§ Considered in Committee. [Progress, 23rd May.]
§ [Sir Dennis Herbert in the Chair.]
§ Clause i.—(Increase of subsidies for air transport.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
On a point of Order. When the Committee was considering this Clause last time, on behalf of my hon. Friends I asked the Government to produce a document, a report which they quoted, and the Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne) said he would give his considered judgment as to whether that report should be produced or not. As the matter is one of considerable Parliamentary interest, I should like to quote, if you will allow me, some of the precedents in support of the claim that that report should be produced. The report concerns the dismissal of the pilots, and is a report made by Government directors to the Secretary of State for Air. It is not necessary for me to say that I shall not deal in any way with the merits of the question, which is entirely irrelevant. The only two things which I have to show are, first, that there is such a report, and, secondly, that the Minister cited, or quoted from it, or used it in support of an argument and then, unless the Minister claims that it is not in the public interest that it should be produced, my claim is that, in accordance with immemorable Parliamentary usage, the report should be produced.
First, as to the existence of the report. In the Debate on 29th October, the Minister stated that the Government had information and took an interest in this subject, then, after the setting up of the Cadman Committee and their report, on 11th May, the then Under-Secretary of State for Air said that the Government directors, as a result of their interview with the pilots in question, had expressed their opinion, and further he said:We have agreed with the report of the Government Directors."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1938; col. 1575, Vol. 335.]1866 Then there were two Debates, on 23rd and 18th May. On the 23rd, the present Under-Secretary of State said quite clearly:At the request of the Government, the Government Directors went into the question as to the reasons for the dismissal and the justification or otherwise for that dismissal. They interviewed five pilots, and I shall not prove to be wrong, because I saw the Government Directors' report myself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 23rd May, 1938; col. 970, Vol. 336.]I need not quote all the passages. I have already furnished them to you, Sir Dennis, in support of my argument. He further said:I have seen the Government Directors' report to my right hon. Friend's predecessor.He says again, in the same column of the OFFICIAL REPORT:They reported to us that the dismissal was justified,and so on. The actual contents of the report are not material. Further he said:I have given the Committee the gist of what the Government Directors have told my right hon. Friend.He further said:I have not quoted. I have not the document here,and so on. The Deputy-Chairman said, when I appealed for his ruling:I am unable to say whether the Under-Secretary has or has not quoted substantially from it but I am sure that if he has, he will conform to the ordinary Rules of the House.He says further on:He ought to follow the ordinary Rules of the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; cols. 971–72, Vol. 336.]Therefore, my claim is, in the first place, that I have established the fact that there is such a report and that substantial reference has been made to it. The words "citation" and "quotation" I will deal with afterwards. An argument has been founded upon the report and, therefore, in accordance with the very ancient practice in the High Court of Parliament, this report must be produced.
It is a matter of interest to this House that evidence produced should be produced in full for the examination of this House, which is a court. I will, if the Committee be patient, ask leave to quote in detail the five precedents on which Sir Erskine May founds his rule. The first I will take was in the year 1808 when, on a Debate on the Copenhagen incident, Mr. Canning read from some document and 1867 was immediately challenged in the House. He yielded at once to the challenge, and the documents were in fact produced on the 26th of that month. Mr. Adam, who was a very distinguished Member of the House, one of the managers for the impeachment of Warren Hastings and an authority on Procedure, moved to censure Mr. Canning for not producing the document on demand, his argument being that Canning had brought forward evidence for the purpose of influencing the House. Mr. Adam quoted both Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt—he ought to have known about Mr. Fox because he nearly killed him in a duel —in support of his argument. Although Mr. Adam did not press his Resolution, Mr. Canning, in fact, produced the documents 14 days after the request had been made in the House.
Then, in 1857, Sir Charles Wood cited a letter from Sir Michael Seymour relative to the bombardment of Canton. There are no actual words quoted in Hansard at all, but whether that is because Hansard in those days used the method of oblique oration or whether the words were not quoted I cannot say. Mr. Grosvenor immediately asked whether the letter had been produced. It was a private letter from Sir Michael Seymour, and Sir Charles Wood said that it was a private letter from Sir Michael Seymour to himself, that he would have no objection to reading the passage to which he had referred but he would not lay it before the House because it was a private letter; he would be prepared to show it to any person who might doubt its existence. Lord Palmerston said that if the Minister read in his place any document, whether public or private, he was bound to lay on the Table that which he had read. If he read a portion of a private letter or despatch he might justly be required to lay the whole on the Table. He goes on to say that he could not admit that a Minister, more than any other hon. Member, should be precluded from repeating to the House information which he had received in a private communication. Mr. Disraeli said it was a rule that a Paper used by a Minister in the House became a State Paper, even though it were a private letter, and that neither a public nor a private letter should be used if it could not be laid on the Table. That was a principle which had ever been accepted in the House of Commons.
1868 The third instance given by Sir Erskine May is the case of the Debate upon the Longford election, in 1862, Lord Robert Cecil—I think that was the late Marquess of Salisbury—demanded the production of documents upon which the Government had founded their case and Lord Palmerston said:When a Minister of the Crown reads a document and founds upon it an argument or an assertion, that document, if called for, ought to be produced.Later, in 1893, Mr. Speaker Peel laid it down that if the Minister referred to public documents or despatches he should lay them before the House but that confidential documents or documents of a private nature passing between officers of a Department and the Department, were not necessarily laid on the Table, especially if the Minister declared that they were of a confidential nature. The last instance and the most recent cited by May is that of the year 1903 in the "ragging" case in the Guards when Mr. St. John Brodrick was Minister for War and made extensive references to the evidence of Colonel Kinloch. Mr. Bromley Davenport asked for production of the evidence, and Lord Hugh Cecil supported the request. Mr. Speaker Gully said:A Minister if he quotes from a document may be called upon to lay the paper before the House, but that is subject to his statement that it would be contrary to the public interest so to do.Mr. Brodrick said:I was not quoting from a document, I am most anxious to avoid laying papers.He proceeded to cite many reasons of Army discipline for not laying the papers before the House. On the following day, 12th March, Mr. Labouchere raised the question again and Mr. Brodrick laid the papers and they will be found in the Commons' Journals. Mr. Speaker said that unless the public interest were pleaded, the Minister was bound to lay the documents on the Table. Other authorities state clearly that reference to correspondence involves the laying of the whole correspondence before the House. In the present case there is no doubt that the document exists. The Minister may make three objections. He may say he did not quote the words. But in that case the precedent of Sir Charles Wood, and the ruling given by Mr. Speaker Peel and Mr. Brodrick's own plea make that invalid. Secondly, he may say that it 1869 is a private document, and certainly Mr. Speaker Peel spoke of documents passing between Departments and officers of those Departments, Lord Palmerston spoke of documents both "public and private" and Mr. Disraeli said that a paper used by a Minister became a State paper even though it were a private letter. Therefore, unless the Minister is prepared to say that the public interest will be damnified by the publication of this report, he ought to lay it on the Table.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Chairman
since the point was raised I have had an opportunity of considering the question very carefully with my right hon. Friend the Deputy-Chairman and of referring to the authorities and precedents and have also taken the advice of those officials of the House whose advice we seek on these occasions. The right hon. Gentleman's case is that this particular document ought to be laid upon the Table by reason of—and we need not quarrel over these words here— the reference made to it by the Under-Secretary. There are two questions of importance arising on any point of this kind. First, the extent of the rule which requires certain documents to be laid. In some of the precedents which the right hon. Gentleman has quoted it is quite clear that the documents were actually read or quoted verbatim. That, however, does not arise here. In this case there was no definite quotation or reading from the document. One must admit that there may be questions on which opinions may differ when there is substantial reference to or citation of a document without verbatim quotation and you come to a point where it is rather on the line, as to whether a document is within or without the rule. There are two comparatively recent precedents which, I think, are very important here as they are of a later date than some of those quoted. In 1905, I think it was Mr. Speaker Lowther, or it may have been Mr. Speaker Gully, who gave a ruling when Mr. Redmond demanded that papers that Mr. Long had quoted somewhat extensively should be laid on the Table. Mr. Long's case was that he had not quoted, but only given a summary. Mr. Speaker ruled:A Minister is entitled to summarise correspondence, and if he does not actually quote from it he is not bound to produce.1870 That, I admit, goes rather far. There is a definite ruling that summarising correspondence without actually quoting from it does not bind a Member to produce it.
In 1913 some figures were quoted by the Home Secretary from a report made to him by an actuary, and it was asked that the whole report should be laid. Mr. Speaker Lowther having examined the report said that if he found that the Home Secretary had quoted from a document the publication of which would affect the argument, he would advise that the document be laid. But if what the Home Secretary read was not from a report but only a summary or a title or heading, then the report need not be laid. Basing my view mainly on these two precedents, and referring very carefully to the whole of the discussion when this point was raised, I have come to the conclusion that the reference or references made by the Under-Secretary to this report did not amount to more than, in the strongest and most special sense of the term, a summary of a certain part. It was a statement to the effect that the report supported him in two matters, namely, that the company were justified in dismissing the pilots, and, secondly, that there was no victimisation. Going beyond that it is very important to observe the emphatic statement made by Erskine May as to the exception to this rule which he gives in these words:It is obvious that as the House deals only with public documents in its proceedings it could not thus incidentally require the production of papers which, if moved for separately, would be refused as beyond its jurisdiction.Also:The rule cannot be held to apply to private letters or memoranda.Then there is reference made to the case quoted by the right hon. Gentleman where the Speaker declared the rule applied to public documents only, and again in 1893 when the Speaker ruled that confidential documents or those of a private nature passing between officers of a Department and that Department need not necessarily be laid on the Table, especially if the Minister decides they are of a confidential nature. In this case the document was a report by certain directors of a public company, placed on the board of the company by the Government, and the report was made by these Government-appointed directors to the Minister at his 1871 request. It is in my opinion quite obvious that a report in regard to the proceedings of a board of directors of a company by a minority of the board, representing a certain interest, to those on whose behalf they were appointed, must be treated as a private document, and in those circumstances I make no doubt whatever that on both grounds, namely, the extent of the reference to the document and the nature of the document, this document is one which the House cannot insist should be laid on the Table. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Deputy-Chairman agrees with me in this.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
On a point of Order. I wish, Sir Dennis, 'to raise one other point that arises out of your Ruling. The Committee would like your guidance on this matter as well. You said just now that a report to the Government made by two directors forming a minority of a board of a Government-subsidised company was naturally confidential, and as such would not be laid upon the Table even if it was referred to in the course of a Debate. What the Committee showed some anxiety about on the last occasion was the doctrine which was laid down by the Under-Secretary, namely, that in the case of a company subsidised by the Government of this country and having Government directors appointed to the board, the Government had no right to ask these directors to furnish, even confidentially, the reasons that caused the board to take any particular action.
