§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Observations of His Majesty's Government on the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Civil Aviation.Whatever may be thought about the report which is to be discussed this afternoon, it must be agreed by all that the members of the Cadman Committee have performed their task without fear or favour. I must emphasise that because I cannot help recollecting that at the time when the committee was appointed some derogatory, and I think unworthy, reflections were made from the Front Bench opposite upon the impartiality of the committee, and especially of the Chairman. But the character of the report before us has demonstrated the falsity of those reflections. It demonstrates also the great zeal and energy displayed by this committee, who in the short space of a little over two months saw nearly 70 witnesses, including nine hon. Members of this House, in addition to written documents which were submitted to them.
I think that hon. Members, particularly those whose observations in this House really were the origination of the committee's existence at all, will feel that they have had good value for the £5 19s. 9d., which we are informed is the amount of the expenditure connected with the report. I know that hon. Members will also give credit to the Government for having lost no time in coming to a conclusion as to the course of action to take in view of the committee's recommendations. We have endeavoured to suit the convenience of the House by publishing, along with the report, our own observations and the decisions at which we have arrived. The Blue Book is not a long document, and hon. Members who have studied it will have seen that the recommendations of the committee have to a very large extent been accepted by the Government. I am glad also to be able to say that the two companies concerned with civil aviation. Imperial Airways and British Airways, have also signified that they agree very largely with those parts of the report which concern their own organisation and administration. I therefore have no hesitation in moving this Motion.
434 Before I go into detail I would like to begin by alluding to the recommendations of the committee on which I can make one or two more general observations. It will be recollected that the committee were not given any formal terms of reference but were referred to the Debate which took place in this House on 17th November last. I do not think that the committee will have found any great difficulty in accommodating themselves to that perhaps rather unusual form of reference, but I am glad to think that they have gone rather further than a committee required to examine certain allegations and accusations, because I think that anyone who studies the report will see that what the committee have endeavoured to do was to put forward a constructive programme for the development of British civil aviation—a programme which, we hope, will add to the prestige of the country in this matter, will lead to the improvement of its communications, and will culminate in the creation of what practically may be considered a new industry in the output of civil machines which will, perhaps, occupy our aircraft factories when the present pressure of military work is to some extent relaxed.
I think the committee were impressed with the desirability that British-owned civil aeroplanes, whether they are flying on Imperial routes or to any other country, should be such as to convince everybody who travels in them, everybody who sees them pass or who inspects them, that they take a leading place among the planes of the world for speed, for safety, for comfort, and in the completeness and modern character of their equipment. There are evidently great advantages to be gained if that object can be achieved, not merely in the improvement of the service itself and the direct advantages which are to be expected from that, but, in other ways, indirect advantages, in the general advancement of British prestige throughout the world, and ultimately, perhaps, in the development of the export of British-made civil aeroplanes. The Government, too, are impressed by these considerations. Broadly speaking, we accept the conception which, as I see it, lay behind the recommendations of the committee, and we believe that the decisions which we have taken and the recommendations of the committee which have been accepted by us 435 will, m fact, go a long way to achieve that purpose in course of time.
I said that the report is not a long one, but, perhaps, it will be convenient if I attempt to classify the decisions of His Majesty's Government under four heads, or categories. First of all, there are the measures which are required for the purpose of strengthening the organisation in the Ministry for dealing with civil aviation. Secondly, there are the steps proposed for increasing national expenditure upon this object, which, as the House will be aware, includes the doubling of the maximum which is at present the statutory limit of the amount of subsidy which can be given. Thirdly, there is the allocation of the external routes between Imperial Airways and British Airways. Lastly, there is the administrative reorganisation of those two companies. I will say something about each of those categories.
I think, first, I must just say one more word upon the suggestion which has been made, reflecting upon my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air. I said something about this yesterday, when these reflections were made in the Debate, and I need not, therefore, spend much time upon it to-day, but I wish to repeat that, whilst the Government are not anxious to deny that there have been shortcomings in the development of civil aviation, we cannot leave out of account the urgent necessity and the prime duty of the Secretary of State, while he has been in office these last three years, to push along, with the utmost diligence and speed and determination, the military programme. Had he in any way neglected his duty in that respect he would not readily have been forgiven by the country. I am bound to say that I have not, in my experience, known any Minister who has devoted himself more completely and with a more single mind to the duties placed upon him in a great office than has my Noble Friend. Far from censuring him, I feel that we ought to pay him a tribute for the very remarkable results that have been achieved during his administration. I think my Noble Friend has, perhaps, suffered from the fact that he is not here to defend himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I quite understand, and to some extent sympathise with, the view 436 of hon. Members, that they would like to have every Minister in this House to defend himself and to answer questions. That is impossible in present circumstances, but I have, at any rate, done my best to mitigate the disadvantages, and to try and meet the difficulties of hon. Members who have desired to have in this House somebody who could represent the Air Ministry with authority and who could, being himself a member of the Cabinet, speak on questions of policy as well as on questions of administrative detail.
In my Noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the House will now have a member of the Cabinet a member of the Air Council, the Deputy of the Secretary of State upon that Council, who not only will be able to attend to the business of the Air Ministry in this House and reply to hon. Members, but who will also make a very valuable contribution to the organisation and administration of the Air Ministry itself. I know that some hon. Members will always say, In putting two equal Ministers into one office, is it not a division of responsibility, and does it not involve a duality of policy? There have been cases in past times when difficulties have been created because two Cabinet Ministers have been concerned with the same office; but I venture to say that it all depends on the personalities concerned. Between my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air and my Noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster there will be no conflict; there will be no duality; there will be complete harmony of working and of goal. The effect of having this additional representative of the Air Ministry in this House will be that my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary will have now an opportunity of devoting particularly to the development of civil aviation those qualities which he has already brought to the general work of the Air Ministry, which, I think, everybody has recognised, and particularly yesterday in his admirable statement to the House. In addition, we have appointed a permanent Under-Secretary of State who will not only be the Secretary to the Air Ministry, but who will have the general administrative direction of civil aviation, and whose duty it will be to ensure that there shall be full and considered correlation between the policies of civil and military aviation.
437 There are to be found, in Part II of the Government's Observations, a number of other improvements in the organisation of the Ministry, designed to enable us to carry out to the full the development of civil aviation as and when opportunity offers. They are not all exactly the same as the proposals of the Cadman Committee, but we believe that they will be at least equally effective. One particular recommendation which we have not accepted is the one which is concerned with the duties of the Service members of the Air Council. If hon. Members will be good enough to look at paragraphs 27 and 28 of the Observations, they will see the reasons which have weighed with us in not accepting this particular recommendation; but I would like to draw special attention to the fact that it is the opinion in the Air Ministry that interference with that arrangement at the present time would have an unfortunate effect on the carrying-out of our programme. That is the last thing that we want at present, and we believe that the other measures that we have taken will do all that is required.
I come now to the question of increased expenditure. I am sure that the House will not quarrel with me when I say that what you can do to help civil aviation must largely depend on the amount of money you are prepared to spend on it. It is because we recognise that that we feel that if we are now to start a new life and infuse fresh vigour into this whole subject of civil aviation, it is absolutely necessary that we should be prepared to spend a larger sum than we have in the past. Although my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has many objects on which to lavish his spare resources, he has agreed to go as far as to increase this statutory limit which is imposed on the amount of subsidy which can be given, by £1,500,000, bringing it up to £3,000,000. In connection with that, I would like to draw attention to the three general principles which have been laid down by the Government in connection with the expenditure of public money on these services. They will be found in paragraph 12 of the Government's observations. It will be seen, first of all, that the limits within which expenditure can be incurred are very clearly envisaged; secondly, that when we come to decide between competing projects we must have in mind two main considerations: first, 438 the importance of maintaining and developing air communications within the Empire, and, secondly, the importance of selecting at the appropriate time routes which afford the opportunity of substantial traffic and revenue where important British commercial interests are involved. The third principle is that in deciding upon the ways in which the Government can best encourage the development and production of civil aircraft, we shall seek the co-operation of the air operating companies and also act in close consultation with Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, who is the independent chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors.
I now come to the third category, on which I need not say very much, because we have agreed to accept the recommendations of the committee both as to the number of companies who should operate and also as to the allotment of routes. As will be seen from the report, both Imperial Airways and British Airways arc-ready to fall in with the suggestions made by the committee, and so I think that we may take that particular matter as settled. I think that the policy which has now been followed for some considerable time of concentrating upon Empire routes and thereby attracting to those routes the greater part of the money which is available has proved right, and the maintenance of these Empire routes should and must be made the first charge upon any money which may be available in future from the Exchequer.
I come to the last category, which has reference to the administrative organisation of these two companies. It is fair to recall that while the committee are strongly critical of the management of Imperial Airways, they also find, as will be seen in paragraph 46 of the report, that they have carried air passengers in safety and in comfort and have conveyed mails and freight with considerable efficiency. It may also be noted that their findings on the allegations of defects in equipment are all favourable to the company. Furthermore, we should remember that whatever may have been the faults of this company, we have, through its agency, established now a network of air communications which connect up the Empire and which have reduced the time of postal and personal communication by air from weeks to days. There is a twice-weekly service to South 439 Africa, a twice-weekly service to Singapore, and a four-times-weekly service to India, and all these are carrying mails without extra charge and with a gain in speed, which, I think, will be very valuable for social and commercial intercourse. There are plans, as the House knows, for bringing these services during the present year to Australia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, and at the same time preparations are being made to bridge the Atlantic through Canada and the United States, for which purpose, as my hon. and gallant Friend said yesterday, there have been some extremely successful experimental flights already made. Finally, steps are being taken to connect up the West African Colonies by a new air route down the West coast of Africa, which may subsequently be expected to cross the Atlantic to South America.
These are plans and achievements of very considerable scope, and they have hardly yet received as much attention as they deserve. We in this country have a habit of concentrating upon our shortcomings and overlooking our achievements, and there might be a good deal to be said for that point of view, but when you come to make a general stocktaking, it is only fair to bring in what there is to bring in on the credit side. It is only fair to do justice to those who, in this great development of joining up the various parts of the Empire have given a great deal of their time and labour, and, indeed, in many cases, have risked their lives. There is no doubt that Imperial Airways have set up a fine record for safety, and they have shown a quiet efficiency in taking over these mail services and in carrying them on with a punctuality which is even comparable to the old shipping companies in days gone by. I think that I ought also to call attention to the fact that the Post Office has played no mean part in this development. Under my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and under the present Postmaster-General, there has been a very striking development of policy. They have given the lead to the whole world in the policy of what we call an "all up" air mail. That great, and I was going to say sudden, advance has been comparable in postal history to the achievements of Roland Hill in establishing penny postage and certainly in any tribute to the recent progress in 440 civil aviation, the part played by the Post Office ought not to be left out of account.
