dealing with details, and I propose to do so this evening.
I hope that any bon. Member who has already spoken in the Debate will not think me discourteous if I do not follow them into questions of foreign policy, League of Nations, Western Air Pact, all of which I admit are closely interwoven with the subject, but the Air Estimates contain a mass of hard facts and figures and this is our opportunity of taking a view of them and passing judgment upon them. Let me also say how much we on this side of the House welcome the speech which was delivered from the Liberal benches. Having once grasped the fact that air supremacy is of importance, we have to ask ourselves how are we to keep it. The hon. Member who spoke last rightly said that the only way to 297 keep air supremacy is to have a nation that is air-minded and an immense number of people who are able to use the air. It takes between one and two years satisfactorily to train a pilot, and it takes between one and two months to produce a machine. Therefore, I hope the Government will devote even greater concentration than they have so far upon increasing the number of pilots who would be available in case of difficulty or trouble.
I listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman concerning the response in connection with pilot recruitment, and I think I quote him correctly when I say that he told the House that there are something like 1,700 extra pilots. Here again the hon. Member opposite very wisely and cleverly pointed out that they are not by any means all new pilots, but they are additional to the strength with which we started 18 months ago. Nevertheless, I think my right hon. Friend will agree with me that at the most this will bring the military pilot strength up to a figure slightly above 6,000. The figure which was given to me in 1935—I think rather conservatively—was 4,000 military pilots. Let us say that some of those are included in the figure of 1,700 given to-night. We were told that these 1,700 are additional, but they cannot be; they must be one or the other. Let us, however, take the figure of 6,000, and to that add the civil pilots of whom we know. The only way of finding out the number of civil pilots is to obtain the records of licences taken out. The sad thing about the licences taken out is that nearly 50 per cent. are allowed to lapse, which brings me to another point to which I will refer in a few minutes. But taking the whole pilot strength of the country, and being as generous as possible both to the military and to the civil side, I very much doubt whether there are to-day 10,000 people in England who can fly. Probably the figure is very much less.
What do we carry in our mind as a means of comparison? Why have we increased the expenditure on the Air Force from £23,000,000 to £39,000,000? The reason is that we feel it to be the duty of the Government to insure the country and the population for whom they are responsible against risk. The risk must come from somewhere, and that is my only excuse for suggesting—not con- 298 troversially, but in a most uncontroversial spirit—that it must be in relation to the strength of some other Power which may be a potential menace. It was wisely said by the hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal benches that this is the worst possible moment for anyone in this House to say anything which might be taken wrongly or which might interfere with the good feelings which at present exist, but one has to be on the safe side.
Figures have been given in this House—and they have never been contradicted—which lead me to think that Germany has an air force and an air pilot resource far in excess of ours. The figures that stay in my memory are, first of all, that in 1934–35 she spent £25,000,000 on civil aviation. I stated that figure in the House last year, and I state it again; it is from the best source I can get it, and it has never been contradicted. A figure was stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—which has not yet been contradicted—that Germany's total military expenditure during the last 12 or 14 months was £1,500,000,000. If those figures are anything like a fair estimate or a fair gauge of Germany's effort in military development, it is perfectly certain from the figure which I mention—I admit I took it from a newspaper, but one which has made an intensive study of the figures—that Germany has at least from 18,000 to 25,000 pilots capable of navigating an air machine. That being the case, I urge the Minister to devote more and more efforts to teaching young England to get into the air.
I have a concrete suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope he will give it reasonable consideration. A branch of the Air Force which is known to everybody is the Territorial section, which is officially described as the Auxiliary Air Force, a development of the last seven to nine years, which in many ways has met with great success. As far as it has been able to go, it has achieved very considerable efficiency, but I think it is run on the wrong lines. One change which has been made during the last three years has been to convert some of the squadrons from bombing squadrons into fighting squadrons. I think the time has come to change it from the regimental unit basis on which it was built up into a reservoir of pilots.
299 I will explain to the House what I mean. In the City of London, with a certain number of aerodromes around it, it would be possible to train hundreds of pilots, the Air Force, of course, having to supply and to take care of the machines. The young men who are working most of the day have not much time to give to regimental life, but they would have time, if they loved flying, to go through their training, to become pilots, and, after a year or two, to pass into the Reserve. I am saying that against a unit which I had the honour to command for six years, a unit to which I was devoted as the unit in which I served when I was much younger; but, as the difficulty is the schooling of pilots, I am convinced that the Territorial movement should be a school for pilots and that there should be no attempt to keep it on a regimental unit basis. The Territorial section is not supported by reserves and its equipment is really of a skeleton nature. To call the units first line units for purposes of home defence is a mistake, and I think it would also prove to be somewhat of an illusion. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take this as a practical suggestion.
The hon. Member who preceded me said that civil aviation is being neglected, and that it is only by civil aviation and its development that one can hope to make the country air-minded, and still further to increase the reservoir of pilots. Let us for a moment consider the figures. The right hon. Gentleman made the very welcome statement that the net figure of £595,000 devoted to civil aviation has been increased to £746,000, an increase of 28 per cent. I welcome that increase, as I welcome any increase, but the figure of £746,000 devoted to the encouragement of civil aviation must be compared with the total vote of £39,000,000. I believe that if the ratio were altered a little, and if more money were spent on civil aviation, less money would need to be spent on the military side. A large part of the increase of £17,000,000 is to go to works, buildings and premises in which to house our increased Force.
One of the greatest statesmen in this House, the father of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), said to me: "I am perfectly certain you are 300 right in pressing upon the House every time you have the chance that civil aviation is the foundation and backbone of all military national defence." He may be wrong, but I doubt it. The only attack I have to make upon the Government is that they have persistently refused to accept that idea. I am certain they have made a grave mistake.
Why is it necessary to spend money on civil aviation? It Las already been mentioned in this Debate that without ground organisation you can hardly fly, at any rate with any punctuality or safety. The comparison, between our expenditure and that which is made by other countries is lamentable. In spite of the fact that we are the richest country in the world, no attempt is made to give the equipment necessary to enable commercial aviation to function. I welcome the trans-Atlantic start and I welcome the flights of the West African section and the Penang and B or. g Kong flights; but civil aviation is starved, and I believe the best way in which to spend an additional million of money would he in the encouragement of civil aviation in every form.
I do not say that there should be an increase in the subsidy to Imperial Airways, and at this moment I do not wish to raise the question as to whether it is good or bad to have a monopoly. I will simply mention the fact that out of the total contribution of £760,000 for civil aviation, the monopoly takes about fivesixths—nearly all of it, apart from a small contribution to the clubs and a small contribution to gliding. I will not dwell upon that at length, but I will point out that if men and women are enabled to learn to fly and to take the refresher course which is necessary to keep them on the A licence list, there is a potential reserve of pilots in case of need.
I was greatly pleased with the grant of £5,000 to gliding. I do not know whether there is any hon. Member in this House who takes an interest in gliding, but anyone who has such an interest will agree with me that if a person is able to glide, if he is able to handle the machine in the air without an engine, to stay up, to land safely and to maneouvre the machine, as the Germans have shown it can be done, that is a big stepping-stone towards air control. I will give the House a figure to show 301 how little the Government have appreciated the necessity of studying the question. In Germany there were issued in the year 1935 13,000 A gliding licences, and in this country 927 were issued. The value of that figure is simply to show that that bright, up-to-date and advanced country has appreciated what the Government will not even look at, so obsessed are they with the disinclination to assist civil aviation. I know the reason for that disinclination. It is that the whole policy of the Government is based on a statement made 12 or 14 years ago by the then Secretary of State for Air, who said that civil aviation must learn to fly for itself. That would be all very well if the same were the case in every other country, but nowhere is that the case to-day.
My concluding remarks are of a highly controversial nature. I do not wish to make an attack on anybody, but to make a controversial suggestion. When I first became interested in this subject, I started as a protagonist for the independence of the Air Ministry. I was trained in that school of thought, and I was convinced over 12 years ago that if that battle was not won, the country would be the sufferer. The battle was won, and the independence of the Air Ministry was established in the House of Commons once and for all. But time has passed since then, and public opinion now appreciates that the air is the connecting link between the other two Services and itself. Unless we think out a system of coordination between the Army and the Navy and the Air Force, we shall simply be suffering through prejudice and through obstinate jealousy.
I submit that the Government should consider very carefully whether they can see some way to improve the relationship between the three Services. At this moment it gives me the greatest pleasure to see the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Defence Co-ordination on the Front Bench, because it enables me to address to him my two or three final remarks. For a long time the Air Ministry was disinclined to give way on anything, and the result was that there was endless strife, particularly with the Navy. It never seems to have been quite settled, but I feel now that we have a coordinator—it is as that that I want to address the right hon. Gentleman—of the three Services, a chance is given to him 302 to reconsider whether the link cannot be made better use of and whether the air cannot be much more impregnated with naval officers and vice versa. I should like to see men serve their flying life with the Air Force and afterwards return to their mother service, so that both the Army and the Navy would have men in their ranks who had had air experience and so that, unless a man had had that experience, he was not considered a first-class sailor or soldier.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Now that the Co-ordinator has come in the Debate takes on a livelier aspect. I am not prepared to argue with my old colleague who has just sat down, but I am certain that the arguments he has put forward are sound. I am, however, prepared to argue with the Under-Secretary and the two other Under-Secretaries to whom we have listened this week each on their own particular section of defence. Each one of them has made exactly the same sort of speech that he might have made three or 10 years ago. Each has made a speech completely in vacuo. He has never thought of any other country in the world, and each has thought, "How can we spend this money which we have managed to screw out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The three Services skirmish together to see who shall get the most money, and, having got it, they make plans how to spend it. They produce their Estimates, in which they state exactly how the money is to be spent, but they never give us any of the arguments which have led to the allocation of the money. There is a complete vacuum round each Department. The Under-Secretary to-day made a clear statement of the way in which he was going to spend his money. I believe it would be bad form for a Service Minister to refer to another Department, and he never referred to any co-operation with the Navy or the Army. He regarded his own Department as the only one which need be considered at the present moment, a moment when we are considering the defence of our country in a considerable and dangerous crisis.
We are to consider the allotment of some £300,000,000 under the new White Paper on defence. Whether the money is to be wasted or not depends, as I believe every Member in the House can agree very largely, upon an exhaustive 303 experiment into the actual power of air bombing against ships and land fortifications. It is obvious that £1,000,000 spent on an experiment carried out jointly by the two or three Departments, should really determine once and for all whether the air menace is a menace to ships, and would save us millions of pounds in the next few years. None of the three Under-Secretaries has mentioned it. None of the three Departments has thought of it. Yet here we are going on in the same old way, although this is the question which is exercising every head of every armed force in every country. That is what I call arguing in vacuo, and that is why I am glad we have the co-ordinator because, if he co-ordinates nothing else, he might set on foot an experiment which could be relied on. It is no use having an experiment carried on by each Department. If the Navy is in charge, you will find that bombs never drop near the ships, and that if they hit the ships they will not do any harm. If they are carried out by the Air Force, by themselves, every hit will be registered and not an aeroplane will be touched by anti-aircraft guns. It must be a joint experiment over which will preside, not the presiding genius of each Department, but somebody whose judgment can be trusted in the interests of the community. Is it so? Does the Air Service never consider the other Departments, never consider any of the problems which are taxing the whole world to-clay, never touch anti-aircraft guns or aircraft carriers, which to my mind are death traps? All these matters of controversy were left out of the speech. Instead of that, we had some idea of how the money was actually going to be spent.
I turn from that side of isolation to another. We are either part of the League of Nations or we are not. All the Cabinet believe that we are part of the League. All the world outside knows that there is only one danger spot at the present time. How do you relate your expenditure on the Air Force to the League of Nations? What are the special dangers we are facing to-day? How do you relate your expenditure to the new problem of unannounced war? What changes have you made by reason of the fact that we can 304 reasonably expect assistance from a great many other Governments in the operations in which we may be engaged in future? What arrangements have been made about sharing aerodromes, about getting information as to where the aerodromes are? Above all, what information has been pooled as to the types of machines and the training of the people who are to use them? Does the Under-Secretary know what is being done in Germany to-day, and, what is more important, what is being done in Russia? Has there been any sort of co-operation between the staffs? Above all, does he know what they are doing in America? I have always been told, and I think with some truth, that the three nations who are best at fighting in the air are the Americans, the English and the Germans. I do not know whether that be so or not. It is most refreshing if true. Those airmen will be 100 per cent. more valuable if we can collect and use every idea that is evolved in the other countries in the League of Nations. Under the old idea, of course, it would be spying to try and find out what they were doing in France or America or Russia. Under the new conditions it is no longer spying, but common sense to find out what the other nations are doing.
I do not know anything about it. I once had a Commission in the Royal Naval Air Service; but they tell me that the Americans have made two great changes recently, and I do not believe that the Under-Secretary knows anything about them. One is a new form of fire extinguisher; instead of phosgene, they used something else so that a red hot exhaust does not fire the petrol. The other is that every member of the ground staff in the American Air Force, whether he be intended for a pilot or not, and whether he be an officer or not, is trained to ride a motor cycle, to drive a motor car and to fly an aeroplane. It is part of their training that there is no hard-and-fast definition, as there is in our service, between the officer and the noncommissioned offices and man. The noncommissioned officers and the ground staff are supposed to learn how to pilot an aeroplane. They thus get reserves, and instead of having, as we have, 25,000 men of whom only 2,500 are able to fly a machine, they are all supposed to be 305 able to do that if need be. In addition, they are all trained in radio-telegraphy.