§ The Chairman
I do not think that is a point of Order. The hon. Member is raising the question of the powers of the Government in regard to certain persons appointed by them: that is not for the Chair to decide.
§ 4.43 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
On a point of Order, Sir Dennis. Dealing with your Ruling, I would ask you for your guidance. I listened very carefully to your Ruling, particularly the part affecting the question of what could be termed a private document. If on any future occasion this House should take up a particular question such as the dismissal of people from a Government-subsidised company, and the Government promised this House to have an inquiry, 1872 and if two Government directors acted on behalf of the Government in accordance with that pledge to the House, would that report be considered a private document or one which could be laid before the House?
§ The Chairman
That is a hypothetical question, and I think it is most undesirable that the Chair, having given an important Ruling should be asked to deal with hypothetical questions on an entirely different matter.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Chairman:
Every case must depend on its own merits. I do not think I made this Ruling very wide. The main ground which I quoted in support of the view that this must, of necessity, be a private document, was that it was a report by these Government-appointed directors of a board to the Government who had appointed them. I may mention that in the course of the previous Debate the Under-Secretary of State himself referred to this as a private report to the Government.
§ Mr. Tinker
May I put this question, through you Sir Dennis, to the Government? Seeing that you have ruled that it is beyond your jurisdiction to require this document to be laid, will the Government relieve the anxiety of hon. Members by themselves bringing forward this document?
§ The Chairman
That is not a matter which can be raised as a point of Order. The hon. Member says he wants to make an appeal to the Government through me. Of course every appeal to the Government by hon. Members in the House is supposed to be made through the Chair, but that is a matter for debate or discussion and does not arise on this question of order.
§ Mr. Tinker
I am not challenging your Ruling, Sir Dennis. I was, as I say, making an appeal to the Government.
§ The Chairman
And I am merely keeping order in Debate and at the moment we are dealing with the question of order.
§ The Chairman
No, certainly not. I have ruled that in my opinion, for the reasons which I have given, this is a document which need not be laid. If the Government choose to lay it that is entirely a matter for them and has nothing to do with me. I have given a Ruling about which I have no doubt whatever.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman is, I think, mistaken. In the first place I was not aware that I had given a further Ruling. I did make an additional statement, namely, that the Under-Secretary had called this a private report.
§ The Chairman
Unfortunately, the Chair has to decide. It is true that in some cases the Chair might be influenced by some view taken by the Government as to whether or not a document is private.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I am anxious to make a short statement on this matter, in view of the previous Debate at which, unfortunately, I was not present. I hope the Committee recognise that my absence on that occasion was due to the fact that I was engaged on important business of the Department elsewhere. Otherwise I would have been here to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary. As regards the observation of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), I feel it is quite obvious that if the special relationship between the Government and the Government directors, in all matters in which they are concerned, is to be 1874 fully and properly maintained, and if the directors are to deal as effectively as we should desire them to deal with the affairs of the company in which the Government is interested, and if they are to pay due regard to these matters in order that they may be of service to the Government— if all those objects are to be achieved, it is right that these matters should be treated as being of a confidential character. For that reason, apart from the question of order, I do not myself think that it can be regarded as desirable or in the interests of proper and effective relationships between the Government and the Government directors, that a confidential report of this nature should be made public.
§ Sir K. Wood
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed a little further. I am speaking quite generally. I say I do not think it is desirable that documents of this character should be made public.
§ Sir K. Wood
It was for that general reason that I took up the attitude which I did take up in regard to this matter.
§ Mr. Benn
I could understand the right hon. Gentleman saying, "The Chair has ruled that I am not bound to produce this document and I am not going to do so," but I do not think he is entitled to shelter himself behind the Ruling of the Chair, or to argue that on account of your Ruling, Sir Dennis, he is somehow justified in withholding this document. Your Ruling is one to which we bow, but the Minister must not found his argument on that fact.
§ The Chairman
May I try to ensure that there is no misapprehension? I called on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to continue the Debate and as far as the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) is concerned, I am afraid I do not see that there is a point of Order in it. A question was raised by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) which I ruled out as being inappropriate to a discussion on points of Order. I said that it was a question for the Government and I thought that the Secretary of State was dealing with that question.
§ Mr. Benn
I do not wish to pursue this matter, but what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State is doing is, not offering us any valid reasons for not producing the document, but suggesting that your Ruling, Sir Dennis, has exculpated him from the necessity of doing so, whereas your Ruling is based on the Rules of the House of Commons and has nothing whatever to do with the merits of the production or withholding of the document. You have merely declared that the Rules do not require the right hon. Gentleman to produce the document. Now we are dealing with the question of whether on the merits of the case it ought to be produced.
§ The Chairman
Whatever may be the merits of the case the right hon. Gentleman has himself admitted that no one can go behind the Ruling of the Chair, and if it is the view of the right hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State is sheltering himself behind the Ruling which has been given the Secretary of State is quite entitled to do that. It seems now to be a question of whether the Secretary of State chooses, without transgressing the Rules of the House of Commons, to do something which he is not bound to do.
§ The Chairman
No, I think I have made my Ruling clear. It is that the House cannot require production of the document.
§ Sir K. Wood
Perhaps the Committee will now allow me to say a few words. I am not endeavouring to shelter myself behind any Ruling of the Chair. I am endeavouring to respond to requests that I should give the reasons why I do not propose to take the course which hon. Gentlemen opposite have appealed to me to take. It was for that reason and no other, that I made the observations which I made earlier and by which I stand. I suggest that if the Committee do me the honour to read my words to-morrow they will find that they are a reasonable statement of the position as I see it, in relation to matters of this kind generally. I have explained why I feel, apart from the Ruling of the Chair, that I must take a certain attitude on this matter, and I have no desire to enter into points of 1876 order or of controversy with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, because I am not as fond of them as he is.
I am satisfied that a full examination was made of the case of these men without prejudice and with a desire on the part of the Government directors that the matters raised on a previous occasion should be carefully reviewed. I wish at once to say, in view of certain statements which were made in the closing stages of the previous Debate as regards this investigation by the Government directors, that a representative of the Pilots' Association was present and appeared as a friend through the interviews with the officers. I understand he stated that all the points had been brought forward and that he did not desire to add anything or to bring forward any further matter. I also find that invitations were issued to seven pilots and that five pilots attended. Of the other two, one said he had nothing further to say and did not desire to attend. The other was in employment and said that if the possibility of reemployment arose, he would like to know of it at some future date when he had obtained more flying experience. My hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary has already informed the House of the result of the examination by the Government directors. They found that the termination of the agreements was justified and that the dismissals had no connection with the membership of the Air Line Pilots' Association. In two cases the Government directors made recommendations. They recommended that one of the officers should be considered for employment in the future in the joint service, suggested by the Cadman Committee, between London and Paris. In another case they recommended that the officer in question should be reinstated.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am coming to that. He was to be reinstated in some capacity in relation to flying. My hon. and gallant Friend stated fully on the last occasion the difficulty of the directors of the board in the matter of re-employing him. In this connection I am glad to say that the company are now in a position to offer, and did in fact on last Friday offer this officer a vacancy on the technical manager's staff at a salary of £750 a year, with a special allowance for one year. The company offered him that post for a fixed 1877 period of three years, and I understand that they have expressed a hope in a letter to the officer that it will prove to be a permanent post. Coming to this matter quite fresh and having had no part in previous controversies, I hope it will be in the officer's interest to accept this post and resume his association with the company with which he was associated for so long. I can assure the Committee that so far as my examination and review are concerned I am satisfied—
§ Mr. Mander
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to make a statement about Captain Rogers.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am not able to take the matter further so far as that officer is concerned. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary made a statement with respect to what the board were prepared to do as to the recommendation concerning that officer, and I can add nothing to that statement. I should like to assure the Committee that after my examination of the matter I am satisfied that the duty that was given to the Government directors was carried out sympathetically and with a desire to arrive at a just conclusion. I have no reason, from my review of the matter, to differ from their conclusion.
There is another matter which was raised with regard to this company, and that was respecting the ballots which it was determined should be carried out in connection with the choice of the officers as to staff representation. It has been stated in this House that arrangements have been made for secret ballots by the captains and first officers of Imperial Airways. The captains will have the choice of voting either for representation by committees of captains chosen by the captains themselves, on lines similar to the existing captain's committees at Croydon, or representation by the British Air Lines Pilots' Association. The first officers will have the choice of voting either for representation by committees of first officers, chosen by themselves on lines similar to the existing captains' committees, or representation by the British Air Lines Pilots' Association. The ballot is secret, the envelopes will be opened by a member of a well-known firm of chartered accountants and the votes will be counted in the presence of representatives of the company and the British Air Lines Pilots' Association.
§ Mr. Montague
Is the distinction which the Secretary of State mentioned the reason why the ballot papers for first officers and superior officers are of different colour?
§ Sir K. Wood
I cannot say, but I will inquire. I understand that the Air Line Pilots' Association have been consulted in regard to the arrangements and have intimated that they are in agreement with the procedure proposed. I cannot answer the other matter off-hand, but I will make inquiries. The Committee may rest assured that the ballot is being properly held, and I do not think greater precautions could be taken for ensuring its secrecy and impartiality. I hope that, after these observations, the Committee will feel that so far as we are concerned we have taken all the steps open to us to deal with a difficult matter of this kind.
