Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [16th March].
That this House approves the Observations of His Majesty's Government on the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Civil Aviation.
Which Amendment was: In line 1, 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."—[Mr. Attlee.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Major Milner
In continuing this Debate, I propose to deal with two or three subjects which were not very fully covered a little over a week ago. In the first place, I notice that the Government, in their comments on the Cadman Committee's report, say:The report of the committee deals, as the Government intended that it should, fully and comprehensively with the problems of civil aviation.My first observation is that the report does nothing of the sort, because the 1722 Government excluded from the consideration of that committee certain aspects of civil aviation; for example, the matters which had been the subject of consideration by the Maybury Committee. In my judgment, neither the Cadman Committee nor the Government have dealt satisfactorily with one problem. That is the problem of internal aviation in this country. The Government say, in their comments, that they propose to make further efforts to assist civil aviation; but little or nothing is proposed with regard to civil aviation either by the committee or the Government. It is true that the committee say that the Government should speed up the implementing of the recommendations of the Maybury Committee. That, in itself, is a comment on the inactivity of the Government in regard to the recommendations of the Maybury Committee, which reported over a year ago.
The only other main recommendation, at any rate, made by the Cadman Committee, is that certain equipment shall be provided for selected aerodromes. There are three points in respect of which I want to comment on the Government's inaction in these matters. The first is with regard to civil aerodromes. In 1928 and 1929 I was a member of the City Corporation of Leeds, and, for the time being, was chairman of the committee which had to deal with the provision of aerodromes. I recollect the great pressure which was put on the corporation, as it was no doubt on many other corporations, to provide aerodromes. That corporation, like many others, went to a great deal of expense and trouble to provide an aerodrome. The purchase price was between £30,000 and £40,000. Since then; under pressure from the Air Ministry, something like £100,000 has been spent on the aerodrome; Although services ran for a time, none is running to-day from that aerodrome.
§ Major Milner
Of course, that includes the cost of the buildings—quite inadequate ones—which are now on the site. They consist of an old hangar or two and clubhouse premises. The point I was making is that the Leeds Corporation, under pressure, and as a result of all kinds of encouragement, except financial, 1723 from the Air Ministry, provided that aerodrome, and that, except for a little flying by a few people who take advantage of it—private individuals who have the money to enable them to learn to fly—and I think some auxiliary flying unit of some kind—it is quite useless. So far as real assistance to civil aviation is concerned, that money was practically wasted. Civil aviation is a national matter, and it should be for the Government to provide the necessary financial assistance to local authorities or others who provide aerodromes for general use. The Government should reconsider the great necessity of making grants to municipalities which have aerodromes. The hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. R. Robinson), I have no doubt, would reinforce my plea, as I know that the Corporation of Blackpool have similarly spent large sums under pressure from Government Departments. For military, as well as civil, reasons, the expenditure of money on these aerodromes is necessary.
The Government have grossly neglected their duty in regard to financial support for those aerodromes which were established at their suggestion and with then-encouragement and promises. On the question of internal air lines, there was the same encouragement by words but not in the form of financial assistance. Practically the whole of the Government's comments on the Cadman Report deal with Empire or overseas air lines and there is hardly a paragraph dealing with these internal lines. It is said that we must subsidise our Empire and overseas lines for considerations of prestige. You would get just as much prestige through having satisfactory air lines in this country as through having them outside. People from the Continent, from America and elsewhere are amazed that they cannot, without great difficulty, get from place to place in this country, although the distances are so small, in the way that they can in Europe, and still more in America. The same reasons of prestige that compelled the Government to give help to overseas and Empire lines should apply in regard to the internal air fines.
I am not particular what form such assistance would take. I dislike subsidies, but I think they have some justification in asking for assistance in regard to the Petrol Duty on the same lines as 1724 the assistance given to the other air lines. Such few air lines and aerodromes as we have at present for civil purposes are obviously going to be closed down unless help is forthcoming. In a recent copy of the "Yorkshire Post" I saw a notice of a curtailment of the services of North-Eastern Airways, Limited, following on the report of the Cadman Committee. North-Eastern Airways, Limited, who have, notwithstanding, I think, considerable losses, done their best to operate services to the north of England, have now written to the Doncaster Corporation in these terms:While at the moment, in spite of the heavy cost of continuing our services we have decided not to cease operations entirely, we have come to the conclusion that it is necessary severely to curtail expenditure we are incurring by the provision of subsidiary services to our main line. We regret to say that your aerodrome"—that is the Doncaster one—is one which may be affected in so far as. Instead of scheduling regular stocks, it is more economical to schedule it only as a request stop, and, furthermore, the feeder services which we have hitherto operated may be entirely eliminated and the proposed new services between Grimsby, Hull, Leeds and Doncaster may not be run unless the Government's decision to render no assistance whatever can be reversed.They conclude—'"We fear that unless the Government can be made to appreciate the necessity of assisting the internal development of national air services it is only a matter of a comparatively short space of time before most of them will cease to exist.I understand that a similar letter has been sent to Hull, Grimsby, Leeds and Bradford Corporations. It is quite obvious that, unless the Government take action in this respect, even the few services which at present exist will entirely cease. The Government are very much to blame for having for many years encouraged these services to operate and corporations to provide aerodromes, and, notwithstanding the perilous times in which we live, not having encouraged the provision of pilots and air services, and the creation of a condition of air-mindedness. All these factors, I should have thought, would have made any Government see the absolute necessity of giving assistance in one direction or another to these internal air lines, and particularly to municipal and other aerodromes.
The only other question with which I want to deal is that of the provision of 1725 pilots. I know that hon. Members like myself have received a very illuminating memorandum on this subject. In these days I should certainly have thought that the provision of pilots was the one essential thing in our rearmament programme. I am told that while men are joining up to be pilots there are great difficulties in the way, that the facilities are nothing like what they ought to be, and that comparatively few can be trained. Here is an opportunity for the Government to assist the aerodromes to which I have referred, and the internal air lines to provide, at a minimum of expense, the maximum of reserve pilots for any emergency which may come upon us. I am told—I am not a flying man myself—that while it is necessary to be a skilful pilot to fly a bomber, it is not necessary to be as skilful to fly a bomber as to fly an interceptor, and that comparatively little instruction is required in the one case as compared with the other. I am further told that, if adequate use was made of these aerodromes, pilots could be educated and made fit in every respect to act as pilots of bombing machines for something like £50 to £60 a year, without putting any charge whatever upon the pilots.
I know many young men who would like to learn to fly. They cannot afford to do so, and yet, if adequate assistance was given by the Government to these aerodromes, through the facilities provided there, free opportunities for learning to fly might be provided, and in that way thousands of young pilots could be educated in this country to take their place in the Air Force if ever there was the necessity for them to do so. There are schools for air training in the country, but they could be expanded to hundreds if the Government would tackle the question as they ought to do. I am told that to-day not more than 800 pilots per annum can be trained. It would be possible, if assistance were given in these directions, to have not hundreds but many thousands trained.
The figure given in the pamphlet to which I refer is something like 50,000 new pilots per annum. It may not be desirable to train so large a number as that, but it is necessary at any rate to train a great number of pilots. I should like to see a citizen air force. Forty years ago it was a great novelty to drive a motor car. I had an opportunity in those very early 1726 days of riding in one of the first half-dozen motor cars in this country. The car was laughed at as it went along at 15, and occasionally with great difficulty at 20 miles an hour. We all know of the developments which have taken place in motor cars in these days, and there are comparatively few people who have no knowledge of them, and a very great number have sufficient knowledge to enable them to drive. I believe that things will be just the same in regard to flying in the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.
Here is an opportunity to help municipal aerodromes and internal air lines, and to create a citizen air force, and, at the same time, develop air-mindedness and a force of pilots, which, I believe, may be required in an emergency. It would not require, as far as the instruction of pilots is concerned, great capital expenditure. There are the facilities, if grants could be made to keep them up-to-date, and, particularly, if some concession could be made by way of petrol tax. Free instruction could then be provided for all who were fitted to receive it. I believe that the Government have been neglectful in all three matters, and I shall, therefore, support the Amendment which was moved a week ago by my right hon. Friend.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Everard
I am sure that all who have listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) will agree with the idea that he has in mind, but I do not think that it is quite as easy to carry it out as the pamphlet from which he has quoted would suggest. I do not wish to follow him through the whole of his remarks, but to devote myself to some other points in the Cadman Report. I would like to say how much we are indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) in enabling this inquiry into civil aviation to take place. It is not very often that we have a chance in this House of having a Debate on aviation, and we are greatly indebted to him for allowing it to be ventilated on this occasion. I would also like to pay my respects to the Cadman Committee, as one who gave evidence before them, for the courtesy they showed to witnesses and the quickness with which their deliberations were achieved. The general findings of the committee, as far 1727 as I see them, are summed up in one phrase in paragraph 7 thatThis country is backward in civil air transport.I do not think that there are many people in this House who would dispute that fact, but various conclusions have been drawn from that fact with which I do not agree. I do not agree that it has been the fault of the Air Ministers concerned that this state of affairs exists to-day. I well remember, as indeed all my hon. Friends remember, the case it was necessary for us to make out in the country in 1931 for extreme economy upon all sides of our public life. It would be absurd to suggest that the then Secretary of State for Air could have taken the responsibility for initiating at great expense a great forward step in civil aviation at a time when everybody else in the country was preaching the doctrine of economy. After the period of my right hon. Friend Lord Londonderry came the present Secretary of State for Air. He was in rather a different position from that of Lord Londonderry, because whereas Lord Londonderry was short of money, the present Secretary of State had the opportunity of having the money, but, unfortunately, he had to find the money for other sides of aviation not connected so directly with the civil side that we are discussing to-night.
When we are examining this problem we ought to be quite fair about it. Those of us who have talked about the two sides, the economy side and the great importance of the military expansion side, should give full credit to the Ministers concerned for having carried out those particular sides of the Air Ministry's work in preference to civil aviation. Where I differ from the present Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary is that when the Air Navigation Bill was before the House of Commons in 1936 the Air Ministry asked for a maximum of only £1,500,000 subsidy for civil aviation for the next 17 years. Therefore, £1,500,000 was the maximum subsidy to be expended on civil aviation for 17 years. I cannot believe that that showed very great foresight. Seeing that we have to spend such vast sums of money on military aviation, it is certainly a very small thing that we are to have only £1,500,000 for civil aviation over that long period. That brings me to a point in the Cadman Committee's 1728 Report where they recommend—and the recommendation has been accepted by the Government—that this maximum sum should be doubled and should become £3,000,000. We are anxious that a Bill should be brought in this Session in order that the £3,000,000 may take the place of the £1,500,000 as the maximum to be expended on civil aviation. Things do not move very quickly in the Parliamentary world, and we cannot do anything as regards the expenditure of the £3,000,000 until the Act has been passed. Therefore, we ask that the Act should be passed at the earliest possible moment.
Now I come to the Parliamentary position. I feel sure that I am speaking on behalf of everybody, when I say how delighted we are that the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is giving his great services to the cause of aviation. Nobody would think of be littling those services, but his appointment does not quite meet the point which I had foreseen in regard to the Parliamentary position. I realise that to appoint another permanent Under-Secretary would mean an Act of Parliament, but if it is necessary to have three Ministers for the Admiralty and three for the War Office, which are old Services, with traditions behind them, it is certainly necessary to have three Ministers permanently for the Air Ministry, which has no traditions behind it, and has to plough new furrows the whole time. It also has to deal with the whole of civil aviation and the whole of the transport work of aviation as well. Therefore, I regret that we have not permanently three Ministers for the Air Ministry. There has been considerable discussion for some time on the question whether or not civil aviation should be divorced altogether from the Air Ministry.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Earl Winterton)
I should not like my hon. Friend to be under a misapprehension. I am, in fact, doing permanent work at the Air Ministry. I am thereby relieving my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of many duties, thus leaving him free to devote his time to civil aviation. Many years ago I was a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Admiralty, and I should say that, as regards allocation of ministerial duties, the present system at the Air Ministry does, roughly, resemble that at the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Everard
I am sorry that I did not make myself clear to my Noble Friend. What I meant was that with the Noble Lord assisting us we are all right, but it is only a temporary expedient, and what I was anxious to do by Act of Parliament was to create three Ministers for the Air Ministry, in order that the Air Ministry may be put in exactly the same position as the Admiralty and the War Office. When I served on the Gorell Committee there was difference of opinion. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) and others signed a minority report suggesting that it would be necessary to transfer civil aviation from the Air Ministry to some other Department. Others of us thought differently, but the findings of the committee went to show that we were only satisfied that civil aviation should remain with the Air Ministry, without reconsideration, for 10 years. Time is passing and it may well be that within the next few years we shall form a committee to take another decision on this point.
It seems to me that if we had a watertight compartment dealing with civil aviation, with its own Minister, which we have at the moment, but only temporarily, it would be much easier for the ordinary person to form a judgment as to whether or not the civil side of the Air Ministry as a watertight compartment could go completely over to another Ministry, or whether it is so involved with the military side that it is to the advantage of the civil side to remain with the Air Ministry. It is only by having, as we have now, although temporarily, a definite Under-Secretary dealing with civil aviation that we can attempt to deal with the problem and have a better perspective of what the future position should be. I am delighted that the Government have seen fit to appoint a Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Air, and particularly the present Permanent Under-Secretary, who has done so much for air service both in regard to the postal service and in connection with Imperial lines and Imperial postage, which we all appreciate so much.
Now I come to the point which was the real bone of contention of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud—the question of Imperial Airways. I have no very particular opinion on this point, but we have to look at it from a broad point of view. We have to realise that some Imperial 1730 company, acting on behalf of the people of Great Britain, has to organise a worldwide transport air service from Great Britain to our Overseas Dominions and Colonies, spreading over a quarter of the world's surface. To get there we have to go over many parts of the world. This means a great responsibility for the people who have to organise a service which has to link up the whole of the outlying parts of the British Empire with this country. I agree with my hon. Friend that one can pick a great many holes in Imperial Airways, for instance, in the technical equipment and in the operational methods of that company. It can be said that we are very far behind the Americans, but do not let us forget that the Americans, at least, have their own continent upon which to put their own ground services, while we have to pass not only over foreign countries but over our self-governing Dominions and Colonies, and it is extremely difficult as well as expensive to lay down those particular types of ground services which we are bound to have if we are to have the up-to-date equipment which they use in America.
We have also to take into consideration the fact that all these things cost money. The more money you are prepared to pay out in subsidies the better show you are going to have for flying. Everybody knows, to quote the words of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that civil aviation cannot fly by itself in any part of the world on these great lines. Your aircraft and certainly your ground equipment depend on the amount of money you can afford to spend upon them, and if we consider the figures we shall realise that the subsidy we have been giving is about one-third of that given by the French and German Governments and about one-half of that given by the Italians. If we had had the same subsidy as is given in other countries there is no doubt that we should have been much more forward with our equipment and our aircraft than we are.
I do not think it is altogether a question of our Imperial air routes. These, I agree, can be speeded up. We have just seen the marvellous flight of Flying Officer Clouston to New Zealand and back, another landmark in communications between this country and our overseas Dominions. I think progress on these lines has been well maintained, and there should be some thanks to the 1731 Director-General of Civil Aviation and to the Post Office authorities for the great assistance they have given. It is not their fault that the money has not been forthcoming. What money we have had has, I think, been well laid out in a good network of Imperial communications. Where I agree with the hon. Member for Stroud is in regard to the way in which we have attempted to run our Continental services. Far better to run no service at all than to run the service which was run by Imperial Airways to Budapest with poor machines not up to the standard of other machines flying to the same aerodrome. The service was not run at all in winter, and altogether it was a very unsatisfactory service. Therefore, I am delighted to see that the report is going to give Imperial Airways the job for which it was formed, that is, to develop Imperial airways and to hand over the Continental services to another company. From what they have done in the service to Paris I think this augurs well for the future.
