§ 4.3 P.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, the growing public concern regarding the state of our air defences and the administration of the Departments concerned, calls for a complete and searching independent inquiry conducted with despatch under conditions consistent with the national interest.It may be that I shall have to trespass somewhat more on the time of the House than I would wish in developing this case to-day, but I think it will be better, in case the Prime Minister is to reply, that the case should not lack development through want of time. I have read in the Press that the Motion is being interpreted as a Vote of Censure. If that Press report is true, I regret it. It appears to me, in the circumstances of the day, to be a small-minded and partisan interpretation of a Motion which was supported only a short while ago from all quarters of the House, including a large number of the Prime Minister's own habitual supporters.
What are the circumstances in which we are met? On the one hand we are in an acute danger period of international relations. Last week-end was pretty tough; next week-end will be, we do not know what. On the other hand, there is a very deep and very widespread anxiety among people of all sections of opinion regarding our air defence. These are the circumstances: After the last Debate on this subject a fortnight ago, after the most unconvincing speeches made by Lord Swinton in another place and by the Chancellor of the Duchy here, in the judgment of Members in all parts of the House, a demand for inquiry into our air defences arose, primarily from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), supported by no fewer than 26 Government supporters. A similar demand was placed on the Order Paper by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and a demand in almost identical terms by the Opposition Liberal party. That was evidence enough that in all parts of the House the concern was deep and widespread and that an inquiry seemed proper as offering some hopes of improvement.
What happened next? The Prime Minister made a clean sweep of all politicians to whom he had hitherto 1234 given responsibility for air defence. Lord Swinton was pushed out of the Government altogether; the Under-Secretary was transferred to India; the Chancellor of the Duchy retained his office, but we have been told that he is to have nothing more to say in this House on air defence except in so far as he may be loosely attached to the Air-Raid Precautions Department. The three principal politicians have been moved. Do these changes of personnel weaken the case for an inquiry? On the contrary they strengthen it. They are an admission by the Prime Minister himself that all was not well at the Air Ministry, that all was far from well, and that there was indeed serious subject-matter for a searching inquiry of some kind by someone. That is a clear deduction from the Prime Minister's action in clearing out the three persons to whom he had previously confided the administration of the Air Ministry. An inquiry on our terms,a complete and searching independent inquiry conducted with despatch under conditions consistent with the national interest,would, I think, strengthen the hands of the new Secretary of State for Air. He comes to his Department, I am sure he will admit, with practically no knowledge of the Department. His activities previously have been in a very different field, far remote from the fighting Services. He comes admittedly without knowledge of his new Department, and such an inquiry would give him valuable information, put him on the track of weak points in personnel and organisation in his Department, of which at present he may very naturally be ignorant. An inquiry need not embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. I can well understand that it may have embarrassed Lord Swinton, but he is gone. He had three years of personal responsibility to answer for before such an inquiry. The new Minister is not in that position. He is coming fresh to the job. Inquiry need not embarrass him or diminish his prestige or dignity, but it might be greatly serviceable to him. The case for inquiry is even stronger now than it was a fortnight ago.
Before I proceed to develop in detail the case for inquiry I will do a little preliminary clearing of the ground. The Labour party's policy on arms has sometimes been honestly misunderstood and sometimes disingenuously misrepresented. It may, therefore, he for the convenience of the House if I make two brief quota- 1235 tions which indicate very clearly what the party's policy is. The first quotation I take from "Labour's Immediate Programme," unanimously adopted at the Bournemouth Conference of the Labour party last October. This is the quotation:The Labour Government will unhesitatingly maintain such armed forces as are necessary to defend our country and to fulfil our obligations as a member of the British Commonwealth and of the League of Nations.That is the policy on which we are fighting and winning by-elections. The second quotation I take also from a statement adopted at the last annual conference of the Labour party. It is a statement on international policy and defence, and it dealt also with foreign policy, but to foreign policy I shall not refer at the moment. This is the quotation:Our policy should be twofold—on the one hand to seek to remove all legitimate international economic grievances; and on the other hand we must through the League of Nations confront potential aggressors with an emphatic superiority of armed force.An hon. Member opposite asks what was the majority for that resolution. I wondered whether I should be asked that question. The majority vote was 2,169,000, and there were 262,000 in the minority. That is roughly ten to one. "An emphatic superiority of armed forces against potential aggressors" we have asked for. This is not a Debate on foreign policy, and I do not propose to speak on it except in a passing sentence or two. It has often been demonstrated that between the foreign policy of the Government and that which we advocate there is a great gulf fixed. We hold that since 1931 the foreign policy of this country has been shockingly mishandled time and again, with the consequence that not only international law and order but British national security have been most seriously compromised. We have endured now for nearly seven years a policy of fumbling fingers and faltering feet.
But, having said that, I go on to observe that on any view of British foreign policy except the view held perhaps in some journalistic circles not disconnected from the Government—the view which advocates unlimited and unconditional surrender to all demands made on us from any quarter—except from that eccentric view, I say that in this danger zone that we are now traversing an emphatic inferiority 1236 of British to German air power is for this country a most grim and most unwelcome relationship. That is the relationship which has come into existence during recent years, the relationship of the emphatic inferiority of British to German air power. The greater such inferiority is permitted to become, the harder it becomes to get out the right answer to arithmetical sums in collective security. In other words, if we are pronouncedly inferior in air power to Germany, the more difficult it becomes to assure in circumstances which may unhappily arise that there will be that emphatic superiority for the forces of the Powers which stand for peace and against violence. The more difficult it will become the longer this drift goes along.
Some time in 1935, according to the evidence furnished in this House by the right hon. Gentleman Lord Baldwin and others, Germany passed us in the air. since then she has been steadily forging ahead. Ignorant optimists may say that time is on our side. That is not true; time is against us; it is working against us. The more time elapses, the greater becomes the superiority of the German air force to the British air force. The Government have retreated from air parity with Germany as an object of policy. Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, said on 28th October, 1934, in a speech which has often been quoted before:His Majesty's Government are determined in no conditions to accept any position of inferiority in regard to what air force may be raised in Germany in future. I refer to machines available for home defence.Again on 22nd May, 1935, Mr. Baldwin, as he then was—and this is a definition of parity—said:For our purpose, for the parity of the three nations (the United Kingdom, France and Germany), we have taken a figure round about 1,500 first-line aircraft.… That is the figure at which we are aiming."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1935, col. 368, Vol. 302.]But the Prime Minister the other day enveloped the whole question in a fog of words. What did he say?I give no definition of parity.Mr. Baldwin had been more explicit:The policy of the Government is to create an Air Force of such character and size as, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including the nature of our war problem and the extent and availability of our aggregated resources, will constitute an effective instrument for our purpose.1237 So many words, so little precision. The truth is that in the past, when Mr. Baldwin was Prime Minister, there were hopes entertained of reaching, in a comparatively short time, parity with Germany, and those hopes have now disappeared. They are no longer entertained by Members of the Government. The public concern at this is very widespread, and in recent months much evidence has been reaching members of His Majesty's Opposition from all quarters, some of it from persons possessing inside knowledge of various kinds. So much evidence has been reaching us that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposiiton decided to appoint a special committee to sift and examine this evidence. The more deeply we who are serving at my right hon. Friend's invitation upon that committee have pursued our work, the more deeply concerned have we become. We believe that such evidence, some of which I shall indicate to the House before I sit down—far fuller than I can hope to give it this afternoon—should go before the committee of inquiry which we propose should be set up. We should not be content merely to allow it to be put before persons holding positions in the Air Ministry, regarding some of whom we have received adverse reports from persons with authority to speak, but we should be prepared and glad for it to go before that type of impartial committee of inquiry for which we ask in our Motion. And, along with such evidence which we and others might furnish, there should be placed before the committee such evidence in self-defence as the defendants in this case would care to submit. I have been reading the "News Letter," which, I believe, is the organ of the present Colonial Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal. Anything that appears here may be taken to have their imprimatur. The "News Letter" of 21st May is very much concerned about a number of these questions which we are discussing to-day, and asks a number of very pertinent questions, and ends by saying:The country has a right to know, all the more so as there can be little doubt that the intelligence services of other States are sufficiently intelligent to know already.We should bear that observation in mind, because it is idle to suppose that many of these matters which are under
1238 Debate to-day are not perfectly well known to the intelligence services of other States, both friendly and less friendly. The scope of the inquiry that we suggest would cover, first, the whole problem of aircraft production, both quantity and quality of aeroplanes, including the supply of equipment and armament for such aeroplanes. Secondly, it would cover the internal organisation of the Air Ministry itself, with possibilities connected with a ministry of supply and other such projects, of which I will say a word in a moment. Thirdly, it would cover the problem of ground defences especially anti-aircraft guns, for which the War Office are responsible, and balloon barrage. And, fourthly, it would take some account also of air-raid precautions, though for reasons of time I am pressing that fourth head less this afternoon. We are not dogmatising as to what kind of inquiry it should be, but we ask for a comprehensive and an independent inquiry which would give general confidence. Lord Cadman and his committee did very well as far as the civil aviation inquiry was concerned. After the House of Commons had made sure that he should be assisted not by two "yes men" as was proposed at first, but by other independent people competent to assist him, the Cadman Committee did good work, and it might be regarded as the type of inquiry, which would suit this occasion. I am anxious not to dogmatise, but if the Prime Minister is willing at a later stage in the Debate to accept the principle of our Motion, it would no doubt not be difficult to arrive at an agreement in regard to details.
What is the position with regard to the quantity of aircraft? Varying estimates are given in terms of front line aeroplanes. The most optimistic statement which I have seen is that we are only 750 aeroplanes behind Germany. Other estimates say that we are 1,000 behind, some say that we are 1,200 behind, while the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) last week said that we were thousands behind. Anyhow, we are at least 750 behind, and perhaps more, in terms of first line aeroplanes. Germany's new production, according to the estimates which have been widely published, is at least 200 to 300 a month ahead of ours, and that may be accelerated in view of the facilities 1239 afforded by what used to be the independent State of Austria. Moreover, German first line aircraft, it is commonly believed, are of a newer type than ours on the whole, with better equipment and better armaments. The Germans, it is said, work only one shift, and that the additional floor space accommodation which could be taken up in an emergency is equal to 40 per cent. of the space now used in their factories. We in some cases are working more than one shift, and, despite that fact, we are behind in production, and we have no such reserves of floor space available contiguous to the present factories.
Sir Frederick Sykes, formerly Chief of Air Staff, as long ago as 5th April, 1938, in the "Daily Telegraph" put Germany's first line strength at from 2,500 to 3,000, as against our 1,750, many of which are admittedly obsolescent, if not obsolete. Our production was quoted at that time in that paper as being about 250 a month. Even if it be said that 250 was a slight under-estimate, what a puny and miserable production. In the Great War our production ran up to over 2,000 aeroplanes a month, in fact to 2,500, in addition to all the other war materials that were then being produced, and in spite of the fact that 5,000,000 males were under arms, most of them outside the country altogether and not engaged in industry. In those days we ran up to from 2,000 to 2,500 a month, and now we are producing a bare one-tenth of that number.
The industry proper and the shadow factory scheme are the two well accepted divisions of our productive activity. In the industry proper there is much evidence that there is a gross disequilibrium between the production of air frames on the one hand, and engines on the other. Air frames are terribly behind the engines. In the shadow factory scheme there is not much to cheer about yet. The shadow factory scheme was first under consideration in May, 1935, three years ago. It was announced with a great flourish of trumpets in March, 1936, and we are now informed—and it is borne out by a quotation which I have from "Flight" of the 14th April, 1938, and it is common knowledge to those who follow these things—that after three years not a single aeroplane produced in a shadow factory has been flown. That is 1240 the statement in "Flight." There was trouble in October, 1936, regarding the whole scheme of this shadow factory in which Lord Swinton and Lord Nuffield took conspicuous parts. There was an exchange of compliments. Lord Nuffield said that, having criticised the shadow factory scheme on various grounds, "I went to Lord Swinton and was turned down flat." He added, "God help you in the event of war." That was in October, 1936, and the output of the shadow factory scheme has not been such as to suggest that Lord Nuffield was wrong. There are rumours that he is to be brought back into the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the new Secretary of State for Air is going to speak later on, I understand, and perhaps he will tell us that, Lord Weir having walked out at one door, Lord Nuffield will walk in at another. It is a matter of great importance that we should know the movements of these great industrialists. At any rate, 18 months of valuable time has elapsed since Lord Nuffield and Lord Swinton had their scrap. It is a heavy price to pay for the feud between Lord Nuffield and Lord Swinton, that in the organisation of the shadow factory scheme there has been such a muddle. With separate components manufactured at different factories, if one is knocked out and some essential factor is missing the whole scheme of production is dislocated. We should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman say something on that matter.
It has never been said that there was any lack of first-class human material to be trained as pilots. If there were any lack of pilots within existing regulations, certain relaxations of these, particularly in regard to the present educational requirements, would easily bring about a great increase in the number of pilots. There is no shortage of men, but there is a terrible shortage of material with which to train pilots. We are informed that at many stations there are four pilots to one training aeroplane, and, if that is so, it is impossible to give efficient and progressive training to these pilots. We are also informed that the training is a fair weather training, because there is a serious shortage not only of aeroplanes, but of blind flying instruments and other accessories—a very serious shortage. I will not give the figure, though I have it on this paper, but we are informed that the monthly number of crashes now 1241 is very high compared with what might be expected, and that this heavy toll of crashes is due, first of all, to defective training owing to the shortage of aeroplanes to which I have referred. Secondly, it is due to deficiencies in the supply of blind flying apparatus and similar accessories; thirdly, to the lack of trained navigators; and, fourthly, to the lack of wireless operators.
We are informed that the supply of wireless operators is a thousand short of requirements. Why, I cannot imagine. Wireless operators are not difficult to train. As to wireless operator mechanics, the men who should be ready to do the maintenance and repair work on the ground and not be required to go up into the air, we are informed that there are practically no wireless operator mechanics at any of the stations. If that is so, there has been most culpable neglect in the recruitment of an indispensable part of the personnel.
I turn now from the quantity to the quality of aircraft. Here much disturbing evidence has been placed before us. I am not going to give figures of speeds, effective ranges, rates of climb, and so forth, of different type of aircraft, but I would merely say that there is much evidence to be found in Jane's well known work, "All the world's Aircraft," and a study of the evidence published there is very disturbing. Such evidence as we have obtained in detail leads to the conclusion that our existing aeroplanes—I am not talking of the aeroplanes promised for future delivery, but our existing aeroplanes—on which we should have to rely if trouble came to-morrow, are inferior to the German and the Italian aeroplanes. Plane for plane, on the average of performance, we are inferior to the Germans and the Italians.
Let me say a few words about the fighters. We are informed that neither the supermarine Spitfire nor the Hawker Hurricane have yet been delivered in appreciable quantities. The first super-marine Spitfire was shown three years ago at the Air Force display, and an order for hundreds of them was given in 1936, but none have been delivered, or none had been delivered up to a very recent date. An order for hundreds in 1936 and none delivered in 1938. With regard to the Hawker Hurricane, an order running into hundreds was given in 1936 and 1242 there have only been derisory deliveries running into tens compared with an order running into hundreds. We are told that in both these cases the delay has been due to constant changes by the Air Ministry in the details of design.
Now I come to equipment. We are informed that there is a most grievous shortage of essential instruments of many kinds. The artificial horizon and other night-flying instruments are lacking. Very small proportions of the squadrons are equipped with them. We are also informed that many firms can make these instruments, but that they do not get the contract if they are outside the ring. We are told that some firms who have had orders for making the instruments have had to lay men off because the orders are not continuous. We are further informed that there is no squadron yet equipped with blind landing gear. Our deficiencies are equally serious in both types of blind flying apparatus, the panels which enable machines to fly in fog and cloud and also the apparatus which enables them to land. So far as the former are concerned we are informed that there should be direct action vacuum pumps which can come into operation as the aeroplane takes off, and prevent icing. We are told that these vacuum pumps have been repeatedly but vainly asked for by the officers responsible for training, that three years ago the Bristol Company wrote to the Air Ministry asking whether they should fit engines for these pumps, but we are informed that the company have never had a reply to that letter to the Air Ministry. We are also informed that at the beginning of 1938 there were none of these vacuum pumps in the country, although three years ago the Bristol Company offered to manufacture them, that no orders were placed until November, 1937, and that those orders were then placed, not here but in the United States of America. Are we correctly informed or not?
Gun turrets are gravely in arrears. We are informed that some of the plant for making gun turrets has had to be bought from Germany. Not a great tribute to the inventive genius of British engineers and manufacturers. Now I come to automatic pilots. There have been prolonged difficulties in production owing to the change of types by the Air Ministry, with the result that very few automatic pilots 1243 are available. These instruments are of great importance as a means of easing the strain on the pilot. Of wireless homing sets there is a grave shortage, and of machine guns a grave shortage of new types. We may have some antediluvian pre-war junk, but a very small supply of modern types. Our information is that links for cartridge belt feeds are often found to be out of the true and have had to be sent back. I will not give the figure, but it runs into millions. Who is responsible for that? So much for the quality of aircraft and accessories.
Let me say a few words on the labour situation in regard to which, I understand, discussions are taking place to-day in which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence is concerned. The evidence which we have received demonstrates that, as yet, there is no shortage of skilled labour. The sheet metal workers who are particularly concerned with air frames are paying £600 a week in unemployment benefit to their skilled men. So far as the engineers are concerned, Mr. Fred Smith, secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, stated a fortnight ago:With our knowledge of the state of affairs in the engineering trades we say without fear of contradiction that the available sources of skilled labour in the industry are not being properly used. There is unemployment among our members. It increased last month by 669.That statement is very important, because one of the arguments put forward has been that a number of the men recorded as skilled engineers are too old or have been for too long a period without experience of modern engineering. If it is true, as Mr. Smith states, that unemployment is increasing among the engineers, it shows that men who were skilled enough to be employed a week or two ago are out of work now.Skilled men in some centres of the industry are working on short time. 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 absurd.So much for the engineers. Let me say a few words about the wood workers. There have been several very interesting speeches made from these benches by my hon. Friends who have practical knowledge of wood working. It has been suggested that the difficulty in the production 1244 of aircraft could, to some extent, be got over by the greater use of wood instead of metal. I am going to read a letter from a correspondent with inside knowledge, who has written to one of my hon. Friends, and I may say that he is not connected with de Havillands. The letter says:Winterton's discourse on the advantages of metal versus wooden construction would be comic but for the fact that he brings discredit on British aviation. He cannot be expected to be a technician, but his advisers should have told him that nearly four years ago the wooden-built aircraft the ' Comet ' won the Australian race and the same machine, within the past two months, broke every record in the flight from England to New Zealand and back. Wooden machines are as strong as metal. The German Heinkel high-speed monoplanes have wooden wings; so have the Savoia Marchetti bombers. It is typical of Air Ministry methods that they should place an experimental order for a wooden bomber with a firm who for the last 20 years have specialised on all-metal aircraft, while other firms, such as de Havillands, who have exported more aeroplanes of wooden construction than any other firm in the world, should be left to their own devices.That leads naturally to consideration of the organisation and personnel of the Air Ministry. We have now an Under-Secretary for Air who is an airman. Therefore, what I am going to say about some of his colleagues may not apply to him. Leaving him out of consideration, the Air Council, so we are advised, contains at the present time no man who has engineering qualifications, in spite of the fact that Lord Trenchard, the former chief of the Royal Air Force, declared that:The foundation of an air force should be flying and engineering.We are advised that no member of the Air Council except, perhaps, the Under-Secretary, has ever done any blind flying. They have no practical experience of that sort. None of them could navigate an aeroplane and none could fire a gun in the air. If these statements are true, is it an exaggeration to say that the Air Ministry is being run by out-of-date minds? They stuck to the biplane as the cavalry generals stuck to the horse, long after every great Power had given them up. They have given us hangars high enough to take the biplane now no longer needed, and consequently they are very vulnerable targets. In addition, so we are told, these high hangars have most defective ground defences, particularly against fire or gas. Not only are they most vulnerable, but 1245 we are told that much has been left undone which would have rendered them less vulnerable.
Searching in the higher ranks of the Air Ministry for people with practical and competent knowledge of up-to-date air problems, what do we find as far as the permanent officials are concerned? They are admirable men no doubt, but the principal permanent official of the Air Ministry had to be brought in from the Post Office, and the second man has had to be brought in from the Ministry of Agriculture. They may be good men for other purposes, but they have no practical knowledge of air problems and aircraft. We are deeply disturbed by the evidence we have received as to the complete lack in the higher ranges of personnel in the Air Ministry of any real, up-to-date, detailed knowledge of the vital problems we are discussing to-day.
We should be glad to know what the Supplies Committee, of which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was made chairman during his brief tenure at the Air Ministry, is doing. Is it still going on? If so, who is looking after it and what function is it now performing? We have evidence from many quarters to the effect that the Department of Supply and Organisation in the Air Ministry is a very weak spot indeed. Our evidence from many quarters is that that Department of Supply and Organisation is a mess. It is under Air Vice-Marshal Welsh. Our evidence from many quarters is that that Air Vice-Marshal—I say nothing against him personally, and he certainly holds a distinguished record of service—is not on the top of that job. Many of those who have been kind enough to give us their advice have suggested that one of the indispensable changes should be a change at the top there. There is also, we are told, a very weak spot in the directorate of Aeronautical Production, Colonel Disney. He knows much about telephones and wireless equipment, but he knows nothing about aircraft production. His Department, we are told, is largely responsible for the whole production muddle, the bottlenecks and so on. We are told that there is no central supervision over design and order. We are also informed that within the Air Ministry—it may be concealed from the right hon. Gentleman for a little while, unless he looks under the 1246 surface—there is a state of friction and jealousy between the departments amounting almost to a state of war. That information comes from more than one source.
How is it that the Air Ministry is not producing the goods? There can be no doubt that it is not producing the goods. It is not producing the goods, first, because it still adheres—as the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir Hugh Seely) clearly pointed out—to a grotesque multiplicity of types. Secondly, it is failing to give large and continuous orders to manufacturers. Thirdly, it is constantly chopping and changing its designs. We have evidence of a most extraordinary character as to the over-complexity of design; hundreds of different sizes of screws and bolts are required in the manufacture of one single machine. There is quite unnecessarily over-complexity of design and constant chopping and changing. There are great delays in inspection. We are told that some of the inspectors are inefficient, and that sometimes the manufacturers have to tell the inspectors what to inspect. We are told that there are great delays in costing, and there is, of course, the familiar argument, which I believe has much weight, that there is too much adherence to firms within the ring and as far as the shadow scheme is concerned to the ring of motor manufacturers.
§ Mr. Dalton
I have made that quite clear. It is part of the indictment of the Air Ministry that some of the inspectors whom they send are slow and have to be told by the manufacturers what it is they are to inspect. We have much evidence that they are inefficient, too slow in their movements and that their number is too small. That is one factor which is holding up the whole production. We are entitled to ask this blunt question. Why cannot we do it? What is stopping us? I have compared our War achievements under much less easy conditions, when vast numbers of men were not available and when there were so many other objects of production. Why are we not doing it now? Hon. Members on this side of the House have been driven to the conclusion that we shall 1247 not do it until we have completely reorganised the whole system of the production of the requirements of the armed forces.
