Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an additional number of Air Forces, not exceeding 13,000 all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at home and abroad, exclusive of those serving in India, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, beyond the number already provided in the Air Estimates for the year.
§ 11.24 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I desire to say a few words on this Supplementary Estimate.
§ No doubt the Committee will appreciate that the main purpose of it is to provide for expenditure which it will be necessary to bear during the current financial year for the expansion of the Royal Air Force which was announced in Parliament on, I think, 12th May. The gross provision which I am asking for to-night is some £22,910,000 but all except £1,000 is to be met by way of loan under the Defence Loans Act, thus increasing the amount that has to be borrowed for Air Defence in the year from——
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are on Vote A, dealing with the additional number of Royal Air Force.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course
|Vote||—||Sums not exceeding|
|Supply Grants.||Appropriations in Aid.|
|1||Pay, etc., of the Royal Air Force||892,000||—|
|2||Quartering, non-technical Stores, Supplies and Transportation.||1,346,000||—|
|3||Technical and Warlike Stores (including Experimental and Research Services).||Cr.||3,139,000||14,660,000|
|4||Works, Buildings, and Lands||—||8,240,000|
|6||Technical Training and Educational Services||130,000||—|
|7||Reserve and Auxiliary Forces||432,000||—|
|9||Meteorological and Miscellaneous Effective Services.||166,000||—|
|Total, Air (Supplementary), 1938 £||1,000||22,900,000|
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am sorry that I was going a little too fast. I was endeavouring to explain that all except £1,000 of the sum provided for in this Estimate is to be met by way of loan under the Defence Loans Act, thus increasing the amount borrowed for air defence in the year from £30,000,000 to £52,900,000, and the total of proposed expenditure this year, including money to be received from the loan, is thus no less than £126,401,000.
The additional personnel necessitates an increase in the authorised maximum number, and provision is made by this Supplementary Estimate for increasing the maximum to 96,000, the additional requirement for the period under review being some 13,000 men. I may say, also, that the strength of the Royal Air Force Reserve is to be increased from 31,000 to 50,000, and the strength of the Auxiliary Air Force from 9,500 to 11,500. In all, this will mean an increase of some £430,000 under this provision.
So far as pay and allowances are concerned, hon. Members will see that there is an item in Vote 1 of £892,000. About half of this is due to the increase in personnel, and another portion is due to increases in rates of pay in the lower ranks. I would also draw the attention of the
§ of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for expenditure not provided for in the Air Estimates for the year."
§ Committee to another requirement in connection with this Estimate, namely, the necessary provision, of which I believe the Committee will approve, for the new scheme for family allowances for married airmen. The Committee may remember that formerly all married airmen over the age of 26 received a marriage allowance of 7s. to 10s. a week, with extra allowances for children, and a limited number were placed on the married establishment, which meant that they were provided with furnished quarters at a small rent, or an allowance in lieu thereof. Under the provision for which I am seeking authority to-night, all married airmen over the age of 26 will receive in effect the benefits of the married establishment, and, if they are not provided with quarters, they will receive a family allowance of 17s. a week, with additions for children. I am glad to say that under this provision, which I hope the Committee will accept, some 3,000 airmen will benefit from the change.
§ Another £200,000 is for the pay of the additional civilians whom we shall require, on account of the expansion scheme, for employment in depots and stations, as clerks and storemen, and for employment in the various trades. Another considerable provision for which we are asking is £1,346,000, which will be required further on account of the expansion, for general 2355 stores, clothing provisions and transportation, due, of course, to the increased number of men coming in who require all these varied necessities, and also for reserves of stores for war purposes. I must point out that the decrease of £160,000 in accommodation allowances is due to these allowances being absorbed in the new family allowance, and the decrease, which is estimated at £23,000, in fuel and light is due to the same cause.
§ Another matter to which I would call attention is the Vote for technical and warlike stores. It is true that at a first glance this Estimate would appear to show a decrease of over £3,000,000, but that is simply due to the fact that the sum to be appropriated from the Defence Loan in aid of the Vote is greater than the supplementary amount required under the "charge" or "debit" sub-heads of the same Vote, and if hon. Members look at the sub-heads they will see there the real measure of the increased expenses for which we require provision to-night.
§ That amounts to £11,500,000. This, again, of course, is required to meet the liabilities expected to accrue within the financial year in respect of the increased programme. The bulk of this money is required for aircraft and balloons, and the £9,000,000 mentioned for this purpose is the biggest single item I am presenting tonight.
§ Sir K. Wood
Those are included. The remaining £2,500,000 is for equipment of other kinds, such as bombs and reserves of petrol. I would also like to refer to Vote 4. In order to aid in the acceleration of our programmme and to provide for what all hon. Members will agree is very necessary, an adequate war potential, approval has been given to the erection of certain new factories and the extension of certain existing works; for instance, the new factory to be erected by Lord Nuffield at Castle Bromwich, the shadow factory to be erected at Crewe for the manufacture of Rolls-Royce engines, and the new shadow factory for the provision of carburettors by the Standard Motor Company. In Vote 4—Works, Buildings and Land—the total additional gross provision is £8,240,000, and the whole of this is being met from the Defence Loan. 2356 Besides the £3,500,000 to which I have just referred, nearly £2,000,000 is provided for the acceleration or enlargement of buildings included in the original Estimate for this year, and another, a little over £2,000,000 for new operational stations and schools, both at home and abroad.
I would call attention to Vote 7. It is true that there is a decrease of £10,000 in Vote 7E, which is, "grants to County Associations." The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, no doubt, will appreciate that that arises from the transfer to Vote 2 of the liability for travelling expenses of the Auxiliary personnel because the associations have been relieved, as he is no doubt aware, of the responsibility for the administration of this item of expenditure. I am also making provision here for a scheme which we have in contemplation, and which I hope to announce shortly, for a reserve of civilian wireless operators, which, I suggest, is very necessary. I hope to be able to announce particulars of this at an early date.
As far as Civilian Aviation is concerned, the Committee will see that increased provision is made for subsidies to cover agreements relating to internal air routes and extended European services, and, in accordance with the provisions of the Air Navigation Act, 1936, we shall in due course present the exact proposals to Parliament.
Finally, I would indicate to the Committee—and again I hope to be able to make an early announcement on a matter for which, I believe, I shall have the support of the whole Committee—that an Estimate has been made for increased grants to the light aeroplane clubs of the country. That new scheme, which, I believe, will have considerable and far-reaching effects, is at this moment under discussion with the clubs in question, and I hope that in a few days I shall be able to make an announcement.
I trust that the Committee will not think that I have trespassed too long on their time in explaining a matter of some importance, and I hope that the provision which is being made to-night will receive acceptance in all quarters of the Committee, as it is an increase, which, I believe, is vitally necessary so far as our Defences and Air Forces are concerned.