But in regard to the Continental side of this problem it seems to me that we in this country are up against two difficulties. You cannot have the luxury of having an Empire, with far-flung communications, and get off cheaply. That is our problem. We have to spend a large amount of money on our Imperial airlines and at the same time we have to show the flag on the Continent. The German and French airlines run to practically every capital town in every large country in Europe. Our problem is rather more difficult. We are at the end of what I may call the tube system, whereas it is easy for the French and German airlines to get east and west, it is much more difficult for us operating from the extreme western side to get to the extreme eastern side, to Budapest and Constantinople.
There is no doubt that trade does follow the flag, whether it is the Red or White Ensign on the sea, or whether it is the Blue Ensign of the air. We have to show the flag with modern and up-to-date machines in many of the countries in Europe where we are not showing it today. A year or two ago I was in Copenhagen and saw the marvellous display which is given every Sunday in the Copenhagen aerodrome by different types of the Air Force in order to encourage the 1732 population of Denmark in their Air Force. Most of the fighting machines were British machines, but I could not help noticing that while this demonstration was going on every single liner which landed in the aerodrome was flying a flag other than British. What we might have gained in publicity through the Air Force in Denmark we lost by seeing foreign liners arriving in the aerodrome at the same time flying flags other than British. These things mean a great deal to the man in the street, who after all in some countries is still able to affect his Government.
While we can trust these Continental services to British Airways, I hope the Government will see that the other lines who are now operating have a fair deal. There are other lines operating at the moment to the Continent. One goes to Norway, and it has been running at a loss, but at the same time has been doing good work. When fishing in Norway I have received my letters much earlier by this route than I did in the past. I hope the Government will see that these small lines are given a fair show and fair compensation. An hon. and gallant Member opposite spoke about our internal air lines and remarked that the Cadman Committee had not referred to this problem. The answer is clear. The Cadman Committee did not refer to matters raised in the Maybury Committee's Report, which was set up to deal solely with internal air lines. I. imagine that this is one of the problems which give the Government the most difficulty. I cannot make up my own mind as to the future of internal air lines in this country, but I am perfectly certain that if they are run they will have to be subsidised. There is no doubt about that, but I hope it will not result in the smaller people who have lost money in competing aganist the railway companies or some other large body having to close down and then that the railway companies, who will be left in the field, will come to the Government and say: "We have lost money, and we cannot carry on unless we have more money." I hope this aspect of the matter will not be lost sight of when the Government are dealing with internal air lines.
Personally, I believe there is very little future for air lines running from north and south. I believe that until science has progressed further in dispelling fog and we are able to fly in this peculiar 1733 climate of ours with certainty in the winter, there is not much possibility of traffic north and south, and that to-day the only proposals which show any like-la hood of a profit are from east to west or routes which have to pass over water. Those two are the only types of internal air services which are likely to pay at the present time. The Maybury Committee suggested that the Government should try out a service and license a company for that purpose; I shall be very interested to see what are the results of their efforts. I hope that in the end there will not be a monopoly of these services by the railway companies. We have not had a very good deal from the railway companies with regard to aviation. Hon. Members opposite joined with my hon. Friends in bringing considerable pressure to bear on the railway companies concerning their dog-in-the-manger attitude on the booking question. The other day, the Under-Secretary said that he thought that this matter had been cleared up, but I assure him that it has not. There are five more cases which we desire to have looked into and which we shall make efforts to try to get put right. They are the Olley Air Services, the Channel Air Ferries, the Portsmouth and Isle of Wight Services, Norman Edgar Western Airways, and Allied Airways. Those five services are still prevented from booking in the ordinary way, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will assist us in getting that slate of affairs remedied as soon as possible.
I pass now to the next question which my hon. and gallant Friend raised, that of aerodromes. Here again, the Government have taken a rather extraordinary attitude, and instead of giving a subsidy, they have said that they will give certain facilities, namely, wireless facilities, meteorological facilities and night-flying facilities. I was rather amused when I heard about the night-flying facilities, because we have not even day services, let alone night services. I cannot help thinking that the Government believe—quite rightly—that night-flying facilities will be of considerable assistance to the Royal Air Force when they are doing night training; but certainly they will be of no advantage to municipal aerodromes when there are no night services flying. If any municipal aerodrome were asked whether it would rather have even a small subsidy, or be given night-flying facili- 1734 ties, it would say that it would like to have a subsidy until there was some night flying. The position is that in the few places where there is night flying, there are no wireless facilities. Leicester aerodrome, for instance, where only yesterday they were doing some night flying with a two-engined Dragon machine with an antiaircraft battalion, is lighted by the corporation. I suppose that when the Government take over the lighting of aerodromes, they will pay back to the corporation the amount of money which it has cost to light Leicester aerodrome.
Apart from that, however, I was amazed to hear that at that place in the middle of England, where they are doing night flying for the anti-aircraft battalions of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, they are not allowed to have any form of wireless communication with the aeroplanes. It has happened several times that when members of the club have wished to communicate with the aircraft, perhaps because the lights on the ground had fused or for some other reason they have had to telephone to Croydon aerodrome. On one occasion, for instance, Croydon endeavoured to find the aeroplane in the Croydon wireless-controlled area, and when they did not find it there, they said, "Ring up Heston." On ringing up Heston, it was found that the aeroplane was not in their area, and they suggested that Manchester should be telephoned. So it went on until we got Hull, and eventually the aeroplane was found in that area. By that time, a large amount of money had been spent, and about three-quarters of an hour had been lost. It seems to me to be absurd that at places where night flying takes place, proper facilities are not given.
I wish to make a concrete suggestion to the Under-Secretary. I think the time has come when a survey should be made of all municipal and private aerodromes. The Government are going to license internal air lines, and they will know what main terminal air ports will be required for those air lines. A great many other aerodromes will be left. Some of them may be used for schools, which will bring in a certain income; others may have Auxiliary Air Force squadrons, which will give them a reasonable income; and at others there may be aircraft factories. There may, however, be another class of aerodromes which will have nothing, and it is that class to which I 1735 wish particularly to refer. In the Air Estimates, I see that the Government are spending about £400,000 on the equipment of one aerodrome for the Royal Air Force. Surely, among these municipal aerodromes, there must be some which are not being used for any purpose, and which could be taken over, at any rate temporarily, by the Royal Air Force, the corporation concerned being given a reasonable remuneration. That would be better than buying a new piece of land and building an aerodrome on it, as is the present practice of the Air Ministry. I suggest that when an aerodrome is not being used for any of the purposes I have mentioned, the Air Ministry ought seriously to consider whether, after being enlarged, it could not be taken over by the Royal Air Force in the expansion programme.
It is obvious that whether or not the Government pay a subsidy, they will not allow these aerodromes to be abolished. If any town says that it is going to make a housing estate of its aerodrome, it is obvious that, quite rightly, the Air Ministry will not agree to that. In the event of war, it will be necessary to have an enormous number of aerodromes. We shall not be able to keep all our aircraft at their present aerodromes owing to the danger of their being bombed, and they will have to be sent to small aerodromes throughout the country. In the case of forced landings, when machines are damaged, when they run short of petrol during fighting and cannot get back to their base, and—perhaps the Under-Secretary will not like my mentioning this—if the pilot gets lost when flying by night and is not able to find his way back to his base, it will be necessary to have many aerodromes at which machines can land, throughout the country. Those seem to me to be some of the problems which affect the Government side of the control of these aerodromes. Those problems will have to be tackled, either by paying a subsidy eventually, or by using the aerodromes for the purposes I have mentioned. I think the Government would save a great deal of money if they allocated some of their new schools and new squadrons to some of these aerodromes, instead of incurring the double expense, which they will have to do in the end, of keeping the aerodromes idle, and buying new land for aerodromes for the Royal Air Force.
1736 There is one other matter on which I feel very deeply. My hon. and gallant Friend spoke about the training of pilots. That matter was mentioned in the Cad-man Report, rather too briefly, I think, in view of its importance. In this question, as in that of aerodromes, a proper plan ought to be devised. Much as I dislike a great deal of what is taking place in other countries, and their methods of training, I cannot help feeling that they are working on the right lines. In Germany, for instance, they go as far as to take all the classes in the schools to aerodromes once a week so that the children can have a free look at the flying that is taking place. I do not for one moment suggest that we should go as far as that, but I think we should have a strong section of air scouts. I think I did see in the Estimates an item of £200 in respect of the Air Cadet Corps. I do not know whether or not that referred to the particular kind of association which I have in mind, but it seems to me that every town of decent size should form under the control and with the support of the Air Ministry a corps or squadron of air defence scouts. That would be a beginning in associating boys of school age with aviation. From that, I suggest they should proceed to gliding schools.
I was horrified at the answer given by my hon. and gallant Friend on 2nd March to a question about gliding in England, compared with gliding in Poland and Germany. He told me that the number of gliders used for instructional purposes in this country was 90 and the number of members of gliding clubs 1,000, whereas in Poland there were 30,000 club members of whom 10,000 were pilots. I am informed that in Poland there are 90 centres of gliding and at one Government school alone there are 130 gliders, which is nearly one-and-a-half times as many as we have in the whole country. In Germany there are 50,000 club members under training in gliding. I know the Air Ministry will say that gliding is useless in learning to fly. I do not believe that is so. It may be useless in relation to learning the controls of a fast modern machine, but it is not useless as a training in being by oneself in the air and that is a great thing. It is not only a knowledge of the controls of particular machines that is important. There is great importance in getting accustomed to being alone in the 1737 air and to seeing things from a different angle and generally, in acquiring what is called "air sense," though I do not like the phrase. It would be of great value if we could devise a scheme of starting young fellows as air cadets and then bringing them through gliding schools.
We are spending £5,000 now on gliding, and I think it has been money well spent. We have doubled the number of licences for gliding in the last year. The figure which was 281 in 1936 has risen to 575. But that is only a flea-bite compared with what is being done in Poland, Germany and other countries. It is wrong to say that it is necessary to have special sites for gliding. The winch method of sending off the machine, aero towing, and other devices have made a choice of sites easy, and the competitions in Poland last year took place in the middle of a plain far from any hills. I suggest that we could with good results double the amount which is being spent in this respect. The four main clubs are the London club, the Yorkshire club, the Derbyshire and Lancashire club, and the Midlands club, but there are other smaller clubs which, with additional assistance from the Government, could be brought up to the standard of those four big clubs. I am certain that a scheme which would bring a chance of gliding within the reach of boys would lead to an enormous increase of air sense among the rising generation.
Then they could pass from gliding into membership of light aeroplane clubs. There are clubs to-day which might be described as ultra-light aeroplane clubs. There is one club which I would like my hon. and gallant Friend to visit some day where we have recently trained eight people, and in no case has it cost the man more than £10 to get his licence. The men were trained on a machine with a small engine of 30 horse-power using about 2½ gallons of petrol to the hour. I do not wish, however, to speak of particular light aeroplane clubs. I would only say that there is another outlet for the activities of young men who have passed through the gliding stage, and thus they can progress to the stage of deciding whether to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve or an auxiliary squadron or the Royal Air Force itself. I have not time now to elaborate a scheme, but it seems to me that this is a matter which ought to be tackled at once. 1738 We ought to make a start by getting into touch with the young people and giving them some idea of the vast importance of air power to this country to-day.
On the subject of light aeroplane clubs I should also like to point out that no subsidy is given for the training of people who come from the Dominions. It is only given in the case of people who are "substantially resident in this country." I think that is the phrase used. Most people would agree that the training of a man from Australia or New Zealand is just as well worth the £25 subsidy as the training of a Britisher and that the man will be just as valuable as the Britisher. [An HON. MEMBER: "Englishman! "] I do not like to use the word "English" in this connection because Scottish people are liable to jump down one's throat on hearing that word. Further, I would point out to my hon. and gallant Friend that, although these clubs are full up at the week-end there is a great deal of loss of energy and skill in the fact that instructors and ground engineers have little or nothing to do during three or four days in the week. It should not pass the wit of man to devise a scheme whereby the services of these skilled instructors and engineers could be used for training young men during the week. I believe that if the Government made some arrangement with the clubs, employers would allow young fellows off during the week for two or three hours in the afternoon for training purposes in view of the urgent necessity which exists for training pilots. I cannot help feeling that it is a pity that we should have, on the one hand, a scramble to get into the Reserve schools and long waiting lists, when, perhaps, a few miles away there is a club with a skilled instructor and skilled ground engineers who for three or four days in a week are dealing only with one or two pupils each day. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will look into that question.
I have endeavoured to bring before the House some of the problems which confronted the Cadman Committee. I speak only for myself in the views which I have expressed on the problems which arise. I cannot agree that any responsibility for the present position rests with either of the Air Ministers concerned. It rests with us on this side of the House, if hon. Members opposite like to put it that way, for the action which we took in connec- 1739 tion with the economy campaign of 1931, or it rests with the whole House to-day, in the action which it is now taking. But for the future responsibility there can be no doubts. We are bound, as the Cadman Committee say, to recognise that civil and military aviation have to go hand in hand and I believe that under the dual control in this House of my Noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and of my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary we shall see both progressing to the general well-being of the country.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I would like to make some contribution to this Debate, because I believe it was I who first raised the question of the dismissed pilots at the very beginning of the present Session. The Cadman Report is a devastating condemnation of the Air Ministry, and my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Everard), who has just made such a very interesting speech, cannot, I think, get away with it quite as easily as he was inclined to do. He said that we are responsible for what has gone wrong, but as a matter of fact the direct responsibility rests with the Minister of the Crown. We know the various words that were used in the report—"neglect," "extreme disquiet," "nobody's baby," and things of that kind—and one wonders how many more undisclosed items of dissatisfaction there may be in regard to other sections of the Air Ministry. We have to remember too that the Government told us that there was nothing wrong at all and that there was no necessity for any inquiry, and when the inquiry was finally forced upon them they appointed one of such a kind, consisting as it did of civil servants, that, if we think it over now, we must appreciate it could never have presented a report of the kind which we have had from the Cadman Committee, not that the facts were not the same, but that they were in such a position as civil servants that they would have found it very difficult to say what they thought of the Air Ministry in the way that more independent people could do.
I would refer to the Debate on 24th November, when the matter was dealt with in such a very remarkable way by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins). It was, I think, my hon. 1740 and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) who got up on behalf of the apologists for the Government, before the full flood of criticism had surmounted the banks and borne all before it, and actually moved an Amendment to the effect that this House was not of opinion that a public inquiry would serve any useful purpose. I wonder whether he thinks so still. We should not have known all these things but for the inquiry. Then the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) said the proposal itself was a Vote of Censure on the Government and on the Air Ministry. We are glad to know that. The Under-Secretary of State, when he wound up that Debate, said that if this was not the head of the Secretary of State, at any rate it was the scalp. I maintain now that we want the head, and it seems to me that in the circumstances it would not have been inappropriate for the Secretary of State, knowing his responsibility, to have resigned of his own motion. We remember the case of Sir Austen Chamberlain, when he had no more responsibility, resigning over the Mesopotamian campaign, but, of course, the qualities that bring a man to resignation of high office are not given to everyone.
I think the proposal to make the Noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster responsible in this House for military aviation, and to be in the Cabinet, is a very good one. I am sure that he will do it most admirably, and I am very glad the Government have not decided to appoint another Under-Secretary of State by legislation. We have far too many Members of this House dependent on the Government in one way or another already. There are nearly 100 of them, and we do not want to add to their number. Before long there will be nobody outside the Government if we go on at this rate. I shall be outside, of course, but everybody else will be inside. I would be in favour of another Under-Secretary of State if you at the same time took away one of the unnecessary Members of the Government, but on the whole and for the moment I think the question has been dealt with in a very satisfactory way. It would be still better if the Noble Lord himself were Secretary of State, but as it happens the man who is chiefly responsible still remains holding the seals of office.