This leads me to the question of a ministry of supply. There is a tremendous case for a ministry of supply, and all the arguments I have been addressing to the House this afternoon converge upon the creation of such a new Department. The Government two days ago in the House of Lords made a most feeble and inconclusive reply to a request for the creation of a ministry of supply. There is a great similarity between the War situation which led up to the creation of the Ministry of Munitions; no one who reads the records and the memoirs of that time can fail to be struck with the similarity of the situation then with the situation now. Then the trouble was shells. The pretence made then was that there was no real shortage in shell manufacture, but an indignant and increasingly informed public opinion found that this was false and that there was a grave shortage in shells, because firms were failing to produce the goods in the same way as the aircraft firms are failing to produce the goods now. There was a War Office muddle then, there is an Air Ministry muddle now. There was departmental resistance and jealousy then in the War Office. There is the same departmental resistance and jealousy in the Air Ministry now. Let me quote from a letter written by the late Lord Balfour on the 5th March, 1915, to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George):Putting labour troubles altogether on one side, the position seems to be most unsatisfactory, and unless you will take in hand the organisation of the engineering resources of the country in the interests of military equipment, I do not see how any improvement is to be expected. Will anybody tell me that with proper organisation it is materially impossible greatly to increase the output of fuses? It may be so, but I do not feel at all inclined to accept it on the authority of the Ordnance people at the War Office. They are admirable people, but their training cannot have been of the kind which would enable them successfully to exploit the manufacturing resources of the country.The position is exactly the same to-day in regard to aircraft production. We had to come to national shell factories in the War and to depend upon them for our production owing to the failure of private 1248 enterprise, and the lack of central direction. So to-day we are being driven inevitably towards national aircraft factories supervised by a new ministry of supply supervising the requirements of all the other Services. There was a Royal Commission, by no means a Bolshevist Commission, but a Commission of elderly gentlemen of moderate views appointed by the Government, which gave them a report on arms manufacture, and this Royal Commission of elderly people of moderate views reported in favour of the establishment of a certain number of nationally-owned factories for the production of aircraft and accessories. But even that small beginning the Government refused to make. Other hon. Members will no doubt develop the question of a ministry of supply and, therefore, I will say no more upon it, except that if it is to be effective it must have the same powers that the Ministry of Munitions had over all stages of manufacture, beginning with design and ending with inspection, testing and delivery to the Services. Unless you have that control you will not get the efficiency we are entitled to expect.
One word about the Dominions. We have had discussions about the necessity of seeing whether we cannot manufacture aircraft in Canada. It is an extraordinary fact that the Conservative party have forgotten the Dominions in all this business. They have neither used them to assist us in getting our supplies nor have they supplied the Dominions with their requirements, as promised. On the 16th of this month the Minister for National Defence speaking in the Parliament at Ottawa informed the House:That the Canadian Government had been unable to secure delivery of the anti-aircraft guns, tanks, and heavy ordnance for which orders had been placed in Great Britain in 1935That illustrates the general failure to co-ordinate our resources in order to produce munitions of war—and in view of the world rearmament race Canada must henceforward rely on her own productive capacity for the supply of war equipment essential for any national emergency.When I was in Australia I made inquiries and had conversations, and I found that there was great concern because the promises of the Air Ministry to deliver suitable aircraft to Australia had not been kept. There were constant 1249 changes in recommendations as to type, there had been no deliveries worthy of the name, and the Australian Government were deciding to build their own aircraft factories for the production of their own aircraft in Australia. Let me touch for a moment on the question of the export of planes. The export of good military planes to the Dominions, if they so desire, is no doubt a proper thing to do, but what can be said about the export of more than 500 planes last year, mostly military planes—they are not separately distinguished in the returns?
In an answer given to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) on the 23rd March, full particulars are given as to destination and as to numbers, and it appears that 507 planes altogether were exported from this country last year. Most of them are military planes, because as Lord Cadman pointed out our civil aviation is in such a state that we are not in a position to build aircraft for foreign countries, but so far as military planes are concerned we exported 500 and more than half to countries outside the Empire. We exported 271 to countries outside the Empire and 236 to Empire countries. Of these countries outside the Empire some may have special arrangements and some may be counted as possible allies, but what is the reason for sending 16 aeroplanes to Brazil and 11 to Uruguay? If our shortage is as bad as it is there is no justification for sending away any planes having any military value to countries so remote geographically and so detached politically from us. I submit that the whole question of the export of planes should be reconsidered.
Now I come briefly to ground defences. We have received most disturbing evidence about ground defence. Only this afternoon the Government were asked when the balloon barrage was going to be put up for provincial centres and the answer was, not yet, they wanted first to test the balloon barrage for London. That is not much comfort for Tyneside or Edinburgh or Glasgow. The balloon barrage was recommended years ago by Professor Lindeman, and the Air Ministry said he was a crank and a fool. Then a committee of scientists was got together and they all said that a balloon barrage would be a good thing, but the Air Ministry again obstructed and in a statement on defence in February, 1937, there was the first public mention made of it. 1250 We are told that a balloon barrage for London, the only one under construction, will not be ready until Christmas, 1938, an uncomfortable thought, and that for other cities no beginning will be made until this one has been tested.
I have notes here but I will not use them because I am anxious not to put all the cards on the table; but there is very serious evidence regarding the defence arrangements generally for the North of England and Scotland. They are bad enough in London and the South, but the evidence shows that the neglect as regards the North of England and Scotland is so very shocking that if it was widely known there would be an outburst of indignation which would not be pleasant for the Government.
One word about anti-aircraft guns. The "Daily Telegraph" a few weeks ago said that there were only six anti-aircraft guns of a modern type in London and none at all in the rest of the country. By "modern type" they refer to 3.7 inch high velocity guns, the virtues of which have been advertised in the City of London and elsewhere. There were only six in London, there may be a few more now, and none in the rest of the country, and the delivery of this new type of gun was only begun in March, 1938. Compare that with the statement made in the House by the Secretary of State for War in answer to a question yesterday. I do not know what the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Major Macnamara) or the hon. and gallant Member for North Bucks (Major Whiteley), or the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) thought about the answers they received. I do not know whether they liked the answers when they heard them, but I did not like them when I saw them in print this morning. I do not want to say they were false statements, for that would be too crude and would not express my meaning, but I think the statements made by the Secretary of State for War are calculated greatly to mislead the country. They are soothing syrup. The truth behind them is not what it appears to be on the surface. What the Secretary of State for War was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford was:Whether all the anti-aircraft units composing the defence of London are equipped with their full complement of guns, height-1251finders, and predictors; and whether these are ready for immediate use in an emergency?The answer was:Modernised 3-inch guns, complete with the requisite scale of instruments, sufficient for training, are held by all gunner units of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Division. They are ready for immediate use in emergency."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th May, 1938; col. 1009, Vol. 336.]What does that answer amount to? The 3-inch guns are relined pre-war stuff. The 3.7-inch high velocity gun, which is recommended by the experts and which has been demonstrated under the auspices of the War Office, has still not come along. There is no denying that. We may be sure that if there had been a reassuring answer to give in regard to those guns, it would have been given.
§ Mr. Dalton
I call it misleading because the question was whether all the anti-aircraft units composing the defence of London are equipped with their full complement of guns. The 3.7-inch high velocity gun is recommended, and surely it is that which is intended in the reference to the "full complement of guns" in the question. What impression was created in the public mind by that answer? What did the "Times" newspaper say (this morning? The cross-headings in the "Times" above these questions and answers was:The Defence of London—Anti-Aircraft Equipment Ready.That was the impresion given to the "Times" newspaper. I say that the anti-aircraft equipment is not ready. All that the right hon. Gentleman could say in answer to the question was that he has got some modernised 3-inch guns—
§ Mr. Dalton
That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said. I say that the defence of London has been grossly neglected in that those are the best guns that the right hon. Gentleman could mention in reply to a question of that nature. Where are the 3.7-inch guns? Why has the production of those guns been delayed? It is well known to all officers who handle these guns that the 3-inch 1252 gun has barely half the vertical range of the 3.7-inch gun. Is that denied? The maximum point which the 3-inch gun can reach can be reached by the 3.7 gun in a little more than half the time. Is that denied? As everybody knows, the split second is vital in these matters. Is it denied that, as far as effectiveness of shell-fire is concerned, the 3-inch gun is grossly inferior to the 3.7-inch gun? Those are all platitudes to officers with knowledge of these matters. The right hon. Gentleman's answer was either a confession of complete defeat in regard to the scale of production, or it was designed to be soothing syrup to take in people such as those who put in the "Times" the headline: "The Defence of London—Anti-Aircraft Equipment Ready." It is not ready. That is one more piece of scandalous neglect by the Ministers responsible for the defence of this country. The delay in the production of these guns has gone on from year to year, long before the right hon. Gentleman was at the War Office. It is one of the scandals of which the House and the country ought to know.
I will pass rapidly over the remaining points which I wish to bring to the attention of the House. Air-raid precautions have also been gravely neglected, but here the Prime Minister has granted in principle the request we are making over the larger field, because on the question of evacuation, which up to now the Government has neglected, he has appointed a departmental committee, presided over by a distinguished gentleman whom we prefer to think of as a distinguished civil servant rather than as a mere Tory Member of Parliament. There are to be other members from different parties in the House, and I welcome the fact that the committee is quickly to get to work.
But this is only a very small part of the field of inquiry. I have given the House only a fraction of the evidence which has been brought to my hon. Friends and myself, and I have deliberately not given many statistics which I have on my notes, and which I would have used if I had been challenged. In some cases I have given only general indications and outlines. I submit that the weight of evidence which we have received—and others also have received much evidence—is far more than enough to justify the demand for an inquiry to 1253 be set up. We believe that if this country is even to approach safety, large changes are required, both in the methods of production of our aircraft and other defence materials, and in the organisation of that production. It is not enough first to replace Lord Londonderry by Lord Swinton, and then Lord Swinton by the ex-Minister of Health. The source of the repeated and lamentable failures of the plans and programmes that have been given to the House from time to time lies far deeper than any mere changes of personnel. The whole matter should be submitted to such an inquiry.
If the worse should come, I shall not envy the Prime Minister or his colleagues when they look back upon the vote which they will give to-day, if they vote against this inquiry. If the worst should come, I shall not envy them when they remember that to-day they voted against holding an inquiry—independent, expeditious, competent and confidential as we propose—into our air defences, while there is yet time, though perhaps not much time. I shall not envy them when they look back and reflect upon the fact that they rejected that request made from these benches. The world and this country are in grave peril. It was our duty this afternoon to bring this Motion before the House. Is our request to be met in a reasonable spirit, either by the acceptance of the Motion or by the suggestion of some alternative procedure which would give equivalent results, or have we to go drifting on with these weaknesses, perhaps fatal weaknesses, in our air defences unexposed and unrepaired until, it may be, the tragedy comes and the first bombs fall upon this ill-defended native land of ours?
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister
This Debate was originally fixed to take place last week. I should like to begin by expressing my regret to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that, owing to my personal physical weakness, I was not able to be present on that occasion, and also my appreciation of their courtesy in consenting to postpone the Debate until I was able to take my place here again. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) began his speech by complaining that we have treated the Motion as a Vote of Censure, but I think 1254 he will see that it was inevitable that we should do so owing to the terms in which it is couched. Although it does not actually declare that this House has no confidence in the Government, there are in the terms of the Motion two implications which come as near as no matter to the same thing. The first implication is that the condition of the country's air defences and the administration of those defences by the Air Ministry are so bad that a searching inquiry is necessary; and the second implication is that the Government cannot be trusted to make that inquiry itself, but that the inquiry must be handed over to some outside, independent, or, as the hon. Gentleman said, impartial body. What is that but want of confidence? If the hon. Gentleman had confidence in the Government, he would not require to take the matter out of their hands and give it to somebody else. I think it is a little unreasonable of hon. Gentlemen opposite to put down a Motion in those terms and then complain that we treat it as a Vote of Censure.
As to the first of the implications, let me say at once that I am not here to deny that there have been delays, disappointments and checks in the programme, which has been altered from time to time and expanded according to what we considered to be the needs of the moment. I do not deny that. But, on the other hand, I have no hesitation in saying that in the Air Force as it stands to-day the country has a defence of which any country might be proud, and if it were put to the test to-morrow, with whatever deficiencies there may be, I venture to say that it would prove to be one of the most formidable fighting machines in the world. If I am obliged, as I am, to reject the request for an inquiry, I do so for the same reasons as I rejected a similar request on 15th March last. But I am not going to treat this matter as a question of controversy between parties this afternoon, because I recognise that the very fact that the Opposition have put down this Motion means that they are proceeding on the assumption—an assumption indeed which was made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland —that it is not only desirable, but it is essential that we should have an Air Force complete and efficient in all respects as speedily as possible. We are all agreed about that.
1255 If that be so, then I say that my first and principal reason for rejecting an inquiry is that I do not believe that an inquiry would help in achieving that purpose. I believe that at this time when, above all, what we want is speed and rapidity in making up any deficiencies that exist, an inquiry, to which one could give only the most general terms of reference, an inquiry which would almost necessarily have to be a sort of fishing or roving inquiry to see what was wrong, would be a process which would distract the attention and dissipate the energies both of the Air Ministry and of the air craft industry as a whole. I put it to the House—
§ The Prime Minister
I heard a speech lasting more than an hour from the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, and I think it is a little early to begin interruptions of my speech, especially as I am not now saying anything which is controversial or provocative. I put it to hon. Members that no Government can dispense with its own responsibility for the efficiency of the Defence Services of the Crown. I put it to them that what is wanted at this moment is not any digging up of the past or attempts to place the fault, if fault there be, here or there. What we want is a continuous review by the man who is principally responsible—that is, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air —of all the circumstances of the case and the devotion of his whole mind to the removal of faults and the prosecution of the programme.
Since this Motion was originally put down, there have been changes at the Air Ministry and I shall have something to say about my Noble Friend Lord Swinton and his administration of the office. My right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Air is a man of whom the House has had knowledge now for a great many years, and I think the reputation which he has established in the various offices he has already held will be some guarantee that his methods will be thorough, and that he will omit no pains in order to carry out the duties which are expected of him. I think it was made clear in the letters which passed between Lord Swinton and myself, when he offered his resignation and I accepted it, 1256 that I accepted it, not because I was dissatisfied with his administration, but because I recognised, as he recognised, the difficulty of carrying on a great spending Department at a time of rapid expansion,, and at a time when it was the focus of attention both in this House and the country when the head of that Department was not in this House to answer for himself.
My Noble Friend has been criticised for faults which are alleged to have existed in the administration of his office. I do not think that any charges that have been brought against him have been brought with any malicious motive, but I do think they have been brought with insufficient appreciation of the magnitude and difficulty of the task which was laid upon him. When he took office, with no powers of compulsion but only those of persuasion, he was called upon, at short notice, to carry out an enormous expansion of the organisation of the Air Force. He was called upon to equip it with new types of machines which had not passed the stage of design, and at the same time to make all the necessary preparations for the recruitment and training of the increased personnel which was necessary to man the force.
Not only that. He had to take account of what might happen if the last emergency arose and if we should be involved in war. He had to take account of the fact that the capacity of the country was quite insufficient to maintain our forces in the early period of a war, and he consequently had to devise and put into operation a system under which the war potential of the country could be increased to an extent which had not hitherto been dreamt of. To do that he necessarily had to enlist the services of firms who were entirely without previous experience of the work they were called upon to do. That is a very brief summary of the task laid upon my Noble Friend. I cannot help feeling that it must be extremely difficult for anyone who has not himself had experience of manufacturing on a large scale or of suddenly expanding some organisation from very small proportions to very large ones—it must be difficult I say for anyone who has not had that experience to realise the tremendous stress and strain which such a task involves upon those who are concerned with it.
1257 I would like the House to recollect, too, that the situation was enormously complicated by the fact that the conditions in which it was carried out were entirely exceptional. It was not like some period of expansion, let us say, in navies when all that is required is to repeat many times, no doubt with some developments, designs already accepted, tried out and tested in actual service. Those three years of which I speak during which the expansion of the Air Force has had to take place coincided with one of those forward leaps which periodically take place in applied science, and in this particular case the features of this advance took three forms. The development of the all-metal monoplane, the design of new engines of unprecedented efficiency and the invention of the variable pitch air screw. The combination of those three new features in aircraft construction not only completely altered the design but it necessarily altered the strategy which had to be employed in the use of these newly developed machines.
During those three years the design of aeroplanes has been changing all the time like a kaleidoscope. We have heard again from the hon. Gentleman opposite of the delays that have been caused by changes in design and the necessity for a reduction in the types of machines to a comparatively small number of standardised patterns. I agree that it is desirable to reduce the number of types and to standardise them as far as possible as a general principle, because the nearer you can get to standardisation the easier it is to engage in economical quantity production. But I would suggest to hon. Members that in a transition period, and that is what we have been passing through, a transition period from old designs to new designs of an entirely different character, you can easily carry that principle too far. It would not be right to put too severe a brake upon the inventive genius of our people in manufacture and design, if we want to get the best results, and the modern type of aircraft fitted with engines such as I have described is not really ready for standardisation until you have had an opportunity of testing its performance by the ability of the human body to stand the tremendous stresses which are involved. Therefore, while it is undoubtedly the policy of the Air Ministry always to be reducing the number of 1258 types it has in use, and to standardise their construction as far as possible, yet I say that during this transition period it was inevitable that the number of types should be considerably in excess of the number to which you would hope to get down when you had had further opportunities of experience.
Lord Swinton's work during those three years has been largely one of building foundations, and we are now beginning to see the fruits of his labours. I have not the slightest doubt that upon the foundations which he has laid, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air will be able to build a firmly based structure of further additions and developments. But there are three indispensable pieces of preparatory work which have been done by Lord Swinton, and for which we owe him gratitude. First of all he has consistently stimulated experimentation so that we might get the best types of machines that could be devised, and I think it is satisfactory that the orders that we have been placing recently are orders for machines which have the highest records for performance and for maintenance when they are actually in operation. As regards speed, it is some time ago since a Hurricane machine flew from Edinburgh to Northolt in 48 minutes. That was a remarkable demonstration of the speed of these new machines, and what was perhaps quite as interesting was that that journey was made in bad visibility by night.
§ Sir H. Seely
If it is a question of speed I am pointing out that there was a 60-mile-an-hour wind behind the machine.
§ Sir H. Seely
If that is considered to be the normal speed of a Hawker Hurricane, I am pointing out that it certainly is not so, because the wind behind on that flight is well known to have been between 50 and 60 miles an hour.
§ The Prime Minister
I will not argue that, and I am not saying that that is the normal speed. I did not say so. I was going on to say that the pilot was able 1259 to find his way and steer a correct course by his instruments alone and that that showed that, while we have developed these great speeds, we have not neglected the question of safety or of adaptability. It is interesting to compare the speeds that are being achieved to-day with those which were achieved only a comparatively short time ago, and, of course, when the hon. Gentleman compares the output of aeroplanes to-day with the output of aeroplanes during the War he is comparing two things which are as different from one another as chalk from cheese. The Bulldog squadron which was formed long after the War in 1929 had a top speed of 163 miles an hour; the first squadron of Gauntlets which was formed in 1935 had a top speed of 230 miles an hour; but now we are well over speeds of 300 miles an hour, and the Spitfire, to which I think the hon. Member alluded, is, I am informed, the fastest fighter in service squadrons anywhere in the world. [Interruption.] It is shortly coming into service. In speaking of bombers, I cannot, of course, disclose the range of the bomb loads of the latest types, but those which are now in service are, I understand, the fastest bombers in the world, and the new types which are now on order show such a marked advance in all respects upon those which are now in service that I think it is very unlikely that their performance will be surpassed by the bombers of any other country.
The second task of my Noble Friend was to devise a scheme for the expansion and for the training of personnel. The hon. Member said, quite truly, that there was no difficulty in the recruiting of the necessary numbers, and I think he rightly insisted that the important point was the training. In accordance with the plan of the Air Ministry, there are now 13 civil schools devoted to preliminary training, there are 11 training schools for Service flying, the capacity for the trade training of men and boys in the Air Service has been increased sevenfold, and Lord Swinton also created the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, for which there are now 22 centres in operation. I am not sure whether hon. Members have already been told, but there are now over 1,000 volunteer pilots who have qualified to fly solo.
1260 Then may I say one word about the new war potential? That involved the building of new factories and very large extensions of those which were already engaged in aircraft construction. It also involved the creation of a shadow factory system, which for the time being is being fully employed, while we are building up the force, but which it is intended later on to keep in reserve for an emergency only, placing with the shadow factories such orders as are necessary to maintain the craftsmanship and the experience of those who will run them. This shadow factory system is giving us an enormous increase of productive capacity in war and it covers not only the manufacture of aircraft and engines, but there are shadow factories also for the production of carburettors, bombs, and air screws. These factories are laid out on the very latest model of factory equipment, and they are, I am told, second to none in the world. I believe I am right in saying that there is no part of the development of the air defences of this country which has made a deeper impression upon foreign visitors than has this shadow factory system. I should like to say that in the whole of that scheme we have had invaluable assistance from Lord Weir, and although he has now retired from active participation in the work of the Ministry, we shall continue to have value for the work which he has done in the future development of the force.
I would like to say a word or two about mass production. It was not mentioned by the hon. Member, but it often is mentioned, and, as far as I know, the words have never yet been accurately defined. I myself I think would understand the term "mass production" as the production by labour saving machinery of very large numbers of identical articles. The Ford Company have recently completed the four millionth V.8 engine under the sort of conditions under which mass production is carried on effectively, but I am told that in the ordinary motor car engine, such as the one that I have just mentioned, there are somewhere about 1,700 parts. I do not think it is realised that in the case of a modern bomber there are 11,000 parts in the engine alone, and that, apart from that, in the planes there are upwards of 70,000 separate parts for which between 6,000 and 8,000 separate drawings are required. That is a very 1261 different proposition from the mass production of a motor car, and, moreover, in the design of an aeroplane there is so much variation of line, due to the various curves and tapers of the machine and so on, that there is necessarily extremely little uniformity among those parts, and the actual numbers of any one part are therefore comparatively small.
It will be seen from what I have said, therefore, that although we have in fact placed very large orders with individual firms or shadow factories, running up to such numbers as 700, 800, or 900 machines, when you come to the actual number of parts which can be duplicated, they are not comparable with the numbers that we commonly associate with the term "mass production." It is, of course, possible to apply special methods to reduce time and labour when you have large orders for aeroplanes— and the larger the order the more nearly you approach mass production methods— but I think the House will appreciate that when you are dealing with a complex, delicate mechanism like that of these modern aircraft, the technique must necessarily be very different from that which is employed when you are turning out your grosses of screws or nuts or even of cardboard boxes.
The hon. Member has also made criticism of the administration of the Air Ministry and he has given us a tremendous catalogue of charges, only a fraction, I understand, of those which he might have made, against the work of the Air Ministry. It is obviously quite impossible for me to attempt to make an answer to those charges now. To my mind they suggested a foundation of truth and a great deal of elaboration, shall I say, of their truth afterwards, but again I put it to the House, assuming that there is a certain amount of truth, that there have been mistakes, that there have been delays, that there have been changes when there should not have been changes, and that there have been gaps when there should not have been gaps, how is an inquiry going to help us to put that right now? There are changes that have taken place quite recently, but before the appointment of my right hon. Friend, in the organisation of the Air Ministry. They were described by my Noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the other day. They have 1262 passed the test of experience like their predecessors, and I do believe myself that they are designed to carry out and are capable of carrying out effectively that acceleration and expansion of the programme which was recently decided upon by His Majesty's Government. My right hon. Friend will himself be speaking later in the Debate, and I do not want to trespass in any way upon what he is going to say hereafter. I think, therefore, I had better leave this question of the charges that are made about the past or the changes that have recently been made in organisation, with any fresh ideas which my right hon. Friend may desire to put before the House. I had better leave all that to him to give us when he comes to speak later in the evening.
I would like now to turn to the remarks which the hon. Member made about a ministry of supply, a proposal which has had a good deal of publicity, though there appears to be a good deal of difference of opinion as to what exactly is wanted. There is the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), for example. He has put forward a plan for a ministry of supply which would be limited to the requirements of the Air Ministry and which would not have, as I understand, any powers or duties which it is not possible for either the Air Ministry or the Committee of Imperial Defence to exercise now. Then again there is Lord Mottistone, who has a desire to see the old Ministry of Munitions revived, with the same constitution, the same powers and duties, that the Ministry of Munitions had in the War; and that I understand to be favoured by the hon. Gentleman opposite. Then again my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has revived a memorandum which he wrote some time ago, in which he evolved a scheme of his own, a scheme for a ministry with, as I understand, at the present time intermediate but unspecified powers, and a scheme which would combine supply and design for the Army and the Air Force with certain odds and ends for the Admiralty.