Having said so much in fairness to those concerned, there still remains the fact that the Committee have shown themselves extremely critical of the internal management and administration of Imperial Airways. They have made a number of recommendations for alterations which apply to Imperial Airways or to British Airways or to both. The Government in general agree with these recommendations. We think they are right in principle. We have been in communication with the two companies, and it is very satisfactory to know that, so far from resisting or setting themselves in opposition to these proposals, they have readily accepted them, and they will very shortly be carried out.
There is one matter to which, I think, I ought to make some reference, and that is the opinion in paragraph 108 of the report that there should be a limitation of dividends of these companies on the lines of public utility companies. The Government are in sympathy with what they understand to be the general principle underlying that recommendation, and that is, that public money ought not to be used for the purpose of raising dividends to undue levels. That is the principle by which we have been guided in our negotiations with these companies, but of course, one has to take into account that they have been under the necessity of raising considerable sums of money from the public, and that in any enterprise of this scope and of this novelty, there is an exceptional element of risk which must not be lost sight of. Perhaps those considerations may justify the raising of dividends somewhat higher than is customary in the case of ordinary public utility companies. At the same time the Government, as I say, are in sympathy with this principle and we have stated in the observations that we will consider, in the light of these recommendations, whether, in connection with further assistance which we give by way of subsidy, we cannot give effect to them without the violation of existing contracts.
There are in Part III a number of minor recommendations which hon. Members will, no doubt, have read carefully, and for the most part there, also, we are in agreement with the recommendations of the committee. We have, in fact, 441 accepted practically everything of importance in the report. I do not think that there could ever have been a case in the recollection of any hon. Member where a report so outspoken in its terms and so far-reaching in its recommendations has been presented in so short a time and has met with so large a measure of acceptance by the Government of the day. I feel that hon. Members will recognise that the Government in this matter have been actuated entirely by the desire which they share with the whole House to try to remedy defects which have been shown to have occurred in the past. We sincerely wish to see British prestige in civil aviation raised to the highest point that is conceivable, and we believe that by the co-operation of the Government, the operating companies, and the Society of Aircraft Constructors through their independent chairman, Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, we shall succeed in due course in enabling British civil aviation to establish for itself as high a reputation as has already been earned by the British Mercantile Marine.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I beg to move, in line I, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:in view of the disclosures of long-standing Ministerial neglect and of gross inefficiency in the management of a heavily subsidised company, the explanations and proposals of His Majesty's Government cannot be regarded as adequate to allay public concern.I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the Prime Minister. He stated that it was our habit to concentrate upon our shortcomings and to ignore our achievements. He said that that was a British habit. Well, he made a most unBritish speech. You would not have thought from hearing the speech of the Prime Minister that we had had a report of the most scathing nature showing up gross inefficiency in the conduct of a Department by a Member of the Government. You might have thought that you were getting a testimonial for efficiency. I have never known such complacency. I think, first of all, that our congratulations are due to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) for his persistency in this matter and for his luck in the ballot. This is a vindication of private Members' Motions. We are also 442 indebted to the committee for their very able and impartial report. I would like to recall the circumstances of their appointment. The Prime Minister suggested that we had attacked the members of the committee. What happened really was that the Prime Minister appointed a committee consisting largely of persons who were civil servants or were in the control of the Government, and we objected, and then, and then only, did we get an independent committee.
§ The Prime Minister
I must correct the right hon. Gentleman. I was not alluding to that, but to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) who asked that we might have a chairman who was less politically compromised.
§ Mr. Attlee
I was referring to the fact that the Prime Minister overlooked the point that when he originally set up the committee, it did not satisfy hon. Members on this side.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman will, no doubt, remember that the hon. Member for West Islington, when the composition of the committee was changed, said that the objection to the original committee largely centred round the chairman.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am not associating myself with that remark. In fact I do not. The Prime Minister has concentrated on that, but he has forgotten that he set up a committee which consisted, in the view of the rest of the House, of what you might call "Yes men." I think it is perfectly clear, in view of the emphatic terms of the report that we could not have expected to get a full and impartial report from persons in Government service. The report is a vindication of the rights of this House to operate through inquiry. That has been done on many occasions. The Prime Minister is wrong if he thinks that these inquiries do not occur when grave events are proceeding. There was a famous committee of inquiry into the Crimean War, and an interesting speech was made by Lord John Russell, who resigned when the Motion was put down. He said:With respect to the power of inquiry, it is a most valuable privilege of this House. By the power of inquiry it corrects abuses, it reforms maladministration, and strengthens those establishments which it may seem for 443 the time to shake. A Motion for inquiry, however, may be resisted on two grounds—the one, that there are no evils existing of sufficient magnitude to call for inquiry; the other, that sufficient means have been taken to remedy those evils, and that they will be best cured by other means than by a report to the inquisitorial powers of this House.From the Prime Minister's speech one would have thought that the Government had come forward and volunteered this inquiry. As a matter of fact, longstanding abuses had been raised over and over again in this House and speeches had been made by Ministers, saying that everything was all right. Eventually, the insistence of this House brought about the inquiry and the revelation of incompetence. The effect of a report of this kind is not only to expose abuses but to lay responsibility in the right quarter, and the right quarter is the Minister concerned. The Minister responsible is the responsible Member of the Government in charge of the Department. It is untrue to say that where things go wrong this House must not use its power. It was used in the Great War. There was an inquiry into the Dardanelles and an inquiry into the Mesopotamia campaign. I remember the latter very well, and I recall that the late Sir Austen Chamberlain, who was a great public servant and had the nicest sense of honour, resigned, although nobody believed that he was directly connected with what took place. As a matter of fact it took place very far away from where he was; but he resigned. He did not plead that the pressure of other business, amidst the life and death struggle of the Great War, in any way absolved him or lessened his responsibility for what was done or left undone by his Department. In resigning, he acted like a true democrat, a Member of this House, conscious of the great traditions of government.
The Prime Minister and Lord Swinton have taken a very different line. Lord Swinton remains and the Prime Minister has said that the censure upon the Secretary of State referred to civil aviation, and that the answer to that censure was that it was true this matter was neglected but the reason was clear to everybody, namely, that the Secretary of State was obliged to give his whole attention to the question of military aviation. The Prime Minister then talked about the suggested inquiry being a court 444 martial. If so, and if this report amounts to a court martial, the prisoner has been found guilty. If the prisoner is to remain, all that will happen will be that the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), whose accession to Cabinet rank we all welcome very much, is to be joined with him in responsibility for this Department. I do not believe that that is the way to satisfy this House or the country. The duty of the Government is to place the responsibility where it belongs, on the Minister. It is no good saying that officials, systems or officers can be made responsible. The responsibility is on the Government and on the Minister.
I have been looking through various Debates, and I find that a Member on the other side of the House in excusing the late Under-Secretary of State for Air said that it was true he could not answer any question in this House because he did not seem to know much about anything, but that was because he was giving all his time to civil aviation. Apparently, there is something very wrong where you have the two Ministers, one devoting himself to one side and one to the other side and neither of them seems to be able to deal with business. The Cadman Report is a condemnation of the Ministers who have been in charge of this Department, and it is unfair to put the whole blame on Lord Swinton. These evils are of long standing. They have not welled up in a moment, and a Minister who has been as long at the Air Ministry as Lord Swinton has been, ought to have found them out and corrected them. The fact is that there has been continuing neglect on the part of the Members of the National Government who have been in charge of this very important Department of the Air Ministry.
Paragraph 3 of the observations of the Government on the report is, I think, disingenuous. They try to pretend that all these evils are due to the fact that Lord Swinton has been very busy with rearmament, but the report reveals the fact that the evils are long standing and that long before rearmament started they were there and have been increasing ever since. There was time for a competent Minister to deal with them. Complaints have been made from time to time but they have been simply disregarded. The Air Ministry has been extraordinarily good at stone-walling any criticism. Let us note 445 some of the language used in the report. They say:We view with extreme disquiet the position disclosed by our inquiry.They point to the fact that although Imperial Airways was formed 14 years ago, they are flying less mileage to-day than they were then, and that they are operating with obsolete aircraft. In page after page of the report there is condemnation. The Air Ministry have neither supported nor encouraged development of new routes. A state of inertia has existed. There has been no planning by the Air Ministry. We find that although the contract with Imperial Airways is due to expire in little more than a year's time, there has been no decision by the Air Ministry with regard to future policy. There has been no persistent, progressive policy directed to encouraging manufacturers to produce civil aircraft of types likely to build up a big British industry. There is page after page in the report pointing out flagrant neglect. While the defects of the Air Ministry are shown up, it is pointed out that the defects affect not only the civil aviation side but other Departments. That is a very important matter.
The suggestion that, somehow or other, you can have an extraordinarily able Minister running a great Department with wonderful energy, so that you can admire him, yet he has somehow little blind spots for one neglected place, and otherwise he is all right, is an untrue assumption. It is obvious that a faulty organisation exists, and we find that this extends to the research department and the organisation of production. In paragraph 69 the Committee say:We have been informed in evidence that this country is not keeping pace with the United States of America in developments of importance to civil aviation, such as pressure cabins, automatic blind-landing equipment, anti-static electricity devices, aircraft instruments and research into problems concerning the application of wireless to aviation purposes.We find that aerodromes have been scattered about the country in a completely haphazard manner and under the most extraordinary conditions. The local authority is supposed to provide an aerodrome for air liners while the air lines get the profits. You might just as well say that a town, city or village ought to provide the railway station for the railway company. It is serious, not only 446 from the point of view of civil aviation but also of military aviation, that there is no proper planning of aerodromes. Finally, we come to the question of flying boats, and the Committee say:We are astonished at the lack of progress made in this matter. We regard the present position as highly unsatisfactory. The position is such that it ought to be tackled without further delay.I have been looking at the debate on the Air Estimates for 1937 and there we find the Minister telling us that everything was splendid and going on well, and that there was any amount of ideas. But nothing has been done. The fact is there is evidence that there has been no mind at work on this question of civil aviation. Let me deal with the serious point of the production of civil aircraft. We have heard over and over again from Ministers how important it is that we should keep up the export trade of this country in aircraft. For some reason or other that has always meant military aircraft. With regard to civil aircraft there is very little export. There has been no real encouragement to the manufacturers to produce civil aircraft, for the very obvious reason that the subsidised lines who ought to have been the great home market for civil aircraft are run on the basis of private profit, first. Therefore, they are not really concerned to build up what we ought to have in this country, namely, a great civil aircraft industry. They are mainly concerned with profit. This brings me to the question of the false basis on which the civil aircraft service has been run.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am not satisfied in the least that the acceptance of these proposals in the report, good as they are in many respects, is going to effect a real change. If you are going to make all these changes, I suggest in the first place that the Secretary of State ought to be changed. I suggest also that in view of the extreme condemnation of the people who are running Imperial Airways there should be a change in the management. They have been subject to pretty severe condemnation. The report says:Although the carriage of air passengers in safety and comfort, and the conveyance of mails and freight, have been achieved by Imperial Airways with considerable efficiency, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the management of Imperial Airways has been defective in other respects. In particular, not 447 only has it failed to co-operate fully with the Air Ministry, but it has been intolerant of suggestion and unyielding in negotiation. Internally its attitude in staff matters has left much to be desired.That is putting it mildly. The company has not dealt fairly with its pilots. Even at the present time there is one pilot, who was responsible for seeing that these grievances were brought forward, who after 17 years has been forced to leave his employment because he stood up for the rights of collective bargaining. I am not in the least satisfied with leaving these matters with Imperial Airways or with British Airways, and I am not in the least satisfied with Government policy.