There is a change coining, I am told from America, in the method of conducting aerial war. Whereas at the present time the squadron is commanded and directed by the officer with the squadron up aloft, now, owing to the development of radio telegraphy, operations are directed much more from the ground and the orders are sent up from there. Just as in the Army the officers no longer fight in the front rank but direct from behind, so in the air the officer now will direct his squadrons and the formations up aloft from the ground. That is important, of course, because the enemy squadrons may be out of sight higher up. The fact that they are flying on different layers means that direction from the ground is essential because news has to come from all quarters to headquarters on the ground before it can get back to the squadrons in the air. On account of that, the place of the officer in the Air Force is no longer in the fighting aeroplane and his place tends to become more and more on the ground. I am a complete amateur civilian talking about matters of which I do not know anything, but these are the things I have gathered by casually talking to American pilots. I should be much happier if I felt that the right hon. Gentleman's Department was keeping in constant contact with what is being done everywhere else, not only so as to help our force, but so as to give to those other forces in the League of Nations which should be allied with us the latest and best information as to British aeroplanes.
We have to get out of our heads the old idea that the whole world was our enemy from whom we had to conceal things and that we had to build up a force capable. of tackling one, two or three Powers, and to realise instead that the British Air Force is becoming more and more part of an international police force in which information must be pooled, risks must be taken jointly, and costs divided out so that no member of the League bears more than his fair share of what is to be done. I apologise as a civilian for taking up so much time, but I hope that when these Estimates are introduced in future we shall not merely have a statement of how the money is to go, but a statement of what part the British Air Force is bearing in the collective work of the air forces of 306 the world, and how the Air Force itself is collaborating with the Army and Navy in order to give the maximum amount of support for this country at a minimum of expenditure.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
We always enjoy a speech from my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and always feel that he succeeds in hitting the nail on the head. He and I are both lucky to-day, because we are addressing the House in the presence of the great Co-ordinator, and it would be extremely pleasant if the right hon. and learned Gentleman were to say something about co-ordination. We have had a Debate on Defence, and two Debates on the Services, this being the third, and no word about co-ordination has been said from the Treasury Bench. Of course, we are handicapped, from the Parliamentary point of view, for this reason, that it is out of order to speak on another Service when one particular Service is under discussion. We try to get over that Parliamentary difficulty by having a Debate on Defence, but whenever we do so it invariably becomes a, Debate on foreign policy, and so we go on, year after year, without ever getting any nearer to what we desire. I pay my humble tribute to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. He said that this was the fifth year in which he had presented the Air Estimates to the House. He certainly should be a practised hand and indeed he is. I listened to his speech with very great pleasure and I thought the peroration reached a very high level indeed. It seemed to be rather a copy of one of my own, but it was extremely good.
His speech was interesting not so much from the point of what it said as what it left out. One of the things which technical development has brought about, and which has fundamentally altered military tactics in the air, is the enormous increase in speed of long-range bombers. That has been brought about by intensive competition between air lines in America. So much is that the case that whereas two or three years ago we thought we could defend ourselves against long-range bombers by high speed fighters, the present position is that the long-range bomber is very nearly as fast as the fighter, and that puts one country more 307 at the mercy of another than it ever was before. I regard it as an extremely disquieting state of affairs. All the old ideas of fighting in the air are, at present speeds, quite impossible. The difference in speed between the fighter and the long-range bomber is small, and as the range of the fighter is also small it looks to me as though they will probably never meet.
My right hon. Friend said in his peroration that he hoped that by means of the air all peoples would so to speak become an aerial police force. I think that is coining about. I have never noticed that there was any particular enmity between the various air forces of the world, and if bungling politicians, whatever their nationality, cause a war I know that it will be with the very greatest regret that any air officers, to whatever country they belong, will fight in the air again. In Germany we have seen great aerodromes positioned in the West, and it would look as though they were designated to serve against us, but, of course, the very opposite is the case. Nobody would put an aerodrome in the West if they thought it was possible that it would be bombed from a country like our own, so that all their arrangements are not directed against us, but, more probably, directed towards the East. Although we have to prepare so as not to be inferior to any other nation I think that the mentality of the flyer is giving to ideas that internationalisation of spirit which no other development has so far brought about.
The Air Ministry have been proceeding with an enormous expansion programme. Hitherto I have always criticised the Air Ministry for its lack of ability to produce machines that were anything like up to date. The procedure was for a specification to be issued and for firms to design machines according to the specification and send drawings to the Air Ministry. The Air Ministry selected one or two designs and ordered prototype machines to be constructed. These were finally built and then sent to Martlesham Heath, where invariably one or two crashed. Others were built and they were then sent to Farnborough and remained there for a long time while alterations were made by the Air Ministry, and finally they were put into production. Between the 308 issue of the original specification and the aeroplane coming into the squadrons there was a lag of nearly seven years. I think that statement is best exemplified in the case of the Hendon and the Hey-ford aeroplanes. Under those conditions it was impossible ever to have in a squadron an aeroplane which could be in any way called up-to-date.
Now I am delighted to see the extraordinary change which has come over the Air Ministry, under the pressure of world events. I will give an instance of their up-to-dateness which is worthy to be brought to the notice of the House. Lord Rothermere wens to a firm of aeroplane makers and said "Please make me the best aeroplane in the world and in six months the manufacturers produced something which was so outstandingly better than anything in the Air Force that the Air Force ordered 150 of them straightaway. It is true that the Air Ministry saved their faces by introducing a few alterations, but even without any alteration the machine would have been outstandingly the best machine we could possibly have had in the Air Force. I think that shows that some of our criticism in the past was justified. If we are to have these go ahead methods in the future I congratulate the Air Ministry on its change. If the great Departments of State which look after the Fighting Services are to be of any value at all they ought to be organised so as to be ready for war. It became evident in the last war that models and types of machines had to be changed very quickly in order to keep ahead of the enemy in technical equipment. If that cannot be done we must fall behindhand and must automatically be defeated. Nobody can say that the organisation of the Air Ministry in the past would enable it to deal with that situation should war arise. Therefore I am glad to see the change. My right hon. Friend said a word about the high price of aircraft shares. I am not a manufacturer or a holder of aircraft shares, but I must remind the House that in the ease of aeroplanes we are not building sterotyped machines. Brains are of the essence of the problem. It is not a matter of mass production. Unless we pay for she brains that invent and develop aircraft ahead of somebody else we shall not have the best machines in the world. That is the essence of the problem in aviation.
309 May I say a word about co-ordination? My right hon. Friend made a point which I was going to stress about the eternal question of the battleship versus the aeroplane. My Noble Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, when speaking for the Navy yesterday, mentioned that there had been some experiments, but are these experiments to be kept secret for ever? There were some experiments in America. Some old German battleships were taken out to sea and the Press of America was invited to come to see how very innocuous attacks upon them from the air would be, and the attacks would indeed have been very innocuous if the Navy had been left to do the job. Unfortunately, General Mitchell surprised the world by saying that he was going to attack these battleships, and, to the immense annoyance of the Navy, he entirely destroyed them with a few bombs. That was a most distressing business for their Navy. But I think we are liable to get some false. impressions from what happened at that time. No doubt strengthening the armour on the deck of battleships has very much improved battleships. Cannot we be told whether any actual experiments to prove what defence exists against aerial bombardment have been undertaken? Is that to be a. secret not to be known to the world?
Then there is the question of what is called the "near miss." Has the "near miss" a serious effect on the hull of a battleship, as Americans say it has We do not know these things. I do not know whether they should be kept secret or not, but I feel that the House would be very much happier if the Under-Secretary had told us that a real series of experiments had been undertaken along these lines. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said the other day that a Committee should be set up to co-ordinate the type of investigation to be undertaken, because no amount of talking will decide these points. The only thing that will decide is actual experiments, although I realise that we cannot get a complete replica of wartime conditions. My hon. Friend who spoke from the Liberal benches mentioned the question of landing troops not only by aeroplanes but by parachute. That sounds fantastic now, but in a few years time such things do not become 310 fantastic. It is a new development such as must follow from the conquest of the air. War is three dimensional now, not two. The Secretary of State for War said the other day that they were looking on with interest at these experiments but were not going to do anything. Is it within the province of my right hon. and learned Friend to send a battalion of infantry to jump out of aeroplanes? A new horror will be added to the life of infantrymen if that is the case. But who is going to do the experiment? I cannot see that any machinery exists to start an experiment of that sort. Perhaps the great co-ordinator will undertake it, though I do not think he will be popular when he gives his first orders to some regiment to jump out of aeroplanes.
I have just one word to say on civilian aviation. I have been, and I always shall he, firm in my belief that civil aviation has nothing to do with the Air Ministry at all, and the sooner we take it away from the Air Ministry the better, more especially as the Air Ministry have a Herculean job to look after the defence of the country at the present moment. The lack of logic in the matter is, to me, astounding. If the motor car had been invented during the War then, on the present analogy, all motoring in this country would have been controlled by the War Office, and we should have had machine guns in the back of every car or else we should be going about with truck machines. That is the sort of development which would be going on.
I do not know whether from the point of view of the Empire it is right to have an Imperial Airways Company or whether it is best to run the thing from the point of view of the State. These things, like Socialism, vary between extremes. But I am very unhappy in my mind as to whether the present system is the right one, and when I see the Secretary of State and Sir Eric Geddes going up and down the country like a couple of back-scratch artists, one saying how marvellous the Air Ministry is, and the other saying how marvellous Imperial Airways is, I get very suspicious of the position. If we are going to spend taxpayers' money on the necessary development of Imperial Airways I would like to see that money spent on ground organisation so that there would be ground organisation available for everyone. But I do not like to see the use 311 of the taxpayers' money to start depots for the use of one company and one company alone. There are some things in connection with this which I must raise at a later time on the introduction of the Air Navigation Bill, including the disinclination of Australia to come into the Empire arrangements. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that anybody, if he so desires, can fly and try to make money anywhere over the world without subsidy, but also without obstruction from the Air Ministry? Is the whole machinery of the Air Ministry going to be used against the company or individual who tries to start a line? Are the Government going to be so wrapped up as shareholders in Imperial Airways that they are going to try to stop anybody who tries to take a part in this?
I cannot close without congratulating the Air Ministry on the way they have grappled with a difficult problem. I saw the Air Ministry born, I saw it attacked, I have seen it, nearly destroyed by the other Services. I know that in the first six years it had to fight for its life against the older Services. Let us remember that that is finished now. It has got to be our main line of defence and as efficient as possible. Since last year there has been an enormous improvement.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. ECKERSLEY
On rising for the first time in this House I would ask the indulgence which the House always gives to people in the position in which I find myself now. I would not have taken up the time of the House this evening were it not for the fact that I hope to touch for a very few minutes on a subject with which I have been closely connected for many years. I want to develop very slightly the theme of the light aeroplane club, which has already been touched on by two or three speakers. But before I do that perhaps it would not be considered presumptuous if I congratulated the Under-Secretary on the magnificent preparations which have been made for the defence of this country from air attack. It seems to be universally agreed that civil aviation must form a background of reserve pilots for the fighting service. This has been recognised by the Government in the provision of Air Ministry schools for the teaching of pilots. But 312 there is a certain class of young man in this country who is keen to fly, who will make and does make a magnificent pilot, but who cannot for several reasons enter any of these schools. For this reason I feel that the light aeroplane clubs have not yet reached the limit of their usefulness to the Air Ministry.
The Under-Secretary gave us a figure of 3,000 pilots who have been trained by these clubs. That is a considerable figure, and although all these pilots will not necessarily keep up their licences I believe that a fair percentage do so. We have had it said many times in this House within the last few weeks that the country in order to evade war must be prepared. I believe that that does not only mean that the fighting services should be in a high state of efficiency, but that the whole country should be organised behind those Services in order to supply them in war. If this is so, surely we should take every possible step to encourage every young man to fly whenever possible. In my own club we have noticed during the last few months two rather regrettable signs. One is that we are experiencing more difficulty in attracting new pupils, and, second, some of our experienced pilots—only a few, I am glad to say—are drifting away. The second of these two facts may be put down to an admirable cause; they are joining the Reserve training schools for the main part. But this affects the clubs financially; they may not lose members' subscriptions, but they must lose the subsidy for renewal of their licences. The other point is much more serious. It means that we have come to saturation point of the class of young man who financially is able to fly and has the wish to do so. It is possibly our duty to expand and to try to draw in the next class of young man from the financial point of view.
