Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £ 1,490,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Air Ministry, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939.
Before I call on the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) I think it will be the general wish of the Committee that as great an amount of latitude as is possible should be given in the Debate. If the Committee approve we will take that course.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
I beg to move, "That Sub-head A (Salaries, Wages, etc.), be reduced by £ 100."
I fully realise the seriousness of an Amendment of this kind at the present moment, but the feeling not only on all sides of the House but everywhere in the country is so serious on this matter that I make no apology for moving a reduction of the salary of the Secretary of State for Air. Of course one cannot attack the Ministry, and that is one of the reasons why we have to move against the Minister himself. I do not want it to be felt that by moving a reduction in the salary of the Minister we are achieving anything we want to achieve. The difficulties which have led up to this Debate do not come entirely from the Air Minister but from other Ministers on the Front Bench, and what they have said on this question. Everyone must certainly feel a good deal of disquiet after reading the leading article in the "Times "to-day. It uses very strong words and, although I do not propose to quote very much, let me read these words to the Committee:This discovery is the more unpleasant because many intervening pronouncements had given the impression that all was going smoothly. As a matter of fact, it 1750 is now realised that neither the former programme nor the existing system of production is adequate.There is no doubt that the House and the country have been led by what the "Times "leader calls "intervening pronouncements" into a feeling of false security. Let me quote one sentence from a speech of the Prime Minister on 5th February:I think the only anxiety which is felt about it is whether it is going fast enough or far enough. I do not think there is any cause for serious anxiety on that score.It is this sort of pronouncement which has led many people to believe that those who have challenged the Air Minister's statement have not the same information, and that therefore they are wrong and the Government must be right, but many people have been alarmed at the sudden announcement, made after these reassuring speeches that we have had to go to America to buy aeroplanes. That certainly came as a shock. It was never mentioned in any of the earlier debates and is only further evidence, of what many people already knew, of the complete failure of the system under which we are working. We are going to ask in this Debate, and seek to prove, that there must be a committee of inquiry into what is happening in order to decide whether there should or should not be what we believe to be necessary, that is, a ministry of supply. We do not believe that the problem, big as it is, will ever be satisfied by any of the schemes however great they may appear when outlined in this House. After all, it is not from one side that you get this protest. You get it from the manufacturers of engines, from the manufacturers of air frames and ancillary parts—all are protesting against the Ministry. If everybody is protesting you cannot believe that there is no case to be made out.
Let me mention, in passing, the Cadman Report which dealt entirely with the civil side of aviation and which made serious reflections on the Air Ministry. The defence put up by the Prime Minister was that, after all, the Air Ministry had had to do, and were doing, such extraordinary work that they had not the time to deal with civil aviation. There was no mention then of having to go to America to get aeroplanes. Naturally people thought that the reason we went to America for aeroplanes was because we had had the 1751 Cadman Committee reporting so severely on the whole system in the Air Ministry. I know, of course, that there is always the difficulty with Service departments that when you try to find out the truth you so often get the reply that it is not in the public interest to disclose certain facts. What is the public interest? By all means withhold information if to publish it is not in the public interest, but now one is beginning to see that it was not in the interest of the Air Ministry to disclose certain facts which would have proved that they were not carrying out what they said 'they were doing, and, what is even more serious, would prove that they were not able to carry it out in the future. We must face up to certain facts which we know and which must be stated, because it is replies of the kind I have mentioned which can lull people into feeling that everything is all right, and that is where there is danger.
Of course the original blame attaching to the Air Ministry is due to the fact that when it started it was a young Ministry, younger than the other two, that the system under which it was established was a war-time system, and that afterwards when it was reduced it was not staffed as the other Ministries were, it was not aided by tradition, not aided by being entrenched in many ways with centuries of experience. Therefore, it is a Ministry which has not had an easy life. The system that then grew up is a matter of importance now, because as soon as expansion began the system should have been changed. It may be that it is to be changed now; that we shall hear later. How it could have been imagined that any expansion of the Air Force could have been completed under the old system is beyond me. The Air Ministry have two main persons, an Air Member for Supply and Organisation, and an Air Member for Research and Development. They are both serving soldiers and are at the Ministry for only three years. Neither of them is an engineer. These are two heads. There is a great shortage in the Air Force of engineer-officers. Because of the split side of the two main sections, repair and maintenance, the most vital section of the technical organisation, have no say in the ordering of spares. There are too few serving officers in the technical 1752 department. They are working long hours; they have to deal with very technical questions without the time in which to deal with them properly, and they are unable to give any decision. There has also been the difficulty that far too many departments had to be consulted. No one was able to give a definite ruling. It is known throughout the Air Ministry and Air Force that conferences and committees sitting at the Air Ministry are unwieldy and that they hold up procedure. Of course, if you have a system like that where everyone is working through different committees and has to apply to different people, confusion arises and you never get any one person taking a decision.
There is one serious matter which constantly arises. It is the question of finance. There were so few financial members who had power to authorise any action that a decision was again and again held up because it was not authorised. If the Government are going to alter that system, which I presume the Chancellor of the Duchy will say is the intention, I cannot see how it can be done unless they are going to alter it completely and have an engineer civil head at the top and under him engineers who will remain in their position. There is one further really serious point. I do not think that if you reorganise the Ministry to-day you are really going to get what you want. What are we facing to-day? It is no good our blinking our eyes to the facts. Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, told us that the ideal to be aimed at was Air Force parity with any other single nation abroad.
§ Sir H. Seely
Yes, any nation within striking distance. But parity may be turned into meaning many things. There is only one kind of parity which the people of this country understood the late Prime Minister to mean, a parity which will give security, and that is parity in front-line aeroplanes as against any other nation. We are dealing to-day with Germany. Whether we like it or not she has an enormous number of aeroplanes. I believe she has some 8,000 machines at the present time. That means something like 3,500 front-line machines, and Germany has the power to produce 400 or 500 a month. Nor is she working now 1753 at full capacity. That is the serious matter that we have to face. We have been told and have read that within a year or less there will be in Germany something like 6,000 first-line aeroplanes. That is what we have to contemplate. What are the Government trying to do in order to achieve parity? We have had all sorts of schemes; I do not know whether the letter reached now is H or L. The latest of these schemes will bring us in two years' time up to 2,700 frontline machines. Judging from the past I cannot see that we shall be in a much better position, although the Ministry may make a spurt now. I do not believe they can achieve this object, but even if they do achieve it have they then got parity? We shall have only 2,700 front-line machines. Germany has 3,500 to-day and will then have between 6,000 and 8,000. Any scheme that the Government lay down must produce that greater number and not merely the number of aeroplanes which we are promised.
As I have said, the Prime Minister seems satisfied. But there are other Ministers with whom one has had to deal. When the First Commissioner of Works was Under-Secretary of State for Air in this House we put the questions to him, "Why are you not getting on with these machines? What is happening with the prototypes? When are they to be delivered? "He used to tell us how much he had altered the original scheme. In March, 1937, he said:The Air Ministry took the risk—a deliberate risk—of placing production orders for new types before their prototypes had been built and tested. This will meet the objection which I have often heard from hon. Members as to the length of time that it took to put a machine into production. Under this latter policy it was inevitable that some of the ' teething troubles 'which are usually associated with the prototype should manifest themselves in some of the first production machines.He also said:This new method has proved incomparably quicker than the old. We have, in fact, more than halved the time that it took to bring a new machine into production."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1937; col. 1673, 321.]We were then asking him questions about certain machines, the prototype of which we knew was out, and we were put off with that sort of statement. Let me take one or two cases. Take the Hawker-Hurricanes. Seventy or 80 Members of this House were asked to inspect them. 1754 We had a royal inspection, with photographs in the newspapers, and there was an immense amount of propaganda, put out about these machines. We had been asking about these machines, as to when production should be given and when would they be completed? Of course, we never could get the information. What are the facts? This is a matter on which the whole of our case depends. On 3rd June, 1936, we were told that an order had been given for 340 and more. That is some two years ago. We see the news in the papers now. Can the Minister deny that there are only 28 in service? Yet we are told that everything is all right. That machine will be out of date, for it is not even now in production. At the station where it is at the present time they are still sending up modifications, and you cannot get production as long as there are modifications coming in.
Take another machine about which I have asked questions, the "Spitfire," which is supposed to be more modern. Here again we expected something. In March, 1936, we asked, "Is it going into production? "We have been put off. What are the facts? Can the right hon. Gentleman deny that there is only one machine, that is all? Take next the question of types. This is a point about which I am certain, and so is every person who has anything to do with industry—certain that the Government will always fail if they try to produce too many types. We have said that if numbers are wanted the Government have to narrow down the number of types. I believe that the number of types which the Air Ministry have at the present time, for which jigs have been set up and plans worked out, is 93. I do not say that all these are being made, or even that it is contemplated that they will be made. The Noble Lord may answer me by giving the figure as 4o, or he may produce the figure of 27. If he does that, it will be another position, but the system of types will still be there, and even if only 27 are being manufactured, the figure is too large if we are to get production comparable with that of an enemy within striking distance.
I come now to the question of gun turrets. Here again, we have been told that the Ministry are very much behind-hand. The Noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong, but I gather that there 1755 are to-day 34 different types of gun turrets, I believe it is hoped to get the number down to six or seven, but the number I have given is the one with which the Ministry are dealing at the present time. It will take a long time to decide on the types, set up the jigs, and arrange for the factories to produce them in the numbers required. Until you have made that decision and got rid of the idea of dealing with this large number of types, you will not get the production that is necessary for the Service. There is then the question of guns, which is a very serious matter, and one on which many hon. Members and many people in the country have been led astray. The modern gun in the Royal Air Force at the present time is the 1914 Vickers. The Noble Lord may say that we have a new gun now, the Browning gun, and he may say what a wonderful gun it is and tell us of all that it can do; but is he satisfied about how it is turning out and the reports which he is receiving? If you are to get this gun satisfactory, you have to arrange for making 10,000 belt links a week. In America they are making 35,000 a day.
That is the position which one finds throughout the Royal Air Force. At every station one finds that the demand is about four times the supply. I do not believe that that position can be met without creating a ministry of supply. At the end of the War, in 1918, I believe we were in the position of being able to turn out 30,000 aeroplanes a year. That was the scale that was wanted then. That is the scale we shall need if a war starts, but we shall never get it unless there is a ministry of supply. The Government are falling further and further behind every promise they have made. Germany is laying out in peace time what she will need when a war comes; by the present scheme we are merely building on what is a peace-time expansion. Production cannot be expanded unless it is taken out of the hands of the Air Ministry in the same way as was done before. The Air Ministry would be told by industry that industry could produce only two, three or four types, and then the Air Ministry would have to decide on the types they wanted, and having decided upon them, the industry could produce them. That cannot be done under the present system.
1756 We have heard complaints from the producers' side, and I do not intend to go deeply into them, but every hon. Member who has read the newspapers must be aware of them. I read a letter from the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) in the "Daily Telegraph "in which he dealt with this question. I have no doubt that the Noble Lord will answer the hon. Member when the time comes. In one part of his letter, the hon. Member referred to the producers' complaints and their fear of the Official Secrets Act. He said that there has been, undoubtedly, among the producers the threat raised of the Official Secrets Act and perhaps the loss of contracts if they made known the true state of affairs in the aircraft industry.
§ Mr. Sandys
In that letter, which was addressed to the Noble Lord, I did not mention the Official Secrets Act. What I said was that firms are afraid of losing contracts. No firm would want to give away anything that would bring them under the Official Secrets Act.
§ Sir H. Seely
No, but they are afraid that it would be a disclosure under the Official Secrets Act if they said that the position was not satisfactory. Another matter which I wish to mention, although a small one, is an illustration of the unbusinesslike methods of the Ministry to which I have been referring; it is the question of payment. I have heard that one of the biggest firms in this country, whose financial year ended on 31st December, got their prices fixed and the money paid only last Wednesday. As they are a rich firm, they could afford to carry on. I have heard of another very large firm which had to borrow over £ 1,000,000 from the bank because the Air Ministry would not pay. In the case of smaller firms, that is one of the greatest causes of disruption; it creates a feeling of unfairness and makes it impossible for them to get on with the work. Surely, on these contracts, the Air Ministry can pay 75 per cent. when it is due and, if they like, hold over 25 per cent. until the final settlement; if they think 25 per cent. is not enough, and they want a higher figure, I advise them not to deal with those firms.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Earl Winterton)
That is what is done.
§ Sir H. Seely
I could give two important cases where it has not happened 1757 One of the most serious results of all this is the effects in the Service during the last two or three years. Can the Minister say that training has not fallen behind, that operational training is not practically non-existent, and that it cannot be pushed forward because of the danger of wastage? Can the Minister deny that bombing accuracy is worse than before the expansion, due to difficulties with machines and to the non-turning up of the essential ancillary goods that are needed, and that instrument flying and bad-weather flying is worse than it was before? The Service has not the supplies which it has often been said in the House were being received. There is a lack of night flying and of instrument flying. The Venturi system, which we were given to understand was practically settled, is still very unsatisfactory. In armament training, which is very important, the Service is behind what it was before the expansion scheme began. That is admittedly due to the almost complete lack of turrets, which the Noble Lord cannot deny. That is the difficulty that faces the Ministry. There is a low level of operational efficiency and it cannot be properly dealt with. You will not get an efficient Air Force until those matters are remedied. The Service is not as efficient as it was before.
There is then the question of personnel. In 1939, 1,500 pilots will go out, their four years having been completed, and those pilots, who are being trained now, will go on to the Reserve. There will be no training facilities for them in order that they may retain their usefulness and be brought up to date. The only facilities that exist are 25 hours' flying in a "Tiger Moth." That is absolutely useless if these men are to be kept as fit as they should be and trained to carry out the work which they would have to do. You have more pilots than you need in the Service. Overcrowding is complained of in the squadrons, and there are about four men to a machine.
Another point with which I would like to deal is the balloon barrage. I raised this question two years ago, and I have taken a great interest in it. A great deal of propaganda is being made about the great balloon barrage defence, and you are trying to make the people of London believe that this defence, after two years, 1758 is now ready, although you know that all you have are about 330 men in training, and only 168 really trained. You have the first balloons, but you have not the men trained, and the balloons cannot be used without trained men. You are pretending that it is a real defence, but it is a camouflage and a farce; and you are trying to make people believe that there is security, when it has not been developed in the way it should have been. Either you should have done it, or you should have said that you were not going to do it.
To sum up, can the Government deny that Germany will have 6,000 front-line machines, perhaps by the end of next year rising to 8,000? Have the Government taken the necessary steps for raw material? Can they produce the necessary plant for fabricating aluminium? They cannot deny that the present state is highly unsatisfactory among the aeroplanes to-day, and that it is worse in many regards as to armament. They cannot but admit that this scheme, which, like so many schemes, they are going to try to add on to a bad basis—that is where we differ from them—will never stand up to war conditions. That is the trial that we want to see. That is what all nations, I believe, have got to do now, when you get this intense arming in peace time for war in other countries under war conditions. That is the new factor that you have to face, and we do not believe that any scheme that you put up on this basis will really deal with that new factor. That is why we ask for a Ministry of Supply. We ask for an inquiry which will enable it to be seen how necessary it is, not only for us on these benches and on this side of the House, but for everyone in the country who realises and must realise the full seriousness of why we are moving this reduction.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I am afraid I shall have to make a considerable draft on the patience and time of the Committee this afternoon, but I hope to compress what I have to say within the compass of an hour, though I do not know that that will be possible. I hope the Committee will not be discouraged by the large bundle of notes that I have in front of me, many of them dealing with subjects which may not come up in the course of the Debate.
§ Sir John Haslam
On a point of Order. May we have the windows open, if we have to listen for an hour?
§ Earl Winterton
I hope the effect of my argument on my hon. Friend will not be to cause him any physical discomfort. If the picture which the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) has painted were indeed a true one, it would cause pleasure to the enemies of our country, if there are any, and displeasure and discomfiture to our friends abroad. I recognise that everything that the hon. Gentleman said proceeded from a very sincere apprehension—I pay him that tribute—but I hope, in the course of my remarks, to be able to dispel that feeling of apprehension on his part. I think that in the "Times" this morning there occurred the phrase that it was hoped that the Ministerial spokesman in this Debate would not approach the matter from the point of view of either complacency or resentment. Certainly no one who stood at this Box to give the figure of the huge expansion which the new scheme that I am going to unfold will show could speak with complacency, when one remembers the call that must inevitably be made upon the patriotism, and the pockets, of the people of this country; and in regard to resentment, I, personally, feel no resentment at any attacks which may have been made on me in this matter, and I shall not show, even if I feel, any resentment which I may have for any attacks which have been made on the Air Minister, and to some extent on members of the Air Ministry itself, because it will not have escaped notice that the hon. Member, in moving the reduction of the Vote, used the phrase "not by moving the Ministry only, shall we achieve what we want."
§ Earl Winterton
I gathered, in view of the hon. Gentleman's context, that he was referring to something else, and I am glad that that should be made plain. It is my duty, which I hope to perform this afternoon, to try to disperse the cloud of accusations, suspicions, and innuendoes which has been directed from many quarters at the Air Ministry and which I will admit arise in many cases, I hope in the majority of cases, from 1760 genuine misapprehension, but in some cases—and I am referring to circles out side this House—from less worthy motives.
Perhaps I ought to explain, in a sentence or two, what the situation is in regard to my personal position. As the Committee knows, I represent the military side of the Air Ministry in this House, and I do a great deal of my official work at the Air Ministry. I am Deputy-Chairman of the Air Council, and I have been brought, in the short period during which I have been there, into very close touch with all the problems of the day. I do not pretend that with only two months' experience I have the technical knowledge which some Members in this House possess, though if a personal allusion may be pardoned, I may mention that I have been flown many thousands of miles in Europe and Asia in Air Force machines, and although perhaps not more than hon. Members on all sides of the House who have had similar experience, I have had a very close and unpleasant experience of aircraft in war, both in bombing and in machine-gunning. I wish to make this further observation before I come to deal with the first part of my subject, which will be that of the scheme of expansion. I want to say that nobody will deny that the Air Ministry has encountered heavy weather in the past, which any sudden expansion scheme must involve. It will be my purpose this afternoon to try to show that we are now coming out of that heavy weather into smoother waters, and I must say that it seems an inappropriate time to wish to court-martial the captain and the officers on the bridge.
The first thing that the Committee will wish to learn is the new programme, and I wish to state broadly what it is intended to establish by the end of the financial year 1939–40, that is, by March, 1940. Here may I make an observation in reply to something that was said by the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate? In a perfectly good-natured way, he said that it was a habit of Defence Departments of all kinds to shelter themselves behind the statement that it was not in the public interest to give certain facts and figures. Whether that may be their habit or not does not alter the fact that it is obviously not in the public interest to give certain facts and figures about any Defence Department, and anyone who 1761 has held office in such a Department either before or since the War, will agree with what I say. In this connection I want to point out a fact which I think should be realised by the Committee. The totalitarian Powers and a good many of the Powers of Europe and the world which are not totalitarian do not publish any information about their first-line or any other portion of their Air Forces. I propose to-day to continue the previous practice of giving general indications and mentioning aggregate figures, but I should not be doing my duty by the Ministry or by this Committee if I did not mention that to some extent countries like us are hampered by the fact that public opinion and Parliament demand, and have a perfect right to demand, information which is denied in other countries. That must be so; it is obvious from the circumstances of the case.
Let me take, first of all, in giving these figures, the case of the Metropolitan Air Force. It is not necessary for me to give a definition of that; it has often been given before. By March, 1940, the Metropolitan Air Force, that is, the squadrons at home, will, under the scheme which I am unfolding, have attained a first-line strength of approximately 2,370 aircraft. Oversea squadrons will have increased to a first-line strength of approximately 470. Provision is also made for the expansion of the first-line strength of the Fleet Air Arm, which will be increased to not less than 500 as ships and carriers are ready to take them. This aggregate of aircraft, therefore, represents a first-line strength of something approaching, but probably something just under, the number of 3,500.
§ Earl Winterton
Yes, by the end of the financial year 1939–40. It is necessary for me to say a word or two on the subject of Metropolitan first-line strength. Some complaint was made in a former Debate, I think unfairly, that we were attempting to get away from Metropolitan first-line strength and that we were trying to bring other considerations into the picture. I am not trying to get away from that factor at all. I have given the figures of Metropolitan first-line strength, but I must point out that every month that passes your total first-line strength 1762 becomes more important than it is, because the range of your machines, their flying range and their bombing power increase, and it would be a profound mistake to think that you ought not to bring into consideration the total first-line strength. I have not, in giving these figures, included, for constitutional reasons based partly upon the Statute of Westminster, such forces as are being formed at the present time, and will, I believe, shortly be very efficient, in the Dominions.
The Committee will have noticed that in the case of naval strength it has been the habit in the past, when the First Lord of the Admiralty has made his statement, to refer to the Dominion Navies. I exclude Dominion strength, first-line or otherwise, from my calculations for the reasons that I have given. But I would venture to make this observation, that to me it is inconceivable in certain emergencies that we should not receive the fullest co-operation from other Governments within the Empire. Then there is the question of Egypt which comes into the picture. As the Committee will be aware, we have very rigid contractual and Treaty obligations for the defence of Egypt. At the present time, and in the present state of affairs in that country, it is necessary for us to keep strong Air Forces there, but she is forming what I hope will be an efficient Air Force, and again in times of emergency it will be possible to rely, to some extent at any rate, upon what may be looked upon as a reserve of air force in the Middle East.
I should go on from that to say that the orders involved in this programme include far more than the figures of actual aircraft which I have given, which are only those of first-line strength. They include the whole of the reserves. Following the practice which has been adopted by my predecessors, I do not propose to mention the question of reserves, and I hope I shall have the support of the Committee in that. They also include all the aircraft of both training and service types required for the training of the greatly enlarged Air Force and the volunteer reserve. All these are entirely outside the figures of first-line strength. The figures which I have given show that the new programme entirely overshadows the programme undertaken three years ago, which was itself on a scale unprecedented in peace-time. The hon. Gentleman, no 1763 doubt inadvertently, gave us to understand that that scheme was hopelessly in arrears and that we had not succeeded in carrying out what we promised to do on the new date which was given some time ago. I am glad to be able to show the Committee and the hon. Gentleman that he is wholly mistaken. The programme which is commonly known as Scheme F under which a first-line strength of 1,750 aircraft was to be reached by 31st March, 1939, is well up to schedule, and the first-line strength under the programme will certainly be reached by the date proposed, and I hope and believe considerably earlier. Satisfactory provision has also been made for reserves.
§ Mr. Attlee
Does that mean a first-line strength of modern up-to-date aircraft? We had some difficulty about that in connection with a previous speech.
§ Earl Winterton
I was about to deal with that point later, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are not proposing to represent the supply of obsolete and out-of-date aircraft as the provision of first-line aircraft.
§ Mr. Attlee
Does this mean the provision by that time of modern up-to-date aircraft? [HON. MEMBERS "With proper equipment."]
§ Earl Winterton
It is not such an easy question to answer as the right hon. Gentleman might think, but I will deal with it in a few minutes.
§ Mr. Churchill
Would my noble Friend say what happened to the scheme of 1,500 first-line aircraft which were to have been ready by 31st March, 1937? We have not completely disposed of that yet.
§ Earl Winterton
I can assure my right hon. Friend that we have, but I am not going to be led into any particular figures, and I hope the Committee will be satisfied with my assurance. [Interruption.] I hope hon. Members will give me their attention. It is a very difficult thing to deal with a complicated question of this kind. There is really no party feeling between us on this matter, and while I am perfectly ready to answer questions, it is impossible to answer three or four 1764 questions at the same time. Whatever I take the responsibility of stating will be completely accurate in every respect. As I say, the scheme of 1,750 first-line aircraft with immediate reserves will be ready by the date given, and I hope considerably earlier. To return to the expansion scheme, I want to impress on the Committee the size of the expansion which is involved. It will be large and progressive. The strength of the force will be progressively augmented by increasing the number of squadrons and increasing their size, and the whole expansion will be planned to maintain the Force as an efficient fighting instrument throughout the process. Care will be taken to see that it is a balanced expansion. The execution of the plans will not be easy, but the Air Council are satisfied that, with the co-operation of the country, in the measure in which it has already been given, the programme is fully capable of performance. In regard to details, Supplementary Estimates will be presented before the House rises in order to deal with the increase in personnel and the expansion generally.
I would now like to give as an indication of the scale of this expansion the following figures of personnel. We shall require in the next two years an expansion of no fewer than approximately 40,000 officers and men for the Air Force and the greater part will be required during the next 18 months. Before the expansion scheme took place the number of officers and men in the Royal Air Force was 30,000. To-day the number is 70,000, and I am now announcing to the Committee this great expansion of a further 40,000. That makes the recruiting problem a formidable one, but I am confident that our efforts will meet with success if we have behind us the support from all political parties which we have had when we have appealed for recruits before. I recognise that this is a big figure to ask for as an addition to the recruits for the Royal Air Force, in view of the recruits required for the other Services. We know that in some cases ecruiting is not yet wholly satisfactory in certain other branches, and therefore this is a big increase to ask for over and above the ordinary increase and wastage. Training facilities are already planned in such a way as to make them capable of expansion to meet the new demands.