§ The Chairman
Before the Debate proceeds further I think it is incumbent upon me to make one observation. When the Question was first put to the Committee, "That Clause I stand part of the Bill," I gave a Ruling to the effect that I thought a great deal of what the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) had said was out of order, and that the question of pilots could not be discussed at length. I pointed out that I had treated the hon. Member with some leniency and that in regard to what he had said I should permit a reply. I am afraid that my leniency had an effect which I scarcely foresaw, because it developed into a considerable Debate on this particular question. Owing to the delay which has taken place through the adjournment of the Debate, I have been obliged to consider my position, and in all the circumstances of the case I believe that I am right in thinking that it is the wish of hon. Members in all quarters of the House that this matter should be further discussed. I am, therefore, prepared to agree to a continuance of the Debate on the question of the pilots of Imperial Airways, but I would ask the Committee to put it down to my weakness on the previous occasion and not to treat it as a precedent. If they do that, I must ask the Committee to confine the Debate strictly to that particular subject so far as Imperial Airways is concerned, and not to allow the Debate to wander into a discussion of other affairs of Imperial Airways or of any other company.
§ Mr. Mander
Would it not be in order to raise the whole question of whether it is right to grant a further sum of £1,500,000, in view of the experience that we have had and the fact that the Cadman Report has not been carried out?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member has referred to a matter which is much more the Question before the Committee than the question of these pilots. As to what will be in order, I think he had better wait and see.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
I can speak again on the question of the Clause standing part only with the consent of the Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are in Committee."] I desire to follow up the question upon which the vote with respect to Progress was taken on the 23rd instant. The speech of the Secretary of State for Air does not put the Government in any better position than it occupied before. May I refer the Secretary of State to the fact that one of the reasons given by the Under-Secretary—and he said that he had the support of his chief—was that the publication of the report would be disadvantageous to the pilots themselves.
§ Mr. Montague
I must have time to look it up, but certainly the point was raised in discussion, and I think I shall be borne out by several hon. Members who are now present, that the publication of the report was not advisable on those grounds. In that case it is necessary to proceed further. I wonder why the Government are making this matter such a question of secrecy. Why cannot this report be given to the House of Commons? As the Secretary of State has said, the examination by the Government representatives on the board was conducted upon two questions, and the report was twofold—one to the effect that the dismissals were justified and the second to the effect that they had nothing whatever to do with victimisation, on account of the dismissed pilots being members of a new organisation of a trade union character. I wish to address myself to 1880 the second point, the question of victimisation.
With regard to the statement made by the Secretary of State as to the offer of a position to one of the three principal pilots, and the promise of a post to another pilot in about a year's time, I must leave that for the consideration of the pilots themselves. It is not desirable to prejudice them if there is any opportunity for them to obtain the employment that they desire, but that does not alter the fact that there has been, in our opinion, a clear case of victimisation, which carries on, unfortunately, the traditions of Imperial Airways. This is not the first occasion on which much the same kind of tactics has been adopted. Perhaps I may be allowed to mention one previous instance. There was the case where the stewards and ground refreshment staff desired to form a union which would come under the banner of Mr. Bevin's union, the Transport Workers. What was done then was to offer certain of these stewards the opportunity of going somewhere else out of this country. Those tactics were adopted and the antagonism of Imperial Airways to the very idea of trade union organisation smashed that project.
There is no doubt about the attitude of Imperial Airways on this question of trade union organisation. The Air Line Pilots' Association was formed on 27th June, 1937, and an interview was given to one of the pilots, an official, by the managing director, on the 19th July of that year. At that interview no question was raised about the conduct of any of the pilots. There was no mention of charges of lack of sympathy or continued resistance to authority. The only subject that was concerned with that interview was the reason why this organisation was formed, and a speech that was made by a pilot whose name I need not mention, but it is well known to the Secretary of State. He used these words:I am asking all of you who are here tonight to tell everyone about the Association, and the feeling of the Association. We are not formed together to go on strike. In the first place, it looks nothing more than a trade union and it holds the powers of a trade union, but God forbid that we should ever have to use those powers. If we are ever forced to stop aeroplanes flying, it will not be our fault but the fault of the other side. All we want is proper wages for the work we do.That was the speech which was dealt with in the interview granted to that pilot. 1881 He was asked questions about it and also questions about the organisation. Imperial Airways have been obsessed with the idea of the possibility of strikes ever since 1924, when there was a strike of pilots, a strike which in our opinion was completely justified by the terrible wages and conditions which were then the rule. The Secretary of State knows that then the wages and hours were much worse than they are to-day. It is not so much a complaint about wages to-day, although there is considerable complaint in respect of hours. After that speech and the formation of the Association it was necessary to point out to the managing director at the interview that the reasons for the formation of the Association were discontent among junior captains, and particularly the Southampton grievance, which had to do with the lengthened probationary period of junior captains who, for the pay of first officers, had to do the duties of acting captains. That is a matter which such an organisation would be a proper authority to ventilate. At that time, whatever their idea may be now, Imperial Airways stood by the principle of individual consideration. They were opposed entirely to anything of the nature of trade unions, even to the Pilots' Association and the Guild of Air Pilots at that time. As a result, a number of questions were brought up, in connection with which the expressions I have quoted were used— that is to say, continued resistance to authority and lack of sympathy with the work of Imperial Airways.
One of these questions was that of the licensing of an Avro 652, a machine which the pilots detested, at any rate for the kind of work they were called upon to do with it. The Avro 652 had to be put on the licences of 22 pilots in order that, when special charter work was called for, Imperial Airways should be able to have a rota of pilots with that machine on their licence. There was undoubtedly delay. Twenty-two captains were instructed, but quite a number of them did not carry out the flight and landing that was requested until July. They were all late, and one was later than this particular pilot. The excuse was, no doubt, that they were not too anxious about it, because of their feeling about this particular machine. I believe there had been a fatal accident in connection with it at Le Touquet. Their com- 1882 plaint was that the machine was not available at the times at which it was justifiable that they should be asked to put in this extra work. So there was another grievance, and a kind of grievance for which, right or wrong, they were entitled to consideration.
It is a very curious fact that, on 8th October, this captain was told to get into touch with the underwriter and principal surveyor of an aviation insurance company. I have a copy of the letter, which I could quote, sent to him by Imperial Airways. When he went to see this person—a well-known man in aviation circles —he was given the draft of a letter to sign. It is one of the most remarkable documents that I can imagine, because it must be remembered that Imperial Airways were then stating that this and other pilots were in the wrong and opposed to the interests of the company. The letter is couched in language which, I suppose, was thought would be appropriate to the pilot. I will admit that at times he is a little rough-tongued, but that is ancient history, after all. The language in which it is couched reminds me of some of those comic papers that can never refer to a servant girl unless she has a sniff, or a labourer who does not tie up his ankles with string. I think the Committee will be interested in that, because the pilot was sent there to sign it.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)
It was not written by Imperial Airways.
§ Mr. Montague
No, but the letter instructing the pilot to go to this person was. This is the letter which was supposed to be written by the pilot:Following my talk with you, I do feel that, after 57 years of flying as well as I know how for the company, it isn't fair that I should be treated like this. On the other hand, I don't want my case taken up either by the Guild or by the Association. If I'm right I'm right, and if I'm wrong I'm wrong, and their taking it up wouldn't alter the facts. I think the real trouble is that perhaps I have sometimes been too ready to argue the toss "—this is not the phrase of the pilot, but a phrase written for him to sign—when I have been given an order about something which didn't fit in with my experience. I feel that, because I got a reputation for being a bit wild when I was younger, there has been a tendency to pick on me.It goes on to say that he would not fly for any other company, but, if he could 1883 get the money, he would give up flying and take a "pub." If that letter had been written by the pilot himself, one might have said that it was colloquial and in accordance with the way in which he would write a letter, but when a letter is concocted in that way and given him to sign after he had been told to go for the purpose, or for some other purpose, it is a pretty clear indication that there was an attempt to get the pilot in question to sign away his adherence to the Air Line Pilots' Association.
There was another question—the question of a machine which was a very good one for its purpose. I refer to the DH 86 type of aircraft. The pilots asked for modifications before they agreed to fly the Swiss route with this machine, and they desired the company to take off the winter service. The aircraft was originally designed for use by Quantas, the Australian company, and was a machine suitable for that sub-tropical service. But the Budapest service involves, in one part at any rate, going over some low mountains which are snow-capped, and there was serious complaint about the lack of proper de-icing apparatus. It should be mentioned that the prototype aircraft was a DH 86, and that was modified in the DH 86A; but the modifications not only did not satisfy the pilots, but did not satisfy the Government. I myself put a supplementary question last Wednesday, in answer to which it was admitted that the Government are not prepared to allow Imperial Airways this winter to use the DH 86A for that service, so it seems to be pretty evident that the pilots were right in their objections.
Early in 1937, Imperial Airways endeavoured to persuade their pilots—I make this assertion, frankly, at secondhand, but it is made in a way that convinces me, at any rate; I want, however, to be quite fair to the Secretary of State and everyone concerned—early in 1937, Imperial Airways endeavoured to persuade their pilots to overcome the Air Ministry's ruling that the DH 86 type should not fly at night, and certain captains were asked to attend the conference at the Air Ministry for that purpose. They certainly attended a conference upon that particular machine, and the suggestion is that they were advised by Imperial Airways to do their best to get the 1884 Government to reconsider their decision. Owing to the performance of the aircraft and the size of certain European aerodromes through which it would be necessary to take heavy loads, the senior pilots decided that they would not operate this type of aircraft unless certain modifications were carried out. These were promised by Major Mayo, but were not eventually carried out, and have not been carried out to date.