§ 11.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
The Supplementary Estimate which the Committee is considering at the moment is in the nature of a token Vote. The £1,000 which is mentioned is left out of the Appropriations-in-Aid in order that we might discuss the whole question this evening. The Debate is of an automatic character, because it is the question of a Supplementary Estimate which implements the expansion programme. No section of the Committee expects a very long or exhaustive discussion upon the issues that are actually raised in the statement of the Minister and in the Motion before the Committee. Nevertheless, there are one or two questions that must be asked. The Under-Secretary will be asked, when he replies, to give the Committee assurances upon one or two points. There is, naturally, satisfaction in the increase in the marriage allowance and in the improved conditions and status of pilots and airmen in the Royal Air Force.
I want to ask a question in connection with the Explanatory Memorandum. It says that the money is required to accelerate deliveries under existing orders. I cannot understand that phrase. Is there any reason why the rate of acceleration should not have been considered when the original estimates were before the House. What has happened? In what way is it possible for an extra Vote to accelerate deliveries under existing orders? I think we should be told in what way deliveries are behindhand and to what extent the Government are responsible, since they admit responsibility in their demand for a larger amount of money. We are told that the capacity of aircraft equipment is being considerably increased. We have had a reference to Lord Nuffield but we have had no details of the number of aeroplanes being ordered from Lord Nuffield's establishments, although the figure of 1,000 has been mentioned in connection with one factory.
I want to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to one rather remarkable fact. The Secretary of State has referred to an extension of productive facilities for aircraft and equipment, and mentioned Birmingham, Coventry, Crewe and Bristol. Why is the Birmingham influence so great upon the present Government? It reminds me of the old saying "We are seven." If one looks at the Government 2358 Front Bench you find that Birmingham and district has a great deal to do with the Royal Air Force as well as with the Government in its general administration. But there is a much more important point. If you are going to concentrate upon the Midlands you are raising a number of technical and industrial difficulties. There is nothing to speak of, in the way of productive enterprise in military aircraft, in South Wales or in Scotland, everything seems to be centred around the Midlands, if we include Bristol in the Midlands. That is dangerous from the point of view of air attack. It also raises a question of the skilled labour available. The skilled labour for the production of aircraft has been used up in the Midlands more than in any other part of the country, and if you take the long view it will be more difficult to get skilled labour in the Midlands and also other types of labour required than in any other part of the country. This means that, if the skilled labour is actually available anywhere in sufficient quantity, there will have to be a large-scale arrangement for transference, which, of course, will involve the breaking up of homes and all the difficulties which transference usually involves in regard to the families of those who are transferred. It will also raise the question of housing facilities, and particularly the problem of what will be done with the transferred men—and also their families if they are transferred—after this boom in aircraft expenditure is finished.
I ask whether the Minister and the Government have considered the question of skilled labour. In the Debate on the Scottish Estimates there was a discussion of the question of building. I notice that in the Explanatory Memorandum there is a reference to provision for increased facilities for buildings, for production, maintenance, equipment and all that is required for the expansion programme. What will be the effect of this on the building industry as a whole? We have heard what the problem of housing is in Scotland, and although it is not so great in England and Wales as it is in Scotland, it is big enough everywhere. I think we ought to be told whether the Government have taken into consideration the question of dealing with the supply of building labour and other operational labour that is requisite for the expansion programme.
2359 Reference has been made to the question of dilution. That is a matter for the trade unions and the Government to consider, but if there is any consideration of that matter, it must be remembered that when, just after the War, a proposal with regard to dilution was accepted by the building unions, based upon a programme of 15 years' development, the unions were; let down when the 15 years' programme was abandoned. Half-trained labour was then thrown on to the market, and brought down standards in general. We do not want that sort of thing to happen again, and I think the Minister ought to present some proposals which would take account of the long-term issues that are raised in this case. In regard to the increase in the maximum personnel, the question of maintenance was raised in the House some time ago. There are no maintenance units of any consequence, and complaint was made that the men who were doing the technical flying work of the Royal Air Force also had to do the ground work. I do not wish to enlarge on that matter, but I think that the Minister has now had time enough to consider it, and that he ought to be able to give the answer which was not given on the previous occasion, when we were promised that the question would be considered.
With regard to Vote 8, we are told that full details will be given in due course in regard to the internal air routes and the European services in accordance with the provisions of the Air Navigation Act, 1936. I cannot help feeling that in all aircraft matters it takes a great amount of time for anything to be done. The Air Navigation Act was passed in 1936, the Maybury Committee reported quite a long time ago, but we do not seem to have got very much further in regard to the proposals concerning internal and European air services. Just by way of illustration I would recall that I asked a question of the Under-Secretary to-day, and that he gave me a reply, in regard to the trans-Atlantic air services and the experimental flights which are beginning tonight. In answer to a Supplementary Question he said he hoped and believed that we should have a full service, or at least a service, in actual working order in 1939. This matter has been considered, plans have been put forward, and work has been done for years, and yet we have 2360 to wait, as we did in regard to the military side of the question. I know that the making of aeroplanes and equipment is not ordinary production, because it involves questions of public safety to a degree that does not apply to other industries, but one would think it possible to expedite production without all this wait. It cannot be all taken up in experimental flights or to be accounted for by difficulties of climate and weather.
One last question I have to ask. We are told that the additional charges will be met almost entirely from savings which are expected to arise in connection with civil aviation services. We are not given details of the savings, and it seems a surprising statement. In what way are sufficient savings made in connection with civil aviation services to provide the extensive sum that is represented by these Estimates? I do not want to take the time of the Committee any longer, in the circumstances, but when the Under-Secretary of State replies I hope he will give a little more information on one or two points. We shall reserve our analysis of the Government's programme and their work to an occasion when we can debate them more thoroughly than on this Vote.
§ 11.53 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
As the Minister has explained, this very exceptional Supplementary Estimate—one of the biggest that has ever been submitted in this House—is in keeping with the big scheme which was expounded to us 12 months ago. We have never really debated this matter. There are many questions which one would like to ask about it. I do not propose to make a long speech or to go into the full details, but the Committee ought to realise what a very big thing we are doing. This £22,000,000 odd is as big a sum as the Royal Air Force was costing not so many years ago, and, at this very late hour, this Vote is going through the House as a Supplementary Estimate. I welcome what the Secretary of State said as to the marriage allowances. There are many subjects on which I should like to ask questions, such as the additional civilian staff. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned Lord Nuffield. The Committee must understand that this point has arisen since 12th May and is entirely new. We have never considered it and we do not know what the Ministry's arrangement is with Lord 2361 Nuffield. We know of it only from the newspapers. It is a large part of the air production in this country, and it would be wrong for us merely to deal with it in a very light way, without having a full explanation from the Minister. No doubt we shall have an explanation on another occasion. If one studies what was said on 12th May, when we were discussing this new scheme, which is called Scheme L, we find that there is a certain amount of overlapping on the old scheme. On 12th May it was said by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that there were then 70,000 officers and men, that they needed 40,000 more under this new scheme, and that most of them were needed in the first 18 months. I should like an assurance from the Secretary of State that the numbers are coming in as they are required.