1741 Let me pass from the political side to the more technical, aviation side. I agree that the appointment of Sir Donald Banks is a most admirable one, and I am sure that under his administration there will be none of that criticism that has occurred during the last few years, I am sure with some foundation, that if you wanted to get on well at the Air Ministry, if you wanted to get contracts, you had got to know the right people, you had got to be well in. Whether or not there is any foundation for that, I am certain it is very widely held, and it is not a desirable state of affairs; and I am sure that every effort will be made to remove that feeling. Another position that is very important and that will, I suppose, have to be filled in due course is that of Director-General of Civil Aviation. It seems to me that when the next appointment comes to be made there, you want somebody of outstanding business experience, from outside, somebody with drive and energy to make the position go. It is not altogether a position for the ordinary type of civil servant. I make no criticism of anybody, but so very much depends on the personality of the individual who holds this great position. Consideration will also have to be given to another very important position, namely, that of Director of Operational Service and Intelligence. Then we come to another personal question, that of the managing director of Imperial Airways. I am sure that the person concerned is a man of great ability and integrity and has rendered very high service, and I hope he will continue to do so, but it does not follow that every man has got into the exact niche that suits him best, and there was a feeling shown by the Cadman Report that probably he would be able to render better service to the country in some other department.
Now let me say something about Imperial Airways and British Airways. I am glad that steps are being taken to appoint full-time chairmen of these companies and also, I assume, certain additional full-time directors. A chairman alone is not enough, and the Cadman Report referred to that. I cannot think that to have directors who attend the meetings once a month, hear the accounts given, and read the minutes perhaps are really able to keep in very close touch with what is going on. There are such 1742 things as the building-up of losses. It has been suggested that certain companies—British Airways—deliberately build up losses. You want Government directors who can watch that, who can see very carefully whether anything of the kind is taking place. Who is the Government watchdog for these purposes in British Airways? Lord Monsell. We in this House appreciate to the full the many admirable qualities of that Noble Lord, but I do not think his best friend would recommend him as possessing great business capacity, financial insight, accounting experience, or anything of that kind, and it seems to me that it would be very regrettable if the idea got about that appointments as Government directors on these various companies were going to be given to ex-Cabinet Ministers, because that is what it looks like. With all respect to the Noble Lord concerned, it does not seem to me that this particular appointment, having regard to the high responsibility and qualities required, was at all a happy one. British Airways require some change, I think, in their organisation. I understand that they are owned by two financial houses, Erlangers and Whitehall Securities, who are owed something like £200,000. If they are going to undertake the very important national duties now to be allocated to them, I should have thought you wanted to alter that position, which does not appear to be quite seemly. Surely you want some sort of semi-public utility company to take on this work, and not leave it purely in the hands of financial houses. These two houses also have considerable shareholding in Imperial Airways, I understand.
I would like to make reference to the position of Allied Airways, both to their Scottish route and to their Norwegian route. Some reference has already been made to that matter in this Debate. That company was introduced to the Air Ministry in 1936. It opened proceedings in 1937 and Norway was perfectly satisfied. The Cadman Report, however, did not consider the possibility of making use of the services of that company owing to the fact that the Air Ministry omitted to give its name as that of a company engaged on European air services. For that reason it was precluded from having the opportunity of laying its case before the Committee. If that is so, it should have special consideration, apart from 1743 any decision that may have been come to. This company spent £30,000 on British aircraft in 1937; it has made 106 crossings. I ask that it should not just be automatically handed over to British Airways, but that it should be given a chance of continuing on its own in the work it has seemed to be doing perfectly satisfactorily.
Let me turn to the question of pilots. The terms of reference of the Cadman Committee contain a statement to the effect that the Secretary of State would value the opinion of the Committee on the question of pilots and victimisation and that that question should be included in their inquiry. The committee did make inquiries, but we have never had any indication of what their findings were. It would be interesting if the Government could make any statement on that point because we have heard a good deal about it. I want to make an appeal to my hon. and gallant Friend on behalf of one of these pilots. I do not wish to say anything about the events of the past, but I want to appeal purely on human grounds to the Air Ministry to consider whether there is not a good case for taking on a man who has rendered such great services to civil aviation as Captain Rogers. What is his case? He was vice-chairman of the British Air Lines Pilots' Association, and he was dismissed by the company in certain circumstances into which I do not wish to go. He has served civil aviation for 17½ years, his flying time is 11,652 hours, and he has made more than 4,000 Channel crossings. He never caused any damage to a passenger whom he carried. Whatever there may have been in the past—there may have been something or there may have been nothing at all—I think that in the interests of the country and of general harmony after this inquiry, the services of such a man should be retained. I appeal to my hon. and gallant Friend to do what he can to consider the possibility of taking him back. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are others."] I ask the same for them, but I happen to know about this particular case.
Then there is the question of the recognition of the British Air Lines Pilots' Association. The Cadman Report says that they must represent a substantial portion of the persons concerned. I understand that they represent over 80 1744 per cent. of the pilots. Surely you do not want anything better than that, and yet we cannot get any statement from the Government or the companies concerned whether they will recognise the association. Are they waiting for the new chairman and directors? It is a matter that seems so clear and definite that I should have thought it would have been quite easy to recognise this association. Is it proposed to follow the example of what happened in the case of the wireless operators, who for eight years were highly organised and were not able to get any recognition? Then they joined the Trades Union Congress and were recognised within 14 days. Have we to wait for that again in the case of the pilots? I hope that we can be given definite information about this and that we can also be told that the Whitley Council is to be set up as soon as circumstances permit.
Reference has been made to the railway ban on certain lines. The hon. Member for Melton gave particulars of the lines concerned. I will not repeat them, except to support his argument. Even in the case of the North Eastern Airways, where the ban has been removed, the terms do not seem to be fair. They are not to fly in the west of England, while railway services are free to fly all over the country, which seems to be rather one-sided. The Cadman Report mentioned a case that was still not settled because of a political aspect. Can we be told what the position of the Government is and what those political aspects are? I understand that the committee refer to the Eire service. I understand that the British Government are now behind the British railway companies in resisting equal treatment for this line. It is certain that the political difficulties did not arise on the side of the Irish Government, and I should like to get some information about this as it has been raised in the Cadman Report.
Irish Sea Airways is a partnership between a British company, West Coast Air Services, Limited, owned by Olley Air Services, Limited, and entirely financed by the private capital of British subjects resident in Great Britain, and Aer Lingus Teoranta, an Irish company, entirely owned and financed by the Irish State. The two companies were selected by their respective Governments and approved by the Government of the other party to be 1745 given exclusive permission to operate the Irish Sea routes, and each of them is, therefore, the chosen instrument of its own Government. Any approval by the British Government of the ban would, therefore, seem to be excluded on the following grounds. First, it would be a breach of the implied undertaking contained in the selection of West Coast Air Services, Limited, as the British component in the Irish Sea operating concern; and, second, it would be a grossly unfriendly act to the government of another country which was impliedly invited to invest public funds in the same concern, an unfriendly act which would be unthinkable in the case of any European government other than that of Ireland. I hope that the Government will make some clear statement where they stand in that matter and what are their reasons for not supporting the Government of Eire and seeing that the railway ban is removed.
I would like to draw attention to a small error in the Cadman Report. It makes reference to evidence given by the Parliamentary Air Committee. That should be the Parliamentary Air Committee of the Conservative party. In the case of railway air services, the pilots and the organisation are run by the Imperial Airways. Is that to be continued, or will there be some change under the new arrangement? With regard to the internal air lines, it is suggested that a subsidy of the nature of £100,000 will probably be all that will be required to keep them going effectively. If nothing is done before long all the independent air lines will be squeezed out. Is that the intention of the Government? Would they welcome a position in which railway air services were the only concern left? I think it would be a very lamentable thing if that were to arise. Reference is made in the Cadman Report to a so-called safeguard, namely, that the Air Ministry if not satisfied can hold an inquiry and make a report. But what is the good of holding an inquiry and making a report to this House if you have no alternative air services in existence? It really gets you nowhere at all. Therefore I think it is very much better to keep the independent services alive by a limited subsidy, such as has been suggested.
In the Cadman Report reference is made to the European services and there is criticism to the effect that mail is 1746 being carried to Switzerland in foreign machines. I am sure it must be known to my hon. Friend that for two years a British line, the Alp Air Line, has been asking the Air Ministry for permission to carry that air mail in British machines, and that it has not been able to get that permission. I should be glad if that point could be cleared up. In the days when Sir Sefton Branckner was responsible for civil aviation there was an international organisation, which I think he started, called the International Air Traffic Association, and at that time we were the recognised leaders in that association. But, owing to the policy of drift that has been pursued since his time, the leadership has gone from this country and the moral leadership certainly is now held by Luft-Hansa. I do hope that, as the result of the report of this committee and of the steps that are being taken, and I hope will be taken, this country will be restored to its rightful position of leader in the air services, both military and civil, of the whole world.
§ 9.27 p.m.
Marquess of Clydesdale
I should like to add my congratulations to the many that have already been offered to Lord Cadman and the members of his committee for their extremely able report. I think that the committee deserves great credit for the speed and efficiency with which it has produced the report. It has finished its job in a matter of three months; its report is precise and very much to the point, and its recommendations, I consider, are good. I wish tonight to bring forward two grievances, which have already been mentioned. The first is the question of booking facilities. In paragraph 75 of the report it is stated:We have taken evidence on cases of refusal by the Railway Clearing House to afford booking facilities to certain air transport companies. We have ascertained that, with one important exception, this matter has been satisfactorily solved.Well, that is not the case. The hon. Member for Malton (Mr. Everard) has clearly pointed out that there are five companies which are denied these facilities. Take one, for example—the Allied Air Services. Allied Air Services for the last four years have run a very successful air service up the East Coast of Scotland. They have carried 8,000 passengers and they have run with a high degree of efficiency and safety, which well compares with that of 1747 Railway Air Services. Yet I believe it is the case that no large travel agency can book seats for them. This is no new thing. It has been a very sore point for a great number of years. I understand that practically all large travel agencies have been coerced by threats from the railway companies to refuse the selling of tickets for certain air transport companies, many of whom do not even compete with either of the railway air services, nor can even be said to compete with the railways themselves. What it has meant, in fact, is that the railway companies have been attempting to strangle civil aviation, and they have not even produced a really efficient air service themselves.
It seems a most futile policy from the railway companies' own point of view, for it provides some of the best ammunition for Opposition speakers when they recommend the nationalisation of the railways, for, after all, you are getting all the evils of nationalisation without any of the advantages. I hope that we shall get a clear statement from the Secretary of State for Air that this kind of blackmail will cease. It is laid down clearly in the report, paragraph 74, that the Secretary of State has powers to act. I, personally, accept as entirely satisfactory the Prime Minister's explanation as to why civil aviation has been kept back. The Secretary of State for Air and my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State, have been fully occupied in building up a strong Air Force, and rightly so. I accept that, and I am sure the House accepts it as a satisfactory explanation. But arrangements have now been made and conditions have been changed so that attention can be paid to civil aviation, and I feel that the House should have an assurance that this kind of abuse of a privilege should be put an end to.
My second great grievance is in connection with Allied Air Services, which since last summer have run a service from Newcastle to Norway. They have made 106 crossings. Appendix B of the report consists of a memorandum by the Air Ministry tracing the development of British air lines to the Continent of Europe. Allied Air Lines are not mentioned. I would ask the Minister why there is no mention of this company who run successful services from Newcastle to Norway. In fact, it almost seems an 1748 insult to Norway, whose Government have entrusted the safe conveyance of their mails to this particular air line. I have no interest myself in this air line, but I have a real interest in seeing this country possess a direct service from here to Norway. After all, the most direct service to Norway is across the North Sea, and that would be the most direct service to Helsingfors, Leningrad and Moscow.
After all, a through service to Moscow might possibly be the forerunner of a far more important service between this country and the Pacific. I feel that the Air Ministry should give careful consideration to those firms which have been enterprising enough to run these services. This is the only company which runs direct from Newcastle to Norway. The only other through air service to Scandinavia is efficiently carried out by British Airways, but that service runs through Belgium, Holland and Germany, and in the case of an emergency it might very well have to cease. I should like to ask two questions: First, why was Allied Air Services not mentioned in Appendix B; and, second, does the fact that they are not mentioned in Appendix B mean that they forgo any right to subsidy?
The next subject to which I wish to draw attention is ground control. I do not think the public realise the great importance of efficient ground control in the satisfactory running of air lines. An efficient air line has to sink more money, probably, in ground control arrangements than is spent on the purchase of machines. One might almost make a comparison between railways and air services. It is true that it is not necessary to lay lines for aeroplanes, but in order to carry on a service with real regularity there must be a very elaborate wireless signalling system, with wireless lines, so to speak, along which the machines can fly in bad weather. I have sometimes thought that if only one-tenth of the money sunk in railways had been spent on ground control for civil air lines we should have aeroplanes flying with the same regularity and frequency as trains are running to-day.
The question of aerodromes has already been discussed. I regret that the report recommends that no subsidy should be given to aerodromes. I am not clear how far the development grant will assist aerodromes, and whether in that way they 1749 could be brought up to the requirements of the Maybury Report, but I feel that local authorities have been rather let down. I do not wish to censure either the Air Ministry or any other Government Department, but undoubtedly the Air Ministry have encouraged local authorities for a good many years past to lay aside areas and to spend money upon providing aerodromes, and not only local authorities but various individuals who consider that they know a little about aviation, and in that category I should like to include myself. As an outcome of that local authorities have spent a good deal of money on aerodrome sites.
I quote the case of a local authority in my own constituency. The burgh of Renfrew a few years ago, by arrangement with the Air Ministry, obtained the Renfrew aerodrome as a civil aerodrome. They spent £10,000 on improving that aerodrome, and are now spending annually between £300 and £500 on improvements. Even now Renfrew is far from being a really first-class aerodrome, but I believe it could be made one if developments were carried out on a big enough scale. I cite that as one case, and I hope the Air Ministry will really consider the position of local authorities in this matter. In most cases the local authorities can see no return for the money they have spent upon aerodromes. One municipal aerodrome that pays only does so because a Government contract has been obtained for the use of the aerodrome for the training of pilots.
The present position of civil aviation rather emphasises the tragedy that has made it necessary for this country to rearm on such a tremendous scale. Last year the Air Estimates stood at the figure of £88,000,000, out of which £2,000,000 was spent on civil aviation. This year the Air Estimates amount to over £100,000,000, and some £3,000,000 is being spent on the civil side. That huge expenditure on the military side is necessary owing to the deplorable state of Europe, but if the situation made it possible to spend only half that sum on civil aviation what a tremendous advantage it would be to this country and to the rest of the world. I am delighted that the Government have appreciated the importance of not separating the military and civil aspects of aviation. No doubt it will be desirable ultimately 1750 that civil and military aviation should be under separate Government Departments, in much the same way as the Royal Navy and the merchant service are, but at the present juncture the more collaboration we can get between the two the better.
I was very much interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Melton said about the training of pilots; and reference has been made to a citizen air force. I feel that a great deal more could be done along those lines, and I cannot help thinking that one reason why the Air Ministry has not got ahead with the problem is the fact that there has been no scarcity of pilots. Any gibe from abroad about a lack of recruits cannot be directed against the Royal Air Force, because the position so far as they are concerned is satisfactory, but the whole scheme of training pilots in this country ought to be made the subject of a survey. We have those who are flying in the Royal Air Force, those in the Air Force Volunteer Reserve, the members of flying clubs and other civilians who are flying in this country in various capacities. All the facilities should be surveyed, and the pilots who are flying in various capacities should be co-ordinated so as to get better results. I feel confident that if this matter were taken in hand properly far more pilots would be available. One could say a great deal on the subject of co-operation between the military side and the civil side. I do not propose to comment upon the changes in the Air Ministry, but I believe that the closer the cooperation between the military and the civil aspects, the stronger we shall be in the air.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff
One fact which emerges from the Debate is that if the Whips were not put on the Amendment of my right hon. Friend would be carried. I agree with the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) that we welcome the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in his new duties. While we cannot expect him to bring to those duties the vitality which he brought here when he was the baby of the House we expect him to bring that flair and imagination to the Air Ministry which he showed when he was associated with Lawrence in Arabia.