It was asked whether it was the company's intention to operate the machines in the winter on the Budapest route, and the reply was in the affirmative, so immediately a meeting of the Imperial Airways Pilots' Council was called at Croydon, and it was decided to send a letter and a report to the company. At this point the company refused to accept a general report on DH 86A aircraft from the pilots, and offered to accept the report of a managing operator on the subject, which conflicted with their report. This is the kind of thing that was happening. The report stated that the aircraft was fundamentally unstable and unsuitably designed for the purpose, and that for that reason any amount of modification would not make it more stable. That report was the sort of report that was not wanted by Imperial Airways, but that is the statement which was definitely made. One or two other things were brought up with respect to the first pilot's conduct—the same pilot to whom the letter to which I have referred was given to sign. It is perfectly true that there have been one or two cases where there was some lack of discipline. He lost his temper with a passenger and his wife who, according to him, interfered with his management of the aeroplane on a flight. The Secretary of State seems to think that that is an admission—
§ Mr. Montague
That incident happened six years ago, and he has been an honoured and experienced pilot in the full confidence of Imperial Airways for years since then; and yet that question was raked up against him at the time they were considering his dismissal, and after the formation of the Air Line Pilots' Association. There is another case. He had to fly from Croydon to Cairo to deliver an aircraft. When he wanted to come back to resume his duties, he was 1885 told that there was no room in a flying boat for a week, and a steamer passage back to Croydon was denied him. But the official concerned at Cairo said to him that, as a senior captain, he might persuade one of the junior captains to take off petrol in order to accommodate himself. He declined to do that, and was then told that, if he did so, the official would be able to use in it future in order to get extra load on the machine. I would like to know whether Imperial Airways had that report, and whether they were told that that was the kind of thing that created insubordination on the part of this pilot, because he was so enraged by that suggestion that he took steamer and put in his bill to Imperial Airways. How far it went I do not know.
There is another pilot who was dismissed for redundancy. This is what was written to him:We very much regret to inform you that the reduction in the services that are being operated by Imperial Airways and its associated companies leaves the company with more navigating officers than it can usefully employ.This captain was engaged on the Budapest service. That very week, or within two weeks, at the outside, from that dismissal—I think it was the same week— two first officers of Imperial Airways, who had been serving on the same route, were promoted to navigating officers. It is perfectly true that the route was closed down because, owing to the decision of the Government, it had become an uneconomical route, but can the Committee imagine any ordinary firm dismissing for redundancy people of the character of these pilots, who have had the experience and possess the qualifications they do? Surely, redundancy could not have begun when it was necessary to promote other officers who had not the same experience and qualifications.
There were a number of very serious reports by pilots, and these dissatisfactions on the part of the pilots of Imperial Airways were what led to the formation of the organisation in question. I must refer to some of them. In one case, at Karachi, which is a junction, a tail-plane was found to be unserviceable, and, in order that the east-bound service should operate, it was found necessary to wait for the west-bound aircraft to reach Karachi, when its tail was taken off and put on the other machine, That kind of 1886 thing continued every week for two months—taking the tail off and putting it on another machine. The pilots considered that that was not sound—it was a dangerous thing after all that this kind of hand-to-mouth business should go on. These are considerations that an organisation of this character has a right to put collectively to a body like Imperial Airways, which after all is in the nature of a public utility company. What was more serious is this: An operating manager was excluded from 17 clubs— I will not mention his name or even the district, for the reasons I have already mentioned—for drunkenness and actions like insulting women including the wives of pilots. He forced his way into the bedroom of one. That was a serious thing. This man continually wrote reports on the conduct of pilots who were opposed to to him. Those reports were accepted, and the pilots were not able to see them.
§ Mr. Montague
I do not know, but I understand so. These reports were never shown to the pilots. Reports on the working conditions at Karachi show that the conditions are bad:The men work in the airship hangar at Karachi, which in the summer becomes unbearably hot—it is of course of metal construction and ill-ventilated. The floor is bare earth, covered with dust•The dust fills the air, and the men soaked in perspiration and covered with dust are working under very uncomfortable conditions.I do not want to take up much time, or I could read it in full. [HON. MEMBERS "Go on."]In the winter of 1936 the military authorities foreclosed on the building used as the engineers' mess. The divisional manager attempted to put the men under canvas on ground adjoining the aerodrome. A disgusting state of affairs in a country like India, and suitable only for native coolies.I do not know that I agree entirely with that expression, but that is what they said. These are continuing reports. They were not acted on; but those reports adverse to these pilots were accepted without any question, and the pilots were not allowed to see them. They demanded to see these adverse reports, and because of that demand, because they had no efficient machinery in the Guild of Air Pilots for that purpose, this other 'organisation was formed, and the question arose, of rights of collective bargaining 1887 and collective representation. Nine of these pilots—there are 10 altogether—are members of the association. I am referring, however, only to two or three of the pilots, because perhaps in respect of junior pilots the case may be less weak in regard to redundancy—I do not know; but the organisation rather concentrated on these cases. Right up to October of last year an important official of the company was saying, "If a trade union is coming in, I shall get out."
§ Mr. A. Bevan
On a point of Order. It is extremely difficult, I submit, to have an intelligent Debate in which statements can be made and not checked. All sorts of fairy stories can be told unless we have names.
§ The Chairman
I certainly cannot rule about that. It is not a point of Order. There are many unsatisfactory features in Debates in this House with which the Chair cannot deal.
§ Mr. Montague
There is no question about this at all. I will mention the name. It is Major Bracken. He said, "If it is the last thing I do in civil aviation I will smash this organisation. Personal contact is the only way." And the pilots were advised by him to abandon the whole thing and allow the association to become moribund. The pilots were never given any opportunity by him of answering complaints made against them. The majority of the complaints were old complaints raked up. They never would have been raked up but for the formation of the association and the kind of thing said at the inaugural meeting. Copies of a circular were sent to all pilots by the solicitors of Imperial Airways. It said:Our clients, Imperial Airways, Limited, have asked us to reply to your letter to them of the 13th July written on behalf of the British Air Line Pilots' Association. Our clients and we wish to be quite frank with you and to face the facts and issues from the outset. As is probably well known to you, it has frequently happened in other industrial spheres that a letter, written on behalf of a 1888 trade union in terms analogous to those contained in yours, has been answered by means of the bare statement that the company concerned prefers to deal direct with its employés. The common history of such cases is that the letter is followed by discussions between the members of the union, attempts at negotiation, calls for direct action by the wilder elements and finally a strike. When all have suffered the disastrous consequences of this final phase, calmer counsels prevail and the more reasonable men eventually discuss with the employer questions which could have been discussed at the outset. That course of events, if followed in British air transport, would endanger the success of air services which are of great importance to the British Empire.The pilots considered that letter, copies of which were sent to all navigation officers and first officers, was intended to be intimidating. It did not succeed. There is another letter to which I wish to refer. It is a most amazing production. It was sent to the three pilots with whom we are dealing by a newspaper reporter. I do not say that it was sent by Imperial Airways, but this gentleman's knowledge, like Sam Weller's knowledge of London, was "extensive and peculiar." He wrote:The letter which Imperial Airways have sent to the Guild of Air Pilots, following the very friendly conversations which have taken place, is in my opinion a very generous and hopeful offer. If the hand of friendship is now grasped by the ALPA with the same spirit in which I believe it has been sent, all the difficulties which brought the ALPA into being can be dissolved. I am further of the opinion that as a result of these negotiations you three gentlemen will be able to look forward to resuming your appointments with Imperial Airways.Every one knows the gentleman in question. I may mention his name, Mr. Courtenay of the "Evening Standard." We know of his, not relationship but friendship, with Imperial Airways. He continues his letter:Now that Imperial Airways have agreed not only to recognise the Guild as a medium for settling problems but also to recognising any special machinery which the Guild sets up for special problems, your road is clear. The Guild has pointed the way. It proposes to set up an Air Line Pilots' sub-committee. This is obviously intended as a direct and sincere effort to provide a bridge over which BALPA can pass into the Guild, there to function as this sub-committee. This subcommittee will obviously be the special conciliatory machinery which will deal with Imperial Airways and which will settle all the problems which your Association arose to deal with.In other words, a third person, a newspaper reporter, is obviously used in an 1889 attempt, by considerations of re-employment, to get the Association disbanded and made part of the Guild of Air Pilots.
I think I have said enough to make it plain that there is good ground for considering that the second part of the report of the Government directors is not correct. They have either been lax in their duties or they have misjudged the whole position. Imperial Airways have been opposed from the start to trade union organisation and representation. They did their best to stop it. Only at the last did they consent to this ballot, which, after all, is an insult to the association, and there is complete evidence that the dismissal of those pilots was a clear case of victimisation. It is not the first example of that sort of thing, and it is certainly in accord with the way trade unionism has been fought by other companies which have not had Government subsidies and have not been responsible, through Government directors, to the British House of Commons. The fact that this company has had a Government subsidy and has been responsible, through Government directors, to the House of Commons only makes the matter worse.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
The hon. Member has given us a very interesting and typical account of a struggle of the kind that has gone on now for a century between the reactionary employer and his employés who wish to associate themselves with a trade union organisation. There is nothing new about it. It is the old, old story, though some of the methods adopted this time may be novel. It is quite intolerable that that kind of thing should be allowed to go on in an organisation which is very largely subsidised by Parliament. One is glad to know that Imperial Airways have been beaten. Pressure of public opinion, pressure from the House of Commons, and pressure from their employés themselves has made it quite clear to them that they cannot go on with the attitude they have taken up.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will feel able to publish the report presented to him by the Government directors. It would be a graceful and wise act. It seems to me that when you get the sort of relationship we have now between the House of Commons and a public concern you cannot have them taking up the high line of, "It has nothing to do with you: 1890 we resent criticism; we cannot tell you what goes on inside our organisation." If the House of Commons wants information as to what goes on inside Imperial Airways, within limits of course, that information ought to be placed before it; and if it is not possible for that sort of thing to be done there is something wrong in the attitude of the company towards their subsidisers.