On 12th May it was said by the Chancellor of the Duchy that the first requirement would have to be new training schools, and there were two mentioned which are in these Supplementary Estimates—Cosford and St. Athan—on each of which I see that £320,000 is going to be spent this year; but both of those were in the old Scheme, and I understand that the extra expense would be purely on the personnel, so that I do not see how they appear now under the new Scheme L. We were told there were going to be two new schools, at Yatesbury and Weston-super-Mare, and I should like to know whether the Secretary of State is satisfied in regard to them. On page 7 of the Supplementary Estimate there are items of estimated expenditure on new aerodromes. When the Chancellor of the Duchy was explaining Scheme L to us on 12th May, he spoke of how they would have to get new aerodromes and he said that 30 were coming forward, and that speed was a very big consideration. I will take one of these cases which I know in my own part of the world, in Nottinghamshire: "New station for two squadrons, £500,000," of which £100,000 is to be spent this year and £400,000 in future years. I should like to know whether the Secretary of State is satisfied that the £100,000 is going to be spent this year. I know this East Bridgford aerodrome well, because I fly over it, as it is quite close to me, and I 2362 think the Noble Lord opposite knows it too.
§ Sir H. Seely
There is absolutely no sign of life there at all. I have never even seen a soul on it, and I cannot believe that it is possible that the £100,000 can be spent there in this year. There may have been difficulties in the way in this one case, but I should like to learn that at least others are being advanced more quickly than this one at East Bridgford is going forward. On the question of cost, £500,000 is put down here for a new aerodrome at East Bridgford, and that gives a certain idea that that is to be the cost. If you fix the price first, you will never get underneath that price, and I cannot believe that the cost should be as great as that. The cost of land, as we know, varies in different places, and here it may be more than it is in some other places, because it is near the town of Nottingham. Nevertheless, I do not quite like the idea, which I know has grown up, that that is to be the cost and that they may just as well build up to that expenditure.
There is one other point that I brought up on the Air Estimates earlier in the year, and that is in regard to the high cost that we still have to pay for hangars. It comes to between £20,000 and £30,000 each for these new hangars, and the theory is that they have to be so costly because they are of the large, high modern type. There was an idea that the older hangar was too small for the biplanes, but I am not so certain whether now, with the monoplanes, you need have the hangars quite so big, certainly in the case of hangars that will not be used for the very big types of aeroplane. The standard type of hangar is very expensive, running, as I say, to between £20,000 and £30,000, which is a lot of money to be spending at this time.
There is another point, in regard to the Auxiliary Air Force, on which there is an increased estimate of expenditure, owing, of course, to the increases that have been made in the pay, and I should like to lake this opportunity of thanking the Government for what they have done in the matter because now the Auxiliary Air Force people who used to be out of pocket to a very large extent are enabled not to 2363 be out of pocket, and in fact, although they make no money out of it, at least they do not have to pay out. I should like also to pay a tribute to the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead), who is now the Under-Secretary of State for India, who was chairman of the committee and who, I know, did a great deal of very hard work on it and got the matter settled. I am certain that everybody in the Auxiliary Air Force is satisfied with it. That is a very important matter. This is a very high Supplementary Estimate, but the money is to be spent on one of the most important parts of our defences. We do not want at this moment to criticise or censure, but we are anxious to know that everything is being done to see that the money that is being expended will provide the advantages and the security that we need.
§ 12.3 a.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I understand that these Supplementary Estimates include the provision that is being made for the new factory that is being erected in conjunction with Lord Nuffield, and certain other factories, and that there will be, therefore, a considerable expenditure here in respect of equipment. I would like to ask where the Secretary of State proposes to reopen, with the association that governs the machine tool trade, the possibility of having their accounts costed. The present position is that the machine tool people make machine tools for each of the three Services. One Service happened to "cost" one set of accounts, discovered that a very high profit was being made, and thereupon made certain suggestions to the firm. Following upon that, the association or federation, whichever it is, that governs these firms, declined to allow any other firm to submit their accounts for costing. That, I understand, has been dealt with by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, who has accepted that position with regard to past contracts. As the hon Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) has said, we are now dealing with very big figures indeed. The understanding that was reached between the three Services and the Treasury or this House was that these accounts would be submitted to—
Will the hon. Member point out to me where this arises on this Supplementary Estimate?
§ Mr. Ede
The Secretary of State announced that he was proposing, out of this money, to build the one factory which I named and certain others, one of them near Bristol and one in connection, I understood, with the Standard Motor Company. Also included in this Vote, I understand, are sums for some part of the equipment of these and similar factories, and the machine tools to which I am alluding will be part of that equipment.
I rather think that that is a matter for the general Estimates of the Air Ministry. We are dealing with a supplementary sum, and we cannot go into the general policy of the Ministry.
§ Mr. Ede
I am asking specifically with regard to sums included here because I understand a decision has been reached, which I cannot challenge tonight, with regard to past contracts. I am confining my questions to contracts that arise out of the new works which these Supplementary Estimates cover. This is an important matter with regard to the future smooth working of these contracts, and I seriously press the Secretary of State to make some statement with regard to this question. Will the machine tools be costed in the same way as we understood all expenditure on that kind of thing was to be costed by the Ministry's accountants in respect of all these contracts?
§ 12.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Eckersley
Under Vote 4 Lancashire is to be granted £10,000 for the accommodation of an Auxiliary Air Force squadron. I would like to make a small plea to my right hon. Friend in view of what I heard him say at Manchester some time ago, because I imagine that this small sum is to be devoted to further accommodation to that already existing in Lancashire. There is no Auxiliary squadron at Manchester, and Manchester, although I say it as a representative of that city, is one of the greatest cities in this country, and I feel it is a great pity that there is no squadron there. I do not suggest that that is the fault of the Air Ministry, because there have been difficulties, chiefly connected with aerodromes. That difficulty has now been overcome largely by the opening of what I consider to be the finest civil aerodrome in the country. If an Auxiliary squadron 2365 were established at Manchester it would be very popular with all the citizens. There is no real reason now why that should not be done, and if a part of this £10,000 could be diverted to the building of equipment and hangars for such a squadron, it would be money well spent. It is a great pity that these squadrons are not spread about in centres of great population, and one at Manchester would be very popular.