I want to ask the Government to announce some policy this evening with regard to municipal aerodromes. The 1751 Debate is concerned with civil aviation, but I wish to concentrate my remarks upon the internal civil aviation of this country. You cannot have civil aviation if you do not have municipal aerodromes. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South East Leeds (Major Milner) has mentioned what is known as the Yeadon Aerodrome, for Leeds and Bradford. I was a member of the Bradford Corporation when the resolution was passed to support His Majesty's Government by being a pioneer in the formation of a municipal aerodrome. I should say that it was on record as about the only time that Leeds and Bradford were in co-operation together on any project whatever. The fact remains that there is a municipal aerodrome. When we ask the Government for a grant they give us night-flying lights, or something of that description. The only possible night flying at the Yeadon aerodrome was done by the Noble Lord the Member for East Renfrew (Marquess of Clydesdale) who patronised the aerodrome on his way to Scotland.
Another municipal authority which was prior even to the West Riding authorities in pioneering municipal aerodromes was the City of Hull. About a week ago the Hull Corporation were presented with an ultimatum that the only internal aviation company using that aerodrome was no longer going to use it. Hull, through its development committee and the progressive ideas of men of all parties in the city, built up a pioneer aerodrome. It was even able to interest the Dutch Air Liners sufficiently for them to make it a port of call. At the present time, Hull and similar places are in danger of being left in the air, except for some facilities offered to local people to use it for pleasure purposes, and the corporation will be landed, after engaging in heavy expenditure at the direct invitation of the Government. They have invested money in this unwanted thing, which now appears to be nobody's darling.
I have got up this evening to appeal to the Government and to the Under-Secretary for co-operation. There is now, with Lord Swinton, a trinity. I appeal to them to tell the municipal authorities exactly what to do. Although it has a rate of 19s. 10d. in the £, after cutting 1s. off the estimates, although it is a distressed area and is trying to support the Government in a public spirited way, 1752 Hull is an example of what is happening to many great local authorities. The municipal authorities of the country have a right to ask—I do not like to use the word "demand"—
§ Mr. Muff
Because I am most moderate in my language, and I will put this matter in the form of an appeal. I want to put it in the way most pleasing to His Majesty's Government and to ask them to come to the rescue of the municipal authorities or to tell them frankly to go out of existence. I want to tell the Government that this country is by no means air-minded, and that the majority of us have the jitters at the very idea of flying in the air. If the people of this country are expected to become air-minded and to get into an aeroplane as they would get into a motor car, the way to encourage them and to develop air-mindedness is through municipal aerodromes.
What is the alternative? Where are you to land your aeroplanes for any sort of civil aviation? I am glad of this opportunity of asking the Government whether they have a policy, and not to be so self-complacent. They have been the cause of municipal authorities building a millstone of debt and we are entitled to ask the Noble Lord and his colleague to help them to liquidate that debt, or to say that it is a bad debt, and that they are going to leave us stranded
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I believe that the whole House will feel that the discussion that we have had upon the issues raised by the Cadman Report has been productive of much good. With other hon. Members I should like to join in expressing appreciation of the vigour and courage showed by Lord Cadman and his colleagues in the report which they have presented to us. Now that we are approaching the end of the discussion I wonder whether any Member in any part of the House does not share the sentiment expressed in the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, which says that the explanations and proposals of His Majesty's Governmentcannot be regarded as adequate to allay public concern.I think that the disquiet which has been expressed in the course of the discussion 1753 is merely a reflection of the concern that is felt among the general public outside, whom we all represent in this House.
One fact which seems to me to emerge from the discussion is that civil aviation has not been encouraged to the degree that it ought to have been. I feel that that view has been accepted by most speakers, though all would not, perhaps, accept it on the same grounds. The reason generally advanced by the Government might, I think, fairly be stated in this way: The Government say that, by reason of the conditions which have presented themselves in the last two or three years, there has been concentration upon military aviation, and that, therefore, civil aviation must necessarily have suffered to some extent. I think that that is probably true as regards the last two or three years, but I wonder if it is the real reason why civil aviation has not progressed more than it has. I make bold to say that in my judgment there has been a deplorable lack of vision. Military aviation will not last for ever—let us hope so, anyway. There will come a time when we shall be returning to more peaceful avocations than we are now called upon to engage in; the call for military equipment will therefore decline; but civil aviation will still remain; and it seems to me that the failure to keep these facts in mind does disclose a lack of vision.
I believe it cannot be controverted that there has been no lack of firms with the will and initiative to work in the field of civil aviation; that, I think, has been proved from all quarters of the House. What has happened to those firms who have been willing to work in that field? They have either been compelled to give up altogether or they have had to restrict their operations so far as civil aircraft programmes were concerned; and those who have saved themselves have had to concentrate on Air Ministry work, mainly as sub-contractors to what are called "ring" firms. I shall venture to say one or two things that may, perhaps, seem somewhat severe, and I hope that the House will forgive me for doing so. It is even alleged that firms willing to back their judgment by spending their own money on producing liners of a modern type have actually been thwarted by the Ministry in the course of the last few years. I will take a case in point.
1754 References have been made to British Airways in the course of the Debate this evening and on the previous occasion. I believe it to be true that an international agreement was arrived at some years ago for running a passenger and airway service to Scandinavia, and one of the conditions of that agreement was that the service was to start on a certain day. If the service did not start on that day, the agreement, I understand, was to lapse. The service was to be run by British Airways. A curious thing that emerges is that the Ministry does not seem to have satisfied itself that the British aircraft industry could provide the necessary fleet by that date; actually, I understand, it would have required four months beyond the stipulated date. Keeping that agreement in mind, and the fact that an extra four months was necessary, I have been given this information, which I pass on to the House as being a statement of the truth.
An aircraft called "Croydon" was produced, and I understand it is claimed to be comparable in every way with the "Lockheed Electra," an American machine. This American machine, I may add, was subsequently bought by British Airways. The constructors of the "Croydon" tried hard to interest British Airways, and also Imperial Airways, in their machine, but from both companies they were met with a blank refusal. When the agreement between the Government and the Scandinavian countries had been concluded, the manufacturers of the "Croydon," I am informed, again approached British Airways. The agreement had now been decided upon, and, for the second time at least, an approach was made to British Airways. Two answers were given on this occasion, and I ask the House to note them. The first answer said that the aircraft, if taken, must be delivered within four and a-half months. I understand that that was a wholly impossible demand, but, in reply to that demand, the constructors offered to deliver in from eight to nine months. The machine was actually designed, produced and flown in 10 months, so that the guarantee to produce in nine months was no light guarantee. The second answer was that, as the "Croydon" machine had not been used on any other air line, British Airways could not purchase it even if it were ready.
1755 These facts surely lead to this observation: British Airways, after all, is a subsidised British air line, and it is a not unfair deduction that it preferred to buy foreign equipment, thus damaging the prestige of the British aircraft industry. Actually, by the time this answer was given, the "Croydon," I understand, had been tested and flown with a full load to Australia. I must follow this up a little further, because it is rather interesting and leads to a conclusion which I shall draw presently. When this situation had developed, the matter was taken up with the Director-General of Civil Aviation, and it was urged that, if an American aircraft was used on a British subsidised air line, irreparable damage would be done to British interests—a quite legitimate point to make.
Secondly, they urged that, as a result of a flight to Australia, they had already had inquiries, both from Australia and New Zealand, about this machine, but that the use, or buying, of an American machine necessarily must damage the prestige of the British firm. The Director-General was extremely sympathetic, I understand, but had to urge this agreement to which I have referred, and I am told that the firm that built the "Croydon" machine had to see possible business with other countries entirely disappear, because of the extra prestige which was added to the American machine. These are serious allegations, and it is very hard, if there be any substratum of truth attached to them, to understand how this situation could have been allowed to develop. In relation to that, let me quote the observations of Lord Swinton in another place. He said:It was a misfortune when we began to subsidise another British air line that though they started originally with British machines—and I think they have some still—there were not suitable British machines available.He was quoting Lord Sempill, and he said:I agree. But the provision of aircraft must be chiefly the responsibility of the aircraft industry.Thus we see how the Air Ministry has failed, if the facts are as I say, to support the British aircraft industry.
§ Mrs. Tate
The hon. Member has said that British aircraft were available. I think he will agree that no air line can 1756 run with one aeroplane. He has not said how many British aircraft were available. I maintain that whereas four American machines were used, only one British machine was available.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I told the hon. Lady earlier that it took about nine months to provide the necessary fleet. However, it is of little use deploring the past. The question now arises, Do the Government really accept the Cadman Report? The Prime Minister announced that he has already taken certain steps, some of which have given us great pleasure on personal grounds. I understand that, broadly speaking, it may be said that America predominates in the supply of air liners in the world, in the overseas Empire as well as in the foreign markets. I am told that in the last three years, for instance, the Americans have produced and sold abroad over 260 air liners of modern type. British manufacturers, I believe, have not sold one abroad. Whatever our views may be as to the efficiency or otherwise of the Air Ministry, we all must deplore that, if it be a fact. The problem, therefore, is, What are we to do in order to enable us to overcome this extraordinary contrast between the achievements of the aircraft industries of other countries and of our own? Paragraph 50 of the Cadman Report says:Other countries have gained the initiative in civil aircraft construction and British constructors, with lucrative military orders ready at their doors, have shown little disposition to embark upon the costly venture of producing civil machines in a speculative attempt to re-enter the lists. Without prospective orders they cannot, in particular, bear the heavy initial expense which must be incurred before manufacture can commence. Construction thus waits upon demand, which it must itself create—a vicious circle.There is the problem quite clearly and succinctly stated by the committee. What does the Secretary of State for Air say on this matter? In another place he used these words:Nobody would contend that the Government should so subsidise the aircraft industry that it can supply civil aircraft on a competitive basis.Clearly, Lord Swinton rules out subsidising aircraft to compete successfully on a competitive basis. But that is not the view of the Cadman Committee. In paragraph 57, they say:The State assistance to the construction industry which we have suggested in the 1757 previous paragraph should be a reasonable supplement to commercial enterprise and should enable aircraft of an advanced design to be offered at prices competitive with those of foreign make.I find it difficult to believe that, apart from certain changes which the Prime Minister announced a week or a fortnight ago, the Minister, even now, accepts some of the fundamental proposals of the report. I find little evidence that the Government are prepared to accept the proposals contained in paragraphs 55–9. I turn again to an observation made by Lord Swinton in another place. He says:The making and selling of aircraft must be primarily the responsibility of the aircraft industry. That industry has been tremendously occupied with military orders.Up to a point, that is true, but it is not the whole truth, I think. There have been, and I believe there are still, firms willing to engage in civil aircraft construction, but they cannot get orders for air liners, and they have to be sub-contractors to what is called the ring. I ask the Noble Lord or the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is to reply to-night, this question quite categorically. Is the Ministry determined that none shall do air construction work except some 19 firms? Is civil aviation, or any other aviation for that matter, but chiefly civil aviation, to remain the subject of a closed corporation? Lord Swinton obviously anticipated a question such as that and referred to a machine called the "Albatross." He says:The 'Albatross' which is flying to-day, and which I hope will be a very useful machine and will be used by civil lines, was ordered by the Air Ministry in the programme we are carrying out now with the aircraft industry, and after consultation with the air line operators.If Lord Swinton claims that the "Albatross" is a proof that there is no abandonment of civil aviation or interest in it, may I ask this question? Is it a fact that the "Albatross" has proved so very satisfactory? Will British Airways, or will anyone on behalf of British Airways in this House to-night, say that British Airways themselves regard it as a satisfactory machine? Has there not been difficulty already experienced with that machine, and is it not the fact that the "Albatross" is not an all-metal stressed skin type? As a matter of fact, is it not also true that the constructors of the "Albatross" machine themselves are at this moment turning their attention to 1758 the all-metal stressed skin type itself? Lord Swinton tells us further:We are developing medium machines of the kind which we hope will be useful to air' line companies. Further development work of much larger machines is being put in hand.May I ask this question? Have these been placed out to competition? Have they been placed as the result of a competitive tender, and if not, how are the manufacturers selected? I dwell for a minute on this for another reason. I do not see present any colleagues of mine who are upon the Public Accounts Committee, but on the Air Ministry Accounts in 1925 the Public Accounts Committee—I was not a Member of it then—made a very sharp observation on the question of prices and the control of prices. I can go further and say that during my chairmanship of it, in 1934, again in 1936, and to a lesser degree last year, the Public Accounts Committee has—and after all it is one of the watch-dogs of finance on behalf of this House—repeatedly indicated, not to put it too highly, its sense of disquiet over the machinery that is in operation for controlling prices which are paid for these various air machines. In so far as competition can be secured, surely it is right that competitive tenders should be asked for whenever possible.
I would ask another question, and I cite this as a curious illustration of the way in which things seem to be done. In January, 1937, General Aircraft, in conjunction with two other companies, quoted Imperial Airways for certain new types of machines. In spite of repeated attempts to find out the position, nothing has been heard of these tenders since January, 1937. Again, in July, 1937. five civil air line manufacturers were asked to quote for a special type of machine. Has anything happened in regard to that? I understand that the firms concerned have heard not one single word. These things give one a sense of disquiet. They make one feel uneasy. One has an uncomfortable feeling that the whole business of aircraft manufacture is being shepherded on behalf of a limited number of firms. It cannot be argued that the firms who tender for some of these machines are entirely inexperienced or specially inexperienced, for Lord Swinton said in that same speech: 1759They had to make entirely new types of machines. They had little or no experience, for instance, of low-wing skin-dressed monoplanes.Seeing, therefore, that they had to start from scratch, it was surely possible to ask for tenders from a wider field. The Prime Minister also said the same thing in other words. He said:When we had to start almost from the beginning; when we had to deal with new designs which were so different from the old ones that they might be said to have been new inventions rather than developments of existing types."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1938; col. 256, Vol. 333.]These facts show that it ought to have been possible for all kinds of firms interested in these kinds of machines to tender, since none could claim that they had any special prior experience to guide them. I would submit to the Government that it is a dangerous thing to build up a monopoly in the hands of a limited number of firms. One day, perhaps, when we have got rid of this military obsession and we have returned to a consideration of civil aviation in a calmer atmosphere, we shall have to pay dearly for this virtual monopoly which has been built up in the course of the last few years.
Let me turn to another side of this problem, which has been raised by the Cadman Committee, namely, the question of aerodromes. I will not dwell upon it, because the point has already been adequately made; but the Government seem to take the view that the development, the maintenance and the control of aerodromes is a responsibility of the municipalities themselves. That is exceedingly unfair and very unjust to many local authorities. Take the one mentioned by the Noble Lord opposite, the aerodromes at Renfrew. I do not know Renfrew as a town, but it cannot be a very big municipality. That town has taken on a very big financial expenditure and have locked up a substantial sum of municipal money in it. The Government say to them: "That is your business," and they leave them high and dry and offer them no assistance. As far as I can see, in the case of many of these aerodromes there is no hope whatever of diverting this substantial sum of money invested in aerodromes into useful channels in connection with aviation itself. If we are going to allow municipalities to build 1760 aerodromes here, there and everywhere, without any plan, or scheme or design, we shall be overtaken with the same problem as has overtaken us in regard to the roads in the country. Now is the time for building a well-considered national system of aerodromes, and in order to do that they should be nationally handled and I submit nationally supported and financed.