1765 It has been suggested that this expansion scheme was a sudden decision which was come to in a fit of panic—that is the phrase used by a newspaper—as a result, partly of pressure from the House of Commons and partly of the Austrian crisis. I assure the Committee that that is not so. Pending the initiation of a full review of Defence, and before authority was given for the new programme, interim authority was given to the Air Ministry to lay the foundations for expansion, and that expansion will now be enabled to proceed at the highest speed, if we get the assistance of the public, both in the matter of recruiting and in regard to labour and things of that kind. May I give a few examples of,what we shall require? I am glad to note as an old Member, from the atmosphere in this Committee that there will be general support for this new expansion scheme.
§ Earl Winterton
From all quarters except one. I should like to mention one or two things which we shall require to do. First, we shall make intensive use of the existing flying schools. There will be eight new flying schools for elementary flying training and four new service flying training centres, the present figures being 13 and 11 respectively. Then we propose to open new training schools at Cosford and St. Athan. They are already planned under Scheme F and will be open for 2,000 and 1,500 trainees respectively during the coming summer. Under the new scheme the combined capacity will be almost doubled. This doubled capacity will become available during the summer and autumn. The new schools at Yatesbury and Weston-super-Mare each for 3,000 trainees will, I hope, be available during the winter. Under Scheme F the schools will remain at full capacity and in many cases will be increased to take additional trainees.
Now I wish to say a word about the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. This will be correspondingly increased, and I should like to point out that the men training in this Reserve receive, not merely A licence training but advanced training as well. To-day, although the Reserve was started only last year, over 1,000 pilots have already flown solo and 464 have qualified to fly solo in Service types and will soon be able to take their 1766 place in Service and Auxiliary squadrons. That is the answer I think—and it is not the only answer, because I could give other figures—to one of the many criticisms which have been made of air policy, namely, that we are taking no steps to train pilots. We hope to increase those numbers. Scheme F already authorised 33 training centres. The new scheme requires further centres in all parts of the country. The Volunteer Reserve training will be extended to the training of observers, wireless operators and air gunners as well as pilots.
Special arrangements are being made to enrol civilian men, and possibly women, to perform certain duties in wartime, and so release trained men. That is being done in co-operation with other Departments, and is, of course, a very important provision. The interim authority, to which I have already called attention, has enabled building plans to make good progress. I should like to mention that we shall require over 30 new aerodromes. Sites for some have already been acquired while sites for others have been located. Among the duties which the Secretary of State for Air has devolved upon me at the Air Ministry—subject, of course, to his final supervision in accordance with Constitutional practice—is that of deciding upon the sites to be acquired for aerodromes acting upon the advice of the advisers at the Ministry. I should like to take this opportunity of making an appeal through the Committee to the public to do everything they can to facilitate the acquirement on our part of these aerodrome sites, because it has not been as easy in the past as it might appear.
I said rather sarcastically in reply to a question the other day, that whenever the Air Ministry wished to obtain a site for an aerodrome we were invariably informed, either that the land had a high amenity value or that it was the best agricultural land in the neighbourhood. All kinds of reasons have been given in the past why we should not acquire particular sites. In one case it was suggested to me that there was a nest of rare birds on the proposed site, and in another case we were told that we were interfering with the holiday haunts of various people from urban centres. I will do everything possible to meet the objections which are put forward, but I hope I shall have the support of the public in taking up a 1767 rather drastic attitude if necessary, in order to avoid unnecessary delay. It is true that this programme, like all the rest of the rearmament programme, will cause some trouble and inconvenience to His Majesty's subjects, but I am sufficiently an ex-service man to say that it is just as well that the civilian population should realise that we are not living in ordinary times. We have been told that the Government ought to give a lead to the public. Here is a lead given, at any rate by me this afternoon, in asking that every facility should be granted by local authorities and others to enable us to acquire land for the purposes of this great scheme as quickly as possible.
I am afraid I have spent a great deal of time on this portion of the scheme, and I only want to say one other thing upon it before I proceed to deal with certain charges which have been made against the Air Ministry. Turning to the field of production, the scale on which factories have been planned and orders have been placed under the previous programme will make it possible, if the necessary labour is available, rapidly to extend output to meet the immense demands of the new programme. I, myself, in virtue of my chairmanship of the Supply Committee have gone carefully into this question and the aggregate figures which I am about to give are based upon a most careful examination by me and by my advisers of the possibilities of the situation. The industry, having reviewed the situation as fully as possible, has notified the Government that, given the necessary labour, they estimate that the output of aeroplanes and engines can be increased by over 50 per cent. during the next 12 months and, during the succeeding year, can be increased to fully three times its present size. These estimates the Government regard as satisfactory. Orders have already been given for a large part of the aeroplanes and engines needed and authority given for the necessary extension of factories.
I should like to say a further word on the subject of aircraft production. The Air Ministry know precisely what machines are required, and they knew what machines were required in the past, but we were faced, and we shall always to some extent be faced, by two problems—to accelerate and increase the production of existing types and to bring in 1768 new types as soon as possible. I should like to assure the Committee, and I hope they will accept the assurance, that the existing types are very satisfactory. Speed is not the only criterion, although our types are not inferior in speed. They are in demand, though the demand can only be met to a limited extent, by foreign countries. The new types will be even better.
§ Mr. Churchill
What is meant by "existing types "? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean types which the squadrons have, or types being designed?
§ Earl Winterton
Yes, at the present moment, and in production. I do not say that in all cases they have sufficient of the ones they have at the present time, but they are in production at this moment, and the new types will be even better. I categorically deny—and I ask for indulgence while I deal with this matter—what I believe to be the allegation, no doubt fairly made by the hon. Member, that the machines which the Royal Air Force have now are of an inferior character. I emphatically deny that. As far as it is possible to make a comparison, I think they compare favourably with the aircraft of other countries, and more than favourably.
§ Earl Winterton
I am talking of the aircraft in use in the Royal Air Force as a whole. I will answer the hon. Member's question and the question put by my right hon. Friend. He says that it is entirely untrue. That is a very mischievous statement to make.
§ Earl Winterton
I gather that my right hon. Friend thinks that it is to some extent a terminological inexactitude. On this question of design and production of aircraft, I hope to satisfy the Committee. I hope my right hon. Friend will agree, and I hope the Committee will agree, that design and production naturally are very closely interlocked. No nation has a monopoly of scientific ability. Other countries, both in ship construction and 1769 aircraft construction, have their fine scientists, and we have as fine a body of scientists as any country in the world. Many of them, most clever and most patriotic men, are giving their services at the present time to assist in this question of design. They produce for the Royal Air Force the best and fastest machines in the world. We have one or two machines at the present time in production and some in use in the squadrons to which I think that phrase can be applied.
§ Sir H. Seely
The right hon. Gentleman accuses me of making a false statement. He stated that what I said was completely wrong, and that the Royal Air Force was equipped with modern and the best machines. When I said that it was not so, he said that I was telling a lie, in front of the whole House.
§ Sir H. Seely
The right hon. Gentleman said, categorically, that what I said was not true. He cannot say that the Air Force to-day is equipped throughout with these modern machines. That is what I said.
§ Earl Winterton
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to develop and finish my argument? I will give an undertaking to answer him. I was saying to the Committee that no nation has a monopoly of scientific ability. I think we are all agreed upon that.
§ Earl Winterton
I said that we had as fine designers in this country as they have in any country and that they work to produce the best and most powerful machines in the world. Sometimes other countries get in front of us with a better type. Whatever type—and this is based not upon my personal opinion but on the opinion of one of the greatest authorities in the Air Force of this or any other country—is produced in any country, it becomes obsolescent, in a sense, from the moment that it leaves the designer's brain. There is no such thing as established equilibrium in these matters. That applies equally to ship design and construction and a fortiori to aircraft construction.
I will deal now with the specific question as to whether I regard our machines 1770 as modern machines. I most emphatically do. Hinds are being gradually replaced by more modern machines. In the Air Force, as in the Navy, there are certain types which are rapidly becoming, if they have not already become, obsolete; there are other types in what I may call middle age, and other types which are the newest and best types in existence. I claim that in the Air Force as a whole we are not behind other countries in the newness and up-to-dateness of our aircraft.
§ Earl Winterton
That may be the hon. Member's opinion, but I make myself responsible for stating that in my opinion it is true.
§ Earl Winterton
I can only assure my right hon. Friend that each month more new types are coming forth for our squadrons. I am not saying that some types have not had to be replaced, but I emphatically deny that compared with other countries, we are behind them either in the type of machine or in up-to-dateness and design. In regard to numbers of types, I can assure the hon. Member that the numbers are being progressively decreased. This matter has been discussed at great length by the Committee and reasons were given which made it necessary to order further types. Firms are not necessarily producing their own types. Where we have a new and good type it is being produced by more than one firm.
I do not know whether I need say anything more about the Supply Committee, over which I preside, except to say that it orders on a large scale, that it approves factory extensions, that each interest in the Air Ministry, that is each Department, is represented, that there is a Treasury representative, and that we have the advantage of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner's help and advice. We have come to a number of decisions, which are quick decisions but not, I hope, rush decisions. I make this emphatic statement that all firms capable of producing types needed, efficiently and economically, will be given orders to keep them fully employed, and on a scale which will enable them to plan ahead. I can say that the apprehension which exists in many 1771 quarters that these firms are not full up with orders is not justified. The industry is in a much better position to-day than in 1935 to undertake vast expansion. It has been said that there has been an actual reduction, at any rate not an increase, in the numbers working in the industry. The number of workmen employed has increased from 30,000 in 1935 to over 90,000 to-day. We shall require further increases in the factories, which I hope, with the co-operation and patriotism of both capital and labour, will be forthcoming. That is in addition to the large numbers employed in the manufacture of materials and on sub-contracts. The industry is better organised and knows more about the problem than in 1935.
§ Mr. Dalton
The Noble Lord was kind enough to say that he would say something about the very important allegation, whether true or not, of the hon. Member as to the very serious shortage of night flying instruments, gun turrets and similar accessories. We shall attach great importance to what he has to say on that matter.
§ Earl Winterton
I am not prepared to give details at the moment. I do not think it would be in the public interest to do so. I can say that in regard to gun turrets the situation is far more satisfactory than it was in the past, and the production at the present time is satisfactory. In regard to night flying instruments the situation to-day is, I think, also satisfactory. I am not suggesting that always in the past in this vast expansion scheme there has not been a lag, but when I come to deal with that portion of my speech in which I defend the Air Ministry I think I shall be able to show that the blame cannot be allocated to any one person.
§ Mr. Dalton
Is it or is it not the case that a very large proportion of our aeroplanes at the present time are deficient in one or all of the accessories which the hon. and gallant Member mentioned? Is that true or not?
§ Earl Winterton
It is not true. The deficiencies in all these matters are being overtaken at a far more rapid rate than was the case in the past.
§ Mr. Dalton
Is it or is it not the case that now, at this time, large numbers of 1772 our aircraft are sent up to fly without these accessories? Is that the case?
§ Earl Winterton
That has been contradicted several times and I apologise to the Committee for taking up their time in again pointing out that nothing that the Air Member ever said must be taken as meaning that he was suggesting that either in the training or operational squadrons pilots were being sent up in machines that were unduly dangerous. What he said, and he made it very plain afterwards, was that it was essential and inherent in the training of pilots for the Royal Air Force that there should be more risks taken than in the case of the training of civil pilots.
§ Earl Winterton
That is entirely another point. I explained the other day, in reply to a question, that in regard to instruments of that kind the whole of the machines were now equipped and we hope in a short time—it is being developed at this moment—to have a better safety device than any other Air Force in the world. It is an unfair reading of what was said by the Air Member for Personnel to suggest that a statement was made which was not made.
Now I come to the question of the purchase of machines in the United States. We were pressed and, I think, properly, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and others some time ago to explore the possibilities of purchasing machines abroad.
§ Earl Winterton
Yes, but three months before the right hon. Gentleman made that suggestion we had, in fact, explored the possibilities and they were found not to be satisfactory.
§ Mr. Churchill
I do not know what "we "means in this matter because my Noble Friend accompanied me when I made that suggestion.
§ Earl Winterton
By "we "I mean the Air Ministry, and when we—that is, the right hon. Gentleman and I—made that suggestion it had already been anticipated by the Air Ministry.
§ Earl Winterton
That is not so. I want to deal with this point rather more fully. Investigation was made two years ago into the possibility of purchasing aircraft in the United States. It was then not found possible or feasible to do so. The United States had not the machines that we required: A body of experts was sent to reconsider the matter. I should like to say that the production of aircraft in the United States is small compared with that in this country. Certain machines that we should require to buy there were mostly of a training character. More important than that is the examination of the possibility of purchasing machines or building up what is sometimes called a war potential in the Dominion of Canada. I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) who has asked me a number of searching questions on this point does not now share the opinion that we should not fully examine the possibility of purchasing aircraft in the Dominions.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I did not express that opinion. What I suggested clearly was that I thought it was wrong to place orders either in Canada or in America when British factories and British workmen were not fully employed.
§ Earl Winterton
I am coming to that in a moment, and I hope I shall be able to show my hon. Friend that he is mistaken in thinking that we were wrong. This is a question of seeing whether we can obtain certain machines required for certain purposes. I will not pursue the matter further, for that seems a commonsense thing to do. With regard to shadow factories, to which reference has been made in questions and to some extent in this Debate, the Committee would, I think, like to hear a word or two about how we stand in regard to them. With regard to Austins, the first machines are nearing completion and deliveries should commence almost immediately. In the case of Rootes, there has been some delay 1774 through a change of site in circumstances over which the Ministry had no control, but the buildings are complete and plant is being installed progressively. As regards engine shadows, all the factories are complete and in production. The numbers are rising progressively month by month and peak production is not very far distant. The shadow scheme is fully justified. The initial difficulties which were fully expected are being straightened out by the Shadow Engine Committee and we have a vast and developing field of potential and actual production.
The balloon barrage has already been mentioned. Why the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed should see anything curious in what we have done, I do not know. I can only think it is a case of giving a dog a bad name, etc., and that he is not prepared to see any good in what the Air Ministry does. We have all the apparatus required for all the squadrons which are being formed. They are to be formed from Territorial personnel, that is to say, the men will have the status of Territorials. The details have been given in reply to questions and also in a statement to the Press.
§ Colonel Nathan
Will the Noble Lord be good enough to say whether the barrage force will come under the War Office or the Air Ministry?
§ Earl Winterton
They will come under the Air Ministry. They will have only Territorial status in the sense that they will be asked to enlist on a Territorial basis. With regard to the Regular personnel to which the hon. Member referred, of course we have a cadre of trained Regular personnel. We cannot enlist men on a Territorial status without having Regulars for training. These squadrons will be in operation this month and recruiting opens on 16th May. What we now require are volunteers to join this force. It will number between 5,000 and 6,000 at the start. Here again we are making heavy demands on the patriotism of the public, to which we hope they will respond. With regard to the Auxiliary Air Force, I have nothing fresh to announce beyond that which was announced by my hon. and gallant Friend in the course of the Estimates Debate. I hope to be in a position before the end of the summer to make an 1775 announcement as to the Government's decision on the recommendations of a committee set up to go into this matter. I shall be pleased to hear suggestions from the hon. Gentleman or any other member of the Auxiliary Force in this House regarding this matter.
Having dealt with the scale of the immense expansion programme on which we have embarked, I should like for the remainder of my speech to deal in broad terms with the major points of criticism which have been made fairly frequently in the past and which have received a further measure of publicity in the last few weeks. May I proceed to sum them up? The first criticism was made at the beginning of the expansion scheme that no proper plan of production was drawn up; second, that orders have been given on an inadequate scale and that in consequence manufacturers have been unable to make preparations for large-scale production; third, that modern speedy methods of manufacture have not been introduced; fourth, that designs are repeatedly modified with consequent delays in production; fifth, that no steps have been taken to prevent gaps appearing between one contract and another; sixth, that the resources of British industry are not being adequately utilised; and seventh, that the supply organisation of the Air Ministry is inherently deficient through the absence of trained engineers on the Air Council.
I must start by making what I hope will not be regarded as a provocative remark by saying that I am somewhat astonished at the sweeping generalisations which have been made without first applying the first principles of criticism, which seem to me to be whether the sources of information can know the true facts, and whether any of them have motives for making allegations which are not correct. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear! "] I am surprised to hear those cheers coming from the opposite benches, because I always understood them to suggest that under any system of private enterprise there must be certain difficulties, and I am going to refer to them a little later. I am not suggesting that anyone in this Committee is guilty; I am talking of sources of information. It is quite certain that discussion is in some cases stimulated by observations made by 1776 interested parties—not using that term in any derogatory sense—who may be actuated by highly altruistic and partiotic motives but nevertheless must, by virtue of their special interest, speak with a measure of bias. Such persons are often associated, for example with organisations which would have liked to receive orders, but have misjudged their own ability to deliver the specialist supplies required for the Royal Air Force. I could, if I wished, give instances, but I think I can appeal to the sense of fairness in the Committee when I say that there must be such situations and that they are bound to occur. I would say in reply that we must organise in accordance with sound financial and manufacturing methods.
I deny entirely that no broad lay-out of the British aircraft industry was made at the beginning of the expansion. A complete lay-out was made and a definite programme was drawn up based on the development of that industry by means of building new factories and extension of existing works within the control of the firms themselves and quite apart from the special scheme for the development of shadow factories. The amount of capital extensions which have been authorised and undertaken by the industry themselves under a modified guarantee given by the Air Ministry is surprising in its total as compared with the total capital invested in the aircraft industry The broad lay-out was formulated in 1935 and early in 1936. A considered and widespread programme was placed with the expanded industry embracing deliveries for three to four years and is now yielding its fruits and will do so increasingly in future. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping used a striking phrase three or four years ago when he and I were associated before the expansion scheme. He said that the first year of any scheme like this was the sowing, the second year was the harrowing, and the third year was the reaping.
§ Earl Winterton
That is an unfair comment. The right hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, meant that this expansion scheme must work on a long-term policy, and I should like to say, using his analogy, that some fields are reaped and threshed, some whitening into harvest, and some just coming into ear.
1777 There must be an ever increasing harvest from the plans laid down two or three years ago as the weeks and months go by. If the Committee accept my figures of production, they will see the truth of what I say.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why, if production is to increase—the number of machines next year is to go up by 50 per cent. and to increase by threefold the following year—he says that the total number at the end of March, 1940, will be 3,700 machines? In that case what has been done up to now?
§ Earl Winterton
I would make it clear that the figures which I gave related to first-line strength. The number of aircraft in the possession of the Royal Air Force at any time is much greater than the first-line number, and will be infinitely greater at the end of those years. The figures of personnel required for production which I have given will indicate the extent of the expansion.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
Would it be unfair to ask the Noble Lord the rough proportion between the first-line strength and the total strength?
§ Earl Winterton
I do not know of any country in the world which has an Air Force which gives the figures of its reserves. The House will have to accept my assurance that the reserves provision is satisfactory, and that the number of the reserves by 1940 will be on a scale commensurate with the first-line expansion. I think that what I have just said does dispose of the assertion that the industry could not plan ahead. As regards mass production, I think there is an ill-judged comparison both with wartime production and with motor car production. I will give my reason for saying that, and I think it will convince the House. Wartime aeroplanes were slow, with a small bomb load and limited armaments and they were wooden, whereas modern aeroplanes are all-metal machines, fast, with a long range, an enormous bomb load and armament designed to meet the tactics of 1938. I do not wish to give away any secrets, but I should like to say that some of these new bombers will, contrary to the popular impression, be the heaviest-armed machines of the kind that have been seen. Their 1778 production needs many more man-hours, detailed design work, jigging and tooling; what may be called the "teething troubles "of new types occur.
As to the comparison with mass motorcar production, I have taken the opportunity of consulting a number of leading industrialists—more than one, some of whose names are household words in this country—and this is the result of that investigation, and indeed I give it as my own opinion. The production of aircraft calls for the highest quality of work within extremely fine limits on account of safety demands. We cannot run any risks. We cannot give an extra margin of safety, because of weight. Everything has to be balanced up to the breadth of a hair. In the shadow scheme the Air Ministry did bring in experienced mass producers like, for example, Lord Austin, yet they are now adopting the same methods as are employed in the aircraft industry. We hope that quantity production will be increased, and, indeed, it is increasing at this moment, and we have more than one factory making the same type, but there is no real hope of true mass production of aircraft in the sense that some people use the phrase, and, in fact, it does not exist in any other country. The Air Staff must be the best judges of whether it would be wise to make any sacrifices in design in order to secure quantity production. We must have the safest and the best machines which we can get, and I should not be doing my duty as the Chairman of the Supplies Committee if, in response to public pressure, I made myself responsible for ordering machines which had not the highest possible qualities from the point of view of safety and efficiency.
The next criticism concerned modifications. It has been said that designs are repeatedly altered and that this delays production—that each technical branch of the Air Ministry has a free hand to introduce as many modifications as it wishes. Nothing is further from the truth. At the weekly meeting of the Air Council all cases in which alterations are suggested are considered, and always the principle insisted upon is that alterations are not to be made—I would ask this Committee to note this—unless they are safety modifications, or can be brought in at a stage which will not interfere with production. As allegations of the nature I have sug- 1779 gested persist the Air Council asked manufacturers to produce instances of any cases in which this principle has not been honoured by any branch of the Ministry, and they have so far failed to obtain an answer. I hope that in the Debate someone will have an example to give us.
I will give a typical case of what modification means, and I do not think it will bore the Committee. In a certain machine 4,664 modifications were required. The firm's share of the alterations was 4,623; the Air Ministry's alterations numbered 41, of which 22 were made on operational grounds—that is to say, with user's knowledge, after the machine had been used—6 on technical grounds, for safety, and 13 in order to meet defects revealed by service use. I could give many other cases of the kind. We are frequently told that a leading manufacturer in the aircraft industry has stated that to his personal knowledge the production of aeroplanes is handicapped by vexatious impediments placed in the way of manufacturers by the requirements of the Air Ministry. I hope that hon. Members do not suppose that if a leading member of the aircraft industry finds production impeded by the action of some subordinate officer of the Ministry or some unnecessary regulation that his only remedy is to complain to the newspapers. The leading members of the industry are in the closest touch with the Air Council, with my Noble Friend and with me. I talk to them, and in addition we have official channels of communication through the Society of British Aircraft Constructors.
I appeal to hon. Members, if complaints of this character are brought to their notice, not to use them as material for a sweeping attack upon the Department, because the very eagerness of some sections in the country—not necessarily in this House—to attack the Air Ministry may very well prejudice British prestige by giving an erroneous picture of the situation. If these cases occur let them bring them to me and I will investigate them—I am fully in a position to do so —but let there be no sweeping generalities.
Another complaint has been that there have been unnecessary gaps in the placing of contracts. That is a complete travesty of the facts. The Air Ministry have been 1780 particularly careful to ensure that orders were placed so that gaps did not occur when changes were made from one type to another, but if for some unforeseen reason a gap showed signs of appearing additional orders were given to fill such gaps, and there have been only a few isolated cases in which gaps have not been filled. Of course, it is inevitable that in a great scheme like this there should be individual cases in which particular organisations have suffered a period of temporary contraction of work, but the labour which is temporarily stood off in such circumstances is not lost to the industry, because it could be at once employed in other firms.
Then it is said that the resources of British industry are not being properly used at the present time. The best answer to that criticism is found in the tremendous increase in the productive capacity of the industry. There has been criticism that many small aircraft firms cannot obtain orders from the Air Ministry, but that is not a criticism at all, because obviously it would be wrong to give work to small firms, however anxious they may be to help, if by so doing the scheme in general were delayed. Then there is the question of sub-contracting. I think that a good many of the complaints have arisen from sub-contractors whose work is not on a very large scale. As to the use of skilled labour, all that can be obtained is needed. A new programme will be impossible without further additions to labour, which I have indicated will be forthcoming.
I wish to deal now with a matter which has attracted a good deal of attention, namely, the complaints which have been brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys). The Committee will recollect that he asked certain questions last week and indicated that he had letters from a number of aircraft firms complaining of lack of orders. I understand—the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that since he asked those questions he has been in communication with various organisations to obtain information in support of his contention that British aircraft manufacturing companies are short of orders and that aeronautical engineering works are discharging employés. Simultaneously with the asking of those questions I made further inquiries, and the result was that 1781 I was satisfied that my original statement was perfectly accurate. My hon. Friend evidently attaches great importance to this matter, because when he sent me a letter, which incidentally reached me only yesterday morning, he simultaneously communicated the contents of it—I make no complaint of it—to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Did he not communicate it to them?
§ Earl Winterton
I compliment my hon. Friend upon a very novel and excellent method of calling attention to this matter, a striking method of securing publicity. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Sandys
In view of the fact that my Noble Friend is evidently implying discourtesy, I must say that I sent that letter to him by the messenger at the door here. I understood that it was delivered to his room. I afterwards saw my Noble Friend in the Lobby and asked him whether he had received it. He told me that he had not and I informed him that it was in his room, and it was not until long after that that I gave it to the Press. The reason for it was because such tremendous publicity had been given to the denial made by my Noble Friend of the statement I had made in the House.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Member was fully entitled to give the letter to the Press, but, in fact, it was not in my room, it had not reached me. I said that he evidently attached great importance to it and I congratulated him on a novel method of giving publicity to it. It was circulated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in their nine o'clock news.
§ Earl Winterton
No harm was done even if the hon. Member did. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, get on with it."] I assumed in dealing with this matter that what my hon. Friend had in mind was the production of complete aircraft.