As far as I can make out the sum of the Government's policy consists in giving a certain amount of finance, laying down certain lines with regard to competitive projects and the appointment of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner as independent chairman. Why is he always called the independent chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors? From whom is he independent? On whom does he depend? It is a very curious society. It is a very close corporation. Many associates belong to it, but only the big 11 have a vote and only the big 11 were consulted in regard to the appointment of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner as the independent chairman. I am at a loss to understand what Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner is going to do and why he is independent. Here again we get this ring of aircraft producers which has been built up and fostered by the Government, I think, gravely to the detriment of civil and military aviation. Another suggestion which the Government are not going to accept is the change with regard to the direction of departments in the Air Ministry. They say that it is quite essential to retain distinguished officers at the head. It is said:In a service where morale counts for much, the Service has confidence in its decisions because they are taken by serving officers in whom they have confidence.I wonder if that is true. Lord Trenchard laid it down that the basis of the air service in this country should be engineering and flying. The constituent point about most of the high officers in the Air Ministry is that they have done very little flying and hardly any of them has any technical skill. Any comparison with the Admiralty and 448 the Navy is quite valueless. The Air Ministry is not starting right in the matter of research. I do not believe you can make is responsible for research if they do not understand the technicalities, and the report shows that the organisation of the Air Ministry is wrong both with regard to civil aviation and with regard to production. The right way out of this muddle and mess is to deal with civil aviation as a civil service and not as a military service at all. That was recommended in a very able minority report by the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) and Mr. Gordon England, and they gave cogent reasons why we should treat civil aviation as a civil matter and not as an annexe to the Air Ministry. The argument put forward is that because they both work in the same element, use the same machines, and have the same apparatus, therefore they must be under one Ministry. You might just as well say that the Mercantile Marine should be run by the Admiralty.
There is, I think, a very strong case for saying that our aircraft production should be under a Ministry of Munitions and not under the Air Ministry, and I am fortified in saying that because the obvious fact from the report is that the Air Ministry has too much to do. If the Air Ministry cannot run its business, if successive Air Ministers have neglected civil aviation, then we should take civil aviation away and put it where it can be looked after and developed. In our view the Air Ministry is not the right Ministry to control civil aviation. The right way to run civil aviation is not by subsidising a number of companies. In our view civil aviation should remain a great national service, but when you have competition between services in regard to transport you will get all the old evils. I am not satisfied with regard to railway competition. The railways play the same game all through the years. They are industrial Bourbons, who learn nothing. When they took over the canals they killed the canals. When they took over road transport they did so in the interest of the railways, and when they took over flying they did so because they wanted to suppress flying and concentrate transport on the railways. That is the position you get when you allow enormously important services both in peace and in 449 war time to be controlled by the motive of private profit.
It is much more important that we should have a great civil aircraft industry in this country than that we should have a profit-making concern running for private profit. Our civil aviation both internally and externally should be built up as part of our manufacturing service, not directly under the same department but in connection with it, so that we can develop our internal air service and build up a great and strong aircraft industry in this country. The system that has been running for so many years, a small ring of firms sitting down comfortably in a ring, subsidised and protected by the Government, has been inimical to the development of British aviation, and the effect is that this country, as is shown in this report, is behind other countries in the matter of aviation. The report here is extremely able. Within the limits of the terms of their reference they have gone as far as they could. But the matter is larger than that. It is one for decision by the Government which will put national interests first and private profit after, which will see to it that the development of civil aviation shall be built up as a civilian industry, and eventually serve the cause of peace rather than add to the causes of war.
§ 5.9 p.m.
The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech most unhelpful to civil aviation. He has used the Cadman Report to attack the Government, but when he came to his own suggestions for the reform of this great service he had only two proposals to make. I speak as one who is deeply interested in the future of civil aviation. I accept the report, and I accept what the Prime Minister has said that it is a great constructive effort to put civil aviation on a proper basis. All that the right hon. Gentleman can suggest is, first, that civil and military aviation should be separated. That may be all right, but it was not invented by the right hon. Gentleman. It was said years ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon). His second proposal was that the service should be nationalised, and there again that is a suggestion which comes from a party which desires to see everything in this world nationalised. But whether the service is nationalised or 450 run by a company or a combination of companies, there are immense questions involved in civil aviation which far transcend these remedies, and I should deeply regret if a service in which so many hon. Members are interested and on which there is a large consensus of opinion that reforms are necessary, should become a party question to be flung across the Floor of the House. However, I will leave the right hon. Gentleman to my Noble Friend, whom we are glad to see on the Front Bench and to whose help in this problem we are looking forward.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he is attacking the Government, that a Socialist Government was in office more than once during the period, and I have yet to learn that they made any of the great reforms about which he has been speaking so loudly The report of the Cadman Committee, which was the outcome of the speech of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins), calls for reforms in the Air Ministry, a reform of Imperial Airways, the separation of the European and Empire services, and for higher subsidies. In the first place, we are to have a whole-time chairman and two whole-time directors on the operating company. I entirely agree with that. The committee are right in saying that the matter is too big to be left in the control of a general manager. The second point is that there should be a limitation of dividend. There again I entirely agree. I think also that the separation of the European and Empire services is entirely right. It exists already, but it is to be extended, except that the Paris service is to be operated by a joint company.
I wish now to refer to some of the criticisms that have been made of Imperial Airways, Limited, but before doing so I wish to make my position clear to the House. I do not dispute those criticisms. A strong and impartial committee has sat and has received a mass of evidence, and I accept the recommendations and conclusions of that committee. Nevertheless, I would like to say how those criticisms arose in some cases, and I will deal with them seriatim. In the first place, the committee state in their report that the relations of Imperial Airways with the Air Ministry were wrong, that they were difficult to deal with, that 451 they dealt with their staff in an improper manner, that their internal management was bad, that they operated obsolete machines, and, last and most important, that they took a commercial view of their duties. I think the last charge really lies at the basis of the difference which, I regret to say, has separated my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) and myself. One of the causes why the hon. Lady and I most unfortunately differ is that she wants the company to operate independently of commercial possibilities—
At any rate, the committee accuse Imperial Airways of taking a too commercial view. I would remind the House that Imperial Airways were told to take that view by the Hambling Committee, which called for a commercial organisation run entirely on business lines. Moreover, if hon. Members will turn to paragraph 6 of the Preface to the Cadman Committee's Report, they will see that it is stated that:The aim was to help civil aviation to become self-supporting, so that in the course of time it might 'fly by itself.'Imperial Airways were directed so to organise their business and so to forecast their operations that at some future date the service might "fly by itself." That entailed certain grave disadvantages. It entailed a descending scale of subsidies, it entailed strict economy of management, and, above all, it necessitated a different view from that held by some hon. Members, who want a service that is run independently of commercial possibilities. These facts cut through a good deal of the criticism in the report, and I think it is wrong to blame the company in this respect. They were told to do certain things, and now that the Government have changed their mind, it is rather hard if it is said to the company, "Why did you not act in the way we now want you to act 14 years ago?"
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make the proposition that the Hambling Committee recommended that there should be no liaison between the company and the Air Ministry, and that the company should 452 take an absolutely narrow conception of its operations?
Certainly the charge is that the company took too narrow a view of their duties, and the committee say that they are profoundly dissatisfied with Imperial Airways and view the future with extreme disquiet. What I am trying to explain to the House is that some of the criticism of that company arose from different views which prevailed when Imperial Airways were started. Again, in paragraph 14 of the report, the committee say that the Air Ministryneither supported nor encouraged the development of new routes.I do not want to defend anybody who has made a mistake or who has gone wrong, but I wish to be fair, and I ask the House to be fair and to see where the blame lies. With regard to the charge that Imperial Airways' machines are obsolete, four years ago an order was placed for new machines, the first delivery to be in September, 1936, but not one machine has been received up to date. That is true, but although many of the machines are obsolete, the company run a service which is a very safe one and a popular one, and the committee say that they are not dissatisfied with the proportion of cross-Channel traffic carried by Imperial Airways.
The next point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is the amount of the subsidy paid. I think all hon. Members agree that civil aviation depends very largely on the subsidies, and that it would not be possible to run an air service, except to a very small extent, without a subsidy, and that if it is wanted to develop new routes and start new services, it is necessary to increase the subsidy. The committee state that the subsidy paid to Imperial Airways is lower per mile than that paid in any foreign country. I have worked out the total of the subsidy paid during the period from 1925 to 1937, and it amounts to just over £4,500,000, that is to say, less than £348,000 a year on the average. It is now proposed that £3,000,000 a year should be given, or that the amount should be multiplied nearly 10 times. One cannot expect bricks without straw, one cannot expect a progressive service to run on new and untried routes unless it is heavily subsidised. The committee 453 state in very strong terms that the subsidies have been too small.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud raised the question originally, he made certain charges. He attacked the safety records of Imperial Airways, he said that their equipment was inadequate, he called attention to the wrong type of deicers, and he spoke strongly about the dissatisfaction of the staff. I think I have fairly summarised his charges. I quite agree that there was dissatisfaction of the staff and that his criticisms were justified; but I understand that that matter has now been put right—
I am sorry if that is not so. The committee state:The carriage of air passengers in safety and comfort and the conveyance of mails and freight have been achieved by Imperial Airways with considerable efficiency.The committee go on to reinforce that statement, and they say that there is no evidence to support the suggestion that the services of Imperial Airways are less safe than those of any foreign country. Moreover, the committee say that Imperial Airways do not put traffic considerations before prudence. With regard to the charge that Imperial Airways use the wrong type of deicer, the committee say that the aspersions made on the company are unwarranted. I hope the House will forgive me for having made these observations. I was with this company at its birth, and on coming into the House I thought it right, since the company was a subsidised one, to resign from the board. If anybody has made a profit out of Imperial Airways, I can only say that I sold my shares at a heavy loss. I have been in touch with the people who have run the company, and I knew the late Sir Eric Geddes.