I too have read very carefully the evidence which my hon. Friend has just referred to, and I have heard with some surprise of the conclusion that the Government directors have reached. Probably I have not heard the whole case, but I have heard enough of it to make me think that at any rate there has been a very remarkable coincidence. If it has nothing to do with the Air Line Pilots' Association, it is one of those coincidences that one really cannot believe. It is too good to be true. My general feeling is that there certainly was-victimisation, but at the same time, I do not feel disposed to go any further into the matter. The hon. Member has dealt with it very fully and stated exactly what occurred. I only hope that now something will be done to see that these pilots, whatever the facts may be, whether there was or was not victimisation, are given re-employment. They are gallant fellows. They have rendered great services to their companies and to this country. They have a very fine record. There are really only two of them left, the others are not requiring employment.
I know that as an act of good will one of the companies associated with this concern will, sooner or later, give them a chance of going back again to work. The offer has been made to one of the pilots of a ground job, and although it is for three years, I presume that it may go on perhaps permanently, though at a very much lower salary than the pilot has been getting in the past. I imagine that he has been getting nearly twice that amount or something very considerably in excess of it, and there was the advantage that it was presumably more or less a permanent job.
From all that I have heard, the ballot which is taking place just now is being conducted on fair and reasonable lines. Whether it really was necessary for it to take place or not does not matter very much, and it will soon be over. The idea of having a representative of the 1891 association present at the count is a very wise one. A certain amount of suspicion has been created by the use of two different coloured papers for the captains and the first officers. It may be that there is nothing in it at all, but it certainly has created a certain amount of suspicion, and many of these persons concerned wonder whether it is an attempt —it may be quite wrong—to see how many men in the different grades are with them or against them.
There are other points on the broader issue to which I should like to refer in connection with this Measure. I want to put this specific question to the right hon. Gentleman—and I am sure that it must concern many other aerodromes in this country—What is the position of an aerodrome like that at Wolverhampton, which is to be opened on the 25th June, with regard to obtaining an air service running regularly? It is not on a main line; it will probably be a subsidiary line. What should the authorities do? With whom should they get into touch at the Air Ministry or elsewhere in order that they may take whatever steps are necessary to secure the regular running of a line? Perhaps that information can be given at a later stage?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member knows much more about this subject, no doubt, than I do, but I do not see what this has to do with the Clause we are debating.
§ Mr. Mander
Out of this increased subsidy of £1,500,000, the sum of £100,000 is to be given to internal air services and no doubt part of this money could be used for running a subsidiary service to Wolverhampton.
§ The Chairman
I am not sure that some of these matters which are being dealt with are not too remote. It is true, no doubt, that you can find some connection if you go far enough between aircraft subsidies and the running of trains on any of the big lines, but we cannot discuss such matters.
§ Mr. Mander
I will not refer to the matter further, and perhaps a short reply can be given to it. I stress very strongly the point that the House of Commons ought not to be satisfied to pass this Measure until we get much more information from the Government as to what 1892 they are going to do to implement the Cadman Report than we have had up to the present. The Bill arises out of the Cadman Report, and depends upon it. The mere providing of extra money will do practically nothing unless other important recommendations are carried out at the same time. We really must ask the Minister to give the House information on a number of points. There still exists—and there is no doubt about it —profound dissatisfaction with, and lack of confidence in, the civil aviation side of the Air Ministry. There are large numbers of people intimately associated with it who do not believe that it is ever going to prosper as long as there is the present organisation there, and they believe that fundamental changes are necessary. It is as well that they should be clearly stated, because I am sure that this is a view which is very widely held.
There are grave doubts as to the ability of the Air Ministry, as at present constituted, to carry out these additional duties, and whether Imperial Airways or British Airways in their present state are capable of carrying out the duties that are delegated to them. We ought to have information as to the type of men who are to be Government directors in future. It certainly ought not to be a job for ex-Cabinet Ministers. I hope that, as these repeated changes are taking place all the time, ex-Ministers will not simply leave that Bench and go to Imperial Airways or British Airways. What is happening about the appointment of permanent chairmen of Imperial Airways and British Airways, and additional permanent directors on these companies, which is also recommended in the Cadman Report? We have been asking about it week after week and cannot get any information. It is absolutely fundamental. Until we get the right men in that position working full time, the expenditure of this money will not be justified.
Another recommendation of the Cadman Report is with regard to the position of the managing director of Imperial Airways. That again is fundamental. What has been done about that? Is there to be a change there. I ask specifically for a statement on that point. Is there to be any change in the position of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, and in the Director of Operational Services and Intelligence at the Air Ministry, because that is an important matter. With 1893 regard to the European services, I understand that a new Clause is to be called later on, and I wonder whether the remarks that I am contemplating making here would perhaps come rather more relevantly in connection with the new Clause, which, I understand, is to be called.
§ The Chairman
I do not know what remarks the hon. Member wishes to make, but I am in some doubt about his recent remarks. I ought to remind him of the observations which I made at the beginning of this Debate, that the Debate on the question of pilots was something outside the ordinary rules, and I cannot permit the discussion of this Clause to develop into a discussion of domestic affairs generally of Imperial Airways or of any other company. The new Clause to which the hon. Member referred is to be called, according to my present intentions.
§ Mr. Mander
Perhaps I had better continue my remarks, and, I think, Sir Dennis, you will find them in order, because they will affect entirely the question of how the extra £1,500,000 is to be spent and the particular companies to which it is to be allocated. I wish to draw attention to the capabilities of Imperial and British Airways and certain other companies. There are several other companies who ought to have the right of taking a part of this subsidy which is proposed. If they are not to be given an opportunity, I do not think that we shall be justified in voting this sum. It is all part and parcel of the same scheme. I cannot think that it is right or wise, as the Government are proposing, to hand over the whole of this subsidy for European services to British Airways. They cannot do it. They have not the personnel and experience, and certainly the new services to Vienna, Switzerland, Helsingfors and Berlin, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred the other day, will not be carried out rapidly at all if entrusted to British Airways. The Cad-man Report, in paragraph 36, says:We feel that, if our national prestige is to be maintained, our external air services must be concentrated in a small number of well-founded and substantial organisations, rather than dissipated among a large number of competing companies of indifferent stability.
§ The Chairman
I must call the attention of the hon. Member to the Bill, and 1894 not merely to the Clause. He is going far beyond anything which could be in order in any way on this particular Bill, which is limited simply to increasing the actual amount of the subsidy under an Act already in existence—the Air Navigation Act, 1936.
§ Mr. Benn
This Bill is to increase the subsidy by £1,500,000 under the Air Navigation Act, 1936. The Air Navigation Act, 1936, is the Act under which the agreement is made, but, unfortunately, it is of such a character that it never comes up for discussion in the House. It is put down at all hours, and unless the House moves a negative Resolution it becomes operative. Therefore, possibly the matter might be met if the right hon. Gentleman would give an undertaking that the matter should be discussed when there is an agreement. These matters must be discussed somewhere.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid that it is hardly my business to help the right hon. Gentleman out of his difficulties at the moment. What he says is perfectly true. These questions of agreements are of agreements to be made under the provisions of, and so come under, the Act of 1936, and, as I pointed out, the powers to make these agreements do not come under this Bill.
§ Mr. Boothby
Is it out of order now to suggest that some part of this money might be devoted by the Government to other companies in addition to Imperial Airways?
§ The Chairman
I deprecate very much being asked a number of questions as to whether something or other will be in order, and I think that in endeavouring to answer these questions it only creates difficulties. I must deal with these questions as the Debate proceeds.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
Clause 1 which we are discussing says:All agreements made in pursuance of Section 1.Is it not right to say that that refers to future agreements, because the past agreements have already had the approval of this House, and the moneys allocated to those past agreements have been dealt with? We are now debating the question whether a further sum shall be given, and 1895 it will be necessary to have further agreements in order to deal with the allocation of the sums under Section 1 of the Air Navigation Act, 1936. These do not come before the House at all except in the form of being laid on the Table, and unless there is a Resolution annulling them they continue to be in operation. They are in operation before they are laid in this House; they come into operation without being laid on the Table at all. This is a Clause authorising the making of new agreements by the Secretary of State with Imperial Airways for the expenditure of this extra money, and this is the only opportunity before the agreement is laid that this House has of discussing any of the matters which may be dealt with in the agreement. As this is the only Parliamentary opportunity, I submit that we should now be allowed to discuss the contents, probable or desirable, of the agreement.
§ The Chairman
I cannot agree with the hon. and learned Member at all. The words in the Clause are:agreements made in pursuance of Section 1 of the Air Navigation Act, 1936.It is not an agreement made under this Bill.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Those agreements have already been made, and this Bill is authorising further payments. As regards these further payments new agreements must be made.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member but I must adhere to my Ruling that agreements, whether they are past or future, are not agreements which will be made under the Bill when it becomes an Act; they are agreements made under an Act already in existence. I would draw the attention of the hon. and learned Member to the Title of the Bill.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I quite agree that the technical machinery for making agreements is laid down in the Air Navigation Act, but it does not authorise the making of future agreements which will have to be made as a result of this Bill. This is a Bill which enables new agreements to be made, because it gives the Secretary of State further moneys, and an agreement will and must be made as a result of this Bill. It will and must be 1896 made before it is placed on the Table of the House, and the House will never have another opportunity of discussing the terms of that agreement.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and learned Member has put that point to me already and I have already pointed out that the fact that the House may not have some other opportunity has nothing to do with the present case. My business now is to keep the Debate within the Rules of Order in regard to the particular matter which is before the Committee. We are now discussing Clause 1 of a Bill which merely extends the amount of money which may be given under an Act already in existence, enabling the Government to grant certain subsidies.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Am I to understand, Sir Dennis, that you are differentiating between extending and the giving of new powers because although it may be called extending if there is £1,500,000 more money, it is, nevertheless, new money, and how this new money is to be expended is not in the least laid down by the Air Navigation Act, 1936, nor could it have been because Parliament had not then in contemplation the expenditure of this money? What we are dealing with now is giving the Government power to spend £1,500,000, and we are going to utilise the machinery of the Air Navigation Act, 1936, for making the arrangements. I submit that this is the only opportunity we have of discussing how this money shall be spent. We are anxious to discuss how we shall dispose of the £1,500,000 which we are now authorising the Government to expend, and I submit that it must be right for us to discuss how the money may be spent by the Government.