§ Mr. Sandys
No. I am sorry to interrupt, but may I read the statement in the 1782 question which he said he could not accept? I asked how it was thatin spite of the Government's aircraft expansion programme British aircraft manufacturing companies are short of orders and that many aeronautical engineering works are discharging employés." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1938; col. 879, Vol. 335.]The discharge of employés referred to the aeronautical engineering works.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not know whether my hon. Friend would wish me to quote his letter in full. Perhaps the Committee will be content if I give the principal firms mentioned. The aircraft firms were Messrs. de Havilland, A. V. Roe, and the Gloster Company. My hon. Friend said they were firms who until recently were short of work, or that they were firms from whom he received information that they were short of work in the past. The three firms which I have mentioned all have orders from the Air Ministry fully adequate to their capacity. Messrs. de Havilland have been standing off employés recently and the reason is that the Air Ministry have been obliged to cancel the greater part of an order for a type of training machine the design of which the Air Ministry is entirely unable to accept as satisfactory. As soon as the decision was taken the Air Ministry reviewed the position of the firm, and orders have already been placed with them for a type of training machine designed by another firm and also for a machine designed by de Havilland's themselves and already in production. If de Havilland's were obliged to stand off men it can only have been for the shortest possible period.
§ Earl Winterton
It is possible that Messrs. Roe had to stand off labour, and I have not been able to ascertain whether that is definitely the case. This firm has manufactured for the Air Ministry a type of aeroplane largely wooden in construction. When our requirements had been met it was impossible to order more of this type, and workmen trained in construction of the type which is purely wooden could not be utilised on metal machines at the same factory. The new scheme has made it possible for us to place a further substantial order for the type of aeroplane employing both wooden and metal construction and, as I have said, that firm is fully employed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Now? "] I am giving the 1783 position as it is to-day. I would ask hon. Members to realise that labour in the aircraft factories must be flexible to the extent that when you have finished one process there may be periods, before you get on with another, when a certain number of men are not required and are not taken on, but I doubt if there has been any serious damage to production.
§ Earl Winterton
If they have experienced any temporary lull in constructional activity recently it would be due to the change-over from one type of aeroplane to another. I would draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood to the point that the particular firm to which he referred is one of a large group of aircraft manufacturers who have never been short of orders. I must assert that, generally speaking, it is not true to say that there has been any lag in orders. None of the other firms in the list of the hon. Member is an aircraft constructor in the ordinary sense of the term. One of them, for example, is a small motor works, with one tiny shop. I have examined this matter very carefully and I assert that not one of the other firms mentioned by the hon. Member would be quite capable of aircraft construction. Some of them are being given sub-contracts. I will give an example, and read out the particulars to the Committee.
§ Earl Winterton
We are the friend of the small firm only when they are satisfactory. I will give particulars about Messrs. J. Samuel White and Company, of Somerton, Cowes, a small company who were engaged in aeroplane construction during the War and chiefly in the maintenance of landplane and seaplane parts. In July, 1936, the chairman announced that the aircraft building shed belonging to the company, which was new during the War, was being put into service again for aircraft work. They have done a certain amount of sub-contract work, including work for Saunders-Roe, Limited. This is a typical example of a firm which, on its own initiative, returned to aircraft construction in order to take part in the expansion programme. 1784 In no sense can they be described as a big firm.
§ Mr. Sandys
I have never suggested that these were all big firms. Some of them are big and others are small. One firm of which I sent my Noble Friend particulars had discharged as many as 500 men during this year. I think that is a considerable amount. As regards the question of aircraft-producing firms, the fact which I stated in my question was thataeronautical engineering firms "—and that is quite different—were discharging employés.and I ask my Noble Friend to say whether that is a fact or not.
§ Earl Winterton
No. I have already denied that. I have already said that the principal aircraft firms capable of producing aircraft were now, on the whole, employed to capacity.
§ Mr. Sandys
Each time my Noble Friend answers he refers to aircraft manufacturers. The point contained in my statement was that aeronautical engineering firms, which is quite a different thing, were discharging employés., and I ask him whether that is or is not correct.
§ Earl Winterton
To the best of my knowledge it is not. Let me explain the situation. The main aircraft constructors are at this moment, I believe, fully employed. Let me give this assurance to the House that the full manufacturing capacity of air-frames and aeronautical engines is being employed at this moment; not only being employed but being extended every week and every month. In the case of sub-contractors and where there is, in some cases, a superfluity, that is to say more firms making a particular article than are required, there may be cases where not all are fully employed. All the firms which the hon. Member gave, with the exception of the three firms with which I have dealt fully, come within that category.
§ Mr. Sandys
Does my Noble Friend suggest that all the other firms whose names I sent him are superfluous?
§ Earl Winterton
I repeat this assertion and I stand by it, that the whole of the firms capable of manufacturing aircraft 1785 or aero-engines are, to the best of my knowledge, fully employed, and not only fully employed but are extending their activities every day. In the case of subcontractors I said that where there is a number of firms contracting for the same article, it must necessarily be, in the existing state of competition, that some firms are not fully employed because there are more of them than are required. I submit that it is clear that the Air Ministry is not in control of the construction of engines and that that matter is in the hands of the constructors and manufacturers themselves. I hope that the figures of construction I have given will satisfy the Committee that those firms are fully employed. I would now like to deal with one point in conclusion. I apologise to the Committee—
§ Mr. McEntee
May I ask the Noble Lord—[HON. MEMBERS: "No !"]—I merely want to ask whether he would undertake to say whether the remark which he has just made applies to firms which are competent to manufacture wood aeroplanes. I have in mind a reply which he gave to me about a week ago in which he said that the Government and himself were considering an increase in the number of wood aeroplanes that were being manufactured. No statement on this subject has been made, and I would like to know whether he would make some statement upon that aspect of aircraft production.
§ Earl Winterton
I am not in the position to make an announcement on that point. The hon. Member will realise that the number of wood aeroplanes required to-day is comparatively small. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] There are reasons of strategy and tactics for it, into which I need not go now.
§ Mr. McEntee
Is the Noble Lord not aware that most of the Russian aeroplanes are manufactured of wood and that in Italy they are of wood and metal? In reply to my question about a week ago he said he was aware of that fact but he now states that wood is not suitable.
§ Earl Winterton
I did not say that wood was not suitable. I said that we were experimenting with certain new types of wood-metal construction of this kind. Speaking generally, 90 per cent. of our requirements are in metal aeroplanes. I have already explained that point. In 1786 regard to the particular firms which the hon. Member has in mind I would say that if there is need for further wood aeroplanes, they will be given consideration.
The last point that I wish to answer— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—Well, I apologise to the Committee for occupying so much time. It is very good of hon. Members to bear with me so patiently, but I have had to answer a great many questions. The last question is: "Why are there no engineers in the Air Ministry? In effect, that is a criticism that the Air Council have no engineers. That is a complete misconception of the position, and is responsible for a great quantity of ill-judged or misjudged criticism. I cannot emphasise too strongly that the Air Ministry do not design or manufacture aeroplanes. [An HON. MEMBER: "They used to."]—I hope I shall be allowed a hearing now, so that I might explain my argument. The Air Ministry have three functions, the first of which is to tell the industry what they want, based upon the authority and the knowledge of the Air Council. I should like to pay tribute to the members of the Air Staff of the Ministry because there has been a great deal of indirect criticism of them outside this House. I should like to say that they are all men who have risen to the top of their profession by splendid service to this country in peace and in war. Some of them have given very remarkable War service. No Ministry could be better staffed or have better advice than the Air Ministry have on the air side. The Ministry have to see whether the designs produced by the industry will meet the needs of the Ministry, and that is dealt with by the research and development staff, who have special user's knowledge and test equipment and apparatus, such as wind tunnels, which individual firms cannot afford and which are centralised at Farnborough. Thirdly, the Ministry have to order the machines chosen as I have described.
The Air Ministry are therefore the consumer and not the producer. I do not know whether I shall convince either this Committee or the public with my argument, but, in my opinion, the public in this country are riot yet fully aware of the position either of the Air Ministry or of the aircraft industry in this respect. I have been making investigations and I find in every democratic country that 1787 the point of attack in Parliament of any Defence ministry is invariably the Air Ministry. I would point out that what the industry wants from the Air Ministry is user's knowledge. The industry fully admits the value of the help of the Air Ministry. I understand there is a contention that it is absurd for you to order aeroplanes if you are not an engineer. That seems to be as bad as saying that anybody interested in the industry of house building should himself have a knowledge of the technical details of construction and should be an architect, and so forth.
§ Earl Winterton
What is required is the knowledge which is available to the Air Member for Supply and Organisation, and to the Air Member for Research, and which is based upon the best technical data available. I claim that that technical knowledge is available both within the Ministry and outside. I cannot devote any more time to this point but I hope hon. Members will realise that I am not trying to shirk responsibility. There is a very clear division of function here.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
That is the most fallacious argument with which we have been presented for many years. Suppose that, owing to defects in the organisation of manufacture in the industry, the safety of the State were imperilled; do the Air Ministry reject responsibility for putting those defects right? That is what the argument amounts to.
§ Earl Winterton
It does not amount to anything of the sort and that was not the argument which I used. The point has been explained on several occasions to the hon. Member and he is evidently not convinced. I cannot hope to convince one individual; all I can hope to do is to convince this Committee and the House of Commons. I should like to say a few words in conclusion. I apologise to the Committee for the length of my speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not your fault! "] I have certainly had a great many interruptions. One point which has been raised, and is of interest to this country, this Committee and to the House of Commons, is the question: How does our Air Force stand in relation to those of other countries? Will this extended 1788 and accelerated plan put us in a better relative position in the next two years? The answer is emphatically "Yes." Our actual output of machines will have increased three-fold, and our potential resources will also be greatly increased. I cannot sufficiently emphasise the fact that those potential resources are increasing every day. In the second place, have we kept pace with Continental Powers in the past compared, for example, with a year ago? We have more than kept pace with some, and here, of course, we must bear in mind many facts. We have in use and coming into use many more machines of higher fighting quality, greater range, and greater bombing power than even a short time ago.
The air defence of Great Britain must be considered as a whole—bombers, fighters, reconnaissance squadrons, seaplanes, methods of information by physical devices, anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, the number of men trained to work all these methods, the prevention of panic among the civilian population, and the reduction of damage and casualties. All these must be regarded as measures for the air defence of Great Britain as a whole. With most of them it would not be in order to deal on this occasion, but their increase as compared with a year ago enables a much more favourable answer to be given than would have been possible then. I have shown the magnitude of the efforts we are making, but I would like to lay stress on the fact, which I think is insufficiently appreciated, that, for the first time in our history in a period of peace, we are simultaneously carrying out on a vast scale expansion, refitment, rebuilding, or re-equipment, as the case may be, in all three Services. The cost, as the Budget shows, is approaching astronomical proportions. I do not want to get on to a line of argument that would be outside this Debate, but I must, borrowing Lord Baldwin's phrase, point out with brutal frankness that no Defence Service can ever spend limitless sums of money for its own purposes, or obtain without question or negotiation all the material and personnel it would like to have, unless we emulate the methods of the totalitarian States.
§ Earl Winterton
You cannot compare like with unlike. In some countries there 1789 is an attempt to make sudden demands in the shape of complete control of capital and labour, and the sacrifice of individual liberty and standards of life, such as would have been thought to be impossible in any country before 1914. [Interruption.] The Committee may laugh at this argument if they like, but it is absolutely sound. We are competing, under our voluntary democratic system in this country, and, I believe, are competing successfully, with nations which have complete control over everything that the individual does, says, and thinks. It is, therefore, fantastic to make some of the suggestions which have been made in the course of the criticism of the Air Ministry; they would involve putting opponents of the Government in a concentration camp.
The time is past when we can consider each of the Services in isolation. Our defence rests on the Navy, the Army, the Royal Air Force, and, I must add, on the financial and economic strength of the country. I would also add another factor—the spirit of a people developed by free institutions and ready to fight for the principles which they represent. Neglect any one of these, and you imperil the whole. The assurance that I can give to the House, speaking not only as representing the Air Ministry but as a Cabinet Minister, is that our defence programme has been framed in the light of the best estimates which can be made of the forces which might be brought against us, and is designed to provide a formidable deterrent against aggression and an effective defence if we are attacked. It is all very well for us to laugh and talk with each other across the Table to-day, but this question whether we have done well or badly is hardly a subject for party controversy. I venture to say that our sense of the gravity of the situation, and our sense of our responsibilities, is certainly not less than that of hon. Members opposite.
What of the future? The point may be taken that, in spite of the huge increases which I have announced this afternoon, further increases will be necessary at some time in the future. The answer is that the programme is, and must be, a flexible one, but I, for one, refuse to take the dark, pessimistic view that the present situation in Europe and Asia is permanent and inexorable, and 1790 that for all time the personnel of the defence ministries of large and small countries will be working, like the Air Ministry in this country, literally day and night to build up the most powerful engines of destruction known to history in the shortest possible time. There is still some seed-bed left in the world from which appeasement and understanding may grow, and, although His Majesty's Government are pressing on with the greatest rearmament that this country has ever known in peace time, we mean, despite criticism and misunderstanding, to try to cultivate it.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I think that everybody in this House realises the gravity of the position, and there is no denying that there is widespread anxiety in the country with regard to our air defences and to the methods pursued by the Ministry. I think that that anxiety would have been lessened if the Noble Lord had met the matter a little more frankly, with some confession of past failures. He was too uniformly loyal. Loyalty is an admirable characteristic, and it is one of the Noble Lord's most outstanding characteristics; but he carried his loyalty to such a pitch that he was really quite unconvincing. This is not a question that is raised by just a few partisans; it is not raised by just a few disgruntled or interested persons. I was sorry that the Noble Lord laid so much stress on that. He seemed to think that the whole of this criticism, or a very large part of it, came from this or that firm, and that we were being led away in our criticism by interested persons. It did not seem to occur to him that many of us have a great volume of evidence on these matters, and that not one of us would take the mere word of an interested person.
In all the criticisms that we have made, we have tried to examine and get confirmation from persons with entirely different angles, and really the Noble Lord is mistaken if he thinks that the volume of criticism of the Air Ministry needs to be supported by interested parties. There is enough in what the Government themselves have said to indicate an urgent need for inquiry. We need something more than the Noble Lord's protestations. 1791 You cannot meet criticism of the past with a paper programme for the future; you cannot meet fundamental criticism with mere point-blank denials. The kind of criticisms which have been made have been very widespread in the Press—not in just the party Press, not the "Daily Herald "or the "News-Chronicle," but in Government organs, in the most faithful Government organs. The kind of criticisms that are made do not differ according to people's political views; they all converge on the same points. The "Daily Telegraph "says:Why have the necessary steps been so long delayed, and what is arresting progress now? On these fundamental points it is incumbent on the Government to take the public into its confidence as far as discretion permits. There is a volume of expert and nonpartisan dissatisfaction with what is being done, with the methods of the Air Ministry, and with the organisation of the country's manufacturing resources, which is too widespread to be ignored and too definite to be without foundation. The country is not getting the results which it was promised. The nation has made up its mind what it wants, and will be satisfied with nothing less.The Noble Lord would not admit that there was anything wrong at all; everything was well in the Air Ministry. I think he said too much, and he will not satisfy criticism by that statement. The "Times "of to-day speaks of a very general anxiety. It says:The whole conception upon which this expansion programme has been based has proved to he far too small…. the plans originally laid… have proved to be incommensurate with the requirements of the case… many intervening pronouncements had given the impression that all was going smoothly.Now we have had another pronouncement that all is going smoothly. But these constant pronouncements are almost always followed my some drastic change, either of programme or of personnel. We can hardly wonder that the general public has ceased to accept them. After all, the Noble Lord's presence at the Ministry is certain proof that all is not well. We have had a volume of criticism, including that put in extremely moderate terms and from great knowledge by the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely). An abundance of criticism can be quoted from Members of this House who are best qualified to speak on air matters and on technical matters. Really, the Noble Lord cannot say that all these critics are disgruntled people.
§ Earl Winterton
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I said that. On the contrary, I said that the greater bulk of the criticism was based on genuine apprehension.
§ Mr. Attlee
I doubt whether those Members are so misapprehensive. I have found them right before. This is a matter of grave public concern, and everyone is in a difficulty in dealing with it on the Floor of the House. We do not know how much possible enemies may know. The Government say that they cannot say anything. It is difficult for us to say anything.
I should have liked a private inquiry to be made into the whole matter. We asked for it privately, but could not get it. We asked again on the Estimates that there should be an expert inquiry by people who understood the business. It was flatly refused. The Prime Minister said that that was a court-martial on Ministers. He said things were too serious for a court-martial. It is just when things are serious that you want a court-martial. But it was not a court-martial that we were demanding; we wanted an inquiry. In the course of great wars we have had inquiries. Last time we asked for an inquiry we were amply justified. When we asked for the setting up of the Cadman Committee the Government took the same line. Everything, they said, was all right. Now we are going to ask again for an inquiry. We believe that the House of Commons has a right to an inquiry, so that we may know what the Government are doing. I do not know how much foreign countries know. I do not know whether they have secret services far better than ours. If their secret services are not better than ours, they probably know nothing of what is happening; but I give them credit for knowing a great deal about our Air Force.
My charge is this: The Government, ever since it was first brought to their knowledge that there was a great air force being built up in Germany, have been guilty of an entire miscalculation of the situation. I deny entirely what the Secretary of State for Air said. He said that if we had been in the same position as we are now, with all our knowledge, we should have done exactly what we did then. That would have been absolute folly. It is obvious that 1793 there has been miscalculation from the start. Successive programmes have been found insufficient. Expansion has been haphazard. These insufficient programmes have not been realised. Again and again we have had optimistic forecasts. They have been found to be unjustified. At the present time not only have we not got air parity with Germany, on whatever formula you base it, but we are getting further away from air parity every week and every month. Despite what the Noble Lord has said this afternoon, we are not even within sight of air parity. The proposals put forward by the Noble Lord, as far as I can see on the best information we have on what they are doing over there, will not bring us, even in 1940, to the position Germany is in already. I say that the failure of these plans is due to failure to concentrate on essentials; that production has been subject to unnecessary delay, and that it is all due to the fact that the Government have never properly thought out their problem, and have never got the appropriate organisation. I say that this is due to the inefficiency of Ministers. Ministers have not been given the job they could do. The Secretary of State for Air should not be given the job of running the Air Force and being Minister of Munitions at the same time; and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence was given an impossible task, because his functions were never properly defined.
In this matter we must look at the background of this crisis. We must look at what has been done if we want to get the thing in the proper perspective. We start with the time when Lord Baldwin was aware that heavy air rearmament was taking place in Germany. That was followed by the two years that were lost. We are not forgetting that it was that Government that, for political purposes, lost those two years. In 1933 Lord Baldwin knew the danger. I recall that phrase—it was not "brutally frank," it was "appallingly frank "—because he was not so much brutal to us as appalling to his colleagues. We have had that confirmed by no less a person than the Home Secretary, who said that if the needs of rearmament had been faced two years earlier there would never have been the disturbing events of the Abyssinian crisis. During those two years, what ought to have been done by the Prime Minister, who, although he knew, would not face 1794 the country with what he knew to be the right programme for dealing with the danger? You would have thought that the Air Ministry would have been put in a position to expand when the time came.
I have been looking back on past Reports, and I noticed the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) in 1933. He made some very pertinent remarks. He said that, in theory, we had a small but highly up-to-date force. He asked whether our technical superiority was being maintained. He got no reply to that question. I notice that he often does not get replies. They would have had to say that the technical superiority of this Force was not being maintained. The result was that when the time for expansion came there was nothing ready, there were no plans, no prototypes— only out-of-date 'planes and out-of-date equipment. [Interruption.] Let me recall to the Prime Minister that it was Lord Baldwin who told us that we did not need armaments. We were told not to worry. I do not know whether the Prime Minister was a sharer of Lord Baldwin's knowledge. It was he and his Government, on Lord Baldwin's admission, who were not going to tell the country this, and they must take responsibility. The Members on this side have always been prepared to support proper fighting services with a proper policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us another."] Hon. Members do not know very well what happens, because they so seldom attend. I have sat through many Debates in this House —most of them, in fact, from 1931. We have had many Debates on Defence. You can study my speeches on Defence, and you will find that I never said anything but that, whatever you are going to have in Defence organisation must be efficient and up-to-date.
The Prime Minister said that we voted against the Estimates. I am going to deal with the Prime Minister's point. He is not a very old Parliamentary hand, or he would not have put it. He said, "You voted against the Estimates." I will ask him to go to an older Parliamentary hand than he, that is, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, and ask him why he voted against the entire Army, Navy and Air Force Estimates in 1928? Let him ask his Minister of Labour why he voted against the Estimates, and let him 1795 ask his Minister of War why he voted against the Estimates. What he has said is one of those half-truths which are worse than lies, and do a disservice to the country. The Noble Lord would not say that, because he is too good a Parliamentarian. He knows perfectly what is the significance of voting against the Estimates. He knows that he and his friends have voted against the entire provision for Education, for Police and for the Foreign and Diplomatic Services. He knows that no Labour man has ever got up on the platform and said that they are opposed to all provision for education and police forces. As a matter of fact, this thing was invented by the Chancellor, and it is worthy of him. It is about time that that lie was nailed. It is untrue that a vote against an Estimate in this House means that the party which votes against it desires that there should be no provision. It is well known that it is a vote against policy. Perhaps that will save anybody who is going to reply from taking up the Prime Minister's point.
Until I was interrupted, I was dealing with the Baldwin point. There is no doubt at all that Lord Baldwin knew perfectly well what the position was, and that he deliberately said, "I will not tell the people that they must re-arm." After he came in we had the first expansion programme, a small expansion programme, which was followed by an attack on the Noble Lord by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Then came the famous Baldwin speech, in which he said that That Government would see to it that in air strength and air power this country should no longer be inferior to any country within striking distance of its shores.
Have the Government kept that pledge? Of course they have not. We have had a series of complacent statements. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in 1934 gave figures of German strength. He was told that he was all wrong, and it was said by Lord Baldwin that there was no cause for alarm. In March, 1935, these assurances were renewed. And then came a collapse. We had another appalling statement. Lord Baldwin came down and said he had been completely deceived, that even then Germany had obtained parity with us. And never since then has the Baldwin 1796 pledge been kept. When we have the Noble Lord coming down and saying we must take his word that everything is all right, we remember that we have been asked to take a great many words like those, and that they have been wrong. We know that the Air Force to-day is very largely equipped with obsolete and obsolescent material. I never understood, and I do not believe that this House understood, that when we had obtained the first 1,500 planes they would be obsolete.
What is the good of the Noble Lord getting up and saying that our aeroplanes are equal to those of any other Forces in the world? We want to know the proportions of our strength. It is no good saying that we have some aeroplanes, and that one which is just going to be made and one which has just come in are equal to any of those of other countries. If you consider parity, you have to consider the proportions of up-to-date aeroplanes in each force and make comparisons. What is the position? The position is that we have these 1,750 aeroplanes, or whatever the number may be, and that Germany, we are told, has between 2,500 and 3,000 aeroplanes. We have been told that at the present time their production is somewhere near double that of ours. I am putting the position very moderately. I am told that all this is being done by working only one shift in Germany. I should like to know whether that is so, and whether they cannot do much more, working two and three shifts. The fact remains that with things as they are to-day, and with our present rate of production, we are not overtaking but are falling behind.
It is no good asking us to accept a wonderful new programme. We want to know what has actually been done by the Air Ministry in the past. It is time that we got away from everlastingly thinking that somehow or other this has been a terrible rush. They have had nearly three years in which to do it, and we cannot treat Lord Swinton as still only in the position of a new boy. It is three years since Lord Baldwin awoke to the danger. Let me make a comparison. We started with an established Air Force, with an industry and a considerable number of first-line aeroplanes, and in three years we have worked up to 1,750 and are still not up to date.
§ Mr. Attlee
We have a production of something like 250 a month. Look at the comparison of the Great War. I am aware that aeroplanes are now more complicated. I am also aware that in the Great War there was a terrific strain to find people to produce the necessary munitions for the Navy, Army and Air Force. Yet in the War we started with little experience and had only 113 aeroplanes, and we worked up to an output of 1,229 a month, and in four years to 2,668 a month. We built over 55,000 aeroplanes during the War. That was a terrific expansion. Why has so little been done in the last three years? There must be something wrong when the results are so puny. In the War we had a very slight start. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping talked about the seed time, but in that seed time there was the sowing of wild oats. Until you get the organisation of munitions supply you will not really begin to overtake these difficulties.
Take the aeroplane position now. There is the initial fault that nothing is ready for expansion. When expansion was decided upon a number of different types were put in hand, and to-day there are a great number of different types in production. One would have thought that, if there was this real menace of the strongest Air Force abroad, there would have been concentration on the vital types needed to meet that menace, that is, very powerful fighters and long-range bombers. Instead, there is the production of a great variety of aeroplanes, short-range bombers, Army co-operation types and Navy types. I do not say that they are not necessary, but there should have been priority, the putting of first things first.
I am told that some of the aeroplanes under construction are equal to German or Italian aeroplanes, but a great many of them are not. I have the figures here of their performances given in "Jane's" There are 37 different types being produced, and experts tell me that 12 would be enough. The trouble is that these types have not been simplified and standardised. I would like to take up the Noble Lord on that question. He gave a very emphatic statement saying that you could not have anything like standardisation or simplification. I am 1798 told that the Italian aeroplanes are far simpler than our aeroplanes, and that the German aeroplanes are more standardised than ours. I am told that the trouble is that our aeroplanes are complicated to a degree which is quite unnecessary. I have details here of a simple type of fighter aeroplane. There are 151 different sizes of bar, 147 different sizes of tube, 50 gauges of sheet, 105 sizes of rivets and scores of different screws, nuts and bolts. There are different sorts of steel and every kind of variation and specification. That is only one type. It is the same in regard to other types made by different firms. When you multiply these you get an enormous range of different types which have to be kept in stock. That is one of the reasons I am told—I am not a technical man—for the slow delivery.