The only personal remarks that I wish to make are about the general manager, who does not escape severe charges. I know the general manager well, and I have worked with him. When Imperial Airways were first started, and all the other companies were grouped together, the pilots came to us and said that they did not like this gentleman; but they started to work with him, and I believe I am right in saying that after the start the majority of them were satisfied with him. He is a man who has given his whole life and energy to flying, on which 454 he is an undoubted authority. I am told that he is now in America, and at any rate he cannot speak in this House; but I do not want the occasion to pass without paying a tribute to one who, whatever his faults may be, did his best for civil aviation and did not spare himself in the effort.
Of the traffic of Imperial Airways, 90 per cent. is on Empire routes, and if hon. Members examine the report, I think they will agree that nearly all the criticisms are directed to other parts of that service. I think it will be agreed that the flying boats used on the Empire service are good and that the service itself is an admirable one. Looking back over the past 14 years, one is bound to admit that mistakes have been made; and who does not make mistakes? But do not let the House forget the great new service which has been built up by this company. It is very easy to say that certain matters were neglected, but does not that happen in all new enterprises? I do not think the House has fully realised the nature of the untried country with which the board were faced when they started. The whole service had to be reorganised and reconstituted when the board took over from the constituent companies. They had to work it out as they went along, and as a result they have created this great service, which, with all the mistakes that have been made in the past, still carries on a good work over a large part of its operations and carries it on well.
I am intensely anxious to see British civil aviation the best in the world. I rejoice that the improved organisation, and it is an improved organisation, will make for better operation, and I rejoice above all that, now, all who are interested in civil aviation have only one end in view. We shall not look to the commercial possibilities—at least, if we do try to look so far ahead, we shall strain our eyes. But we shall look to the establishment of a great service which will carry the flag all over the world, a great service manned by British pilots and flying British machines, a service which will show that we are the first country in the world in civil aviation.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The House must have listened with great interest to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member 455 for Ripon (Major Hills). I could not help recalling the Debates on the Air Navigation Act two years ago and thinking of the difference in tone between the speech which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made on that occasion and the speech which he has made to-day. We were told then by him that not a word of criticism which might be said about Imperial Airways could possibly be justified, that he had been a director and had left, but that it was carrying on all right, and that the House need not be nervous about it. A few months ago we had another Debate, and a great speech was made by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins). I remember, on that occasion, the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) almost repudiating the idea that there was any necessity for an inquiry. The hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) spoke on the same theme. Then to-day we heard the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon say, "Do not let us be polemical or argumentative. Here is a report which condemns everything, root and branch. Let us sit down calmly and make things right." That is very different from the attitude which he took on the previous occasion.
Yesterday we had a Debate on the military side of aviation, and whatever the Prime Minister may say, all of us went away from it feeling gravely dissatisfied about the situation. Having listened to hon. Members who have technical knowledge of these questions, I was profoundly disturbed by some of the things which were brought out in yesterday's Debate, and there was a feeling of depression at the end of it. To-day we are discussing civil aviation. Here there has been grave dissatisfaction for years, voiced on all sides of the House, and the result was the setting-up of the Cadman Committee. I am bound to remind those who represent the Government of the strenuous opposition which was offered by them to the setting-up of that committee. No one can easily forget that Debate, when, until the last moment, there was tremendous opposition to having any inquiry at all. I believe the Under-Secretary suggested an inquiry by the Civil Service. But if an inquiry has ever been justified, surely it is this inquiry. Never was criticism more justified, and never has there been issued a 456 more damning indictment than is contained in the pages of the Cadman Report.
Where does the responsibility rest for this tragic position? There is no doubt in the minds of the committee about where the responsibility ought to be put. Paragraph 23 points to the Secretary of State as responsible. It says that he has a responsibility which has been neglected. It regards defects in the Air Ministry organisation as the prime cause of the trouble. As regards what the Prime Minister said in defence of the Air Minister, let me say at once that I am not making any personal attack. I think every Member of the House recognises the tremendous responsibility which is borne by the Air Minister. It would be mean not to acknowledge the tremendous burden which rests at present, not only on the Air Minister, but on all those who sit on that Front Bench. Their responsibility at this time is terrific, and I am the last in the world to forget it. They have my sincere sympathy in that really terrible responsibility. Therefore, I want to take this matter away from the personal point of view.
I admire the loyalty of the Prime Minister to his colleagues. It is a great virtue, but there is a greater loyalty than loyalty to one's colleagues. Loyalty to the people of the country is far more important than loyalty to a particular person. I am concerned with the prestige of the country and with the proper development of civil aviation, and it is no excuse for the Prime Minister to say that the Air Minister during the past few years has borne such a burden that he cannot be charged with neglect of his duty because of what is said in the Cadman Report as to the state of civil aviation. If a Minister holds an office and is charged with certain functions which he finds himself unable to fulfil because of excessive duties in another direction, surely it is his responsibility to report, either to the Prime Minister or to this House, that it is essential to appoint someone who can devote his time and energy to those functions. My complaint is not that the Minister has not attended to the civil aviation side, but that he has allowed to continue the organisation which is denounced in this report. If he could not do the job, something ought to have been done to make provision for 457 the proper carrying-on of this vital service.
I congratulate the Government on the alterations which are now being made. I think many of them are very good and that they are, undoubtedly, improvements of the organisation. But do they go far enough? There was in the report a suggestion that a second Under-Secretary should be appointed to deal with civil aviation. The report says that no final decision has been reached on this point. I am not one of those who press for new appointments. I believe there are now nearly 100 people in this House who serve the Government in one form or another. That is a dangerous bloc to have behind any Government. It is a large number of people to be dependent upon Government for patronage. I think it is dangerous, and I fight shy of suggesting that there should be another. But I have particular reasons for pressing for this appointment. They are different from those stated in the report.
The right hon. Gentleman has traced the history of civil aviation in this country. I think it is necessary for the House to look again at that history. This House gives to certain companies very special privileges. Those companies enjoy a complete monopoly as far as internal competition is concerned, and the House has no direct control over their actions, except by the appointment of certain Government directors to the boards. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon told us that since 1925 a sum of £4,500,000 has been paid out to those companies. They have looked upon their responsibility purely as a business proposition, failing to recognise the responsibility to the State created by the granting of the subsidy. I cannot tell on how many grounds they are condemned in the report, but I mention a few. They are condemned on the ground that they have not encouraged the development of types of machines other than those designed for their own special needs. Their relations with the Air Ministry are condemned, and their relations with their employés are condemned. I think perhaps the worst condemnation of all is that the management has not given adequate time to the job. No man has a right to be chairman of a company unless he is prepared to give adequate 458 time to the duties of the job, particularly if the company is subsidised by the State. If we pay public money to private companies, why should we not be able to put questions to a Minister regarding the activities of those companies?
That is why I suggest the appointment of another Under-Secretary. We ought to be able to put questions to a Minister here as to how a particular company is being run and what encouragement it is giving to all forms of civil aviation. I have objected times without number, as I am sure the Minister of Transport will agree, to the subsidising of private enterprise. I believe that the principle is fundamentally wrong. I cannot see that we are entitled to give money away to individuals to run businesses for profit, but I am not going to labour that point now. In the Air Navigation Act we agreed to a subsidy which was to last for, I think, 17 years, and the least the House must demand is that, being called upon to foot the bill, it should be in a position to know how the subsidised company is carrying out its duties. Surely that is the least we can ask. The present state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue.
§ On the question of the limitation of profits, there is very little of a definite nature in the report, and the Prime Minister was not clear on that subject in his speech yesterday. I understood from him that some action would be taken later. But dividends of 8 per cent. and 9 per cent. are far too much for a subsidised company to pay. I believe that if a free vote of the House were taken, it would express very definitely the opinion that no company has a right to pay that amount of profit while it is drawing a subsidy from the State. I read the figures in this report with great interest, but do we really know the full amount of subsidies paid? Are there not a good many hidden subsidies which are not stated in terms of figures? I do not mean anything in a dishonest way, but what about the payments made by the Post Office, what about petrol supplied free of duty? Do Imperial Airways pay any rent for the use of Croydon? Is it or is it not a fact that 80 motor boats are loaned to them from the Air Ministry? Who pays for the upkeep of those boats? Can we assess correctly in terms of money what these companies are actually receiving? I believe that if it could be worked 459 out in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, the figures stated here would be a mere fleabite as compared with the real assistance given to them.
§ I want now to make a point about the clearing house and the ban on booking facilities regarding internal lines. Two particular companies—and I have no interest in either and have never met, to my knowledge, a single person from either of them—have been mentioned to me by name, and I want to ask whether the ban on bookings by the railway companies still exists, either with Allied Airways or with Olleys. I believe it is true to say that it does. There is a reference in the report, in paragraph 75, to the effect that this matter is being satisfactorily solved, but my information is that that is entirely wrong. The report says that there is one case outstanding which involves certain political aspects. Will the Under-Secretary tell us what those political aspects are and whether they are being overcome? Are we going to be in the same position regarding air services with respect to the railway companies as road transport is finding itself in to-day? I asked a ques-at Question Time in regard to a company serving the public in a way that the public desired, providing a particular service at a particular time in a particular manner, and it appears that people can go to a tribunal which can wipe out the whole of that company and take away from the people the services that they want. Surely, we do not want to see that kind of thing happening with regard to air services in this country, and I hope that hon. Members will take a very strong line and see there is freedom of choice for people to use what particular lines they desire and not what particular lines the railway companies wish to impose upon them.
§ We are told in the roport that mails are being carried to Switzerland in foreign machines. Is anything being done about that? I should like to know whether some assistance is not being given to a British company to carry out that particular service. In regard to Whitley Councils, the report is very vague as to what is being done. A company that receives subsidies should surely treat its employés decently, and there should be good feeling between the pilots engaged and Imperial Airways. I think we are entitled to ask for a definite answer to that question. I have not 460 been able to find out whether the charge of victimisation which was made in this House last December was or was not true. May we have some information on that point? Are the pilots going to be reinstated? Are Imperial Airways going to recognise the British Airline Pilots Association, which I understand represents 80 per cent. of the pilots? I think we are entitled, before we pass this report as satisfactory, to have specific answers to these questions.
