HC Deb 29 October 1936 vol 316 cc31-3

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he has any statement to make on the public controversy which has arisen regarding the Government's Air programme?


I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the opportunity of making a statement on this matter. The White Paper which has been issued sets out very fully the facts both as to the policy of His Majesty's Government and also as to the discussions which have taken place with Lord Nuffield and his representatives. It will be seen from the White Paper that His Majesty's Government have decided to adopt a policy with which Lord Nuffield is unfortunately riot in agreement and I regret very much that that should be the case. His Majesty's Government have, however, made their decision upon the considered advice of the experienced firms which are undertaking the work of constructing the engines that are required, and we believe it will prove successful. I have nothing to add to the White Paper except that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air regrets sincerely that Lord Nuffield should feel he treated him with any lack of consideration. He was greatly pressed at the time Lord Nuffield asked to see him, and he hopes Lord Nuffield will believe that the last thing in the world he intended was to be discourteous. My Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air has Lord Nuffield's authority for saying that while he cannot agree with some of the opinions expressed, he accepts the White Paper as a fair statement of the Government's point of view and of what has passed between himself and the Air Ministry and that he does not propose to make any further statement on the subject of his part in the discussions. Although he is not able to co-operate in the air engine plan, he holds himself ready to place his services at the disposal of the Government for other important work.


May I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the disquiet which is fairly widespread in the country with regard to the provision of aircraft and the Government's plans, there will be an opportunity for this House to discuss the matter early in the next Session?


I think such a discussion is desirable, and although I cannot yet say what may happen in the next Session, I will certainly undertake that the matter shall be brought before the House and that opportunity will be provided as desired.


I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether the Nuffield incident is not almost entirely due to the conduct of the Under-Secretary, in conjunction with the Minister for Defence, in appointing a firm controlling 18 firms with securities guaranteed by a certain insurance firm; and whether it is not a fact that the appointment made skilled engineers with experience in these works withdraw from the scheme, rather than be dictated to by those who had no knowledge of the subject in which they were asked to work?


Perhaps the hon. Member will raise that point in debate?


I have already raised this matter by question and answer before, and now that the question is raised it ought to be faced in some way by Members of the Government.


May I be permitted to ask the Under-Secretary of State what official position, if any, Lord Weir occupies at the Air Ministry, and what are the terms of his appointment?


Perhaps the hon. Member will put that question on the Paper.


This does not arise on the question which was originally asked.