I really could not understand the Noble Lord saying that it is all nonsense about these alterations. I have heard story after story of alterations, and it would really require a vivid imagination to invent some of them. Let me give one of them. Here is the question of an order for certain aeroplanes. I am told that they suddenly discovered that there was no provision for a navigator and that the plans had to be altered in order to accommodate a navigator. When that was done they found that the navigator could not communicate with the pilot. Is that true or not? These are the kinds of stories which one hears. They do not come from irresponsible quarters.
I hear from another quarter that there is a multiplicity of materials and specifications, and that the Directorate of aeronautical production has not been the help to the industry which had been expected. I am told that a perfect mass of officials sweep down from the Air Ministry and that all have their suggestions to make and there is no one to decide between them, and that it takes weeks for specifications to be brought out. That may or may not be true, but I have it from various quarters. I want to know whether you have the organisation in the industry that can bring about a big development if you should need it. The impression I had was that you had a peace time industry, with a certain number of firms working for the Ministry. When expansion first began all that was done was to try to accelerate and slightly widen the 1799 work of these peace time firms. Then you went a little further and got a shadow scheme and a shadow Minister, and even now you have not got down to the really big problem of production, the real problem of utilising the resources of this country. The hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hopkinson) spoke of that fact. Until you get definite, clear and quick decisions and standardisation, you cannot utilise the engineering resources of this country as they could be utilised, and as, I believe, the engineering resources in other countries are being utilised.
I have a great number of these points to put to the Noble Lord. They all tell the same kind of tale. The point is always put with regard to the guns for the aeroplanes. We have had a definite statement from the Under-Secretary of State for Air that the gun position is quite satisfactory, but I am told that the guns in use are obsolete and that there are only a few new ones in use. They are waiting for the Browning or the Vickers K and there has been no practice with them by most of the gunners. There has been trouble about the cartridges. Is it true that the Ministry issued the wrong sort of cartridges and that the gun or the cartridge has to be redesigned? Is the Ministry being held up at all by firms holding rights in the pressure pump for revolving turrets?
While I am on guns I would like to ask about the anti-aircraft guns. How many of these guns with the big range have we actually got? Is it true that there are only six in London? It is no good telling us that everything is all right when the specific points are put by people who know. I am told that, owing to changes, a number of categories of workers have been telescoped. The result is that there are not the staffs engaged on the production of aeroplanes that there ought to be. I am also told that the people who fly the aeroplanes should do any repairs that are necessary, that there are not proper maintenance squads, and that Air Group Commands have to improvise as best they can and ordinary repairs have to be carried out by the crews. Even men sent down by the makers often have insufficient knowledge. The result is that aeroplanes have to be sent back to the makers who have no time for the repair work, and therefore there is a loss of 1800 effective use of the machines. I want to know whether there has been any planning for maintenance. All I find is that it was stated in a previous Debate that they were just beginning to get on with maintenance. All these things seem to be so late; they never seem to be tackled from the start.
Is it true that there is a great shortage of wireless operators? If so, who is responsible? The Under-Secretary said that the supply of wireless operators is very satisfactory, but I heard a story recently that a firm obtained a tender to make wave meters. Specifications were sent from the Air Ministry and found to be dated 1931 and were hopelessly obsolete. The material specified included speciality products of firms which had been out of business for ten years and could not be obtained. That might have been a slip, but it took several months before the blunder was admitted. All these things seem to show a lack of foresight. Are the shadow factories properly synchronised? The Noble Lord said that the engines were all right, but are they being held up by the air frames? Are these firms which are paid large sums for this work really putting on first-class men? I have had letters from workers which seem to suggest that they are not.
§ Earl Winterton
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is asking a lot of questions, but I would repeat that, as far as I can judge, the shadow factory situation is very satisfactory, and all these matters which he suggests are arising are not giving any cause for anxiety.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am very glad to hear that, but we shall know better when we get delivery of the planes. My information is that the organisation is bad and that the workers are complaining of time being wasted, not of money being wasted. I should like to ask a good many questions with regard to instruments. There is the question of blind flying. I am not in the least satisfied with the statement we have had about blind flying. We have had the definite statement that blind flying apparatus was not being fitted to obsolete machines, only to new ones, but as only a comparatively small proportion of the squadrons have been provided with new planes, and these only recently, it follows that very few pilots have had any experience in blind flying. I can- 1801 not understand why it should take these years to advocate these instruments. One of the complaints that has come to me is that although these things are being used in other countries, the authorities in this country took a long time to adopt them. I am told by an experienced officer that the fact is you may say that our Air Force is a fair weather force. Until quite recently it has not done any blind flying. That is extremely unsatisfactory.
Let me come to the Ministry itself. We have had a nice picture of the Ministry, but it is not the picture one gets when one talks to people who have anything to do with it. There is war between departments. This might be got over by the Noble Lord's committee, but the very fact that we are to have the Noble Lord's committee is a proof that there is something wrong. First of all, we had Lord Swinton, then the Minister for the Coordination of Defence and his typist, and now we are to have the Chancellor of the Duchy and his committee. I do not know the exact relationship between the three, but the very fact that we have had to set up each is a confession that there is something wrong somewhere. I do not think there will be any advantage in exchanging one incompetent member of a trinity for another. Fundamentally the trouble is wrong organisation. The Government are trying to do at the Air Ministry what the Air Ministry cannot do. They have resisted steadily the plea made from both sides of the House that there should be a proper ministry of supply, which should be run by people who understand the business of supply. The Noble Lord, as one would expect, made a very fine defence of the personnel of the Air Ministry. He put up the argument that there was no need for engineers. I do not say that they need all be engineers, but they should understand engineering. He also said they are customers. If they are customers they should know something about flying, -and my information is that the bulk of the higher personnel in the Air Ministry have flown very little indeed in recent years. The actual amount is about six hours a year in a Moth. Actually they have had no experience of these high-powered machines.
The information I have received is that technical men are not fully utilised in the Air Force. There is a kind of person, who is not a technical man but is supposed to be a great administrator, who 1802 got into the Air Ministry at a certain stage, and whatever happens he stays there. I am not at all satisfied with what I have heard. The inspection is being done by a former chief of the Air Staff. He may be an admirable man, but how can he inspect properly the results of his own work? Throughout it is a failure to organise this Ministry properly. Above all, there is a failure to utilise the resources of this country in personnel, and a failure to take advantage of the lessons of the past.
Let me make one other point about the workers. When the Minister for the Coordination of Defence was appointed he told us that one of the first things he was going to do was to get in touch with labour. It was two years before he approached the trade unions. What is the Noble Lord's explanation of that? Can you wonder that there is discontent. What one finds throughout the whole story is that everything is always too late. When that occurs you want changes at the top. The Government did not envisage the task. They ought to have known that mere temporary programmes in view of their foreign policy would not get us out of the difficulty. Obviously, they would have continuously to increase their programme, and should have planned accordingly. I wonder if they asked for advice from people who had to do this kind of thing in the Great War. There were two or three. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the right hon. Member for Epping and Lord Addison had to do this thing in the War. Was their advice asked? I doubt it. Just the same kind of things which had to be cleaned up in 1915 need to be cleaned up now.
I am not satisfied in the least with what the Noble Lord has told us to-day. If I may say so, he has protested far too much. There is far too much assertion and far too little proof. He did not deal with the point put by the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely). think the House has a right to know what is happening, and although it may be that the Government cannot tell us the whole truth, yet we may be satisfied if we have a committee which we can trust of qualified people to go into the matter. It might be satisfactory if we had a proper organisation of supply, and people with drive at the head. The fundamental trouble is that throughout the whole of this business 1803 there was not a person with authority to say, "This must come first, and this must be done." There has been a constant struggle between Departments, and the impression upon one, despite what the Noble Lord has said, is one of continuing muddle. All the rosy pictures the Noble Lord painted of the great achievements to come in 1940 we do not see, unless the Air Ministry are going to correct the mistakes they have already made. I see no signs that the Air Ministry have yet learned the lessons of the past.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Captain Harold Balfour
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has castigated the Air Ministry because we have not got to-day an air force adequate in size for our protection in the present international situation. The hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) said that the Air Ministry was not carrying out the duty that it should. This Debate is one on the Air Ministry Vote, and I submit it is wrong to base on the Air Ministry the plea that we have not to-day an Air Force on a parity with the air forces of any other country in Europe. The right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member must remember that if we had an Air Force to-day of much greater strength than it is, the Air Ministry could not claim the credit for it, and, equally, if we have to-day an Air Force which is not of sufficient size in relation to other European air forces, then the Air Ministry must not be blamed for it. The Air Ministry are carrying out the policy and programme authorised by Parliament and submitted to Parliament by the Government of the day. Broadly speaking—it has not been contradicted on any side of the Committee—scheme F for 1,750 first-line aircraft by March, 1939, is, generally speaking, satisfactorily completed. If the F scheme is proved now to be quite inadequate in the light of the international situation, that is a matter quite outside the range of criticism of the particular Department whose Vote we are discussing.
If scheme F is now recognised as inadequate and has to be supplemented by this new expansion scheme I submit that the criticism that this is overdue and should have been undertaken before should be directed to high Government policy rather than to the Department 1804 which is not responsible if scheme L has not been put forward earlier. The right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition and his friends to-day say that we started too late, that in Mr. Baldwin's time we should have started this great expansion scheme. I submit, and I think the Committee will agree with me, that the Government of the day in educating public opinion got very little help either in speech or by vote from the right hon. Gentleman and his friends above the Gangway. The right hon. Gentleman has now enunciated a new policy—that votes do not really count very much, and that it does not very much matter if you vote against most of the Service Estimates because you do not really mean anything by your vote.
§ Mr. Attlee
The hon. and gallant Member knows perfectly well that there are votes which are delivered for a particular purpose and do not necessarily carry any meaning. In the same way votes against the Estimates in July have never been held to mean that those who so vote are refusing all supplies of the country.
§ Captain Balfour
That is an interesting theory, but it must be taken a little further, because even if you talk about votes which you really do not mean you have to take into account the speeches made both in the country and in Parliament at the time of the Votes. I have taken the trouble, guessing that the right hon. Gentleman would defend himself and his record of the votes of himself and his friends in this Debate—if he does not, his attack to-day is completely inconsistent—to arm myself with one or two of the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made about the rearmament programme which he now says should have been started much earlier and about which the Government were very lax, although goaded on at all times by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. In "Reynolds "newspaper in November, 1935, just the time when the right hon. Member now says that the Government were hanging back, although he and his friends were urging them on, I discover that he wrote:The National Government has prepared a great programme of rearmament which will endanger the peace of the world.I scarcely think that a speech like that condemning the rearmament programme is consistent with what he has said to-day.
§ Captain Balfour
An answer may always be simple, but the answer that the country gave to this speech of the right hon. Gentleman made just before the election of 1935 was a very decisive one. They did not agree with his point of view because they realised what he was endeavouring to do—not to give adequate defence to the country.
I should like to draw attention to the question the public will be asking tomorrow when they read this Debate. It is whether scheme L, which we have now, to give us 3,500 first line aircraft by March, 1940, is going to he adequate to give us parity with any air force within striking distance of our shores and, if not, what augmentation of scheme L should be considered at this time, and by what method could we increase scheme L should the international situation demand that that should take place now or later. There are three ways to increase our production. The first is to overhaul the procedure of peace-time administration of a supply department which is difficult to adapt to the expanded conditions, and has obvious faults which as we are told to-day are being tackled. The second is to see whether we can standardise production to a greater degree. The third is to see whether we can build up a potential war production overseas. A fourth is a means I shall speak about in a few moments. As regards the first possibility, that is mixed up with criticisms heard to-day of the Department. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Attlee) that there are naturally things that are not all right and that faults can always be found, particularly when a Department that is expanding from comparatively small proportions and is taking on a gigantic scheme having to carry it through with a minimum of interference with our peacetime domestic life and our home and export trade. If I thought that an inquiry would do any good or help to solve difficulties I should support the proposal, but an inquiry would divert those very people who, the right hon. Gentleman and others say, should be kept upon their technical job because, being serving officers, they have all too short a time, and because the longer they are at their job the more perfect they become and the more useful —it would divert, perhaps, 50 per cent. 1806 of their time in the next few critical months away from getting on with their job on to preparing masses of evidence to justify their Department and their actions in front of some committee.
§ Mr. Simmonds
Does not my hon. and gallant Friend think that any diversion of officials in connection with the Cadman inquiry was thoroughly well justified?
§ Captain Balfour
Certainly I do, but the importance of getting on with Service aviation is infinitely greater than that of getting on with civil aviation. Whereas we can afford to take a risk with civil aviation, we should be taking a grave risk with the machinery, the wheels of which are now turning with increasing force, if we adopted the proposal of the Committee. I will leave the second alternative, the question of standardisation, to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Erdington (Wing-Commander Wright) who will deal with it, but any great standardisation involves a great deal of tooling up and jigging, and it would take two years before we got the increased production through designing what I would term the mechano type of aeroplane. As to the third alternative— the building up of production overseas. It would take three years before we got production in Canada, what with the building of the factories and the securing of labour and materials, problems which we face here, and when we had done it we should have the weak link of having to rely for a large number of our supplies on the crossing of the Atlantic always being free for freighters carrying supplies in time of war.
Nothing that I have said so far helps us under two years, but I believe there is one further course which I urge on the Air Ministry to undertake with a much greater degree of boldness than has hitherto been the case. I refer to a large and wholesale reversion to wood construction. I shall be told that there are great technical difficulties, but they have been overcome in Russia and Italy, and to some extent in Czechoslovakia, which are to-day all building first-line fighter and bomber aircraft of wood construction. Anyone who travels by some Imperial Airways or the Railway Air Service and Empire Service to-day travels in wood construction air liners. I know that the Ministry is experimenting and is using wood for training machines on a large 1807 scale, but this is far from the drastic adoption of wood on the enormous scale which I believe will be necessary if we are to catch up the lag of some 5,000 aircraft which I can foresee between our total production and that of a certain country across the sea as the gap by the time that the 1940 L Programme is finished. Given the necessary decision and powers, and provided engines were available— there is no hold up as regards engine production—one could guarantee a large number of first-line high efficiency aircraft in 12 months if some programme such as this were adopted. Call the designers together and tell them in six weeks that they are to produce simple mass-production designs for a bomber and fighter type with performance as near as possible to that of existing metal types. Meanwhile, the available labour in the carpentering, joinery and wood-working industries would be assured and a schedule of floor spaces for manufacture and erection would be prepared in order to plan the potential productive forces. The prototypes could be produced in four months after the receipt of the design and production would start in the various factories, wings in one, fuselages in another and metal components in others. Assembly would start some six months after the prototype testing was finished, and we could work up to a production of 1,000 a month, which is considerably less than the production we were carrying at the end of the War.
I should be much happier if I felt that scheme L was going to give us parity by March, 1940, but it seems to me that the situation overseas is so serious—it is not the blame of the Government; it would be much more serious if it was not for the policy of the Government—that scheme L, which is to give us 3,500 first-line aircraft, is not adequate in view of the risks that we have to face, unless we are so fortunate as to be able to bring about a general limitation of armaments. It is for that reason that I ask the Committee to consider whether the scheme is adequate and, if it is not, what means can be adopted to bring into existence the much greater and wider scheme which, I am afraid, it will inevitably be necessary to adopt and to put through successfully.
§ 7.11 p.m.
Major Lloyd George
If any justification were needed for our action in raising 1808 this question, it is to be found in the Noble Lord's speech. In saying that, I am not criticising him personally, because he has been at his task only for a short time, but we are entitled to say that it is a very good reflection of the attitude taken inside the Ministry towards the criticisms that have been made. He referred to the apprehension that was evident in all parts of the country. It is an apprehension that is very readily understood when one considers how necessary it is for the safety of the country to have an adequate Air Force. Not only has it the task of protecting our sea communications, because after all that was the most serious thing in the last War, but a new danger has arrived from the air, and there is no doubt that the Air Force has taken a big part in meeting that danger. There is also the task of the defence of our shores, and particularly of London, and of course of our possessions overseas.
Having regard, therefore, to our responsibilities, the question has been asked, What is our relative position with regard to the air forces of other countries? Reference has been made more than once to the definition given by Lord Baldwin, that we should, at any rate, have parity with any country within striking distance of ourselves. How do we stand in that respect? We have not got parity to-day. Indeed I think it is true to say that disparity is increasing. It is all very well for the Noble Lord to say we shall be increasing threefold, and shall be in a better relative position in two years' time. If he means that that will give us parity, it means that whatever country is within striking distance will remain at the same rate of output as to-day. Judging by the figures that one can get from fairly reliable sources, that is not the case. There has been a rapid increase of production in a country which is certainly within striking distance. In view of what has happened in the past, it is not easy to accept the Noble Lord's assurance. It assumes that there is to be no increase in the production of whatever country it may be.
The Noble Lord said the Air Ministry had brought the ship into smooth water after a very rough passage, and it was a singularly inappropriate moment to get rid of the captain. I am not suggesting that, but it is surely not an inappropriate 1809 moment to consider whether the ship's construction is responsible for the delay in arrival every time it comes to port. We want to see whether the construction is right and whether it is responsible for the delays that we are suffering. In a speech in another place a few days ago, the Secretary of State for Air said that the test of any system is whether it works. That is the test we ought to apply. Does any hon. Member suggest that the system of developing the Royal Air Force at the present time is working? I think the Noble Lord must be the only one who suggests that. The only way in which we can judge is by the results—
§ Earl Winterton
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman proceeds to develop his argument, may I ask him whether he means that the aircraft industry in this country is not developing?
Major Lloyd George
I did not say anything of the kind. What I said was that, judging by the test of whether it has been efficient, the system is not working satisfactorily.
§ Earl Winterton
I apologise for interrupting the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but what does he mean when he talks about the "system "? We have all this vague talk. Is the hon. and gallant Member referring to the system of ordering or to the industry itself? To what is he objecting? My claim was—and I repeat it—that the aircraft industry is now producing and increasing in the most satisfactory manner.
Major Lloyd George
I apologise if I was vague, but I must have caught it in the afternoon. I am not suggesting that the aircraft industry is not efficient. When I speak of the system, I mean the Ministry, which is responsible for giving orders. I repeat that we can judge only by the results up to date. The Noble Lord has given us plenty of assurances, but I would remind him that his are not the only assurances that we have had from the Government Front Bench over a long period of time.
§ Earl Winterton
I apologise for interrupting the hon. and gallant Gentleman again, but I would point out that it is not simply a case of giving assurances. Assurances were given in the past regarding the time at which the scheme would 1810 be finished. I assured the Committee to-day that, in fact, the scheme will be finished earlier than was anticipated.
Major Lloyd George
That is another assurance, but in any case it does not alter my point. We have been given assurances, and we cannot be blamed now if we do not accept them owing to the record in the past. There is a good deal of apprehension in the country about what is going on, whatever the Noble Lord may say about the aircraft industry. Several questions were asked this afternoon, but the Noble Lord did not answer them. Certain statements were made which, to the best of our knowledge are correct, and the Noble Lord did not deny them. There can be no question but that there is serious apprehension as far as production is concerned. With regard to equipment, the Noble Lord talked about the wonderful new machines which we have. Are all of them fit to go up into the air if an emergency arises? Are all the wonderful bombers, which we have—admittedly they are some of the best in the world— in a position to go up into the air at the present time and fulfil the purpose for which they were built? Those are the sort of things about which there is a good deal of apprehension in the country. It is no good simply saying that everything is all right. If everything is all right, why is it suggested that we should get aeroplanes from America? Is this country incapable of supplying the amount of aircraft, whether it be training, fighting or bombing, which it requires, especially after three years in which there has been development? We have the equipment; certainly, we have the organising ability—no country could beat us in that respect—and we have the labour. Whatever the Noble Lord may say, there is a good deal of unemployment among people who could be utilised to do this work to-day.
Major Lloyd George
The Noble Lord does not agree, but I go by the figures of the number of people engaged in the trades concerned. Surely, they could be utilised in the aircraft factories. We had to do that during the War, and we did it successfully.
Major Lloyd George
As a matter of fact, the present situation and the speech of the Noble Lord are extraordinarily reminiscent of the early days of the War. I was not a Member of the House at the time, but I read of what happened. The same sort of questions were asked, the same doubts were expressed, and the same assurances were given, and of course, it was not in the public interest to tell anybody anything. The situation came to a head in 1916. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) referred to the delay that an inquiry would cause. One of the worst things in 1916 was that time was wasted by the Cabinet in trying to get some sort of co-ordinated method of supplying aircraft; there was a great deal of delay, not in examining the position, but in deciding what should be done. That was the position in the spring of 1916. In May of that year, the Air Board came into being, but it was not functioning properly until February, 1917. It coordinated various services. Everybody remembers the battles that went on between the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. The result was that by June, 1917, a very short time afterwards, more machines were produced in a week than had hitherto been produced in a month, and by the end of the year 10 times as many machines were produced as in the year before. As we have heard to-day, it was possible to produce 30,000 machines at the end of 1918. Let hon. Members compare the increase in the production of aeroplanes which took place between the appointment of that Board and 1918 with the increase which has taken place since 1934, under this programme. The Noble Lord said that we cannot work under war conditions. Nobody has suggested that we should. I would remind him that that argument cuts both ways. During the War, there were about 5,000,000 men in the Services. We had to accelerate the Naval programme, we had greatly to accelerate the Mercantile Marine programme, we needed people for the land, people for munitions, and drafts were constantly being sent to the Front. Raw material was much more difficult to obtain then than it is to-day. Despite all those things, once they got down to the task, they increased production.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has entirely missed the point of my argument. I did not say that we could not work under war conditions. In the very interesting speech which he is making, although it is slightly critical of the Air Ministry, I ask him to address his mind to this point. I challenge anybody to deny the statement that one cannot compare conditions in this country with conditions in a totalitarian State. [An HON. MEMBER: "War conditions."] Not war conditions. I assert that certain countries in Europe to-day are asking their people to do in peace time far more than we were asked to do in war time.
Major Lloyd George
I will come to that matter later. I believe that this afternoon the Noble Lord said, in reply to an interruption, that the machines of to-day are much more complicated than the machines during the War. I was comparing the increase in production at the present time with the increase which took place after the setting up of that coordinating body in 1916. After all, despite the fact that the machines were simpler in 1916, we were not getting the necessary production, but when that body was set up, production was increased tenfold in the first year and there was an enormous increase in the following year. That was because they had what was, in effect, a ministry of supply, and it is that which we want to see set up to-day. It is not only aeroplanes which we have to get, but machine guns, bomb-carriers, and bomb-loading apparatus. That is a matter of supply.
I am told, for instance, that there is a shortage of certain types of raw material, such as aluminium. Is there any committee sitting which decides how aluminium shall be allocated among the various Services? We were told the other day from the Government Front Bench, in answer to a question, that the Navy has priority, but that the Air Force has priority over the War Office. I should say that the Air Force ought to have priority over the other Services, because there is no question about the safety of our shores, as far as Naval defence is concerned, for some considerable time to come. But if we have to wait until 1940 before we can get a three-fold expansion in the Air Force—which even then does not ensure us parity—I feel that the time 1813 has come when there should be priority for the Air Force, until some considerable advance has been made on the present position. As I have said, all we have had is assurances, but we cannot overlook the fact that so many things have not been fulfilled after similar assurances have been given in the past.
The Noble Lord talked about the efficiency of the dictatorship States, and said that things could be done in dictatorship States which cannot be done here. This country has proved once, at any rate, in the greatest trial of strength, that it could do better than dictatorship States. But there must be certain conditions, and the last War showed what those conditions are. The people should be told what the position is, and should not on every occasion be told that it is not in the public interest to tell anything. This country showed during the last War that when it NA as told what the true situation was, it could not only stand up to dictatorship States, but could go far beyond their efficiency—and it saw the struggle through to the end. I wish to make a suggestion to the Noble Lord. I fully appreciate that there are occasions when it is impossible to give information, and that there may be great difficulties about a secret session of Parliament. The Noble Lord appealed to us to-day in a nonparty spirit, and I accept that, as I think every hon. Member does, because all of us want to do something to put this matter right. But it is of no use our putting forward constructive criticism if every time we do so we are told that the things we say are not true, but are given no explanation of why they are not true.
Would it not be possible for a committee of representatives of all parties in the House to go to the Ministry, to put forward their criticisms, and to be given answers? It is very difficult if we are simply to be told that it is not in the public interest that we should be given information. Criticisms are made, and if they are not true, it is in the public interest that it should be made clear that they are not true. Such a thing as I suggest has been done before. When the Disarmament Conference was about to meet, the then Prime Minister took into his confidence representatives of all parties and placed the information available to the Government at their disposal. I do not see why something of that sort 1814 should not be done to-day, in order that we may satisfy ourselves that the safety of this country is secure. I am certain that if the public is given the chance of knowing what the position is, we need not worry about the dictatorship States, for the people of this country would stand up to them and defeat them. But the Government must take the people into their confidence, and give democracy a chance to show what it can do.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
The Committee will be relieved to know that I do not propose to detain it for more than four or five minutes, for there are many experts who are far better qualified to take part in this Debate than I am. I have risen solely for the purpose of making one or two definite proposals which I hope are of a constructive nature, and to which I wish to call the attention of the Noble Lord. I think hon. Members on both sides of the Committee must have felt that we are debating to-day in conditions of the greatest difficulty, because whatever hon. Members may say, however dissatisfied they may be, there are many vital facts about aeroplane production which must be kept secret, and which cannot possibly be debated in public in this Committee. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), who made a very interesting speech, wants to set up a small committee of hon. Members who have special expert knowledge; and I have no doubt that the Noble Lord will be prepared to consider receiving them at the Air Ministry at a later stage, and placing before them certain facts which they may wish to find out, but which cannot be given in public.