The Under-Secretary of State has made two speeches recently and has welcomed whole heartedly the appointment of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, who is called the Independent Executive Chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors. I know nothing about Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner. He may be a most excellent gentleman, and I make no reflection upon him personally. But I am interested none the less in the appointment. I understand that there are 157 firms in this society, and that 19 belong to what is called "the ring." I understand that Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner was appointed by the 19 voting for him. What about the rest of the firms? Were they consulted? Were they asked to vote? Were they asked for their opinion? Did they know about it? I believe the truth is that they did not know until the Press announcement was made. Nineteen firms voted, and no more. The others had an assurance, so I understand. They have been informed that they are not going to be charged either by increased subscriptions or otherwise for Sir Charles' salary. Is it true that Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner's salary is to be provided by the Government? The Under-Secretary of State shakes his head. I will put the question in another way. Is Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner's salary to be allowed as a charge against profits? It is important that we should know, because he is called the independent chairman. Independent of whom? Is he independent of the 19 firms? He is clearly independent of the rest. In the Government's observations on the Cadman Report it says that the Minister will be in close consultation with Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, the Independent Chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors:Who have been appointed by the aircraft industry to represent the interests of the industry as a whole.But only 19 voted for him. The rest did not know about it. How can you say that this gentleman speaks for the in- 1761 dustry as a whole? I submit that the remuneration and the allegiance of this gentleman remain rather a mystery. It is important that this matter should be cleared up, because certainly there are rumours that the salary of this gentleman will be provided from Government sources. In conclusion I can say that my hon. Friends take the view expressed in the Minority Report of the Gorell Committee, in which it was stated:We look upon it as imperative that the whole of Civil Aviation be taken away immediately from all connection with the Air Ministry, and placed, like other normal forms of transport, under an appropriate Minister, divorced entirely from the war complex, preferably the Minister of Transport.When these difficult times have passed, we shall still be left with the problem of organising civil aviation in this country. As one who has seen civil aviation in a limited way on the great Continent of America, I must express the view that, whatever the differences may be, whether favourable to the American position with regard to internal avaiation or to our own, the time has come when we should register a grim determination to develop our civil aviation so that the twentieth century in England shall not be unlike the twentieth century in the most progressive countries in the world.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead)
I speak again by leave of the House. As a considerable number of the questions that have been raised to-day were raised when the first half of this Debate took place, no doubt the House will forgive me if I give similar answers on a number of points to those which I gave then. I will try, in the words of the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff), both to be modest and to put my points in the best possible way. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) raised a number of points in connection with the aircraft industry, particularly concerning the methods which should be adopted in the production of civil aircraft. The question of competitive tenders for designs for future civil aircraft is still under consideration, but the hon. Member and the whole House may be assured that the intention of the Government is to try to obtain from the industry the very best designs and the very best construction that the industry of this 1762 country can produce. It is true that proposals for a medium type have been invited from a number of aircraft manufacturers, many of them from what I might call non-family firms. The position is that only one of those designs is actually in production. I hope the fact that proposals have been asked from a number of non-family firms will satisfy the hon. Member that there is no desire on the part of the Government to stifle the industry in producing the best possible designs and construction.
The hon. Member then returned again—as many hon. Members have done in the course of the Debate—to the appointment of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner. The hon. Member asked me in what respect was Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner independent. I explained that the other day when I said that he was independent of any of the aircraft manufacturing companies. The previous chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors was Mr. Handley Page. He was actively connected with the well-known firm which bears his name. He now occupies the position of president of the society and his place has been taken by Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, who, as I say, is independent of any aircraft manufacturing concern, whether it is as the hon. Member would probably be put, "in the family" or not.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
No, he is not, nor is there any reason why he should. I have explained exactly wherein he is independent. He is not independent of any financial consideration but he is independent of the management of any particular firm. Mr. Handley Page whom he succeeded, was head of a well-known firm. By no conceivable method of argument can Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner be held to be in a position similar to that held by Mr. Handley Page.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I understand that Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner now holds no directorates and is not officially connected with any firm, but that he acts as an independent chairman over this group in return for which he receives a salary voted, I take it, by these 19 firms. Is that so?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
With regard to the question of his remuneration that is a matter for the industry. The hon. Member seems to be annoyed that anybody with a great deal of experience and a great deal of knowledge of this particular job, should receive any remuneration for it. I hope I have explained adequately what is the independence of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner's position.
§ Mr. Attlee
Is it not a fact that he was appointed by a limited number of firms; that only a limited number of firms have any power of voting; that this is not a real society of aircraft manufacturers, taking in all the aircraft manufacturers, but that only a small ring have votes, and that actually the terms of voting were altered recently to keep out any of the other firms?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should necessarily raise this point because in place of the previous chairman, who was connected with a particular firm, there has been appointed a chairman who is not connected with any firm. That is the change which has taken place and I cannot see how, by any force of argument, objection can be taken to that particular change in these particular circumstances.
§ Mr. Attlee
But is it not the case that Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner has been appointed by only 19 firms out of 157?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
There is a difference between the position now and the position when he took this place, and what I am trying to answer is the particular point raised by the hon. Member for Caerphilly who asked me wherein Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner's independence lay. I believe the House will agree that I have shown clearly that whereas the previous chairman was the head of a well-known aeroplane construction firm, Sir Charles does not occupy any such position. That is where his independence lies. I think his appointment is recognised to be satisfactory, not merely from the point of view of the industry but from the point of view of the Government and because one gets that combination of fortunate circumstances there is no reason why those other points should necessarily be raised. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is no answer."] The answer which I have given may not be the answer which the right hon. Gentleman wants, 1764 but I think it is a perfectly good answer with regard to Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner's independence. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Caerphilly have made their speeches. I did not try to make their speeches for them, and I think they might accept what I consider to be this perfectly adequate explanation as to the independence of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner's position. The hon. Member for Caerphilly raised the question of the "Croydon" aircraft. That aircraft, was not, in point of fact, lent, as I think he himself recognised, and its employment would have meant suspending the service of British Airways for some months. That suspension could not have taken place, and at the time, I think, the House was fully informed of the circumstances under which the foreign aircraft was ordered.
The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) led off with a number of points, and he was subsequently followed by other speakers. He told us a very interesting detail of his early life, namely, that he had travelled in one of the first halt-dozen motor cars in this country. If I remember aright, in the days of the first half-dozen motor cars they had to be preceded by a man with a red flag. I only mention that, of course, as a matter of historical interest. The hon. and gallant Member mentioned that nothing had been said about home civil aviation, but I think that point was adequately answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Everard), when he said that most of those questions had been covered by the Maybury Committee and, therefore, lay outside the purview of the Cadman Committee.
A number of hon. Members have raised the old and often proffered argument about the subsidisation of aerodromes, but I think he was wrong when he said that aerodromes were constructed under pressure. He was quite right in saying that the Government encouraged them, but I think he would give a wrong impression which I have no doubt he did not want to do in saying that they were constructed under pressure. I do not know whether the House is aware of the amount of money which goes, directly or indirectly, into a great many of these aerodromes, though I do not suggest that it covers all of them. There are the questions of provision and maintenance, training of Royal Air Force personnel at civil 1765 training schools, £800,000 a year; training of reserve and volunteer reserve personnel at civil training schools, nearly £1,000,000 a year; the accommodation of Auxiliary Air Force and other services at civil aerodromes, which the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) mentioned; there are the grants to light aeroplane clubs. The contribution is not yet determined, it is true, but is in the offing, towards the cost of night lighting of civil aerodromes. Those, it is true, are not anything in the way of direct payments to aerodromes, but in so far as they are money which goes towards the upkeep of clubs, the training of reserve pilots, or something like that, they do redound in the end to the interests of civil aviation. If you put them together, you get a recurring figure of over £2,000,000 a year.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
But I shall be most happy to look out the figures for the hon. Member and let him have them. The hon. Member for South Bradford was pluming himself the other day on the fact that he had got an extremely good bargain.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
On the question of the subsidisation of internal lines, I do not think anybody can really argue that the position is quite the same as between internal lines and overseas lines. After all, with the overseas lines, it is not a question of competition between one national interest and another within the same nation. It is a question of competition between the aircraft of this nation and the aircraft of other nations, which latter are being heavily subsidised. We are attempting to meet some of the difficulties of internal air lines by the proposed licensing system which was recommended by the Maybury Committee. The Draft Order for the licensing system is in a very advanced stage, and I hope before long to be able to lay it before the House. There are hon. Members who say, not without reason, that the licensing system is not the same as a subsidy, but we realise the difficulties which internal air 1766 lines are suffering from and we are doing our best to sort out what is a very difficult situation. Many hon. Members referred to the question of training pilots. Although it was recognised that the training of pilots for war service was largely a question of the flying of service aircraft, our interest in flying clubs is shown by the fact that recently the financial grant of these clubs has been advanced. We have increased the limit from £1,500 to £2,000 per club, we have abolished half rates for a figure of 1,200 and under, and have given 10s. per hour up to 20 hours flying per annum. That may not satisfy some hon. Members, but it is a substantial index of the importance that we attach to flying clubs.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
Is the Air Ministry satisfied that they are training enough pilots?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I dealt with that point. The hon. and gallant Member raised it in the first half of this Debate, and I dealt then with the numbers of pilots who have passed into the Royal Air Force in the course of the past three years or so and with the fact that we were making provision for the training of people in actual flying for service purposes in the Volunteer Reserve. While emphasising the need for training pilots in the use of service aircraft, I indicated that we were assisting people right from the start in civil flying clubs and that we showed our interest by the increased financial grants that have been made. The hon. Member for Melton, after crying down what he thought was the meagre sum of £1,500,000 for 17 years, hoped that the increased grant which had been promised as a result of the Cadman report would be put through this Session. That increased grant amounts to £3,000,000. The hon. Member is quite right, knowing the changes and chances of political life, in suggesting that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but I think he may rest assured that, short of any unforeseen political accident the subsidy arrangements will be got through in time to be effective. Then the question of booking facilities came up, and the hon. Member for Melton said that in the previous Debate I had said that the whole matter was cleared up except for one outstanding instance. What I said was that the Cadman report had said that. I did admit that in the case, for instance, 1767 of Allied Airways, there was, because of their service, another outstanding instance. I have looked into the various instances that the hon. Member for Melton raised. Olley Air Services is an Irish company, and, as I said in my previous speech, hon. Members must realise that where you are dealing with an air line running to a country like Ireland there must necessarily be political factors which do not exist in the case of a purely internal air line.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
Some of the Isle of Wight services are connected with the Olley Air Services. An hon. Member raised the question of the Portsmouth and Isle of Wight Services. I am assured by the Southern Railway that they are able and willing to book for this particular service. In regard to Allied Airways and Orkney and Shetland, I have never tried to gloss over that, but although that is an outstanding case I hope very much that in the course of negotiations that matter may be resolved.
§ Mr. Mander
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman mind dealing specifically with the case of Eire mentioned in the Cadman report? What is the objection to removing the ban?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
In answer to the hon. Gentleman, I think it is not unnatural that there may be questions between this country and Eire which do not exist in the case of an internal line. I can only assure the hon. Member that the question of railway bookings is not one which is being allowed to slide. It is one in which a great deal of active interest is being taken by those concerned. I should like to give an instance of how progress is being made in this particular question. Take the case of North Eastern Airways. That was an outstanding case not long ago. That case has now been resolved. I do not suggest that one swallow necessarily makes a summer, but I think at all events that that will satisfy hon. Members that progress is being made. It is not in the same position as it was several months ago.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
This point has been raised by practically every Member in the 1768 Debate. Are the Government doing anything to bring pressure to bear on the railways? That is what we want to know. You are asking us to pass a report. What are you doing to implement what is said in it?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I have quoted North Eastern Airways as an instance, and I am entitled to do that because it is suggested that no progress has been made for a long period. There you have an outstanding case which has now been resolved. However keenly hon. Members may feel on this subject they may take that as an earnest of the interest that is being taken by all concerned and of the progress that is actually being made.
Marquess of Clydesdale
The Minister stated that the service along the East Coast of Scotland was under review. May I ask whether the service to Norway is also to be taken into consideration?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
That has been settled satisfactorily. In the case of Allied Airways matters are only outstanding in respect of the northern service to Orkney and Shetland.
Marquess of Clydesdale
Do I understand that bookings for the service to Norway can be effected at all travelling agencies? I was under the impression that that was not the case.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I think I am right in saying that in the case of Allied Airways service to Norway it has been satisfactorily settled, and that the only outstanding case is the service to Orkney and Shetland. The hon. Member for Melton seemed rather to scoff at the idea that there were any suggestions of facilities for night flying. I would put this point: One does not want to have a vicious circle, that is to say no night services because there are no night flying facilities, and no night flying facilities because there are no night services, and if the Government take steps to implement that particular recommendation in the report and provide some facilities for night flying they will have gone a considerable way to breaking the vicious circle. In reference to another question which he raised, the Air Cadet Corps are a voluntary organisation on the same lines as the Sea Cadet Corps.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) indulged in a 1769 rather interesting general political review. He forecast with a great deal of assurance the time when every Member of this House except himself might be in the Government. I am afraid that some of his immediate neighbours visibly winced at that forecast, but I thought that with the prospect of odds of 614 to 1 against him he still managed to remain remarkable cheerful. He also raised a question which is very dear to his heart, and that is the reinstatement of the dismissed pilots. As I have stated before in this House, that is a question which the Government consider is primarily one for the company concerned, but I want to make it plain that both through the agency of the Government directors and also as a matter of general policy it is not one with which the Government can be unconcerned. Very early in the history of that question my Noble Friend was careful to assure himself, through the Government directors, that there had been no question of victimisation. The Government clearly had to satisfy themselves on that matter, and my Noble Friend was careful to do so through the medium of the Government directors, one of whom is a very distinguished Marshal of the Air Force.
§ Mr. Montague
Why should they be dismissed without any explanation whatever? They included some distinguished pilots.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I am not at all satisfied that they were dismissed without an explanation being given to them.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I am not prepared to do that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not? "] After all, this is a matter between a company and its employés.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
That is exactly why my Noble Friend, through the medium of the Government directors, 1770 satisfied himself that there was no question of victimisation. That disposes of one of the chief charges that have been made.
§ Mr. Perkins
Did they take the trouble to hear the pilots' case from the pilots themselves before they made their decision?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I think my Noble Friend was quite justified in taking the word of the Government directors.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
These were Government directors, and when I say that one of them is such a man as Marshal of the Royal Air Force with wide practical experience of flying, I think hon. Members will agree that my Noble Friend was justified in taking his word.
§ Mr. Montague
I would like to put to the Under-Secretary the point that one of these three distinguished pilots was one of the only two men in the whole world possessing both the land and marine certificates. They were given the sack. They were told they were redundant, and that was the only thing they were told. They never had a chance of putting any case at all. Nevertheless the company actually engaged new pilots and they have engaged large numbers of pilots since that time. It is not sufficient for us to be told that the Under-Secretary is satisfied with the statement of a very high official. The House of Commons needs to know something of what has happened. This company is highly subsidised and these men are pilots whose characters cannot be impugned. They are suffering under a very great grievance and the grievance, at least to some extent, ought to be dealt with by the House of Commons.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
The House of Commons is fully entitled to be assured that the pilots were dismissed in what one might call the ordinary way of' commercial business. The hon. Member has in mind the circumstances of the complaint, which was that the pilots were dismissed because of their association with a particular organisation, that is the whole gravamen of a particular charge. It is quite true that it was—
§ Lieut.-Colenel Muirhead
—a charge of which the Government must be cognisant and my Noble Friend fully realised the particular reason of the charge about which he satisfied himself.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I think the House is aware of the original charge made in respect of those pilots and fully realises that my Noble Friend took the charge—
§ Mr. Jagger
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman going on, without telling us why the pilots were dimissed?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
—was the recognition of the British Air Line Pilots' Association. Let me remind the House that the Cadman Committee made a recommendation in favour of collective representation, but did not make a recommendation in favour of any particular form of collective representation. Though I agree that they made some reference to a Whitley Council, they did not recommend any particular form of organisation, nor did they recomemnd the recognition of any particular body. The Government have quite clearly accepted the recommendation that effect should be given to collective representation, and in regard to that recommendation the Government, in the case of the two companies on which they have directors, are sincerely determined that collective representation in Some form or other shall be put into operation.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Will there be any guarantee, after other pilots are taken on, that these two men's case will be reconsidered, if redundancy is the only thing that is held against them?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I would not like to give any pledge to the House on that point. The House, I think, will realise that I have received in the course of the last 10 minutes a considerable amount of criticism from one quarter and another, and I would not like to try to reduce that by giving a pledge to the hon. Lady which I do not at the moment feel that I can justifiably give. I repeat again that the question whether these pilots were wrongfully dismissed or were in any way victimised is a question of which the. Government must take cognisance.