§ With regard to aerodromes, I cannot understand the Government's attitude. I understand that very little of the extra subsidy is to be given for aerodromes. We can give subsidies for machines flying to foreign countries, but we refuse to give them to our municipalities to provide aerodromes for internal communication in this country. We can give subsidies to private companies to make profits, but municipalities, whose profits would be handed back to the people themselves, are not to have, so far as I can see, a halfpenny, except in regard to a provision for night flying. I was going to give some figures with regard to Bradford and Leeds, which have an aerodrome at Yeadon, and the money that has been spent or is passed as to be spent amounts to £100,000. All municipalities with a certain population were asked in a circular, in 1928, to provide facilities for flying and to provide aerodromes. They have looked upon it as a national and a local duty, but I do not mind telling the Under-Secretary quite frankly, as one of the representatives of Bradford, that while I am certain that my constituents do not object to paying their dues and legitimate demands towards national defence, I see no reason why they should be called upon to bear this purely national expenditure; and I think the Government would be well advised to go again into the question of grants for municipal aerodromes. There is a net annual loss on revenue account of thousands of pounds per year, and I speak particularly with regard to Yeadon.
§ Why do you take such a mean and miserable outlook on these matters? In the world of to-day, when we need to be looking at these questions in a big way, here we are asking year after year for a miserable few hundred thousand pounds to put internal aviation into the position which it ought to occupy. It seems to me that Ministers are taking a 461 miserable, narrow, parochial view of these questions. To use an old phrase, they are fiddling while Rome is burning, and I believe this country is miles behind so far as internal air lines are concerned. Do you want to develop air lines? It seems to me to be doubtful, from your actions. Do you want to provide for a national emergency? If so, stop your niggling, enlarge your views, and act as if you believed that this great country is the centre of a great Empire and cannot afford to be second to any country in the world in the development of civil aviation.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Hulbert
I wish to congratulate the Committee which inquired into the allegations made against Imperial Airways on the speed and thoroughness with which they carried out their task. The results, as embodied in the blue book which we have in our hands, do not, I am sure, justify the strictures passed when the Noble Chairman was appointed. I think this House might reflect on the findings of a Committee such as this, because it would appear that, in regard to certain officials of Imperial Airways, they have been severely censured without possibly that opportunity of defence which they ought to be given. For some years Imperial Airways have been regarded as naughty boys. They could never do anything right, and every action they took was deprecated and looked upon with severity. I am reminded of a question asked in this House a few weeks ago as to the relative numbers of accidents in the cases of Imperial Airways and other companies, and when a supplementary question was asked whether Imperial Airways have not in fact the greatest reputation for safety, the hon. Member who asked that question was himself asked whether he was a shareholder in Imperial Airways, it being held in some hon. Members' minds, evidently, that nobody could possibly attempt to justify anything that Imperial Airways did unless he had some personal interest therein.
The report makes strictures on Imperial Airways on the questions of speed and the obsolescence of certain types of machines, but it pays tribute to its safety and efficiency. We know that Imperial Airways operating between here and the Continent have to meet the competition of other lines, and in regard to the foreign lines it 462 is interesting to note to what extent their subsidies compare with that paid to Imperial Airways. The subsidy paid to Imperial Airways is only 23.8 per cent. of their total receipts, while, at the other end of the scale, Air France receives 2½ times that percentage as subsidy. That is one of the problems which Imperial Airways have had to face since their inception. There is also the question of their inability to procure modern machines during the last three or four years, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has pointed out that that is due entirely to the speed with which we have been proceeding with the military side of aviation and is, in fact, the price that we have had to pay for procuring adequate rearmament. If that price is only the slowing-up of the London-Continental air service of Imperial Airways, I venture to say that the price is a small one.
The report of the Cadman Committee deals mainly with the Continental services of Imperial Airways, and that is possibly unfortunate, because, as has been stated in this House to-day, probably 90 per cent. of Imperial Airways' flying time is done on the Empire services, and those hon. Members who have had the opportunity of flying in these Empire flying boats will, I know, pay a tribute to their safety, efficiency, and speed. The Cadman Report exonerates Imperial Airways in regard to certain detailed allegations about speed boats and de-icing. The report criticises the fact that the pilots' representation has not possibly been as good as was hoped. We have had in the House detailed allegations in regard to the dismissal of certain pilots, but I think it has been confirmed that the criticism was more as to the method that was adopted rather than the cause of it. I understand that Imperial Airways are now carrying out a scheme for staff representation on the lines of the Whitley Council, and when that is done we hope it will bring to an end the criticisms and unfortunate allegations in this respect. The allegations and criticisms about Imperial Airways which have been made with almost monotonous regularity during recent years must inevitably have had some effect, great or small—it depends on the individual—upon moral, not only of the senior officers of the company, but right down to the lower ranks. It is to be hoped that the acceptance of the Cadman Report will put an end to these 463 grievances and that every employé in the company will feel that he is part of a team out to work for the future of a great organisation.
What of the future? After this Debate we will agree, I think, that the idea of civil aviation being nobody's baby must be a thing of the past. We want a strong policy for air transport. We welcome the fact that the Under-Secretary will now be able to devote the major part of his time to civil aviation, and as a result we shall, I think, see a great deal more help and co-operation between the Air Ministry and Imperial Airways and all the other companies concerned in promoting and encouraging air transport in this country. I hope that the Government will see their way to give more encouragement to, and to develop more fully, the internal air services. We are in the rather ludicrous position to-day of having excellent municipally-owned airports concentrated about the country, which at long last are being provided with technical apparatus, but, on the other side, we see internal airlines operating at a loss which cannot be maintained for ever. When these internal air line companies have eventually exhausted their available capital, we shall have these airports, on which many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent, lying more or less derelict round the country.
The subsidising or the encouragement of internal airlines would do a great deal to make this country more air-minded. It is all right for the people living in the vicinity of London and certain big cities, for they have the opportunity of seeing modern air liners operating with almost clockwork regularity, but the people in the smaller towns have no such opportunity. I hope this Debate will be the end of what I may call the quarrel in civil aviation and that Imperial Airways and other companies will now march ahead flying the flag of British civil aviation throughout the world; that they will be helped to do that by a real enthusiasm of a helpful Civil Aviation Department behind them; and that Imperial Airways or any other company will be encouraged to develop new air liners. We want more pioneer work on those lines. With that, and with coordination between the companies concerned 464 and the Government, we shall see British air transport occupying the same high position as the mercantile marine does throughout the world.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
We are asked to take a very serious vote this evening when we are asked to approve the Government's observations on the report of the Cadman Committee unless we have rather fuller observations than we have had. I also would like to pay my tribute to the magnificent achievement of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) in being instrumental in setting up this committee. I would, too, like to endorse what the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) said when he asked that we might have an answer this evening to points which have been raised in the Debate. This is a matter of great seriousness, and none of us wish to make it a party question; none of us wish to say, "I told you so," or to triumph in any way. When we find that there is something wrong in civil aviation, it is not a matter about which any of us can feel jubilant, even if we have been saying so for very many years without being listened to until to-day. When we are criticising, we must try to be just and to find the cause of what is wrong.
We should not ignore paragraph 6 on page 2 of the report, because that is very largely responsible for what is wrong and for the setting-up of the Cadman Committee. It says that the aim of our civil aviation was that it might be made to fly by itself. That is what is responsible for our being so far behind the rest of the world. Let us remember that that policy had the consent of the House year after year, and there is no one who gave his consent to it and who was satisfied with the increasingly unsatisfactory speeches of the Under-Secretary year after year, who has any right to feel that he was not partly to blame for the state of affairs that has arisen. The whole of this report shows that what we need is a new spirit and a new outlook towards civil aviation. A mere appointment or two will not achieve that. What we want to know is whether, in the policy of the Government in future, there is to be a new spirit with regard to civil aviation.
I was very much disquieted when the Prime Minister said that the neglect of 465 civil aviation had been due to the development of military aviation, because no one can deny, what has been said from the Front Bench, that there is greater need for the expansion of military aviation today than there has ever been before. When we are discussing the Cadman Committee Report we cannot, because of an appointment or two, think that all is well when we know that the reason which has been given for the neglect of civil aviation is a reason which could better be argued to-day than at any time during the last few years. Is there to be a development of civil aviation with military aviation, or are we going to be told that the Government intended to implement the Cadman Report, but unfortunately, owing to the increase in military aviation, they are not able to do so?
The report says that there is criticism except in regard to Empire routes. The hon. Member for Stroud did magnificently in his speech which led to the setting up of the committee, but no Member can fail to admit that when he moves a Motion he cannot touch on all the points that he would like to raise. Had some of us who were not able to get into that Debate on 17th November been able to speak, there might have been further subjects into which the Cadman Committee would have found it necessary to inquire. Before I leave the question of Empire routes, which the Prime Minister told us must be our main consideration, may I ask whether we can be assured that they are really satisfactory and that, if the Cadman Committee had investigated them, they would have found no shortage? If there is to be this concentration on Empire communications, let them be in the vanguard of civil aviation, where they are by no means to-day. For instance, it now takes Imperial Airways nine days to get to Capetown. When we have the speeded-up service which has been very much advertised and talked about, but which is a very long time in coming, we are to have a service which will take us to Calcutta in six days, Singapore in eight days, Brisbane in 12 days, and Sydney in 13 days. But that service is a long way off in the mists of the future.
Starting on 29th March, however, a Dutch air service is going to reach Calcutta in 3½ days and Singapore in five days. May I have an answer from the 466 Minister whether that is what is to be considered satisfactory for our Empire routes? Is it to receive any further attention and any speeding up? When are we to have even the much too slow service which is promised us? May we also have a definite assurance, not that there are to be a few alterations, but that we are to have what the Cadman Committee report on page 7 says is necessary, not only for our prestige but for our trade interests, that is, a service to South America and the West Indies across the Pacific? The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Rear-Admiral Sueter) has been asking for a service to the West Indies for some time, but he now takes the extraordinary line that everything is all right. May I ask when we are likely to get this service to South America which the Cadman Committee report says is essential if our prestige and trade interests are to be safeguarded?