To do this we shall need more money, and it is for that reason that I am speaking to-night. I know that the Air Ministry will find great difficulty in re-organising the present system of subsidies. I would not suggest for one moment that the combined resources of the Air Ministry would find this task impossible. Perhaps something could be done in the way of a rebate on the duty on petrol used in the aeroplanes. If this were done we should he able to draw into the scheme of these clubs young men 313 who at present cannot possibly afford to fly. I suppose that all hon. Members will agree with me that one of the tragic things from the flying point of view in the last War was the number of young pilots who were killed while training and before they got to France. Almost as tragic was the number of young pilots who went to France with little experience and were comparatively easy prey for the more experienced German pilots. Something on the lines I have suggested should be done if that is to be obviated in the future. Finally, I do not think that the Government, from a purely social point of view, could do a finer act than to bring capital to the hands of thousands of young men who want to fly but cannot afford it. If the Under-Secretary could see his way to do something for them he would make many thousands of friends.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. GARRO-JONES
The hon. and gallant Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Eckersley) has many a time distinguished himself on the cricket field. This is the first time he has gone in to bat in the House of Commons and I think the House would wish me to congratulate him on a useful innings. I think that he placed his finger on a very important spot when he dealt with the training of pilots. I share his recollection of one of the tragedies of the last War, when pilots came out to fight at the front with only 20 hours' solo flying experience. I was perhaps even more than he able to appreciate the tragedy of their position, because I was an observer. Time after time I went up with these people whose valour was far greater than their skill. I hope that anything we can do will be done to prevent a repetition of that tragedy. The training of pilots is more important in my view than the question of production, because it will take longer to overcome the difficulties. At the conclusion of the War I took part in the organisation of the United States Air Force. At the beginning the United States had 400 or 500 pilots. When we returned at the end of the War they had over 10,000 pilots. I recognise that these figures do not represent the high degree of skill which our pilots must have. But when the right hon. Baronet spoke of 2,000 or 3,000 pilots being trained in the year, that led me to believe that the magnitude of this 314 problem of training pilots was not being properly appreciated.
I wish to add, with great respect to the Under-Secretary, my protest against the fact that we have not a Cabinet Minister in charge of this spending department in this House. We find the Admiralty represented here by an Under-Secretary and the Air Ministry represented here by an Under-Secretary. I feel that it is less invidious of me to make this complaint on an occasion when the right hon. Baronet really distinguished himself in introducing these Estimates. He will forgive me if I say that I was surprised by the grip and the grasp which he showed. But I believe it to be wrong that we should have an Under-Secretary in charge of these Estimates, and particularly so at a time like this when also we have an Under-Secretary in charge of the Admiralty and a Minister with no service experience in charge of the co-ordination of defence. I will make this complaint in the words of a former Prime Minister, and I hope that Members of all parties on the back benches will insist that the House of Commons is entitled to have Cabinet Ministers in charge of the spending departments in this House. I shall not give the name of the ex-Prime Minister who uttered these words. Perhaps hon. Members will be able to recognise the style and find out the name for themselves. This is what he said:Members of the Opposition bringing forward questions of importance, or urging inquiries of interest, are put in collision with gentlemen whose abilities we all recognise, who are frequently adequate to the offices they nominally hold, but are obliged to encounter us upon questions which no one can properly treat who is not in the counsels of his Sovereign, who is ignorant of the motives of the policy really pursued by the Cabinet, and who cannot enter into those engagements and make those representations which the authority of Ministers of the Crown alone entitles them to express.I believe that that lays down a classic Parliamentary principle, and I am content to leave it at that and to commend it to the notice of the Prime Minister.
I do not intend to make an excessively long speech to-day, because the range is so wide. I intend to devote my main observations to the civil side. Before doing so, I wish to take advantage of the presence of the Co-ordination Minister on 315 the Front Bench to point out that there are two crucial and central problems which will be for him to solve. The first of them is: What is the comparative offensive and defensive power of aircraft and battleships? The second is: What is the practical possibility of defence against aerial aggression upon our great cities? Upon those two fundamental matters no authoritative information has ever been given to the House. If we could get some guidance on those two problems it would illuminate our discussions upon defence, while without that guidance we are discussing defence problems in the dark.
Up till now we have heard that the Americans put out a few battleships—stationary battleships—which were bombed successfully by aeroplanes. Whereupon it was said that aeroplanes could sink battleships and battleships were no longer useful. Quite recently we have adopted, I believe, an opposite policy in this country. After the Navy had been pressed for many years to allow experiments to take place as to the offensive power of aircraft upon battleships—I trust I shall be corrected if I am doing them an injustice—the Air Ministry or the Navy itself sent up a few very slow machines known as Queen Bees, radio-controlled, to attack those British battleships. They travelled at about 80 miles an hour on the level, and were incapable of any manoeuvres such as war manoeuvres of evasion. They were successfully shot down by the battleships. If we are not to base our conclusions on the fact that stationary battleships, without firing their pom-poms or anti-aircraft guns, can be sunk by aeroplanes, or that slow, obsolete, radio-controlled aeroplanes can be sunk by battleships, it is of the first and fundamental importance that the question should be settled by every means that we can bring to bear upon it. In the last resort the human factor will be the unknown factor, and that is, how will they behave under fire? Short of that I believe we can do much to ascertain the comparative power of battleships and aeroplanes. I do not express an opinion on it, and I do not believe that any impartial judge would do so until he had more facts. My first plea to the Co-ordination Minister is that he should secure that these experiments should be made as far as possible.
316 I come to the question of the defence of London which, of course, is the outstanding question. I have had the advantage of discussion and friendship with a good many people whose task it will be to play their part in the defence of London. To-day, with a full knowledge of the facts, some of them are appalled at the position. I am not betraying confidential information when I say that, with a favouring wind, 2,000 bombers, launched from either one country or the other, could cross London at different altitudes and from different directions with devastating loads of bombs and in groups of 20, 40 or 50 at different times of the day, and could devastate London within a week. I believe that is unchallengeable as a strategical proposition, and yet we are not giving any information as to what steps the Government are taking to meet that situation. The other day I was reading of a power station which had broken down, and the long story of chaos of complete hold-up of traffic and of the whole operations of London as a result of that one breakdown, was appalling to anyone who realised how many times that danger and difficulty would be magnified if bombing machines were sent over London.
What steps are being taken, if indeed we are in the peril which would warrant the White Paper and its vast expenditure, to meet a situation in which London would be made untenable as the Capital of this country? I believe that nothing has been done. I believe that if the General Post Office were bombed out of action next week, cur whole communications would be disorganised. The same with our power stations. What plans have been made? I believe that even the strategic defence of London depends upon the maintenance of the safety and the integrity of the capital. What steps have been taken? If none, I appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to see that steps are taken, so that even if the worst came to the worst and London were made untenable as the British Capital, that would not be the end of our struggle against any tyrannical invader.
I am speaking in terms which I know do not always commend themselves to hon. Members on this side of the House. I trust that they are right when they think that these things ought not to be 317 countenanced. I mention them because I feel that however remote the possibility—I believe the possibility is remote—it is the duty of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, his new and onerous duty, a heavier duty perhaps than any Minister has ever held, to see that these steps are taken.
I have said that I intended to speak only about civil aviation. That is the main purpose of my remarks to-day. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the relative importance of civil and military aviation is shown by the comparative figures of these sums, less than £1,000,000 for civil aviation and 30 or 40 times that amount for military aviation. I have collected a mass of information, but the House need not be alarmed. There is a lot of stuff with which I have decided not to burden hon. Members. I shall ask them in return to take for granted that every nation in the world realises to-day that civil aviation will play a vast part in the next 10 years in determining the economic condition of the various nations of the world and the condition and prosperity of its people. Trade development will follow the aeroplane. To give one figure only, I will quote from a report of Pan-American Airways which declares that 78 per cent. of the passengers using Pan-American Airways on their South American routes consist of business men using the best method of keeping in touch with their customers.
When we remember that the same drive which the United States have put into capturing the whole of the air service through the British territories of the West Indies, and down to South America, they are at this very time putting into capturing the Pacific and the Far Eastern enterprises, including those of China, Australia and New Zealand, and that they are building bases to enable them to capture these routes while Imperial Airways are waiting to build the necessary flying boats, we realise that we are confronted with a very serious situation. At the present time we are relying for the whole of our civil aviation development almost entirely upon one company with a paid-up capital of about £500,000. This company has no responsibilities to the State. It has a responsibility to its shareholders which is greatly eased by the fact that the State not only prevents it from 318 making any loss but enables it to distribute very large profits as well.
I shall not weary the House with comparative figures of miles flown, horsepower miles, or even with comparative speeds and so on, but I would point out that the figure upon which the hon. Baronet relies, of what he called ton-miles, may be a very illusory guide as to the comparative success of our civil aviation compared with that of other countries. It does not matter whether a machine flies 10 miles with one ton or one mile with 10 tons. The system of ton-miles evens out the concentrated routes which are easily successful, such as between Paris and London and those enormous lengthy routes which we have across Australia—or at least one of them—and which form, under the ton-mile system, a very imposing story of our success. You may have a very successful ton-mile record and still find that the main trade routes of the world are being captured by some other country. I believe that that is the case with regard to the United States to-day.
The hon. Baronet has stated two or three times that he is going to leave that system as it is. He says that it would be uneconomic and would lead to the dissipation of public and private money to encourage competitive organisations. I want to show him, if I can, in my concluding words, that the monopoly-subsidy system will not do at all. I am going to quote to him, not anything coming from an Opposition source, which he may suppose to have biased views, but something out of the "Aeroplane" which is the great, standard aviation paper. So important is it, that I noticed in the last copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT that the hon. Baronet in a reply, stated that 19 copies of this journal go into the Air Ministry every week. I hope that if the copy went in from which I am going to quote that the Ministry all read and studied this quotation from it:That Imperial Airways, as the Government's chosen instrument, should receive a subsidy and technical help is reasonable enough. That the subsidy should be the means of paying increasing dividends to shareholders is another matter. Why should a subsidy, which comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers as a whole, be used to pay higher and higher dividends to a few shareholders? The maximum rate of dividend payable should be fixed at, say, 3 per cent. which is better than the rate 319 at which the Government can borrow unlimited millions any day of the week and any profit remaining after this rate is paid, should be handed back to the Exchequer against the subsidy paid or should be spent on improving the flying stock or on higher pay for the ground staff.I feel I could not put it better than that. When we recollect that, between 1924 and 1934, the company received in toto £3,790,000 as subsidy and that in 1934 it received £567,954 and that those subsidies enables the shares to appreciate tenfold in the last three years, I think we must recognise that there is something wrong with the system on which we are running our Imperial aviation. If, as a result of events in the near future, we were to find that the menace of war had passed and that we were faced with the prospect of 25 years peace, as it quite possible, I wonder how long the House would be content to leave the development of Imperial aviation in the hands of this small profit-earning concern. I cannot think that the Government are doing so because they believe it to be the best way to run our Imperial air services. They are allowing this matter to remain in private hands because they are trying to bolster up the system of private enterprise. There could be no better example of a transport service which is fitted to be run by the State than Imperial Airways. We are not only protecting it from loss but we are paying its profits. We are paying large sums to enable it to run experimental lines and we are paying the cost of its experimental machines. Scientific departments of the State and indeed almost all Departments of the State are making their contributions towards this system of Imperial Airways and its subsidies. Yet we insist on maintaining it as a profit-earning concern.
It is the same in a number of other branches of private industry. We keep on making payments by way of subsidy, by way of guaranteeing loans, by way of Government publicity campaigns, by way of remissions of taxation and of rates. We go in for every form of bolstering up and supporting capitalist concerns, merely to maintain them as concerns which are alleged to be private enterprise concerns, but are really private profit concerns. If I wanted to do a very good turn to those on the Front Bench opposite, the best thing I could do would be to warn them 320 against the danger of binding and fettering the Conservative party to an obsolete system. The capitalist system has been living on its capital for many years. This Government has had to draw out large chunks of credit almost every month, on the basis of guaranteeing the overdraft. The country is being compelled to pay, in various forms of subsidy and State aid, enormous sums merely to maintain an obsolete system without sharing in the profits.
I do not wish to la your that point, but I urge the Government that the particular branch of transport service which is under our consideration now is an admirable case for State enterprise. I hope they will immediately prepare plans for taking it over and running it with bigger perspective and on a bigger scale as a State concern. I want them to realise that, if this country is to have in the airways of the world a voice and a control comparable with our hopes and with our influence, they ought to take this matter out of the hands of a small uninspired profit-earning concern. If they do so, we may then find that, instead of bombers and battleships, a great system of civil airways will in 10 years' time be the true measure of the strength and influence of Britain in the world's affairs.
§ 7.36 p.m.
Marquess of CLYDESDALE
I wish, first, to associate myself with what the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro-Jones) said in congratulating the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Eckersley) on his excellent maiden speech. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), I do not agree with his opinions on unilateral disarmament. May I, with great respect suggest that his arguments as regards offence and defence were not logical? When he spoke about one gentleman punching another gentleman on the nose, I think his argument was not quite watertight. I could not help wondering whether he had ever associated personally with anyone who was trained in the art of self-defence. I assure him that a good boxer is usually a very peaceful individual and that, often, the presence of a good boxer has a pacific effect on rowdy individuals. There is no question that by strengthening our defences we are strengthening our influence in the cause of peace.