§ The Chairman
I must still adhere to my original Ruling. The hon. and learned Member knows that there are many cases where Bills are brought in dealing with existing legislative powers by extensions of times or of amounts and so on, upon which the limits of debate are very narrow, but there is no provision in this Bill as to how agreements are to be made or as to the machinery under which the money is to be spent.
§ Mr. Benn
I submit that there is a great difference between a Bill to extend existing powers and a Bill to grant new money. The granting of new money is 1897 for the purpose of making new contracts. It may be argued that a Bill to extend existing powers cannot be discussed, but in this particular case this is a new grant of money of £1,500,000.
§ The Chairman
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman will not alter my opinion. This is not in a Parliamentary sense a new grant of money but an addition of an amount to an existing power to spend a limited amount of money, and that is much more to the point.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am sorry to continue but this is so important from the point of Parliamentary procedure that I venture to make one more observation. The existing contracts have been made and Parliament has passed a grant under them. Unless some new Bill is passed, such as the one now before us, there is nothing wherewith the Secretary of State can make any fresh contracts at all. He has no power to do it; he has no money to do it. Therefore, the passing of this Bill is not extending his powers with regard to past contracts made under the Air Navigation Act of 1936. I respectfully agree that if the Bill said that Imperial Airways, under the existing contract of 1936, were to get £1,250,000 instead of the present amount, that would be a mere extension under a contract already passed by Parliament, and that we could not perhaps discuss the terms.
§ The Chairman
Under this Clause there is no power given to the Government to make any agreement or any regulations as to how they should do it.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The regulations as to how they shall make an agreement are under the Air Navigation Act of 1936.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am not suggesting that the Air Navigation Act of 1936 does not lay down the rules as to how agreement may be entered into by agreement, but it does not legalise the actual agreement. The actual agreements were made afterwards, and had to be laid on the Table of the House and if they were not annulled they remained operative. These agreements are passed and done with so far as this Bill is concerned. This Bill is giving the Minister fresh powers to enter into fresh agreements, using the code 1898 which he used to enter into agreements under the Act of 1936, thereby giving him power to do something which he could not do before. Let me take an analogy. The Land Clauses Act regulates the whole of the machinery of the acquisition of land, but many Acts are brought before this House which incorporate the Land Clauses Act and give specific powers to buy specific portions of land. One does not discuss the whole of the Land Clauses Act, that is the machinery, but one does discuss the merits of purchasing any particular land, because that is what the particular Measure deals with. I am suggesting that, although we cannot discuss the merits of the code of the Air Navigation Act, under which the Minister enters into agreements, we can discuss the merits of this particular extension and the sort of agreements he is going to enter into. While we cannot discuss the code of the Act of 1936 any more than we can discuss the Land Clauses Act, yet the specific question as to what is to be done with the money to be granted I suggest ought to be a matter for discussion.
§ The Chairman
I do not question what the hon. and learned Member says, but the Minister has no power to make agreements under this Bill. I have asked the hon. and learned Member to show me where he is given such power in this Clause.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am sorry; it is my mistake. The Minister cannot make these agreements without the money. He must have two powers to make agreements. He must have the machinery which is in the Act of 1936, and he must have this Bill which gives him a grant of money. With these two he can enter into agreements; but he cannot enter into any agreement without having both.
§ The Chairman
I must adhere to the Ruling I have given that the powers conferred by the Air Navigation Act of 1936 cannot be discussed on this Clause. This Clause must be discussed on the comparatively narrow basis that it is a proposal to increase the amount which may be used by the Government under an existing Act, with this exception that the question of Imperial Airways pilots has been permitted to be discussed. I must ask hon. Members to accept my quite definite Ruling that the question as to 1899 how agreements are to be made under the Act of 1936 cannot be discussed on this Clause.
§ The Chairman
While the House has the right to say what shall be done with the money it votes it does not follow that it can be discussed on this Clause. That is a matter to be dealt with on Vote of Supply.
§ Mr. Mander
May I now say a few words again? I was endeavouring to find out how the Government intended to spend this £1,500,000. I gather that that is a point which one cannot go deeply into, and you, Sir Dennis, have been good enough to remind me that I was asking a number of questions about the organisation of the Air Ministry. I was proposing to continue on that line and to ask this specific point, whether they proposed to spend the whole of this money on British Airways or whether part of it was going to be spent through other existing companies. I was going to give reasons why the latter course is the better of the two.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is giving me an opportunity of trying once more to explain my views to the Committee. There are certain questions which may legitimately be asked, but the arguments in favour of one answer or another to those questions are not matters which can properly be debated on this Clause. The asking of the questions and the replying to them, indeed, is perhaps a matter of convenience to the Committee rather than something which is strictly within the Rules of Order of Debate. There is a number of these matters on which the Chair usually allows questions to be asked, but I certainly could not allow the questions or the answers to them to be debated.
§ The Chairman
I would rather that the hon. Member waited until he was called and then said what he wants to say.
§ The Chairman
Again the hon. Member is endeavouring to put a hypothetical question. If he had been here through the whole of the discussion, I think he would realise the answer to that question.
§ The Chairman
Then I am afraid the hon. Member possibly did not listen to some of it as carefully as I did.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
In view of your Ruling, Sir, I shall confine myself to putting some questions to the Minister with regard to the way in which the money is to be spent. In the first place, is it proposed that the whole of the money shall be spent through British Airways, apart from that which is handed over to Imperial Airways, or is any portion of it to be allocated to certain existing firms, such as Allied Airways and North Eastern Airways, the first of which is running a service from Newcastle to Norway and the second of which is in a good position to run a service from England to Switzerland, and possibly other places? There is nothing inconsistent with that proposal in the report of the Cadman Committee. I consider that it would be much more effective to make use of existing lines which have had experience, and I believe that we should get ahead much more quickly in that way and that perhaps, in a few years' time, it would be possible to amalgamate all those services into one great company. I suggest that it would be far more effective to make use of existing companies which have proved their capacity. Finally, I believe that fundamental changes in the Air Ministry are necessary in order to get rid of the feeling that unless a company has a friend there, unless it is well in with the people in control of the Civil Aviation side, it will not be able to get any contracts. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give satisfactory replies to the points which I have raised, because unless he can give them, I do not want to vote this money.
§ The Chairman
I ought to warn the Committee that I could not allow the Secretary of State to reply in detail to questions about the arrangements in the Air Ministry.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Perkins
I wish to back up the remarkable speech that was made by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). Before that, however, I would like to make a suggestion with regard to the granting of this extra £1,500,000. I believe that internally between 20 and 30 companies will be eligible for this subsidy and externally, British Airways and Imperial Airways, which are now getting it, and at least five other companies all of which are running services from this country to foreign parts, namely, Allied Airways, Olley Air Services, International Air Freight, North Eastern Airways, and Wrightways. It seems to me to be obvious that once this Bill has been passed there will be a scramble to get the lion's share of the subsidy, and my right hon. Friend will find himself in a very difficult position. I wonder whether it would not be possible to set up some authority, impartial and independent of the House, on the lines of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, which would advise the Government, to which the air lines could apply for the subsidy, and which could parcel out the subsidy as it thought fit. Such an organisation is already in being. I refer to the licensing authority which the House created a few weeks ago, and which is responsible for licensing all internal air lines. Surely, that authority could be made responsible for deciding to which companies the subsidy should go and how much should go to them.
§ The Chairman
It is difficult for me to stop the hon. Member before I know what he is going to say, but I must warn him that his argument is going beyond the Clause. This is a matter which could, perhaps, have been raised on the Second Reading of the Bill, but it does not arise now.
§ Mr. Perkins
I will not pursue the matter any further, but will see my right hon. Friend outside and discuss it with him. The hon. Member for West Islington made some very serious charges against Imperial Airways. To the best 1902 of my belief and knowledge, those charges were not exaggerated by as much as one comma; they are absolutely true; and if the Secretary of State would like to have more information on the subject and would like to prove those charges, if he will refer to the evidence given before the Cadman Committee by the pilots' organisation, he will find that the charges were borne out by facts. If it is not possible for him to obtain that evidence, I have a copy, and I shall be delighted to supply him with it. I would like to remind the Committee of some of the grievances of the pilots which led to the formation of the British Air Line Pilots' Association. The suggestion has been made that some of these men were old grumblers who were always full of grievances against the company. That may be true. I do not know the past history of these men; they may have been real old grumblers in the past; but when hon. Members consider the grievances which the pilots put forward through me last October, I am sure they will realise that the pilots were absolutely justified in forming that association and in bringing their grievances to the notice of the House.
First of all, they complained about the aeroplane D.H. 86.A. They said that in their view was not suitable for a service to Budapest. I am glad to say that their opinion was recently substantiated by the Secretary of State, or by the Under-Secretary, in answer to a question last week when it was announced that the Government did not propose to subsidise Imperial Airways on this route because they did not consider that the aeroplane D.H. 86.A was a suitable machine for the route. The pilots then complained that their insurances were not adequate, and I am glad to say that since they complained last October, as far as the first officers are concerned, the insurances have been doubled. Therefore, they were right in that respect. They complained about the long hours of flying. In America there is a law which prevents a pilot from flying more than So hours a month. I believe that in this country the limit fixed by the Air Ministry is 125 hours a month. I can give the case of a pilot who flew as much as 170 hours a month. I can give the cases of six men, five of whom were captains and one of whom was a chief officer, who on several occasions flew over 24 hours continuously, stopping only for food and fuel, without 1903 any sleep. I am glad to say that since complaints were made in the House last October, that has been stopped, and the pilots are no longer being subjected to that rather unfair work.