May I also have an answer to this question: Is it to be the policy of the Government, as it appears to be to-day, to fly over the largest expanse of water in the world with land planes and to use our flying boats to fly over miles and miles of what might be enemy territory in the event of war? It is more unsatisfactory than ever before that our Empire services should pass over foreign countries when they could perfectly well be flown along an all-British route. What is the object of having flying boats if we are not going to use them to fly over water? We have said, and I think it is still the policy of the Government, that we intend to keep open the Mediterranean. If so, why do we not fly by Gibraltar and up the Mediterranean instead of over France, Italy and Greece?
In the case of the South American service, are we to fly over France and Spain? Why cannot we stop at Lisbon and Gibraltar and go down the West Coast of Africa? Are we quite happy to know that Germany is using Bathurst as a port for the whole of her South Atlantic traffic; and are we quite happy about the very large German sheds and the tremendous influence of Germany in Bathurst? Are we quite happy that to-day we pay to her and France £100,000 to carry our mails across the South Atlantic? Is that position to be continued, or will it be rectified?
The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said that all that 467 had been needed was more money, and that now that more money was to be forthcoming everything would be all right. Many of us feel that the money has been grossly misused. As the hon. Member for South Bradford very ably said, the subsidy which Imperial Airways received according to the Cadman Report is but a fleabite compared with what they have really received, and I complain not only of their having paid dividends with Government subsidies, but of their having paid dividends at all, when they never took the trouble to replace their obsolete machines. What is the use of hon. Members saying they could not get the new machines because our factories were full of military orders? It is only in recent years that those military orders have been placed. Imperial Airways were flying obsolete machines long before the Government set about rearmament. What is the use of making that wholly false excuse? If the Government can do no more than put up to defend them people who use arguments which are not correct, how can they ask for our support?
I shall not say more, because other hon. Members want to speak and I very much hope that we are going to hear the hon. Member for Stroud and learn what are his opinions upon the Government's promises. But hon. Members will bear me out when I say that for more than four years I have been saying almost everything of what is now in the Cadman Report to a House which was not always sympathetic, and therefore I think I have a right to be listened to, and I am not really confident that the Government are going to put civil aviation where it ought to be. I do not think the expansion of civil aviation is merely a matter of prestige. I believe that to-day we should not have a quarter of the anxiety that we feel about our military aviation if we had developed civil aviation properly in the past. Germany has built up the whole of her military aviation from her civil aviation. America has built up her export trade with the world in civil machines through civil aviation, and not military. The improvements in military aviation—the variable pitch propeller, the streamlined body, the all-metal construction, the wing flaps and the wing slots—are all developments, not of military aviation but of civil aviation. They were developed in civil aviation and adopted for 468 military machines. Therefore, I say that we shall not be able to defend ourselves from the military standpoint if we continue to neglect civil aviation as it has been neglected in this country in the past.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment which was moved by the Leader of the Labour party. It talks about "disclosures of long-standing Ministerial neglect" and "of gross inefficiency in the management of a heavily subsidised company," and both those criticisms are proved up to the hilt by the Cadman Report. I remember the Debate of 17th November and the look of injured innocence on the face of some Members of the Government when anyone dared to criticise their administration of civil aviation. In fact, any hon. Member who had the nerve to criticise was considered more of a cad than a man, but the report of the Committee has justified that Debate because in that report we have a damning indictment of maladministration in civil aviation. One has only to read some of the strong language in paragraph 7:We consider that there is reason for more than apprehension, indeed we view with extreme disquiet, the position disclosed by our inquiry.Paragraph 8 states:The Maybury Committee on internal air transport reported just over a year ago. Although some progress has been made towards the reorganisation which they envisaged, the picture as disclosed to us remains virtually as black as they then painted it.As regards the subsidised companies, paragraph 9 accuses one of them of using obsolete aircraft, and every one is accused of using foreign aircraft, a course which, it has been said, is damaging to our great manufacturing prestige. We, the great manufacturing nation of the world, which led the world on land and sea, are behind in the race in the air. After those general accusations we come to something more specific. Paragraph 23 states that the committee found that the defects in the Air Ministry organisation were not due to shortage of funds. After such indictments as these, one begins to wonder, especially after yesterday's Debate on the Air Service, whether the National Government really ought to enjoy a majority in this House. We are told that these companies were subsidised only to enable them afterwards to fly by themselves. The nestlings 469 are a long time in flying. Some of them have been in the nest nearly 20 years, and it is time they were fully fledged and flying on their own, and not depending upon public money.
We have heard a good deal from previous speakers about the machines. I am concerned with the men, and the relations between employers and employed as disclosed in this report fill me with alarm. In paragraph 103 it is stated:It is clear that the considerable increase during the last two or three years in the number of pilots and other operative personnel, coupled with amalgamations of air transport undertakings, is rendering personal contact between employer and employed ineffective for the adjustment of grievances or for representations on other matters.We on this side of the House, with our trade union experience, know that the individual standing alone has no chance when he claims his rights against organised employers, and that the only answer to that is organised employés. The report goes on to recommend that conversations and negotiations should take place between, on the one side, an amalgamation of undertakings and, on the other side, employés' organisations, and I would repeat the question asked by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), "Is the Air Pilots' Association now to be recognised by Imperial Airways? "
I would like to say a word on the profits of Imperial Airways. In the Debate on 17th November several charges were made; first, that the salaries of the pilots had been cut; second, that the dividend of the company had increased from 8 to 9 per cent.; and third, that the directors' fees had been more or less doubled. As far as I can remember, those charges have not been refuted and are not refuted in the report. Excuses are made, but there is no refutation. The excuse is made that in the early years of the company no dividend was forthcoming, that between 1924 and 1937 an average of only 4½ per cent. was paid, and that the increase in the fees paid to the directors was a matter solely within the jurisdiction of the shareholders. If increased dividends and directors' fees could be paid, surely there was no justification for a cut in the salaries of the pilots. They should at least have been allowed to retain what they had. The prosperity of the company ought to have been reflected in an improvement in the position of the pilots.
470 There is a further question that I should like to ask. Imperial Airways was set up as a combination of certain companies. Why cannot that be done to British Airways? There are other companies also. I believe that something should be done for all these companies to enable them to combine. I have never seen a more damning indictment of mismanagement than the Cadman Report, and everything that was said in it has been proved up to the hilt. The Government mismanage everything. We have had an abundance of evidence of that fact lately in the realm of foreign affairs, just as we have had it at home in civil and military aviation. The Government's record is one of gross mismanagement and neglect.
§ 6.31 p.m.
Sir Robert Birds
One previous speaker has touched upon the subject of municipal aerodromes. The Government cannot be absolved from blame upon that question. In paragraph 79 of their report, the Cadman Committee say:The whole subject of the provision of aerodromes in this country was fully examined by the Maybury Committee. Our consideration of the question is limited to the Air Ministry share of the responsibility for the present position of aerodrome owners.Then they go to say, in the next paragraph:We find, however, that sites have been approved by the Air Ministry, and aerodromes have been fully developed by municipalities, in a completely haphazard manner.… The licensing of aerodromes has, in fact, been regarded as an administrative act unrelated to the probable requirements of air services.
§ The question of municipal aerodromes to-day certainly demands the attention of the Air Minister. By means of circulars and other propaganda, municipalities were appealed to a few years ago, chiefly on grounds of public spirit, to construct municipal aerodromes. It was pointed out that it could not be expected that an effective system of civil aviation would grow up unless there were air ports. The municipalities responded very loyally with true public spirit and spent large sums of money in securing sites, very often outside their own areas. They constructed aerodromes and fitted them with the necessary appliances for air traffic. What has been the result? Take the aerodrome which I know particularly well in my own constituency of 471 Wolverhampton. Up to the present, the air traffic is practically non-existent, beyond a casual commercial or private machine, plus the machines of a flying club which rents the aerodrome. I am informed that the cost of construction of this air port amounted to some £80,000, that the deficiency upon it in the current year is over £4,000, and that the estimated deficiency for next year is £5,000.
§ The future of that airport 1s naturally a source of very real anxiety to the municipality of Woverhampton. The public spirit which inspired the construction of this aerodrome, as of the others, is unabated, but we feel—I speak for other municipalities as well—that the matter should receive the urgent attention of the Under-Secretary of State, who, we understand, will now have time to devote to these matters. Airports have a double purpose, firstly to provide what is necessary for an internal system of civil aviation, and secondly to create the air mind in the people of this country. Until that air mind is created there can be no successful internal civil aviation, nor indeed can Empire routes be fully developed. I beg the Under-Secretary of State to say a few words in his reply which will relieve the anxiety of the municipal aerodrome owners.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Eckersley
I have been interested for many years in a subject which might very rightly have formed a part of the Cadman Report, but which, unfortunately, does not do so to any extent. I refer to light aeroplane clubs. In the early days of civil aviation these clubs performed a very useful service. I think that is recognised by all civil pilots. The clubs are now falling upon evil days, through no fault of their own. This has been caused almost entirely by the new rearmament scheme and by the new schemes for the training of military pilots. The clubs touch a circle of young men who are interested in civil aviation, and who can be touched by no other means of training pilots. It is not every young man who wants to go into the Royal Air Force, or who is able to give up enough of his time for joining the Auxiliary Air Force or going to one of the Air Ministry training schools. In any case, many young men who can learn 472 to fly by any of these means would still like to keep up their flying in a civil capacity.
The clubs are to a very large extent subsidised, but the subsidy is gradually becoming insufficient. The reason is twofold. First of all, they have already touched to saturation point a great many people who can afford to pay a considerable proportion of their own flying expenses and the expenses of young pilots, and, secondly, the expenses of the clubs themselves must have become greater if only because of the expenses incurred in the engagement of instructors under the new arrangements with the Air Ministry in connection with their new scheme. It must be obvious that there will be a shortage of good instructors and that the wages of instructors have consequently gone to a higher level. This has pushed a great many of the clubs, as I myself know very intimately, very near to the point of extinction.