321 Turning to the Estimates, I think it is to be regretted that the expansion on the service side did not come three years earlier. It is to be regretted not only for the reason advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—the fact that we have been to a certain extent left behind—but also because this rushed increase has added to the difficulties with which the Air Ministry had to contend. I consider that the Air Ministry deserves credit for the way in which these difficulties are being dealt with. On the subject of the training of pilots—and there is still a shortage of pilots—the Memorandum shows that the system of training by the Royal Air Force has been changed and that the ab initio training takes place at civil schools and not at Service flying training schools, where is was previously carried out. Thirteen schools have now been established and are turning out pilots in considerably increased numbers with success. I would like in this connection to make one request to the Minister. At present, practically all permanently commissioned officers are trained at Cranwell. The great majority of Royal Air Force officers, however, are trained at the civil training schools and they enter on short service commissions, that is to say, they are gazetted for five years' service. I hope it will be possible to select a larger number of short service officers for permanent commissions. This, I believe, would act as an increased incentive to the present short service officers and as a great encouragement to recruiting.
In connection with recruiting, I was glad to hear from the Minister the other day that liaison officers were being appointed to the various public schools and that they were to be officers holding high rank in the Air Force. Previously the liaison officers appointed to the public schools have been junior officers. I think the step which the Ministry has taken is wise and that it will be advantageous to recruiting. I do not, however, consider that it is enough. In the past the public schools have not pulled their weight as regards the air. I ask, with all due respect, whether there is any reason why the War Office should monopolise all the Officers Training Corps at the public schools 2 I cannot believe that an exaggerated idea of the 322 danger of flying is a serious obstacle, when one takes into consideration the tremendous thoroughness and the safety with which Royal Air Force training is conducted. I hope that the public schools will change their policy in this respect and will show that they realise how much the defence of the country depends on the Royal Air Force and how vital it is that the Royal Air Force should have first choice of the best youth of the nation.
I turn next to the question of civil aviation which has indeed been dwarfed by the Service side. This is regrettable but quite explicable in the circumstances. I wish to submit two points in regard to civil aviation. The first is the great advantage of Empire communications, and in that connection I believe it to be very important that mails and passenger services should be segregated. The second point is that of defence. If civil aviation were developed on the right lines, we would not only have a reserve of highly-trained pilots—highly trained especially in long-distance navigation, but we would have a number of machines that could be used in case of emergency and also a large number of mechanics. A good deal of interest has naturally been expressed in the question of the vulnerability of London. I think the House would like assurance that all scientific means of defence are being explored and a further assurance that steps are being taken to organise the decentralisation of London in case of emergency.
In conclusion—and I say this with the greatest respect—I take exception to something that the Secretary of State for War said about the Air Force in his otherwise splendid speech when introducing the Army Estimates. He spoke of the use of the Army in a way in which he said the Air Force could never be used. He described a function of the Armyas the presentation of force without the application of violence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1936; col. 2360, Vol. 309.]The psychological effect of a squadron of aeroplanes flying over a recalcitrant tribe on the North-West frontier and in Iraq has on more than one occasion had a very pacific effect without dropping a single bomb or using lethal weapons of any kind. That is exactly one of the functions that the Air Force 323 does fulfil—the function of presentation of force without application of violence. In a larger way I believe that there is nothing that will prevent an attack on London more effectively than the knowledge that Britain possesses the largest and best Air Force.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
It is with considerable diffidence that I follow my Noble Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Marquess of Clydesdale) in a discussion upon flying or either, for that matter, in a discussion upon boxing, a subject which was introduced by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), because I know very well that my Noble Friend is far better qualified to speak on both these subjects than I am. But I would like to raise one matter which has not been mentioned in the Debate so far, and I am pleased to see in this connection that the Minister of Defence is on the Front Bench, because the matter which I wish to raise is the question of the fuel supply of the Air Force, and that, as my right hon. Friend will appreciate, is very closely linked with the fuel supply of the nation as a whole. I do not propose to ask any foolish questions as to how much oil, how much petrol, how much lubricating oil there may be stored in this country by the Air Force, but I would like to ask whether the Under-Secretary of State will give an assurance that he has sufficient stores to make him independent of imports in case of emergency.
In saying that, I realise very well that we shall always find willing sellers of oil, and no question of sanctions being applied against Britain can be contemplated, because I cannot conceive of this country ever being in the position of an aggressor State. The whole question of obtaining oil supplies is bound up with the question of transport, and we know that in the last War the Navy only just succeeded in securing our supplies of food and essential materials. To-day, with the Air Force, we should require just as much food and five or six times as much oil, and we have a Navy of perhaps only half the strength to discharge the essential functions required of it.
It is unnecessary to harp on the perils of the oil question. We all know where 324 we obtain our oil front and that it must come either from North or South America, which entails crossing the Atlantic, or else it must come from the East. If it comes from the East, it has either to go through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, past Gibraltar, or else it can come by the pipe-line to Haifa or Tripoli. The pipe-line is exceedingly vulnerable, but even if it comes by that pipe-line, it has still to cross the Mediterranean aid pass Gibraltar, or else it can conceivably go round the Cape of Good Hope, in which case you would have to send our tankers on a trip of seven weeks there and seven weeks back. That is hardly practicable with the fleet of tankers now available, and I urge that the Air Minister should do all that he can to lessen the task of the Navy by providing himself with sufficient supplies of oil, so that in an emergency he could, if necessary, go to the Cabinet and say what a fairly highly placed individual in the Air Department said to me when I asked him, "What about oil supplies?" He said, "You can take it from me that, as far as the Air Force is concerned, the oil supplies are all right." I hope to goodness that is true, and I would like to see the Secretary of State for Air in a position where, if an emergency came, he could go to the Cabinet and say to the Prime Minister, "Sir, so far as the oil supplies of the Air Force are concerned, you need not worry."
How is that to be done? That can be done, of course, by producing oil at home, and I am very much in favour of that policy, but I would like to issue a caveat against relying too much on home-produced oil in case of emergency, because everybody knows that oil is principally produced at one plant, that at Billingham. It is a very dangerous policy to have all your eggs in one basket, particularly when the basket is not a very strong one. Billingham is on the East Coast, near the sea, and could be raided from the air without any warning. It is 800 acres in extent, and it simply could not be missed. There are any numbers of inflammable tanks in that area, and if it were bombed the damage done would be appalling. One does not like to think of these things, but if any man wanted to win a medal by dropping bombs, I can think of no happier target for him to select. He could not miss it, and the amount of 325 damage he could do would be very serious.
I would urge my right hon. Friend, therefore, not to put too much faith in Billingham. I would far rather that, if he is to rely on home supplies, he should have those home supplies in some less vulnerable position, and I would like to suggest that a very good position would be the coal-producing belt of country between Edinburgh and Glasgow, not only because I am proud to represent a constituency there, but because I believe that a plant there would not be nearly so vulnerable as the one at Billingham. I think it would be very difficult for bombing aeroplanes flying over that country, where there is very often a thick fog, to recognise the plant when they were over it, and even if they did recognise it, it is not on the coast, warning would be forthcoming, and steps could be taken to attack the bombing force. Further on that question of the belt of country between Glasgow and Edinburgh, they have there already, as my right hon. Friend knows, a shale-oil industry, employing about 5,000 men, and from every point of view it would be all to the good if the amount of employment given by that industry could be increased. I wonder if it would be practicable—I am not sure how far shale oil can be used for aeroplanes—for my right hon. Friend's Department to look into the possibility of giving a definite order for oil of various descriptions from the shale-oil plant in that district.
I want to urge the Air Ministry not to concentrate too much upon the supplies which they can rely on from home sources, because if an emergency arises, which we all hope it will not, there will be a desperately keen demand for oil by every Department, as well as in ordinary industrial life. It may be that the Air Force would get first choice, and perhaps they deserve it, but think what the cost would be to the industrial productive strength of the country. Not only would the Navy need oil, but the Merchant Service also would want it, and the. figures of consumption are terrific. Something like 45 per cent., I believe, of the tramp shipping of the world is now on oil, as compared with 3 or 4 per cent, on oil before the War. Then you have the Army, which is now mechanised and becoming more and more 326 dependent on oil. As to industrial life, it is impossible to get figures, but the import of 10,000,000 tons of oil per year gives one some idea of how essential the supplies of this raw material are to us.
The definite proposal which I would make to my right hon. Friend is that his Department should concentrate upon the storage of oil, so that he does not become a burden upon the Navy by asking them to import his supplies, and so that he does not cut out other legitimate users of oil in case of emergency, because he is self-supporting. It seems to me that his Department could do that as easily as any other Department, and that there is nothing to prevent his doing it. I would suggest that in storing this oil it should be put in underground tanks, that they should be camouflaged, and that they should be scattered about all over the country, not all on the South or all on the East, but that they should be on the West Coast as well, and that they should be put where a smoke-screen from the industrial districts would blind enemy raiders, possibly, and prevent their discovering it. I would suggest that he should have at least one year's supply in these tanks. In urging the Minister to do this, I am not asking him to spend money on supplies that will become obsolete and useless and so might he regarded as a waste; I am merely asking that the Government should invest their money in advance on oil, a commodity which is always going to be needed, whether in war or in peace; and I would like him to be able to assure us that he is making such provision in this direction that the Air Force will never be forced to let us clown by reason of running short of fuel.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ 8 p.m.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I was very sorry that I was not in the House when the hon. Member for East Renfrew (Marquess of Clydesdale) was making his speech. He is well known in this House for his knowledge of aviation generally. I would like to read his remarks in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and reply to them on the Report stage. The hon. Member who has just spoken raised many other important points on the question of varieties of oil, quality of oil and petrol and the storage 327 of oil for the Royal Air Force. Many of those question are matters of a certain amount of secrecy, as he will realise, but the contribution he made is very welcome, and I can assure him that all the points he has raised are continually and constantly under review by the Air Ministry. The actual query he puts to me about the quality of shale oil I can answer at once. Experiments have been made with shale oil, but all the information is that it is of very low octane value and not suitable at present for use in aero engines. We hope for a greatly increased future use of oil produced from coal in this country.
The hon. Gentleman who rose after my speech has obviously been able to take full advantage of the great opportunities he enjoyed when he occupied my position at the Air Ministry, and therefore it is a great pleasure on this occasion to have a contribution from him and realise that what he says is the result of personal experience and great interest. His task this afternoon was not a particularly easy one. I felt that he probably agreed with me on many points, but after all he had his part to play, and if I may be allowed to say so, I think he did very well and made the best out of a not very easy job.
He spoke about the Air Pact. I was not really quite clear as to what his criticisms were about my remarks on the Air Pact. We would like the Air Pact—I described it as the Air Pact of Western Europe—to be of the widest possible nature. in my speech I said I hoped it would be of the widest possible scope in the future. Of course, whatever pact was brought in would naturally be under the ambit of the League, and would contribute to that system of collective security which we desire to see. He also raised a point about secrecy. If only other nations would agree to reasonable publicity on matters such as strength figures we would be only too delighted. We would welcome such action, but, obviously, if other nations are not willing to do that, if they are not willing to give away their figures, we cannot publish our figures, because we should be giving away a bargaining instrument. They would be taking from us and giving nothing in return. In reasonable limits publicity would be very welcome.
328 The hon. Member for East Wolver-hampton (Mr. Mander) spoke from the Liberal benches, and I was very glad to receive his assurance of support on behalf of his party. He asked me a question which was also asked by several others as to whether we would obstruct any company that wished to operate anywhere in other parts of the world without subsidies. Certainly we have no intention of obstructing any company from operating any service anywhere, but, as I said in my speech, we do not wish to encourage services which would lead to duplication and waste of money and effort. We learned these lessons by painful and costly experience in other forms of transport both at sea and on land. I would mention the White Star Cunarder merger and the London Passenger Transport Board.
We had the benefit or listening to two very admirable maiden speeches. I take it as a compliment to the Air Ministry that the hon. Members for Bodmin (Mr. Rathbone) and the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Eckersley) should have selected this opportunity for making their maiden speeches. They were both of them excellent contributions to the Debate, they were instructive, they were well informed and they displayed a maturity and experience not usually found in maiden speeches. I hope we may frequently be able to look forward to further constructive contributions from them. I was glad to see also that they both laid the very greatest possible stress on the importance of personnel. That is one of the most vital features of our programme and that brings me to the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest). He with his usual eloquence, based on his great experience, stressed the same point I have just mentioned, and it is true that, as I said earlier this afternoon, the provision of an adequate reserve of pilots is absolutely essential.
Where I do not quite agree with my right hon. and gallant Friend is in thinking that we are as badly off at present as he makes out. There are 3,200 fully trained pilots on the active list of the Royal Air Force to-day. That is, according to the latest information we possess, a higher number than any other countries save Russia and France possess on the active lists of their Air Forces. There 329 are another 1,130 under training at our schools, service and civil, and we have increased these civil training schools to 13. Nine have been established since last June. In addition we have a reserve of approximately 1,450 and we are taking steps roughly to treble this over the next three years. The flying membership of the subsidised light aeroplane clubs alone amounts to very nearly 6,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "Many members of these clubs belong to three or four clubs."] I also gave the figure of current "A" licences which is 3,353, or something like that, and we have in proportion to our respective populations a larger number of private flyers in this country than in the United States of America.