§ 12.9 a.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I appreciate the reference that was made to my native city by the hon. Member for the Exchange Division (Mr. Eckersley), for the workmanship and the people there are second to none in the world. I want to ask why it is we have so many of these matters brought together instead of their being separate items. Take Vote 3, aircraft and balloons. May one ask that when these Estimates are again presented we might have these under separate headings and that we might be told to-night whether these balloons ordered now are the balloons that have been decided on since December, 1936, or whether they are balloons of that type which were thought of and decided on before December, 1936? The Secretary of State, in dealing with Vote 1, said that there was an increase in pay in the lower ranks not only for the airmen but for others. "Lower," I suppose, means lower in pay. Are we to understand that under the heading of Salaries, item g, civilians are receiving an increase in pay? If so, I hope that we may be told the amount. I am not going to elaborate on this subject, much as I am tempted to do.
With regard to Vote 4, my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) raised the point with regard to the costing of these buildings and their equipment. May I ask whether in the directions for these buildings a time-limit has been placed on them? Has a time-limit for their completion been placed on the building which is to be erected at Birmingham as an addition to the existing factories there, the one at Bristol, also an addition, and the building which is to be added to the Standard motor works? I do not want to deal with what has happened in the past, but there has been difficulty over buildings which we were told were to be completed and ready for productive operations to be com- 2366 menced in them within two years. As they were going at one stage they would not have been ready for four years. That condition has been altered, but I want to know whether steps have been taken in regard to the present buildings to see that they are completed in the time.
As to equipment, I hope that there will be a change. I hope that what I say will go further than to the Members of this House—into the Department. It has been a practice in the Department—which I hope will not be followed in these cases—to secure too many machine tools from places other than this country, when tool makers in this country were not working full time or were not operating to their full capacity. And when the officers of the Department were approached they seem to have taken very few steps to see that the machine tool makers in this country had the opportunity of utilizing the labour which we had then and have now in this country.
I have no doubt that the Minister will be advised about the places concerned. I am not thinking of those in my own county, great as it is, but of the industry as a whole, because I want to see our own people given this work, even though manufacturers may think it more profitable and simpler to procure these machine tools from other countries. Regarding the increase of £200,000 from land and buildings, may we have some explanation of what is guiding the choice of these sites? It seems to me that the Ministry are paying a very high price indeed for the land they are procuring, and I hope they will not submit to paying the enhanced prices which have been charged in too many instances in the past. Then there is the question of the civilian wireless operators. Are we to understand that they will be given salaried positions? What are to be their conditions of employment? I should not trouble about it if they were to be taken into the force and have the conditions which apply in the force, but we are told that they are to be civilians and we should like to know what are to be the conditions when they are employed by the Air Ministry.
It is a serious matter that we should have to consider this important Estimate after eleven o'clock, and I hope that it will not occur again, but that in future we may have such Estimates introduced 2367 in good time, so that they may be fully examined. Finally, I hope that in the work which is to be undertaken there will be closer inspection and that efforts will be made to hasten its completion, and, above all, I hope there will be no more cases in which, after aircraft have been ordered at a particular price, we have to pay more for them in order to ensure that we get them.
§ 12.18 a.m.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
I have three short questions to ask. On page 5 there is mention of an additional £100,000 for a school of technical training. That school is now to cost £1,089,000, which is a lot of money. Another school of technical training is to cost an additional £105,000, bringing up the cost to £759,000. Then, on page 7, I find an entry which rather perturbs me. It is £600,000 for a temporary school of technical training. Whether the word "temporary" indicates that it is to be used for short periods and to be a reserve school, or whether it is that its part in the whole scheme is only temporary I do not know, but I am rather startled to find this vast sum, because it is a vast sum, being spent upon a temporary undertaking.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Like all other hon. Members I must apologise for detaining the Committee at this late hour, but it is not our fault that we have to consider this Estimate now. It is an important Estimate and we ought to have had much more time to discuss it. What are the prospects of carrying out to schedule this programme of very large expansion of our already enormously expanded Royal Air Force? A long time ago we were told that an aerodrome was to be built in my constituency, and when it is pointed out that it is not being constructed the reply is that it will be ready for full use in the autumn of 1938. If that is the way to keep to schedule all over the country, the air programme must be seriously behind. I would ask the Minister whether the programme which has been announced already and approved by the Committee is being kept up to schedule. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) the other day made an unanswerable criticism on this question.
I want to add a few remarks about the location of these factories. I see an item 2368 of £3,500,000 connected with the erection of factories; all of us hope that the expenditure will be temporary and will be found, in the end, not to be desired, but it is now to be used in establishing new aircraft factories in Castle Bromwich, Crewe, Bristol and Coventry, each of which is a prosperous place in the region of the Midlands, where industry is already concentrated. The rate of employment there is above the average for the country, and 4 per cent, or 6 per cent, of the unemployed must obviously be unskilled men.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I accept my hon. Friend's correction. We are told that the new factory at Birmingham is to employ 12,000 or 15,000 men, who are available without transference. There has been enormous transference in Birmingham in the last few years. From one small village which became derelict through the closing of a pit, 140 young people have gone to Birmingham in the last 18 months. This involves a serious concentration of industry in one region in this country, and it involves large-scale transference of men. I would ask whether the Air Ministry, in deciding the location of these factories—I do not want to put this consideration too high, but it certainly is a consideration—take into consideration the fact that it creates a magnet, so to speak, which has a tendency to draw other industries to the same district. I and many of my hon. Friends, during our journeys to and from South Wales, pass the great factory at Bristol twice a week. It seems to be spreading all the time, and to be likely to spread still further in the future. If that factory can be extended, if the district is suitable geographically as well as in other ways, what is wrong with taking it to the other side of the Severn? It is not very far, and it would be taking it where the men are available, instead of transferring men from Monmouthshire and South Wales to this new factory.
We are all eagerly awaiting a very important and useful document in the shape of the report of the Commission which is investigating, for the Government, the question of the geographical distribution of industry in this country; but what will be the good of that Commission making recommendations that industries should be distributed widely over the 2369 country when the Government and the Air Ministry in particular, are concentrating them in these places? The older industrial centres of the country are being absolutely neglected, and almost all this money is going to the newer industrial centres, which are already too large and which will present to the Air Service and the other Services the greatest problem of defence should we be involved in a crash. If there are to be further extensions, I would plead for the giving of some attention to social considerations—considerations of providing men with work. If this provision has to be made, let us make the best of it and give the work where it is very badly and sorely needed.
§ 12.29 a.m.
§ Sir Joseph Nall
This Debate and the items in this very large Vote indicate that two questions still need the attention of the Air Ministry. One is the question of the strategical distribution of these various establishments, whether factories or aerodromes or whatever they may be. One cannot help feeling that there is some tendency to ignore their proper strategical distribution throughout the country, and that the question of vulnerability is still receiving little if any attention from those concerned. The other question is that of the extravagant and fantastic figures which seem to be allocated to buildings of various kinds. There is a training school for £1,000,000. How many persons will be accommodated there, and what is the cost per head? Will there be 10,000 or 1,000, or only a few hundred? Can anyone imagine an institutional building in this country costing £1,000,000?