Another point that was made by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton was with regard to the carriage of mails in a machine that was not a British machine. I understand that an application was made by the line to which he referred, but that, so far, permission has not yet been obtained from the Swiss Government. Of course, in connection with the Cadman Report, the recommendation about the operation of European air lines, and the whole question of what lines actually run, will be reconsidered by the Government. That brings me, on the question of European lines, to the question raised by the Noble Lord the Member for East Renfrew (Marquess of Clydesdale) on the subject of Allied Airways and the fact that they were not mentioned in the Government's observations on the Cadman Report. The service to Norway was only run for a short period, between July and September, 1937, and I think that the Government were justified in considering that that was only a temporary service.
Marquess of Clydesdale
I understand that Allied Air Lines have a contract for five years with the Norwegian Government.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I do not think the Noble. Lord will deny that the service was interrupted and not resumed, and that was the reason. There was no question of trying to discriminate against any particular company.
Marquess of Clydesdale
May I ask for an answer to my simple question: Is the company barred from being considered for a subsidy because it was not mentioned?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I assure the Noble Lord that I had no intention of shirking his second question, but that, if he had given me a little more time, I was coming to it. I was merely saying, on the first point, that there were obvious reasons why the Government did not actually include the name of this company in their observations. There was no question of deliberately leaving them out. There is no intention to disturb the proposal for the running of this service next summer. On the question of whether they will get a subsidy for these services or not, I could not give an answer to the Noble Lord.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
No, they are not barred. It is quite clear that you have to consider, in connection with this company, the recommendations of the Cadman Committee. It is in respect of these particular recommendations that the whole question of the European services is being considered. I would ask the Noble Lord not to try to read more or less into my answer than it appears to convey.
Marquess of Clydesdale
Might I have an undertaking that this line will be considered fairly on the same basis as other lines?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
There is no question of the line not being considered fairly. I gather that what the Noble Lord is really anxious is that I should give an assurance that it will get the subsidy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then I think the Noble Lord and I are at one. The next point was that there should be no intention of disturbing this particular line from running a service next summer. The Noble Lord may rest assured that this company and all other companies will be fairly considered in connection with this scheme for the European services as a whole. I hope the Noble Lord, who is naturally anxious on behalf of the company, now feels that I have answered his questions.
Now with some difficulty, I think I have got through substantially the particular 1774 points which were raised. I am sure that hon. Members, on reflection, will sympathise with me in having, so to speak, to wind up the same Debate twice. I had to make a concluding speech some ten days ago, and I have to do so tonight. Having in my previous remarks dealt with what I might call the general considerations of the case, I may be forgiven by the House if I recapitulate them. This committee was set up to consider not the whole range of civil aviation, but certain specific allegations made during a particular Debate. It is quite true that my Noble Friend, anxious that there should be no feeling that criticism was being stifled, opened the terms,. not exactly of reference, but of direction, to the committee to include points which any hon. Member who had wished to take part in that Debate and been unable to do so, had wished to raise. Therefore, the terms of the inquiry were somewhat wider than the Debate itself. But it is quite clear that this was a committee to inquire into allegations of a specific character. Therefore, it is not fair to take this report, which specifically deals with these points, as a general report on the whole range of civil aviation. As it was a committee of inquiry, that was the spirit in which the Government accepted it. They did not accept it in a carping spirit, resenting criticisms and insinuations that, either recently or in the past, they have not done their job. They accepted the report in the spirit in which it was meant, namely, as a business document with the object of getting civil aviation into a better state than previously. That is the spirit in which the House would wish the Government to accept it.
With regard to civil aviation as a whole, I think that hon. Members will agree that, of the speeches made here to-night, the most comprehensive and statesmanlike was that by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton. He seemed to put the good and the bad, the rough and the smooth, the Continent and the Empire, the difference between our Imperial terrain and the United States of America, and internal routes. He put all these questions in their proper perspective, and dealt with the question of civil aviation as a whole and to an extent not dealt with in any of the other speeches.
The Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has moved that public concern will not be allayed by the 1775 explanations given and the action taken by the Government on this report, I think, overlooks what it is which really causes public concern. Genuine public concern would have been caused if it had been thought that civil aviation as a whole was in a bad way. When one considers that the Empire air services, which represent more than 90 per cent. of Imperial Airways activities, and the relations between the Government and Imperial Airways one realises that this is something which has been done quite well. It will be realised that the public are not likely to be concerned about this report. The only way they might have been concerned would have been if the recommendations had been received in a carping spirit by the Government. Nothing can go further to allay public concern than the practical and businesslike way in which the Government received the report and examined it. It is quite true that they disagree, and justifiably disagree, with some of the recommendations, but for the most part they whole-heartedly endorse and adopt the rest. Public concern, if it exists, will still further be allayed not merely by the spirit in which the Government have accepted the report, but by the honesty and sincerity with which the Government propose to deal with it.
§ 11.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Roland Robinson
I apologise for rising to address the House at this late hour, but I and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) and others have listened throughout the Debate and the previous day's Debate, and so great is my disquiet on this subject that I do not think I can fairly be asked to keep silent. I have had a feeling of disquiet throughout the Debate and now that I have listened to both the speeches of the Under-Secretary my feeling of disquiet is undoubtedly increased. I have had some experience of civil aviation throughout the world. It has been my good fortune to fly 80,000 miles on different civil air lines in many parts of the world, and wherever I go I find that the air lines of other countries are undoubtedly superior to those of our own. I can remember well an occasion two or three years ago when I flew 3,100 miles across the United States over-night. Where in this country is there anything 1776 that could be compared with that experience?
Along with others, I was not in the least surprised that the Cadman Committee made such very sweeping recommendations. For some time it has been unpopular to say that anything was wrong in British civil aviation. I feel that the Air Ministry has been surrounded by too many "yes" men; people who were the apostles of complacency and who stated time after time that all is well with British civil aviation. After to-night's Debate, the Government and the Air Ministry will realise that the views of the House have now changed. Speaker after speaker has urged that more vigorous action should be taken by the Government, and I think I may fairly say that we want even more vigorous action than has been recommended by the Cadman Committee.
We can well understand that there may have been difficulties in the past because money was not available for civil aviation, and I can understand the tremendous effort for rearmament, but the civil side of the Air Ministry has fallen behind badly. It has been one of the great mistakes of civil aviation in this country that it has been tied to the tail of the Air Ministry. It ought to have greater consideration, almost another Department looking after civil aviation. I hope that the recommendation for the appointment of a new Under-Secretary in this House will receive better consideration from the Government. I, along with other hon. Members, am delighted that the Noble Lord, the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has undertaken duties in connection with the Air Ministry, but the whole balance of things is wrong, because as between civil and military aviation we have in the Cabinet two men looking after military aviation, and nobody in the Cabinet who can speak for civil aviation with the authority that a separate Minister could.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
The Secretary of State is responsible for civil aviation equally with military aviation.
§ Mr. Robinson
I agree that he is equally responsible, but events have clearly shown that the work of rearmament is so great that he has not the time to look after civil aviation. It would have been very much better if the Noble Lord had been appointed to look after civil 1777 aviation, because he comes in with vigour and zeal, and we all know well that new brooms sweep clean. I feel rather sorry for the Under-Secretary who for the past year or so has been left with this job and has had to come time after time to the House and tell us that all is well. Now he has to eat his own words if he is to carry out in full the recommendations of the Cadman Committee.
I do not want to deal at length with the work of Imperial Airways, but we have been profoundly dissatisfied. The House as a whole is pleased with the suggestion of a new responsibility for European air service. I must, nevertheless, pay a tribute to the great strides they have made recently in regard to the Imperial services. It is, however, only now, when trouble has arisen, that they are beginning to face up to their responsibilities. I should like to draw attention to the financial side of Imperial Airways. It is very wrong that a subsidised company should pay a dividend as high as 9 per cent. Nine per cent. is a big dividend when public money is contributing to it. On the financial side they have been wrong in not getting the money from the public on the best possible terms.
I want to reinforce what has been said about the service running to Norway. It was considered throughout aviation circles that the suspension of the service was only a temporary measure during the winter and that it would be resumed in the summer months. More consideration should have been given to this matter. I am also dissatisfied as to the position of British internal airways. This is just as important as lines operating to the Continent and foreign countries. One useful purpose of internal airways is to make our public air-minded. How can you expect British citizens to fly on British subsidised lines abroad if they never have the chance of flying at home?
We also want to develop these lines to give us a useful reservoir of air pilots. I stress that point specially. I compare the position with that of the Navy. The greatness of our Navy was built upon the foundation of our merchant shipping; and so it is with aviation. The greatness of our Air Force must be founded on a well developed and well balanced civil aviation. It is only in that way that we can create a demand for air liners and create a reserve of aircraft for which 1778 the Cadman Report asks. I should like to see our internal aviation used as a link for our Imperial and Continental services. At present many of the air ports in this country are not being properly used.
On the question of our internal air lines there is a good deal of anxiety as to the way in which this work is being developed by the railway air services. Events have proved that those who entertained doubt as to the way in which internal aviation would be developed by the introduction of railway air lines have proved to be right. Let me quote one example. United Airways were running an efficient service between London and Blackpool, taking one and a quarter hours. Along came the railways Imperial airways group, and instead of doing pioneer work they set up a rival service from Blackpool to London. The result was that, there not being enough work for two companies, one of them had to go, and the railways airways group having more money behind them were able to continue. When they obtained a monopoly position the service at once deteriorated. Instead of running a service twice a day, it was run once a day; and instead of running direct to London there are now stops, and on one occasion I had to wait over an hour and a quarter for a connection at the Liverpool airport. The service was slow, and indeed the Maybury Committee said that it was quicker to travel by rail. I feel that we should have some assurance from the Government with regard to internal air services, and that they will not be merely a tail of the railway companies.
The same remark applies to the action of the Railway Clearing House in preventing bookings The Under-Secretary said that something is being done in this matter, but I would remind the House that for four years pressure has been exerted in order to remedy this scandalous position. Last year, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, in addressing the House on the Air Estimates, was shocked to hear that such a position existed, and he promised some action. As a result of his action, the ban with regard to British Airways was removed, but it still exists in other cases. I cannot see any reason why the Government should not take a far stronger attitude towards the railway companies in this matter. After all, the railway companies 1779 receive many benefits for which the Government are responsible, and they ought to be told that this situation must be remedied immediately, and not in a few months' or a few years' time.
I feel also that the Government might have done something to help internal air lines with regard to the Petrol Duty. It is all very well to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is adamant in this matter, but the air lines do not pay the petrol tax with regard to their external services, and I do not see why an extra burden should be imposed on the internal services. On this the Cadman Committee were in full agreement with the view I have expressed. I feel that it is the duty of the Air Ministry, if necessary, to stand up to the Treasury and to say that the burden of the petrol tax is such that it is crippling British civil aviation and making it absolutely impossible to run internal air lines.
I would like now to say a few words about the provision of aircraft. It is true that we have no medium-sized air liners to compete with those of other nations. The United States and other countries have built up a big export market in which this country has no share. I consider that the only real encouragement that can be given to British aircraft constructors is to see that there are active internal air services in this country. If in that way they were guaranteed a home market, it would do a great deal more good for the manufacturers of aeroplanes than any subsidies or prizes offered for designs.
I would like to support the case that has been made concerning aerodromes. Airports in this country have been left almost entirely to the initiative of the local authorities. I believe it is a matter of national importance that the whole country should be linked up with airports which could be used equally in time of peace and in time of war. That is a matter which cannot be left to the foresight and good will of the local authorities. We have had many examples of vast sums of money having been spent on aerodromes by local authorities. Blackpool, for instance, spent £100,000 on equipping an airport, and they are losing £4,500 or more every year, largely because there is no traffic coming into the airport. There was a time when the Air Ministry had something of the spirit of 1780 pioneers, and its officials and Ministers went round the country urging one local authority after another to build an airport, and practically promised that there would be sufficient business to justify the maintenance of those airports.
I think that the Government, in taking no action, are letting down the local authorities very badly. It is all very well to say that it is a matter for the local authorities—it is not. Now the Air Ministry say that they are going to try to co-ordinate activities. Does that mean that they are really going to get something done? I have not seen that spirit at the Air Ministry. In the matter of airraid precautions, the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary are going about the country urging and helping local authorities to do their work, and the Government are paying part of the expense. I would like to see something of the same policy with regard to air ports. I would like to see the Ministry helping the local authorities with advice and money. It is all very well for the Under-Secretary to say that so many thousands are spent and go to the local air ports supported by municipal authorities. He gave a figure of £800,000 which goes to the training of Royal Air Force personnel. Of course it does, but that £800,000 does not find its way into the pockets of the local authorities.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
My hon. Friend will do me the justice of admitting that I did not say that it all went to the local authorities. I specifically said that it went "directly or indirectly." I hope he does not think that I claim that the £700,000 odd was paid directly to the civil air services. I hope I did not give that impression.
§ Mr. Robinson
My hon. and gallant Friend suggested that a certain amount of money was being spent and the inference was that a very large proportion found its way to the local authorities. I urge the Government to reconsider this matter and not to fall back on the old excuse that the Maybury Committee said "Do nothing about it." That Committee reported a year ago. The Cadman Committee has told us that the position now is just as bad as it was then. I ask the Air Ministry to get away from their old policy of adopting all the negative recommendations in these reports and sweeping 1781 aside the positive recommendations. I think the Government might even consider setting up a further committee which would report on those matters on which the Cadman Committee did not report. If we could have a clean sweep by a new broom, we might be able to look forward to days of brightness for civil aviation. I believe the Cadman Committee carries the matter half way. I urge the Air Ministry to finish the job and finish it well.
§ 11.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Jagger
I would not have intervened had it not been for one matter with which the hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt. I have been in the House long enough to know that hon. Members feel very keenly anything in the nature of an injustice done to individuals. I do not think any Member on either side of the House was satisfied with the flippant manner in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt with the dismissal of these pilots. Here were three men of exceptional qualifications. They joined their trade protection organisation and they were dismissed. They were told they were redundant, but at the time they were told that the firm was engaging new pilots. We are assured by the Minister that the Government director on the board of the company has assured him that he is satisfied that these men were not victimised for their trade union activities.
That assurance is not enough. The reputation and the livelihood of three of the foremost pilots in the country are at stake. Had these men been in the Army they would have been able to appear before a court-martial with a friend to put their case for them. Surely we are not going to give less justice to these men than would be given to a soldier no matter with what offence he was charged. We know that these men were not redundant. There must have been some other cause for their dismissal. That cause may have been the fact that they had joined their trade protection association. At all events, they were dismissed immediately after they did so, and the Minister has no right to be satisfied until he has seen these men and heard their evidence. I say that this House has no business to be satisfied until it has seen the evidence on which these men were dismissed, in circumstances which, so far as public knowledge goes, were circumstances which led 1782 to a very strong suspicion that it was victimisation for trade union membership. There were 10 altogether, but three in particular were mentioned. I deeply regret, and I desire to protest against, the manner in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt with this matter. Surely he has some feeling for these men, and I think it might have been expressed in his manner rather more pleasantly than it was. Late as the hour was, I was not going to let this report go through before I had said what I felt and what I think scores of other hon. Members feel about this very unsatisfactory matter.
§ 11.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Perkins
I should like to congratulate the Under-Secretary of State on his very fine innings this evening. He nearly succeeded in playing out time, and I admired him for the skill with which he let the more difficult balls go past him without trying to hit them and for the skill with which he tried to hit the balls which looked as if they might be fairly easy. In order to clear up some of the points which have arisen, the answers to which I am afraid I did not quite understand, I propose once again to raise certain of these matters and to put certain specific questions, in the hope that the Under-Secretary of State will reply to them. Before doing that, however, I wonder if I might be allowed to offer my humble congratulations to Lord Cadman and his committee, not only for the speed and thoroughness with which they worked—and everyone respects them for that—but also for the outspoken document which they produced. It has certainly taken the lid off civil aviation and revealed it to the people of this country in its true light. As "Punch" rightly suggested by a cartoon last week, they have done a very great service to British civil aviation by giving it a thoroughly good spring clean. They have sown a seed, and whether that seed falls on stony ground among thorns or on good ground will depend on the attitude and the action, and not on the promises, of the Government. The Government—and I must congratulate them on it—are obviously alive to the situation and are anxious, I believe, to put it right. I do not want to-night to take part in any carping criticism of the Government's promises, but I propose to put forward one or two constructive ideas and at the same time to ask the Under-Secretary of State for 1783 certain information which so far has been withheld.