The only point that all these schemes have in common is that they contemplate that a new minister should be appointed. That is, of course, a proposal which always carries with it a certain amount of interest. My first comment upon all or 1263 any of these schemes must be that, whatever their merits, they surely are inopportune at the present moment. Whichever form of ministry of supply we adopt it must inevitably mean a certain dislocation of the present machine, and that must be followed, therefore, by a check and a setback in the programme which is being developed by the existing organisation. It seems to me that that difficulty is only to be overridden if there are some superior interests to be served. Either the new ministry of supply will be so superior to the present system that it will very quickly overtake the arrears, and thereafter give us greatly increased output, or else—and this would not apply to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University—it follows that the present system is deficient in coordination, and that the new scheme would put an end to that deficiency and consequently promote efficiency and progress, which are now being hampered by overlapping.
The hon. Member suggested that the fact that Canada had not been able to get delivery of orders placed for guns in this country years ago conclusively proved the necessity for a ministry of supply; but if Canada or other Dominions had not been able to get their orders fulfilled, that was not because there was no ministry of supply here, but because all available capacity for production of the things they wanted was being occupied in production for our own purposes. If we have to some extent broken in upon that state of things, if we have, for instance, exported a certain number of aeroplanes to the Dominions and other countries, we have had to do it at the expense of our own defences here in so far as they were military machines which we could use. The hon. Member is quite right in saying that other considerations have to be taken into account. Certainly it would be extremely unfortunate if we were to announce to all the world that we were not going to supply a single aeroplane or item of munitions to anybody until we had completed our own programme, for in that case we might indeed alienate our friends and destroy a good will for which we shall be very thankful hereafter.
Let me say at once that I think hon. Members may dismiss any idea that you require a ministry of supply to stop overlapping or to prevent one Department 1264 from taking away supplies which ought really to go to another. There is ample machinery existing to-day and working daily for preventing overlapping and for allocating priority in all the things that matter. I wonder sometimes whether hon. Members realise how far the system of co-ordination has been carried to-day in commodities which we require for warlike purposes. The House has been told on other occasions of a body which is known as the Principal Supply Officers' Committee—a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is the body which is responsible for this work. It contains representatives of all the Departments that are concerned in war supplies—the three Service Departments, the Treasury, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour, the Home Office, and also the Dominions and India. It deals with all the commodities that are required in war—ships, guns, aeroplanes, tanks, explosives and propellants, motor vehicles, clothing, raw materials, machine tools and so forth. I could enlarge the list almost indefinitely.
§ The Prime Minister
Continuously; it is in continuous session. Let me explain to the House how this committee works. In the case of every one of these commodities —-and I have given only some—it assesses what would be the probable demand for that commodity in wartime, based, of course, on certain hypotheses as to the conditions of the war. It has inspected hundreds of factories all through the country. It has now allocated the capacity for each of these commodities, and where the capacity does not fully exist it has taken, or is taking, steps to supply the deficiency. It handles all questions of priority as between one Department and another, and that covers not only materials but labour. It has the closest relation with industry because it has on it representatives of industry, leading men who are in close touch with it and who act, in fact, as chairmen of some of its subcommittees. This is an organisation which was founded as long ago as 1924. It has been gradually building up this system. There was nothing like it before 1914, before the Great War, and I am bound to say that I find great difficulty in seeing how it will be possible to improve upon it to-day for the particular purposes for which it has been constituted.
1265 Do not let us be led into accepting the idea of a ministry of supply as being something innately superior to our present system. Let us be clear what it is that our present system is doing and what more we might expect to get from a ministry of supply if we set one up. My own view—and I, at any rate, have not looked at this matter from any departmental point of view; I am not concerned with the prestige of one Department against another—is that, although in actual war a ministry of supply would be essential—and, indeed, we have all the plans ready for such a ministry which could be put into operation at once in such circumstances—I do not believe that a ministry of supply in peacetime will be effective, as the Ministry of Munitions was effective in the Great War, unless you give that ministry of supply the same powers as the Ministry of Munitions had. The hon. Gentleman agrees with me. He specified some of the powers—he did not specify them all.
§ Mr. Dalton
What I said was that, in my submission, the ministry of supply should have the same powers over all stages and processes of manufacture from design at one end to inspection, testing and delivery at the other.
§ The Prime Minister
It has to be a great deal more than that if it is to be an improvement on the present system. I submit to hon. Members that you can do a great deal to-day by persuasion, by voluntary effort, and by co-operation with labour and with employers; but if you want to produce the sort of effect you had in the Great War, when the Government had absolute control over the whole of industry throughout the country, you must give this ministry the same sort of powers. I would remind hon. Members that among those powers were not only the power of controlling factories, but the power of relaxing trade union practices and regulations, the power over strikes, the power over dilution—
§ The Prime Minister
That is what I am pointing out. I think we can do what we want without. What I am saying is that I do not think it is any use setting up a ministry of supply with the same limited powers that we have already. If 1266 you want to go further than that you must have these further powers over industry and over labour, and I doubt very much whether we should be justified in asking for such powers, or whether, if we did ask for them, Parliament would give us them in time of peace. The analogy of wartime is really misleading. We are not at war.
I need only remind hon. Members of one feature of the Ministry of Munitions Act to bring to their minds how very different are the conditions to-day. Under that Act one of the Sections provided that men could volunteer for service in controlled factories. If they volunteered for that service they had to enter into an undertaking to move from factory to factory according as they were instructed by the Ministry of Munitions. What did they get in return? They got a badge which exempted them from being called up for military service in France. We have no such persuasive powers at our disposal to-day, and I think hon. Members should always bear in mind, in considering this question of a ministry of supply, what an immense difference there is between times of peace such as we, at any rate, are enjoying, and times of war, or times when war seems imminent. Without those powers the only effect of setting up a ministry of supply would be that you would have to take the actual individuals who are now carrying on certain work in the Air Ministry or the other Service Departments, put them together in some new building, and label them "Ministry of Supply." That would be all the difference you would get. You would set back the work that is being done now and, as far as I am able to see, you would add nothing whatever to it. For the reasons I have given, the Government are not prepared to set up a ministry of supply any more than they are prepared to grant the inquiry which is being asked for by the party opposite. Nobody must imagine from that that we are not straining every nerve to complete our programme at the earliest possible moment.
The hon. Member has again brought up the question of air parity. I do not accept his statement that we have abandoned the idea of air parity, but I repeat what I have said before, that in estimating air parity the number of machines which constitute first-line strength is only one of many factors which 1267 have to be taken into account. I very much deprecate the picking out of any particular country for continual comparison in considering our air affairs. I think it is unnecessary, because we have to work on general principles, and I very much prefer a general statement, which cannot then be taken as being in any way a challenge to anybody else. [Interruption.] We are all sinners, no doubt, and I do not pretend to be more virtuous than other people. I only say, what occurs to me now, that I do not think it is helpful to make comparison with particular countries, and that it is better, so far as we can, to keep our discussions upon this point upon general lines.
I have said repeatly in many Debates on this subject that our programme is flexible; it is a programme which is capable of expansion, or even of reduction; and it is a programme, therefore, which must vary from time to time in accordance with the international situation. I do not mind saying—and I pick out here something which I think I heard just now —that to me the important thing is not the programme but its execution. What the Government have set themselves to do is to get the maximum execution possible, at least in the next two years. In these days, when foreign conditions are continually changing, it is difficult to look forward with any confidence to what the conditions may be over a longer period than two years, but our view is that it is our duty to obtain the maximum production of aircraft, and all the necessary accessories and equipment, that this country can give us in the course of the next two years. That is really the programme we have set before ourselves for the present. All I would say to hon. Members in conclusion is: I beg you most earnestly not to take away the attention of my right hon. Friend from the task which we have set him in order to carry out some inquiry, which, I veritably believe, however effective it was, would not help in the task to which, I feel, we all desire to address ourselves.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
The Prime Minister referred at the beginning of his speech to the fact that this Debate had been postponed from last week and to the cause of that postponement. Let me say at the outset that my hon. Friends 1268 and I welcome him back to the service of the House, and welcome also the evidence which his speech has given of his return to robust health and vigour. In the last Debate, just under a fortnight ago, grave anxiety was expressed in all parts of the House about the position of our air defences, and there was on that occasion, as I am sure there is to-day, a general wish not to make partisan capital out of the situation with which we are confronted; but the anxiety was by no means allayed by the speech which was delievered by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and at the end of the Debate three Motions were tabled, one by the official Opposition, one by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and 25 of his Friends, and one by my hon. Friends and myself. The Motion tabled by the official Opposition is the one which we are discussing to-day. My impression, and I think it is the impression of a great many people with whom I have discussed it in the House and in the country—and it is the impression which has been received by the Press —is that the Motion is moderately worded. It is worded with a desire to avoid any partisan implications, and I believe that the Government would indeed have consulted the wish of the House if it could have seen its way to accept it. It is the Government which has insisted on treating this Motion as a Vote of Censure; it is the Government which has feared to face the House of Commons, sitting as a Council of State and discussing the merits of the issue without regard to party advantage. The Government insists upon stigmatising this Motion as a Vote of Censure, and to our amazement, and in order to placate its own supporters, it has sacrificed Lord Swinton.
We never asked for Lord Swinton's dismissal. In the powerful speech which my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick (Sir H. Seely) made in opening the attack a fortnight ago, he disclaimed any intention of attacking Lord Swinton. We thought indeed that the Secretary of State for Air ought to be in the House of Commons. I put it forward in the first speech which I made in this Parliament, when Lord Monsell was First Lord of the Admiralty and Lord Swinton was Secretary of State for Air, that the heads of all the great spending Departments ought to be in the House of Commons, and I have referred to that matter on 1269 several occasions since, and the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) has done the same. Of course, we welcome the appointment of the late Minister of Health as Secretary of State for Air, and we desire to help and support him, and also the appointment of the new Under-Secretary of State for Air, who, however, does not come to his position with the advantage which the new Secretary of State enjoys of having no record on this subject. I remember the Under-Secretary saying something in the last Debate about what could be done in six weeks if we got the designers and producers together, and when the six weeks are up we shall, no doubt, be asking questions on those points. Meanwhile we welcome him. But when the Prime Minister asks us to accept the appointment of this new and— if he will forgive me saying this—so far as this particular job is concerned, inexperienced, Secretary of State as a guarantee that all the deficiencies of the past are to be filled, that we are going to make a fresh start, that it is a guarantee, at any rate, of the successful completion of the programme to which the Government have set their hands, I must say that I think he is going too far. After all, we were told that Lord Swinton was a guarantee.
§ The Prime Minister
What I said was that my right hon. Friend's record guaranteed that he would give all his energy and ability, and lose no opportunity of remedying any deficiencies.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I think that means very little. None of us would doubt the good faith, the energy and the loyalty with which the right hon. Gentleman will apply himself to this task, and I am sure that Lord Swinton displayed all those qualities but with the results which so gravely disquieted the House when we discussed this question a fortnight ago. We were told that Lord Swinton was indispensable; that was the reason why we could not have a Secretary of State in the House of Commons. On the very day of our Debate, less than a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister was assuring the organised women of his party in the Albert Hall that he was satisfied that the difficulties had been overcome, and that there would be a most satisfactory increase in the rate of progress. The very next day Lord 1270 Swinton resigned. We did not ask for his resignation, yet nobody doubts that it was the result of our Debate. It is not only Lord Swinton, but the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Under-Secretary of State, who has gone to the India Office, and Lord Weir. As the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate said, "It is a clean sweep." The Prime Minister appears before us to-day as a kind of inverted Danton. Danton cried:The coalesced kings of Europe threaten us. We hurl at their feet, as our gage of battle, the head of a king.The Prime Minister says, "We are threatened by the coalesced oppositions in the House of Commons and we offer them on a charger as a propitiatory sacrifice, the head of a Secretary of State"— a gruesome and unwanted object. It was not the man, but the system that we attacked. It was not to overthrow a Minister or to destroy the Government that we raised this controversy, but to strengthen it, because on this question there is no difference of political principle between us. We are agreed on our aims, but our doubt, and it is widely shared in all parts of the House and outside, is whether the Government, by its present methods, can attain those ends, and that is why we make this demand for an inquiry. The sacrifice of these Ministers is not going to abate the force of the demand, but, on the contrary, as the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate said, it will strengthen it.
One step which might draw its sting would be the establishment, as we have frequently urged from these benches, of a ministry of supply. The House of Commons is familiar by this time with the working of the supply machine. The Prime Minister indicated shortly this afternoon how some parts of it work. As I understand it, it begins with the Chief of Staffs Committee, who decide what are the requirements of each Fighting Force in the expansion of our armaments. Their programme then starts out on its journey through a labyrinth of committees—the Principal Supply Officers Committee, a Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, who, in their turn, deal with the Supply Board, and they decide how the manufacturing capacities of the country are to be allocated to the requirements of the different Defence Forces and how the 1271 supplies of material and labour can be ensured. They in their turn have this bewildering number of sub-committees to which the Prime Minister referred, and parallel with them there exists the Supply Organisation of the Board of Trade, which is responsible for maintaining the supply of raw materials, and the Supply Departments of the different Ministries.
Now, the House of Commons demands speed, energy, power and direction in carrying out this programme, but the Prime Minister told us that the current of supply must continue to meander sluggishly through this morass of committees, and that co-ordination—that blessed word—is amply secured by the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. No doubt, but the House wants something else. It wants concentration of energy. It is the absence of a directing will and purpose which is so disquieting. The House is probably familiar with a story which is very apposite to the present situation and which relates to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he first went to the Ministry of Munitions. At the end of some weeks of labour and study he prepared a plan, which was circulated in the form of a memorandum to all the great Departments of State. In due time a committee was assembled at the new Ministry of Munitions and upon it were the heads of all the great Departments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was there, the Master-General of Ordnance was there, and so were the representatives of all the entrenched bureaucracies. They riddled the memorandum with objections. It shrivelled and crumpled in the flames of their criticism. Then, mercifully, it was decided that the committee should adjourn, and its members trooped out of the room. The late Sir John Davis, who first told me the story some years ago and who was then private secretary to the right hon. Gentleman, turned to his chief and said sadly: "I suppose that's the end of the plan?" but the right hon. Gentleman replied, "No, that's the end of the committee."
What we need is an organisation with a man at the head of it who will give direction, will and energy to the task of cutting through all the red tape and 1272 getting on with production. From the moment that committee ended the Ministry of Munitions went on from strength to strength. It drew into its councils men who were accustomed, after life-long experience, to the management and organisation of great productive plants. It did not leave them outside to be consulted now and then or to be drawn into one or two sub-committees and given certain orders. It brought them into the very heart of the organisation where they were able to inspire the whole programme. That is what we want to achieve in the organisation of a ministry of supply. In his speech just now the Prime Minister said how very difficult it was for anyone without experience of manufacturing on a large scale to appreciate the difficulties. We want to see men with experience of manufacturing on a large scale brought into the very heart of the supply organisation, under the control of a responsible directing Minister. In a most interesting passage of his speech the Prime Minister referred to the kaleidoscopic changes of design and the immense difficulties which Lord Swinton had had to face in dealing with that one portion of his task," dealing with it, let us remember, under the disadvantage that he had no priority over the demands of the Navy, although his was by far the most difficult and urgent task. All those arguments of the Prime Minister were arguments for immediate action to set up the organisation which I am proposing.
It is remarkable, how many great authorities, who have studied the question, have expressed their opinion in favour of a ministry of supply. They include all the ex-Ministers of Munitions—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, Lord Mottistone and Lord Addison—they all believe that those tasks which they know so well from long experience under war conditions can be carried out efficiently in no other way. Then there was the Royal Commission to which reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate and which was appointed by the Government to inquire into the manufacture of armaments. They reported strongly in favour of the establishment of a ministry of supply. There was the Cadman Committee which was appointed to consider civil aviation but which went out of its way to say, referring 1273 to the system of supply at the Air Ministry:Such a system is quite unsuited to the rapidly developing technique of the problem of aeronautics, which is still in its infancy. It may, indeed, account for many of the difficulties in meeting the present demand for equipment for the Royal Air Force.Every one of those authorities is agreed that it is necessary to make a change in the system of supply at the Air Ministry and most of them have declared for a ministry of supply.
What is the Government's answer to this demand? I pass over the joke which the Prime Minister made about people whose main interest in the establishment of a committee of supply was the idea that a new Minister would have to be appointed—although, of course, it is true that when we look at the Government Front Bench we often wish that they would appoint some new Ministers, but I pass that by. Another argument is that there would be too much interference with normal industry, but there would be no danger of unnecessary interference. The men you would draw into your ministry of supply, who would have had experience in the management of productive plants, would be the very men most anxious to reduce interference with normal productive industry to a minimum. They would be far less likely to interfere than your civil servant and bureaucrat.
The right hon. Gentleman and the Government tell us that the establishment of a ministry of supply involves the grant of compulsory powers over labour and industry, but I say, have your powers there but hold them in reserve, using them only when absolutely necessary. The Government make too much about the importance of compulsory powers. Surely the fact is that there is a great reserve of productive energy, capital and management experience which would be only too willing to take up the task of building a great Air Force, if they were given the right sort of strong leadership and direction. The Government said in another place the day before yesterday, and they have always said, that they started from zero and that no other country has ever made such an effort. They did not start from zero. Even at the time of the Disarmament Conference we were spending £100,000,000 a year on armaments and we have had 1274 a Committee of Imperial Defence since before the War, studying the problem of making these preparations and plans for war. Why, it is not true that when the Government started their expansion programme they started from zero; but it is true of another country. There is another country where they did start from zero, and where they made far more rapid progress. It is not true of Britain; it is true of Germany, where indeed they started from zero and have made much more rapid progress. The Government then said that it would be too expensive, but it would be an assurance of economy, an assurance that we got 20s. worth of value for every £1 we spent. It is largely for that reason that the Royal Commission on the Manufacture of Armaments recommended that such a body should be set up.
The spokesman of the Government in another place said that plans for a ministry of supply were ready and all that was necessary was to press the button; that this could be done in war time and that it might be done in peace time. He thus went a little further than the Prime Minister did to-day. When he was challenged at the end of the Debate by Lord Mottistone, who said: "You said it might be done even in peace time sooner or later?" Lord Zetland corrected him and said "Sooner or later, perhaps." That is the slogan which has no doubt inspired the Government in its rearmament programme: "Sooner or later, perhaps," a most revealing slogan. I hope that the new Secretary of State will substitute for it "Do it now."
The Government may say that while we know the outline of their present supply machinery we cannot know how efficiently it is working. It is true that we can judge it only by the rough-and-ready criteria of the results achieved, but they are not good enough to satisfy us. As the Prime Minister says, it is true that powerful forces are being built up; no one is suggesting that we are being betrayed. We know that our Navy is becoming both absolutely and relatively to the Navies of other Powers stronger than it has been at any time during the present century. We know that an immensely formidable Air Force is coming into being, but there remain a number of causes of very great anxiety. I am not going into them in detail. It is not easy to deal with them except at length, and 1275 if you once start on the mass of detail and information that we have all got, it is very difficult to keep your speech within a reasonable compass. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate spoke for a long time but delivered a speech that I thought was a masterly effort of compression. I am not going to attempt to follow him into details; I think the details that we had were sufficient for the Secretary of State to answer. He may not be able to answer them, and that is one of the strongest reasons for holding an inquiry.
Let me instead go to the root of the causes for disquiet. The "Times" this morning attempts to summarise the position with which we are now faced, in these words:They [questions of National Defence] are to be treated neither by the Opposition with the pretence that all is wrong nor by the Government with the pretence that all is right. Both these attitudes give a totally wrong impression of the situation, which is that, after making every allowance for defects in the system of production and in the deliveries of aircraft and of equipment, the R.A.F. is to-day an extremely formidable force, though not so formidable by comparison with other air forces as the Government hoped that the original programme would make it.But the newspaper misses the gravamen of the charge which we have made and which has not been met. The gravamen of our charge is that while the Government undertook at the beginning of this expansion scheme to close the gap which was then widening between our air strength and that of the strongest air force within striking distance of our shores, that gap has not been closed but has continued to widen and is still widening. That is the charge which the Government have to meet, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to meet it, if he can, quite frankly. I feel certain that if I am wrong the Secretary of State will tell the House so, but if he does not tell the House, we must assume that I am right that the gap has continued to widen and is still widening. That is the cause of our anxiety at the present moment.
If the Secretary of State cannot see his way to deny these statements, the House must decide whether it is prepared to accept the assurances of Ministers, or whether it will discharge its supreme responsibility to the people of this country for its defence by undertaking, or in- 1276 structing the Government to undertake, an inquiry. Can we rely upon the assurances of the Government? Let me remind the House of the history of these assurances. I will begin with 1934, when Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, was Prime Minister. He said:Is it not the case that Germany is rapidly approaching equality with us … her real strength is not 50 per cent. of our strength in Europe to-day… His Majesty's Government are determined in no conditions to accept any position of inferiority with regard to what air force may be raised in Germany in the future.Mr. Baldwin was not so sensitive as the present Prime Minister is about the use of the word "Germany." I come now to 1935, in which year Mr. Baldwin, on 22nd May, referring to the statement I have just read, said in this House:Where I was wrong was in my estimate of the future. There I was completely wrong, and I tell the House so frankly…We were completely misled on that subject "—the rate of German rearmament.There was a great deal of hearsay, but we could get no facts.That was an admission that the assurances which the Government had given to the House the year before were unfounded. Then, five days later, Mr. Baldwin said:No Government in this country could live to-day that was content to have an air force of any inferiority to any air force within striking distance.Then, in November, 1935, Mr. Baldwin said:I give the assurance to the House that I am reasonably satisfied "—that is to say, reasonably satisfied on the basis of his pledge that we were not accepting inferiority to any air force within striking distance of our shores—with the progress that is being made…I am in a position to say to my right hon. Friend's"—that was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—estimate of the German metropolitan first-line strength is definitely to high.That was in 1935—another assurance which was to be proved unfounded. In March, 1936, the present First Commissioner of Works, who was then Under-Secretary of State for Air, said in this House:We have every reason to believe that it will be a most efficient instrument for our purpose. On present calculations, we also believe it to be adequate.1277 Then, at the end of November, 1936, the present Home Secretary, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, said in this House:The position is satisfactory…The position is fluid, but it is none the less satisfactory.In 1937, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence came on the scene, and in this House, in January of that year, he said:We have strained to the utmost the ability of the aircraft manufacturers to produce machines of a novel type.And in March of that year he said:If we were in no inferiority to any other air force within striking distance, we would not be spending so much energy and money upon attaining that happy position.That is an admission that we were in a position of inferiority before he spoke, that the gap was not being closed, that the Government were still trying then by the expenditure of money to attain the position which they now have to confess they have not attained. Then the Prime Minister on 8th October, 1937, said:It is to the Air Force that the greatest amount of attention has been directed, and some anxiety has been expressed about the pace at which it is expanding…As a consequence of all this, and of the ready response to the call for men, which shows no signs of falling off, in the space of the last two years the first-line strength of our home defence forces has been more than trebled.We have had all these assurances one after another, and still we are without the results which the House expected in regard to closing, or at least narrowing, the gap. We come to 1938. The Prime Minister said at Birmingham on 4th February:I do not think there is any cause for serious anxiety upon the score of whether rearmament is going fast enough or far enough. We had let things go so far that extensive preparation was necessary before we could even begin production upon the scale we were contemplating, but the initial difficulties have now been overcome.What happened? Were we ready to sit back and watch the aeroplanes being turned out? No; there followed a new effort, and it was not till then that the Government started to approach the trade unions, although many of us, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, begged them to do that two years ago. Then they started sending that mission to the United States of America and to Canada, and they appointed a committee which was to be the new 1278 Supply Committee, presided over by the Chancellor of the Duchy. Of what use were all those assurances that were given to us, time after time before that, when in fact the results were so inadequate that these fresh steps had to be taken within a few months of their being given? Then the Chancellor of the Duchy made the speech at Worthing in which he said that he would be able to present a much better picture of what had been done in the past, what was being done at present, and what would be done in the future as regards our air defence, than public critics and even some friends of the Air Ministry at present supposed possible. Then there was the speech of the Prime Minister at the Albert Hall on the same day as the last Debate, to which I have already referred, in which he said that the situation was most satisfactory, And yet, when the matter came to be debated here, and the critics had their say all round the House, there was no answer that could be given, and all these assurances were shown to be valueless. Now the Prime Minister says we are in a transitional period, that Lord Swinton had laid the foundations. It is time that the expansion was beginning. We have taken three years to get through that transitional period. The Prime Minister says that the Spitfire is the fastest fighter in the service of any country in the world. But it is not in the service of any country in the world. That is one of our complaints. In the face of these repeatedly falsified assurances of the Government— given, of course, in good faith, but assurances which they have failed to fulfil— can we doubt that it is our duty to our constituents to insist upon an inquiry, searching and impartial, into the causes of failure and the means of emancipating and concentrating the willing energies of labour, capital, and executives upon the task of building up our air force to what is roughly called parity—but I would say parity as measured by any reasonable criterion?