The same point was raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) about the case of hangars—quite fantastic figures which seem to bear no relation to ordinary building costs. I rise only to mention these points. I do not for a moment question the propriety of putting forward this Estimate; it is necessary. But it does seem to me that the right hon. Gentleman should direct some special attention to these two matters which all through this unfortunate controversy about the Air Ministry administration have been very prominent—the thoughtless neglect in the matter of location and strategic vulnerability and fantastic extravagance in building estimates. These two things call for most drastic investigation, and I hope we 2370 may hear on a later occasion that some reform has been effected.
§ 12.31 a.m.
I trust the Committee will forgive a Scottish voice intervening in this question of National Defence, but I can assure the Minister that I have felt for a very long time that the question of Scotland in the plan of National Defence was one of very great importance. I am glad that the question of vulnerability was referred to because I fear that the neglect of a very vulnerable part of our National Defence——
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that we are dealing with a Supplementary Estimate, and, so far as I can see, there is no provision for anything for Scotland, and, therefore, on this occasion it does not arise.
On page 7 it deals specifically with Montrose, Morayshire and Wick. I am glad to have this opportunity of at least vindicating myself for once against the Chair. But I do want to raise this particular point. My first point is with regard to Vote 3, and I would like some explanation. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench asked a question with regard to aircraft and balloons. He asked if this affected the question of the balloon barrage system. The Minister said, it did. I think it would have been much better if the question of aircraft and the question of the balloon barrage system had been separated. It would have given us a clearer indication of how progress is being made with regard to two most important parts of the service on this estimate. I say quite candidly as a Scotsman, with all a Scotsman's natural desires, that when I see £22,000,000 being spent I want to see exactly how much Scotland is getting out of it.
I want to know if it is possible for the Under-Secretary to reply to this point— and may I say personally how glad I am he is to have another opportunity in which to reply to a Debate. I feel he did not escape very well from the last Debate, and I believe in always giving a Minister or an Under-Secretary a second chance. Therefore, I would like it if he would reply to the particular question as to the extent of this part of the expenditure on the balloon barrage system, and if that 2371 expenditure has been wholly to one particular area, or if there is any spread? Are the provinces in England, the eastern coast right up to Scotland, receiving any consideration within this sum of money and the balloon barrage system? I note on page 6—and I would like an explanation of this point—that Bedfordshire, Essex and Hampshire are all down for a new station for two squadrons, and that their expenditure is to be the same as that of the new station for two squadrons for Wick—£500,000. But I notice that in the English areas there is an expenditure in 1938 of £100,000 of this £500,000. Wick is an important strategical point, and a very vulnerable point so far as national Defence is concerned, but in Wick you are spending only £20,000 in 1938; £480,000 of the total sum is to be left for future years. I would like the Under-Secretary to give me an adequate explanation as to why that is the case.
Then with regard to Morayshire, we have a new flying training school, and I emphasise the point made by the previous speaker as to how many pupils are to be placed within these new flying training schools. I take it there are to be two in Morayshire. It states here twice "new flying training school" with £300,000 total in each case, £5,000 expenditure in 1938 and, between the two, £400,000 expenditure in future years. I assume that means that there are to be two new flying training schools. I would like to know why there should be two in one particular area, Morayshire. If it is necessary, or there are reasonable grounds, as I expect there will be, for these two schools, how many pupils will the schools contain, and what purpose will be served? Will there be any technical education or any expenditure on things other than actual flying experience?
With regard to Montrose, which is an old-established squadron, I have information—I can be corrected, and I trust the Attorney-General will not be on me—that in this long established air squardon in Scotland they did not know what a modern fighting plane is like until in a recent air pageant they were to receive a certain type of modern fighter, and then it did not come because it was raining very heavily and spoiled the whole pageant. That is my information with regard to Montrose. I trust the informa- 2372 tion is incorrect, as it may be, because it did not come from high official sources, I can assure the Minister. Montrose is having an additional hangar and extension of aerodrome. They are to cost £30,000, but of this £30,000 only £5,000 is to be spent in 1938. It cannot be a very urgent problem when out of £30,000 for the construction of the hangar and the extension of the aerodrome—it may be for offices, or a canteen, or small buildings that do not matter—only £5,000 is to be spent this year. But we ought to have some information. At least, with this great air expansion policy an additional hangar must be important, and, therefore, I would like to know why only a meagre, miserable pittance of £5,000 is being spent in 1938 and £25,000 left for future years.
I would like to ask in conclusion, in regard to these Scottish areas I have mentioned, has the Minister any time limit, and can he give me and other Scottish Members any assurance with regard to the financing of this particular job so far as Scotland is concerned? If he can do that, I can assure him that he will be much higher in my estimation than the Secretary of State for War, who has been unable to do that after many months of questioning.
§ 12.40 a.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I want to follow up one or two of the points which have been raised by other hon. Members. It is not our fault that the Debate should have come on at this hour of the night, and I am sure that the Secretary of State for Air and the Under-Secretary will not complain of having to extend the Debate a little in order to satisfy us on some of the points raised. We are considering here, apparently, a question of additional men—13,000 is the number mentioned.
§ Mr. Dalton
I was not going to elaborate that, but there is a relationship between this figure of 13,000 additional men and some parts of these additional sums. These men will have to be fed, paid and granted allowances, and so on. What I was going to ask was, since certain references have been made by the Secretary of State to some of these categories, whether we could be told how far 2373 these expenditures are attributable to any particular new classes, such, for example, as the civilian wireless operators? It is not clear to me what the position is in respect of the expenditure which we are considering here. I would also like to ask, in regard to the other very important class, namely, the ground wireless mechanics, maintenance units, and so forth, whether there is an expansion of expenditure consequential on the expansion in the numbers of the staffs? That is a matter on which the Air Ministry has been lacking in the past, and we desire to know whether an improvement is taking place.
Then with regard to Vote 4, dealing with works and buildings, comment has been made by a number of hon. Members, including some of the supporters of the Government, that some of these figures are very high. I want to ask for a general assurance in respect of these figures that we are not continuing the old practice, which has been adversely criticised, of having unnecessarily high and expensive hangars. The bi-plane has now been abandoned, as I gather, and we would like to know whether these high charges in respect of new stations are in part attributable to continuing to build hangars of the old type which were intended for bi-planes, or whether economics are now being effected by building lower structures, with the additional advantage of diminished vulnerability?
Comment has been made by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) as to the very small proportion which, in some cases, the proposed expenditure for 1938 bears to the total cost. I take by way of illustration one example. In Wiltshire there is to be a new hospital which is to cost £250,000 and yet there is to be only £10,000 spent on it this year. That does seem to suggest that the rate of progress is very slow, and if this and the other examples mentioned by my hon. Friend are examined, it would seem that the rate of acceleration which we have been promised in regard to these buildings is very inadequate. I would like something to be said as to why the amount to be spent this year—of which nearly half remains—is so very small in proportion to the total cost.