When the time comes to discuss air-raid precautions and air defences, no doubt strong criticisms will be made about our apparent lack of preparation in certain directions. The Government will have to face some fierce and open criticism in these fields. But we do not know, and the Government cannot tell us, exactly what is happening in regard to aeroplane production. All that we know is that producing aeroplanes is rather like getting almonds out of a bottle. The first one is almost impossible to get out at all, and the second is very difficult to extract; but afterwards they come out in a steady stream. That 1815 is what we hope will happen with our aeroplane production.
There is another thing that we know, that is not quite so encouraging, and that is that German production is now running at a very high rate. Indeed, I said the other day in this House that German production was running at an average of 500 machines a month, and that it would shortly rise to 600, and those figures have not been contradicted. This is pretty formidable. I agree with my Noble Friend that they are working under conditions under which we cannot work, and here they enjoy an immense advantage, because in the last resort Goering, in Berlin, can ring up anybody and tell him to get on with a particular piece of work or he will be in gaol that night, and he gets on with it. An hon. Member says it can be done here, but he would not like it, and there are very few people in this country who would like it. Nevertheless, the fact remains that my Noble Friend and Lord Swinton have got to be measured as administrators against Field-Marshal Goering, who is, I submit, whatever one may think of his politics, one of the greatest administrators of modern times. He has created, to begin with, under conditions of secrecy, the most tremendous weapon of war the world has ever seen. That is the standard we are up against, and we have to do our very best to come up to it.
With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely), in his very able speech, of a Ministry of Supply, I hope my Noble Friend will not rule this out as impossible in the long run. I have long believed that sooner or later it is inevitable, if we are to continue rearming on the scale on which we are rearming at the present time, and so far there is no reason to suppose that we shall be able to let up on it. I think hon. Members on both sides will agree that we cannot have the organisation of our supplies run indefinitely by officers on the active list, serving temporarily in the Air Ministry, the Admiralty, or the War Office. In the long run it is not their business, it is not their job, and they cannot settle—ought not to be asked to settle—the vital questions of priority. I maintain that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Coordination of Defence should have his 1816 hands freed from the details of supply admnistration, so as to be able to concentrate all his energies upon the larger questions of strategy. Therefore, I beg my Noble Friend not finally to rule out the question of a Ministry of Supply, because I believe that in that proposal, or in something like it, lies the ultimate solution of a good many of our problems.
The last suggestion that I want to make is this: It is agreed on all sides—and I think my Noble Friend agrees—that we must have adequate machine tools for mass production, that we must have standardised engine manufacture, and that we must have uniform designs, for any particular class, which need not involve frequent changes in specifications. I therefore want to put this constructive proposal to my Noble Friend and to ask him what he thinks of it: How would the Government consider the setting-up in Canada, far away from any danger of bombing, a big factory for the construction of aircraft, with standardised engines, of uniform design and of modern type? Would the Government consider the possibility of setting up such a factory in Canada with the assistance, if possible, of the skill and experience of some of the manufacturers in the United States of America? I believe that this commission of experts that has been sent out to the United States will come back and say that it is going to be impossible to buy aeroplanes on a large scale in the United States, and there may be some disappointment caused by that. I am informed that the Americans themselves want all the military aeroplanes they can lay hands on; but I submit that there is no reason why a constructive scheme should not be worked out whereby we could benefit from the technical skill of some of their aeroplane manufacturers and constructors, which is very great—in some directions, I believe, even greater than our own—and use some of their knowledge and some of their skilled labour and, if necessary, some of their designs for engines and frames, in a factory to be constructed across the border, in Canada, where machines can be built in absolute security.
I believe that this would do more to inspire a feeling of apprehension and dread in the minds of the Germans than anything else, because this is one thing we can do which they can never hope to do. We can build aeroplanes in absolute security, which they cannot do, and have 1817 an almost unlimited reserve. In the last resort, if we constructed long-distance bombers, they could be flown over to this country in a time of emergency; and thus you would get that feeling of reserve powers of production behind this country which in the end, I believe, was the psychological cause of the defeat of Germany in the last War. When they knew and felt that we had behind us the whole resources of the United States and of. Canada, and that there was no end to those resources, it was then that the spirit of the German people broke. I think that this is one of the most hopeful lines that can be adopted at the present time. I believe we could get production going in eight or ten months' time in a factory in Canada, with American assistance, and using, as necessary, American designs, American tools, and American skilled labour.
May I read out, in conclusion, a short passage, for the guidance of my Noble Friend, from a volume of memoirs by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), which I was reading the other day? He describes how, shortly after the War broke out, Lord Fisher was summoned back to the Admiralty as First Sea Lord, and the hon. and gallant Member was in charge of our submarine service and was himself summoned to a conference at the Admiralty. Lord Fisher presided over the meeting, and the hon. and gallant Member says:He opened by telling us his intentions as to future submarine construction, and turning to the Superintendent of Contracts, he said that he would make his wife a widow and his house a dunghill, if he brought paper work or red tape into the business; he wanted submarines, not contracts. He meant to have them built in eight months; if he did not get them in eight months, he would commit harakari.The hon. and gallant Member goes on:It seemed absurd; we had not been able to wring submarines out of Vickers and Chatham Dockyard under two and a half years. He fixed me with a ferocious glare, and said, ' If anyone thwarts me, he had better commit hara-kari too.'The result was that the submarines were produced, and the hon. and gallant Member adds:There was no need to commit hara-kari; everything he set out to produce, even submarines, sprang into being under the spell of his forceful personality. If he approved of a policy, it was carried out on the instant, nothing and nobody had ever been allowed 1818 to stand in his way—until he clashed with ChurchillI can only beg my Noble Friend to follow that example.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes
I understand that the duty of this Committee is to exercise its efforts towards getting the maximum efficiency and the maximum output at the minimum cost under existing circumstances, and I hope, therefore, that what I am going to say will not be misinterpreted into the belief that I have suddenly come out in favour of the private manufacture of armaments or in support of the profits made in connection therewith. Listening to the Noble Lord to-day, I rather gained the impression, as a manufacturer, that the manufacturers as a whole were given a free rein and that the Ministry hovered over them like a guardian angel. I want to put in a word on behalf of the manufacturers and to say that I do not think the relations between the manufacturers and the Ministry are anything like as good as they might be—I do not mean in spirit, but in interference.
The Noble Lord indicated that in the case of change-notices, they nearly all came from the manufacturers to the Ministry and only a very small number from the Ministry to the manufacturers. That is not my experience, and I have here an instance where change-notices running into many thousands have come up in connection with aircraft production. I am not suggesting that all supervision, inspection, and approval of designs should be abandoned by the Air Ministry, but I submit that we have very capable brains and engineers on the staffs of the companies and that they are capable not only of equalling but of beating the conditions in totalitarian States, if you get the proper co-operation. But the manufacturer does not want to be treated as a criminal, and I submit that there is a great deal too much interference, resulting in delays and in greatly increased costs of production. That is a general observation which I suppose ought to be supported by facts, and I should like to quote a case which I can myself authenticate.
In the last few months a firm was approached to build two special machines to be ready for this summer's manoeuvres, and the firm was asked whether it could do it. The answer was, "No, absolutely impossible; we cannot do it in nine 1819 months." It was pointed out that the machines weighed only 14 tons and that it was ridiculous for a firm of their capacity to say that, and the answer which the firm gave was, "If this were merely a commercial transaction, we should have no difficulty at all. If I were selling direct to you, the job could be done." I am glad to say—I like to give credit where it is due—that the official concerned at once turned, round and said, "What are your conditions? "The answer was, "No inspection except on test at the works and on performance after delivery." The O.K. was given, the design was approved, the price was agreed upon, and work was started, but to the firm's consternation, within six weeks a spate of inspectors descended on the place, and it was stated that the arrangement which had been made had not got the authority of the inspection department of the Ministry, and that all parts had to be inspected at the makers' works and everything handled in the usual way. Consternation reigned, because the firm knew that the job could not be done in the time in those circumstances and that instead of delivering in June this year, it would be at least Christmas before delivery could be made. The responsible person in the company was approached, and in due course he saw the Ministry.
There are two points arising out of this instance. First of all, there would have been a six months delay, and on top of that it was known inside the firm, though I do not say it was said to the Ministry, that one of the chief difficulties was that the price quoted did not allow for all this interference and finnicky inspection. I say, without fear of contradiction, that the extra price of that particular machine would undoubtedly have been 5 per cent. had they known that detailed inspection was to take place. I am glad to say that on proper representations to the Ministry the terms of the contract were adhered to and the watch dog, in the form of inspectors, was withdrawn. I submit that, if greater reliance could be placed, as I think it could, on the integrity and the capabilities of the manufacturers, it would lead to a great deal of speeding up, of economy, and of saving of taxpayers' money.
§ Mr. Fleming
Does the hon. Member mean that as far as private enterprise is 1820 concerned he objects to any State interference?
§ Mr. Stokes
Oh, no; that is far from what I want to say. All that I am saying is that the duty of this Committee under the circumstances is to save money and to maintain efficiency as far as possible, and that it can be done without losing in any way on the quality of goods delivered. Especially in the aircraft industry, highly scientific and recently developed, there are better manufacturing brains probably than in any of the Ministries, though I say that subject to any correction that anybody likes to make. I want to say also, in regard to design, that it is not my experience that new designs are approved with any celerity by any Ministry, I have known of cases when it has taken as much as nine months or a year to get approval of a new design, and having got it, there followed correction after correction in the course of manufacture.
The people in the inspection department will admit that there is not one responsible man at the head who has sufficient engineering knowledge or sufficient time to be able to say "This is right; get on with it." I agree that the organisation is much larger than that of a small firm but it is the large number of people who seem to meddle in details and who have a say as regards any definite decision which leads to appalling inefficiency and a corresponding rise in costs. Having made those remarks, may I say that I am not criticising the capabilities of any members of the Ministry's staff who come my way. They do their job admirably and a great number of them would support my contention that there is much unnecessary detailed inspection.
As regards the shadow factories, I, personally, have never agreed with them. It has always seemed to me that the chance of getting six different factories to walk in step was very remote. There are two points involved in this matter. First there is the difficulty, as I say, of getting six factories to go in step. Secondly, if you succeeded in that and if you segregated the manufacture of the parts in different factories and then assembled the parts somewhere else, the result would be that if one place were bombed, the whole system would be thrown out of gear. It staggers me that that system should have ever been put 1821 into force and, personally, I doubt whether in time of war it would prove successful.
I come now to what seems to me to be the very serious question of the purchase of aircraft in America. I do not propose to deal with the actual numbers because I do not know the position, but it is astonishing to learn that during recent months between 25 and 30 Bristol Blenheim bombers have been sent to Belgium; that in the early days of May the first of a consignment of 28 machines of the same type was despatched to Turkey and that the remainder will be despatched before the end of May. I am prepared to give the Minister the facts privately. That seems to be an astonishing state of things. I understand that we have not sufficient Bristol Blenheim bombers, yet we are able to supply Belgium and Turkey and, apparently, we have to go to America to make up the deficit.
I am glad to see the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence in his place, because I wish to conclude with some remarks on the old question of profit, especially in view of two public statements which the right hon. Gentleman made last week in connection with the offer with which I was concerned. I am glad to know that he considers that 10 per cent. profit is a great deal too high. We seem now to have the right hon. Gentleman "bracketed." He considers that "nought" is too low and that 10 per cent. is a ridiculous figure. I should be interested, however, to learn what firm is working on a 5 per cent. margin. I doubt very much whether any engineering firm is prepared to do that. It seems to me that fabulous profits are being made in the aircraft industry. One has only to look round to see what is happening. Without making any offensive references to any person, who can now afford to race for the America Cup? The profits seem to come from aeroplanes, but they may all come from civilian aircraft—I do not know. I saw the other day a rather extravagant story which I will not repeat, but undoubtedly the general feeling is that extensive profits are being made in the matter of rearmament.
Now that it is, apparently, agreed by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence that 5 per cent. is the right figure I ask him to see that steps are taken to ensure that firms work to that figure all 1822 round, not only for the finished machines, but for raw materials and all component parts to be supplied under the rearmament programme. I think that in that way a great deal of the taxpayers money could be saved and the uncomfortable feelings which, if my fan mail is any indication, a great many people are sharing about this matter, will be set at rest. I ask the Minister also not to pay any attention whatever to remarks made in the technical accountancy Press. Manifestly their objections are inspired. If I had shares in any industrial concern, and I found that proper costing accounts were not presented by each department monthly to the managing director, I should quickly sell out my shares and quit. There is no difficulty whatever in arriving at what is a reasonable margin on any particular contract. Doctrinaire people who want to be pedantic and who say it cannot be done, are obstructionists and are not behaving as reasonable people. As the Noble Lord has referred to the purchases which are to be made of land for aerodromes, factories and attendant buildings, may I submit that if land purchase is to be made, it should be made on the equitable basis of the rate-able value as it is to-day, and that fabulous sums should not be paid to the landed interests?
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Major Sir Ralph Glyn
I support what the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has just said in regard to the purchase of land for aerodromes. Most of us have in our constituencies aerodromes, which were established during the War, and were evacuated after the War and are now lying derelict. I know of three such aerodromes where services are laid on and, presumably, these could be used again without much difficulty. I hope the Noble Lord will realise the feeling among our constituents when they hear stories about the exorbitant prices charged by wicked landlords for land for this purpose. They think that there is also something to be said in favour of the Air Ministry using its own property which is at present lying derelict, and which has been prepared at great expense to the country, instead of making new aerodromes, perhaps within a few miles of existing aerodromes. Nobody minds paying taxes, but obvious waste of money is extremely annoying to the hardly-pressed taxpayer.
1823 I also wish to mention a matter in connection with a very small company which has been engaged in sub-contract work for the Air Ministry. It is a branch of a shipbuilding company of which I am a director, and it may interest the Committee to have the actual facts as to what we have suffered—not in loss of profits, for there is no profit in it, but, what is much more important, in the difficulties we have had to contend with regarding labour. The Noble Lord did not mention the fact that the real central point in this expansion programme is that of having your skilled men in the right place working continuously. The firm to which I refer works in the Isle of Wight some distance from the main centres of manufacture. It has some excellent men, but on 1st February of this year it was found necessary to dismiss men, because there was no work to offer them. That is something which will, I think, merit inquiry by the Ministry. It is true that this is sub-contract work. At the same time these men are there, and they have houses and they cannot be offered work. Urgent representations have been made, but no information can be obtained which would indicate when they can be put back into work. I do not pretend that it is a large factory. It employs some hundreds of men, but that some hundreds of men, who are highly skilled, should be treated in this way when we are told that there is an emergency for production, seems very strange. I can give the names of the firms for which the sub-contract work was being done, and they state that the reason why they could not pass on any more of the work —which previously had been efficiently carried out in this factory—was that they could not get from the Ministry the certificate which would enable them to push forward the orders. We then asked the Air Ministry to suggest any other work which could be done to employ these men.
I would like to support what was said by the last speaker as to the officials of the Air Ministry. They are always courteous and anxious to help, but in engineering business of this sort something more than that is wanted. It is necessary to establish the confidence not only of the manufacturers, but of the 1824 workers that the scheme is being run on businesslike lines. This sort of "stop and go "arrangement is extraordinarily bad for labour, and is very discouraging to managing directors. As far as I know, the workmen are more than anxious to fall in with any suggestion that may be made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, but they say to their employers, "How can we have any confidence if we are suddenly ' stood down ' and we do not know where to get any work? "I feel that this is a matter which ought to be mentioned. It is ridiculous to be debating the urgency of expansion when you have a definite example like this of hundreds of men being stood down— men who are ready to work if only somebody will provide the necessary link, and ensure that their skilled hands and the machinery which has been used for only 18 months are once again employed to advantage.
It is those small things which are, I venture to say, destroying confidence up and down the country. Other practical examples could be given. Vague speeches help nobody, but the presentation of concrete facts may help us to realise the situation. I am sure we all hope that the Noble Lord in his capacity as chairman of the special committee will have the assistance of technical people who really understand engineering practice. If we had some confidence that at the Air Ministry proper methods were being used, that the people there, at any rate, were talking the same language in the way of trade, we would get on much better. I know that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is having those conversations of which we have heard, and I am sure there is not a representative of a trade union or employers' organisation who would not be delighted to learn that something was to be done to have technical assistance and not interference in these matters. We all recognise that a vast scheme of this sort representing the rapid expansion of the industry and the still more rapid expansion of the Air Ministry itself, presents great difficulties. We know it is difficult to get highly skilled technical people, but if that can be done and if we can have consistency of practice instead of perpetually changing from one gadget to another, it will produce good 1825 results. Otherwise the results can only be disheartening and perplexing to the taxpayers of the country.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Wright
I wish to refer at the outset to the suggestion of the Noble Lord that many people who presume to criticise the Air Ministry and its methods are influenced by being concerned either directly or indirectly in the industry. I would like to say that, as far as I know, I am not in the least interested in the aircraft industry in any way. It seemed to me that this was part of a rather obvious attempt at muzzling, and I want to say that I do not intend to be muzzled beyond refraining from referring to such matters as it would not be in the public interest to mention. I feel that I ought to refer to certain statements which were attributed to me in yesterday's Press, and which received rather sensational publicity. I can best explain my position in this matter to the Committee if I say, that when one has striven for a considerable period for something which one considers to be vitally necessary for the good of the country, when one has, so to speak, lived with that subject, has talked it and thought it, and even dreamt it, and has rightly or wrongly formed the opinion— I will not put it any stronger than that —that there really was a very great chance that the object for which you have been striving was likely to come into being, and then, when someone comes to you and says: "This object for which you have been striving is a fait accompli,"the House will understand that in a moment of real gratification, joy and enthusiasm one might think that the one great and important thing was a fact, that the object for which one had been striving was a fait accompli, and in these circumstances one might have thought that any remarks one might make were comparatively of small significance. That is the explanation of what happened, and I suggest that what might probably be referred to by some hon. Members, as, shall we say, the indiscretions of a somewhat obscure back-bencher, are not likely to ruffle the minds of anybody very seriously, and possibly least of all the mind of the obscure back-bencher.
But such indiscretions as can possibly he allowed to the hon. Member for Erd- 1826 ington take rather a different form if they are permitted by the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, and I am sure that he will be just as sorry as I am to realise that what I cannot but think was a rather hasty and possibly unnecessary denial of something, without having really found out exactly what the true position was, has been regarded by a great many people in this country, people who matter, as something in the nature of, shall I say, an unfortunate indiscretion in that it appears once again to have put a rebuff on a man who might be of great service to the country at this time.
§ The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I had not proposed to take part in the Debate, but this seems to me to be a suitable opportunity for making a short statement. When the hon. and gallant Member made his statement to the Press about some matters within his cognisance, I had no information, but I can assure him and the Committee that there is no possibility of Lord Nuffield misunderstanding what has happened. I think I may properly say that Lord Nuffield himself took the initiative of communicating with me after the statement in the Press was published last night, and he and I arranged that a correction should be made of what was probably an unintentional misunderstanding on the part of the Press in regard to this matter. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not suggest that there is any difference, or misunderstanding, or friction between Lord Nuffield, myself or anybody, because Lord Nuffield is rendering service in connection with the rearmament programme and is willing at all times to render it, just as we are willing to receive it.
§ Mr. Dalton
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to make a correction of the statement in the Press.
§ Sir T. Inskip
A correction of what my hon. and gallant Friend has suggested, namely, that there was some sort of coolness and some rebuff to Lord Nuffield. I can assure the Committee that there was no rebuff at all. He suggested to the Press that I had made some special appeal to Lord Nuffield to help the Government out of its difficulties. It was that statement which I found it necessary, with Lord Nuffield's consent, to correct.
§ Wing-Commander Wright
If the right hon. Gentleman had the time to read what was published in the Press he would see that never at any time was it really suggested that I had personally made that statement to the Press. I am very grateful to him for what he has said.
§ Mr. Fleming
There is a great deal of talk about some statement in the Press. Are we not entitled to know what the statement was, so that we may know what the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and gallant Gentleman are talking about?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Major Milner)
The hon. and gallant Member has explained, and I think the matter is now disposed of.
§ Wing-Commander Wright
The House will probably realise that my sole reason in mentioning the matter to-night was due to the fact that certain people held the view to which I referred, and it was to give my right hon. Friend the opportunity of making the announcement which I expected from him, in order to clear the air when people read it in the newspapers in due course.
We have many more important things to discuss than the subject to which I have referred. Every hon. Member will agree that there is to-day a state of very real anxiety in the country about the whole question of our air defence. Many of us who have been in the past and are at present staunch supporters of the Government, and have been so staunch that we have been prepared to accept everything that we have been told with regard to rearmament—realising as we did the difficulty of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench giving the facts to the House—began to think that certain things had happened which made us feel anxiety ourselves. The first thing that really caused us anxiety was that the Government deserted the old yard stick which had always been used in this House in discussing the question of parity. We had always considered that, whatever else was happening, the efforts of the Air Ministry were definitely in line with the statement made by Lord Baldwin that this country should not be inferior in air strength to any possible adversary within striking distance of our shores; but when a short time ago there was a discussion on the question of parity it seemed as 1828 though the real issue was being avoided, and it made one wonder what the true position was.
One began to wonder, in considering the question of parity, whether the conception of the Air Ministry of the number of machines which we should require to make this country absolutely safe was an adequate one. From the figures that we have had to-day I am rather doubtful. Time after time when these Debates come along we get a new plan, and always an increased plan. I do not understand why this country, with all its resources of wealth, far greater resources than the dictator countries can possibly call upon, should always be dragging at the heels of those countries, and why they should set the pace. If we really mean what we say, namely, that we want to make this country so strong that no other country will think it worth while to attack us, surely we should use our resources to the utmost and set such a pace that the other countries will not only think it not worth while to attack us but will not think it worth while to continue this mad race of armaments.
The second point which caused us some anxiety was the statement which was made by the Noble Lord in the House just before the Recess that the Government had definitely decided to send a mission to America to investigate the possibility of the production of machines in that country. That certainly, from one point of view, showed considerable determination to get machines at whatever cost, but it seemed to lend colour to the growing cloud of rumour and anxiety which we were meeting in our constituencies and elsewhere, particularly when, as a serving officer, one realised that buying machines from America meant the hopeless condition of the further multiplicity of types, involving more multiplicity of stocks, stores, and spare parts in order to keep the machines properly maintained, and, on the top of that, extra training for the personnel so that they would be able to carry on. We have already a great deal too much of that in the Service to-day.
The third thing that really shook our confidence was another statement made by the Noble Lord when he told the House that the capacity of our aircraft factories could be enormously increased if we could only get more skilled labour. 1829 That was an astonishing thing. He said that if we could get more skilled labour —and he hoped arrangements would be made so that we could get more labour— then in two years' time we might reach the peak output from those factories. I can understand that that might be a reasonable explanation for not getting the output from the factories to-day. If a really competent man who had really studied mass production methods had been called in and asked for his advice, the first point that he would have seized upon would have been the point that has been made to-night by the Noble Lord, that we are employing 90,000 men in the aircraft industry to-day. I have stated in correspondence that we are using 1,000 men to produce one aeroplane a week. I should be very happy to think that we were producing 90 aeroplanes a week. It seems to me perfectly obvious that there is something wrong with our production methods if it is necessary to use 90,000 men to-day in order to produce the output of aeroplanes which we are actually getting.
I do not want anyone to get the impression from what I am saying that I should like to put in somebody to interfere with what is happening in those factories to-day. That would be absolute madness, and it would be impossible. I am not even criticising the work that is being done in the factories. I have been to see them and am full of admiration for the work that they are doing and the class of machine they are producing, but it is obvious that if we are to get a state of parity we cannot go on using man power at the present rate and expect to get the machines we require. Obviously our policy should be to carry on with what we are doing, helping the Air Ministry and the industry in every possible way and letting them get on with their plans. What absolutely astonishes me, however, is why there should be any objection to the reasonable suggestion that we should call in men who have brains, who have men with brains in their organisations, and that we should merely ask their advice. What lies behind the objection?
Mention has been made to-night of the greatest exponent of mass production we have in this country—Lord Nuffield. What is the objection to asking him for his advice? If he tells us after he has been into this matter that it is impossible 1830 to produce satisfactory aeroplanes at a more reasonable cost, and at a bigger speed than we are producing them to-day, I shall be the first to say I have been barking up the wrong tree. Until he has given that opinion, and given it as his considered opinion, I shall continue to believe that what he did to the motor trade 25 years ago he might do to the aircraft industry to-day. I remember when, about 25 years ago as a comparatively young man, I went to see Lord Nuffield in his office. His programme was looked upon then as colossal. He was actually going to make 500 motor cars a week. All the great motor magnates of Coventry, all the heads of the industry, who, after all, are very comparable to the heads of our British aircraft industry to-day, were laughing at him and saying that within a few months he would have reached saturation point, and that, indeed, he would probably ruin not only himself but all those other firms that had extended their factories in order to give him the supplies of materials that he wanted. I remember having the temerity to tell him that, and saying, "I presume you realise what they are saying about this venture of yours? "I suppose it is because the remark he made was so remarkable at the time, and that it has always stuck in my mind, that I have made Lord Nuffield a sort of hero. He said "For every £5 I can take off the selling price of my motor car I shall enormously increase the potential selling market for that car." All the magnates of Coventry laughed at him, and now, within 25 years, what has happened? There are at least three factories in this country which not only can produce 500 cars a week, but have a capacity of at least 2,000 a week; and there are many other factories with a capacity of 1,000 or more.