Nor does there seem to be any firm ground for satisfaction with our anti-aircraft defences. For many months we on these benches have urged the importance of the balloon barrage. Now, at last, the balloons have been ordered, and recruiting has just started—a week ago. I am told that the measures that have been taken are to be confined to London, and that the scale of the plan of the balloon 1279 barrage is so inadequate that the balloons are more likely to hinder our own fighters than to destroy the enemy bombers. Again, there is the question of the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun, to which the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate referred, with its limited range, although, of course, it has certain other advantages over the 3.7-inch gun, being in fact quicker in firing. I agree, however, that it is sadly inadequate as our sole means of anti-aircraft defence. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to reply, will be able to tell us what has happened to the 3.7-inch gun and when it is coming into use, and also when the 200-rounds-a-minute 2-lb. gun will be distributed to units.
What is even more serious is the muddle and delay that still dogs our anti-air-raid precautions schemes. Only yesterday the problem of evacuation was flung by the Home Secretary, at the head of a committee. But this House ought to investigate the whole problem—evacuation, shelters, health, sanitation, food distribution, and all the other problems of air-raid precautions.
What form should the inquiry take? It might, of course, be an expert inquiry like the Cadman Committee. The request for the setting up of that committee was long refused, but, when it was granted, the Cadman Committee amply justified its appointment. It would, perhaps, be unusual to have an inquiry conducted by a number of outside experts into grave matters of national defence, but there is a good deal to be said for it. Then there is the form of inquiry which has been often suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping—a secret session, with two or three day's debate. There is a great deal to be said for that. But the worst of these secret, sessions is that they are never altogether secret, and I am not at all sure that we should be able to get to the root of the anxieties that are troubling our minds at the present time. Still, it would be better than nothing, and, if we cannot get any other form of inquiry, it would be worth trying.
But the form of inquiry which commends itself to my hon. Friends and myself is a Select Committee of well known members from all parts of the House, 1280 with a chairman in whom the Government themselves have confidence. Such a committee would be able to go thoroughly, impartially and searchingly into the problem. We put forward that demand a fortnight ago, and we shall support it to-day in no partisan spirit. The Prime Minister objects to the implications of such an inquiry. He says that it would mean taking the responsibility out of the hands of the Government. If there is any implication in the Motion on the Paper to which the Prime Minister objects, I wonder if the Labour party would not consider withdrawing the Motion if we can get the inquiry. I do not know that the Labour party is committed to any form of words. What we, at any rate, want is the substance; we want the inquiry; and I think there will be a great demand for it in all parts of the House and in the country. If the Government reject this demand, and use the whole force of their great majority to vote it down, they will be relieving us who support the demand of a measure of responsibility which we are very willing to share with them, and they will be accepting a very heavy responsibility for themselves. If the House submits to the dictation of the Government in this matter, every Member may have to answer for his vote before the bar of history.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
We are debating a Motion for an inquiry into the state and condition of air defence, and I must say that the various postponements, and the changes which have taken place, have introduced new features into the argument. The inquiry was demanded for two purposes—first, to fix responsibility for the failures of the past; and secondly, to stimulate more vigorous action in the future. The second of these purposes must be assumed, to some extent at any rate, to be fulfilled by the appointment of a new Minister. Everyone wishes my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air success. He brings, as the Prime Minister said, high administrative experience, abilities that we all know, and House of Commons experience—he brings it all to his difficult task. We are all sure that he will try his best, and that he will not spare himself in any way. The very fact of appointing a new Minister means that the whole structure and work of the Department will be 1281 surveyed and scrutinised from a new point of view, and the public and Parliamentary criticism, which is rife at this moment, must necessarily be extremely effective at the time when this new survey is being made.
I have long pressed for an inquiry into the state of our air programme. But the new situation which has been created by the sweeping changes in the control of the Air Ministry undoubtedly introduce a new element. I cannot feel sure that the new Minister will be helped or strengthened in his task if such an inquiry, which must needs be searching, and the results of which must certainly be disagreeable, were proceeding day by day and step by step while he is acquiring information about his new duties and his new office. Moreover, it seems to me that the case which I and others have made during the last few years, that the programmes were inadequate, and that they were not being fulfilled—that is the case—and that the outfit of the Royal Air Force was far from satisfactory, is no longer contested by His Majesty's Government. That is a new fact, too. An inquiry would, no doubt, reveal many unpleasant details, but since the broad fact of a very serious breakdown is now admitted, and there is to be a fresh start and a new surge of impulse, it seems to me that some, at least, of the arguments for an inquiry are now removed.
But this by no means implies that the position is satisfactory, or that it is improved in any way by the fact that there is a change of personnel. Someone else is going to try. We shall await with the greatest interest the statement of my right hon. Friend—not the statement he is going to make this evening, because obviously he is only going to deal with some of the issues of the Debate, but the statement that he will be in a position to make in a few weeks' time on his programme and policy. I hope that he will be animated by a desire to treat the House with absolute candour, and that he will make it his rule to tell Parliament everything that he has reason to believe foreign countries already know. The credit of Government statements has been compromised by what has occurred. The House has been consistently misled about the air position. The Prime Minister himself has been misled. He was misled 1282 right up to the last moment, apparently. Look at the statement which he made in March, when he spoke about our armaments:The sight of this enormous, this almost terrifying, power which Britain is building up has a sobering effect, a steadying effect, on the opinion of the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1938; col. 1568, Vol. 332].Indeed, that would the truth, if it were supported by a solid basis of fact. But the Prime Minister himself said on the same day:We must take account of the aggregate and effectiveness of our resources, and in the various programmes which we have put forward I can tell the House that we are satisfied that we are making the best and most effective use of these resources."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1938; col. 1562, Vol. 332.]But now it appears that much greater efforts are required, and much larger programmes are needed. Therefore, I say that the Prime Minister shares with the House the misfortune of being misled by statements which came, apparently, on the authority of the Air Ministry.
§ Mr. Churchill
With great respect, the Prime Minister must not use arguments that are not relevant to the issue. The Government have promised air parity with Germany. What relation has that got to the Anschluss? The question of our air strength is not influenced from day to day and hour to hour by the accidents and changes that take place in Europe. Let me read to the House—for I think we have some grievance in this matter—a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Coordination of Defence:The speed of machines in production today for regular use in the Air Force would five years ago have made them serious competitors for the Schneider Cup. That fact will bring home to the Committee the extraordinary advance that has been made. These are not specimens, not what I would call protoplanes, that are being produced, but they are machines in regular, orderly production for the regular everyday use of the Air Force.MR. CHURCHILL: Are they being delivered now?1283SIR T. INSKIP: Yes. Some have been delivered. They are in orderly delivery, and they will be delivered in ever-increasing volume."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1936; cols. 65-6, Vol. 315.]When does the House suppose that statement was made? Not last month, or last year. The date is 20th July, 1936–22 months ago. And I say that that statement certainly gave the impression to the House that all was proceeding well, that a great flow of modern machines was proceeding from the factories into the Royal Air Force. I know my right hon. Friend would be the last to mislead the House of Commons. But he was himself misled, because he had not got the knowledge or experience, great as his legal acumen is, to enable him to conduct the necessary technical cross-examination.
§ The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence (Sir Thomas Inskip)
Does my right hon. Friend deny that the statement which I then made was literally true?
§ Mr. Churchill
I think that makes it worse. It is one of those statements which, apart from the purport, you can just claim to be literally true, but when it is presented to Parliament it has just the effect complained of in the statement of the Secretary of State for War yesterday, of having a thoroughly soothing, reassuring effect on the general public, while, at the same time, it in no way represents the actuality of the position. Everybody listening to that would have thought that the trouble was over, and that the great flow of new machines was coming forward 22 months ago. Yet it is not until 31st March, 1939, that we are to have even 1,750 first-line aeroplanes. I have dealt with the interruption made by my right hon. Friend.
I hope the new Air Minister will imitate the example of Lord Baldwin, and when he makes a mistake plump it out in the most appalling manner, so that, at any rate, whatever we may complain about, we cannot complain that we have been misled. I have often warned the House that the air programmes were falling into arrear. But I have never attacked Lord Swinton. I have never thought that he was the one to blame—certainly not the only one to blame. It is very usual for the critics of the Government—I have been a consistent critic in this matter—to 1284 discover hitherto unnoticed virtues in any Minister who is forced to resign. But perhaps I may quote—because it is directly relevant—what I said three months ago:It would be unfair to throw the blame on any one Minister, or upon Lord Swinton, for our deficiency. Anyone who was put in his place in July, 1935. would have made a great many mistakes, and would certainly not have been able to discharge the programmes which were proclaimed within the limits assigned; but he certainly does represent—and I say this with a great feeling of sympathy for him in his task— an extremely able and wholehearted effort to do the best he possibly could to expand our air power, and the results which he has achieved would be bright if they were not darkened by the time table, and if they were not outshone by other relative facts occurring elsewhere. Every country admires what it is doing itself, but what is not always seen is what is being done by others. I say that the hard responsibility for the failure to fulfil the promises made to us rests upon those who have governed and guided this Island for the last five years, that is to say, from the date when German rearmament in real earnest became apparent and known.I certainly did not attempt to join in a man-hunt of Lord Swinton. I was very glad to-day to hear the Prime Minister's tribute to him. Certainly he deserves our sympathy. He had the confidence and friendship of the Prime Minister, he had the confidence and support of an enormous Parliamentary majority; yet he has been taken from his post at what, I think, is the worst moment in the story of air expansion. It may be that in a few months there will be a considerable flow of aircraft arriving, yet he has had to answer for his record at this particularly dark moment for him. I was reading the other day a letter of the great Duke of Marlborough, in which he said:To remove a General in the midst of a campaign—that is the mortal stroke.Why was he removed? Certainly not because of the inconvenience to the House of Commons. Because the Prime Minister had given conclusive arguments against that on former occasions. When we asked for an inquiry we were told at the beginning of the Session and, later, "You cannot have an inquiry; that would be a court-martial on Lord Swinton." So there has been no court-martial. What has happened has been a private execution. Now there is, apparently, not even to be the usual post-mortem; or, shall I say, coroner-s inquest? This is a strange episode, I 1285 must say, in Parliamentary history. I have not seen the like in my time. It almost seemed to me that occult forces were at work. Have votes of confidence no longer the virtue to sustain a Minister? Are they to be taken so much as a matter of course, a mere formality, that they no longer affect the Government? Can the earnest desire of hundreds of Members, acting in a particular way, no longer convey that sense of strength to the administration? Are the facts more powerful than the votes that are given in the Lobby? Is our business in the House of Commons to be settled outside and around here? If so, it is a new development, and I must say that I prefer the older system when Members voted with greater independence and Governments practised a more virile candour.
But there is another reason why I am far from being reassured, and why I do not think the Prime Minister has taken the best course in the circumstances. It will be many months before my right hon. Friend knows half what Lord Swinton knew about the Air Force. The departure of this Minister is a very serious event. Was it necessary? Would it not have been a more reasonable and practical plan to leave Lord Swinton at the Air Ministry, and to free him and that Department from the whole business of supply? If, for instance, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air had been appointed Minister of Supply, Lord Swinton could have continued to discharge the immense task of organising and perfecting the Royal Air Force as a fighting service, in which he has made great progress, I agree with the Prime Minister, and which is a task of infinite complexity, a whole-time task, and one requiring, if ever one did, experience and knowledge, which can be gained only by seeing things on the spot, and, further, can only be slowly acquired.
If that course had been adopted, a great shock to public confidence would have been avoided, and I believe we should have had more efficient service than we can possibly have for the Air Force in the next few months. Each of these Ministers, the Air Minister, and the Minister of Supply, would have had a harmonious and integral task to which they could have devoted their whole energy, and the Secretary of State would 1286 not have had to be summoned from his salubrious employment and forced to don the panoply of Mars, or, to put it in more homely language, we should not have been putting a round peg in a square hole.
I am very anxious to press the point of a ministry of supply. Let us see what is the present organisation, as far as I have been able to make out, that is employed in producing armaments from British industry. It is an extraordinarily cumbrous and complex organisation. First of all there is the Admiralty, with all its establishments and activities. Secondly, there is Admiral Brown's Department of the War Office. Admiral Brown is Director-General of Munitions production for the War Office, and he is a member of the Army Council. He makes for the War Office and he makes certain things for other Departments as well. Included in his sphere is the old Department of Master-General of the Ordnance, which we were told was working so splendidly a year ago, but which, when the new Secretary of State for War came along, was found to be in such a condition that it had to be transferred en bloc to the control of Admiral Brown. Thirdly, there is the enormous system of committees working under the Committee of Imperial Defence.
I was glad to read Lord Zetland's very full account of this in another place, and the Prime Minister has referred to some of these committees to-day. He mentioned particularly the Principal Supply Officers' Committee. He said it was in continuous session, which I am bound to say I heard with some surprise. I notice that there is Sir Arthur Robinson's Supply Board, which I have no doubt is in very constant function. Parallel with Sir Arthur Robinson's Supply Board, to quote the words of Lord Zetland, is a body controlled by the Board of Trade, known as the Board of Trade Supply Organisation. Beneath Sir Arthur Robinson's Supply Board, we were told by the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence nearly two years ago, there are no fewer than seven main committees and no one knows how many subordinate and subsidiary committees. None of these organisations under the Committee of Imperial Defence, nor under Sir Arthur Robinson's Board, has any executive power. All these committees of the Imperial Defence Committee are delibera- 1287 tive and advisory. They deliberate and they advise, and the ball is flung from one to the other at weekly or fortnightly intervals.
These are not secret matters, but it is difficult to see clearly what happens. Nowhere in these committees is there power to give a series of executive orders. That is reserved, as I understand it, to the Service Departments. Consideration, yes; things considered, innumerable; done, very few. That is why, when questions are asked on all sorts of topics, the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence is able to say, "That is being considered." "We have given our attention to this." "We are fully alive to that." "We are exploring the other." No doubt it is perfectly true. I do not suppose there is any question on the subject of National Defence which is not being considered, ventilated, explored, illuminated by these innumerable committees.
I have dealt with three branches, the Admiralty, Admiral Brown's War Office Committee and this cluster of committees under the Committee of Imperial Defence. Now I come to the last one, the most relevant immediately to our topic, which is the organisation for ordering aircraft supplies. This again is dual. There are two quite separate aspects. In the first place there is the Director of Production of the Air Ministry, who is the opposite number of Admiral Brown at the War Office. Besides this there is this new committee which we heard so much about the other day from the Chancellor of the Duchy, a committee of manufacturers, who have gathered together with my Noble Friend at their head, and they were going to put everything right in this sphere. However, owing to some oratorical fireworks, the whole of this part of the organisation is to be remodelled. Moving around in this jungle, without executive power and burdened with a whole sphere of other and even more important duties, is my right hon., learned and unfortunate friend, the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, specially charged not merely with co-ordination, but with the preparation of the industry of the country for transition into a state of war. That is the machinery that is working at the present time.
1288 I was surprised at my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He treated the matter, when he was describing the reasons against a ministry of supply, as if everything that had happened so far was satisfactory. That apparently is his point of view. I say this machinery has failed; I say it has not delivered the goods. And this is the machinery which some people think should be replaced forthwith by an effectual ministry of supply under a responsible Parliamentary head and with all necessary executive powers. The Prime Minister obdurately resists this ministry of supply. He made difficulties to-day about powers, and seemed to be willing to excite a prejudice, which I do not think exists, upon the other side of the House against reasonable powers. Who has ever suggested that this ministry should be equipped with power to prevent strikes in time of peace? I am not prepared in the course of these remarks to unfold to the House the exact category of powers, but it can easily be done. There are powers that are necessary and appropriate, not to a state of war, but to an intermediate state of emergency preparation.
Why does my right hon. Friend resist this plan so obdurately? It is true that I have pressed it upon him and his predecessor for two years or more, but that was not in itself a sufficient reason. I will avail myself of the avuncular relationship which I hope I may still possess in respect of the Government to put it to the Prime Minister personally and even intimately. Has he ever heard of St. Anthony the Hermit? St. Anthony the Hermit was much condemned by the Fathers of the Church because he refused to do right when the Devil told him to. I hope my right hon. Friend will free himself from this irrational inhibition for we are only at the beginning of our anxieties. I warn the Prime Minister of the troubles that lie ahead in this administrative sphere. He is not the only one on that bench who requires warning. Three able, industrious, loyal Ministers of the Crown have been, or are being, deeply prejudiced by being given ill-conceived and ill-assorted tasks. The Secretary of State for War, the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence and the Air Minister have all been prejudiced in their work and will be smitten in their reputation by the fact that they have been given ill-conceived and ill-assorted tasks to discharge.
1289 The Air Minister has gone and we have another in his place, who at present has not been able fully to survey the extremely difficult ground upon which he is called to enter. When shall I be able to convince the Government that a service department and a service Minister are incapable of dealing with large-scale industrial production? In time of prolonged peace, when the annual requirement of the Air Ministry or the War Office is very small, when the War Office has only to deal with Vickers, Enfield and Woolwich, when the Air Ministry can work with its small group of selected firms, there is no question, but from the moment when you require to throw yourselves for the purpose of rearmament upon the industry and labour of the nation and upon the good will of the whole mass of skilled labour and the skilled labour unions, you have created a task which requires the whole-time attention of a Minister of the Crown equipped with the full force of a great Department.
It would have been easy for the Prime Minister to have saved Lord Swinton last week. All he had to to was to relieve him of a task which ought not to be combined and which cannot effectively be combined with the direction of the Royal Air Force. He had only to relieve him of the task of the production of aeroplanes and aviation material, which can be done only by civil industry on a gigantic scale. In the same way, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has been throughout confronted with an unnatural task, which he has faced with his usual sturdy courage and patience, but which no man, however able, could fully discharge. I predict that there lie ahead of him, and I fear ahead of all of us, many painful realisations of the results of the discharge of this task. I take the Secretary of State for War, who sails proudly and buoyantly over calmer waters than have been vouchsafed to his colleague at the Air Ministry. There is a Minister who should welcome most earnestly the creation of a ministry of supply.
The hon. Member who opened the Debate for the Opposition made a formidable case about the present condition of our air defences. I cannot challenge any substantial part of the statement which he made. It should be read with profound 1290 attention by all persons who are awake to the dangers which surround our country at the present time. I consider that that alone should give the House the reason for making a decisive change in the methods of wholesale manufacture of war materials. But if ever there were to be an inquiry, certainly other aspects would come into view. I am prepared to say that the military programmes are lagging equally. It is true that the Secretary of State for War has an easier method of escaping from his difficulties than the Air Minister. When deliveries of munitions and equipment fall into arrear, all he has to do is to reduce the number of divisions that he considers necessary to meet the war need. Thus, all we are able to say, as he said the other day, is that "All is proceeding according to schedule." He has the advantage, perhaps, of what we might call a double sliding-scale. The schedule is unknown, and so also are the standards towards which it is working. After all, these are grim times, and it is no time for the kind of rigmarole responses we had at Question Time yesterday in answer to vital questions.
We are now in the third year of openly avowed rearmament. Why is it, if all is going well, there are so many deficiencies? Why, for instance, are the Guards drilling with flags instead of machine guns and anti-tank rifles? Why is it that our small Territorial Army is in a rudimentary condition of equipment? Is that all according to schedule? When you consider how small are our forces, why should it be impossible to equip the Territorial Army—I have asked this for years— simultaneously with the Regular Army? It would have been a paltry task for British industry, which is more flexible and more fertile than German industry in every sphere except munitions. We have for generations competed successfully on even terms, and even adverse terms, in the markets of the world. If Germany is able to produce in these three years equipment and armament of every kind for its Air Force and for 60 or 70 divisions of the Regular Army, how is it that we have been unable to furnish our humble, modest military forces with what is necessary? If you had given the contract to Selfridge or to the Army and Navy Stores, or to Harrods I believe that you would have had the stuff to-day.
These deficiencies of every kind, which are patent, and clearly can be seen by 1291 anyone, and are certainly known abroad, touch a more crucial point when we come to the subject which has been touched upon by all speakers to-day, namely, that of anti-aircraft defence. The other day the Secretary of State for War was asked about the anti-aircraft artillery. He seemed entirely contented with the position. The old 3-inch guns of the Great War, he said, had been modernised, and deliveries of the newer guns—and there are more than one type of newer gun—were proceeding "in advance of schedule." But what is the schedule? If your schedule prescribes a delivery of half-a-dozen, 10, a dozen, 20, or whatever it may be, guns per month, no doubt they may easily be up to schedule and easily be in advance of it. But what is the adequacy of such a schedule to our needs? A year ago I reminded the House of the published progress of Germany in anti-aircraft artillery—30 regiments of 12 batteries each of mobile artillery alone, aggregating something between 1,200 and 1,300 guns, in addition to over 3,000 guns in fixed positions. They are all modern guns, not guns of 1915, but all guns made since the year 1933.
Does not that give the House an idea of the tremendous scale of these transactions? We do not need to have a gigantic army like continental countries, but in the matter of anti-aircraft defence we are on equal terms. We are just as vulnerable, and perhaps more vulnerable. Here is the Government thinking of antiaircraft artillery in terms of hundreds while the Germans have it to-day in terms of thousands. Yet we are told that "All is proceeding according to schedule. Everything is satisfactory. We are in advance of the schedule." The Prime Minister considers the organisation, as it has grown up at the present time under the Committee of Imperial Defence, as the last word. He does not see how it can be improved. The Secretary of State for War, acclaiming his achievement of being in advance of schedule, almost invites us to place a chaplet of wild olives upon his brow. I assert that the Air Ministry and the War Office are absolutely incompetent to produce the great flow of weapons now required from British industry. I assert, secondly, that British industry is entirely capable of producing an overwhelming response both in respect 1292 of the air and of military material of all kinds both in quality and in quantity. But you have to organise it, and, to organise it, you must have the best brains that British industry can produce, directed by the most powerful organisation that the State can supply. Without that you will not get the response.
If this is true of present peace time rearmament, how much more is it true of the immense expansion which will be necessary on the outbreak of war. We are told that "All is ready for a Ministry of Munitions on outbreak of war." Lord Zetland tells us that all that happens is that he or some other noble personage has to press a button. I hope that it is not a button like the last gaiter button which was talked of before the war of 1870. He has only to press this button and a Ministry of Munitions will leap into being fully armed like Minerva from the head of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. Do not let the House believe that.