First of all, there is the question of this booking ban imposed by the railway companies on various services. I heard the Under-Secretary's answer, but I am not satisfied with the position as it now is. He based his case solely on the fact that progress is now being made, that we are getting along slowly but surely, and that the ban on North-Eastern Airways has been lifted. I remember when this matter was first raised on the Floor of this House nearly three years ago, and during the last three years we have had promise after promise from various Under-Secretaries and various Ministers that something would be done, but at the end of three years the Under-Secretary has announced to the House that the booking ban on one company has been raised. But there are five others, and if we are to proceed at this steady rate of progress, it will be 15 years before the last booking ban has been raised. I, for one, am not satisfied with that, and I intend to go on to the best of my ability embarrassing the railway companies by every method in my power until the matter is put right.
With regard to the question of the proposed new European services, I welcome the fact that we are to have more services and that they are to be faster. It will be possible, I hope, one day, as a result of this increased subsidy, to separate the mails from the passengers. We cannot start these services now, even if we want to, because we have not any suitable machines in this country. It is only a matter of a dozen machines at the outside, and I suggest that we should not hesitate to go to America and buy the best machines that money can obtain in order to run these services. I am not Suggesting buying 100 or 200 machines; it is a matter of a dozen machines, and their purchase in America cannot affect the unemployment position in this country. We should get these machines in order to run some services in Europe, because I believe that services in Europe with foreign machines are better than no services at all. I want to press the Under-Secretary about the Air Navigation Act When he was asked whether this was to be amended he replied that it would be amended in time to be effective. That is rather an evasive answer, and I do not understand what it 1784 means. I want to press the question I asked last week—will it be amended this Session? That is a perfectly fair question which can be answered by "yes" or "no." I see the Under-Secretary now talking to the "usual channels," and I hope he has got a satisfactory answer.
Then there is the question of Imperial Airways and the promised change in management. I welcome it, for I think it is important that there should be a change in management; but what is more important is a changed outlook of the company. Their outlook in the past has been the narrow outlook of a commercially minded company. We want something bigger, wider and broader from Imperial Airways than a narrow commercial outlook. They have been convicted by this Committee of being intolerant of suggestion and unyielding in negotiation. Can the Under-Secretary give an assurance that that policy will be changed and that the company will be tolerant of suggestion and yielding in negotiation? The question of dividends has been mentioned. I have read the report several times and I find that I misled the House when I spoke on a previous occasion by saying that the subsidy had been increased. I was wrong. It was not the subsidy, but the annual payments, that had been increased. I got the figures in answer to a question last week. If the total amount of money that was paid by the Air Ministry and the amount paid by the Post Office to Imperial Airways in 1936 are added together, they come to just under £1,000,000. The estimated expenditure for 1938 is just over £2,000,000. The increase is more than double. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary whether he can give a definite assurance that he will give instructions to the Government directors on the board that as long as this company is receiving payments from the taxpayers in excess of £2,000,000 they will not pay another dividend of 9 per cent. If at the end of the year they find they have a large amount of money in their pockets, would it not be possible for some of it to be paid back to the taxpayers, some to be spent on research, and some on improving the pay and conditions of their workpeople?
I come now to the thorny subject of the pilots and the Whitley Council. I cannot help remembering when this matter was discussed on a previous occasion. On that occasion the right of col- 1785 lective bargaining had been denied to these pilots by both the Air Ministry and by Imperial Airways. Through their president, the pilots asked for a round-table conference with the Secretary of State, but the Secretary of State banged and bolted the door, and said "No." However, the situation has now completely changed. The Cadman Report has recommended that some form of Whitley Council should be set up. The association of which I am vice-president, the British Air Line Pilots' Association, which represents, I think, 82 per cent. of the pilots employed on regular air-line work, are willing to co-operate to the fullest extent with either Imperial Airways or with the Government in the working of a Whitley Council, or, in fact, any other scheme, provided that they are allowed to nominate their fair share of representatives on that council. Discussions have already taken place with one company, British Airways, and I would pay a tribute to the management of that company for the fair and sporting way in which they have carried on the negotiations. We have almost come to a decision. The pilots were meeting to-night and discussing a proposed arrangement, and I received a telegram while sitting here which says:Pilots agree, subject to settlement of constitution.It now looks as if the difficulties have now disappeared, so far as British Airways are concerned, and that we can look forward to a happy and contented time in the future, for both the pilots and the management of the company.
I regret to say that, as far as Imperial Airways are concerned, the door remains slammed. Not a single bolt has been withdrawn from that door during the last eight months. I am convinced that not one bolt will be removed from that door unless the Ministry can take drastic action against that company. The Under-Secretary made a concession to-night when he rather threw over the Government's previous attitude, which had been that of Pilate, saying: "We wash our hands of these things. This is a matter which must be settled between the pilots and Imperial Airways. We are not interested." I am glad that the Minister has told the House—and I want to thank him for it—that he is interested, and that he has given a definite assurance that 1786 some form of Whitley Council will be set up. I am very thankful to him for having given that assurance.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I do not think that I have ever denied that the Government were keenly interested in this question. They accepted the recommendation of the Cadman Committee relating to some form of effective representation, but I am sorry if the hon. Member misunderstood me about the Whitley Council. The Cadman Committee did not specifically recommend the Whitley organisation. They said—I think these are the words—We consider that the Whitley Council has some advantages.I was very careful to say that the Government did not bind themselves to any specific form of organisation or the recognition of any specific union, but they fully intend, through the influence which they exert on the Government directors, to see that the recommendation regarding collective representation made by the Cadman Committee, and accepted by the Government, is genuinely and honestly put into force in some way or other.
§ Mr. Perkins
I thank the Minister for that statement. It satisfies me. I particularly want to thank him for it. It is obvious to me that unless something had been done, and unless the Minister had made some definite statement, the victimisation which would have taken place in the next few months would not have been exceeded by the victimisation which is now going on in Austria.
I would now go on to the subjects of municipal aerodromes and internal air lines. I link the two together, because if one prospers the other prospers. The attitude taken up by the Ministry is rather that of washing their hands of the matter, perhaps only rinsing them in this case. On 29th October, 1928, a circular was sent by the Air Council to the chief municipalities urging them to build aerodromes, and therefore we are surely entitled to say that the Air Ministry are directly responsible for some of these civil aerodromes, because if that circular had not been sent half of them would never have been established. There was only one recommendation in the "Cadman Report which would help municipal aerodromes and internal air lines, and that was that they should be given a rebate on the petrol duty. That suggestion was 1787 turned down by the Government. The airlines feel that they have been jilted and the municipal aerodromes are naturally heartbroken and feel they have been let down. Cannot the attitude of the Government, and particularly of the Air Ministry to the petrol tax rebate, be reconsidered before we come to the Budget, because in Committee on the Finance Bill we shall move again the usual Amendment to exempt internal air lines and flying clubs from that duty? I also ask the Minister whether he cannot make a definite statement of the Government's intentions respecting internal air services. Do they want internal air services? Do they want all the internal air services run by the railways? Do they want independent air services? Those are questions which could be answered by a simple "Yes" or "No," and it would be very much to the interests of civil aviation if the Minister would give an emphatic answer.
My last question concerns the export of civil aircraft. We have lost the export market and are beginning to lose the home market, and yet in spite of that lamentable fact paragraphs 38, 39 and 40 in the White Paper lead us to the conclusion that there is to be no change in policy, and that we are to have the same attitude of smug self-satisfaction. Tonight the Minister, when asked about it, told us that the matter was still under consideration. I will put forward just one suggestion. The competition which our manufacturers will have to face in the next three years comes from three types of aircraft, the Lockheed 14, the Douglas D.C. 4 and the Boieing Model 307. Those models are all more or less marketed now. Some of them are flying or will be flying in the near future. If we start now to make civil aircraft to compete with those machines we shall find ourselves two years behind. We shall produce a machine which is equivalent to the Lockheed 14 after the Lockheed 14 has been on the market for two years. These American machines will have proved themselves and be fully established. I suggest to the Minister that instead of trying to produce civil aircraft now we should buy from America for one year, or perhaps two years, and meanwhile concentrate on research and experiment with a view to producing a machine in three or four years' time not equal or superior to the 1788 Lockheed 14 but superior to the next model, the Lockheed 15. If we start off along those lines, and if the Air Ministry and the designers and operators get together with the same spirit as when we set out to win the Schneider Cup, I believe that in three or four years we could win back these export markets.
I cannot help feeling that the next five years are going to see a great revolution in flying. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) told the House the other night that he learnt his flying in a balloon, and how 30 years ago the sport of ballooning gave way to the aeroplane. I cannot help feeling that the aeroplane as we know it may be on the road to obsolescence in five years' time, and that we shall be up in the stratosphere. [Laughter.] I know that hon. Members will think I am a dreamer, but if I am a dreamer I have the satisfaction of knowing that hard-headed business men in America who run the Pan-American Airways are also dreamers. Colonel Lindberg, technical adviser to Pan-American Airways, asked on 9th December, 1937, for tenders from the eight main manufacturers of aircraft in America for designs for a large fleet of aircraft. The specifications were as follows: One hundred passengers; a crew of 15; a range of 5,000 miles, and a speed in the stratosphere of 299 miles an hour.
Machines of that type will be flying in America in four or five years' time. Are we in England thinking in terms of such machines? Are we doing any experimental work with pressure cabins, or are we merely sitting back and hoping for the best? Unless somebody is thinking and experimenting along these lines now we shall be faced with the most acute competition in four or five years' time, far more acute than at present. If a machine of this type were bought by the Dutch Air Lines, capable of taking 100 passengers to India in 24 hours, we might wake up one morning and find Dutch Air Lines going to India with 100 passengers, leaving Monday morning at breakfast time and getting the passengers there on Tuesday morning. I beg the Air Ministry to come off their perch and forget that those paragraphs 38, 39 and 40 were ever written. I ask them for a change in outlook. Before it is too late, let them go ahead with vigour and 1789 courage, and not take their hands from that plough before they get to the end of the furrow.
§ 12.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Lyons
I intervene even at this hour as I am not willing that we should leave the important topic in its present state. With particular reference to the position of the pilots, I hope that we shall get an answer from the Under-Secretary when he replies to the Debate. We who spoke after him to-night do so with no intention of being discourteous, but because we felt that the matter was too fundamental to be left in the position in which we now find it. Is it too much to ask that the House of Commons shall be told why these pilots, men of experience, were dismissed from Imperial Airways? The hon. Member spoke in strong terms just now about what he considered the grave injustice to the men because they had joined some trade union. It may very well be that if we knew the reasons for the dismissal of these valued servants from Imperial Airways no injustice would be apparent at all to the minds of hon. Members. I do not know and I do not believe it should be left as it is.
We should like to know one or two matters in relation to the terms of their employment and I desire to ask more about the procedure adopted. I would like to know what were the allegations on which these men's employment was terminated; whether they were dismissed summarily or by being given a term payment of wages; and whether or not their contracts with Imperial Airways deprived them of the right to go to the courts if they so desired. It may be said that, if a big store in London terminates the employment of one of its highly paid officials, that is no concern of this House; but when you are dealing with Imperial Airways or any other subsidised concern, it is a matter of great moment to the House. I do not accept the reason of redundancy. I believe there was some reason—it may have been good or it may have been bad—far beyond that of redundancy, for terminating these contracts, and I think the House should be put in possession of the facts and circumstances. In any extension of civil aviation on Empire routes, these experienced men are key men. We ask no more than that ordinary fairness should be extended to them, and 1790 that they should be told and the House should be told the reason why it was found necessary to put an end to their engagements.
As I understand it, the Cadman Committee sat in private, and we are told in the report that they held something like 30 sittings and received evidence both orally and in writing. This is not the time to discuss the general principle, but it is manifest from the report that, in addition to the 30 sittings, the committee had some evidence from persons and some from written statements. I appreciate the work of Lord Cadman and his colleagues but is it too much, at a time when we stand for no Star Chamber methods, to inquire whether the allegations against these pilots were made in their presence, and whether they were given the chance of dealing with and rebutting the allegations made? If these allegations were made in writing, behind the backs of these men—I make no suggestion; I do not know; but it is a matter on which the House is entitled to be satisfied—the position would, of course, be thoroughly unsatisfactory and one which, I think, the House would not accept. Were the allegations made verbally? Were the men there? What opportunity was given to them to deal with the position? Were they given the chance of calling evidence, if necessary, to rebut the allegations? To them this dismissal may well be a matter of life and death. If an experienced pilot is no longer fit to be employed by Imperial Airways, it may well be that he is unfit to be employed by any civil aviation line in this country. To them, it is nothing less than commercial life or death. All that the House wants to know is, Were these men dealt with properly and given every opportunity available of rebutting the allegations that were made?
There are strictures on Imperial Airways in the report. When you get a report of this nature, drawn up by Lord Cadman and his colleagues with what, I might be allowed to say respectfully, seems to be great thoroughness and care, the criticism always gets more notice than the commendation. But I am not satisfied from the report itself on the position taken up with regard to Imperial Airways. There may be grounds for criticism; but I would ask similar questions about Imperial Airways as I have just done about the pilots. Is it right 1791 that the heads of Imperial Airways were called to give evidence at the beginning of the inquiry, without any charge being brought against them, and that it was only later that the allegations were made behind their backs? We are told that Imperial Airways were guilty of loose commercial practices, or, at any rate, practices that showed that the firm was not conducted as it should be—that the managing director was unyielding—findings almost of life and death against gentlemen holding high positions in this concern. The allegations may be right or wrong; but, before the Debate closes, I would like to know whether it is right that these gentlemen gave evidence at the beginning of the inquiry and that these charges were made subsequently without their being given an opportunity of rebutting them?
Was the managing director of this concern, against whom so much criticism was levelled, invited to go back to the witness chair and reply to the evidence against him? Was Sir George Beharrel, the chairman of the company, given an opportunity to answer allegations made against the company, which are very serious to a company existing very largely on a public subsidy? It may be that the attacks against the company were made in some of the written evidence which was submitted. It would be very unfair if the company and the gentlemen at the head of it were condemned on evidence read half-way or two-thirds of the way through the sittings, or on written evidence which they had no chance of rebutting. What weight written statements should carry in the minds of a Committee of this nature is not a matter now to discuss. In so important an issue it would be satisfying to know whether ample opportunity was given to those attacked to meet and deal with the charges after they were particularised. Let it be remembered that from any inquiry such as this there is no court of appeal.
Imperial Airways seem to have laboured for many years under conditions of a great deal of financial stringency. In years gone by there was not the money made available for their development that there is to-day, and, as the committee points out, in that function for which they were essentially established, the knitting together of the Empire, they have 1792 shown an efficiency of which they may be proud. When dealing with criticisms of Imperial Airways, we ought to bear in mind those matters which are in favour of Imperial Airways. The report mentions the subsidies paid. These subsidies are nothing like the subsidies, in relation to passengers, that foreign companies have; yet this company has a wonderful record of speed and regularity in its services. No other hon. Member has mentioned what might be justly stated in the company's favour—that it is embarking on its third or fourth acceleration of services. Overcoming great difficulties in many countries with varying frontiers and climates the Empire services present an outstanding example of organised enterprise of which we can be proud. Let us remember the report does give praise as well as criticism. My hon. Friend who preceded me mentioned the obsolescence of their aircraft. It has been emphasised that for years Imperial Airways have had on order a better and more up-to-date type of machine, but the circumstances of the moment have been such that they have not been able to get delivery. These are matters which might well be taken into account when the House as a whole criticises recommendations made in the report of the Cadman Committee.