That is the man who revolutionised the motor industry in this country. He is a man with a marvellous organisation, and he employs the finest brains both as designers and production engineers. Why cannot we then discuss the matter with him? I am not suggesting that in a few weeks' time all the Morris motor factories will be turning out aeroplanes. I would be crazy to make such a suggestion. But why cannot we have his advice? What is the fear that is preventing it? I cannot believe that the Secretary of State for Air and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence 1831 are really responsible. They have both very great capabilities, but I do not believe that either of them would set himself up as able to dictate what was a production system. Where does this objection come from?
The Noble Lord to-day referred to the fact that only main firms could be entrusted with the supply of aircraft today. I presume that by "main "firms he means firms which are members of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors, which are members of the society which pays the salary of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner who as far as I can see, sits in the extraordinary position of being on a Supply Committee of the Air Ministry and, therefore, has apparently become both buyer and seller. Is it possible that that is where the obstruction comes from? Is it possible that that is where the advice comes from which says that we must not consult Lord Nuffield, that we must not take advice from those people who, I am convinced, could help us to set us on the right way of producing aeroplanes, not only in quantity, but, as a consequence, at a much lower price? I am convinced that we shall not, as Members of this House, have done our duty to our constituents until we have insisted that we should call in these great brains to give their advice and to say, "This can be done," or "This cannot be done."
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I want the House to be good enough to recall a remark which was made by the Noble Lord when I interjected a question during his speech. The Noble Lord said, "I know the firm which the hon. Member has in mind." That conveyed to me the impression that the Noble Lord held the opinion that I was speaking for some particular firm. I want to say emphatically that I have never written to or spoken to any firm. I have not been written to or spoken to on the telephone, or in any other way by any firm; nor had any communication of any kind from any firm; nor am I interested in the slightest degree in any firm; nor do I know what was in the mind of the Noble Lord when he made that statement. I am interested in the production of aeroplanes from one point of view only. That is, the point of view which was stressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition 1832 when he was speaking to-day. It is that if we are going to do a thing let us do it as efficiently as possible.
I do not think anybody who knows anything about the production of aeroplanes will dispute the fact that there are other countries to-day manufacturing from wood aeroplanes which are in every sense satisfactory. I put a question to the Noble Lord during the last fortnight and he replied that he was well aware of what was stated in the question. The statement in the question was that Russia is manufacturing aeroplanes almost entirely of wood and that metal is used very little in the construction. They are regarded as some of the best aeroplanes in the world. A further statement was made that Italy is producing aeroplanes partly of wood and partly of metal and that they have also given the utmost satisfaction. In our country we have practically dropped the use of wood in the production of aeroplanes. The Under-Secretary informed me in a reply that the Air Force was using them for training purposes and that they were considering their production for other purposes on some scale—he did not say on what scale. I take it that what we want is to approach parity with other nations. If that is our object—and everyone will agree that it is—are we using all the power that we have under our control to attain it? That appears to me to be the simple question we ought to ask ourselves. When the production of wood aeroplanes in this country was almost entirely dropped for service purposes, the reason given was that it was difficult, and would become increasingly difficult in future, to obtain suitable wood.
A statement has also been made to-day, and on several occasions recently, that there is a shortage of labour competent to make aeroplanes. I want to deal briefly with both those points. I know something about wood. I have spent a great part of my life in buying and examining it, and I know it. During the War I spent some of my time employed— on a request by Government Departments to the people with whom I was working— in giving an expert opinion on the suitability of certain woods for aeroplanes. At that time the woods in general use were English ash and other ash—English ash principally—and silver spruce. Silver spruce is imported, English ash is not. I say definitely and on information 1833 obtained from the importers of wood and from the people who control the greater part of the home-grown wood necessary for the manufacture of aeroplanes, that there is no shortage at the present time.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
Is the hon. Member certain that there is no shortage of English ash if we had to produce aeroplanes in large quantities, because in the War I found great difficulty in getting English ash?
§ Mr. McEntee
I spent a great deal of my life in buying English ash. I travelled all over the country in buying it, and I bought it for other purposes than for the manufacture of aeroplanes, for what are known as hook ladders used by firemen—and they must be perfect and I did not find any shortage then. I would not say that there is no shortage but that there is a considerable quantity available. There is no shortage of silver spruce, which is available in considerable quantities. But even if there were a shortage of either of those woods, there is on the market to-day a new wood product of which the Minister and other Members are well aware, and that is laminated wood. It has reached such a stage of perfection that every expert whom I have been able to consult says that there is no question about its suitability for wood aeroplanes. I want the Minister to explain why wood aeroplanes have gone entirely out of production, because the wood is there.
We have been told that there is a shortage of labour, but is there? I can tell the Minister that there are 500 members of the trade union to which I belong, the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers, out of work. Many of them have experience in the production of aeroplanes; they made them during the War and are competent to make them to-day. In addition, there are thousands of cabinet makers and other wood workers who would be competent to make aeroplanes with practically no training at all. It is absurd to be told that there is a shortage of labour when there are all these men begging for employment and signing on at Employment Exchanges day after day. Why are not these resources of labour and material used? The Minister says, "We are inquiring." They have been inquiring for years. How long will they go on inquiring? When will they do what the right hon. Member for Car- 1834 narvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) did during the War, and that is bring the men and the materials together in the factories which are idle and make the things which are needed?
Is it suggested that there are no factories? I could give the right hon. Gentleman the names and addresses of scores of factories where they are competent in the use of wood, with machinery lying partially idle. The owners of those factories would be only too anxious to convert them to the manufacture of aeroplanes if they got the opportunity. Only to-day I interviewed a firm which employs 200 to 300 men, and has space in which to employ 200 or 300 more if necessary, with a modern, up-to-date factory and all the necessary machinery—I know it, I have worked in it—ready to make aeroplanes, begging for the opportunity to do so. Yet with all these resources available we are told that the matter will be considered. Three years we have been considering it, and are still considering it, and I want to know when we shall do something.
I see that the Noble Lord has just come in. I hope that what I said at the beginning of my speech will be conveyed to him. I hope he will take it from me that his statement that he knew the firm which I had in mind when I put the question was not correct. I had no firm in mind. It is a myth as far as he is concerned. I represent nobody except myself in this matter. All that I have in mind is a desire that if we are going to do a thing we shall do it well, and use all available resources at our command.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon
I should like to comment for a moment upon the speech of my right hon. and Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) this afternoon. I did so admire his courage in carrying the war into the enemy's camp, always a very wise thing to do, but I cannot help reflecting what a wonderful place is the House of Commons. Only a month ago the House was very upset about the position we were in with regard to air power, and it was through the misgivings of the House that the Prime Minister appointed my Noble Friend. His qualifications were, first, that perhaps he was weaned in the House of Commons, and that he had engineering experience by virtue of a 1835 certain contact with the Camel Corps; but such is his dynamic personality that after a month he sets up a committee, and everything is too marvellous for words. He was put there to clean the Augean stables; he turned out to be, with his electrical personality, a modern Hercules with a Hoover. I do not want to make points about this and that in the position in which we find ourselves to-day— I have done it in the past—because I think there is a realisation that perhaps everything is not altogether as it should be.
The last time I addressed you, Captain Bourne, I gave an example of what I have termed an assenting negative. One was "Oh yeah," another is "Sez you," and to my right hon. Friend I add a third one which I have now discovered, "You're telling me."
I know that politicians have to carry the blame for their Departments, as if it was all their fault, and that tradition is an honourable one, and one which I hope will long be maintained, but when we get to the bottom of this trouble I think it will be found that it is due to a lack of long-range planning. It was the same in the Navy. When the War came there was no long-range planning. We had no base from which to operate against Germany. That showed a lamentable lack of long-range planning. If we had put to the country the fact that we had in Europe an opponent with a Navy twice as strong as ours, with whom we could not catch up in building for at least two years, that would have shaken the country to such an extent that no Government would have lasted a fortnight; yet the position to-day is even worse than that. In the Navy there are powers of defence which would give us the time factor, which is always to our advantage, as we live in an island, within which to rebuild and re-organise, and get our strength to work. Until we are on a par with any foreign Power, our great industrial resources stand open to direct attack; that is the position in which we are to-day.
I want to supplement what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) on a point which I have tried to stress as much as I could in the public Press. It is the possibility of building in Canada. If in this country 1836 we possess an ability to strike and not to let anybody strike back at us, it is a geographical advantage which we should exploit. No country in Europe stands in that position, and the fact that we have a potential manufacturing centre in the Dominions which cannot be attacked by the enemy, puts us in a unique position in Europe. That is a position which I want thought about and examined. I am not merely pleading for a stunt buying of aeroplanes from Canada or the United States, and I do not want to take away from our manufacturing resources in this country, but I want to remind the Committee that, however much we manufactured and planned in this country, we should be planning with works which could be destroyed by enemy aircraft. If, on the other hand, we manufactured in our great Dominions, we should be safe. Our great manufacturers admit this. They say that they are prepared to put down plant abroad, in Canada, and make machines there.
The brains of the aircraft industry have to remain in this country, the actual design of new machines, the making of prototypes and the testing out of those first types of new machines; but once you have got the production designs it should be the policy of this country that there should be the potential producer in quantity in Canada. With my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen I believe that such a policy would have an enormous psychological effect in Europe. They would know that however much material damage was done in this country we must win in the end. They could never hit us in the country which was pouring over by air long-range bombers which, in the end, would beat them. I ask my right hon. Friend that when he gets the report he will not be discouraged because he does not find great industries already built on the other side. They have to be built up. This is a long-range project. Do not let him stop for a moment his manufacturing programme in this country, but if he can at the same time organise this potential power in Canada his name will long be remembered as someone who planned wisely for the future.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
The Committee this afternoon listened to the Noble Lord with a mixture of hopeful expectation and anxiety, which is rare in our Debates. 1837 I am bound to say that the expectation was disappointed and the anxiety increased by his speech. True, he told us that there would be changes in production and increases, but they seemed completely inadequate in face of the very grave danger with which we are confronted. What added to our anxiety as much as the realisation of this inadequacy was the satisfaction which the Noble Lord seemed to feel—and he presumably reflected a similar satisfaction on the part of the Government—that the kind of change and the kind of policy which he announced were sufficient for our needs.
Let us think for a moment about what emerged from his speech, as much from what he did not say as from what he did. He did not tell us—he did not dare tell us—to what extent our position falls behind that of our principal competitor and falls behind the solemn pledge of parity which, for a long time, left this country in a fool's paradise from which it is only just awakening. He told us indeed that he hoped the new programme would see some diminution in the disparity, which he admitted, of course, and which we know to exist and to be very grave; but I wondered, when he expected even that, whether he realised what we must certainly expect, and that is some increase in the present German production. Had he allowed for a margin of un-utilised German capacity that already exists in her present plant? Had he allowed for the prospective increase that we must expect from the addition of Austria to Germany? Have we really any expectation, on the plans that the Noble Lord announced, that our disparity will be eliminated or even that it will be reduced? May it not even be increased?
The Noble Lord gave us good reasons why we should not expect a degree of standardisation equal to that attained in the manufacture of Ford or Morris cars. But he did not say—I suggest that he could not say—that we have reached or approached the limit of the standardisation that is practicable, or have equalled the measure of standardisation that has been attained by our competitors. Worst of all, we were left with the clear indication that he thinks the present organisation adequate and that no fundamental change in organisation is needed. We have still one more scheme now. The 1838 schemes have now gone all the way from A to L; half the alphabet. Captain Bourne, you will remember that in the schools at Oxford the examinees were divided into two equal halves at the letter L and when we entered we were greeted by the janitor who said, in stentorian tones: "This way, HA to Hell." That is the letter of the alphabet that we seem now to have reached.
I suggest, in spite of what the Noble Lord says, that the case for a more fundamental change is overwhelming. It is not enough to say that there have been biased criticisms here and there; on this matter the weight of expert authority outside Government circles is overwhelming. The whole of the Press from the Left to the Right is there, including the "Times "this morning, the "Observer "and the "Daily Telegraph." I need not cite others. There is the weight of all those who have had war experience and experience of war organisation. There is the very definite wording of the Cadman report which described as "contrary to all sense "the system which still exists. The case for a fundamental change of organisation is overwhelming.
One change that we have suggested is that a ministry of supply be formed. I speak for myself and for others, in saying that whatever criticisms we may have, and they are many, of the Air Minister and the Air Ministry, our case for the ministry of supply does not depend upon them. No possible change of personnel would destroy our case for a ministry of supply; nor does our case depend upon the view that a separate ministry of supply is, in all conditions and at all times, the best way in which the Fighting Services should get their materiel.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne)
I must warn the hon. Member that his suggestion would require legislation and that more than a passing reference to such matters is out of order.
§ Sir A. Salter
I bow to your Ruling. Do I understand that the whole question of a ministry of supply is out of order? I was following on a discussion which took place at some length in the House—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It is quite obvious that anything more than a 1839 passing reference to it must be out of order, because it could not possibly come about without legislation, and we cannot discuss legislation in Committee of Supply. Such hon. Members as I have heard earlier have only dealt with it from the point of view of administration.
§ Sir A. Salter
Perhaps I may say, then, that I consider the present organisation to be gravely defective, as a ministry of supply would not be, because it hampers the development of large-scale aeroplane manufacture by the multiplicity of types which it demands and the frequent changes in design. There are times when that form of organisation is useful, when the fighting department is not rapidly expanding its forces and when it is more important to experiment in order to obtain minor improvements. But there are other periods, such as the latter half of the Great War, when what is essentially necessary is a great production at the cost of working on the basis of the best machine already available, without bringing into the main stream of production every minor improvement that may come along. That, I suggest, is imperatively necessary now.
I must not discuss, as I should have wished, the form of organisation that I should like to see set up. But I may refer again to the experience of the War when we had such an organisation. We are now in a period in which the need is very much like what it was in the latter part of the War. We are speaking as if a difference of 100 or 200 machines a month is the difference, as it may well be, between life and death, but we were then producing 2,000 planes a month. And at that time we were actually at war and, as has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), our industry was depleted by war losses and by the enlistment of a large Army in France, and was burdened with the strain of supplying equipment to the whole of that large Army and the whole of a large mobilised Navy. It is perfectly clear that, with proper organisation, we could utilise and adapt the great industrial resources of this country in a way in which we are not beginning to do now, and the Noble Lord's right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) could tell him how to do it. If we did that, I am not suggesting that 1840 we should have a figure as great as the one I have just mentioned, but we could demonstrate our productive capactiy sufficiently to enable us, in combination with a suitable foreign policy, to negotiate a stoppage of the armaments race.
I suggest that what is wrong is the complete lack of a proper sense of proportion in the whole of our Defence programme arrangements. I believe that our vulnerability to air attack is for us by far the most important fact in the world at this moment. After nearly 900 years of immunity from external invasion, during which we have fought our wars upon all the Continents and throughout all the seas from an inviolate island, it is difficult for us to realise that the next time war will be here in this country, and here in this city. We must realise and translate into all our programmes and all our work this fundamental fact. As the Noble Lord said to-day, we are now hampered in our programme because we are simultaneously, and, he might have added, equally, expanding all our Services. But is it not more important that we should remedy this vital deficiency in the air than that we should increase an admitted superiority of our Navy? Is it as important that we should build battleships with a view to the much smaller risk, with much smaller stakes in the Far East, as that we should first remedy this vital deficiency? I suggest that the whole of our proportions are wrong.
I must not, on this Vote, say that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has not done his essential job of distributing our effort in proportion to the nation's present needs, but perhaps I may say that the Air Minister has not exercised that equipollent pressure upon the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence without which, we know, the latter will never do his job. The proportion is all wrong, but it can be corrected. The danger is great; but the single instance I have given shows that we can handle this task if we take proper measures, and I believe we can also handle the other and, in some respects, more difficult tasks which are the responsibility of the War Office and the Home Office. It can be done, but I am not sure that it will be done. If the Government will themselves take the proper measures, and disregard any kind of personal resistance or personal interests 1841 or repesentations that may be made, they can secure national unity on this basis as on perhaps no other basis.
We all of us realise, whatever may be the objectives nearest our hearts, that if we do not reduce our vulnerability from the air we can realise none of them. And we can solve that problem. I do not say that we can make London invulnerable; we cannot; but we can so reduce its vulnerability that the possibility or prospect of wholesale civilian massacre and wholesale civilian demoralisation will neither paralyse our policy nor offer a tempting and dangerous inducement to those who otherwise might not make the venture. We can do that, but to-night the Government have not shown that they are ready for the changes that are required. And if they fail again, then, indeed, the judgment of our folly and our failure is likely to come, and it may come soon. And when it comes, it will be swift, it will be shattering, it will be irrevocable. It may be that, after all the years of our long history, we who are now in this House may see that history closed. It may be that strangers from distant lands and of alien races will stand upon the desolate site of Westminster, and, whether in exultation or in sorrow, will chant the words of the Apocalypse:Alas, alas! that great City, Babylon, that mighty City. In one hour is thy judgment come.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick
I could, if I desired to do so, follow the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) on the question of a ministry of supply, but I want to raise, very shortly, one or two simple, non-technical points, purely from the point of view of the civilian. The Debate has been largely technical in character, but I want to speak very much from the point of view of the man in the street. Like, I suppose, every other Member, I came to the House to listen to this Debate with feelings of very considerable anxiety. The speech of the Noble Lord brought at any rate some reassurance as to the future, but, unfortunately, we are all of us concerned with the present, and it is with the present that we have to cope. I think that anybody who tries to estimate the odds at this moment against peace or war wastes his time; the factors are too complicated and doubtful; but I do not think that any sane person could feel any 1842 certainty that war may not come, and may not come very soon.
If that is so, surely we have to-day occasion for very serious anxiety, particularly, it seems to me, in one respect which was touched upon by the hon. Member who preceded me, that is, the defence of London. Public opinion has one or two very strong convictions. The first is that we do not yet possess, except in very small numbers, single-seater fighters able to cope with the fast-medium bombers which might stream over the North Sea to attack us. Although it is not strictly in order in this Debate tonight, perhaps I might mention, as they are part of the same problem two other points. There is an acute shortage of anti-aircraft guns, although there is not a shortage, I am glad to say, of Territorial volunteers, ready and anxious to use them. Public opinion is convinced that two aspects which would in an emergency prove more important than all others are those of defence against high explosives and gas bombs.
§ Mr. Patrick
I will say no more about that. The question of importance at the moment is that of attack from the air. The only effective defence of London against attack from the air is the threat of retaliation, and, although I do not possess accurate information, and the public do not either, the position seems to be that our Air Force, even if we regard the French Air Force as an integral part of ours, is still far behind that of a possible antagonist. When we realise that London plays an almost unnatural part in the life of this country, and that the huge conglomeration of people in London is put down in such a position as would render it ideal for attack by any enemy, close to the North Sea, with the River Thames as a signpost to the heart of the City on the darkest night, I think public opinion is very rightly concerned. My conclusion is that at present, and at any rate for some considerable time to come, the most vital part of this country and of the whole Commonwealth is exposed to the danger of destructive attack. That cannot be remedied until an effort is made to guard against it on different lines, or at any rate on a much larger scale, than hitherto. It is the plain duty of the Government to make a very great effort—it would cost a 1843 great deal, but that should not weigh— without regard to economic dislocation. In fact, a war basis is the most actuate description of what I have in mind.
Two points occur to me in that connection. In that effort, we have no chance of success unless it is backed by unanimous public opinion. It is the duty of the Government to make an effort, and the duty of every one of us to back that effort. Criticism is necessary, but there should be nothing in the way of recrimination. It occurred to me, while listening to this Debate, that newspapers like the "Angriff "and the "Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung "will carry very long quotations to-morrow from the Debate, and that those quotations will afford very lively satisfaction to a large circle of readers. That brings me to a second point. Almost everything will depend, in my view, on the attitude of hon. Members opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "It depends on the attitude of the Government! "] If the hon. Member will let me finish my sentence I will say what I have in mind. I do not suggest that hon. Members have hindered operations so far. That would be a false charge. It seems to me that we are entering on a new phase. It is not a matter of toleration; it will be a matter of active assistance. We on this side are very often asked by hon. Members opposite what are our arms for? —In this case what are our aeroplanes for?
That question carries one implication with which I find myself in agreement. It is perfectly true that this country will not make a great effort—will not make any effort, perhaps—unless it is convinced that the cause is just. But one must remember that there is a converse to that. In modern conditions, a cause, however just, has scant prospect of success unless it is backed by modern armaments. A modern crusader in the international sphere, whether he proceeds under a collective system or in alliance with other democracies, faces only prostration and defeat unless he has modern artillery and modern aeroplanes. That may be a sad commentary on the state of things to-day; but everybody who reads the papers must admit that it is just. A demand has been made by hon. Members opposite for arms for democratic Spain. I cannot discuss that; I can only state the fact that the demand is made. 1844 Whether that demand is justified or not, there is something much more important, and that is that there should be arms for democratic England.
After all, this country is a democracy, and not the less so because, by the luck of the draw, so to speak, hon. Members opposite were not successful at the last Election or the Election before. Because one body rather than another is in power at any time, that does not alter the fact that this country is a democracy. Judged by its influence in preserving democracy in Europe and the world in general, it is of much more importance than any other country, except possibly the United States. This country is in a position now of very great danger, which we shall not escape without an effort on the part of every one of us. It would be a most profound mistake, profound lack of common sense, if we allowed party feeling, engendered perhaps by events abroad, to prevent unity. If we stick together we shall get out of the wood, and if not we stand a very good chance of going down.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
As one who has been employed in one of the largest engineering works in this country, I welcome this opportunity of making a few observations upon the question now being considered. Without being egotistical at all, but as one who has taken a great interest in the engineering industry and who knows it as well as anyone in this House, I take strong objection to the putting upon a pedestal the alleged industrial giant of whom we have heard so much this evening. The gentleman referred to happens to be engaged in the manufacture of a product which has lent itself to the latest methods of production, and mass production has also played its part. The demands of industry have brought about a situation which has thrown this individual into the forefront. It is most unfair for anyone in this House to place such a man on a pedestal when there are also great captains of industry in this country responsible for the manufacture of huge turbines, alternating generators and all the rest of the mechanism which is manufactured in the electrical industry.
I want to approach this question upon the basis of being employed on the shop floor for about 25 years. I speak as a man who has been engaged in production 1845 and who has been of use not only in theoretical discussions, but in applied theory in a concrete form in respect of production in the shops. I appeal to the Noble Lord, if I should make a statement with which he disagrees, to be good enough to interrupt, although I have documentary evidence here to prove every statement I intend to make. The Noble Lord stated that in 1935 there were 30,000 employed in the aircraft industry, and that at the end of this year they were hoping that there would be 90,000 employed in the industry. He went on to say that they were hoping to have 40,000 officers and men and that that would bring about a formidable problem. He said that 30 new aerodromes would be required, and then proceeded to deal with the needs of the shadow factories in regard to the highly skilled labour which is required. It is upon these points in particular that I want to make my observations.
As to the concrete charges made by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys), I know it is a fact that in at least two of the manufacturing firms men have been on short time, and that some of the most highly skilled employed in the aircraft industry have had to sign on. The Noble Lord should realise that there is an agreement between the trade unions and the engineering employers which suggests that when necessary systematic short time should be worked in preference to discharging men. All good employers in the industry work on that agreement, but, owing to the lack of organisation, many aircraft manufacturers have not yet applied that principle. I take strong objection on behalf of the people of this country, and of the organised workpeople in particular—and I say it with all the strength at my disposal—to the statement which the Noble Lord made that we must emulate the totalitarian States.
§ Earl Winterton
I have never for one moment suggested that we should do anything of the sort. I repeat what I said in reply to the hon. Gentleman, that I have no sort of complaint to make of any kind in respect of any section of labour.
§ Mr. Smith
We must leave it to the OFFICIAL REPORT in the morning to show what was said in regard to that. It is true that I cannot produce documentary evidence of what the Noble Lord has said 1846 this afternoon. I want briefly to refer to the way we were dealt with in the last War. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who I wish had been in his place, Lord Addison, Mr. Asquith, as he then was, and others appealed to the patriotic emotions of the engineers of this country. They guaranteed to the organised work-people of this country that they would be prepared to do this, that or the other, and that after the War the status of engineers would be increased. These gentlemen gave an undertaking that the rights and privileges interfered with owing to war conditions would, without exception, be fully restored after the War. They agreed that the workpeople of the country had grievances in regard to workmen's compensation and promised that, after the War, a new Workmen's Compensation Act would be passed and that there would be a revision of the scales of benefit. The Government gave the men's organisations an undertaking with regard to the dilution of work.