You may conceivably bring together a number of functionaries of State in their varying relations. You may bring together advisory committees of business men, but what we should need if war should come would be a running concern in full activity, and from the first moment an organisation which is actually shaped and moulded, and an industry which is planned in every detail to take the upward leap. Otherwise, your pressing the button would result merely in producing a paper organisation which would require months to understand its job and really get its hands upon the levers, and still more months—tragic months—of agony before industry would respond to this greatly expanded scheme.
You ought now—I said this two years ago, but still it is as true to-day—to have every factory in the country planned out, not only on paper, but with the necessary jigs, gauges and appliances handy, hung up on the spot, so that they could turn over at once in time of war to some form of war production. The exact routine change for every suitable factory should be foreseen now and elaborated, so that when you press your button you do not merely bring functionaries into being, but you have a living control of British industry which immediately enters into the production of munitions upon a war scale. That is only what is organised already 1293 in foreign countries, and in no country is it organised in this way so much as it is in Germany. I cannot see that there could be any objection to the view that everything ought to be prepared. It is not a very expensive job, and it is a matter of the utmost consequence.
The more you are prepared and the better you are known to be prepared, the greater is the chance of staving off war and of saving Europe from the catastrophe which menaces it. Every time we are seen to make a big new move forward there is a wave of confidence which goes through all the small countries and the peace-loving countries of the world. Supposing it were said to-morrow that we have set up a ministry of supply and are making provision for turning industry over to munitions, do you not think that that would at once create a feeling of confidence and security? [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] An hon. Member doubts it, but as the Prime Minister said, confidence was spread through the world by the improvement of our armaments, so do not let us differ about any matter upon which we can agree.
Let me give one or two other reasons for the immediate creation of a ministry of supply. We are thinking at the present time in terms of production for three separate armed forces. In fact and in truth, the supply of arms for all fighting forces resolves itself into a common problem of the provision and distribution of skilled labour, raw materials, plant, machinery and technical appliances. That problem can only be dealt with comprehensively, harmoniously and economically through one central dominating control. At the present time there is inefficiency and overlapping, and there is certainly waste. Why is it that this skilful aircraft industry of Britain requires 90,000 men, and that it produces only one-half to one-third of what is being produced by about 110,000 men in Germany? Is that not an extraordinary fact? It is incredible that we have not been able to produce a greater supply of aeroplanes at this time. Given a plain office table, an empty field, money and labour, we should receive a flow of aeroplanes by the 18th month, yet this is the thirty-fourth month since Lord Baldwin decided that the Air Force must be tripled.
How much longer will the obvious remedies be denied? No mere change of Ministers will meet this occasion. We 1294 must have a change of system. Without a change of system you will find yourselves involved ever more deeply in vexations and Ministers in undeserved misfortune, or in misfortune which, if it is deserved, is only because they allow these ill-assorted duties to be imposed upon them. Just consider that up to this moment we have not reached any agreement with the skilled unions, after the whole of these two years. It is only now that negotiations are beginning. If you wish to ask these skilled unions to make the sacrifices which undoubtedly are necessary, you must convince them of the emergency. Every time a ministry of supply is refused, the emergency is discounted and denied. At the present time the attitude of the Government is clearly that all may be carried on safely upon the existing methods, with a minimum of disturbance of the general life of the country. Surely, it is time now to proclaim the emergency. During last week-end many of us thought of those furnace fires of which the Prime Minister spoke a year or two ago, and almost felt a gust of scorching air upon our faces; and then there is no emergency! Surely, this is the time when Ministers should rise to the level of events and give more effective defence protection and service to the nation which has trusted them so long.
§ 7.35 P.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has found strange bedfellows in these critical times among hon. and right hon. Members opposite, who have applauded him again and again to-day. I could not help but wonder whether that applause was due entirely to their new-found desire for rearmament, or whether the Opposition realise first and foremost that they have had to go outside their own ranks to find anybody who could put up any argument against the Government Front Bench. Those were the thoughts that occurred to me while my right hon. Friend was speaking. He referred to the spacious days when there was much more independence among Members of Parliament, and he was repeatedly applauded from the benches opposite, yet we know that if there is one party that never under any circumstances shows independence it is theirs, with one exception, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) who is his own Prime Minister, his own chief whip, and his own private secretary.
1295 My right hon. Friend said that so far as rearmament was concerned there has rested upon the Government for the past five years responsibility for the lack of rearmament. Again, there was applause from the benches opposite. I wondered whether their memories were so short. What have hon. and right hon. Members opposite done to help rearmament? What has the Leader of the Opposition done? Speaking at Derby in 1936, at a time when rearmament had started, when we were calling for all the help we could get for expansion, he said:The Government will appeal to us and they will appeal in vain because I am not going to support a recruiting campaign by a Government whose foreign policy I cannot trust.Am I to understand that to-day hon. and right hon. Members opposite support rearmament because, although they criticise the Government, they have decided that they prefer the foreign policy of 1938 to the foreign policy of 1936? They cannot have it both ways. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who applauded my right hon. Friend when he demanded rearmament, said this, speaking in Glasgow in 1936:Every possible effort should be made to stop recruiting for the Army.That is the party which to-day is trying to get a little bit of glamour by criticising the Government at this most difficult time. We have had to build up our Air Force from the old level of 1935. Hon. Members opposite forget to tell us that only a few years ago they were proposing and demanding that we should do away with our independent Air Force and merge it, as Lord Addison suggested, in an international police force. Suppose we had done that and that international police force had been as useful for collective security as the 52 nations in the League were useful in regard to sanctions in 1935, what would the position have been? We should then have had no Air Force on which to build. We do owe some sense of gratitude to a former Air Minister, Lord Londonderry, who stood up for our keeping our independent Air Force when there was so much criticism of it from the other side.
We all know that there have been mistakes. There are bound to be mistakes, but whatever mistakes have been 1296 made history will be as generous to Lord Swinton as my right hon. Friend the. Prime Minister has been. He has laid the foundation upon which we are working and upon which we are going to work. I should like to point out one or two matters which the critics of our air programme have entirely failed to refer to. Let us go back to 1935 and to the period before 1935, to the Disarmament Conference. We were tied and prevented from making new experiments in regard to aircraft. We were tied down to the 3-ton plane, and we could not make any efforts to expand until that conference had failed. All through those years, until after 1935, were were faced with the fact that our skilled designers and manufacturers were unable to keep their people at work because there could be no work for them until the expansion period started. For the last three years we have been striving to build up a new Air Force and to bring skilled men back into the industry and into the Air Force, and in face of the difficulties it has been over-easy for the critics to criticise, when they were not having to bear the heat and burden of the day themselves.
There are one or two questions which I should like to put to the Government. The first is in regard to contracts. Would it be possible in the days that lie before us, in regard to contracting and sub-contracting, to allocate to each large firm a smaller firm for dealing with the subcontracts for parts of aeroplanes or of machines that are not of necessity parts of the aeroplane? If we could get some liaison between the contractor and the sub-contractor in this way it would undoubtedly have an extremely useful effect. The Prime Minister referred to the question of mass production. I agree with him that you cannot define it, but I wonder whether the Government could give some indication whether it would be of advantage to have at the Air Ministry an expert in regard to what we generally mean by mass production, to consider whether we could apply mass production more widely, or whether the view of the Government is that the aircraft industry has not reached the stage when we can use mass production on a really large scale. It would be very helpful if we could have some information, in so far as the Government are able to get it, as to how mass production has worked in Germany.
1297 I do not believe that, of necessity, the number of aeroplanes that are produced is the only governing factor. I believe that the quality counts to a very considerable extent. When I heard the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) referring contemptuously to the fact that our aero planes are inferior to those of Italy and Germany, I could not help wondering why if they were so inferior he criticized the Government because on certain occasions we had sold aero planes to other countries who were demanding aero planes of British production whenever they could get them. We have, therefore, some reason for saying that our aeroplanes are in demand because they are exceedingly good.
§ Mr. Kirkwoodindicated assent.
§ Mr. Raikes
I am delighted to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Lumberton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) agrees with me in that statement. Appeals have been made today for the establishment of a ministry of supply. It seems to me that if a ministry of supply is to be a real Ministry and not simply a glorified new institution we should have to give it very far-reaching, overriding powers. Do we desire that? We are at peace and we are told that as this country grows stronger peace is going to remain. Do we consider that this is the moment to set up some overriding ministry which, if it is to be useful, must have power which no other Ministry has? Are we to put our industry and our people on a war basis before war breaks out? This is not the time for a ministry of supply. It is the time to reorganise and to increase our production but it is not the time to create something analogous to a Ministry of Munitions, such as we had during the War. I think the hon. Member for Lumberton Burghs agrees.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The hon. Member has referred to me and has suggested that I might agree with him in his views about a ministry of supply. My union is to be in contact with the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense tomorrow. If such a suggestion were to be put forward by the Prime Minister it would simply stop the negotiations with him tomorrow, because the engineers will not tolerate any idea of any negotiations which will give any body the power to do away with their 1298 power to strike, with the right to withhold their labor, with collective bargaining, nor will they agree to any idea for the dilution of labor. Those are the things that we had to surrender during the War and we are not going to do it now. The engineers are definite on that point.
§ Mr. Raikes
I am much obliged to the hon. Member and I hope he will take an opportunity of expressing those views to his own Front Bench and to other hon. Members who seem to imagine that it is the easiest thing in the world to plant a ministry of supply on the country in times of peace. I know that it is true that in certain works men are not working to full capacity and that you may be able to point to works where men have been taken off in the course of the last few months, but the fact remains that by and large in the last three years we have increased the personnel from 30,000 to 90,000, which proves that whatever mistakes may have been made, at any rate the Ministry has been able to treble the number of people employed. That in itself is an achievement, and if we can get away from certain difficulties which have arisen in certain instances we can look forward with hope that the Secretary of State for Air will be able to make the better good.
I hope the Government will bear one further point in mind. The word "parity" is not one I very much like. A country which has an enormous army and which must have aeroplanes to work with that army is not in quite the same position as a country which has a smaller army. But we must have adequate defenses for home purposes and, quite apart from the question of the big bomber for retaliation, I think we should concentrate on fighting planes to a sufficient extent to make it unlikely that an aggressor will be willing to risk a knock-out blow, because an aggressor is not going to attack in modern warfare a great State unless he imagines he can get home at once. If we have a sufficiently strong number of fighting planes to hold him off in the first instance we are going to do a great deal to lower the temperature of Europe so far as this country is concerned. I think most Members in the House will give the Secretary of State for Air their wholehearted support in the belief that he is 1299 going to make a very good job of the task he has undertaken.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I cannot understand the grievance of the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) against the Labor party. He says that we want more aeroplane for fighting purposes and blames the Labor party for supporting that policy. Is he not more anxious to have an argument to use on party platforms than to have aeroplanes to save the country? I cannot agree with him, and I do not think that that type of argument in the House of Commons or on the platform is going to pay any more.
Suppose it was the British Navy which had suddenly been discovered, after 250 years of supremacy, to be only half the strength of a very possible enemy. Suppose the Government had concealed the fact that the British Navy had dwindled in its proportionate strength year after year, had given false assurances that the strength of the Navy would continue to be equal to that of any aggressor, and that the House and the country suddenly discovered that the Navy, upon which we have relied for safety, was no longer able to defend the shores of this country. If we had made that discovery I am perfectly certain that hon. Members who are going to support the Government tonight could not bring themselves to do so. If it had been the Navy there is no hon. Member opposite who would not censure the Government which had brought such a state of affairs about, and who would not concentrate on restoring quickly our naval equality with any other country.
We are dealing now with a service which is of more vital importance to Great Britain than the Navy ever was in the past. He who loses command of the air must lose the war, and the Government have allowed our Air Force to become progressively weaker than the air force of a possible enemy who is becoming ever more threatening. We shall do all that is possible for safety, but do let us realize that our chief danger is now in the air. During the War, when we were trying to get help from India, to get Indian troops for France and Mesopotamia, the Government of India protested that if they sent any more troops 1300 the women and children in India would be in danger. I remember that Lord Kitcheners wired to the Viceroy: "It would be better to lose India than to lose the War. Send the troops." That dilemma must be placed before everyone in all the fighting services today. We must ask them to remember that the salvation of this country comes before the salvation of their particular branch of the Service.
Even the Air Service itself is not devoting all its attention, or even its major attention, to the great danger facing us today. All that we hold dear is now threatened by Germany, and by Germany alone; democracy, our country, our Empire is threatened by Germany alone. Mussolini and Italy will never venture to attack England without German approval and support. Yet while this immediate and pressing danger is facing us ever more closely, this definite danger from Germany, we find the Government arming itself, not against Germany but against every possible risk in the whole world. They have been spending their efforts in finding aeroplanes for overseas, for Egypt to protect Egypt against Mussolini, while the direct defense of England by Metropolitan aeroplanes has grown steadily weaker in proportion to the German forces. It is not that the Government have merely refused inquiry, not merely that they have refused a ministry of supply. As I listened to the speeches I gathered that they are not proposing even to change their programmed, that they are still content that in 1939 we should have just half as many aeroplanes as Germany, and that in 1940 we should still have just half as many aeroplanes as Germany. The Chancellor of the Duchy in his speech protested. He said: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."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1938; col. 1789, Vol. 335.]Would that it were so. It seems to me that they are content to let our Air Force remain at half the strength of the German Air Force not only now but, apparently, for ever. We are to have 2,370 front-line aeroplanes by March, 1940, and 1,750 by March, 1939. Germany now has twice as many as we have and she will have twice as many in March, 1939, and twice as many in March, 1940. Ministers who are proposing that as a scheme 1301 adequate to save this country, are not thinking of their responsibility for the safety of the country; it must be that they do not intend to fight Germany. They will examine the possibilities of trouble with Japan or with Italy, but they will not face the enemy who is under their nose; and until they do that I do not think anyone can say that their sense of the gravity of the situation is as great as ours. We are, perhaps, more anxious than they are to save democracy. We see in the salvation of democracy the salvation of our own country.
Let me rub in the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition the other day, a speech which was not answered, and which cannot be answered. It was emphasized by the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) this afternoon. The right hon. Member said that there had been no concentration on these vital types. Instead, there had been the production of a great number of types. We had short-range bombers, army co-operation types, navy types, 37 different types without any standardization. If that is so, and I suppose it is, because it was not contradicted, how can we say that there should not be an inquiry into the sanity of a Ministry which produces all these types? We want fighting aeroplanes to shoot down the German bombers, and they propose 37 different types with no standardization whatever and, apparently, the output of these 37 different types is only 100 per week. Of course, there are only 100 aeroplanes a week produced if there are all those different types and no standardization. Are the Government content to go on in that way, producing all those different types at the rate of 100 aeroplanes a week, when Germany is producing at present, apparently, 300 aeroplanes a week? The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said this afternoon that it would be ridiculous to imagine that we could standardize and mass-produce aeroplanes, that they are much more complicated than motor cars, that there are 11,000 different parts in an aeroplane. I ask the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense to remember that during the War we were producing 2,600 aeroplanes a month. When we were producing at that rate, was it mass production or not? What is Germany doing today? Is there no mass production there? Why are we the only country 1302 and our engineers the only engineers who cannot dream of doing such a complicated and difficult thing as mass-producing aeroplanes?
It is all a question of the size of the orders. If you place an order for 50 machines for delivery two years hence, of course there is no mass production; but if you ordered 500 or 1,000 machines for delivery as soon as possible, and better still, if you had your own factory in which you could put your own machinery and construct the machines by mass production at Woolwich, or wherever it might be, then we should get the aeroplanes. But the Government are playing with the matter. They still continue with this isolated production of new experimental types, and advertise all over the world how perfect they are, whereas Germany and Italy are turning out machines ten times as fast as we are, they are getting new types, and, I regret to say, they are getting actual experience with their old types in Spain. I would remind the House that it was recommended by the Royal Commission on the Private Manufacture of Armaments that the Government should have a factory, so that they might have in their own hands the possibility of mass production. We have now an Under-Secretary of State for Air who appears to understand something about the business. I listened with great approval to a speech which he made the other day, and I noticed he said that the one thing that was wanted was mass production. He urged mass production and the use either of new pressed wood or the old plywood that we used during the War. That method of production is already being used in Germany and Italy. If those countries can mass-produce machines, use wood and get deliveries in the numbers I have mentioned— if we could produce no less than 2,600 machines a month during the War, when there was extraordinary difficulty— surely we could manage to do it today, if we had a Government that wanted to save democracy.
Why does everybody who has studied this question attach so much more importance to the air and to collapse in the air than they ever paid to the Fleet or the Army in old times? The fact of the matter is that whoever secures command of the air must win any war. The Naval people say that aeroplanes can fly over a strip of country and bomb it to bits, but cannot consolidate or land troops. 1303 That has nothing to do with the matter. Once the enemy got control of the air, so that they had in the air an overwhelming mass of machines, no one can move by day on land or sea; the weaker party would no longer be able to send machines up and would no longer be able to fight. Command in the air ipso facto prevents any sort of recovery. Defeats on land or at sea can be rectified, but defeats in the air are inevitably cumulative and final. A man who goes up in a machine as a fighting pilot must, if he is to be successful, have supreme confidence both in his machine and in the number of supporters he has. In Spain, when the Government air force was getting weaker, as fewer and fewer Government aeroplanes were left, the difficulty was to get the men to go up at all, because going up meant certain death. When it is a question of one against 10, it is not as it is in the Army, an ambush or a piece of guerilla warfare, or in the Navy, a happy fog, a piece of luck that saves one— nothing can save a single fighting aeroplane which goes up against 10 times as many aeroplanes on the other side. The man knows that, and his confidence is gone before he starts. When it comes to fighting, or before it comes to a fight, something will go wrong with the mechanism, and the machine will come down. In the air a man cannot hide, nor can he surprise, but he can funk. There is no man I have ever known who would go up to fight when he knew that the moment he left the earth he would be a doomed man.
For those reasons, we must have sufficient aeroplanes at the beginning. If it is to be a question of extermination in the air, then we owe it not only to those fighting men, but to our country, that they should have up-to-date planes, the best planes in the world, in sufficient numbers, to give them confidence, to make them feel safe— the rest will follow. I do not know where the Government's sense of responsibility has gone. In this crisis they are giving priority to the Navy. Already our Navy is twice as strong as the German Navy, and we have abandoned the Baltic to the German Fleet, but still priority is given to the Navy, in spite of the fact that every Member of the House wants aeroplanes. I want to know whether Parliament is being served 1304 by the Services, or being dominated by them. How far is the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense able to coerce the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry? How far does he act as a post office between Departments, some of which are long-established and aristocratic, and others of which are not? Is democracy to be beaten because those who dictate our defenses prefer the German system to our system? Ministers on the Front Bench say, "Oh, you must remember that this is a democracy; if only we had the powers which they had in Berlin, everything could be put right." What is that except a plea for fascism? What is that except pressure brought to bear on the House and the country to give them a dictatorship?
I say that the salvation of this country is that Parliament has at last become alive to the lapses of the Government, and to the fact that we are not adequately defended. Because we are a democracy, there is criticism of the Government; in Germany, whatever happens, nobody dares to speak. Here, at least, we can speak and point out to the Government that they are responsible, and that it is no longer possible for them to say to this side of the House, "It is because we could not get the Labor people to agree." That excuse was used by Lord Baldwin as his reason for not having armed before the last General Election. He said he could not have persuaded the country to re-arm. It is a lie. Labor is only too anxious to defend itself, to defend democracy, and to defend England at the present time. What are the Government playing at the present time? Is it a party game, or does the Prime Minister not believe that the position is sufficiently serious for an inquiry, for a new system of supply, and above all, for an air force equal in strength to the German air force, so that we may be able to save ourselves? Everything— Army, Navy, Civil Service, even civil rights— must give way to the safety of the country, and I think to the mass production of aeroplanes. If the Government think differently, they must take the responsibility for it. But do not let them ever say again that they have found any reluctance on this side of the House to make any sacrifice in order to save democracy for the people of this country and of the world. We have no evidence yet that the Government even 1305 recognise their duties and responsibilities. The other day, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said:The failure of these plans is due to failure to concentrate on essentials."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1938; col. 1793; Vol. 335.]The essential is to be stronger than Germany in the air. Surely, we cannot allow this Debate to close without knowing whether the Government accept that position, and whether they consider that one thing is essential— to be stronger than Germany in the air. If this Debate closes and we remain in the position of hoping that in 1940 we may have half the aeroplanes that Germany has then, and that we may be able to produce one-half the number per week that Germany turns out, if that is the best the Government can do, it is not a committee of inquiry that they ought to face, but impeachment. [Interruption.] That is one way; we settled Admiral Byng in that way. The Government know perfectly well that we depend for our safety now, not only upon the British Air Force, but on the French air force. The excuse is presented for them that with the air forces of France and Russia, we shall still be stronger than the German air force. I do not know whether the Government like that excuse, but until last month, there had been no co-operation and no conference even with France. Still there are no plans or co-operation thought out with France, Russia, America, and all the other countries which might help to oppose Fascism. Neglect of the air, neglect of alliances for defense, are evidences, first, that an inquiry is needed as to why this state of affairs has come about, and, secondly, that this Government, by complacence, have forgotten their responsibilities to their country and deserve the fate which must ultimately befall those who betray their country.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon
I am sorry that there were not more Members in the House listening to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) because, although his speech was a little disjointed, it reminded me of many speeches which I have made on this subject in the past, and while I did not agree with many parts of it, there was a lot in it with which I did agree. He did, I think, put his finger on the most im- 1306 portant thing in the world today, from our point of view, when he said that we must be stronger than any enemy. As long as one reiterates that theme I feel that one is on the right track. This Debate, strictly speaking, is on the question of whether or not we should have an inquiry into Air affairs at the present moment, but, as happens with all Debates in the House of Commons, when you expect one thing to happen, invariably something quite different happens. As it is, we have switched on to the question of whether we ought to have a ministry of supply or not. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) will not prejudice the case for a ministry of supply with regard to Labor. I am certain that nobody in the House wishes to take away from Labor any of the rights which they at present enjoy and the advantage of a ministry of supply, in my mind, rests purely on organization and nothing else. It may be, from the political point of view, a wise thing to indulge in views such as have been expressed—
§ Mr. Kirkwood
If that is all that is wanted you can depend on the engineers. I have said before in this House that there is no more patriotic section of the community than the British engineers.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon
I think we all know that, and I am glad to agree with my hon. Friend on that point. The speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who opened the Debate, was a very powerful one. It was all the more powerful because of its quietness and moderation and it had, I think, a serious effect upon the House. There were, however, one or two things in it which I did not like. To hang on to a Motion of this kind the proposition that you should have Government works and especially Government designing, was, I think, a grave mistake. My 25 years of association with aeroplanes has shown me that if there is anything which holds up progress in this matter it is the heavy hand of the State laid on the purely technical side of production. We have seen it in the case of the factory at Earn-borough, we have seen it in the case of the variable pitch propeller which the Prime Minister mentioned, and other developments which have been deliberately stopped by the technicians of the Air Ministry. Once production be- 1307 comes standardized, as it may in another 50 or 60 years, there may be something to be said in favor of Government factories, but at present it would be very dangerous to proceed on those lines, and if we do so we may be left very far behind on the technical side.
Another thing in the hon. Gentleman's speech which I did not like was the mention by name of Air Vice-Marshal Welsh and Colonel Disney. They cannot reply for themselves and while I know only one of them personally myself, the results of inquiries which I have made show that there is no inefficiency such as the hon. Gentleman suggests. In fact I have many reports to the contrary. I think, however, that the type of administrative machinery at the Air Ministry, whereby we find serving officers suddenly taking charge of mass production, is ridiculous. It was said by the Cad man Committee to be ridiculous, and I maintain that that is the case. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme talked about mass production. As regards engines there was no difficulty about mass production because it was a known business, but it is a different matter when you come to the mass production of air frames. There is no guarantee when an aeroplane model is produced that it will necessarily be one which lends itself to production in quantity. There has to be a lot of re-modeling before it is possible to arrive at a type of aircraft which can be mass-produced.