What the hon. Gentleman said with regard to the auxiliary Air Force will receive very careful consideration. I am not at all sure that the esprit de corps of individual auxiliary squadrons—the friendly rivalry that exists between them—is not an asset of great value and one which we should do well to retain and foster rather than merge them into some bigger and soulless aggregations. The general effect of a scheme for improving the auxiliary Air Force is to pass pilots through the squadrons to the General List at a more rapid rate so as to ensure that the training facilities of the Squadrons are used to their maximum capacity in producing and maintaining a flow of trained officers and retaining them in an effective capacity as long as possible. We wish also to secure to auxiliary air force officers a reasonable flow of promotion during their service. Certain concessions mentioned in the Army Estimates in connection with the Territorial Army are now under discussion in connection with the Air Force. The marriage allowance will be given to all personnel over 21 in the auxiliary Air Force on the same terms and conditions as to the regular Air Force.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) made as usual his most interesting contribution to the Debate and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Co-ordinator-General who was sitting in his seat was making notes. I am sure he was making notes for his future guidance. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Colonel Moore-Brabazon) speaks as usual with the 330 expert knowledge which we expect from was the first man to fly in this country, and I must thank him for the very kind remarks he made and the praise he gave to the Air Ministry for the progress made in technical development. I am sure he will not expect me to answer all the points he made in debate. Although I cannot say I agree with every one of his remarks, I was glad to find we were at least in complete unanimity over the theme of my peroration.
§ Mr. MANDER
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the question of the position of companies other than Imperial Airways?
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. POTTS
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:in view of the peril to civilisation latent in air warfare, this House calls for immediate and sustained effort to secure the abolition of military and inaval air forces and the international control of civil aviation.In moving this Amendment I should like to say that I have spent some time in investigating the position in connection with our fighting squadrons, both at home and at foreign stations. There is a slight difference between the figures given by the Under-Secretary and those which I have obtained from the official books. I make the figure 138 squadrons, against his figure of 133. In dealing with this matter I want to start from the termination of the Great War. We then had 200 squadrons, with 3,330 machines, while at March, 1928, we had 69 squadrons and 800 machines. I find from the OFFICIAL REPORT that dealing with the Air Estimates, which were then for £16,000,000, on the 25th February, 1926, the Secretary of State for Air, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) said:So far as the net Estimates are concerned, the increase is mainly due to the larger number of squadrons formed under the Home Defence scheme. … First of all, the duty of providing a Home Defence force against possible air attack; secondly, the duty of carrying out the air work of the Navy and the Army.He went on to say—and this is rather important: 331There are now 25 squadrons for home defence, and at the end of the financial year there will be 28. To-day we are in the position of being the second greatest air Power in the world, leaving out of account for the moment the Air Force of Russia, of which I have no official knowledge. … I am not making the comparison with our Home Defence Force. … I am comparing the total forces.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1926; cols. 766–9, Vol. 192.]He also stated that in the previous September five machines from Vickers No. 9 Bombing Squadron flew from Manston, in Kent, to Leuchars, in Scotland, and back to Manston, in a day, a distance of 870 miles. He mentioned also that a second flight had been undertaken by eight Vickers machines from Worthy Down, in Hampshire, to Edinburgh, and that, although the weather was very bad, three of the machines flew from Hampshire to Edinburgh and back without landing, a distance of 800 miles, in 12½hours.
I want now to indicate what the number of our Air Force will be, as compared with the account that I have been reading to the House from the late Air Minister's statement some years ago. At the moment we have 138 squadrons, including those few which are on foreign stations. The Minister's figures, which must be taken as official, for the number of machines, is 1,500, as against my figure of 1,518. The Government are now suggesting an increase of 250 new warplanes for home defence, that is to say, another 11 squadrons, allowing for depreciation over a period of years. They are asking in addition for 12 new Empire air squadrons. When all their demands are met there will be 400 squadrons, and the number of machines will be increased from 1,500 to 4,400.
I ask the House to imagine what will be the state of affairs when we have that number of flying machines put into operation by this country, with some other nation following suit with an equal number, and war being declared. What would then be the position of the two countries? It is no use people imagining that a defence can be built up by gunnery and so on which will prevent other machines from coming into this country, or will prevent our machines from going to another country. That is an utter impossibility. We have the present 332 Cabinet, while declining to organise industry for the prosperity of the people, eagerly ready to organise for war—while refusing to raise loans for public works for the enrichment of the nation's welfare, preferring to borrow huge sums of money for arms merits. The two extremes are, on the one hand, the improvement of the conditions of the people of the nation, and, on the other, to use a rather vulgar expression, damnation to the country and the people therein.
Another point is with regard to the arms race and alliances of rival groups striving to obtain decisions by heavier war preparations than the other side possesses. We are a civilised people and we have a right to endeavour to find ways and means of setting our disputes across the table in preference to creating machinery for the destruction of human life, as we are doing at present.
I regret the absence of the Prime Minister. He seemed in his speech to have lost his head and tried to carry the House and the country with him in favour of armaments. How will that be taken by foreign nations? Ho is advising, recommending and supporting an increase of armaments as a defence against other nations. If we provide 5,000 flying machines and some other nation has only 2,000 or 3,000, they will at once determine that they must be equal to us and will endeavour to get in front of us. We are travelling the wrong way. We are told by the Cabinet that we must prepare for war, and hon. Members opposite are being told to look in that direction and to urge the people of the country to follow suit. If the Prime Minister can see the danger of war arising in the near future, he ought to tell the House and the country exactly where we stand. If that is not the position, he is wrong in making the statements that he is making, because he is leading people to believe that there is a danger of war. We Are anticipating an expenditure of £100,000,000 or more on the Air Force in the next three years. That will lead to other nations spending as much as we do. There would be more sense in settling our disputes around the table, spending less on armaments and feeding our people who are starving. This huge expenditure is un-Christian, it is on the lines of barbarism and is out of date. Let the nations of the world continue their international discussions. That will 333 he better than using inhuman methods to obtain supremacy by force and the manufacture of explosives for human destruction. Differences between nations can be settled round a table much more easily—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member's argument seems to have no connection with the Estimates before the House, nor with the terms of the Notice on the Paper.
§ Mr. POTTS
I find that we have 21 licensed aerodromes, eight purchased sites and five planning schemes. In different parts of the country there are 103 sites for aerodromes. The time has arrived when we ought to reduce all this fighting force. I do not believe in lowering the the standing of my country. I am as loyal as any Member on that side of the House and have done as much for the country as any man who sits on that Bench. I have put in 50 years of service on arbitration work. If an international conference could be appointed, say of three men from each country, from the ranks of labour, trained in trade union negotiations with employers, they could settle your foreign questions without any difficulty, and it would not take long to do it. When you get lawyers of standing and men who are interested commercially in these matters, you get proceedings extended for the purpose of enriching private enterprise. I hope that it is not too late and that the Govern-merit even to-day will take notice of the position in the country. If they are of the opinion that the electorate of this country will rally to them in the event of war occurring they will get a rude shock. They will be mistaken and proved to be wrong if they have to meet the test of reality in that event.
I appeal to the Government, as I appealed to the present Prime Minister in 1926 in connection with the mining industry. I appealed to him to prevent a stoppage in the mining industry, and I told him that I knew that unless he intervened the collieries of this country would stop. He took no notice of that advice. The collieries of the country came to a standstill, and a very long struggle took place. I am just as certain now, being in touch with the working people of this country, as are my colleagues on this side of the House, that if war breaks out there will be more 334 difficulty than the Government anticipate. They must not think—if they have it in their minds, they should get it out—that it will be easy to get the young men of the country to go and fight the battles for them as they did in 3914. They will make a mistake if they have that impression. Therefore, I hope that the Government even now will begin to consider, and that the Prime Minister in particular and his colleagues will think about, this matter and will consult together and will keep on consulting. I know that there may be foreign nations here and there with whom we may have trouble, as in the case of Italy, possibly with France, though I hope that that will not arise, and with other nations like Japan. Just as you have trouble in industry, you have the same sort of thing internationally. It has taken years to build up the trade unions. It was said that it was impossible, but we have done it. Time, patience, confidence and sincerity have done it, and we can do it internationally if the task is undertaken by men who understand this sort of thing and endeavour to act in an amicable sort of way in preference to fighting one another to see which is the strongest nation. I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Government to reflect upon this matter and to endeavour to continue consultation and bring about a solution of these problems. So far war has been avoided, although on many occasions this sort of difficulty has arisen.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
I beg to second the Amendment.
I rise with some diffidence seeing that some of my hon. Friends have recently crossed the Floor of the House and have occupied seats on the benches opposite. I hope that their absence from these benches is only temporary, as I am certain that, in dealing with this Amendment, we need the support of the hon. Members who 335 have temporarily left us. But their presence on the other side may be an encouragement to me while I attempt to address myself to the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Potts) has moved.
§ Mr. BROWN
Certain hon. Members may think that the Amendment now before the House has been put down at an inopportune moment. They may consider that, being in the midst of a European crisis, it is not the time for us to put down an Amendment of this description. Probably it is more opportune that we should discuss this matter to-night than that we should discuss increased expenditure on the Air Force of the country. If we address ourselves to the Amendment we shall find that we have had already, in the course of this Debate, some encouragement from the speeches which have been delivered or found some support for the point of view embodied in it. The hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), who is not in his place at the moment, assured the House that there was no enmity at all between the airmen of the various countries of the world, and I believe that a similar sentiment fell from the lips of the Under-Secretary of State for Air earlier in the day. I could not help but reflect, when they were expressing themselves in such terms, that if it was left to the airmen of the world there would be no air warfare in the future. It is only because Governments interfere and make a mess of things that we get war at all.
§ Mr. BROWN
The hon. Member had better wait a bit until I conclude my remarks, and then probably he will not be so ready as he is at the moment to extend the invitation. There is in this country, and elsewhere in the world, a growing consciousness of the increasing peril to civilisation through air warfare, and probably there is no one occupying a prominent position in the world today who has done more to impress that upon the public mind than the present 336 Prime Minister. I wait to call attention to some of the things which he has said regarding the menace to civilisation latent in air warfare before I deal with certain other points which I wish to make in connection with the Amendment.
The Prime Minister has given us a sort of annual warning in regard to the menace of aerial warfare, until during a recent period, since when his warnings have been much more frequent. I propose to go back to a statement he made in the House of Commons oil 10th November, 1932. The statement has been quoted more than once, but in order to make out my case about the seriousness of the air menace I want to quote as far as possible people who can speak authoritatively. If anybody can speak with all the inside information and knowledge available at the moment, there is nobody who is more likely to have that knowledge than the Prime Minister of this country. I begin with this quotation:I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through … The only defence is in offence; which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves."— [OFFICIAL 11 EPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 632, Vol. 270.]Later on in the same speech the Prime Minister said:I am firmly convinced myself … that if it were possible the air forces ought all to be abolished."—The Amendment asks for the abolition of naval and military air forces.—but if they are there would still be civil aviation, and in civil aviation there are the potential bombers.We have a remedy for that; we suggest the internationalisation of civil aviation. We make the Prime Minister an offer of that suggestion. But the Prime Minister went on:In my view it is necessary for the nations of the world concerned to devote the whole of their minds to this question of civil aviation to see … that such disarmament will he feasible … All disarmament hangs on the air."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 635, Vol. 270.]I am quoting the exact words of the Prime Minister, and if the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) finds them amusing perhaps he will suggest to his right hon. Friend that the 337 choice of language should be different. The Prime Minister has a curious knack of adapting himself very carefully to his audience. In October, 1933, he was talking to the Conservative party Conference on the question of rearmament, and his remarks on this occasion are very interesting. He knew his audience at the Conservative party Conference quite as well as he knows his audience in the House of Commons. This is what he said to the party conference:If rearmament began in Europe you may say goodbye to any restoration of cuts and to any reduction of taxation for a generation. To many nations, let us say to some nations, the expenditure that would he involved in increased armaments would bring them much nearer to financial catastrophe, it might even bankrupt some, and you may imagine from that what the effect would be on the trade of the world. I have never disguised my own view that another war in Europe would be an end of the civilisation we know.It is not possible to find graver words spoken by a more responsible person to justify our Amendment on the Order Paper. On this occasion the Prime Minister did not appeal to the pacific sentiments of the Conservative Conference but to their pockets, on the ground of the probable increase of taxation which would follow. In 1930 and 1931, when money had to be found for the unemployed as world depression increased and intensified, I heard all kinds of screeches and screams about the mounting expenditure from hon. Members when they were sitting on these benches. They say nothing about it to-day, because it is for the defence of property. If we want to do some of the things which it is in our hearts to do to relieve the community, or some sections of the community, of the burdens which press so heavily upon their shoulders, we become sadly familiar with the protests of hon. Members opposite against expenditure of that kind. The Prime Minister, one of the most responsible statesmen in the world to-day, is very conscious of the menace to civilisation latent in air warfare. There is one other quotation I must give because of the events of the last few days. On 30th July, 1934, the Prime Minister said:Let us never forget that since the day of the air old frontiers have gone. When you talk of the defence of England you no longer think of the chalk cliffs of Dover, you think of the Rhine; that is where our frontier lies.338 Can hon. Members marvel that the Germans have moved their forces into the Rhineland? Is it really a matter for surprise, after a statement like that? According to the "Manchester Guardian," on the 13th March, the reply to that statement of the Prime Minister made by General Goering was to this effect:Germany's military forces are now strong enough to ward off any invasion of Germany. There would be no more military promenades to Berlin either by road or by air, and I most solemnly declare before the world that when Adolf Hitler puts forward our armaments into the Rhineland he does not arm for aggressive purposes nor to do harm to others. Our armaments do not threaten anybody, they are only for our own protection.I have heard that song throughout all the speeches to-day in this Debate. I must refrain from further quotations from the Prime Minister's speeches because / want to address myself to what the Under-Secretary for Air has said on the matter of disarmament.