Is there any one in the House who doubts these statements? If they do I have the speech made by Mr. Asquith in 1915 appealing to the Tyneside workers, and speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. The men of this country responded to an extent unheard of in the world's history. Our men were prepared to agree to schemes of dilution, to give away their hard-won rights of many generations and to increase their output and work 70 and 80 hours a week, and, after all these sacrifices, we found that exorbitant profits were being made on the one hand, and that food price prices were going up on the other hand, in spite of the fact that the trade union movement in this country had agreed to forego any application for an advance in wages. While food prices were going up, exorbitant profits were being made at the expense of our men. These promises were made but were not fulfilled, and our people were betrayed. Despite the fact that we cannot forget all that, our men will prove in these serious times in the international situation that they are again prepared to be true to the country and to rally to the country's need. But we cannot agree to give that undertaking 1847 unless an undertaking is given by the Government with regard to the position of the organised trade union movement in this country.
This is a problem of policy and organisation. The British engineering industry, owing to its historical development and owing to the fact that we were the first in the field of industry, has accumulated an experience and knowledge among manufacturers and workpeople which are the admiration and the envy of the whole world. The aircraft industry is but a section of the engineering industry. As we know, it is the most highly organised industry in the world. It is efficient in production, and it has applied the latest scientific modern methods to production, so that employers if they are asked to give deliveries at certain dates can be depended upon to perform their contracts. My first conclusion there is that if we are in a serious position—and we are, as regards aircraft—it is not the manufacturers' fault, it is not the responsibility of the manufacturers. If the Government had had a plan and had told the manufacturers what they wanted and when they wanted delivery, I guarantee that the delivery dates would have been kept.
A prominent friend of the Prime Minister made the sort of remark which causes a good deal of suspicion among ordinary people like myself. He is a close friend of the Prime Minister weekend after week-end, and he said that this country could not produce results as good as any other country. I deny that, I repudiate it; and I say that this country is as well organised and is capable of producing as good results as any other country in the world. I see one or two hon. Members opposite who are shaking their heads, and in case there may be any doubt as to whom I am referring to, I am referring to a speech made by Lord Londonderry about 12 months ago. Let me deal with this question from the point of view of the working people. A leading article in the "Evening Standard "in April of this year dealt with the situation in this way:There is a deficiency to-day of several hundred planes which British manufacturers cannot make good until negotiations with the engineering trade unions for the speeding-up of production have been concluded.That statement is most unfair, that statement is not true. Whoever was 1848 responsible for a statement like that evidently does not understand the situation and is not in touch with the industry. The Air Ministry have discouraged trade unions during the past few years. Time after time when questions have been raised in this House, when representatives of the trade union movement have made approaches to the Air Ministry, they have been discouraged, so far as co-operation is concerned. If that is doubted I have here the minutes of meetings of the National Council of Aircraft Workers, where time after time responsible trade union officials have related their experience to their fellow representatives in the aircraft industry, and where also questions which have been raised in this House have been taken up. Therefore, my second conclusion is that, in the first place, it is not the manufacturers' fault that we are in the present position; and, secondly, that it is not the workpeople's fault. I have documentary evidence here of the proceedings at a meeting between representatives of the employers and the various trade unions. These documents prove that the production per man employed in the engineering industry is greater than it is in any other part of the world. Therefore I say that there is an ample supply of highly skilled men available for the industry.
Some time ago a firm received an order for 250 aeroplanes. Fifty of these were completed and then the men were suspended; some were discharged. No one knows the difficulties better than I of changes in designs and in the technical needs of production, but while making that admission let me say what is done in other sections of the industry. If men cannot be found employment on one particular product they are transferred to another or are put on to some other part of the product, and the result is that no friction is created by an unnecessary discharge of workmen. For the first time this week the trade unions have been consulted with regard to the supply of labour. For the first time since this country has been in the serious international situation in which we are, for the first time since it was realised that all was not well with the Air Ministry, the trade unions have been asked to cooperate. I see hon. Members opposite inclined to smile, but I was taught to avoid overstating a case, to be cautious 1849 in what I said, and I have always tried to produce evidence to prove what I have to say. I was taught early in life, among as fine a set of men as you can find, never to say a thing unless you know it is so, and if you are at all doubtful about it to qualify it when you say it. I want to speak on behalf of the trade unions whose position has been misrepresented. I have before me the latest report of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and this is what they say, speaking of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence:Sir Thomas stated that the Minister of Labour and his officers have carried out a careful examination both of the available labour at the present time and the amount of labour which will be necessary. This may be so, but up to the time of writing no information of the kind here indicated has been placed before this Union. Referring to the joint machinery of these industries as mentioned by the Prime Minister, Sir Thomas said: Both sides of the joint machinery will be furnished with all the information that we can obtain as to the numbers and types of skilled labour that are wanted, and the places where they will be wanted, and the local conditions, as far as it may be necessary to ascertain them. Here again, despite the definite statement that we would be furnished with all the information, etc., nothing has yet come to hand. The policy of this Union is one of co-operation. We cannot be expected to co-operate unconditionally. Several newspapers have done less than justice to the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Nothing that was said by the Union spokesmen in discussion with Sir Thomas Inskip and his colleagues and nothing that has appeared in this Journal or has been said by responsible officers of the Union on the public platform indicates or implies that the great body of engineering workers enrolled in our organisation are indifferent to their patriotic duty. There is no ground whatever for the suggestion that, as trade unionists, we are hostile or apathetic on the question of national Defence. The very idea is simply absurd.They go on to state their position. It is most important that this should go on the records of the House so that the country may know the truth and not only the misrepresentation that has taken place during the past few weeks.As the controversy has developed, the union has been placed in a false position. It has been made to appear that we are obstructive on the question of the available skilled labour. The contrary is the fact. With our knowledge of the state of affairs in the engineering industry we say without fear of contradiction that the available resources of skilled labour in the industry are not being properly utilised.Now I want to deal with the industry itself. There is an agreement between the engineering trade union and the in- 1850 dustry which provides for a two-shift system to be put into operation. It also provides for a three-shift system and, despite the fact that the country has been in a serious position, the firms are still working only the normal eight-hour day with a little overtime. The time has arrived when the three-shift system should be put into operation. There is ample skilled labour available and I want an undertaking that there is no intention of introducing dilution. In addition they have a right to know what the arms are going to be used for, in view of the suspicion that prevails in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in his "Memoirs "showed the need for national factories. He said that during the last War the problem was not one of labour but of lack of policy and the need for planning and drive. That equally applies at present.
The Royal Commission on the Private Manufacture of Armaments said the time had arrived when national factories should be set up. At the end of the last War there were three. Why cannot they be re-established? Measured by the test of output and price those factories of the War period were a huge success. A number of new Government factories are now being built for the manufacture of high explosives and other requirements of the Army, Navy and Air Force. If it is right to set up national ordnance factories, surely it is right to set up national aircraft factories. In the modern technique of warfare it is our men, women and children who will suffer more as the result of bombing than any other section of the community. In Spain certain areas have never been touched. It was the East-Enders who were touched in the last War and it will be the East-Enders throughout the country who will be touched. We want adequate defences for the whole of the population and balloon barrages for the whole country and not only for London. I repeat the declaration of the President of the Trade Union Congress at Plymouth in 1936:I am confident that, difficult and dangerous though the situation is at the moment, world peace could be preserved if the British Government would adopt a thorough-going League of Nations policy and all that it implies. If the Soviet Union, France and ourselves framed a pact of non-aggression and mutual assistance based on the League Covenant and open to all, it would in our judg- 1851 ment, as we have said elsewhere, unquestionably preserve peace both in Europe and in Asia. Such a pact would without doubt gain the adherence of the Scandinavian countries, the Baltic States, the Little Entente and Turkey. It must not I repeat, be exclusive. It should be open to all, including Germany, but if Germany, because of her aggressive policy, refuses to enter we should make it clear that our policy is to go without Germany's co-operation to develop the system of mutual guarantees within the framework of the League and in conformity with the principle of collective security. From this platform I would warn both the British Government and the German Government that British Labour will never acquiesce but will fight strenuously against any policy which secures temporary peace in Western Europe while giving Germany a free hand in Eastern Europe and against the Soviet nation.What the President said two years ago applies equally to-day. The Prime Minister has a great background. He belongs to a great family. He has behind him a great tradition for social development. I wish to make an appeal to him. He is coming to us to ask for this, that and the other thing to be done. Surely, it is not fair to ask one small section of the community to make sacrifices unless the whole of the nation makes similar sacrifices. Our people are organised because of years and years of struggle and sacrifice. Considering how well protected the legal profession is, considering how well protected the professional classes are, and considering how we were let down in the last war, I appeal to the Prime Minister to help to restore confidence in this country by introducing some great social measures, such as the abolition of the means test, an increase in unemployment benefits, and a new Workmen's Compensation Bill. If the Government are not prepared to do that, then I say that, owing to the serious position in which we are and the need for the maximum amount of unity to prevail, the people should elect as soon as possible a real people's Government which will restore confidence in this country and help us to play our part in the international sphere.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Perkins
I wish to join in the protest which has been made from various quarters of the Committee against the suggestions thrown out by the Noble Lord in his speech to the effect that many hon. Members are financially interested in the aircraft industry, and that the pressure 1852 which had been brought to bear by those Members was due to their interests.
§ Earl Winterton
I did not make that suggestion. I wish to make it absolutely clear that I never for one moment had at the back of my mind the suggestion that any criticisms made in the Committee were due to anything but the purest motives and to genuine feelings of apprehension. I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw the serious charge which he made against me.
§ Mr. Perkins
Of course, I completely withdraw that statement. I am afraid that I got a wrong impression, and I would like to apologise to the Noble Lord. I feel that this is no time for mud-slinging or for raking up the past. The situation is far too serious for that. It is the duty of every hon. Member to put forward any constructive suggestions which he may have for improving the present position. We all know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has been consistently right for the last three years, and that the Air Ministry have been consistently wrong.
I wish to make two or three suggestions as to how the present position could be bettered, but before doing so I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to what I believe to be the present position. I believe that, as far as personnel is concerned, the position is very satisfactory. As to equipment, we have the Noble Lord's assurance that the delays are being overcome and that the position is rightening itself. I believe that to be correct. I think the position is getting very much easier every day; but I hope that the Noble Lord will not forget that there are squadrons in the Service now which would be unable to shoot a hedgehog if it were to run over the aerodrome, because they have not got a gun. Although the position is improving, and although new machines are coming out fully equipped, I hope the Noble Lord will remember that there are squadrons in the Service to-day which are not properly equipped with guns.
There is then the question of the numbers of aircraft. I have often stated that I do not believe it is possible to measure our strength with the French, German or Russian strengths in first-line aircraft, because no one knows what a first-line aircraft is. It may be one 1853 machine, two machines, two and a-half machines, or three machines. The only way in which one can measure our strength against the strength of another country is by comparing the manufacturing capacity of this country with that of the other countries. I have been informed that at this moment we are producing in this country about 175 aeroplanes a month. Let us assume that I am wrong, and that the production is 200 a month, which is the top figure. According to the figures which have been given to us by the Noble Lord to-day, that means that in 1940 we shall have increased the output from 200 a month to about 600 a month. The information which I have received from various friends is that at this moment Germany is producing about 350 aeroplanes a month. But she will not remain idle during the next three or four years. I am informed that there has been a tremendous influx of apprentices into German factories during the last three or four years, that schools for apprentices are attached to every factory, and that in 1940 Germany will have increased her output from 350 to about 1,200 machines a month. If those figures are anywhere near the mark, then in two years' time we shall be in exactly the same comparative position as we are to-day. The Noble Lord rightly said that our programme is flexible, and that at any time we could increase or reduce it; but I believe that during the next 18 months, or possibly 12 months, the Noble Lord will ask us to authorise a further increase in the Air Force.
I wish to make one or two suggestions for meeting some of the difficulties that have arisen. I believe that the technical staff in the Air Ministry and the Air Inspection Department, people who are anxious to see British prestige upheld, have in fact acted as a brake on the production of aircraft by insisting on too many unnecessary modifications. The Noble Lord said that not a single aircraft manufacturer had complained, but surely he realises that no aircraft manufacturer would be such a fool as to complain against the Air Ministry. The Air Ministry is his only customer. No aircraft manufacturer would be such an idiot as to put his head into the noose and wait until somebody pulled the string. If the Noble Lord really wanted to get to the bottom of the problem, surely the right way would be to have some form of 1854 purely private, impartial inquiry, such as the Cadman Committee, to which these men could take their grievances. If that were done, I think the Noble Lord would find that the situation is not quite as he thinks it is.
I wonder whether it has occurred to the Air Ministry to provide area committees, such as we had during the last war. Manufacturers have told me that they are continually being, I will not say obstructed, because that would suggest deliberate obstruction, but held up by the technical staff of the Air Ministry. I wonder whether it would not be possible to have area committees to which manufacturers could appeal in order to get a quick decision? I would like to see such committees have the power to override both the technical authorities at the Air Ministry and the A.I.D. If a manufacturer found that he was being held up for some trivial reason, he would then have a court of appeal to which he could go and get a quick decision. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) got into considerable trouble with the Noble Lord. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I believe our aircraft manufacturing industries could have produced more machines last year if the manufacturers had been given bigger orders, if they had not been chased from pillar to post by the technical people at the Air Ministry, and if—and this is the most important point—the orders had been stable and had not been varied from month to month. I know of one firm— I will not mention its name for obvious reasons, or give too many details—which received a substantial order from the Air Ministry for, say, 500 machines. It so happened that after two or three months a scare occurred, and the order was increased from 500 to 700 machines; but then things looked better in Europe, and the number was reduced to 500, then to 400, and finally settled at the original figure of 500.
No manufacturer can plan mass production on those lines. When he does not know where he is, when he has not a definite and firm order, there is then this atmosphere of uncertainty in the industry, and I suggest to the Air Ministry that what they ought to do is not only to give larger orders to the individual manufacturers, but that they should guarantee those manufacturers against modifications. Suppose a manufacturer is given an order 1855 for 500 aeroplanes. Surely it should be possible to guarantee him that there would be no modifications, no alterations whatever, for the first 250 of those machines. When he had delivered 250, the experts of the Air Ministry could settle on the last machine and suggest and insist on all kinds of modifications, and when the new model had been approved by the Air Ministry, once again the manufacturer should be allowed to go ahead and produce the last 250 to that model, without any fear of alterations or modifications being required.
Then there is this question, which has been referred to again and again in this House, of the position of our aircraft factories. I believe that we ought to regard the defence of this country as part of the defence of the Empire as a whole. Our factories in this country, and particularly our engine factories, are, I believe, at the mercy now of any hostile enemy force in Europe. I believe they' could be knocked out, and if I am right, if our factories could be knocked out in the first 24 hours of war, it means that we should quickly lose control of the air and that we should be defeated. Surely the right policy for this country to adopt, the right line of action for us to take, is to start up new factories, one in Canada, one in Australia, one in South Africa, right out of the range of any hostile bomber. If that could be done, and if we could get some proportion of our aircraft supplies flown to this country from the distant parts of the Empire, particularly from Canada, we could never lose a war. It would be impossible for us to lose a war, because once again we should be an island, once again, whatever happened in this country, however much our works were knocked about, we could still draw unending supplies from over the ocean. I believe that that is a vital point in the defence of this country, and I think we ought to regard the Empire as a whole and make the Empire our arsenal rather than make this country the arsenal of the Empire.
Lastly, there is this question of an inquiry. Hon. Members who have tried to find out facts from the manufacturers have met many difficulties. Manufacturers are bound by the Official Secrets Act, and manufacturers are frightened, very naturally, of revenge being taken on 1856 them afterwards. I am told that pressure has been brought by the Air Ministry on certain manufacturers in order to shut them up. I do not know whether that is true, but it is obvious to anyone that it is very difficult to get at the facts as to what is happening in the British aircraft industry at the moment. What I would like to see is a purely private inquiry set up, consisting of private business people, three or four, not with the idea of stirring up trouble or raking up the mud of the past, but with the idea of putting forward constructive suggestions for the future, with the idea generally of smoothing out difficulties that have arisen, of suggesting alternative methods of delivering the goods, and generally of making far-reaching recommendations, which would be of the greatest benefit, I believe, to this country. If an opportunity is granted, as I understand it might be granted in the near future to have a Debate on that point and to have a Division, I, for one, have every intention of voting against the Government and voting for some such inquiry.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I could not help feeling a good deal of sympathy with the Noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy in the very gallant forlorn hope which he was leading from the Treasury Bench this afternoon, because it was clear from the beginning that he was trying to prove the impossible, and, of course, he was quite unsuccessful. I had the more sympathy with him because he is not personally responsible for any of the events of the last few years; he was only attempting to defend somebody else's misdeeds. Unfortunately, he proved too much. In attempting to prove that there never had been anything wrong in any action taken by the Air Ministry during the last three years, he drew too largely on the credibility of the Members of this Committee, and when he said to us that we must accept his personal assurance that now everything was all right, I could not help thinking that the confidence in the Government is not such as would enable us to accept a statement of that kind. Why is it that we are in this terrible mess, because it is a mess, at the moment and that we are in a position of grave national peril? No doubt it is partly, as has been said, due to the failure of long-distance planning, but it is also—and here I make only a brief 1857 reference—due to the foreign policy of the present Government, and the present Debate is a measure of the failure of that policy, as we are now on a basis of purely national armaments.
Something has been said about obtaining aircraft from abroad, and I entirely agree that it would be most wise to make such arrangements as we can in Canada and other places for the setting-up of factories to build aircraft. But, after all, we are not dependent on such a long-distance remedy. What about the highly efficient aircraft that is available in the world at the present moment and that could be relied upon to come to our aid? I am glad to see that the Prime Minister has made definite arrangements for the use of French aircraft in supplement of our own aircraft here, but as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said the other day, why stop there? I think it is the duty of the Government, in addition to going on with this programme, to see what opportunity there is of obtaining the co-operation of such highly efficient Air Forces as, say, those of Czechoslovakia, Russia, and others, and I do not feel that they will be performing their full duty to the nation unless they follow up that line of inquiry, where you have aircraft all ready, in addition to setting up factories in the Dominions and extending the production in this country.
I certainly do not wish to go over any of the ground that has already been touched upon in this Debate, but I will just say, with regard to a Ministry of Supply, that I heartily support that idea. I think it is an essential step, which we must take at some time, and I think that aircraft production should have priority in such a Ministry of Supply. There is one matter that has not so far been referred to in the Debate, in the matter of production, and I would like to ask the Minister to be good enough to give his attention to it, if he will. I quite believe that it is a fact that all the large factories are busily occupied at the present time, but that certainly does not apply to the smaller firms. I believe they have been to a very considerable extent neglected. I think the resources of the smaller firms, employing perhaps 50 to 300 employés., have been a good deal neglected. They are sub-contractors, and they do not take, from the necessity of the case, direct contracts from the Ministry, but there is 1858 a very large number of them anxious to place their resources at the disposal of the country.
I happen to know that in my own constituency, to take an example, there are something like 20, many of them no doubt not suitable, but certainly some of them suitable. The reason why these small firms are not being made use of is partly because the large manufacturers are anxious to keep the business in their own hands, to keep it in the family, as it were, to put the business through their subsidiaries, and not to take the trouble and inconvenience of going to firms that they do not know and where there would have to be some fresh organisation and sharing of the profits. They have a feeling that this is their harvest time, and they want to reap as large and lucrative a harvest as they can. I would like to give the Noble Lord two examples. There is a firm, one of the larger firms, which has four-and-a-half years' orders for tanks. One of the sub-contractors went to that firm and offered to help them. Obviously there was great urgency.
§ Mr. Mander
I am referring to aeroplane tanks. As I say, one of these smaller firms offered to supply the original contractors with help if they were pressed. At first the firm was glad to accept that offer, but when the proposal went to the board it was turned down, because they wanted to keep the contract within their own organisation, even if it meant taking a longer time in production. The second case, which is well-known to me, is that of a firm who have been waiting for two years. They have passed the A.I.D. test. They are manufacturers of aeroplane tanks, cowling, fairings pilot seats and things of that kind, but they can get no orders. That may have been all right in the past, but one would imagine that, under present conditions, the assistance of such firms would be required. Indeed, inquiries are now being made through merchants for articles of this kind. Surely those inquiries ought to be made directly to the manufacturing firms. In the case to which I refer, the necessary buildings are ready at a time when new buildings are being erected and the trained men are ready at a time when other men are being specially trained for the work. Skilled workmen are available owing to 1859 the fact that the motor industry is rather slack. The view of the Air Ministry on this subject in the past is represented by an extract from a letter to a firm which wanted them to go in for a scheme of organisation of the smaller units:While such a combination of small engineering shops would in certain circumstances, as it did before, constitute an important means of expanding production it is not considered that the Department's requirements for accessory supplies under the programme will necessitate setting up any such combination at the present time.I ask the Noble Lord to review the situation with his advisers and to make a survey of the possibilities of utilising the smaller firms as was done during the War. I ask him to make direct contacts with these firms; to send his representatives round, to find out what supplies are short and what is causing delay and to obtain the necessary supplies where necessary from the smaller people, so as to ensure a steady flow. I understand that some of the contractors for aerodromes are in difficulties at present because they never know what to quote. They never know what the successful tender has been. I realise that it is not desirable to publish these figures to all and sundry, but I suggest that the amount of the successful tender should be conveyed, in confidence, to the unsuccessful competitors. I believe the result of doing so would be that the Air Ministry would probably get lower and more efficient tenders.
The last point which I want to make arises out of the remarkable peroration of the Noble Lord in which he made a rather mystifying reference to dictatorships and democracies. I believe you can get better results from democracies than from dictatorships, but you cannot force an unpopular policy upon a democracy. To carry them with you, you must convince them that your policy is right and that it appeals to the idealism of the nation. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) made an admirable speech on the situation of the trade unions and I agree entirely with what he said. The trade unions are concerned mainly with the manufacturing and production side. An hon. Member who sits on the other side of the Committee said to me the other day, "This has nothing to do with the trade unions; it is a matter for Parliament policy." I ventured to say, 1860 "Imagine if you were working in an arms factory and being pressed to do overtime and night work, knowing that the result of your efforts would be used for the spread of Bolshevism throughout the world. Would you do it? "His answer was, "You must not ask me a difficult question like that." That applies both ways. You will get the best results from the trade unions if your policy, if the object for which you are manufacturing the arms, has their wholehearted assent. Otherwise, you will never get that reciprocity which you desire. I believe the people in this country, of all parties, are prepared to make every conceivable sacrifice for a policy in which they believe. I think it is essential that the Government, while doing all they can in connection with this extra production, should, at the same time, endeavour to obtain national unity by making it clear to the nation that the object of rearmament is to help the collective system of the League of Nations and nothing else. That is the only way in which they will ever obtain national unity in this land.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Wakefield
The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) drew attention to the untapped resources of the wood-working industry in this country, and from his great experience in that industry pointed out that skilled workers, premises and machinery were available which could be utilised in this emergency. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) said that certain Continental countries were utilising wood construction for aeroplanes, and suggested that the Air Ministry might devote some attention to that matter. I should like to describe a personal experience in this connection. I am interested in a wood-working factory in the West of England which, during the War, produced many aeroplane parts. It has skilled men and premises which could be utilised now. Two or three years ago the services of the firm were offered to the Air Ministry. An inspector came down and was satisfied. As far as I remember, he paid a second visit a little later and appointed somebody in the factory to do the necessary inspection. He paid a further visit and brought a rubber stamp down with him, and that was the last the firm heard of any orders. That was some i8 months ago. I give 1861 that illustration to reinforce what the hon. Member for West Walthamstow so eloquently said. I, too, believe that we have great untapped resources at our disposal, and I ask the Noble Lord to give his special attention to the wood-working industry, and to see whether it would not be possible to utilise wood construction in this country as it is being utilised in Continental countries. We may well hope that skilled workmen in that particular industry, if that is done, will find employment in the very near future.
There is one further matter with which I should like to deal, and that is the subject of pilots. The Debate has dealt almost entirely with the mass production of aeroplanes, how to increase that production, and what is the best way to get the quickest and most efficient supply. It is my considered opinion that if war broke out the real difficulty with which we should be faced would be in regard to trained, skilled pilots. The losses of pilots immediately on the outbreak of hostilities would be very great. In a few weeks you can replace machines lost, but you cannot replace skilled pilots in a few weeks. Skilled pilots need a degree of skill which we did not require in the War. They must be able to fly machines at from 300 to 400 miles an hour and be able to utilise instruments of a very difficult nature. You cannot in a few weeks learn how to do this sort of thing. We must, therefore, be careful not to lose our sense of balance and our sense of proportion in going in for this rapid production of machines. I know that we have more pilots now than we have machines for them to fly, but we must not lose our sense of proportion, and every effort must be made to give the very fine reserve of pilots that we have available, which is growing rapidly, opportunities of flying up-to-date, modern machines.