I endorse what was said by my hon. Friend on the vital question of internal air lines, and, on the general question which my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) put to the Air Ministry. I ask, Is it the policy of the Air Ministry or not to encourage or promote airports and internal air lines? The present Secretary of State for Air came to the City of Leicester some three years ago and opened a very large and well-established airport. There were then functioning at that airport two or three regular air lines, which went across country, performing services in transport far beyond any hope we ever had from any railway company. Other air lines announced their intention of coming along routes which could well be served by the Leicester airport. For some months now there has been no animation of any sort or kind and no service of any description in that very extensive airport which the ratepayers of Leicester established. Is it the policy of the Ministry really to say that, on the finding of the Maybury Commission at that time and on that evidence, 1793 it does not recommend subsidies being paid to internal air lines? If that is so, we might as well abandon for all time, any hope of maintaining or extending air services in this country. I believe that more encouragement and financial aid might well be given to promote and encourage internal air lines and to do something to help the airports and municipal aerodromes which have been established in the large cities, not under pressure from the Government, but by the encouragement and at the wish of the Government.
Is anything being done really to establish a central airport to take the place of Croydon? If we have to continue going from London to Croydon before we make an air journey, it will be only a question of time when, on the trip from here to France, we shall spend more time on the road than in the air. And from the point of view of danger, there is no comparison between the journey we have to make from London to Croydon by road and in going in an up-to-date machine across the Channel. Has anything been done to put an end to that scandalous position? Year after year plans are made but nothing is done. How much longer have we to put up with Croydon as the airport of the greatest city in the Empire? I remember a short time ago making a journey with my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) in one of his aeroplanes, flying a distance of something like 90 miles in about 50 minutes to Heston, from which it took something like 40 minutes to get to Westminster. The kind of thing I have just recounted tends to curtail civil aviation at a time when we want to encourage it. I trust that the Air Ministry will give speedy consideration to these matters and try to bring about some alteration for the benefit of civil aviation.
What is the reason for the delay in removing the ban at railway tourist offices against booking for travel by air? Why did it ever exist? It is not sufficient to say when the Air Estimates are being discussed that the matter is being looked into and that consideration is being given to it. What vested interest is standing in the way? Is there any reason why this blackmail should not have been ended three or four years ago when it was first brought to the notice of the Minister and when he never attempted to justify it? I hope that the 1794 hon. and gallant Gentleman will reply and give us the information we ask for to allay the apprehensions we feel and to bring some kind of confidence out of the state of disquiet indicated by Lord Cadman's Committee.
§ 12.21 a.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
At this late hour I want to touch on only one or two points. The Under-Secretary will have had the feeling of the House on this question of the dismissal of air pilots. Only yesterday one of the directors of the North-Eastern Airways asked me whether I would use my good offices to try to get some of these pilots restored to their posts, because some of them are penniless and without the means of life. I ask the Under-Secretary to look into the matter and see whether Imperial Airways cannot find posts for these men. What have these pilots done last year? Pilots of Imperial Airways have carried more than 70,000 passengers for over 6,000,000 miles, carried over 7,000,000 ton-miles of traffic and run the biggest fleet of commercial flying boats in the world. They have made 10 crossings of the North Atlantic ocean in accordance with prearranged time tables and have kept up to schedule; brought into operation the all-air Empire mail programme, which is a great landmark in the history of this country; made the first commercial Empire flight from England to New Zealand, 13,000 miles away, and established the first British trans-ocean air service between British possessions and the United States of America. This year they have been running a good service to Singapore and carrying 11½ tons of mails every week. If you count the postcards as letters, that means something like 9,000,000 letters a week, or 4½ times the amount carried by the Dutch air mail.
We ought to do everything we can for these pilots. They have made a great success of the Empire air mail service, thanks to the foresight of the General Post Office. It is a great scheme that you should be able to carry these letters from this country to all parts of the Empire, without surcharge. Imperial Airways ought to be congratulated on the success they have had in carrying these mails to all parts of the Empire. I notice that in another new schedule they are to speed up some of their work and to run seven services a week in each direction between 1795 England and Egypt, three between England and Kisumu and two between England and Durban. On 10th April they will run from England to Cairo in one day five hours, to Khartoum in two days one hour, to Kisumu in two days twelve hours, to Mombasa in three days two and a-half hours, to Mozambique in three days nine and a-half hours and to Durban in four days ten hours. That is a very good achievement indeed. The England-India-Iraq-Australia service is to have four services a week in each direction between England and Calcutta, two between England and Singapore, two between England and Hong Kong and two between England and Brisbane.
The only criticism I have to make on the Cadman Committee's report is that they are very severe on Imperial Airways. Surely the record that I have just read out is a good one. They have delivered the goods, and all this destructive criticism of Imperial Airways is not good. In the past they have had very little money. Other nations have given more subsidies than they have had. On the whole, we ought to congratulate the directors of Imperial Airways and the managing director for the way in which they have handled this traffic. I agree with the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) that there ought to be a whole-time chairman for Imperial Airways. You need a man of vision to run Imperial Airways and he should get around him a little handful of enthusiasts. It is not good for them to have too many business men on Imperial Airways.
One criticism I would make in the other direction is that Imperial Airways have not led enough. They have followed the aircraft industry. In America you will find that the big firms lead and do not follow the big companies. They do not follow the aircraft industry. They say exactly what they want and they get it carried out. I have been told that the managing director is unpopular, but you do not want a "Yes" man. You would not have all these services of the Imperial Airways if you had had a "Yes" man. He is a brusque man, and he seems to have delivered the goods pretty well. I cannot see that there is much to find fault with. It is said that he did not get on with the Director-General. There are Government directors on the Board of Imperial Airways; if things were 1796 not going quite right surely those Government directors should have gone to the Air Minister and asked him to look into this or that question and put things right. So far as I can see they never attempted to do that, and it is very unfair to throw the whole blame on to the managing-director.
§ Sir M. Sueter
Yes, I think so. If things were going wrong it would be their duty to go to the Air Minister and say that perhaps the Director-General of Civil Aviation was not being conciliatory enough to the managing-director or that the managing-director was having friction, and so on, and it would be their duty to try to smooth things out. So far as I can see that is what they are there for. I would like to give to this House the opinion of an outside person, the Governor-General of the Straits Settlements, Sir Shenton Thomas, who wrote to the Air Minister the other day. The letter was published in the "Times" of 2nd March. He said:I am glad to be able to say that pilots of the flying boats have no criticisms to make of our arrangements here, and the boats themselves surpass all other passenger machines. We are pleased that we have got the service, but the really good thing is that British commercial flying in the East is at last 'on top.' I hope it will stay there.
§ Sir M. Sueter
If the hon. Gentleman listened, I said:British commercial flying is at last 'on top.' I hope it will stay there.It is at last on top because they have a Short flying boat which they had not before. The necessity for economy in this country had delayed their production. That is a very great testimonial to the efficiency of Imperial Airways. I think I can well leave it at that.
Then it is stated in the Cadman Committee's Report that they are going to press on with the North Atlantic air service. I hope they will do that, because there will be a good deal of American competition in the near future in the North Atlantic. We want to keep up the 1797 prestige of this country; and it is the same with the South Atlantic service. We are paying something like £100,000 to German and French operating companies now for taking our mails across the South Atlantic, and it is high time that the Air Ministry pressed on British Airways to develop that service, for we are losing prestige in the Argentine. They see German and French machines coming regularly across the Atlantic but no British machines. So the Argentines naturally judge us by what they hear over the wireless and what they see, and they think we are a decadent nation if we do not send aircraft to the Argentine. I hope the Air Ministry will press on with this service as soon as possible.
The report also deals with the question of seaplane bases. I want to ask the Under-Secretary what is happening about the Langstone Harbour seaplane base at Portsmouth? It is not fair to the pilots that they should be made to use Hythe, because there is a very restricted landing there, with yachts in the way and difficulty in manoeuvring. The Langstone Harbour scheme has been argued for the last two years, and it reflects no credit on anybody concerned. I hope that whether you have a high or a low level scheme for Langstone Harbour, the Air Ministry will see that it is pressed on, because it is most important.
I am glad to see from the report that the Diesel engine is to be developed, because it would be far safer from the point of view of fire risks, and so on, than is the petrol engine. In the case of submarines, we pressed for the Diesel engine instead of the petrol engine because of its greater safety, and we got it introduced. I think the Air Ministry should encourage the engineers of this country as much as possible to nurse the Diesel engine in the same way as the petrol engine. It would be a very advantageous thing for long distance flying. The consumption is 25 per cent. less, and the fuel much cheaper.
Then I want to join with other hon. Members in asking the Under-Secretary to give us a very clear idea of what is going to be done with regard to internal air services. We have two or three companies running internal air lines—North Eastern Air Lines and Allied Airways. They are feeling the pinch because they are getting no subsidy. From the defence point of view I want to see them encouraged 1798 to train pilots. The other day when I raised this question I said that a foreign country within striking distance of this country had 50,000 pilots, and when the Under-Secretary spoke he questioned this figure and said he could not accept it. I wonder if he will accept this—it is not my statement. In Herr Hitler's February Reichstag speech he claimed to have 50,000 fully trained pilots with 3,000,000 in the course of training. I will read the actual words:The German Flying Sport Union (Flugsportverband) counted 600,000 members in 1933, while the National Socialist Flying Corps had 3,000,000 members in 1937, of whom 50,000 were active airmen; the Flying Corps carried out its programme with the help of six power flights and 22 gliding schools, equipped with 400 powered and 4,600 glider planes.Will the Under-Secretary accept that figure given by Herr Hitler in his speech that there are 50,000 trained pilots? I submit to the Government that we should look into the whole question of the training of pilots. I want to encourage schools and municipal aerodromes and to get Royal Air Force machines to fly to these aerodromes; we want to encourage air gliding also far more than we are doing. It is a very serious thing for the defence of the country that we have not got more pilots. Generally speaking, you can produce as many machines as you like. In the War we started with very few machines and soon reached towards the end of the War 300 machines a month—3,400 for the last year of the War, I think it was. You can produce these machines and increase their numbers, but it is a more difficult thing to train pilots; if they were not trained properly, you would lose a large number in a war. I ask the Under-Secretary and the Noble Lord to give this whole question of the training of pilots serious consideration, and, if necessary, to set up a committee to go into it, so that we may be able to get somewhere nearer the number given in Herr Hitler's speech of 50,000 trained pilots.
§ 12.36 a.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I suggest that possibly the House will now be willing to come to a decision; I think that is the general wish of the House. [AN HON. MEMBER: "NO. A lot of Members want to speak."]
§ Earl Winterton
I am not preventing hon. Members speaking. It is more than the Rules of the House would allow for my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead) to make a reply for the third time, seeing that he has already spoken twice. The House will, of course, recognise that I am not as competent as he is to deal with matters which are not within the ministerial duties allotted to me, but I want to make one or two observations on them. In the first place, I recognise that there has been great interest taken in the question of pilots. I only wish to repeat what my hon. Friend said, that my Noble Friend is satisfied that there has been no victimisation. For the rest, I will undertake to convey to my Noble Friend the feeling which has been expressed in more than one portion of the House as to the anxiety which is felt over this matter; I will convey that with the greatest care. With regard to the question of the representation of pilots generally, I can only repeat the promise given by my hon. and gallant Friend that there will be collective representation, and if that does not take a form satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen, it will be open to them to question the Under-Secretary or myself.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down asked me a number of questions about the number of trained pilots. Frankly, I cannot be responsible for what Herr Hitler has said or for the accuracy of the figures he has given as to the number of pilots trained in Germany. But my hon. Friend is entitled to ask whether I am satisfied that there is in this country trained, or about to be trained, a sufficiency of pilots. My answer is that there is an ever-increasing number of pilots, both civil and military, being trained in this country.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
The Noble Lord must surely know that we are engaged in competition with Germany and that the number of pilots trained in Germany is a most relevant fact which should be within the knowledge of the Air Ministry?
§ Earl Winterton
It hardly arises, I think, on this particular report. That is a question which arises on the Air Estimates. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) to say that the Air Ministry should be certain of the number of pilots 1800 trained in Germany. The Germans are a little more careful about concealing their arrangements than we are sometimes. I do not want to appear not to be sympathetic to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) said. I think what he and other hon. Members said is perfectly true, and that it is most important that we should train the maximum number of pilots in this country. I will give a personal undertaking that I will do as much as possible to bring that about.
With regard to the question of internal aviation, I agree also that this is a most important matter and that it is highly desirable that internal aviation in this country should be as efficient and effective as possible. But as one who travels a great deal in commercial machines I would point out that the difficulties regarding commercial aviation in this country are infinitely greater than elsewhere. We have the best railway services in this country, and I would point out that we have a climate which is less suitable for aviation than many other countries and that the difficulties are very great.
§ Sir M. Sueter
I want to impress upon the Noble Lord that you want to develop these internal air lines for the training of pilots for defence purposes. You want a large number of pilots trained and you want to have them in the same way as we have the Mercantile Marine, which is called upon for the Navy.
§ Earl Winterton
I cannot go into that, but it is not right to give the impression that the huge number of pilots we are training shall be trained in that way. This matter is receiving the most careful attention, but it is not so easy as some hon. Members seem to think. I hope that the House will now be ready to come to a decision. Might I repeat that it will be my duty to convey to my Noble Friend the Secretary of State the criticisms, comments and expressions of opinion which have been put forward during the Debate.
§ Colonel Ropner
Before the Noble Lord sits down, is he going to add a word about the booking of fares?
§ Earl Winterton
I am sorry if I neglected that. I will undertake that this matter is put very accurately to the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Perkins
Will the Noble Lord answer the question as to whether it is the intention of the Government to amend the Air Navigation Act this Session?
§ Earl Winterton
I apologise for missing that. I asked my right hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury whether he would authorise me to give an undertaking and he says that if possible room will be provided this Session.
§ 12.44 a.m.
§ Colonel Ropner
I do not want to delay the House for more than two minutes, but I want to make a suggestion which I feel will be supported by hon. Members. If the Government are not prepared to act in connection with the ban which railway
§ way companies make on the booking of tickets for air travel, then private Members in this House might take action. From time to time the railway companies promote private Bills in this House. While I understand that it would be beyond the Rules of Order for hon. Members to give reasons why they vote against those Bills, it is possible for us to vote against them in the Lobbies. I hope that hon. Members will combine and vote against them in this House until the ban is removed.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 129; Noes, 67.1803
|Division No. 149.]||AYES.||[12.45 a.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Radford, E. A.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Grimston, R. V.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Apsley, Lord||Harbord, A.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Henease, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. [...].||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Holmes, J. S.||Salt, E. W.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hulbert, N. J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Brass, Sir W.||Hunter, T.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Bull, B. B.||Keeling, E. H.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Cazalet, Cant. V. A. (Chippenham)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Latham, Sir P.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crooke, Sir J. S.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lyons, A. M.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Crossley, A. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||McKie, J. H.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Mellor. Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wells, S. R.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Munro, P.||Wise, A. R.|
|Emery, J. F.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Everard, W. L.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wragg, H.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Furness, S. N.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Porritt, R. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Goldie, N. B.||Procter, Major H. A.||Major Sir James Edmondson and Captain Waterhouse.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Bellenger F. J.||Daggar, G.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Foot, D. M.|
|Benson, G.||Dobbie, W.||Frankel, D.|
|Bevan, A.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Burke, W. A.||Ede, J. C.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Grenfell, D R.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||McEntee, V. La T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||MacLaren, A.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Marshall, F.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Milner, Major J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Muff, G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Oliver, G. H.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Paling, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Pearson, A.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Jagger, J.||Price, M. P.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Pritt, D. N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ridley, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Sexton, T. M.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Leach, W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Logan, D. G.||Silverman, S. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Mathers and Mr. Anderson.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
That this House approves the Observations of His Majesty's Government on the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Civil Aviation.