The Prime Minister defended the late Secretary of State for Air and, I, also, would like to put in a word on behalf of poor Lord Swinton. He, like the goose, laid a golden egg. The trouble was that he did not lay two. He has been dismissed because he laid only one. But no other Air Minister had ever laid one at all, and in any case Lord Swinton will go down into history on that account. I think his mistake was that he tried to impose on the Air Ministry a great programmed with an organization which was not capable of carrying it. That is where he failed. Frequently, in the past, I have asked for inquiries into civil and military aviation and I have shot at the Government complaints such as those which we heard from the Front Opposition Bench today. Now we come up 1308 against the question of whether we are in favor of an inquiry or not. If, when Lord Swinton was Minister, this inquiry had been pressed for, and if the Prime Minister had announced that an inquiry would be held by the former Minister of Health assisted by the hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour), I am sure the House would have been very well satisfied. Yet that is exactly what has occurred and that is why, on this occasion, I shall vote enthusiastically for the Government. I firmly believe that the new Secretary of State for Air and the new Under-Secretary constitute the keenest board of inquiry we could possibly have.
My right hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last complained that the Government had made no pronouncement as to the future. We cannot expect a pronouncement about the future, for several reasons, until the new Ministers have studied the question. As I say, if an inquiry had been asked for three weeks ago and if these two gentlemen had been appointed to hold it, the House would have been satisfied. We have now got such an inquiry, and until those Ministers speak again and tell us what their programmed is, and how they are getting on, I shall enthusiastically support the Government.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore
The House must have greatly admired the restraint, in tone and phraseology, of the Prime Minister's speech. Unfortunately, his example was not followed by two right hon. Gentlemen who spoke afterwards, We all admired and were charmed—I hope we were not dismayed— by the gay abandon of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) with its characteristic acidity and its characteristic charges against every individual except himself. But I think we must be thankful—I certainly am— that the right hon. Gentleman is not, today, in charge of a spending Department which would give him the right and the facilities to indulge in some of the courses which he outlined. Otherwise, I fear that our Income Tax would not be 5s. in the £, but more than double that. As regards the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for "Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) I deprecate his speech, especially in view of 1309 the sincerity and honesty which we all know and admire in him. I deprecate its provocative tone. I deprecate the practice of looking round for enemies and naming them. We have, I hope, no enemies in the world today. We do not want any, and it makes me fearful to think what kind of impression must be created abroad when right hon. Gentlemen, Privy Councilors, definitely and by name allude to certain other countries as enemies—not even as potential enemies but as people whom we must fight and against whom we must guard and prepare ourselves.
On studying the Debate a fortnight ago, and particularly the Press, and after listening to those two speeches today, I am more than ever convinced of the danger of arousing a state of panic, of real panic, because there are two kinds of panic. There is a real panic, and there is a spurious panic. Real panic comes from a very real but possibly temporary danger, like a fire in a cinema, where the exits are ample and the safety curtain ready to come down, but where there is an overmastering fear that takes hold of one, and that creates that real panic. But there is a spurious panic, which is different, which comes slowly and reluctantly and gradually settles like a cancer in the public mind. It probably comes from an attack on the nation's currency, or a rumor of some disaster, or, to come nearer home, from an unreasoning feeling of insecurity in our national defense.
I believe that it is this latter type of panic that is really the cause of the Debate today, because if that situation had not been created in the public mind a fortnight ago, the Opposition would not have felt any support behind them in putting forward this Vote of Censure today. Therefore, it is the creation of that feeling of uncertainty and fear in the public mind that is the cause of this Debate today. So I say that there are two sections in the country responsible for this situation. There is a certain section of the Press, and I am afraid there is also that section of this House which is represented by His Majesty's Opposition. The Press have allowed themselves to be too much swayed by flamboyant and provocative speeches made by the leaders of possibly potentially hostile countries, and they have forgotten that the process 1310 of whistling to keep one's courage up is not restricted entirely to frightened children. They have also forgotten that vocal strength is not always a proof of material strength.
As to His Majesty's Opposition, I fear — and I am sorry to make this charge against them— that this Motion of Censure is largely due to a sense of dishonesty. For years, as the hon. Member for South East Essex (Mr. Raikes) said, there has been, as we know a determined effort on the part of His Majesty's Opposition to put every obstacle they could in the way of the Government's policy of rearmament. Therefore it seems to me either totally inconsistent or blatantly dishonest now to charge the Government with not arming quickly enough. In other circumstances I would regret making this charge, but I believe that there is a large item of party game behind it, and, therefore, I greatly regret it. If it had been an honest feeling of danger, an honest misgiving, an honest concern in which they felt they were representing their constituents and the community as a whole, I would have said, "Go to it. Let us have the thing carefully exposed, let us have every item probed, let us have every difficulty unmasked, so that the country and this House may know exactly where we stand." I shall leave out of my speech a considerable portion of what I had put down to say, because I want to try and follow the attitude outlined by the Prime Minister today. He, and, I must admit, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), also showed a moderation and a restraint in dealing with this subject on which I do not want in any way to infringe, so that I am putting aside a number of things to which I would otherwise have been pleased to give expression.
As regards the Amendment or Motion that was put down in exactly similar terms by the Liberal party, I am sorry that none of them are here, because I feel that I could have given them a few words of advice which might fall on welcoming ears, but I do not suppose the country would really take their Motion seriously, because, after all, there was a very wise reasoned statement issued by the Socialist party about a fortnight ago — and the Socialist party know them well — in which that party referred to them as being uncertain and unreliable. I feel 1311 sure that in those circumstances any Amendment or Motion that the Liberal party put down need have no attention paid to it. Then there was the Amendment put down in the name of the right hon. Member for Epping, which, I am glad to see, he patriotically withdrew, because it was obvious to any Conservative, as it must also have been to every Member of this House, that at the present time above all times we want to show a united front on the question of national defense. It is essential to our own safety and to our power for peace in the world. Therefore, I congratulate my hon. and right hon. Friends, who, in spite of what I am sure was an honest misgiving, felt that in the best interests of the country it was wiser to take the Amendment off the Order Paper.
Now I want to say a word or two about this inquiry that is demanded. I speak from personal experience. I was attached at the end of the War to a spending Service Department, and about a few months after the end of the War an inquiry of this particular kind was held. It was instigated by some, as we used to call them, Parliamentary busybodies. I suppose they are still so called by some of these unfortunate servants of the State who get so much worry and trouble as the result of our activities. But that inquiry lasted for about 4½ months, and during that time I can honestly say there was very little work done in that Department. It was impossible to do it. We had memoranda to prepare, we had conversations and interviews, we had documents to draw up to meet constant points that were raised, and, of course, all the time we had that weary round of Parliamentary questions. I would suggest that the very instigation of such an inquiry would have just that hampering effect on and interference with the efficiency which we are now, I believe and hope, going to get in increased ratio from the new Ministers whom we have at the Air Ministry. It would hamper progress and output from the Ministry, and it would have the same effect on the industry as on the Ministry. We had experience of that, and we have had the assurance of it from the Prime Minister this afternoon.
But I want quite briefly to make my position clear. I have obtained a very interesting bit of information indeed from an article by Lord Forbes in this evening's 1312 " Evening Standard," and I would like all hon. Members to read it, because Lord Forbes has a very wide knowledge of aeronautics and a long experience of the production of aeroplanes, and he gives some information in regard to the comparative strength of Great Britain and other countries, and particularly Germany, which should remove the anxieties of many of those who have expressed their deep concern today.
I regard the achievement of the Air Ministry as having been quite remarkable in the last two or three years. When people say that at the end of the War we were producing 2,000 planes a month, they should remember that it took three years to work up to that standard. It took three years of intensive effort to do that, and the Air Ministry is being asked to do the same thing today and do it without interfering with the increasing heavy output of manufactures and the erection of houses. Furthermore, we have to remember, as the Prime Minister mentioned, that this is all happening at a time when the ingenuity of man is devising fresh and newer and more up-to-date types of machines every day, so that a type of machine that was approved yesterday will be out of date by the dawn of to-morrow.
Even supposing we are still behindhand— which I do not admit— with the programmed laid down and approved by Parliament, who is responsible? We are, the country is, and the party which is sitting in Opposition is— the party which opposed rearmament and the building up of the Air Force. We cannot shelve that responsibility. Every one of us must bear it, every voter in the country must bear it. Lord Baldwin said it was apparently the democratic system itself that was to blame, because, as he said, and the House accepted it, we must be prepared to have a two years' lag between the time in which a democratic system achieved an object and the time it took for a dictatorship to get the same thing. It was, therefore, both ungenerous and unjust to run round immediately blaming the Government or the industry for the alleged failure to create a vast enterprise at the very time when industry was making an increasing demand on the productive capacity and power of our country.
At the same time, I do not want to create a spirit of complacency. I think 1313 that our immediate requirements are even greater than the Government have indicated. My view is that just as we preserved our peace and the peace of a large part of the world in the days gone by when our Navy was the chief source of defense, so we should now have a two Power air standard. We should aim at that so that, without depending on any alliances, we should have a sufficient striking force at home to meet any European menace and, at the same time, have forces in our Dominions and Colonies adequate and capable of dealing with any emergency or danger that might arise in those far-off areas. The trouble with that suggestion is that it assumes that the present disturbed conditions in the world will continue. I ask myself, and I ask the House, the question, "Need they?" Should not that be our chief concern today? The Prime Minister, with a realism and a sense of humanity for which I thank God, has looked at the problems of Europe and the world with honesty and dealt with them honestly. He has made friends in the Mediterranean with Italy; he has made friends with Ireland in the Atlantic; he has consolidated our friendship with France in Europe; and he has been ready to make friends wherever the seeds of friendship lay.
If we look upon the problem from that angle, what is the danger? According to the provocative speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, and according to the repeated injunctions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, Germany is the danger. Honestly and candidly, I cannot see why. In 1914 we had a Germany at the peak of her power, her strength and her greatness, the master of a colonial empire, with the greatest army the world has ever seen, a navy second only to that of Britain, vast resources in credits, men and material, and powerful allies. Yet under these conditions, the most favorable in every way, she failed in her enterprise. Today she has no allies, no colonies, no resources outside Germany. She has an army which is largely in progress of creation. She has no credits whatever. She has undoubtedly a great air force, but again let me quote Lord Forbes. He says that in equipment, in quality and in design German aeroplanes are inferior to ours but superior in numbers. That 1314 is my own belief and my own experience after spending many months at a time in Germany.
The Germans are very keen on numbers, but they have had to depend largely on their own resources for the material with which to build, and they have had speed to urge them on. They have, therefore, had to sacrifice something of the stability, the capability and the reliability for which our machines are distinguished. Germany undoubtedly has tremendous courage, the same courage that she has always had, a tremendous self-confidence, which has been given to her in her renaissance, and a tremendous trust in her leader. If we compare these two occasions, assuming there is no ethical desire on the part of Germany to preserve peace or moral determination to avoid war, and putting it on its most material basis, is it humanly conceivable that Germany, situated in this way, should take on an enterprise in which she failed in such different circumstances in 1914?
That brings me to another aspect of the policy of hon. Gentleman above the Gangway. They spend much of their time maligning and insulting dictators— except, of course, the Russian ones— and then they blame the Government for not being ready and willing to fight them. That is a wrong policy. Remember that there are a lot of dictators in the world today. If we exclude the countries not engaged in external or internal wars, the numbers of people governed by dictators and democracies are approximately the same— 350,000,000. It is, therefore, no use just wiping out the dictatorship countries as of no importance. We have to consider them, their forms of government and their feelings, and it is much better, if we fear a possible danger in Germany, for us to get on the same side of a friendly fence rather than to spit at each other across it.
We are much more likely to understand each other's points of view and difficulties if we are looking at the world from one side. By saying this I am not saying anything against France or Italy or anyone else. A peace system in Europe can include all countries of good will who want to join it. That is the point of view of the Prime Minister, and that is the point of view which I am gladly supporting. If I may be permitted to 1315 offer him any advice in the situation in which we find ourselves today, I would ask him to call a round table conference of those countries which have lost and those countries which have gained as a result of the War. Article 19 of the Covenant of the League of Nations provides for that to be done. After 20 years' experience of the Peace Treaties, surely the time for that is ripe. I suggest that the Prime Minister should say to the nations assembled there, "We know there are grievances, real grievances, but do we want to fight about them? No."
§ Mr. George Griffiths
On a point of Order. What has this talk about Article 19 of the Covenant of the League of Nations to do with the Motion before us?
§ Sir T. Moore
In any case I am not going to burden the House with the subject further. I do believe that if the Prime Minister, or a representative of his, could make that point quite clear and say, "There are grievances, real grievances, but none of us want to fight, because that would only mean, possibly, greater wrongs, let us see how these grievances can reasonably be put right," it might be a useful proceeding. I would stress that word "reasonably," because it seems to me that it is reasonable for people of the same blood and tongue to want to live under the same roof, but it is unreasonable if in carrying out that policy you create greater difficulties, greater anomalies, more minorities and more problems for the future.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. and gallant Member is putting forward a plausible proposal to the Prime Minister in connection with the States in Europe. Will he ask the Colonial Secretary to put forward the same suggestion to the Governor of Jamaica— that he should say to the poor people of Jamaica— [Interruption.]
§ Sir T. Moore
To carry on with my suggestion, I think the next statement from the Prime Minister might well be that nobody wants to go on with this insensate expenditure upon armaments, which are productive of nothing but death. Then he might add that we only can stand the pace and we only can bear the cost. That would have a very strong— and I 1316 think, a decisive—effect, if put quite honestly, but quite clearly, to the nations of Europe. In the well-known words, "We've got the cash, we've got the credit too." So soon as we can convey that knowledge— in a quite friendly way—to those who might be our possible opponents in the future, so soon shall we get an atmosphere of real peace. At the same time I believe we should be spared for half-a-century these interminable crises and this intolerable burden upon our national income and our national resources. I believe, and I am sure that belief will be shared by every hon. Member above the Gangway and on this side too that the money which we are now spending, reluctantly, but of necessity, in our national defense, we should all be happy to devote to the expansion of social reform and to providing that fuller and happier life which we want for every section of our people.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I have been drawn into this Debate, on a subject on which I confess to be a mere tyro, only by the intervention of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). I had not intended to speak, but ever since the Government took this Motion as a Vote of Censure I had intended to vote against the Government. I had intended to do that without raising my voice, but the hon. and gallant Member accuses the Opposition of being dishonest in putting down this Motion, and presumably that charge of dishonesty would not merely lie against those who put down the Motion but against those who support it in the Lobby. I propose to support it in the Lobby, and I hope that in doing so I shall not be dishonest. I have been one of those who have voted consistently, and more energetically and enthusiastically even than the official Opposition, against the various armament proposals of the present Government, and I shall continue to do so. My view has not changed. It is my view that world peace and world civilization are not to be secured through the medium of competitive international armaments, and on the appropriate occasion I shall be ready to unfold the political philosophy which lies behind that view. I have voted consistently against the rearmament schemes of this Government. I believe that the type of struggle which is going to bring about another civilization and world security is a different kind 1317 of struggle. In his later remarks the hon. and gallant Member said he did not believe there was any danger of war, and certainly he does not regard Germany as an enemy. If I read the papers correctly— the Conservative Press— the men on the spot representing the hon. and gallant Member in Berlin did not hold that view last Sunday.
§ Mr. Maxton
What happened in Berlin? Is the hon. and gallant Member wanting to close up our free Press in this country?
§ Mr. Maxton
That is just the cast of mind that I and others are very suspicious of, and when I am asked to vote for armaments what I have very forcibly in my mind is how some of these people might get control of armaments in this country and with unlimited power close down the power of the Press, close down free criticism in the House of Commons. I cannot see myself voting for guns that are going to blast me to perdition at the very earliest opportunity that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen over there have the power to do so.
§ Mr. Gallacher
And they would do it.Mr. Maxton: I do not propose to commit that kind of suicide. I can conceive a better death than one at the hands of the hon. and gallant Member now sitting on the Treasury Bench. I have voted consistently against rearmament. Am I to be blamed now because the Government carried these votes for armaments in spite of my opposition? The overwhelming majority of this House carried the rearmament policy, gave the Government unlimited power and unlimited money, gave a blank cheque, to make that rearmament effective. Now the hon. and gallant Member blames the Opposition because they consistently opposed rearmament.
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. and gallant Member was doing more than that. He was blaming them for the present deficiencies in armaments. since 1931—
§ Mr. Maxton
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was answering the criticisms of the hon. and gallant Member. The Government which the hon. and gallant Member supports came into power in 1931, and from then till 1935, particularly, they had overwhelming power in this House. All that the Opposition in that period could do, with very limited strength, was to offer very mild criticism, while the Government again and again got their mandate for everything that they said was necessary. They got the support of the Press and a mandate to go ahead and create an efficient Air Force. They had the money, the men, the material and every bit of legislation for which they asked. There has been no criticism of what they got it for. Today, after that unlimited power, unlimited finance and unlimited Press support, we are told that the Opposition are to blame because the Government are in a frightful muddle. I am told by the hon. and gallant Member that if I vote against a Government who have proved themselves so completely incompetent to deal with this one fraction of national life— to me an unimportant fraction of national life, but to the Government a fraction of the first and major importance—I am dishonest.
It was the Government, and not I, who decided that a certain development was essential to national welfare and safety. They decided upon the creation of a great Air Force. They have reached a stage when they have to confess to complete muddle, a muddle so great and serious that three important and influential Ministers of the Crown had to be flung on to the scrap-heap. What confidence can I possibly have that a Government that cannot do efficiently a thing which they want done, will do efficiently the hundred-and-one things in the national life that I want done and which a Government is supposed to do? How can I trust them to cope adequately with the housing problem in my constituency, with the huge unemployment problem, with the problem of low wages, with the problem of wide spread ill-health among the people
§ Mr. Maxton
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest by that interruption 1319 that he thinks that what the Government were asked to do was to combat the law of Nature?
§ Mr. Maxton
That when the Government took on the job of creating aeroplanes they had to suspend the ordinary laws of Nature? If that is right, may I point out that I did not ask them to do it? They took on that job for themselves. If the hon. and learned Member thinks that the Government took on an impossibility— well, he supported them in the doing of it. They took on a job that they believed that they could do. They also took on the job, as the Government, of dealing with the social problems that I mentioned. They took on the job of running the cotton industry— and there is chaos, chaos in Jamaica, in Trinidad and the West Indies today. There is chaos in Palestine. National trade is in a mess. In all these things I am interested, and I want to see them efficiently and effectively dealt with. The Government say to me: "Trust us in these things. We are quite reliable. You may ask a question, but apart from that, leave it to us. We will cope with all these things." Yet they confess that in this one aspect of national life, which they regard as a major aspect of their policy, they have failed to do the job that they promised the nation they would do. I am not going to trust them, and in adopting that attitude I am doing my honest duty as a public representative in this House.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander James
I am glad that the Prime Minister admitted that deficiencies do exist in our air rearmament, though I believe that they are less than some alarmists suggest. And these deficiencies are capable of such reasonable explanation that I am sorry that they were not frankly admitted in last week's Debate. While it is right and proper that the House should seek to apportion blame if any lies, I believe that there is a risk of it being fixed in the wrong place. I have listened to almost every speech that has been made, both in the last Debate and this afternoon, and I believe there is a tendency to confuse the symptoms of the present situation with their cause. I do not think that anybody has penetrated through the symptoms and 1320 put his finger on the weak spot which has caused the present deficiencies. I suggest that there is a contrast which indicates the direction in which the real weakness lies. Anybody who knows th6 personnel of the Royal Air Force today will agree that they had very complete confidence in the late Secretary of State for Air and in the Air Staff. Lord Swinton was regarded in the Air Force as the best and most efficient Secretary of State for Air that they ever had, and I very much regret his retirement and deposition. At the same time, there was some measure of disappointment in the Air Force that the re-equipment that had been promised and was needed, was lagging behind. There was undoubtedly in the general public also a very considerable measure of disquiet. I suggest that it is in the direction indicated by those two factors— confidence of the Royal Air Force in the Minister allied with disappointment and disquiet— that we should look to see where the cause lies.
The critics of the Air Ministry and of the late Secretary of State for Air tend to overlook the time factor in expansion. That particularly applies to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) who tends to talk about the production of aircraft as though mere numbers, given good will, can be achieved in a very short time. I do not think that he realizes the increasing length of time which is needed to produce the latest types of aircraft— and, indeed the personnel needed for their employment. I was very glad that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) did not labor the matter of relative figures in his opening speech. Far too much to do has been made about mere number. There has been all this talk about parity. Parity is a most difficult expression to use in relation to the air. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping constantly goes astray by trying to pin the Government down to a figure which might easily be meaningless. Figures are a yardstick of a sort, but are a very long way from presenting a wholly true picture. What really counts in the air is not mere numbers on paper, but the operational efficiency of the machines, and we have always had, since 1914, a marked advantage over any other European Power in that respect. Incidentally, I might mention that the most effective of our fighting pilots during the 1321 War was, before the War, a young Socialist leader in my constituency, McCudden.
I suggest that the time factor involves a lag of something like two years in the production both of efficient machines and of the necessary personnel to man them. In the case of machines, much longer planning is required than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping ordinarily allows for. As regards the personnel, it must be remembered that in the Great War the biggest machines had a personnel of, perhaps, two. Of these, only one needed to be a trained pilot, the other being often merely an aerial gunner, and the training of the pilot took less than half the time that is now required. The modern big machine requires a crew of five, or even six or seven, every one of whom has to be a highly trained specialist, and to create personnel for these machines is, therefore, a very long job. Furthermore, to create the facilities for the purpose of training that personnel is itself an immense task, and, if the House requires a substantial advance in that respect, it must realise that the necessary comprehensive plan must react on the efficiency of the existing striking force.
§ Mr. Maxton
How does the fact that young men have to be trained at the aerodromes for flying affect the production of machines in the factory?
§ Wing-commander James
I am speaking of the personnel which is necessary for modern machines. When the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick (Sir H. Seely), in the recent Debate, talked about decreased efficiency in the air, I do not think he made allowance for the fact—I suggest that perhaps he had not thought of it— that, if you are to create new training schools, obviously the instructors have to come from the best of the existing personnel in the squadrons, so that automatically you are bound for a certain time to get a temporary lowering of average efficiency in the striking force. I do not think the hon. Baronet was justified in saying that the standard of efficiency as a whole is otherwise than progressively increasing. It is higher than in any other Air Force in the world. Reference has been made to the advantages and disadvantages of our political system in the production of machines. One thing that is quite certain is that at the present time 1322 Germany has a population of some 77,000,000 people, practically mobilized for war, while we, with a population of about 45,000,000, are competing with Germany on a more or less peace-time basis.
I suggest that the key, having regard to the time factor, to such deficiency as undoubtedly exists in our Air Service, has been due to failure, not of the Air Ministry, not of the late Secretary of State for Air, but of the higher direction. I am sorry that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense should be on the bench at this moment; I did not think he would be while I was riding this old hobby-horse at him, as I am going to do again for a minute or two. It would be interesting to know when the instructions and authorizations to the Air Ministry to expand were given. I am convinced that that is where the weakness has come in. The fact remains that, despite the very severe remarks which my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense addressed to me in the Debate not very long ago, and despite his defense of his system, we have today an uniformed, unaltered Committee of Imperial Defense, who have to make decisions on which the action of the Defense Ministries is based. A ministry of supply might or might not prove useful; I, personally, think it would not do so at the present juncture; but it is absolutely certain that a ministry of supply would of itself not be effective unless there were the strategic directions necessary to indicate where it should make its allotments, and that is what we lack now. I cannot help saying to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense, and to the House, "I told you so," because over and over again in this House I have raised the same point. On 27th July last year I said:I assert that there has been an obvious-lack of strategically planning apparent in the whole of the rearmament programmed." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1937; col. 2942, Vol. 326.]That is the weakness. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), the other afternoon, got very near to the point when he asked whether our present programmed of naval shipbuilding was necessary having regard to the more immediate air needs of the moment. Is it not the case that the Admiralty, with its immense prestige, has 1323 asserted its claims over the more immediate needs of the air? Of course, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense will deny that. He was only appointed 26 months ago, and in that period of 26 months there has been no change of system. Even if there had been, we should only just now be beginning to reap the benefits of it.