It would be a very great tragedy if this large circle of young men who are interested in flying, and who are prepared to pay a great proportion of their own flying instruction, were deprived of the possibility of learning to fly and of keeping to their own private flying afterwards. Much has been heard in the last 24 hours about the Royal Air Force having to fall back upon reserves of pilots in case of need in the very near future. The "A" licence pilots who have been taught by these clubs may form a very fine background for the Air Ministry, in case of dire necessity, and it seems very shortsighted for the Ministry to allow any of the clubs to become extinct. It might be asked by what means the subsidy can be increased. Many reasons are given against the possibility of increasing the direct subsidy, but there is always the possibility of some small rebate of tax on the petrol which is supplied to these clubs and of increasing—although this would not be popular—the direct subsidy on ordinary flying hours and on cross-country flying hours, which are obviously the most important form of flying provided for these clubs. The subsidy could be increased also on renewals of licences and on the granting of new licences. I would ask the Under-Secretary of State whether he will look upon these rather small requests in a generous way and find it possible by acceding to them to 473 bring a great deal of happiness into the lives of young men who do useful work for the country.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I would add my congratulations to those which have been extended to-day to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins). He is surveying the fruits of his handiwork today. He must be feeling a very proud and happy man. I wish to make a few remarks about the new appointments at the Air Ministry, which have been made as a result of the Cadman Report. I notice that they include a Deputy Director-General of Civil Aviation. Was the existing Director-General of the Department consulted before that appointment was made? We all regret that the Director-General is away on sick leave and we all hope for his early and complete restoration to health, but his absence makes it all the more interesting to know whether he was consulted in any way before the appointments were made. I go further and would ask if any of the Directors of Departments at the Air Ministry were consulted in regard to the new appointments.
I regret the haste with which the appointments have been made. I have not been able to understand the need for such very remarkable haste in adopting the recommendations of the Cadman Report, unless it was desired to disarm criticism inside and outside this House. It is most unusual to make appointments with such haste when a report is to be debated in this House within a week. It has been said by the Prime Minister that it was essential to save the delay of one week, but I cannot think that such an argument holds water. I regret this matter all the more because the Rae Committee is making inquiries at the present moment into the working of one of the most important sections of the Department of Civil Aviation, and the committee's findings may very well lead to a wider field of inquiry; so why rush these appointments before the Rae Committee has reported? Has that committee yet begun its work and will those witnesses who are examined by it enjoy the same security and privileges as those who were examined by the Cadman Committee?
As regards the new organisation which has been set up, I am not quite clear as 474 to the essential difference between a permanent Under-Secretary of State and a permanent Secretary of State. Each of them is the Chief Finance Officer of his Department. The War Office has one and the Admiralty has the other. Until 1934, there was a permanent Secretary at the Air Ministry, and the Department of Civil Aviation came under his direction, although it is true that the head of the Department of Civil Aviation had direct access to Ministers. In 1934 a deputation went to the Prime Minister, with, I believe, the approval of the then Secretary of State for Air, Lord Londonderry, and, as a result of that deputation, the Director of Civil Aviation was made Director-General, and was in effect given freedom from the authority of the Permanent Secretary. The change is said to have been due to the then Secretary of State for Air, Lord Londonderry, who felt that the then Permanent Secretary had far too much control of policy. The present decision seems to me to reverse the action taken in 1934, and the Director-General of Civil Aviation now goes back under the virtual control of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State. Is that what the Cadman Committee intended? In paragraph 29, on page 11 of their report, they say:The Permanent Under-Secretary of State. … would further be charged to see that the policies of civil and military aviation were constantly correlated, in which duty he would on the civil side have the assistance of the Director-General of Civil Aviation.In paragraph 14 of the Government's observations they say:The Permanent Under-Secretary of State will, in addition to his other duties, exercise general administrative direction in civil aviation matters.The wording of that passage shows clearly that the Director-General of Civil Aviation is to defer to the Permanent Under-Secretary of State in the planning and initiation of policy. He has obviously to submit and discuss matters of policy with the Permanent Under-Secretary of State before he takes them to Ministers. I think, and I believe that many think with me, that it would be far better if the Director-General of Civil Aviation were to work directly under a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Civil Aviation, and control his own policy and be responsible for his own finance. It may be true that the Department of Civil Aviation requires drastic 475 reorganisation, but I do not think that that will come merely by the interpolation of a new deputy into that Department. This decision has reversed what was done in 1934. The Cadman Report wants freedom and elasticity, but this new organisation will give the directors less initiative and elasticity than they now possess. In a word, I think that the decisions as taken are retrograde and will enable the Air Ministry to put the fetters on the Department of Civil Aviation once again. That Department should be free under its own Parliamentary Under-Secretary—free to develop its own policy and able to initiate sound policy and to construct an efficient organisation.
The Cadman Report, in regard to internal civil aviation, seems to do very little indeed to assist. It admits that civil aviation is wrong, but it is no use putting civil aviation right abroad and in the Empire unless it is put right at home. The aerodrome owners and the internal air company operators seem to me to be left very much as they were under the Maybury Report. After that report was issued, the interests which I have mentioned saw the Under-Secretary of State and begged for financial assistance and exemption from the petrol tax. They pointed out that the Air Ministry had urged local authorities to establish aerodromes. Those authorities who responded find themselves faced with very heavy losses, and have to face their ratepayers and explain those losses away. I do not believe that there is one single aerodrome at present which is making any profit at all—
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I am very glad indeed to hear that, but it is interesting to note that in this House only one aerodrome can be pointed to as making a profit. The aerodrome owners and aircraft operators got no satisfaction at that time from the Under-Secretary of State. The Cadman Report gets internal civil aviation no further. If no assistance is given, I believe that some lines will have to close down, and in closing down they will bring aerodromes down with them in turn. Aviation will not fly by itself for some time. Public authorities cannot continually face ratepayers with losses on aerodromes. The Cadman Report, in Part 1, paragraph 8, says: 476The Maybury Committee on Internal Air Transport reported just over a year ago.… the picture as disclosed to us remains virtually as black as they then painted it.Two years ago the picture was black; in two years more there will be no picture at all. Again, in paragraph 33 the Cadman Committee, after mentioning that the Maybury Committee had reported in 1936, says that they, that is, the Cadman Committee:have not, therefore, inquired into this important aspect of civil aviation.They found the picture black, but they have not made any inquiry into it. There is a further inconsistency still. In Part 2. paragraph 72, of their report, the Cadman Committee recommend that the Air Ministry should speed up on the lines of the Maybury Report, but in paragraph 76 they say:We cannot support proposals put before us that internal air lines should be subsidised.In fact, however, the Maybury Committee, while they advised against aerodrome subsidies, did not advise against subsidies to internal civil aviation lines. They described what they called "an appreciable measure of Government assistance" for internal air line operators asessential at this stage to secure a satisfactory degree of development.and they recommended that such assistance should be given. In this respect, therefore, the Cadman Report advises the Government to proceed on the lines of the Maybury Report, but also advises the Government not to adopt the recommendations of the Maybury Report. That is very paradoxical. The Maybury Report gave the Government an opening to subsidise internal civil aviation. The Cadman Report calls attention to that opening only to advise the Government to close it. The Cadman Committee say:We have not inquired,but all the same they advise the Government against a subsidy. How do they know that there is no case for a subsidy if they have not inquired into the condition of internal civil aviation? The Cadman Report does, however, recommend national assistance for aerodromes selected by the Air Ministry. It says such help is necessary 477until internal air transport has assumed larger proportions.Why State help for aerodromes but no help to enable the internal air services to grow? Because those services are so weak and poor, the aerodromes have to raise their prices to aircraft. It is simply a vicious circle. The fewer the services, the higher are the aerodrome charges, and the higher the aerodrome charges the more difficult it is for the internal lines to operate. What is the good of aerodromes if you have no services? No new internal air lines will develop as things are, and I believe that some of the old ones will close down. Then you will be left with aerodromes but no aircraft to use them, and the aerodromes will be nothing else but white elephants.
In conclusion, I want to put one direct question, as I think a very important question, to the Minister who is to reply. The Department of Civil Aviation exists to help and encourage civil aviation, and I am sure the Minister will agree that all the officers employed in that Department should bend all their efforts to the end of assisting civil aviation. I have had information given to me. I will not mention the name of the official concerned, because I think that this should be a matter of inquiry—I cannot express an opinion unless I hear the other side—and so I do not wish to mention the official's name until the inquiry has been made. I am told that this official from the Department of Civil Aviation, while on holiday recently in Switzerland, discussed quite casually with some quite casual acquaintances the affairs of a certain internal civil aviation company, the name of which I will not give, for obvious reasons. In this casual conversation with casual acquaintances, he said that this particular company was in a bad way, that it had lost £27,000 in the first year of its operation and £17,000 in the second; and, furthermore, that it would not last much longer as an independent company, as it was to be absorbed by the railway companies, the chairman not being keen on putting up any more money to be thrown away.
I have made some inquiries, and I believe that all those statements about this company were absolutely untrue. Even had they been true, they ought not to have been made, if they were so made, by an official of the Department of Civil 478 Aviation. Supposing that they were true—although they are not—supposing that these facts had come to the knowledge of this official, surely it was his duty to try to help a company struggling with bad times to get out of its difficulties, and not to make these reckless statements to casual acquaintances. If what I have been told is true, what has happened is a scandal. I think the allegations call for most serious inquiry by the Minister himself, and I feel confident that he will inquire into the matter. I will, of course, put the particulars that I have freely at his disposal. I hope that he will inquire into it, and that the results of his inquiry will be communicated to this House.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead)
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins), when he moved his Motion some months ago, was, to put it mildly, vehement. In my own home I always find that the wind blows very strongly when it blows from the direction of Gloucester, but I do not think I can recollect such a hurricane as was poured upon me on a certain Wednesday afternoon in November. I am perfectly certain, however, that the object which my hon. Friend had in mind on that occasion was quite genuinely the betterment of civil aviation. I want to stress that, because, despite the vigour of my hon. Friend's attack, it was obvious, having regard to the party to which he belongs, that he had no desire to embarrass the Government as such. His intention was to help the improvement of civil aviation, and particularly to direct attention to matters which required to be put right.
I think the Cadman Committee approached the inquiry from what one might call a business point of view. They had their attention directed to certain matters within a certain defined range and reported accordingly. It is exactly in that spirit that the report has been received by the Government. That was emphasised by the Prime Minister in his opening speech. They took this as a genuine effort to improve civil aviation and devoted their attention to the report from that standpoint and on those lines-It is clear, when one looks at the severe language of the Amendments that have been put down, that if the Government had chosen to make their reply to the 479 Cadman Report a mere matter of party strife their remarks attached to the report might have been couched in very different language, but that in the Government's opinion would not have got the matter where they wanted to get if, namely in the direction of bringing about an improvement in civil aviation policy and civil aviation generally. On the whole the recommendations of the Committee have in a very large measure been accepted. It is true that the Committee made one recommendation which the Government after due consideration decided, certainly in the present state of affairs, not acceptable. Anyone who heard the Debate on the military aspect of aviation yesterday must have realised that no case was made out for that recommendation.