With regard to the abolition of naval and military aircraft, I want to say a few words about the general policy of the Government at the Disarmament Conference, so far as air armaments are concerned, because that is a very interesting story. As everybody knows, the French Government at the beginning of the Conference submitted a well-thought-out plan for the internationalisation of civil aviation. Those proposals were opposed by Great Britain, by Germany and by Italy, but after the election in France in May, 1932, the Radical-Socialist Government of that country put forward another scheme, on 17th February, 1933. The second scheme provided, first, for the total abolition of national air forces, and, secondly, for the internationalisation of civil aviation. Three days later, Lord Londonderry, then Secretary of State for Air, made an unexpected appearance at Geneva and told the Conference that Great Britain was in favour of abolishing national air forces on condition that means could be found to make it impossible to misuse civil aviation for military purposes.
Consequent upon that proposal, there followed a proposal for the creation of a small international air police force, about which there was a good deal of talk at that time; but on reaching that stages the Secretary of State for Air and his 339 Under-Secretary were raising every conceivable difficulty, and, as far as I have been able to discover, not making a single helpful and constructive proposal. There are very good reasons now for us to understand why that was so. In the light of more recent statements, we have good reason to believe that the Secretary of State for Air never intended the project to succeed or even to give it any considerable assistance. I will try to justify the statement I have made. Speaking in another place, the Secretary of State for Air declared:In 1932 the Disarmament Conference assembled, and almost its earliest discussions were centred around the posssibility of the total abolition of air forces or at least of the abolition of the artillery of the air, the bombing aeroplane, which is the weapon which is the distinctive arm of the Air Force and to which it owes its separate existence. Through that period, …and these are the words I would like the House to note—difficult for any Air Minister and particularly for one who, like myself, has always been convinced of the prime importance of the maintenance of an effective air arm to the security of this country, kept impressing upon my colleagues and upon the country generally the vital nature and place of the Royal Air Force in the scheme of our defences. I bad the utmost difficulty at that time. amid the public outcry, in preserving the use of the bombing aeroplane even on the frontiers of the Middle East and India. … I felt certain that when the ideals of abolition were examined practically they would be discovered to be inapplicable in the state of the world to-day. We could not put the clock back. Limitation, not abolition, was all we could really hope for.I heard an echo of that sentiment in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. The point I am trying to stress is that while all those discussions were taking place, and knowing, as they did, the feeling of public opinion on the matter, the Government never attempted in the slightest way to assist the proposals which came before the Air Commission of the Disarmament Conference.
Before coming to the right hon. Gentleman himself, I want to say a few words on the feasibility or possibility of the internationalisation of civil aviation. I agree that this is a proposition that one needs some time to expound and to explore if one is to get it across properly, but I would like to say a few 340 words about it because the right hon. Gentleman, as I will show in a moment or two, raised very considerable objections of all sorts to the mere suggestion that civil aviation should be internationalised. I will first of all put the matter in the form of a question: Is it or is it not possible to develop air transport under international ownership? I am encouraged to pursue this because of what the right hon. Gentleman said. For instance, he told the House that in the judgment of the Government it is far best in present circumstances to allow Imperial Airways to have a sort of complete monopoly. Incidentally, he told us in the course of his speech that, although there are several lines in several other countries, the marked tendency at the moment is for them all to be fused into one line.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
I do not think that alters the sense of what I am saying. I am only calling attention to the tendency which he emphatically and forcibly stressed and illustrated to-day. He went on to say that these units could perhaps become too large—in fact, that is his main contention against the proposal for the internationalisation of civil aviation. I would like to make one remark about that before continuing further. I do not think the question of machinery—and, after all it is in some degree a question of machinery—is ever insuperable, if there is the will and the desire to do a thing. Once there is that, the question of machinery is a secondary one. I agree that it may be very difficult to formulate and bring into existence, but it is very largely a secondary matter. It has been suggested that for this purpose there could be established an international directorate of aviation to begin with, which would very largely be composed of the Ministers of Transport of all the countries members of the Disarmament Conference. That would be the beginning. There would then be an international company which, the suggestion is, might be called "World Airways."
I know it may be argued that I am only passing on names and not going into the details of how this machinery could be set up; but I would have no objection to going into those details if time allowed. It is because I do not wish to take up too much time that I 341 put forward only the general idea, and will now come to the objections which have been raised to the proposals by the Under-Secretary of State for Air, who put certain points in connection with this matter. The first question he asked was whether so large and representative a body as the proposed international organisation would be capable of taking decisions without undue delay. I intend to deal with one or two of the points he made, because, after all, our Motion asks for the internationalisation of civil aviation. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will oppose it and will take his friends into the Lobby against it. Perhaps he will not devote very much attention to me in his reply, but will probably repeat some of the arguments he has already used. It is because he used those arguments that I address myself to them at the moment.
Would there be such a great need for haste as the question presupposes? What are the circumstances in which he envisages the need for great haste and rapid decision? Cannot competent men always make rapid decisions if they are really competent? Has the right hon. Gentleman been for so long a Member of a Government which is made up of people who can never reach a decision without a long lapse of time, that he feels there is no body in the world with technical knowledge, experience and competence that can be gathered together to run a concern like this and to make quick decisions? He goes on to ask whether there might not be an inevitable tendency to arrive at decisions based on a compromise between conflicting interests rather than on sound business principles. We have heard the argument about sound business principles again to-day. Are there not acute rivalries at the present time? Are there not States with which we have to negotiate in order to obtain authorisation to fly over their territories, to land there, and to establish ground organisation? If a body of real experts drawn from all countries were running this world airways, would not their mutual interests outrun, if they were to do this as a commercial success, the national rivalries that might possibly exist between them? I see no force in the second argument that the right hon. Gentleman put forward.
342 He goes on to say that we must consider the effect of putting the control of the great international air lines under an administrative monopoly rather than an international air company, with the consequent removal of the valuable stimulus of commercial competition. I suppose that the Conservative party will cling to that phraseology to the end of their political days. All the time, however, they are rapidly doing all sorts of things that are a denial of what pretends to be one of the bigger principles of their political creed. I am not so sure that there is free competition. There are only two lines in the world which do not receive subsidies. Therefore, there is not much free competition now, and. it would not need much to abolish the lot. If this competition factor is playing the part that the right hon. Gentleman would have us believe, free competition is not playing a very great part. Let us take the question to a higher level. Must we risk air warfare solely in the interest of trade? Is it not the business of trade to serve the interests of the well-being of humanity rather than to be something calculated, if it is carried on in certain ways, to result in slaughter and destruction?
Anyone who has listened to the Debate to-day must have been driven to the conclusion, partly from what the right hon. Gentleman himself said, that the development of air transport must clearly be international. Its range and speed are so great that it ought for economical working to cover much larger units than the average European State. I do not think that that can be effectively disputed, even by the right hon. Gentleman with his intimate knowledge of these matters. Few of the many things that demand to be treated from an international standpoint are more important than air transport. I appreciated to the full, as every Member did, the way in which the right hon. Gentleman handled the material he had to present to-day. I particularly admired the sentiments he expressed in the concluding passages of his speech, in which he voiced the hope that this new form of transport, instead of dividing nations from one another, would in the long run unite them.
In commending this Amendment to the House, I think that that objective could be best achieved if during this period 343 of negotiations between His Majesty's Government and other European States—although the negotiations are about the tearing up of the Locarno Treaty—His Majesty's Government could once more bring into international discussion the old question of disarmament, and primarily disarmament in the air. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the tensions and political strifes in the European system to-day are primarily due to the air menace. I am not silly enough to believe that there does not lie beneath that menace something deeper, intense feelings of nationalism and economic rivalry. We would, however, relieve those tensions and stresses if some sort of approach could be made by the Government at this moment. They would serve the highest interest of mankind if they could take any steps that would lead to the abolition of naval and military air forces and place under international control for the service of mankind this wonderful method of transport which we have seen so recently come upon the world.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. PERKINS
I rise to oppose the Amendment, but I wish to make it clear that I fully appreciate the sincere motives of the Mover and the Seconder. They are sincere pacifists. They are terrified about the effects of unrestricted warfare in the air. I am also a sincere pacifist. Perhaps I am even more sincere than they, because they, at any rate, are not of military age, whereas I am. I am a pilot and I have a good deal of experience of flying in Europe. I know full well that if there should be a war my chances of being alive after the first month or six weeks would be very small.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that I have not applied for the old age pension yet.
§ Mr. PERKINS
Perhaps my hon. Friend will come along with me as my observer. It will give me pleasure to have him sitting in the front cockpit if that unfortunate occasion should arise when we have to start fighting again. I am opposing this Amendment because I do not believe it is possible, although it probably is desirable on the whole, and I do not believe it to be practical politics at the moment to abolish our 344 Air Force and to put civil aviation under some central authority at Geneva. Let me make two observations on the first suggestion in this Amendment, which is that we should abolish all military aviation. What is military aviation? What is a military aeroplane? A military aeroplane is merely a name for an aeroplane. You can call it a military machine or a civil machine. It is simply a matter of a name. If weir this country liked to call our fighting squadrons in the Royal Air Force sports flying squadrons, no doubt the Foreign Secretary could go to Geneva, dress himself in a white sheet, and tell the world that we in England have no military air force at all. That is true, and it has actually happened in Germany during this last three years. I remember very well, only two years ago, when I was flying back along the north coast of Germany that I called in at two or three of their flying clubs, and I very soon discovered that though on paper they were flying clubs they were really military training schools.
If any hon. Member wishes any further illustration he has only to come with me in my tiny aeroplane one week-end—I extend this invitation to any hon. Member—to lunch at Frankfort. Any hon. Member who has ever been there for lunch knows that between eight and 10 Luft Hansa machines come in between half-past twelve and a quarter-past one. Hon. Members have only to put their heads under the wings of one of those machines, and they will see there a large plate, and if it were unscrewed I have a shrewd suspicion—though I have no proof of this—that inside they would find the apparatus all ready for bomb racks. An even better illustration still is found in the case of the Henkel, a German Post Office mail plane. It is a machine which was designed by the German nation to carry mails swiftly across Europe and is capable of a speed of 240 miles an hour. It is not so very long ago—only last year—that we had in this country only one squadron of single-seater fighters which were capable of catching those civil machines, of exceeding a speed of 240 miles an hour. It seems to me that it is a very simple thing for any country that wishes to abolish its Air Force on paper to do so and to staid up before the world and say "We have no air force, only a certain number of aeroplanes for sports purposes."
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I should like to ask whether the hon. Member really says that the Henkel machine is a civil machine. Is it not a bombing machine camouflaged?
§ Mr. PERKINS
I am delighted at what the hon. Member has said. It bears out what I was saying. It is utterly impossible to distinguish between a military machine disguised as a civil machine or a civil machine disguised as a military. It is only a matter of what you prefer to call it; whether it is a military machine or a civil machine the difference is merely as a scrap of paper. It would be perfectly possible for the German Government to go to Geneva and say "We have abolished our military air force and all we have are a few civil machines which we keep for the benefit of our sports clubs." Therefore, I feel that it would be unwise at this moment for us to try to abolish military aviation. On land we have a police force and at sea we have a police force, but if we abolish military aviation we shall have no police force in the air.
If we were to remove all armed machines from the air what would be the consequences It would mean, first of all, that every genuine civil machine would be a potential bomber, and, secondly, that these potential bombers would be able to drop a bigger load of bombs on any town than is now possible with the present military machines. As the House knows, Imperial Airways run two or three very large machines to Paris every day. At this moment, with military aviation in its present state, those machines would be no use whatever if it came to a war, because if they started on a bombing raid they would promptly be shot down. But if you removed military aviation and abolished the single-seater fighters, those civil machines would then come into their own. They could go across the Channel to France, Belgium or Germany and drop bombs, and there would be nothing in the world to stop them. It is vital to keep some form of military aviation to act as a brake against the finis-use of civil machines.
Next I will try to illustrate my second point, that the result of abolishing military aviation would be to increase the 346 dangers to the civil population, by increasing the potential number of bombs which might be dropped. At this moment a military bomber has to be able to defend itself, and to do so it must have on board from two to six machine guns and has to carry a very large weight of ammunition for those machine guns. If that bomber, with its machine guns, is abolished and its place is taken by a civil machine which does not have to defend itself, and therefore needs no machine guns and no ammunition, it is capable of taking much bigger loads of bombs than the present bomber, which has to reserve probably half its carrying-load for the guns and ammunition. Therefore I claim that it would be possible for countries to develop their civil aviation, unless it were controlled in some form or another, and actually to drop a bigger load of bombs on the civil population.
I believe the solution of this problem does not lie in abolishing military aviation, but in limiting military aviation within definte limits, the limits required for police purposes. I have a word to say also on the international control of civil aviation. During the last six or seven years I have watched the concerns which run flying services in various parts of the world slowly coming together. They have come together to prevent price warfare, to avoid cutting one another's throats; they are coming together to arrange time-tables in order that one service may connect with another; and they are coming together in order to allocate what little traffic is to be obtained. They are all co-operating very closely, and it seems to me that a logical step in the future, perhaps not a very distant future, will be for all these firms to be fused or to be amalgamated. I know that is not what the hon. Member who proposed this Amendment meant. He does not want one large company run by private enterprise or run by the various Governments. What he means is that all these civil air lines should be run by an international committee at Geneva or elsewhere.