There is another way in which we can greatly increase the reserve of highly skilled pilots, and that is to develop to a greater extent than has been done in the past, our civil aviation. True, we have not great inland routes as they have in America or in Central Europe, but we have something far greater than that, because we have a great Commonwealth. For us, communications are more important than for any other country in the world. The best and cheapest way to 1862 get reserves of highly skilled, trained pilots, who are accustomed to blind flying and flying at night in all kinds of weather, the reserve of pilots who will be required should war break out, is by extending as rapidly as possible our civil aviation services.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I intervene in the Debate not on its merits but merely to inform the Committee that in view of the highly unsatisfactory statement of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster my right hon. Friend, myself and my hon. Friends, being deeply impressed by the grave dangers of the present situation, have decided to put upon the Order Paper of this House a Motion in the following terms:That, in the opinion of this House, the growing public concern regarding the state of our air defences and the administration of the Department concerned, calls for a complete and searching independent inquiry, conducted with despatch, under conditions consistent with the national interests.We take it for granted that the Government will be prepared to provide an early date for the discussion of this vital Motion.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
We are coming to the end of a very interesting day's Debate. The chief interest of the Debate has been the statement which the Chancellor of the Duchy has made on behalf of the Government. I shall be expressing the views of everybody when I say that the whole House welcomed the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman to his position at the Air Ministry, and I am sure that no one welcomed it with greater enthusiasm than those in the Air Ministry itself, not because my right hon. Friend has hitherto been known as an expert on this subject, although he has told us of his experiences in the air, but because he is known as one of the most experienced and resourceful debaters in this House, and there is nothing that a public department likes more than to have an effective champion in the House to defend it. He certainly defended it with loyalty to-day. Many of us who take part in debates often find a little difficulty in expressing ourselves, when we are carried away by the strength of our feelings, and are anxious not to be rude to our opponents and to cause offence, but 1863 my right hon. Friend has an immense advantage because he may be as rude as he likes to his opponents without causing them any offence at all. Therefore, knowing his skill and resource as a debater I am afraid that we were the more depressed by the speech and impressed by the badness of the case which he had to present to the Committee.
The anxiety which is felt on this matter is no party affair. There were one or two speeches in which the old Adam of partisanship came out but, generally speaking, hon. Members have tried to approach this grave question, affecting as it does the safety of the country, without any party spirit. The anxiety that is felt is felt in all parts of the Committee, and I think that anxiety was deepened by the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy. The right hon. Gentleman said that nobody would deny that the air expansion scheme has encountered heavy weather in the past; but every Minister who has been responsible for the Air Ministry has denied that, in repeated Debates. My Noble Friend kept on saying that he hoped the Committee would accept his assurance. We accept his assurance of his good faith and his desire to put these things right, but not the assurance that these things are such that the production will work out in such and such a way and that these things are being effectively tackled. We find it difficult to accept that assurance, having in mind that the assurances in the past have not been trustworthy.
I find some difficulty in following my right hon. Friend's figures. I hope that he will explain his figures as to our first-line air strength in the future. He said that in March, 1940, we shall have 3,500 first-line machines, and he told us how we are going to attain that. He said that this year we should increase our productive capacity by 50 per cent., and that in the following year we should treble it. That only works out at 3,500, assuming of course that the proportion of machines in reserve is the same now as it will be in 1940 if our present first-line strength is 800 machines. We have reason to suppose—it has been stated across the Floor of the House— that our present first-line strength is approximately 1,500 machines. If that be so, and if the figures which the right 1864 hon. Gentleman gave are correct, we must be very deficient in reserves at the present time. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that this figure of 3,500 may not be very satisfactory. If it is believed that the Germans will have 6,000 machines by the time we have 3,500— that was the figure suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick (Sir H. Seely) and was not denied by the right hon. Gentleman—the right hon. Gentleman said that, after all, we can call in the Dominions. Egypt was building up an air force. Their strengths were not included in his figures, he said, but were additional. We might be able to call in help from Egypt, he said. That works both ways, for we may have to give help to Egypt in time of trouble, and I think the Government would be very ill-advised to set any store by the prospect of receiving help from those distant countries.
Then he went on to tell us that the production of turrets and instruments was satisfactory. We have heard that so many times before from that Box. He went on to tell us that the shadow factories were working well. He stated that the shadow factories for air frames were, going well and that the shadow factories for air engines were going forward well. He did not tell us whether they have shadow factories for instruments. They will be equally vital. We must not only have in war time an immensely increased output of machines and of air engines, but we must have instruments to put in the machines. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can assure the Committee that the Government have also considered our potential output of instruments in the event of war.
Then the right hon. Gentleman said he hoped that the necessary skilled labour for this expansion programme would be forthcoming. There was no mention of the negotiations with the trade unions and how they are progressing. The Committee naturally will attach importance to that. All too late have these negotiations started. They ought to have been set on foot months ago. The Committee would welcome some information about the way in which they are progressing. He went on to indicate that he was going to strike a comparison between the rate of output in this country and that in Germany. He gave us some figures to show 1865 how fast the rate of output was expanding in this country, but he sheered off the comparison with Germany, and he gave us only a comparison with the rate at which we were expanding this time last year. He said there was a very satisfactory increase. The Committee knows that and would, indeed, have been startled if the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to say that there was an Increase as compared with last year. The assurance the Committee wants is that there is a satisfactory rate of increase as compared with the rate of increase in Germany. That is a point on which the Chancellor of the Duchy has been very silent.
He dealt on more than one occasion in his speech with the difficulty against which he had to contend in building up a great Air Force in a democratic country. How much easier he said it would be to do it in a totalitarian country. He said in effect to the Committee, "You say that Lord Swinton and I are not as good at the job as General Goering, but think of his advantages, think of the totalitarian State. The dictators in the totalitarian States are not hampered "— that was the word he used—" by demands for information." I cannot for the life of me see how our demands for information can hamper the Government. They have a means of escape, which, it seems to me, they use only too often, of saying that it is not in the public interest to give the information. When they do so they are never pressed; they may be chaffed, but they are never pressed to reveal what is not in the public interest. Do we hamper them? I say we help them, and I observe that the newspapers, representing the feelings of the people, representing, too, instructed opinion in this country, newspapers not only of the Left but of the Right, newspapers which support His Majesty's Government, were appealing this morning to the House of Commons to put pressure upon the Government in this Debate so as to produce the results which have hitherto not been forthcoming.
The right hon. Gentleman said that if we had agreed to adopt totalitarian methods it would mean that the Government would have put their opponents in concentration camps. I daresay the right hon. Gentleman "licked his chops "at the idea of putting some of us in concen- 1866 tration camps, and no doubt thought with some glee of the prospect of putting me there, but I am sure that he would most of all welcome the opportunity of putting the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) there if he had the chance. But I think that all this talk is much too pessimistic. I agree with what the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield), I think it was, said just now, that we have great untapped resources in this country, untapped material resources, untapped productive resources, untapped resources of men and women who are willing to put their backs into this business of building up a great Air Force.
In the last year of the War, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) said, we actually had 30,000 machines produced and there were 40,000 more on order. It may be said that it is easier to do things in war time, but as against that remember all the other calls which we then had upon our resources—the maintenance of 1,000,000 men in the field, the building of tanks, guns and all the other war material, our vast Fleet. Think of all the calls we had upon skilled labour for the munition factories, and of all the men who were fighting abroad. If we could produce so many machines in 1918 surely we can within the next two years produce more than 3,500 first-line machines.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) said that Parliament had approved the scheme upon which the right hon. Gentleman was working as sufficient, and therefore it was unfair for us to blame the Department, because it was the responsibility of Parliament. It is not the responsibility of Parliament. I think that is putting the measure of our responsibility too high and the responsibility of the Government too low in a matter which affects national Defence, for the very reason that when we try to get information which it is vital to have in order to form a complete judgment on the situation, we are met, and, of course, often very fairly met, with the reply that it is not in the public interest to give the information. Indeed, in Session after Session when the right hon. Member for Epping was telling the Government that there ought to be a greater effort at rearmament and that we ought to build up a greater Air Force, the Government were replying that accord- 1867 ing to their information it was quite unnecessary. It is not right for the Government to turn round, as the Home Secretary did in a public speech a few days ago, and say the responsibility is upon the public, who would not agree to rearmament earlier. But he added, "The public would not support us." That is not true. It was the Government who would not make the demand upon the public.
I am not trying to be wise after the event. When the right hon. Gentleman made that speech he was answered by Mr. Baldwin, who was then head of the Government, and I naturally thought that the Prime Minister's answer was correct. I supported the Prime Minister against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. That was a very natural course for a private Member to take when given information from the Government Front Bench. That is why I say that there is an immense measure of responsibility of which we cannot relieve Ministers in these questions of national emergency. I say that we cannot relieve them; but there is one way in which we might help them in some degree, and that is why I press the demand which was made by my hon. and gallant Friend at the beginning of this Debate and which has been put forward from the Front Opposition Bench. I refer to the demand for an inquiry. If we could have an inquiry, representative people in this House might be informed of the true facts and might be able to appreciate the true position.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet said that an inquiry would divert 50, 60 or 70 per cent. of the time of the Air Ministry from useful productive work to the mere answering of questions by the committee. But that is not a fair estimate and was very well answered by the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds), who said that the Cadman Committee was no waste of anybody's time. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet said that increased standardisation would mean increased jigging and machine tools, that it would take two years to do and was hardly worth starting. Not at all; the answer to it is, "Start now."
Then the right hon. Gentleman came to the concluding passage of his speech, which was one of the greatest gravity. 1868 The House naturally judges the performance of the Government by the criterion which was set up at the beginning of this rearmament effort by Mr. Baldwin, who was then Prime Minister, and who said:Any Government of this country, a National Government more than any, and this Government, will see to it that in air strength and air power this country shall no longer be in a position of inferiority to any country within striking distance of our shores.It is apparent that the Government have abandoned that criterion. The right hon. Gentleman said to-night that air Defence must be considered as a whole, with bombers, fighters, seaplanes and searchlights, the prevention of panic among the civil population and the reduction of damage and casualties. The Prime Minister had prepared us for this abandonment in the speech which he made on the Estimates for the Ministry of Co-ordination of Defence. He had an even longer category of the factors that you must bring into account before you get a true estimate of air power and strength. It was longer, but the Noble Lord added one factor to-day, the prevention of panic among the civilian population, the importance of which none will dispute, especially after the speech which the Noble Lord delivered.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
He went on to say:No defence service can ever spend limitless sums of money for its own purpose, or obtain without question or negotiation all the material and personnel it would like, unless me emulate the methods of the totalitarian States.Unfortunately, one thing which we criticise very strongly is the fact that this Department has not obtained a large enough share of the money which is spent on Defence in this country. As I said only a few days ago in this Chamber, we are all concerned about the air. We all know that a great effort has to be made in the air. And yet we find that a large proportion of the effort has been and still is being diverted to the Navy, which, before this effort started, was stronger in relation to all the Powers of Europe than it was in 1914. Yet in that Service the output has been quadrupled; the tonnage under construction has been quadrupled in the last few years. We are told, too, that the Air Ministry has priority over 1869 the Army, but it has not priority over the Navy.
Surely it is clear that our greatest relative weakness at the present time is in the air, and we ought to be putting the maximum effort of which this country is capable into strengthening our Air Force. There are, too, questions of supply. It would, of course, be out of order for me to argue now the case for a ministry of supply, because it would require legislation, but besides all the factors I have mentioned there are a great many more, such as that mentioned just now by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins)— the importance of getting, if we can, greater production in the Dominions, and making a greater effort there relatively to our effort here, because our factories here are so exposed to hostile air attack.
That is a very difficult question, on which I am not going to pronounce in face of the expert knowledge of the hon. Member for Stroud, but it occurs to me that there are very great difficulties with regard to skilled labour and raw materials in the Dominions concerned, and there is the question of the transport of the aeroplanes from the countries in which they were manufactured to this country. All of these are very difficult questions, but I do not believe that this Committee is satisfied that they are being vigorously tackled at the present time, and I think we ought to have a committee of inquiry representative of all parties in the House to satisfy us on these points. There is the question of the supply of raw material. My hon. Friend asked about sheet aluminium. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there are supplies adequate for all the purposes of the programme he has in view? The Royal Commission on the Manufacture of Arms reported strongly in favour of a ministry of supply, and I think there is a great case for it. Therefore, I certainly support the demand which has been put forward. The right hon. Gentleman who put it forward from the Front Opposition Bench to-night made no speech in favour of it, because he desired to allow other Members to speak, and did not want to take up the time of the Committee. It seemed to me that the proposed Motion was couched in very moderate terms, and I would express the hope that it may commend itself to the House, and even to the Government.
1870 The hon. Member for Stroud spoke just now of the possibility that he foresaw of having to vote against the Government on such a Motion. For my part, I should view that with no partisan exultation; I would very much rather that there was no difference of opinion. I do not want to make party capital out of this desperately serious issue; I would very much rather hear the Government say that they would accept this inquiry, and that no Member of the House should be placed in the embarrassing position of agreeing with the proposal and yet having, out of loyalty, to support the Government. I must explain to the Committee that my hon. Friends and I are dissatisfied with the speech of the Noble Lord, and, having moved a reduction of salary, feel bound to carry the issue to a Division to-night. We know there are a good many people in other parts of the House who agree with the merits of our Motion and who feel that unless we receive assurances that this committee of inquiry will be set up—that would certainly alter the situation—they would like to support us. I regret that they should be put in that embarrassing position, but we feel that, having put down this Motion, it is necessary that we should not run away from it, but should vote for it. I hope, indeed, that the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned will be accepted unanimously when it comes to be discussed.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I certainly do not complain of the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I do not think that anything I could say in defence of the Air Ministry or in explanation of the scheme I have referred to this afternoon would alter the right hon. Gentleman's opinion that he and his party should vote against the Government. I have already spoken at length, but I want to make some general reply to the Debate, as I think I am entitled to do. Before I do that, I want to go very briefly into certain points which have been raised. Every one of them is of a perfectly reasonable character, but there are certain questions which, in the public interest, I do not think I should answer.
I was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) about shortage of aluminium. 1871 I am glad to be able to assure the Committee that there is no shortage of aluminium, and that, therefore, no question of priority between the Air Ministry and the War Office arises. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) referred to certain matters. I do not agree with what he said, and I think his attitude was prejudiced. Certainly, the accusations which he made against certain members of the committee were not justified. With regard to the negotiations in progress with the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the hon. Member will realise that that is not a matter which falls to the Department which I am representing, and it is doubtful whether it would be in order to discuss it on this occasion.
During the Estimates Debate a number of questions were asked which my hon. and gallant Friend undertook would be answered on this occasion, on the subject of accommodation for airmen. It was suggested that not sufficient is being done in regard to recreational facilities for airmen or for their feeding and accommodation generally. The Committee will agree that this is a very important question. [Interruption.] Well, is it not? Surely it is one of the most important questions that could be dealt with. I myself made certain investigations into this matter, and, while the recreational facilities in some cases are not satisfactory, they are steadily improving, and I think that, generally, they compare favourabiy with those of other services.
A very important question was raised by more than one hon. Gentleman on the subject of the wooden construction of aeroplanes. I think three hon. Members raised it. I am sorry that the hon. Member opposite thought I was, in vulgar phraseology, "getting at him "on this, but I assure him that that is not so. The use of wood was abandoned for this reason. It was impossible to make wooden aircraft with modern performance owing to the comparatively low strength of the wood available, and consequently metal construction was resorted to. I am glad to say that a recent development in compressed wood—a process of a technical character which I do not wish to describe—is being encouraged by the Department, and an order has been given to Messrs. Armstrong Whitworth 1872 for a bomber to be made with this wooden substance. With regard to wooden aeroplanes generally, we still use them for training.
A very important question was raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to the types of machine guns, and he asked a perfectly legitimate question whether we were still using the machine guns used in the War? That is not quite the position. It is true we are using types of guns, but improved types, that were in existence at the end of the War, guns like the Vickers and Lewis. But on the newer machines we are bringing into operation—and supplies are coming forward—two new types of Browning and Vickers which, I think, are equal in performance to any other guns of the kind in existence. I have no time on this very interesting technical matter to discuss the question of turrets which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend. The matter is still in some ways in the experimental stage, but the information which reaches the Air Ministry is not quite as unsatisfactory as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests. There are three types in the Service, but there are variations so that they can be accommodated in the different machines. The power-operated turret is a very exacting requirement, but early deliveries are coming about. Without giving away any secrets, I might say that I saw one of these types the other day, and, with the limited experience gained during the War of the machine guns that were used, I should say they were extremely effective. A question was asked about blind flying, and the answer is that blind flying instruments are available on all training machines. Therefore, no one passing through the training course is denied the use of blind flying instruments. There are other machines as well, but the allegation was that people were being trained who were not having blind flying instruction, and that is not the case.
The last specific point to which I want to refer is that of the question of the purchase of aircraft in the Dominions. I have personally been impressed by the amount of opinion, not confined to one quarter of the Committee, and by the very interesting speech by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) on this subject. I want again to make it clear that one of the main 1873 objects of the Commission that has gone to Canada is thoroughly to examine the possibilities of this scheme. There are reasons—and I am well aware that in saying this I may be off my guard and that someone may say, "Why was this not done before "—which I cannot indicate to the Committee, but things have advanced in matters of construction considerably more than they had a short time ago. The obstacles were greater then than they are now. This matter is being investigated, and in due course the results of the investigation will be communicated to the House.
§ Earl Winterton
The answer about shadow factories is that they are in step, that is to say, the production of frames and the production of engines are synchronised, and in regard to the other matters which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, there will be no lack of any of them. They are synchronised with production elsewhere. The shadow factory scheme is going forward well and the production from it will be on a large scale indeed within the present financial year.
§ Earl Winterton
It will not be necessary because instruments will be obtained from other factories. They are being produced. Let me now come to my general answer to the points raised in the Debate. It must necessarily be short. I know there is anxiety in the House of Commons and in the country on this subject, and I do not want to suggest for a moment that no mistakes have been made in the past. But I want the Committee to be fair to the Air Ministry in this matter. It must be remembered that there has been a stress and strain in regard to this vast expansion unparalleled in any Defence ministry in peacetime.
The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) has paid a friendly tribute to the Secretary of State for Air and myself, but suggested that while we were good politicians, we had no experience of business. I apologise for mentioning this personal matter, but I happen to have been connected with more than one business in the past which 1874 rapidly expanded, and I can assure the Committee that it is the experience of all business men that there is a great stress and strain when an organisation is expanding. Human nature being what it is, I suggest that to think you cannot carry out a great scheme of this kind, whether by a Government Department or by private business, without mistakes occurring, is ridiculous. I do not suggest that there have not been mistakes in the past, but what I do say is that the proportionate increase in the strength and scope of the Defence department has never been exceeded in peacetime, that matters are proceeding much more smoothly and that difficulties have been and are being overcome. If the Committee does not accept my assurance on that point, I can only tell them that they will do so when they see the results in the future.
The second point I should like to make is that the forecast of production which I have given to-day was made not by the Air Ministry but by the aircraft industry in response to a request of the Air Ministry to bring forward a programme of production. It has been carefully scrutinised by the best opinion at the Air Ministry. I believe it can be carried out. I must add this, that where disappointment has occurred, as it has occurred in the past, in regard to the production of aircraft, it would be a profound mistake to think that that disappointment has been due always, or indeed frequently, to mistakes made by the Air Ministry. What has happened is that estimates have been made by the aircraft industry after they have received orders, there has been no question of modifications, which they have not been able to fulfil. There, again, that is a common experience of industry.
By the general sense of the whole House the country for years pursued a policy of disarmament. [Interruption.] Was it the fault of the Government that the "News-Chronicle "three years ago described members of the aircraft industry as "merchants of death." Time after time hon. Members opposite voted against all expenses.
§ Earl Winterton
I say this plan is the best calculated to produce the maximum of effort within two years.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
The Noble Lord has informed the House that the estimates of production now are based on estimates that they have received from the industry and he proceeds to admit that former estimates of the industry have not been fulfilled. What guarantee is there now that the new estimates of the industry will be any more fulfilled than in the past, and why does not the Government take responsibility for forming their own estimates?
§ Earl Winterton
What I said was that the estimates were the estimates of the aircraft industry. They have always been the estimates of the aircraft industry, but on this occasion there is improved organisation and the exercise of closer scrutiny than ever before over the estimates, and, in my opinion and that of my advisers, they are satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman asks why if on previous occasions in some cases the estimates of the aircraft industry have not been fulfilled we should trust them to-day. I will give a frank answer. Because the industry is better organised to-day than it was, and there is closer relationship between the industry and the Ministry. I hope that satisfies the right hon. Gentleman. Plans have been made and are in successful operation to simplify the system of ordering. [Interruption.] I do not in the least object to interruptions but I want to make this quite clear. These are questions in which the whole world is interested. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are perfectly entitled to object to my opinions, but I suggest to some of them that in a Debate of this moment I am entitled to be allowed to put my arguments to the Committee. This is a matter that is being watched outside this country and the impression given to some foreign observers would not be that hon. Members are blaming me or the Air Ministry, but are objecting to some features in this new scheme.
My last point is this. [Interruption.] I can well understand that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is not interested in seeing this country made more strong, or he would not have adopted the attitude he has done. I wish to make it clear that this is no sudden and panicky plan, as has been suggested in some quarters. It is the natural extension and acceleration of an already rapidly-growing force. Earlier 1876 in the Debate, one of my hon. Friends, in very eloquent terms, said that he hoped this would not be a post-mortem on the past, but would be rather consideration of the present and the future. I entirely agree. In passing, I would say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that if the Archangel Gabriel stood at this Box and produced an expansion scheme for the present Government, I do not think it would satisfy my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Churchill
Considering the many, many months my Noble Friend and I struggled to galvanise the present Government, I think that a little hard.
§ Earl Winterton
I hope my right hon. Friend will accept this compliment from me, that if he sees any good in the present plan, and in so far as I have assisted in a humble way to produce that plan, as a result of my right hon. Friend's galvanisation, I am convinced that he will give it his support. It will produce a steady improvement in aircraft production and a general improvement in equipment. There will be, I hope, a steady intake of recruits, better and faster machines, which are already coming forward in satisfactory numbers, newer types, simplification of the system of giving orders, and consideration of a still further widening of the area of safety. However much criticism there may have been of the Air Ministry or of the Secretary of State for Air or of myself, I suggest to the Committee, not on behalf of the Air Ministry, but on behalf of the country, that the Government and the Ministry should be supported, and the appeal which I make from this Box is for the fullest possible support for this new scheme. In the matter of recruitment, I have already said that there is a satisfactory intake of recruits, and I hope that it will continue. I hope hon. and right hon. Members in all quarters of the House will use their influence to that end. I hope they will use their influence to continue what is, on the whole, a most satisfactory labour position, and that they will continue to encourage people to assist in that way, and in other ways. I am convinced of this, that if this scheme is given proper opportunities, it will be a successful one, and it will constitute the greatest single expansion scheme ever put forward by any Defence Ministry within a given period in peace time.
§ Question put, "That Sub-head A (Salaries, Wages, etc.) be reduced by £100."1878
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 131; Noes, 299.1879
|Division No. 200.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Pearson, A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Groves, T. E.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Han. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Poole, C. C.|
|Amman, C. G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapal)||Price, M. P.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hardie, Agnes||Pritt, D. N.|
|Attlee, Rl. Hon. C. R.||Hayday, A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Ridley, G.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ritson, J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benson, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bevan, A.||Holdsworth, H.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hopkin, D.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||John, W.||Silkin, L.|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cassells, T.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Stephen, C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leslie, J. R.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Daggar, G.||Logan, D. G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dalton, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Summerskill, Edith|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGhee, H. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||McGovern, J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacLaren, A.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mander, G. le M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Evant, D. O. (Cardigan)||Marshall, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Maxton, J.||Westwood, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Milner, Major J.||White, H. Graham|
|Frankel, D.||Montague, F.||Whitaley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Muff, G.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Olivar, G. H.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Owen, Major G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Paling, W.||Sir Percy Harris and Sir Hugh|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Parker, J.||Seely.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Blair, Sir R.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Bossom, A. C.||Christle, J. A.|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Boulton, W. W.||Clarks, Frank (Dartford)|
|Allan, Col. J. Sandsman (B'knhead)||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Boyce, H. Leslie||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Brass, Sir W.||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Apsley, Lord||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Colfox, Major W. P.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Brooklebank, Sir Edmund||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Assheton, R.||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D J.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Conant, Captain R. J. E.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Cooks, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Bull, B. B.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Burton, Col. H. W.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Butcher, H. W.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Butler, R. A.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Crossley, A. C.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Carver, Major W. H.||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cary, R. A.||Culverwell, C. T.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Davison, Sir W. H.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Dawson, Sir P.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||De Chair, S. S.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Channon, H.||De la Bére, R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Denville, Alfred||Kimball, L.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Doland, G. F.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Remer, J R.|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Latham, Sir P.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Eokersley, P. T.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rowlands, G.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Liddall, W. S.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Lipson, D. L.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Emery, J. F.||Lloyd, G. W.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Salt, E. W.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Loftus, P. C.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Errington, E.||Lyons, A. M.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Everard, W. L.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Scott, Lord William|
|Findlay, Sir E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Selley, H. R.|
|Fleming, E. L.||MacDonald, Sir Murdech (Inverness)||Shakespear, G. H.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Furness, S. N.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||McKie, J. H.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir J.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Gledhill, G.||Macnamara, Major J. R. J.||Smith. Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Magnay, T.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Maitland, A.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Spens. W. P.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Markham, S. F.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Granville, E. L.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stuart, Lord C. Criehton- (N'thw'h)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Moreing, A. C.||Thomson Sir J. D. W.|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Morgan, R. H.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Hambro, A. V.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Touche, G. C.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Harvey, Sir G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Munro, P.||Turton R. H.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Nall Sir J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hepworth, J.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. E[...]|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Higgs, W. F.||Patrick, C. M.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Heare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Peake, O.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Peat, C. U.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Petherick, M.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hunter, T.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hit[...]hin)|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Porritt, R. W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W H.||Procter, Major H. A.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Purbrick, R.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Radford, E. A.||Wragg, H.|
|Joel, D. J. B.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wright, Wins-Commander J. A. C|
|Janet, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'ft'R)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Keeling, E. H.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montross)||Ramsden, Sir E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Kerr. H. W. (Oldham)||Rankin, Sir R.||Mr. James Stuar and Captain|
Resolution agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.