It is interesting to read the Command Paper of 3rd March, 1936, and particularly the paragraph on page 15 relating to the functions of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense. There one sees what a free hand he was given to effect the reform which in fact he has not been able to effect, and from the lack of which our air programmed today is suffering. The House has to take a great deal of blame itself, and I am certainly as guilty as anyone of contributing to some of the delays that have occurred, because I remember that in November, 1933, I moved an Amendment to a Resolution of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), asking that there should be accelerated air rearmament. My Amendment was to the effect that there should not be acceleration until all hope of reduction of armaments through the Disarmament Conference had to be put behind us. The House supported me against my hon. and gallant Friend, but I am bound to say he was right, and the House was very much to blame for not allowing the Government to get on with its job.
The question, however, comes back really to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense. There is no standing joint executive to direct proceedings. The Ministers have not faced up to the need for change, and have gone on piling burdens on to the shoulders of one really able and devoted public servant, and sheltering behind him. I refer, of course, to the Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defense. They have gone on piling burdens on to him. Ministers of Defense Departments come and go, chiefs of staffs come and go, but the Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defense goes on, apparently, for ever. Here is the greatest public servant this country has perhaps ever had. In his 62nd year, he has been for 26 years Secretary of Imperial Defense, and for all practical purposes— although the Minister dislikes my saying 1324 it, and shakes his head—he has been the Committee of Imperial Defense.
§ Wing-Commander James
Well, the Motion looked like that. Sir Maurice Hankey has been Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence for 26 years, and, in addition, he has been for 19 years Secretary of the Cabinet. Is it reasonable to expect him, after this long period, with this most complex organisation, to start all over again and reconstruct a machine that is adequate for the needs of the moment? It is unjust to blame the Air Ministry or the Secretary for Air; the blame rests on the House of Commons, and on the direction that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense has failed to improve.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Sir H. Seely
I am not going to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Welling-borough (Wing-Commander James) in his attack on the Committee of Imperial Defence, or on the person who holds the distinguished post of Secretary. I think that everyone who heard the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and who listened to the Debate the other day, realizes that this is not a party question, it is not a narrow point; these are attacks which are absolutely genuine, and have great feeling behind them. When I spoke last time on this subject I made it quite clear that we were not asking merely for the dismissal of Lord Swinton; because we did not think that Lord Swinton was really responsible for these delays. We did not put the blame on one man. We did not even think that if you removed him you would get an immense change; although no doubt his removal had to come before you would get a change. I am not going to shed tears over Lord Swinton. I will say only that he was carrying a burden which was too big for him to carry.
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland made his case as strong as could be in a moderate way. The real question that we are discussing now is, what is going to happen if we get a war? One is led to believe from a speech made in the other place that at any certain moment you could put into operation a ministry of supply. But it would be too late. We had warning in the last War. We saw 1325 how long it took to get a ministry of supply—or a Ministry of Munitions as it was called then. We have a feeling that the lesson has not been learned by the Service Departments; and that the old ones were so strongly entrenched that they managed to get back after the War to their old impregnable position, while the new Department, the Air Ministry, as a result of this armament in the air, has been able to get into a similar position. After all, the air is different from the other two Services. It is a real fighting force. Every part of it is going to be used practically in the first days of the war. It is not like the Army and the Navy, which may not come into action immediately.
The enormous expansion which is coming, which was outlined to us the other day in the House, means that you are going to get more and more senior officers having to go into the Air Ministry and an enormous number of new pilots coming in. You have already a shortage of senior officers who can take over units and command. If war came you would get a terrific expansion immediately. All your senior officers would be needed with your units. Yet you are building up a system which leaves them with the Air Ministry. Unless you get a ministry of supply, you will have, in a worse degree, what happened when the War started. Officers in the War Office wanted to get to their various regiments and brigades; they were fit people, and it was necessary that they should go. You will have to have an Air Ministry, when war starts, in which not one man can be taken away, because you want immediate production, for the casualties are going to be enormous from the start. One does not like to see this Department growing up on the same principles as the other Ministries, believing that it can run it-self. It ought not to be a matter of amour proper with a new Ministry like the Air Ministry, feeling that it is has to hold its own production side as the Admiralty does. That is why we ask the new Minister to go into this matter very carefully, not from a party point of view, but from the point of view of what is going to happen when war starts.
I want to deal with the question of parity. It is not the fault of us on this side if we use the word "parity." We were told it by Lord Baldwin. I do not suppose Lord Baldwin dreamt it; he must 1326 have been told it also by the expert advisers. If that view was then considered right by the experts, why is it wrong now? Is it because production has fallen behind, or have they changed their view about defence by parity? That is the disturbing factor we see. I know you have a new theory about parity, which is not machine for machine; but you are getting away from the whole idea brought in by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, and also by the Prime Minister, that real parity meant the whole of defence, including air-raid precautions, anti-aircraft guns and searchlights. Here again, if parity is as important as Lord Baldwin laid down, it must be an important matter. You are now going to get a parity which is under the responsibility of not one Minister, but three Ministers. There is the Air Ministry governing it in the air, the War Office governing it in regard to anti-aircraft guns and searchlights, and the Home Office governing it on the air-raid precautions side. You are not going to get strong built-up unity unless you get a ministry of supply.
In the case of the balloon barrage you have the motors, but to a large extent you have not got the balloons and you have not got the men. They are only now being applied for. Of course, in the Air Force the balloon barrage is bound to be looked on as rather a smaller adjunct. It is not a big thing in the Air Ministry. It is slightly decried, but if it is important it ought to have the same attention as anything else, such as the production of new bombers and fighters. There are a great many courts of inquiry and there are a great many matters in which station commanders have not got full control, as no doubt they should have. I am certain that this question wants to be looked into. It has not changed during this time of expansion, and the reason is the same as that given by the Prime Minister why civil aviation has not expanded— the immense strain put on the Air Minister in dealing with the production side in the last three years.
There is the question of production and there is also the vital question of the feeling in the Service, and I do not believe that one man can look after the two. It is not only the machines, but also the personnel, and the feeling that you are not getting the equipment that you should have and have a right to possess is not 1327 a sound thing in the Service. We feel strongly that, until you can divide things, and make it quite clear that the Service can be supplied with the aeroplanes and the equipment that it needs, you are not really going to get the fighting force as it should be. I hope the Air Minister will take the greatest care to see that when you are bringing these new people in you are not sending the older and more experienced ones into the Air Ministry, for you are expanding on that side too, and it is for these reasons that we hope there will be some breaking up in the Air Ministry.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
I am sure the House will appreciate the generosity of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Welling borough (Wing-Commander James) in drawing attention to the fact that he voted against my Motion for increasing the Air Forces some three years ago. I thank him very much for that. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) drew a very black picture, but I do not think it is quite as bad as all that. He said himself that his information came from "We are told this," and "We are told that." I only wish he had been with me and others when we visited Northport and the chief air factories a short time ago. We saw the Royal Air Force working with very great efficiency at Northport, and we saw the factories turning out machines, and it is rather ungenerous to the Air Force and to the people engaged in the industry to paint such a black picture.
§ Mr. Dalton
I said nothing in the least degree derogatory to the Air Force. What I said was that they had been let down by the Government, who had not provided them with proper machines.
§ Sir M. Sueter
The hon. Member was criticizing all along the line. He said the inspectors were inefficient, and they belong to the Ministry. It is no good trying to get away with it like that. The hon. Member criticized them not from first-hand but from second-hand knowledge, and that carries no weight at all with the instructed mind. I want to draw the attention of the new Secretary of State to the figures that the Noble Lord gave us of the strength of the Air Force in 1940. He said we were going to 1328 have 2,370 first-line machines for the Metropolitan Air Force, 490 for overseas and 500 for the Fleet Air Arm. The 490 for overseas are of no use for the protection of this country. We found during the War that in the different theatres they were always demanding more machines, spare parts and so on, and it was difficult to keep them going. These machines cannot be of the slightest use for defense purposes. The same with the Fleet Air Arm. They will be taken to distant parts overseas and you cannot count them in at all.
It was a little misleading when the Noble Lord airily said that we should have 3,360 first-line machines by 1940. We are to have only 2,370 for the defense of the country, and all those who have spoken from the Liberal benches and our own have drawn attention to the production capacity of Germany, something like 500 or 600 machines a month, and they may work up to some 6,000 by 1940. I ask the Prime Minister, as an old air pioneer, to look into the figures and draw his pencil through them and double them by 1940. It is most important that we should have enough machines for the protection of the country. The Prime Minister said that we were going to have the maximum output of aircraft during the next two years. How are we going to get it?
I would ask the Secretary of State for Air to look into the whole question of simplifying the designs of these machines. I have been over most of our aircraft factories and I have been very much struck with the thousands and thousands of rivets which they put into the construction of modern machines. I know that in all metal machines you have to use these rivets and have to go in for flush riveting in order to decrease the skin friction which absorbs so much of the horse-power of the machine. Could we not get a simpler design? The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Wal-thamstow (Mr. McEntee) said in the last Debate that there was plenty of English ash available for the construction of these machines. I told him that there was not because during the last War we were very short of English ash, and there is not enough at the present time to enable the construction of a large number of wooden machines in this country.
The Minister should look into the whole question of laminated wood. In the 1329 modern method of laminating wood the laminations are so thin that they are only about the thickness of brown paper. They are stuck together by a resinous compound and put under a great pressure something like 100 tons, and this produces a most efficient article in wood. This wood compares very favorably with duralumin sheeting, which has a specific gravity of about 2.4 while wood has a specific gravity of 1.2. Wood has about half the weight of duralumin. It is very efficient in tort ional stresses, and is also stronger in tension and compression. Will the Secretary of State for Air go into the whole question of using thin aluminums sheeting faced over the laminated wood? By that means we may decrease the number of rivets and so lessen the. weight. I ask him to get his designers to look into the design of all the machines to see whether it is possible to reduce weight by using a larger amount of thin duralumin sheeting and laminated wood so as to decrease the number of rivets and extra work
. I hope that he will look into the whole question of wiring and the number of instruments. When I went up in the flying boat "Can opus" the other day I was amazed to see the large number of instruments and wiring. If those instruments could be cut down, it would mean a great saving of weight. He should also look into the question of cables and see if it is possible to go in more for multiple cables so as to reduce weight. When I and other Members have visited the factories we have seen many machines occupying valuable floor space being used in connection with minor work. They might be cleared away and the work put out to sub-contract and leave this space available for use in connection with larger units being constructed so as to help in rapid production.
I am 100 per cent. for a ministry of defense, but as this has not been approved I would ask the Secretary of State for Air to set up a Director-General of supplies in his Department so that he could follow the whole of the supply work and so look into the points I have mentioned. Will he also go into the whole question of training pilots to see whether it is not possible to turn out a greater number of pilots? We have had Herr Hitler's statement that he has 70,000 pilots and 1330 the statement of Signor Mussolini that he has from 20,000 to 30,000 pilots, and I do not feel that we are training sufficient pilots in this country. There are in the towns many young men who ride motor-cycles and so on, and I believe they would be only too pleased to be trained to fly if they had the chance. I would ask the Prime Minister to review the whole question of parity and to go in a little more for superiority in the air. We are a great country and we have skilled people. We have the finest designers, engineers and pilots in the world. This great Empire of ours ought to be superior and not inferior in the air to any other country within striking distance.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
The Prime Minister has put me in some difficulty this evening because he has not attempted to put up any defence at all to the case that was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) at the commencement of this Debate. He has merely tried to side-step by stating that he regards this Motion as a Vote of Censure, which means that what he cannot win by argument he will try and win by the whip, a much more convenient method for a Government, but one which, I suggest, in a matter of this gravity to the nation, is hardly a satisfactory substitute for a reasoned answer. The truth is that the Prime Minister and the Government find themselves in a hopeless dilemma as regards the complaints as to the Air Ministry. They have attempted to use once again that new technique which the National Government have developed of discarding individuals in order to make amends for fundamental defects and mistakes in policy. I pointed out on a former occasion, when the present Home Secretary was discarded on a somewhat similar occasion, that the principle of collective security by individual sacrifice was a highly unsatisfactory one for Cabinets, and, indeed, for the country. On that occasion the Prime Minister at least had the merit that he confessed his error, and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer made a similar confession, though it was slightly decreased in value by the statement that he would repeat the error on the next occasion should it arise.
On this occasion the Prime Minister again repeats to us the view that dear 1331 Philip was a paragon of all the virtues, and was the best of all possible Ministers in the best of all possible Governments, and yet he bows before the storm of public opinion, and Lord Swinton departs. And not only Lord Swinton, but that bright and brave young brain-tester, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who had been brought in as deus ex machine in order to solve the unsolved problems of the Air Ministry, has now been discarded without a word of explanation, though perhaps that was not necessary after the speech he made in the House. Now, having previously failed at the Air Ministry, he is to give his valuable help to the organization of air-raid precautions—a somewhat extraordinary suggestion in view of the fact that the Air-Raid Precautions Department is probably in as bad a state from the point of view of preparedness as the Air Ministry itself. In this holocaust the Under-Secretary has disappeared. I should say that it was a case of a stone wall overthrown in sauve-qui-peut. Finally, there is the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. No mention of him was made by the Prime Minister in his speech, because the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defense has, apparently, become a forgotten cypher. Then we find the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) suddenly and, perhaps, unwillingly, projected into the stratosphere. Even if he reappears as a winged cherub, he will not, I am afraid, be able to clear up the muddle, the confusion and the incompetence that surrounds air defence, because it is not the outcome of any individual delinquencies, but is due to a completely wrong system of organization. If we are to judge the Secretary of State for Air by his efforts in reorganizing the Conservative party machine and by the results achieved at Ipswich, Fulham and Lich field, the prospects for the reorganization of the Air Force are not too good. With regard to the new Under-Secretary, he has already distinguished himself by forcing the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury to take a course on Monday which has been described as unparalleled and irregular, in order to try to extricate the Government from the position into which the Under-Secretary had got them. Therefore, the prospects do not look too good with that team; but the Prime 1332 Minister puts before us the old plea: "Do not shoot the pianist; he is doing his best."
It is really impossible for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to take up the attitude that all is well. Apparently, all was very far from well during the last few years, and this complete change of personnel has been rightly made, in which case we can no more rely upon the Prime Minister's assurances now than on the many occasions that they have been given in the last three years, because, as now appears, they were false. Whether it be that the Prime Minister was deceived or that he deceived the House does not much matter, because the net result is that we cannot, in existing circumstances, rely upon mere assurances that all is well. If all was well, as we were informed, why this clean sweep at the Air Ministry? It can only be because the rest of the Cabinet felt themselves so weak and insecure in their positions that, in spite of considering it unnecessary, they sacrificed these three Ministers to secure their own position. We can take our own choice as to which of these is the true explanation. If the second explanation is not the true one, it leaves the Prime Minister impaled upon the first horn of a dilemma, and provides an unanswerable case for an inquiry by this House into the circumstances of the last three years.
The excuse that is put forward— and it was put forward by the Prime Minister this afternoon— is that unexpected difficulties were met with. That merely goes to show the inefficiency of the organization in the Air Ministry. In estimating and putting forward programmed of expansion it is part of the duty of persons who are skilled in that matter to make estimates for the difficulties which are likely to be met in the circumstances in which the expansion has to be made. It can only be lack of knowledge of technical matters and methods in the Air Ministry itself that can have led to successive programmes being put forward without making due allowances for those difficulties. Even if the excuse could be made for the first programme, it is impossible to accept that excuse for subsequent programmes, when the experiences and difficulties ought to have been before those who were putting forward the subsequent programmes.
Anyone who has been in a responsible position in a new and rapidly expanding 1333 productive enterprise, as I have been, must realise that "difficulties" is a mild word for the snags you come across; but the function of a properly co-ordinated department is to drive through those difficulties, and not to accept them and put them forward as excuses for non-performance. No more today than in 1915-16 when the Army was being gravely hampered by the shortage of supplies of munitions for the very reasons, the self-same reasons, as affect aircraft production today, can such an excuse as unexpected difficulties be allowed to stand between this country and what the Government tell us is necessary for our safety, and that is parity with Germany. Such a state of affairs is not an excuse for the position today, but is a most powerful argument for drastic reorganisation of the productive side of the Air Ministry. The only other excuse that was put forward by the Prime Minister was the kaleidoscopic change of types. That is a thing which is within the control of the Air Ministry itself. If there has been kaleidoscopic change of types, it is because the Air Ministry would not accept new designs and new types when they should have accepted them, and they have now been forced to telescope their developments into a period when they also wish to expand their production.
During this Debate there has been disclosed an overwhelming case against the past inefficiency of the Air Ministry, and other Departments associated with it, but something even more serious has been disclosed, and that is the incapacity of the Government even now to appreciate the urgent necessity not for a change of Ministers but for a complete change and reorganisation of the whole of the productive side of our air defences. This House is responsible to the nation for two things, first, to see that the safety of the people is accomplished as far as is possible, and, secondly, to guard the nation's resources against wasteful and extravagant use. I cannot tonight discuss the question of whether a wiser foreign policy might have reduced the burden of rearmament, nor whether the purpose for which arms are required by the Government is one which the people should support. I can only argue the case on the basis of the necessities declared by the Government and the complete failure of the Government to provide that which they themselves have 1334 said is essential to the protection of the nation.
The disquietude which exists not only in this House but throughout the whole country will not be set at rest by anything which the Prime Minister has said this afternoon. The Secretary of State for Air, so recently appointed to his new office, obviously will not be able tonight to speak from his own experience. He will be nothing but the Parliamentary mouthpiece of those persons who are themselves part and parcel of the inefficiency and misadministration of which we are complaining, and though I have no doubt the country will watch his reply to the criticisms with care tonight, it will have no more confidence than we shall have in the answers he will give, because they will be the answers of people who are accused of this inefficiency and not, in fact, the answers of the Air Minister himself. It is quite certain that a mere repetition, as we had from the Prime Minister, that things will no doubt be all right, things will be well arranged and well managed, is no answer and no satisfaction to us or to the country, in view of the fact, now admitted by the Prime Minister, that all the assurances we have had during the last three years were none of them justified, because the right hon. Gentleman has completely failed, as the Chancellor of the Duchy completely failed the other day, to answer any of the criticisms which have been put forward.
On a former occasion it was suggested, and it has been suggested tonight, that a good deal of the evidence brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland might be biased, and the Prime Minister suggested that it was perhaps the embroidered truth. As a lawyer I know that all evidence must be sifted and criticised, and it is because of that that we want an opportunity of sifting and criticising the evidence which has been brought to us, and to so many other people, by means of a committee of inquiry. But if evidence is to be discounted because of a possible bias, I should like to point out that the most dangerous bias arises when a person is trying to justify himself against a serious accusation. He is always apt to regard his own conduct through biased and over-sympathetic eyes, and if bias is to be assumed on one side of the argument as to the inefficiency of the Air Ministry, it is certainly to be 1335 cancelled out by a bias which must be assumed on the side of the Air Ministry defending itself, until we have had an opportunity of properly testing the evidence on both sides.
I can fairly say that the matter with which we are dealing is one that is really too serious to the safety of the people for any hon. Member of the House to allow himself irresponsible exaggerations, and I can assure the House that we have taken the best means at our disposal to test the evidence which has been brought to us. The matters which have been mentioned by us we believe to be justified on that evidence, and we are anxious and willing that it should be tested. It is significant, and one cannot overlook it, that almost every charge that has been made in the House by speakers on both sides finds its counterpart in articles, paragraphs and leaders in technical and other journals, and that not in isolated cases, but in a steady stream over the last few weeks and months. Not one of these has yet been answered by the Government.
I want, if I can in the comparatively short time at my disposal, to bring forward one or two main points on which, we think, answers are required in order that the Secretary of State for Air may have an opportunity of answering them if he can. They are points which we believe demonstrate that the Government have failed in their avowed objective, and that that failure is due to the form of organization under which the Government are trying to carry through this programme. If the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has not sufficient knowledge to deal with these matters at the present moment, we can only assume that the Prime Minister, with a full knowledge of the last Debate, must know the points which were put forward, and we must take his speech as being the best that the Government can do to put up a defense to the accusations. I should like to interpolate here that certainly we do not accept the view put forward by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the last occasion that a totalitarian autocracy is necessarily more efficient that a democracy, provided a democratic assembly is prepared to make a reality of their responsibility in such grave circumstances as the present. If, of 1336 course, a democratic assembly is merely to be used as applying the rubber stamp of Parliament to Government actions without questioning, then it is neglecting its responsibilities and proving its inefficiency.
I shall in the summary of the points have to repeat some of the things which my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland said in opening the Debate, but I do that in order to bring them once again to the notice of the House and to the Secretary of State in order that he may answer them. First, I ask him what is the reason for the change of objective, which started with the promise by the Government of first-line air parity with Germany— it was stated that it was the only reliable test; we were warned against applying any other test to the present position— to an apparently admitted and avowed inferiority in first-line strength? The Prime Minister has added to that a number of other considerations, in each one of which I believe our inferiority is greater than in first-line strength itself, and to add further deficiencies to the main deficiency does not strike us as being of any assistance in reaching parity or equality.
Secondly, I should like to ask the Secretary of State to explain the real meaning as to the recent increase that has been announced. At the present time we are said to have somewhere between 1,700 and 1,800 first-line aeroplanes in the Metropolitan area, and by March, 1940, we are told that we are to have 2,400. That is an increase of 600 in two years. Is that because 2,400 is considered an adequate number to meet the objective of the Government, or is it because 2,400 is considered the maximum that we can produce in the next two years? If it is the latter, it is in our view the most serious criticism, not upon what has happened in the past, but on what the Government are now proposing shall happen in the future. If they are to be satisfied, as against the known strength of that other country, which the Prime Minister would rather we did not mention, and our own, then the figure of 2,400 in March, 1940, surely is a wholly inadequate figure and would be justified only on the basis that we could not do any better. The contemplation that the maximum we can do in increasing our first-line air strength over a period of 1337 two years is 600 certainly seems to us as if there was no real contemplation that any very great increase in the productive output is likely to be achieved in the next year.
I would then ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will confirm or otherwise the fact that at the present time our productive capacity is somewhere between one-half and one-third of that of the other country and whether it is not a fact that, as time progresses, that fraction will become smaller and smaller with the present rate of development of production in this country. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why it is that the Government have considered it necessary to send to America to try to purchase machines. I know they have been praised in some quarters for that gesture, but I suggest to him that it is really what is generally called escape mechanism, that is to say, it is in order to try to show that they are doing something and to try to cloak their incapacity; for does the right hon. Gentleman believe that there will be any product from America within two years, in view of the fact that the American factories are booked up for over two years? Does he consider it practicable from a repair and maintenance and running point of view to run American and English aeroplanes side by side?
Lastly, I should like to know whether this is an indication that at the present time he considers that the maximum capacity of production is being used in this country, because I cannot imagine that the Government would authorize sending to America to purchase aeroplanes if they thought that there was still spare capacity in our own country. The next question I wish to ask is whether it is not a fact that at the present time, taking the bulk of the machines in our Air Force— not just the new, modern types coming in, but the bulk— they are slower, have lower ceilings and less range than the corresponding bulk in the Italian or German air forces. If that is so, does it not mean that substantially the Air Force at the moment contains obsolete or obsolescent aeroplanes? Then I would like to ask him whether he takes the view that the productive capacity of this country is now being fully used or fully organized. Is he aware, as we have had any amount of evidence to show, that dismissals, delays, short time and wastage 1338 have been going on in factory after factory, and diminishing seriously the output of aeroplanes, and that, indeed, a whole attempt has been made to put all production through the aircraft ring and the shadow factories instead of trying to organise the whole of the available industry?
