HC Deb 26 April 1938 vol 335 cc18-21
37. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the Government will consider requesting the Canadian Government to build large aeroplane factories in Windsor, Ontario, with a view to ensuring a practical supply of aircraft for this country in the event of emergency; and whether the Government will be prepared to consider lending to the Canadian Government the money for the erection of these factories at a nominal rate of interest?

Earl Winterton

The question of the possibilities of the supply of aircraft from Canada will be considered in all its aspects in connection with the inquiries which are being undertaken by the party of experts which left for America last week.

Mr. De la Bère

Is the Noble Lord aware that the setting up of factories in Canada would be a valuable addition to the defensive strength of this country, and that they would not be so vulnerable as factories in this country?

Earl Winterton

A rather more comprehensive question on the whole subject is being asked by private notice to-day, and I propose to make a full reply.

Mr. Montague (by Private Notice)

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether orders for military aeroplanes are to be placed with firms in Canada or the United States of America or whether any steps have been taken with that object in view, and, if so, can he state the numbers it is proposed to obtain from either or both of these countries?

Earl Winterton

The party of experts who are now visiting the United States of America and Canada are concerned solely with exploratory inquiries. The party will investigate whether types of aircraft, which might be suitable for certain Royal Air Force purposes, are available for early delivery. They will also examine the capacity and potentialities for the production of aircraft in Canada. The investigations to be conducted by this mission are part of the review referred to by the Prime Minister in his speech on L.4th March, and are supplementary to arrangements for production in this country. As soon as the Government decided that circumstances had made it necessary to accelerate and extend the programme for air expansion, a comprehensive review was made of the maximum production that would be possible in this country with additional labour by all the firms capable of producing types of aircraft suitable for use in the Royal Air Force. Acceleration and the further expansion imply two requirements: firstly, an increased output of appropriate types now in production; and, secondly, the introduction at the earliest possible date of the latest improved types which are on order. It is the intention and the determination of the Government that all British firms suitable for the production of aircraft to the requirements of the expanded programme, shall be in a position to give the maximum output possible during the next two years. The bulk of the orders for production on a large scale have been placed, and the further orders necessary to secure the maximum accelerated output will be given without delay. I should add that the scale on which factories have been planned and orders have been given make it possible to secure a greatly increased production if additional labour is available.

Mr. Bellenger

Does this statement indicate a considerable extension of the plans laid before this House in respect of the Air Force, and, if so, do His Majesty's Government propose to lay any further information before the House as to what their programme for the future consists of?

Earl Winterton

Yes, Sir, I have already made it clear that this is in pursuance of the statement made by the Prime Minister as to the acceleration and expansion of the programme.

Mr. Montague

Does the reply of the Noble Lord mean that, in the opinion of the Government, the difficulties with regard to labour and skill and materials can be overcome by America, Canada and Germany, but that in this country the difficulties are insuperable?

Earl Winterton

No, Sir; I do not think my reply indicates anything of the sort.

Mr. David Grenfell

Has it been necessary for any communication with the United States Government to take place in regard to this matter; and has this been done with the consent of the Government of the United States?

Earl Winterton

I should prefer a specific question to be put on the subject of communication. I think that this announcement and the previous announcement mentioned in the Press make the position clear.

Mr. Boothby

When my Noble Friend refers to factories capable of constructing aircraft, does he mean existing aircraft factories, or does it include factories which could be converted?

Earl Winterton

It includes all factories capable of producing aircraft.

Captain Harold Balfour

Is Scheme F, on which we have been working hitherto, for 1,750 aircraft by March, 1939, now superseded by the new expanded Scheme G; and when can we know what is the objective, in first-line aircraft and reserves, of the new Scheme G, and how long that scheme is planned to take?

Earl Winterton

I do not think I could, in answer to a supplementary question, make a statement on that point; obviously there will have to be a Debate.

Mr. Attlee

In view of the light that the Noble Lord's statement throws on the programme of aircraft construction, I should like to give notice that I shall take an early opportunity of raising, on the appropriate Estimates, the whole question of aircraft production.