There is one other point which has been mentioned already, but to which I 2374 want to revert and ask a specific question, that is, the increased grants to the light aeroplane clubs. It has sometimes been observed that the cost of membership of these clubs is still too high to enable them to be truly democratic and to be open to the working men. I should like to know whether one of the purposes of these increased grants is to diminish the effective cost of membership? I hope the answer will be "Yes." I would like to hear whether that is so, because if the increased grant is for that purpose it will meet with a good deal of support. There are two other matters only on which I want to support the request for information which has already been made. First of all, in respect of Vote 3, in which large additional sums are required for technical and warlike stores and supplies and miscellaneous materials. The increase in the Estimates under this head is roughly somewhere between £11,000,000 and £12,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] At any rate it is over £10,000,000. I do press for a specific answer to the question raised by the hon. Members as to whether proper economy is being exercised by means of a costing system. We are moving forwards towards a rapidly increasing expenditure—a fact which I do not criticise to-night—but we are entitled to get full value for money, and it is rather disturbing to hear that certain manufacturers have been resisting proposals for proper costing of their machine tools and other implements. Can we have an assurance that proper costing checks are being imposed now on all these items under Vote 3?
Finally, I wish to pursue, in a sentence or two, the most important consideration put forward not only by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), and also by a supporter of the Government, in regard to the question of the siting of these new factories and as to whether considerations as to vulnerability and kindred problems in regard to what are the best situations, are really being considered by the Air Ministry? I say bluntly to the right hon. Gentlemen that past experience gives us no confidence that these things are properly considered by his staff, that is, unless there has been a considerable reshuffling of appointments inside the Ministry. Up to date their record, not only in the judg- 2375 ment of hon. Members on this side of the House, but of hon. Members all over the House, has been pretty bad. There has been a lack of foresight in a number of cases. Is there any reason why a number of these new establishments, particularly for the production of the stores referred to, should not be sited, with very much greater justification, in what are commonly called the distressed areas?
This has previously been pointed out in Debates on the distressed areas. A characteristic of these areas is that they are remote from the eastern coast, for the most part, with the exception of the north-eastern areas. South Wales, West Cumberland and West Scotland are admirably suitable from the point of view of defensive considerations and diminution of vulnerability, and there is also the further consideration that in these areas there are great quantities of suitable and unemployed labour. In that way the cost of transference would be avoided. Can we be assured that this matter is being considered with fresh eyes and that we have not only a new Secretary of State for Air, but a new and wider vision among those who advised his predecessor? I have raised these matters because of their importance, and I do not think we shall grudge the time which the Under-Secretary will, I hope, now take in answering the many points which have been put to him.
§ 12.49 a.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Captain Harold Balfour)
I feel that the Committee would wish me to answer as fully as I can, consistent with not taking up too much time, and to the best of my ability, the many points raised. The hon. Member who opened the Debate asked a question as to why we were asking for more money for the acceleration of existing orders, and how such an increase of money would bring about acceleration. The answer is that the capacity for production of the existing programme is being increased so that orders are being fulfilled more quickly and earlier than had hitherto been anticipated, and therefore they must be paid for earlier. The second point about which the hon. Gentleman asked me was the concentration of production in the Midlands. He said that we were concen- 2376 trating our efforts too much in the Midlands, and the same point was raised by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and various other hon. Members. Regarding the point raised by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) about the factory which Lord Nuffield is constructing at Birmingham, the reason why we have gone there is that it is the centre of Lord Nuffield's industrial organisation, and by locating our factory there we are not only placing it on a first-class aerodrome, but we are also able to take advantage of the managerial experience and technical assistance of that great organisation.
I think there may be some misconception about the incidence of the location of factories. It is true that certain factories are at Coventry, Birmingham and Crewe where, as it were, there is this centre of technical experience for organising these new factories, but our policy is to diffuse sub-contracting as widely as possible. My right hon. Friend, in consultation with the new Director-General of Production, is extending this subcontracting organisation so that it will spread right throughout the country and there will be no district where there are facilities available which will not have its chance of turning out parts for the main contractors. Our system of extending facilities allows us to engage the assistance of skilled labour wherever it may be. I would like to correct a misconception that there is any difficulty at the present time as regards skilled labour around Birmingham, where Lord Nuffield's factory is to spring up. There is no difficulty at all, and Lord Nuffield is satisfied with regard to this factory, and we are satisfied about the other factories, that ample skilled labour is available for our purposes.
The hon. Gentleman then went on to the question of maintenance and said he wished for some reassurance as regards maintenance efficiency. He drew attention to the fact that we have not an engineering branch of the Royal Air Force. We have now got a Maintenance Command, whose duty it is to be responsible for, and in the main look after, maintenance and maintenance schedules which are prepared for all aircraft and engines as they are produced. The view of the Air Ministry and of my right hon. Friend is that it is better to have people who have practical experience in the 2377 flying side and have undergone specialised courses than to build up a separate section of the Royal Air Force which would probably in due time be out of touch with the people doing the actual flying.
Regarding the question which the hon. Gentleman asked on Vote 8 dealing with the subsidy of £100,000 for internal air lines. He drew attention to the fact that I said we were going to have a regular Atlantic air service in 1939. These are reasons why we cannot establish Atlantic services before 1939, and the reasons are technical ones. To some extent our production facilities have been taken for military aircraft in a way that would not have occurred but for the expansion programme, and, secondly, the Atlantic service is a very difficult task, needing a very great deal of research and experiment, not only of actual flying but of meteorology and radio. Our service in 1939, with the new Short boats, weighing 70,000 lbs. all-up weight, will be one of which we need not be ashamed when compared with any service operated by our cousins across the Atlantic. The reason why we cannot start the internal subsidy before the autumn is that we have recently set up a licensing committee which has many tasks to do which will prevent it from functioning before the autumn. Regulations have to be made, temporary licences have to be issued to the operating companies, procedure has to be laid down for consideration of applications, and so on. These tasks will take some months and we have told the operators of internal services that no agreements for subsidies could be made until next autumn.
The next question which the hon. Gentleman asked me was concerning savings on Vote 8, which deals with civil aviation. He said he would like some assurance that civil aviation was not being starved by these savings. I can give him that assurance at once. The original Estimate is being reduced by £20,000 on account of savings on works services which it is expected will be made at Croydon and Heston. The Croydon saving is due to a change of plans. Instead of one large hangar costing £120,000 we propose to take over from Imperial Airways a skeleton hangar which they no longer want, and we are going to use certain temporary hangars, and thus will save £10,000 under the original Estimate. The other £10,000 is saved 2378 because we had intended to instal contact lighting at Heston, but we now propose to wait until experience has been gained of this system of lighting at Croydon.