That scheme may be desirable, but I do not believe that it is possible, for three reasons. Practically speaking, no civil air line in the world can exist now without a subsidy from its Government. Why do the various Governments subsidise civil aviation? They do so for war purposes. They want to have a reserve of highly 347 trained pilots and some machines which could be used in time of war. If you take civil machines away from these countries it is only logical to say that at once all the subsidies will stop, and that no country will be prepared to pay Geneva to run an air line in which they have no special interest. The effect of this would be to put a damper on all civil flying in Europe. If that is the intention of hon. Members it will be much better for them to come into the open and say so, instead of trying to disguise it under a vague scheme called internationalisation.
There are two other difficulties. The first is the administrative difficulty. How are you going to work it; who is going to operate it; who is going to pay; who is going to pilot the machines; who is going to pay for the upkeep of the aerodromes? All these are questions which I have never yet had satisfactorily answered. I remember that a few years ago the right hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) made a most interesting speech on this subject and gave a glorious illustration of international control. He told us how Tangier desired to buy a fire engine. Unfortunately, the French were very anxious to supply it, the Spanish were equally anxious, and so were the Portuguese, and there was nearly an international incident over the question. Finally they came to a happy compromise by which the French supplied the engine, the Spanish supplied the hose, and the Portuguese supplied the petrol for running it. It seems to me that the difficulties of working some such scheme are too great.
§ Mr. PERKINS
I have not the slightest idea. I am not in any way concerned with that company, but if the hon. and gallant Member inquired at the offices I have no doubt they would supply him with the information. There is a third objection, which is the most important one. This scheme has been mooted for several years at Geneva, and only one country is prepared to agree to it, that is France. The American nation has turned it down. It is fairly obvious that the Germans will not agree. There is no reason why Russia should agree, and everyone knows that the Dutch would not agree. The only countries, 348 with the exception of France, that will agree are the countries which have little or no civil aviation in their own territory. The countries which have, and which are rapidly going ahead, like ourselves, the Dutch, the Germans and the Russians, will not agree to it. Therefore it seems to me a waste of the time of the House to discuss something which is utterly impossible. The Amendment says that the object is to remove the peril to civilisation latent in air warfare. The Under-Secretary of State said that he was most anxious that we should get some foam of convention in the air. I agree with him. If we do not, and if we go on with this arms race, we shall shortly find ourselves in the bankruptcy court.
I would welcome any reasonable convention to limit the air forces of the world, particularly in the West. Now is the proper time to approach the Governments of Europe. We shall never have a better opportunity than we have at this moment. We have come out into the open and shown our hand, and we have made it perfectly plain to all the Powers in Europe that the more they build the more we are going to build, and as they know that we have the longest purse and that we can in the end outbuild them, I believe that they will now be agreeable to some form of limitation of both military and civil aeroplanes. It would be unwise to try to get a world scheme of limitation, but I believe it would be possible to get it as far as the four great Powers in Western Europe are concerned—ourselves, France, Italy and Germany. Cannot we ask the three other Powers what is the maximum number of military aircraft that they want? If they say 2,000, let us fix that as the limit, and let us all agree to build up to the highest standard fixed. Let us make no stipulation as to the type of machines, but let each country decide what it wants for its own use. We tried two years ago to get agreement on a low lever, but that failed because Germany and France had aspirations to building higher. If we can fix the highest level anyone wants I think the Powers would be agreeable to do a deal on those lines.
It is useless to limit military aircraft unless you have a definite limit for all civil aircraft. We should do the same thing with these countries, as far as civil aircraft is concerned, and if they say they want 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000, let us 349 again take the maximum and agree that we will not exceed that number. Then we would have an agreement between the four principal Powers in Europe that they would not exceed some grand total that would include all military and all civil machines. I realise there would be opportunities for cheating, and the only way to get round that would be to have some form of roving commission, an international commission that could go to any of the four countries to inspect, to look at the factories and see what was going on, a commission that would be in more or less permanent session and which would have power to revise the upper limit, so that if one country wanted more civil or military machines it would be allowed to have them, provided that all the others were allowed equal terms.
I believe the ultimate effect of such an agreement, if it could be brought into operation, would be that we would cut out any form of race in armaments. Any form of competitive building would be cut out, I hope for all time. We should have a high level for a start, and I believe that in a few years, when the countries saw how expensive this was, they would be prepared to scale down in equal proportions all round. I believe that the effect after about 10 years would be that the countries of the world would spend less on military aircraft and more on civil aircraft.
Lastly, the most important consideration of all is that this scheme has some chance of being accepted by the principal Powers of the world, whereas the scheme which has been put up from the front Opposition bench has, as everybody admits, no chance whatever of being accepted by the Powers of the world. I believe that the time has come—or the sooner it comes the better—for a convention. I believe that it will come along the lines of a definite total upper limit of all aircraft, including both civil and military.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I want to draw particular attention to a phase of this matter that has not been touched upon. There has been much talk to-night of air defence and of utilising the aeroplane for defence. The question of who or what is to be defended has not been touched upon at all. My concern and the concern of hon. Members on these benches is, and 350 always must be, the defence of the general mass of the people of this country. That defence is all-important to us, but it is not of any importance to the other side of this House. In a discussion the other day of aviation, reference was made by the Secretary of State for War to the great development of aviation in the Soviet Union, and he mentioned that, in a film, he had seen 1,200 parachutists descending at one time from a fleet of aeroplanes. He mentioned other features of aviation. The significant point is that the Soviet Union have millions of people from whom they can choose pilots or parachutists but in this country, because of the character of the defence that is contemplated, the choice for pilots is very limited. It is limited to a very small section of the community.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that we are now on the Amendment, and that his speech does not appear to be appropriate to it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This is not the occasion to deal with that subject. The Amendment deals solely with the-abolition of them.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
It deals with the abolition of the bombing air force and with the internationalising of civil aviation. If we were to internationalise civil aviation and abolish war planes and bombing planes, it would follow that we would have the widest possible opening for the development of aviation. That is the point I want to bring out. Everybody is concerned with the development of aviation, but aviation cannot be developed in present circumstances while you are determined to maintain what is called a defence air force. In the circumstances that obtain here, you make the development of aviation impossible. I think that is in order anyhow. It is very important to bring out that point. Everyone is aware that aviation in this country had a much greater and freer start than in, Russia, yet the Secretary of State for War can tell us of the wonderful exhibition of aviation in Soviet Russia and can say, "We have nothing like that here."
What is the matter? I want to assert that the character of so-called air defence is holding back the possibilities of 351 air development. In demanding the abolition of the air forces, so far as war is concerned, through international arrangements and control, we are therefore concerned with providing the opportunity for a completely new character of air development or expansion. I have referred to the fact that the Prime Minister, who has been quoted on several occasions to-night, said at a meeting in the Albert Hall that he regretted that the aeroplane had been invented. Never on any occasion has there been such an expression of hopeless political bankruptcy as that statement. The aeroplane is one of the greatest inventions. It opens the way to the conquest of new worlds. Just as with the conquest of the waves we were able to link continent with continent so, with the conquest of the stratosphere, we can link planet with planet through the development of civil aviation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Let hon. Members have no doubts about that. It is true.
You can never make real headway towards the correct utilisation of this very potent possibility of extending the whole range, life and character of mankind while you have this so-called air defence. While you have air defence, as you call it, you are limited to this very small and select few who can be utilised for war purposes. I was in Oxford a week ago last night, and there I was informed of a young man who went from the University to join the Air Force. After six months he gets an examination. He is asked certain questions about the technical operation of the aeroplane, which he answers. Then he gets a further question from the officer. The young man looks at him and the officer says: "It is all right. We know all about it." The young man had finished. He had been investigated, and it had been discovered that he had had associations with the Communists.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I am trying to show that the utilisation of aeroplanes for war purposes actually means the elimination of the sources from which the real development of aviation should proceed. That is a state of things which we should all be concerned in ending. Aeroplanes 352 can never defend the people of this country in the way that has been suggested, but they can be used for the advancement of civilisation to an unthought of degree. Why should we seek to limit the range and the power which the aeroplane can give to mankind? Why should not every man and woman in this country be encouraged to fly?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is again getting away from the Amendment, and if he cannot keep to it I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
The Amendment proposes to put an end to the utilisation of aeroplanes for war purposes. It also asks for the encouragement of civil aviation under international control, so that none of these machines can, at any time, be converted to bombing purposes, so that in no circumstances shall aeroplanes be used for the slaughter of the people. I am trying to deal with a very important aspect of that question. I say that, if you remove this limitation from the development of aviation, enormous progress can be made, not only in the manoeuvring of the machines but in extending the range and possibilities of aircraft. I consider that my argument is sound and legitimate. I am trying to show to hon. Members opposite the vital importance to civilisation of getting away from these crude ideas of utilising the aeroplane for defending property interests, at the expense of the advance of civilisation. If it were not for the propery interests there would be no selection of pilots on the lines which I have indicated. There would be no investigation into their political associations.
I make an earnest appeal to hon. Members opposite and to the Minister to support this proposition in favour of ending completely the use of bombing aerplanes and ending completely the use of aeroplanes for purposes of defence when that defence is limited to the protection of property. I ask them to support the proposition that we should devote our knowledge and experience to building up civil aviation, in such a way as to throw open to all men and women and especially the young; men and women, opportunities for study and experiment in aviation such as exist in the Soviet Union. If they will make a declaration, before all the other countries in Europe, 353 that they are prepared to abolish air warfare in order to open the way for the advance of civil aviation—the full range of which we cannot possibly foresee at the moment—they will be doing a real service to the cause of human progress. If they do not take that view, however, if they are determined to utilise this great power, not for the advance of civilisation but for raining down death from the skies, then I tell them that they are marching towards their own destruction and the destroyers will not come from countries over the seas. Their destroyers are here in this country, and will get leadership, when the day comes that will ensure the end of this murder from the skies.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I support the Amendment and I join in the appeal which has been made to the House by the Mover. He said that if things were allowed to go on as at present we might look forward to civilisation being annihilated, and it is not difficult to visualise that possibility when one considers the aerial forces which are at the disposal of the nations to-day. Anyone who has taken part in warfare can realise the feeling of dread which enters one's mind when an aeroplane passes over in war. Even to-day, when one is passing through London, and sees an aeroplane flying overhead, one cannot help feeling how defenceless we are against aeroplanes dropping bombs. This Amendment seeks to draw the attention of the House to the ideal state of things which we are trying to reach. I realise that, at the moment, what we ask for seems to be an impossibility but that should not prevent us putting forward our views and trying to make those ideals permeate the minds of Members in all parts of the House, in the hope that something may be done on the lines suggested.
A lead has to be given from some quarter. Each nation declares that it does not want to fight and each nation claims that it does not want air forces coming over its territory. This Amendment asks for the abolition of what is called the fighting aeroplane and for the placing of civil aviation under international control. One hon. Member said that it was an impossibility, but is anything of this kind impossible in this world, if we have the mind and the will to tackle the question? If we want 354 collective security, we must be prepared to trust our neighbours. If we have not that trust in our minds, it is useless to talk about collective security. If we distrust every other nation, if we think that they cannot play fair with us, it means going back on all our ideals and equipping ourselves with all the fighting forces and weapons possible and simply taking our chance.
Any idea of collective security must proceed on the lines suggested in the Amendment. First of all we must seek to abolish aerial warfare, and I think it can be done. I believe that, if there is good will prevailing, that kind of thing can happen. I believe that, if we were to appeal to other nations and to put before them some scheme on these lines, they would readily agree to it. If I was proceeding on these lines, I should have an international police force for the air, and when all the other nations had been secured in their minds, I think we could readily get them to agree to do away with aerial warfare and to have control over civil aviation. If we had arrived at the point of getting the confidence of the other nations, I could see the thing coming to maturity. All that is required is confidence among the nations of the world.
I can see that the Government cannot accept this Amendment to-night, in view of the state of Europe, but we on these benches must take every opportunity on occasions like this to bring before the House of Commons how we feel on these matters, and if we do, and they see our sincerity and our belief in this idea, we may prevail on the other Members to see our point of view. If to-night we may not get much success, in a few years to come, like many other things that have come to pass, it will be mentioned that a few years ago this proposal was lost when it came from the Labour benches, because the state of the world was such that it could not then be accepted. It is with these views in my mind that I commend this Amendment to the House.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I think the whole House must have been impressed by the sincerity of the speeches to which we have listened from the other side. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who has just sat down, said that he felt in his heart that it was not possible to get 355 what he is asking for to-night, but he hoped that in the days to come the principle of the scheme which was advocated would have so permeated the minds and hearts of the people of the world that it might be possible. Optimism is one of the most pleasing traits. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment must admit that if there was any known way of abolishing aerial warfare to-day, there is not a single Member in this House, of whatever party, who would not gladly and immediately take it. The whole country and the whole House, I am sure, are united in the desire to abolish aerial warfare, and what is true of this country and this House is, I am sure, also true of the vast masses of the populations of all civilised countries. They all realise, without any necessity for exaggeration or panic-mongering, that aerial warfare is a ghastly thing.