The Leader of the Opposition made certain remarks about the management of Imperial Airways, and anyone reading the report sees that it came in for some fairly hard words. It seems to me that in the relationship between the Government and Imperial Airways, and indeed those relationships that are continuously growing up between Government Departments and outside bodies of one description or another, it is not always easy to define spheres of responsibility and, even if they are defined in words, it is not always easy to define their actual working in practice. But it seems to me that the words of paragraph 45 of the report are those on which we ought to concentrate, that is, the desirability of having the closest liaison between the Air Ministry and Imperial Airways. I am certain that in a relationship like this you cannot rely on any meticulous definition of words. One only hopes that the spirit of co-operation will go on on the best lines.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a point about Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner and said he was called an independent chairman. He asked what that meant; independent of what? It simply means that he is independent of any particular firm in the industry. He belongs to none of the firms which form the Society of British Aircraft Constructors. That is the meaning of his independent position. The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) raised the question of railway bookings. The Cadman Report said the situation was satisfactory 480 except with regard to one question where political considerations were involved. It is true that there is a question regarding the services to Ireland, and I think any one will agree that, in the case of what is not purely an internal service within this country but one between this country and Ireland, it is perhaps reasonable that there should be considerations which would not operate in the case of a line merely operating within this country. [Interruption.] No, it does not mean that; because where you are dealing with a company that is operating a very vital service, such as the one to Ireland, I do not think we can necessarily expect that to be entirely dissociated from the operation of the company in general. I do not wish to gloss over that instance. Undoubtedly it is an outstanding instance, but there are rather particular factors in its consideration.
§ Mr. Everard
Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that the same thing happens in Scotland? Allied Airways from Aberdeen to the Orkney and Shetland Islands are exactly in the same position.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I did not say the thing had been satisfactorily settled. I said the report said that, but my information was that it was incorrect. What I want is an answer on the general situation, whether the railways are going to give facilities for all concerned.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
Hon. Members have been very ready to accept the report when it says anything unsatisfactory, but not so ready to agree when it gives the other view. In regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend behind me, it is true that in the case of Allied Airways booking facilities have been given in respect of their Scandinavian service.
§ Mr. Perkins
What about the service to the Isle of Wight and the service across the Bristol Channel?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I think hon. Members may take it that the situation is generally more satisfactory than it was. There is the matter of the North Eastern Airways. That has been cleared up and it must be regarded as a definite step in advance towards the position which so many hon. Members are anxious should be achieved in its entirety. Another point 481 mentioned by the hon. Member for South Bradford was the treatment of pilots, and particularly the arrangements made by Imperial Airways with regard to any joint machinery, and the question whether the Air Line Pilots' Association had been given recognition. Paragraph 53 of the Government's statement says:Imperial Airways have been informed of the opinion of the Government that the reforms recommended by the committee concerning the staff organisation and the relations between the company and the employés should be taken in hand and have notified the Government that they are in full accord with the reforms in question. Imperial Airways have informed the Government that it is their express intention to review the rates of flying pay in consultation with their pilots or their representatives and that they have already so informed their pilots.After all, Imperial Airways is a commercial company, and it seems that the question of the relations between them and the pilots in their employment must be primarily a matter between them and the pilots. It is only right that that should be stated. The recommendation indicated that, and the Government indicated it, too. But this is exactly one of those points where I realise that it is no good trying to stand on a perfectly rigid line of demarcation between the Government and its chosen instrument, Imperial Airways. As long ago as last October, in reply to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins), on this point I spoke in very similar language. There are obviously certain things such as this from which the Government cannot dissociate itself, and that is the best position in which it can be left for the moment.
§ Mr. Montague
Surely, in view of the fact that Imperial Airways is heavily subsidised and has Government representatives on its board, whatever view the Government or anyone else may take as to the relationships between the company and its employés and Government responsibility, the House is entitled to be told definitely whether the Air Pilots' Association is to be recognised or not. Surely the Minister appreciates that there is a very vital difference between a Whitley Council and a definite trade union organisation. Are they to be recognised or not?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
That is true but, after all, the particular recommendation of the committee and its acceptance by the Government and Imperial Airways 482 is comparatively recent. I certainly think it would be better to allow some time, at all events, to elapse for Imperial Airways and the Government to formulate some kind of machinery.
§ Mr. Montague
It is a simple question I am asking. Is that recognised trade union organisation of 80 per cent. of the pilots to be recognised by Imperial Airways, or not?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
If the hon. Member asks for a categorical answer at this moment, all I can say is that I cannot give it.
§ Mr. Perkins
Before the hon. Member leave this point, is it not possible for him to instruct the two Government directors on the board to use their influence on the board, in order to fulfil the recommendations in the report for the setting up of a Whitley Council?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
Certainly the Government does give its directors instructions to press certain points of view. It is certain that the Government will give their directors instructions to implement these recommendations in the best way possible.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I think that if the hon. Member waits, he will find that it means a great deal, though it may not mean something being done in the particular direction he wants. The question of aerodromes was raised by the Leader of the Opposition and by the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Sir R. Bird). The Government have restated their policy, which was recommended by the Maybury Committee. The Maybury Committee, in fact, endorsed the policy that the Government was already adopting, that subsidies should not be given for the construction of aerodromes, but that it should be left as the responsibility of the local authorities. But, as hon. Members know, the policy of the Government, endorsed by the Maybury Committee, was that substantial assistance on essential requirements should be given to aerodrome authorities in regard to equipment. That, in accordance with the recommendation of the Cadman Committee, is to be extended now to the provision of night-flying facilities to selected aerodromes which are large enough and otherwise suitable for night-flying purposes. The 483 hon. Member for South Bradford was interested in details of Yeadon Aerodrome. It is true that that aerodrome does not get a subsidy or monetary assistance as such, any more than any other aerodrome, but it does get considerable advantage in view of the presence of a squadron there, for whose accommodation a rental is paid.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Is the hon. Member aware of the fight I had in order to get any sort of a decent rent?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
Everybody knows that the hon. Member is a fighter. I am not at all surprised that, having put his hand on the sword, so to speak, on this occasion, he wielded it with effect. The hon. Member raised the question of subsidies. He was very fair in pointing out that he did not use the word "hidden" with any ulterior motive. I wish to be quite frank with him on the facilities provided as part of the bargain with Imperial Airways. He asked whether Imperial Airways paid rent at Croydon; they do.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I will certainly look into that. The provision of motor boats is, of course, a part of the contract, but it is quite true to say, in the sense the hon. Member put it forward, that it is in the nature of a hidden subsidy. That amounts to £65,000. Then there is the question of getting petrol free of duty. That is so, but it is only on a par with the oil which is in the bunkers of ships. There is no particular preferential treatment to Imperial Airways.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The Government take the stand that they cannot do this for internal air lines. There is no consistency in this at all.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
The consistency of the principle, of course, is another matter which might be argued. Then there is the question of the Post Office. A considerable amount of money passes from the Post Office to Imperial Airways, but I think it is hardly fair to call that a hidden subsidy. It is, after all, a definite business undertaking, a definite payment for specific services undertaken. In that respect, it is on a rather different footing from a subsidy. I was glad that the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) 484 got an opportunity in this Debate, because I know that she wanted to speak in the previous Debate on this subject, and that there was no time. I think that probably one of the secret sorrows of her life is that she represents a constituency immediately adjacent to mine.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I beg the hon. Lady's pardon. I never, perhaps, have been very good at guessing accurately at secret sorrows. But I do say that we are most excellent friends, except on these particular occasions. She, too, raised the question of the hidden subsidy with which I have dealt. She said there were many other points which hon. Members, including herself, would have liked to put during that Debate, but that there was not time. I think that she overlooked the fact that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State specifically realised that, and made provision for it. It was stated, in a Parliamentary answer in connection with this matter, that a lot of hon. Members who could not get in on that particular Debate could put their points to the Cadman Committee, and have them inquired into. On the question of the timetable of Imperial Airways compared with the Dutch line, I can say that the Dutch line takes three and a-half days to carry the air mail to Calcutta and five days to Singapore. Imperial Airways next month will take three and a-half days to Calcutta and five and a-half days to Singapore.
The hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Eckersley) raised a lot of interesting points in connection with the light aeroplane clubs. I will certainly look into them. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) made a good many points, by what I may call indirect methods, about the head of the Department of Civil Aviation. There were numerous points connected with officials. I think he will realise that points in this relating to officials—whether particular officials have been consulted, whether they have given assent or not—are really not questions, apart from what he might think to be the merits of the case, which can be discussed on the Floor of the House. The Leader of the Opposition put in a plea for the divorce of civil aviation from the Air Ministry. 485 He has overlooked the fact that the Cad-man Report itself, in paragraph 27, says that, at all events in the present stage of development, the committee think that civil aviation should remain a charge of the Air Ministry. One of the paragraphs in the report—
§ Mrs. Tate
I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, as he has answered one of my questions, but could I have' an answer to the question I put, as to when we were to have a service across the South Atlantic, which is specifically recommended in the Cadman Report; and whether it is the Government's policy to continue to fly that vast stretch of water with land planes and to use our flying boats on a land route over France and Italy?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
The question of the South Atlantic is one we wish to push on with as quickly as we can, and a considerable amount of exploratory work has recently been done by members of the staff who went out; but I would not like to be tied to a specific date. The Cadman Report suggested, in paragraph 7, thatexcept on the Empire routes, this country is backward in civil aviation.It is quite true that the Cadman Committee was directing its attention to matters which it was suggested required to be put right; and, therefore, it was not concerned with matters which are all right. With regard to Imperial Airways, no less than 90 per cent. of its organisation is put into the Empire route, and, when we are considering civil aviation, the Air Ministry and Imperial Airways as a whole, I think we must take that into consideration. How many of us would submit willingly to a criticism which said that except for 90 per cent. what we had done was bad? I think we should feel that, on the whole, not a bad case on our behalf had been made out. Trans-Atlantic services for example occupy the smallest paragraph in the report. It is quite easy in these days of publicity to get a headline but to get the Trans-Atlantic services reduced to the status of one small paragraph in this report is to my mind a triumph. I feel that after the Debate to-day, after the Prime Minister's speech, and, I hope, after my own explanation, the House will indicate its approval of the Prime Minister's Motion.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has dealt with a great many aspects of the report, but he has not dealt very adequately with the financial aspect. If a complaint is in order in regard to the report at all, it would be in regard to the inadequate way it deals with the financial aspect of Imperial Airways and civil aviation. I want to refer, in particular, to the reply made by the Minister that the relation between the pilots and the company was a matter for the company.
§ It being after Half-Past Seven of the Clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.