I will now turn to the subject raised by the hon. Baronet the Member forBerwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely). He asked a question, and said he did not really expect an answer, about the civilian staffs. The civilian labour staffs are paid trade union rates, or in any particular area if there are no trade union rates for that area, they are paid what we find to be the district rate. The hon. Member then asked about the financial arrangements regarding Lord Nuffield's factories, saying, quite rightly, that we are spending a great deal of public money. He wanted some assurance that the money was being properly spent. I would refer him to the second report of the Committee of Public Accounts, page 21, which deals with the particular aspects and shows that there are safeguards for the public purse and incentives to economy in the administration of these factories. If the hon. Member will refer to that part of that report he will get the assurance which he desires. He then raised the question of the training schools, which was also raised by the hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) and one or two other hon. Members. I can give him this information. Cosford and St. Athan are training schools which are due to start in the early autumn, probably August and September respectively. Because of Scheme L (Extra needs for trained personnel) these two schools are being enlarged from their original plan by temporary hutted camps. Yatesbury and Locking, Weston-super-Mare, are opening during the coming winter on a limited but increasing scale.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
The proposed expenditure in future years—that is after the present year—on Cosford is £669,000 out of a total of £1,089,000. Do I understand that this heading is in respect of the £669,000?
§ Captain Balfour
I will let my hon. Friend know the exact details as to what are the particular items of construction which are to be met by this Supplementary Estimate. I am trying to answer the questions which have been put to me by hon. Members as to the general scheme for construction of these training establish- 2379 ments and to tell the Committee that scheme L requirements over scheme F have necessitated an increase in training establishments which we are going to carry out by temporary accommodation.
My hon. Friend also asked me about man-power. I can give him the assurance that men are coming in satisfactorily and recruiting is going on well in relation to our requirements under scheme L. He then asked me about the building programme and I can give him the assurance that the building programme of stations is going on satisfactorily, and at no stage has the expansion programme been held up by building delays. My hon. Friend asked me the particular question of East Bridgeford where, he said, £100,000 was to be spent this year and said that surely this was very little compared with the £500,000 which the station will cost when completed. He asked, how can the station be ready this year? The £500,000 is, as it were, an estimated total cost of what the station will come out at. I do not agree with him that if you put the figure of £500,000 on the account we shall be spending to that figure this year. Each contract is placed after careful checking.
§ Sir H. Seely
I did not say that I thought £100,000 too small. I did not think it could be spent in 1938 because the scheme is not advancing sufficiently.
§ Captain Balfour
Then I can give him the assurance that I am informed that the £100,000 will be spent this year at East Bridgeford. There has been some delay at that particular aerodrome because the site was altered in deference to local representations.
§ Captain Balfour
I do not agree at all with my hon. Friend. I think those responsible for strategic considerations are the best judge of locality of each aerodrome.
§ Sir J. Nall
Is the Minister aware that this aerodrome is within nine miles of Nottingham and is sandwiched between the Fosseway and the River Trent and is one of the most easily observable spots that could have been chosen, while in East Nottinghamshire there are half a 2380 dozen other sites all of which would have been cheaper?
§ Captain Balfour
There are certain points which I will explain to my hon. Friend afterwards, if he cares, why these aerodromes are chosen and why this is comparatively near certain other aerodromes. I do not think the Committee will want me to go into that now, but I will give my hon. Friend particulars if he wishes.
He then raised the question of hangars, as did the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland. The general question put was, why are hangars so big; are they unnecessarily high particularly in view of the fact that the modern aeroplane is generally of monoplane type? I am very glad that question has been asked, because there is a lot of misconception about it. Full consideration had been given to the question in view of immediate requirements and probable future development before the height of hangars was settled. There are three principal determining factors. Firstly, there is the size of the largest aircraft on order at the present time. May I say I would not agree by any means that the biplane is condemned for the future? It may well be that we shall have a swing back to the biplane.
§ Captain Balfour
Yes, some; certain experimental ones; but I would not hang the whole future of aircraft on what have been ordered at the present time. It is probable that they may come back in the future. In some modern machines the tail fins are some 25 feet high. The clearance above aircraft necessary if they have to be repaired in the hangars, and for the purpose of shifting engines about the hangars on overhead gantries, without the necessity of moving other aircraft, will necessitate a building of a height closely approaching present day hangars. It is also necessary to have proper regard to the design tendencies of future aircraft. Then, again, modern hangars are very expensive to build and are permanent in form to last many years. The Committee would be the first to complain in future years if the Ministers representing the Air Ministry came to the House and said, "We have to re-build our hangars because those built in the years 1936, 2381 1937, 1938 and 1939 are inadequate for the aeroplanes of to-day." The height of aircraft is tending to increase and there is no guarantee that in future aircraft 30 feet in height will not be ordered for which present hangars would be barely adequate.
I am glad to hear tribute paid to the new conditions governing the Auxiliary Air Force. The Secretary of State and myself regard the Auxiliary Air Force as an essential part of our first-line strength and as such we will do everything possible to foster and help it. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) asked about the machine tool people for the three Services and whether their accounts were costed. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is dealing with this question, and I cannot give details to-night but the Secretary of State will consult the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and will communicate the result of his investigation of that question to the hon. Member.
§ Captain Balfour
If that is so, my right hon. Friend will take that into account when he gives the matter his personal review which he has undertaken to do, and will communicate with the hon. Gentleman.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Eckersley) made an appeal for an Auxiliary squadron to come to Manchester. He said Manchester was a worthy place—as I think we all agree—to be the home of such a squadron. We have under consideration the creation of one further auxiliary squadron and the question of sending it to Manchester was considered. It was decided that it would be more valuable to place a large-size volunteer centre there which would enable a far larger number of the young men of Manchester to be trained than if the unit were an Auxiliary squadron. My right hon. Friend said that at Manchester he hoped it would be possible to establish this at the new aerodrome at Ringway.
§ Mr. Eckersley
Would it not be possible to have both those ideas, because you are now more or less wasting Barton which is also a municipal aerodrome, and I understand is kept largely as a meteorological station? It is an aerodrome which could very well be used for a Volunteer Reserve squadron, but could not house an Auxiliary squadron with modern machines.
§ Captain Balfour
I am afraid I cannot hold out great hopes because, important as Manchester is, there are other sites in Scotland and in England all of which need consideration from the point of view of locating Auxiliary units, training units and the Volunteer Reserve Schools. The Committee may take it that the one at Manchester is going to be a large one.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) asked me why so many of the Votes were together and, in particular, why there should not be a separation for balloons, aircraft and other war equipment. There has been a decision deliberately not to separate these two items because we do not want people outside this House, possibly outside this country, to see at the present time what we are spending on particular items like balloons. I would tell the Committee that the position of the balloon barrage is that it is being tried out in London and when the trials have been completed and the results reviewed, the question of the extension of the balloon barrage and the principles which will govern the extension will be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air and the Air Ministry. The increased pay in Vote I is not for civilians as the hon. Member suggests, but for the Royal Air Force. In regard to his suggestion for penalties for delay in the completion of works, wherever it is practicable we try to insert penalty clauses in the contracts, but it is not always practicable. If he has any particular cases in mind I shall be glad to give him the necessary information.