They complained that there were no means by which disputes could be settled. There was a gentleman called the air superintendent who always tucked himself away, and was, in fact, quite inaccessible to the pilots. To a large extent, but not entirely, that has now been settled and captains' committees have been formed at Croydon and Hythe. They complained about the salary cuts suffered by the pilots, at a time when the dividend was increased and the directors' fees were more or less doubled. They complained about the equipment. They believed that the equipment with which they were asked to fly was inferior to the equipment provided by the Dutch and Germans for their pilots. I am glad to say that since last October the Lorenz system has been fitted on the machines on the London-Paris route. Certainly, we are getting on. Lastly there was a complaint, to which the hon. Member for West Islington has referred, about a certain very highly-placed officer in this company who did not hesitate to insult the wives of the pilots and who, in fact, did not hesitate to pay a nocturnal visit. What seems to me to be important about all these grievances is not so much that they exist, and have been going on for some time, as the fact that they have been reported to the board and that the board have done nothing about them. Either the board knew these things were going on, or they did not know; if they did not know, they were misinformed by the managing director; if they knew, they condoned them. They cannot have it both ways.
Reverting to the point I was trying to make, these pilots had legitimate grievances when the British Air Line Pilots' Association was formed this time last year. That association arose spontaneously. There was no outside pressure of any kind from the Trade Unions Congress or from any other organisation. These men banded themselves together simply to protect themselves against the company. At the very beginning, the three organisers or ringleaders of the new association were promptly dismissed. My right hon. 1904 Friend says that he is quite satisfied that it is not a case of victimisation. I think that possibly in one case he is right, but I suggest to him that in two cases I am right, and I may say that I am borne out by the opinion of the Government directors, who have recommended that in effect these two men should be reinstated. But that is past history, it is a very unhappy chapter; and I think the time has come for us to forget the past and to see what we can do to get these three men who were dismissed back to work.
I do not know whether I shall be within the Rules of Order if I mention these men by name, but I should like to do so because I want to have them on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT. First of all, there was the case of Mr. Lane-Burslem. He was chairman of the British Air Line Pilots' Association. He was dismissed. I am glad to say that he has obtained a position now, and that at the moment he is a test pilot in the De Havilland Aircraft Company. As far as I know, in no circumstances whatever would he go back to Imperial Airways, even if they were to offer him a job. There is then the case of Captain Wilson. The Secretary of State has announced that the company have made an offer to him. I knew of that offer last night, and after I had considered it, I advised him to take it. I do not know whether he will or not, for that is his responsibility, but I have advised him to do so. I would like to thank the Secretary of State, his Department and the Under-Secretary for the very hard work which I know they put in to persuade Imperial Airways to make that offer.
I come to the third case, that of Captain Rogers. I understand the Government directors recommended that a certain person should be given the opportunity of re-employment in the new London to Paris company when it was formed. I do not know, but I imagine that that person is Captain Rogers. I want to ask my right hon. Friend if he is Captain Rogers, and whether he can give an assurance to the Committee that he will do everything in his power to get Captain Rogers employed when that company is formed. I will go further. Suppose that company is not formed for a year, will my right hon. Friend do everything in his power to see that Captain Rogers obtains employment in some flying company in some part of the world? I will 1905 make one other observation on the subject of Imperial Airways.
The suspicion has crept into my mind during the last three months that this company are a law unto themselves. I have a suspicion that they are snapping their fingers at the Government and at this House. It is of some importance to remember that in the Cadman Report this company have been convicted of failing to co-operate with the Air Ministry, of being intolerant of suggestion, and of being unyielding in negotiation; and that their attitude towards their staff left much to be desired. The managing director has been convicted of taking too commercial a view of his responsibilities and of failing to co-operate with the Air Ministry. That has been the attitude of the company in the past. I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether that attitude is now changed, and whether, when he now negotiates with this company, he finds them tolerant of suggestion and yielding in negotiation.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Captain Bourne)
I think that the hon. Member was here when the Chairman gave a Ruling as to the scope of the discussion on this Clause. Specific exemption was made in the case of the pilots, but the hon. Member is now going beyond that.
§ Mr. Perkins
I only want to express the hope that if my right hon. Friend finds difficulty in dealing with the company in the future he will tell the House so that the House can deal with them.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff
I am glad that we have the opportunity of discussing Clause 1 in which His Majesty's Government are scattering largess to the additional sum of £1,500,000 without inquiring too closely where the money is going, because I understand that, so far as this honourable House is concerned, we have to close our eyes and shut our mouths and leave a beneficent Air Minister to deal with this sum. In the 1936 Act the House authorised the Air Minister to encourage municipal aerodromes in various parts of the country, and the Government, with very little cost to the Exchequer—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am afraid that in no circumstances will municipal aerodromes arise under this Clause.
§ Mr. Muff
I am glad that His Majesty's Government are spending £1,500,000 in 1906 order, at any rate, to see that there shall be safe landing of aeroplanes which might fly under civil auspices in this country. I am glad to think that these aeroplanes, when they fly in the empyrean blue will be able to land safely without sacrifice of life and limb. I have no fear that the Government will waste this money. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I observe that there are some disciples of the Apostle St. Thomas on this side of the Committee. I want to ask the new Minister and his very efficient Under-Secretary to endeavour to see that this money is not wasted. With regard to the safe landing of aeroplanes in certain of the aerodromes round the country, there is one aerodrome in particular which is patronised by the Dutch company, that is, the aerodrome situated in the East Riding of Yorkshire somewhere near the great city of Kingston-upon-Hull. This Dutch company, which is a highly efficient concern, has abandoned its flying and this aerodrome which was encouraged by a former Minister—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is now returning to the point which I informed him was out of order.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Captain Harold Balfour)
§ Mr. Muff
These companies and the Dutch company find it highly dangerous to land anywhere because of the lack of night flying facilities. Is all this largess going to the Minister's friends, the Imperial Airways at Croydon, or will he allow other people, like Lazarus, to take the crumbs from under the Air Minister's table and to have some of this money, even if it is only £1,000 a year or so, in order that better night flying facilities can be provided? The only night flying facilities one finds in many places are night-lights in the huts to prevent the staff getting night terror.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
I endorse the hope which has just been expressed, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the new broom will be the last to be surprised that the Committee are profoundly uneasy about the situation which has been revealed in two astonishing speeches, one by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) and the other by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins). I do not think that in all the 13 years I have sat in the House I have listened to speeches like them. The most formidable charges were hurled across the Floor by the hon. Member for West Islington, which must either be refuted or accepted. They were supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, who said he did not think they were exaggerated by as much as a comma. The Committee in these conditions is bound to ask my right hon. Friend what he proposes to do about them. He will do well to remember that we should never have had the Cadman Report had it not been for the influence of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud. It was the result of his efforts and of the pressure he brought in this House that that Committee was set up. The Cadman Report came as a great shock to hon. Members on all sides and, indeed, to the public. It was a very shocking report.
I feel that we must ask my right hon. Friend to say something before we pass from this Clause about the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon, and especially the speeches of the hon. Member for West Islington and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud. I have had on several occasions recently urged my right hon. Friend to act in his administration of the military side of the Air Force up to the traditions and according to the methods of the late Lord Fisher. I am bound to say, after listening to the Debate this afternoon, that he would be well advised to act quickly on one motto of which Lord Fisher was never tired, and that is, so far as Imperial Airways are concerned, to "Sack the lot." I am a little surprised that the managing director should be there still after the Cadman Report, and I do not 1908 think he can possibly stay there after the Debate to-day. The right hon. Gentleman has got to be—to use another Fisherism—ruthless, remorseless and relentless in this matter and sack the lot, because nothing short of that will satisfy the Committee unless he is in a position to refute all the charges that have been made this afternoon, charges additional to those in the Cadman Report.
Another matter I would urge concerns a principle of considerable importance. My right hon. Friend revealed to the Committee that he is in possession of pretty full information regarding the dismissal of these pilots, but my hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary, in the Debate the other night, appeared to lay down as a principle that the Government have no right to ask their own directors to furnish confidential reports giving the reasons which cause the board to take any particular action from time to time. I do not think that is a proposition which will satisfy the Committee. We are coming to a period when the House will be asked to subsidise a large number of public companies in one form and another and to exercise some measure of control. If the Government are given money by this House in order to subsidise a public company, and if they appoint Government directors to the board of that company, the Government have every right to ask those directors to furnish confidentially the reasons which induce the board to take any particular action. I want, for the purposes of accuracy, to quote one or two observations of my hon. and gallant Friend. He said, in answer to one interruption in the Debate on the previous occasion:I do not know, and I submit that no one in this Committee, either a Member of the Government or anyone else, is entitled to ask for the full private domestic reasons as recorded in the minutes of the board of the company.In reply to a further interruption, he said:I cannot tell the hon. Lady, because I have not asked and I do not know. There comes a time when the domestic affairs of a company have to be ruled by the company's directors who are responsible for the administration of that company, even when you have on that company's board two Government directors of whom we can ask questions and to whom we can refer matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; cols. 971–74, Vol. 336.]I submit that that passage lays down the proposition that there is some point at 1909 which the Government are no longer entitled to ask their directors for confidential information. That position would never be accepted by a bank which goes to the rescue of a private company.