The hon. Member who moved the Amendment may well feel that if the mind of mankind is so largely at one on this subject, we must be ready to move in this direction, but unfortunately it seems to me that if there is one thing which is as certain as that civilised people all over the world abhor the idea of aerial warfare, it is that every nation is at a loss as to the possible method that might be used to abolish it. To-night the House is being asked to vote large sums of money to the Air Force to enable it to be expanded in such a way that it may be a guarantee that this country will not lightly be subjected to the horrors of aerial warfare, and I feel that in that policy the country is behind the Government. The general feeling is clear that risks have been borne long enough, if not too long, and that the deficiences in our defences must be repaired at once.
That unanimity of opinion, accompanied as it is by prompt and decisive action on the part of the Government to repair the deficiencies in our defences in the air and other arms, is, I think, a notable thing and it cannot be without its effect upon any country which would under any conceivable circumstances contemplate attacking us. The spectacle of a united Great Britain solidly behind a Government recently returned to office by a substantial majority devoting its first energies and the resources of its newly recovered prosperity to making this country 356 and the Empire safe from aggression must have a daunting influence upon any possible peace-breaker. I therefore think it would be unfortunate if anything were to be said to-night that might lead those who do not know our ways to doubt our unanimity on the subject of defence.
If this Amendment had been moved to-night to draw the attention of the House to the need of reducing the chances of aerial warfare, I should have had no quarrel with it. That is in fact what I feel we shall be doing if we pass these Estimates. The line of argument that has been taken to-night is one with which we are already familiar. We have discussed it often before in this House. It seems to me that a strong British Air Force, equal to that of any foreign Power, is the best method at the present moment for preventing the occurrence of aerial warfare. So far as this Amendment expresses a desire that some way may lie found to make aerial warfare impossible, it is indeed like knocking at an open door, but if it is to be construed as a criticism of our expansion scheme or a recommendation to this House and the country to disarm, it is not knocking at an open door, but it is rather flogging a dead horse.
The Mover of this Amendment was certainly logical. He coupled with the need for the abolition of aerial warfare the international control of civil aviation, but the abolition of aerial warfare presumably carries with it the abolition of military air forces, and that is where I join issue, because it seems to me that he is asking us to do something to-night which he must know is impossible at present, international conditions and national feelings being what they are to-day. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) developed so well this argument that it is common ground that the abolition of military air forces would be wholly useless as a means of abolishing aerial warfare unless at the same time civil aviation were either abolished or very rigidly controlled. In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king, and therefore if you were to abolish all military air forces, the nation with the strongest and most powerful civilian air fleet would become master of the air. Can this country contemplate with equanimity, or at all, the placing of British 357 and Dominion civil aircraft under the control of any international body?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Well, if there is anybody who thinks so, I do not believe that he has the country with him. I think that, from the point of view of the Empire at the present moment, it would be the greatest possible mistake.
There was developed also to-night the point that competition between nations for the air communications of the world is getting stronger every year, and I think one can see an example of that in these Estimates, where further provision is taken for the development of Empire air routes and also for the inauguration of a trans-Atlantic service. It is a clear recognition of the vital importance that air communications are going to have in the world of to-morrow. I do not think that to any nation or any aggregation of nations air communications are so vitally important as they are to the British Empire. They provide the greatest hope, which is based on practical considerations, of the Empire remaining together as a commonwealth of nations, united in national ideals, understanding, temperament and community of political and economic interest. I still believe that there cannot be two people in this House who would be willing to hand over the control of this vital link to any international body however constituted or however hedged around with limitations. I would like to see this Amendment withdrawn, not because I question the complete sincerity of the Mover or of those who support it, but because I think that although they are anxious to advance the cause of peace they are not really doing it by those means. I think they are really endangering it. If they think the League of Nations is a fit body to take over control of civil aviation, so that military air forces may be abolished, they are asking of the League more than it can do in the present condition of international relations.
§ As a matter of fact I think the fate of this Amendment is a comparatively minor matter, for whatever the result is it will not deflect any nation from the course they have laid out for themselves in the arrangements for their civil aviation services or their air defence. But we must look back and see that successive British Governments have done everything they can to persuade other countries to disarm. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did Lord Londonderry do that?"] The disarmament to which we subjected ourselves for many years was to give an example to other nations, but they never followed it. We embark to-night on another method of maintaining the world peace, and that is to show the world that Great Britain has the power and the will to make aggression unprofitable.
§ If the hon. Member who moved the Amendment or any of his friends want to have a clear indication that Great Britain has neither abandoned the hope nor the cause of peace, if they want to have some assurance that the idea of aerial warfare is not upheld, they will find it in a score of speeches made by Members of all parties in this House. We are carrying out to-night another task, which is to fulfil an obligation clearly laid on us at the last Election, and which has bean emphasised a hundred times and in a hundred ways since, and that is of so organising and strengthening our defences that the wealth of the British Empire shall not be a temptation to any aggressor, and that this country will not fail in the discharge, in co-operation with other members, of her duties as a member of the League, and I hope it is in that sense that the House will speak with the same united voice that has for many months past been ringing clear and loud throughout the country.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 216; Noes, 121.361
|Division No. 103.]||AYES.||[10.10 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bower, Comdr. R. T.|
|Albery, I. J.||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Boyce, H. Leslie|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Braithwaite, Major A. N.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. sir W. J. (Armagh)||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Bernays, R. H.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)|
|Apsley, Lord||Bird, Sir R. B.||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Blindell, Sir J.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bossom, A. C.||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Burgin, Dr. E. L.|
|Butt, Sir A.||Gunston, Capt. D. w.||Peat, C. U|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Guy, J. C. M.||Penny, Sir G|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Cary, R. A.||Harbord, A.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Harvey, G.||Petherick. M.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Channon, H.||Hepworth, J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Radford, E. A.|
|Christie, J. A.||Holmes, J. S.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Hore-Bellsha, Rt. Hon. L.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Hunter, T.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'burgh, W.)||Joel, D. J, B.||Reimer, J. R.|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rowlands, G.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Kimball, L.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Salt, E. W.|
|Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Latham, Sir P.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Leckle, J. A.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Lees-Jones, J.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Liddall, W. s.||Scott, Lord William|
|Donner, P. W.||Lindsay, K. M.||Selley, H R.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Drewe, C.||Lloyd, G. W.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forlar)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Slmmonds. O. E.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Lyons, A. M.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Eekersley, P. T.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Edge, Sir W.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Spender-Clay Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Elliston, G. S.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Spens, W. P.|
|Emery, J. F.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Erskine Hill, A. G.||McKie, J. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Evans, D. D. (Cardigan)||Maclay, Hon. J. p.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Everard, w. L.||Magnay, T.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Fremantle, sir F. E.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Furness, S. N.||Markham, S. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Gledhill, G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Granville, E. L.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)||Wells, S. R.|
|Gridley, sir A. B.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Munro, P.||Williams. H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Nall, Sir J.||Windsor-Clive, Lleut.-Colonel G.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Owen, Major G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Guinness. T. L. E. B.||Patrick, C. M.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Ward and Lieut.-Colonel Llewellin.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Compton, J.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Cove, W. G.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Daggar, G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Dalton, H.||Groves, T. E.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Day, H.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dobbie, W.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Hardie, G. D.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Ede, J. C.||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Barr, J.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Batey, J.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Bellenger, F.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Benson, G.||Foot, D. M.||Hicks, E. G.|
|Broad, F. A.||Gallacher, W.||Holdsworth, H.|
|Brooke, W.||Gardner, B. W.||Holland, A.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Garro-Jones, G. M.||Hollins, A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Gibbins, J.||Hopkin, D.|
|Burke, W. A.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Jagger, J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||John, W.|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Muff, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees. (K'ly)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Oliver. G. H.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Paling, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Klrby, B. V.||Parker, H. J. H.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Lathan, G.||Pethlck-Lawrence, F. W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Leach, W.||Potts, J.||Thome, W.|
|Lee, F.||Pritt, D. N.||Thurtle, E.|
|Leslie. J. R.||Ouibell, J. D.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Logan, D. G.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Unlv's.)||Viant, S. p.|
|Macdonafd. G. (Ince)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Walkden. A. G.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Rlley, B.||Walker. J.|
|McGhse, H. G.||Ritson, J.||Watklns, F. C.|
|Maclean, N.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Watson, W. McL.|
|MacNelll, Weir, L.||Rothschild, J. A. de||Welsh, J. C.|
|Mander. G. le M.||Rowson, G.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Marklow, E.||Sexton, T. M.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Marshall, F.||Shlnwell, E.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercllfte)|
|Maxton, J.||Short, A.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Mliner, Majo J.||Silverman, S. S.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Montague, F.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Morrison. Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhlthe)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, E. (Stoke)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
§ Question put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."362
§ The House divided: Ayes, 230; Noes, 112.363
|Division No. 104.]||AYES.||[10.20 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hcpe, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Albery, I. J.||Davles, C. (Montgomery)||Hore-Bellsha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||De Chair, S. S.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. sir W. J. (Armagh)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hunter, T.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. ot Ldn.)||Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Dodd, J. S.||Insklp, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Apsley, Lord||Donner, P. W.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Dorman Smith, Major R. H.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Baldwin. Rt. Hon. Stanley||Drewe, C.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop!||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Dugdala, Major T. L.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Unlvs.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Keyes, Admiral of the Flaet Sir R.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Eckcrsley, P. T.||Klmball, L.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Edge, Sir W.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Blrchall. Sir J. D.||Elliston, G. S.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Emery, J. F.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Bllndell, Sir J.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ersklne Hill, A. G.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Llddall. W. S.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Everard, W. L.||Lindsay. K. M.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Flldes, Sir H.||Little, Sir E. Graham-|
|Bralthwalte. Major A. N.||Foot, D. M.||Liowellin. Lleut.-Col. J. J.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Brfscoe. Capt. R. G.||Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Brockiebank, C. E. R.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lumley. Capt. L. R.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Furness, S. N.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mac Andrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||M'Conncll, Sir J.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Gllmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Burgln, Dr. E. L.||Gledhlll, G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Butt, Sir A.||Goldle, N. B.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Graham Captain A. C. (Wtrral)||McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||MrKle. J. H.|
|Carver. Major W. H.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Cary, R. A.||Grldley, Sir A. B.||Magnay, T.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maklns, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Grlmston, R. V.||Mander, G. le M.|
|Channon, H.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Mannlngham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Margesson. Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Christie, J. A.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Markham, S. F.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P.||Guy, J. C. M.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col D. J.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Mills. Major J D. (New Forest)|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.)||Hanbury, Sir C.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'burgh.W.)||Harbord, A.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.|
|Courtauld. Major J. S.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Unlv's.)|
|Craddock. Sir R. H.||Harvey, G.||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Mulrhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Croft, Brln.-Gcn. Sir H. Page||Hepworth, J.||Munro, P.|
|Crookshank. Capt. H. F. C.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Rlpon)||Nail, Sir J.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Holdsworth, H.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Crossley, A. C.||Holmes, J. S.||Orr-Ewlng, I. L.|
|Owan, Major G.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Patrick, C. M.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbrldge)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Peal, C. U.||Rothschild, J. A. de||Stuart, Hon. J (Moray and Nairn)|
|Panny, Sir G.||Rowlands, G.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||Salmon, Sir I.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Salt, E. W.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Petherlck, M.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Tutnell, Lieut. Com. R. L.|
|Plckthorn, K. W. M.||Sandys, E. D.||Turton, R. H|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Wakefleld, W. W.|
|Radford, E. A.||Scott, Lord William||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Ralkes, H. V. A. M.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Selley, H. R.||Warrender, Sir V|
|Rankin, R.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Rathbone, Eleanor (English Unlv's.)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forlar)||Wayland, Sir w. A.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmln)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Wells, S. R.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Simmonds, D. E.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Williams. H. G. (Crovdon. S.)|
|Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Wlndsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Womersley, Sir w. J.|
|Reiner, J. R.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Rlckards, G. W. (Sklpton)||Spender-Clay Lt.-CI. Rt. Hn. H. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Spens, W. P.||Lieut-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Ward and Major George Davies.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Groves, T. E.||Parker, H. J. H.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H (Aberdare)||Pethlck-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hail, J. H. (Whltechapel)||Potts, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hardle, G. D.||Prllt. D. N.|
|Anderson. F. (Whltehaven)||Henderson, A. (Klngswlnford)||Qulbell, J. D.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwlck)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Banfield, I. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hicks, E. G.||Rltson, J.|
|Barr, I.||Holland, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||Holllns, A.||Rowson, G.|
|Bellenger, F.||Hopkln, D.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Benson, G.||Jagger, J.||Shlnwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Short, A.|
|Brooke, W.||John, W.||Sllverman, S. S.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lathan, G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Compton, J.||Leach, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, R. J. (Morptth)|
|Dalton, H.||Logan, D. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobble, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGhee, H. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacNelll, Weir, L.||Watklns, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marklew, E.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. B. T. H.||Marshall, F.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gallacher, W.||Maxton, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mliner, Major J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Glbblns, J.||Montague, F.||Wilson. C. H. (Attercllfte)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Windsor, W. (Hull. C.)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Muff, G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Palinj, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whitiley and Mr. Mathers.|
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]