This has led to a limitation of output and points more strongly than anything else to the urgent necessity for the organisation of a ministry of supply. I would remind the Prime Minister that all this was forecast by Lord Addison— Mr. Addison as he then was—in this House three years ago in a speech which he made from this Box. He forecast exactly what has happened and exactly the troubles that would occur if something like a ministry of supply were not set up. On this question, the Prime Minister put forward an argument on the following lines. He said that all the protagonists of a ministry of supply are so widely separated as to what they want that it is difficult to make it out. That is really a most gross exaggeration. Those who appreciate what are the principles behind a ministry of supply are all in agreement. The exact arrangement of what such a ministry would cover, whether they would take in the whole Admiralty or only a part of it, may be a question for decision, but the principles which lie behind a ministry of supply, which we have suggested on a number of occasions, are that it should be a civilian department, and not a service department, that it should be a separate ministry covering the whole range of production from design down to delivery, and that it should co-ordinate supplies to all the Departments except highly specialized Admiralty work and matters of that sort. The co-ordination is not merely a question of co-ordination between Department and Department, but also covers the vitally important question of coordinating demand and production, which is where the Air Ministry have so signally broken down.
The Prime Minister dealt with the question of the export of aeroplanes, and I would point out to him that his answer was highly unsatisfactory and quite a different answer from that given to me personally by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when I interviewed him on the whole matter. I do not want to go into the explanation which he gave to me, because he gave it to me in con- 1339 fidence, but I can say that it was completely different. The Prime Minister said, as I understood him, that this is an attempt to maintain our market. But surely, if we are so critically short of training planes, for instance, as we are at the present time for training pilots and wireless operators, there cannot be any justification for exporting 300 military planes this year. Surely, our own needs for Defence purposes must come before the desirability of maintaining a market in aeroplanes in Finland or some other country. It all seems to show a complete lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the problem and the necessity for taking some really drastic steps to deal with it.
There are a great number of other matters with which I have not time to deal to-night, but some of them have been raised by my hon. Friends, and I would ask the Secretary of State for Air, if he has time, to deal with them. The Prime Minister's answer as to the inquiry is that it would be calculated to interfere with or to hamper the speed and success which the House desires to secure both from the Air Ministry and the industry. He said it would dislocate the Air Ministry. From what we know of the Air Ministry, it would be a very good job if it were dislocated. People who break limbs and have them badly set have to have them dislocated before they can be set properly, and if the Air Ministry were dislocated, no doubt the Secretary of State for Air might have a chance of setting it properly. The right hon. Gentleman has had experience of the advantage of a report by an outside body when he was bringing about a reorganisation in the Post Office, and when he was vastly helped by the Bridge man Report.
We are confident that a report of this kind would not hurt the Air Ministry, but would be of the greatest advantage and assistance to the new Secretary of State in the working out of a reasoned and proper reorganisation. If the House is convinced, as in our submission it must be, that something has been, and is, fundamentally wrong, then, unless the Government are prepared to do something more than have a mere reshuffle of Ministers, we cannot be satisfied without demanding an inquiry. If all is well, then the Government need not fear the result of an inquiry. We were told that an 1340 inquiry into civil aviation was unnecessary; that everything was all right, that Lord Swinton was looking after it admirably, and that we need have no fear. But the Government were forced by the opinion of the House to institute that inquiry, and the result has shown how justified the House was in its demand and how unjustified the Government were in their resistance to that demand. We can read into that report—or out of it— the indication that a similar inquiry is necessary as regards the military side of the Air Ministry as well. There is no need to cause delay by an investigation. It can be carried through expeditiously. It will, in the long run, if anything like the state of affairs exists, of which we have good evidence, expedite the carrying-out of the programme to reach parity.
If I may sum up what seems to us to be the errors committed by the Air Ministry with regard to the programme, I would say this. First, we believe that the whole air defense programme of the country has been based upon the misconception that the Air Force would largely function as an extra arm of the Army and Navy and nothing more. No attention seems to have been paid until the last few months to the obvious fact that, whatever our views may be, an enemy would concentrate on attacking the civilian population and would utilize the tactic of civilian demoralization. That accounts, we believe, for the neglect of air-raid precautions, especially as regards high explosives; for the failure to get proper anti-aircraft guns and equipment and for the type of bomber which has been developed until very recent times in the Air Force. It accounts for the lack of attention that has been paid to navigation and blind flying, both of which are peculiarly connected with long distance flying and bombing. Nothing else can explain the extraordinary position of our Air Force at present except that view, and perhaps the Minister would tell us whether that view persists or whether it has now been altered.
Secondly, the production of aircraft and equipment was left almost entirely to the aircraft manufacturing ring without any certainty as to the types or quantities required, with continual changes and with a ridiculous multiplicity of types. All this shows that the people who organised the programme had not the technical 1341 knowledge necessary to link up the ordering of the programme with its execution in the factories. That is the essential point in regard to which a ministry of supply is needed. No use has been made of the small firms, or the engineering industry generally, and no attention has been paid to the designing, amplifying or maintaining of the necessary armaments and ancillary equipment for the aeroplanes. It is typical indeed of the methods of carrying on a Service Ministry in peace time, methods which have always been found, and were in the Great War certainly found, to be impossible in times of emergency and rapid expansion. Thirdly, all the ancillary matters were neglected in the first stages, such as armament and instrument production, with the result that even today there are comparatively few highly trained navigators or blind flyers in the Air Force and there is a grave shortage of wireless operators. Fourthly, no attention has been paid to the organisation of repair and maintenance units and depots, with the result that there is a great wastage of time and of efficiency in that regard.
There has been no staff at the Air Ministry with the intimate knowledge of production processes that is essential to co-ordinate supply and demand. The Air Ministry seem to have been unable to distinguish between paper orders given and aeroplanes delivered fully equipped. That is again typical of Service Departments, judging by the experience of the last War. There has been no concerted drive behind the programme, failures have been accepted as inevitable, and when they have occurred no attempt has been made to develop new methods of organisation so as to obtain a proper relationship between research, supply and production. Indeed, the whole history is a repetition of exactly those stupidities and that red tapeism which so nearly had disastrous results in the last War and were only got rid of when an efficient ministry of supply was set up to co-ordinate the productive resources of the nation.
In my submission an overwhelming case has been made out, and is unanswerable, for some immediate and drastic action to reorganise the output of aircraft and air defence in this country. Nobody can be content to leave matters as they now stand, with nothing but a reshuffle of Ministers to remedy this serious situa- 1342 tion. We have had clear indications, unfortunately, tonight from the Prime Minister that the Government have not yet appreciated the seriousness of what has happened or the inefficiency of their own programme for the future. We ask this House to accept its duty to the people of this country, and to take into its own hands the responsibility for an investigation of these grave matters, with a determination to see that whatever that investigation discloses shall be immediately righted.
§ 10.23 P.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Kingsley Wood)
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has made, as he always does, an effective and persuasive contribution to our Debate. He has referred tonight to what he regards as my unexpected advent to the particular office which I hold at this moment. I can return the compliment. Never did I think the hon. and learned Gentleman would be urging upon a capitalistic Government, no doubt, as he thinks, actuated by a wrong foreign policy, further rearmament so far as this country is concerned. Therefore, we can cry quits over that matter.
If the House will allow me a few personal words this evening before I reply generally to some of the matters which have been raised in the Debate, I wish first to express my thanks for all the personal good will which has been expressed towards me in reference to my appointment. I realise that, so far as some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned, that expression of good will has been without prejudice. I also observed this evening that no one is clamoring for my job, and I can assure my colleagues in the House that I did not canvass the Prime Minister for it. I would also like to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) for his personal references. I am reminded, and I often remind myself when people are good enough to speak well of me, of a vote of thanks which was once proposed to me by a good and loyal supporter in my constituency. He proposed a vote of thanks something in these terms: "I beg to move a vote of thanks to our Member, Sir Kingsley Wood. He is no ornament in the House of Commons, but he is a good hard-working Member." That is all that I pretend to be so far as my office is concerned.
1343 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping suggested that I might undertake certain things. He asked me to be candid with the House concerning what other countries are doing. I thought that was rather a dangerous proposition. I must confess that as I listened to the-Debate today I imagined what other countries were thinking of us, and I hope that as a result of this Debate no country in the world will think we are not determined to go through with our defences and do our very utmost so far as they are concerned. I can give the undertaking that I will give unremitting attention to what I think the House will realise is by no means an easy task, and I hope that I shall always have a willingness to consider and to profit by criticisms and proposals. My desire particularly is to co-operate with all who will help in an undertaking which obviously cannot be accomplished by any one individual. One of the earliest communications which I received on my appointment, which I certainly appreciated, was that as Secretary of State for Air I became an ex-officio trustee of the British Museum. I do not intend spending much time there at present, but I recognise that I may have to go there later on. May I say also how glad I am to have as a colleague my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour). He has many advantages over me. He has considerable experience, not only of service, but of civil aviation and of the aircraft industry, and, by no means his least advantage, he is only 40 years of age. I should like to say, too, that I appreciate the continued help of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell). No one could hope to have a more loyal and efficient friend than my Parliamentary Private Secretary.
I think I am fortified in my office, as all my predecessors have been, and as the country is at the present time, by two great bulwarks, and they are known to us all. In the first place I would put the invincible courage and determination of the Royal Air Force itself; and secondly —what I have a great deal of confidence in and I believe it has been expressed in many parts of the House this evening— we do undoubtedly possess great assets in our considerable, and perhaps unequalled, manufacturing resources. In 1344 our engineering industry particularly we have employers and workmen of almost unrivalled experience, capacity and technical skill, and I need hardly say that my early attention will be given to seeing how we can still more fully utilise them in our efforts to increase and speed up our air defences.
Various criticisms have been made in the Debate this evening. In the first place I would say that all of us recognise how easy it is to look back after the event and to say that this or that decision should have been taken differently or earlier; and even the best of critics must acknowledge that it is sometimes easier to be critical than correct. I obviously cannot reply to all the criticisms that have been made, but naturally I will undertake to examine them all carefully and to give consideration to them. I would say at once, however, that I think it is ridiculous to talk about the serious breakdown of the Air Ministry. If the hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate will allow me to say so, I much regretted the reference he made to a distinguished officer in the Air Service, Air Vice-Marshal Welsh. I can only assure the House from my short knowledge, and it has been confirmed by all those with whom I have come into touch during the few days I have held my appointment, that he has done fine work at the Air Ministry and has high qualities, and I hope the House will not accept the condemnation of him which the hon. Gentleman implied this evening.
I should like to give one or two illustrations of how easy it is to repeat criticisms without, as it is most desirable to do, making some effort to see whether they are substantially correct or not. I will take only a couple of instances this evening, because I want to speak of other things. The hon. Member who opened the Debate— in a very fair and a very able speech— alleged that some 500 to 600 aircraft, the majority of them military, had been exported. In fact, the total number of British military aircraft exported in 1937 was 264 including 70 supplied to the Dominions. Every application that has been made in connection with this matter has been examined by a committee set up for the purpose. Dominion orders had been given the highest practical preference, and particular regard had been paid to the requirements of countries with whom we have special treaty relations.
1345 I will take another illustration, in order to show how careful one should be in making statements, because they are very difficult to catch up afterwards. The hon. Member referred to the production of wooden aircraft, and asked why it was not proposed to use the De Havilland firms for the manufacture of the latest design of wooden bomber. It is perfectly true that De Havilland's have the greatest experience of wooden construction in this country, and they are being kept on the production of wooden aircraft. Their works have been filled with orders for wooden aircraft. I may say in that connection, to show that the Air Ministry may at any rate have this much to their credit, that the Ministry are also mobilizing the carpentry and other trades in order to create the capacity to build up the thousands of wooden aircraft which I think will be necessary, particularly for training purposes.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am giving this information to illustrate how easy it is to make certain statements. All these matters have been raised this afternoon with a view to their further examination. I would now like to tell the House what I regard as my immediate tasks, especially in the light of the Debate which has taken place today.
As I see them those tasks are twofold. I think the first of them is that I should do all I can, in conjunction with my colleagues at the Air Ministry, to see to it that our present air programme is achieved as speedily as possible. I have listened to the whole of the Debate and to the one that preceded it. I do not think it. is yet sufficiently realised what this means, and what demands it will make in many directions. With the considerable increases in our squadrons both at home and overseas even the present programme will mean a great and concentrated effort, both in the Royal Air Force itself and in the industry. An example that I am particularly anxious to give to the House for a special purpose is that of the personnel of the Air Force. Even with the present programme, dealing with personnel alone, we shall require during the next two years some 4,700 pilots, 33,000 airmen and 6,000 boys to be trained for a special trade. There is also the Volunteer Reserve which must be 1346 further expanded. This means having many pilots in reserve. I do not doubt. and I hope that the whole world will know it, that we shall have a great response, but it means a considerable and a united effort. I think that tonight I can confidently look to this House and to all outside it to help in the appeal which I shall shortly be making to enlist the men who mean so much to the safety and the protection of this country.
My other immediate task— it is confirmed by all that has been said during the Debate— is to deal with the important question of the organisation of supply I desire to add only a few words to what has been said by the Prime Minister on the question of a ministry of supply, mentioned many times during today's Debate. My comment will be this: Only the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate has faced the real difficulty of such a ministry and that is, what powers it should possess. The hon. Gentleman dealt with that matter perfectly plainly. He said that such a ministry must obviously have considerable powers. I would invite hon. Gentlemen who are interested in this matter to see the powers which were conferred upon the Ministry of Munitions when the Act was introduced in the House. Directly you look at those powers, you are faced with the question which suddenly confronted the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who made, I think, the most effective contribution on the question of a ministry of supply today. You see that obviously, whatever you may do— whether you take the half-way house suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, or whether you go the whole length— you have to make considerable interference, not only with the question of manufacturing interests, but also with labour itself.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, in perhaps the most amusing speech of the day, ridiculed the Government in regard to the number of committees which were still operating in connection with the particular organization which is still in existence. I wonder whether he recalls the day when he was Minister of Munitions, with, I think, a different view of committees altogether. He was speaking as long ago—I am afraid he must have forgotten it— as 25th April, 1918, when, speaking of his great work at the Ministry of Munitions he said: 1347I should like, if the House will allow me—I will not detain it very long—to refer to the new organisation of the Ministry of Munitions which I brought into existence after taking office last year. The principle of that organisation consisted in dividing 70 odd departments of the Ministry into eight or ten large groups, and placing at the head of each group a member of the Council to exercise general and direct supervision over the whole area. This organisation has in practice worked very well. It has not been changed in any way except by the ordinary accidents of daily life; it has not been altered in any important respect since it was brought into being. The Council meets about once a week, but the bulk of its work is done by committees "—
§ Sir K. Wood
Let me go on with the quotation:The Council meets about once a week,but the bulk of its work is done by. Committees of three or four members of the Council specially concerned with any particular subject, and there is a standing Committee of the Council, a co-ordinating Committee, which considers and clamps together the proposals of the different departments.There are practically no important questions of business which do not pass through the machinery of these committees before they come to me."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1918; col. 1154, Vol. 105.]My right hon. Friend must have been a square peg in a round hole. I do recognize that in connection with supply questions, and particularly their relation ship to the Ministry, I have to give special attention to that matter in view of the decision of the Government in relation to a ministry of supply. I propose to enlist the advice and help of leading industrial experts of the country in order that we may attain a maximum output, coupled, of course, with full fighting efficiency. Undoubtedly I recognise that, coming even as I do so recently to my office, there must be other directions in which we shall still have to strengthen our working position. With all these purposes particularly in mind in connection with the further organisation of supply, last week I asked Lord Nuffield to help us]—
§ Sir K. Wood
You will admit at any rate that I did not kidnap him— and he readily responded to my appeal. I would suggest to the House that he will be an immediate and considerable source of 1348 strength in this particular connection. Lord Nuffield will commence by helping in the direction in which help is most needed; that is, the provision of air frames. Lord Nuffield has now specifically allocated, in addition, I may say, to his own great genius, the services of Mr. Oliver Boden, his vice-chairman, and no time has in fact been lost. since I saw Lord Nuffield, he has undertaken to produce a large number of the best machines in any air force in the world, and we are making an immediate start in relation to our plans for buildings and factory provision. I would also like to say, in the same connection, that immediately upon my becoming Secretary of State I saw the Council of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors, and Lord Austin and representatives of the shadow aircraft and aero-engine industry. I must acknowledge the considerable and successful efforts Lord Austin and these gentlemen have made for two years. I ventured to assure them that they were valued and appreciated; and I know the House will welcome, as I do, the assurance they gave me as to their determination not only to continue but, if possible, to increase their efforts.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already referred to the Supply Committee at the Air Ministry. It is now busily engaged in its work under the chairmanship of my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State. In my judgment, undoubtedly Sir Charles Bruce Gardner's appointment as executive chairman of the industry has been of the greatest value. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has also helped us greatly in expediting decisions by allowing one of the high Treasury officials to attend meetings of the Committee, and his presence has been invaluable. During this Debate there have, of course, been complaints of red tape, of failures and of delays. On my appointment I received a present from one of my colleagues here of a pair of scissors, and it was some tribute, I thought, to the Air Ministry that it was a small pair of scissors. Obviously, we do not want red tape, and I assure the House that scissors shall be used, so far as it is in my power to use them, when they are properly required. It is perfectly true that we want planes rather than plans, but I would remind the House that, on the other side, we 1349 want careful planning as well and the avoidance of hasty decisions. When I hear certain criticisms, I think that hon. Members on reflection will agree with me that we certainly need to take great care that our machines shall be such that they can be used by our men with safety and with full fighting efficiency.
There are two other matters to which I should like to refer. I want the House to feel that I attach the greatest importance to civil aviation. It was during my tenure of office as Postmaster-General that I came into close contact with one side of it, and I hope that we were able to do something to assist it. I will do all I can in this connection. I should also like to refer to the mission that has been making an exploratory visit to Canada and America. Two leading firms of the American aircraft industry are coming here at once to resume discussions which were initiated on the other side. When the mission returns I shall examine with them the possibilities that are open to us in both those great countries.
I hope the House will feel, as the result of this Debate, that at this critical time an independent inquiry such as has been asked for by hon. Members opposite would rather hinder than help. Reviewing the position even in the short time at my disposal, I think we must all at the Air Ministry increasingly concentrate on the vital task that we have in hand. The House may rely upon it that I will carefully examine all the constructive criticisms and suggestions that have been made. I hope the House will by its vote enable us to get on with our job, which
§ is of course, not forgetting the lessons of the past, their successes and their failures, to ensure so far as we can the further protection of this country against the threats and perils of the air. It was undoubtedly a wrench to me to leave the Ministry of Health and that great body of local authorities and voluntary organizations and my Department with its loyal and efficient staff, but we must all appreciate that the finest social services in the world are wholly dependent upon the strength and security of the country. It is the abiding glory of the British people that all the contributions that we have been able to make to mankind have been made through the agency of a free democracy and our free Parliamentary institutions, and I think we have to guard and defend them at this critical hour.
§ As I conceive it, this country is the friend of all and the enemy of none, and I hope the House will be assured that we are working hard for peace. I hope and believe that we shall again show, as we have done throughout our history, that the strength of Britain is the key to peace and that by our vote this evening we shall show that the country will unflinchingly maintain and increase not only the interests of the nation but of peace itself.
That, in the opinion of this House, the growing public concern regarding the state of our air defences and the administration of the Departments concerned, calls for a complete and searching independent inquiry-conducted with dispatch under conditions consistent with the national interest.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 144; Noes, 329.1353
|Division No. 219.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Chater, D.||Gibson, R. (Greenock)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Cocks, F. S.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Cove, W. G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Daggar, G.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dalton, H.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Griffiths. J. (Llanelly)|
|Barnes, A. J,||Day, H.||Groves, T. E.|
|Batey, J.||Dobbie, W.||Guest, Or. L. H. (Islington, N.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Ede, J. C.||Hardie, Agnes|
|Benson, C.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Bevan, A.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hayday, A.|
|Broad, F. A.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Henderson, A. (Kingswintord)|
|Bromfield, W.||Foot, D. M.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Frankel, D.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Buahanan, G.||Gallacher, W.||Hicks, E. G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Gardner, B. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Cassells, T.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Holdsworth, H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Hopkin, D.|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Oliver, G. H.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|John, W.||Owen, Major G.||Stephen, C.|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Paling, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Parker, J.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Parkinson, J. A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Pearson, A.||Summerskill, Edith|
|Kirby, B. V.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Poole, C. C.||Thurtle, E.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Price, M. P.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Leach, W.||Pritt, D. N.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Leonard, W.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Viant, S. P.|
|Logan, D. G.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Lunn, W.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Walker, J.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Riley, B.||Watson, W. McL.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Ritson, J.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|MacLaren, A.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Maclean, N.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Westwood, J.|
|Mander, G. le M.||Rothschild, J. A. de||White, H. Graham|
|Markiew, E.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Marshall, F.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Maxton, J.||Sexton. T. M.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Milner, Major J.||Shinwell, E.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Montague, F.||Silkin, L.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Silverman, S. S.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Muff, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Noel-Baker, P. J.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Adamson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cartland, J. R. H.||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Carver, Major W. H.||Elmley, Viscount|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Emery, J. F.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Errington, E.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Channon, H.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.|
|Assheton, R.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Evans, Capt. A. (Ca'diff, S.)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Everard, W. L.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutto[...])||Christie, J. A.||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Clarke, Frank (Dartford)||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Fleming, E. L.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Fox, Sir G. W. G.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Furness, S. N.|
|Balniel, Lord||Colfox, Major W. P.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Colman, N. C. D.||Gluckstein, L. H.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Goldie, N. B.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Granville, E. L.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Cox, H. B. Trevor||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Craven-Ellis, W.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Critchley, A.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Guest, Hon. l. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)|
|Boothby, R, J. G.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Crossley, A. C.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hambro, A. V|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Culverwell, C. T.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Davidson, Viscountess||Harbord, A.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Davison, Sir W. H.||Harvey, Sir G.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Dawson, Sir P.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||De Chair, S. S.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Denville, Alfred||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A P.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Dodd, J. S.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Bull, B. B.||Doland, G. F.||Hepworth, J.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Dower, Major A. V. G.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Burghley, Lord||Duggan, H. J.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Dunglass, Lord||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Eastwood, J. F.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Butler, R. A.||Eckersley, P. T.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Moreing, A. C.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Hunter, T.||Morgan, R. H.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Somerset, T.|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Joel, D. J. B.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Munro, P.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Nail, Sir J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Keeling, E. H.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Storey, S.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||O'Connor, S[...] Terence J.||Stourton, Major Hon, J. J.|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Kimball, L.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Lamb, Sir J. O.||Patrick, C. M.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Peake, O.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Peat, C. U.||Tasker, Sir R. I|
|Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Leech, Sir J. W.||Pilkington, R.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W|
|Leigh, Sir J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Porritt, R. W.||Touche, G. C.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Train, Sir J.|
|Levy, T.||Procter, Major H. A.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Lewis, O.||Radford, E. A.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Little, Sir E. Graham-||Ramsbotham, H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Loftus, P. C.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Lyons, A. M.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|M'Connell, Sir J.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Remer, J. R.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Wells, S. R.|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|McKie, J. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Macnamara, Major J. R. J.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Maitland, A.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Wise, A. R.|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Salmon, Sir I||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Salt, E. W.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Markham, S. F.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wragg, H.|
|Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Selley, H. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Captain Margesson and Mr.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||James Stuart.|
|Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
§ The orders of the day were read, and postponed