§ Captain Balfour
I thought I had dealt with the question of civilian pay in answer 2383 to the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed. The lower ranks referred to were the lower ranks of the Royal Air Force. We have tried to upgrade the pay of the lower ranks, and I shall be glad to send him the information if he desires it. The hon. Member in his speech also dealt with the question of machine tools, saying that too many were coming from abroad. I think he was thinking of the peak period, which we have now passed, when all the machine tools could not be purchased in this country. The situation is easier now, and we are endeavouring to purchase machine tools in this country wherever they are obtainable, and if he knows of any facilities that are not being used I shall be glad if he will send me particulars.
§ Captain Balfour
If he will send them to me personally I will undertake to give them my personal attention.
The next question raised was that of lands and buildings and I was asked what consideration the Government gave to the choice of aerodromes. We consult the Ministry of Agriculture and also Professor Abercrombie as regards the question of amenities and we consult other departments if we consider it necessary. In regard to civilian wireless operators, conditions for their employment are under consideration and will be announced in due course. The hon. Member for Llanelly asked me what were the prospects of the completion of the main programme. That is a very big question which scarcely comes within the scope of these Estimates now; but I can tell him we are pressing on towards the completion of the programme. As regards the question of an aerodrome in his own constituency I trust, in his absence, the Committee will let me deal with the matter with him.
The hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) was very severe about the principles which he thinks govern the choice of sites and the standards of our buildings. I would only say we intend to use under Scheme L, where it is possible and where it is economic to do so, temporary accommodation, but I think the Com- 2384 mittee will agree that the foundation of a healthy and a happy Air Force is to have a well-housed force. We may have a depot where men are flowing through where you can house them in temporary accommodation, but when a man goes to a permanent station, particularly if he is a married man, you must give him bricks and mortar and the good standard of life he expects. The hon. Member for Mary-hill (Mr. Davidson) tried to segregate Scotland from England for defence purposes, but let me emphasise as a fellow-Scot that the strategic problems of Scotland have in no way been neglected. As regards the balloon barrage, I have already answered that question.
May we have this assurance in regard to the question of the balloon barrage that when you have finally made up your minds with regard to London you will at least communicate with the Members who have been pressing for its installation in the provinces?
§ Captain Balfour
I cannot say anything beyond what I have said in regard to the balloon barrage—that it is being tried out in London, and the question of its extension will be a matter for the consideration of the Air Council. The hon. Member also asked me about the new station at Wick. I can only say that the station at Wick is being built in the sequence of the programme. He also asked me whether there were to be two flying schools in Morayshire. The answer is that there will be two schools there taking 80 pupils and the syllabus will include both ground and air training. He also asked me about a Royal Air Force pageant and said that a machine could not get there owing to the rain. If he lets me have the particulars I will deal with the question.
§ Captain Balfour
No. They are each to have 80 pupils at a time, but there must be accommodation for the permanent staff and the ancillary staff.
§ Captain Balfour
If the hon. Member likes to have the information I will send 2385 it to him. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland asked about ground mechanics and if the figure in the estimate covered the expansion scheme. The answer to that question is, Yes. He also raised the question of the height of hangars, but I have already dealt with that. He next asked me about the small sum to be spent on the new hospital in Wiltshire. The situation is that the hospital in Wiltshire is now to be commenced, and it will be available for medical services by the time we need it in regard to the new training establishments which we are forming in that district. The site is decided. There was some question about the site and I will let the right hon. Gentleman know. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the light aeroplane clubs. I can say no more except that I hope he will not be disappointed at the statement which my right hon. Friend hopes to be able to make in the near future.
§ Captain Balfour
Yes, next week. As regards Vote 3, he asked whether proper economy is being exercised and if a proper costing system and checks are used. Yes. There are three systems. There is the fixed price system, the McLintock system, of costing a contract, and there is the basic cost system of time and line job and price to be adjusted afterwards when the contractors' costs are investigated. Then he asked about the location of factories, with which I have tried to deal. I have tried at this late hour to deal with the many points raised, and if I have left out any points raised by hon. Members, I hope they will communicate with me afterwards, and I will try to give them the information.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
The hon. and gallant Gentleman told us that the Morayshire training schools were to have 80 pupils each at any one time.
§ Mr. Williams
The capital cost per pupil at this school is £3,750. I just want to ask whether my hon. and gallant Friend does not think that this £3,750 capital expenditure per pupil in a private school is on the high scale?
§ Captain Balfour
That is an entirely fictitious calculation. The hon. Gentleman has taken the capital cost of 80 2386 pupils and assumed that there are 80 pupils a year. The through-put may be 12, 15 or 20 courses, in which case the sum per head would be very much less.
§ Mr. Williams
The number of pupils in the school at any moment is 80, It is only 80 at any one time. Therefore the capital cost per pupil is £3,750.
§ Mr. Williams
Yes, per place. All right. Call it anything you like. We are now voting a sum equal to the total cost of the Air Force about five years ago. The Committee is impatient. The only people who are entitled to be impatient are not the Ministers but the' Members. There was some impatience.
§ Mr. Williams
There was a little impatience. I want to ask whether even for a flying school a sum of £3,750 per place is not somewhat high, even allowing for repair workshops, and hangars and quarters? Does not the Minister think it is rather a large sum and can he give us any indication how that enormous sum is arrived at?
§ Captain Balfour
I do not think that the sum of £3,750 per place is excessive when you take into consideration the equipment, the workshops, the maintenance, repairs, housing of men and permanent staff, married and single, recreational facilities, canteens—all these for the permanent staff and the pupils. I do not think it is excessive, and if my hon. Friend wants any particular details, I will be very glad to try and get them and send him them as to how these particular figures are arrived at.
§ 1.25 a.m.
§ Mr. Ede
It really is important, because some of us have some experience of building and equipping substantial technological schools, and so on. Even for the things the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned this figure is really very big indeed. It far exceeds anything that has ever been thought of before for places like Dartmouth which have always been regarded as the last word in expenditure. I would suggest that he should endeavour to publish something that would indicate the exact way in which this very large sum per place is built up, and he should not confine 2387 sending his information to one or two Members of the House.
§ Captain Balfour
I suggest that when the main Estimates are debated, if this particular question is raised, full information will be given. I would say that the parallel between Dartmouth and the training establishments is completely fallacious, because one of the greatest expenditures in the training establishments is on equipment for aircraft maintenance.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Wednesday evening, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-eight Minutes after One o'Clock.