I cannot conceive of any bank which goes to the rescue of any private or public company and appoints its own directors upon the board after furnishing money for the company not requiring its nominees on the board to furnish it with full information regarding the affairs of the company. Naturally the information is confidential. In order that a precedent shall not be established which may extend far beyond the Air Ministry, and which I am sure would not meet with the approval of hon. Members on any side of the Committee, I would ask my right hon. Friend or the hon. and gallant Gentleman to make some pronouncement on behalf of the Government upon this important matter. There is one final point which I wish to bring forward. I understand that a decision was reached before the right hon. Gentleman went to the Air Ministry, and I want to know whether he will reconsider the application of Allied Airways for some portion of this money as a subsidy to its service to Norway. I believe the company have a very strong case, and I ask my right hon. Friend to look into the matter.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I cannot pretend to have any technical knowledge on air matters, but one or two things have been mentioned by the Minister to which the Committee ought to give more attention. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has told us that it is not only desirable that the Government should be furnished with reports by the directors who represent them upon these companies, but also that this House should be able from time to time to call for reports from those directors upon matters which are not confidential. It is useless to suppose that Parliament can exercise any effective control over the behaviour of companies which are receiving subsidies unless it is furnished with information upon which to make up its mind. It is obvious that there are some features of administration upon which the House could not possibly judge, but there is one aspect of the administration in which we are immediately interested, and that is the way in which the employés are treated. The Minister 1910 has said that he did not propose to furnish to the House the report made by the directors on the question of the pilots. I cannot understand why not. There can be nothing confidential about that information. A great deal of it has already been mentioned in the House by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) and the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). There is, therefore, no argument that it is not in the public interest that we should not be furnished with that report.
It is simply begging the question to have directors representing the Government upon those companies and yet for this House, which appoints the directors, and furnishes the money for the subsidy, not to be permitted to have reports from the directors. That is simply an addition to the vast system of bureaucratic control which is being built up in this country, and is leaving the House of Commons stripped of its power. As Parliament is now proceeding to give subsidies at large to very many companies, and the Government are to have directors upon them, unless there is some liaison between those companies and Parliament we shall not have any effective control at all, nor shall we be in receipt of the information which is necessary in order to make up our minds. The very essence of Parliamentary Government is that it is government of the experts by the amateurs. Does the hon. Member object to that view?
§ Mr. Bevan
It is so practically. In this matter we ought not to have to depend upon the hon. Member for Stroud or the hon. Member for West Islington, who by accident have managed to get elected to this House and who have become experts upon matters connected with the air. It might easily happen that the electorate did not send two experts to the House, and then we should have no means at all, except exterior means, of arriving at information on this matter. If this experiment, which we on this side regard as an undesirable experiment, of giving subsidies to private companies is to be extended, then there must at the same time be an extension of public control over the directors whom the House appoints, because unless there is some form of public control they are simply 1911 irresponsible individuals. We are interested in them only in their representative capacity. By the mere appointment of A or B upon the directorate the public are not given any control over the administration, unless that director is subject to instructions from time to time and unless he has to report. The right hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon that he thinks it is undesirable to call for reports. He said so this afternoon.
§ Mr. Bevan
I hope the hon. Member will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow. Even through the obscurity of the right hon. Gentleman it was perfectly clear that he did say that. If he does not say it, then we ask whether he thinks it is desirable that he should have such reports? Does he propose to give instructions that they shall be presented? The level of ineptitude to which the Government have sunk recently is without parallel in this country. We should like to know precisely where they stand in this matter.
§ Mr. Perkins
Not guild representatives; they have withdrawn. It is between the Captains' Committee and the association.
§ Mr. Bevan
Which I would put in my own way as the difference between a company union and a free association. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that he had achieved a miracle of success in his negotiations with these recipients of public funds by persuading them that they ought to have this ballot. We have been told, and it has been disclosed in the evidence before the Cadman Committee, that the pilots themselves have been able to supply very valuable technical information, and to make corrections of technical defects, by virtue of the fact that they have been able to act in an associated manner, in a free manner, and to put evidence before the Cadman Committee. The right hon. Gentleman frowns.
§ Mr. Bevan
There is an extremely valuable pilot service in which changes are taking place from time to time. It is of paramount importance that the pilots should feel themselves free to make suggestions or criticisms regarding the instruments with which they have to work, because there is no more valuable correspondence than that which occurs between a man who is engaged in the practical work and the theorist behind it. In this company to be critical of the instruments meant coming into disfavour with the employers. The relationship which existed between Imperial Airways and its pilots was not only not in the public interest but was working to the public injury, because the pilots, we were told, were suborned to give evidence in favour of obsolete instruments, an extremely undesirable state of affairs. A free association of pilots is an essential condition of a healthy and progressive air service, and on those grounds alone it is surely desirable to have this association formed if possible.
The right hon. Gentleman said that if the ballot goes against the association there will be no association represented in negotiations with Imperial Airways. If a minority of the pilots want the association but the majority do not, there will be no association. Is that correct? I ask that question because this is a very important point. If that had been so at the beginning of the last century there would have been no trade union movement. We have had to build up trade unions not only in face of the conservatism of the employers but also against the traditional conservatism of many workers. It has involved years of work in educating the working classes to see the advantages of associated effort, especially in face of the barrage of a hostile Press and other forms of suggestion. I understand that if Imperial Airways have hand-picked their pilots effectively enough and the majority of them are against forming an association, then no association will be formed. Is this Committee satisfied with that condition of affairs, in view of what has happened? It may be that the association has excellent prospects. We are told that the ballot will he in its 1913 favour. But it should not go out from this Committee that we consider it to be a proper condition of affairs that if the majority of employés of a subsidised company do not want a union the advantages of a union are to be withheld from the minority. If that happens these employés of the company will be forced into the position of Yes-men, and they will not be able to make any effective defence of their standard of living. There are many industries in which the minority are organised, and the majority get great benefits from the activities of the minority.
I consider that the proposals which have so far emanated from the Secretary of State are such as the Committee ought not to be satisfied with, and that this money should not be given to Imperial Airways until improvements are made. It has cast further light upon the growing decrepitude of the Government that it is possible for charges of this sort to be made from that Bench, and yet we shovel out public money to a company who condone the most immoral practices, who have officers who are utterly unfit from any standpoint to be there, and whose conduct has been condemned out of hand, yet who receive from the Secretary of State nothing but inarticulate blandishments.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Sir Joseph Nall
I want to refer to the argument put forward by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). It seems to me that we should be setting up a hopeless precedent if we accepted the view that on any board on which one or more directors were appointed by the Government those directors should be required to report separately, and presumably secretly, to a Government office without reference to the other members of the board, with whom they ought to share responsibility. What would be the position if any group of shareholders in the company demanded of the other directors that they should report secretly to that group of shareholders? The corporate responsibility of a board in such circumstances would be impossible. In the case of a company like this, where a subsidy is involved, it is right and proper that the Government should nominate or appoint some of those who are responsible as directors for carrying on the business of the undertaking, but the responsibility to the Government for the 1914 proper administration of the undertaking, and for the safeguarding against any abuse in the use of public funds devolves upon the whole board, and not upon any single individual. Therefore, if any question of calling to account arises the chairman and the board as a whole should be called to account, and not the individuals whom the Government may appoint. So far from establishing such a precedent as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen suggested, it seems to me that the Secretary of State should insist upon the proper and normal system of the collective responsibility of the board, and call them to account if occasion arises.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am of opinion that this extra grant of money should emphatically be turned down by this Committee. I do not want to be personal, so far as the Ministers are concerned, but when I hear a Member on this side of the House talking about there being new brooms it is necessary to take exception. There is no question of new brooms here. It is a question of new collecting boxes, into which these predatory persons are continually dipping their hands. I should have no objection to the couple of knockabouts who represent the Air Ministry going among the robbers with their own money, if they have it, but I object to their going among the robbers with public money, because it is evident that they are not capable of taking care of it. That is proven by the question raised by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). But I view the matter somewhat differently from the hon. Member. He is concerned about the reputation of the Government, and he quoted from the Under-Secretary's speech, made a few nights ago—and it was very necessary that he should make that quotation, because later on in that Debate, when the hon. Member referred to what had been said, the Under-Secretary tried to suggest that he had been misrepresented by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, and we get the same thing to-night on the part of the Minister.
But I am not so much concerned about the rights of the House and the rights of the Government. I am concerned about the attitude of these Ministers. Here is a powerful company, and the Minister comes and tells us we must bow humbly before them. We dare not ask 1915 them for detailed information. How can a Minister adopt such an attitude towards a company that is getting public money? How can he ensure that the business to which that money is devoted is going to be properly and effectively conducted? How can the Member for East Aberdeen talk about these Ministers and Lord Fisher in the same breath?
§ Mr. Gallacher
The days of miracles are done. Never in any circumstances could you imagine it. The Under-Secretary, who has a measure of youth on his side, is the more servile of the two. You can imagine the hon. Gentleman coming here and saying that it would not do to ask this great company for detailed information; it would not do for the hon. Member for East Aberdeen to raise the question of the dismissal of the managing director. If you had anyone like Lord Fisher, instead of a bunch of mysteries, you would not only have had a cleaning out, but you would have had—and this is the important thing, and this is what we have to get— some statement completely withdrawing the unspeakable reflections on these pilots —because there has been no charge against them, only suspicions hinted at. We should have an immediate withdrawal, and those pilots should be unconditionally restored to their positions. Why should not the Committee demand that?
Why should we allow these pilots to be thrown out? This Committee should exercise the power that the subsidy gives it in order to lay down conditions, which must be of such a character as to satisfy the House of Commons that the purpose for which the money is being spent is being effectively carried out. And nobody can say to-night—neither the Minister nor the Under-Secretary—that as things stand at the moment there is any guarantee that this extra £1,500,000 will not be wasted. We have to take into account the servility of the Minister towards this company, the refusal to clean out those who have been condemned, and, above all, their cowardly and despicable attitude towards these pilots, against whom no charge is made. I demand, and this Committee should 1916 demand, of the Minister that not a penny of this extra money should be voted unless we get a statement to-night that the charges against these pilots, which have not been made public, will be completely withdrawn and the pilots unconditionally restored to their positions.
§ 7.11 p.m.
I know that the Committee is anxious for a full reply to this interesting discussion—interesting because so much support has been given to the criticisms of past actions of the Air Ministry. I am not so much concerned now with what has gone on in the past, but I think we should get from the Minister a definite statement as to what exactly will be the duties of the directors who are appointed by the Government because of the subsidy which they are giving. This whole question is raised because of grave errors and miscarriage of justice in the past, because it was recognised by the criticism of experienced Members of this House that there were great faults of management in the civil air industry in the past. We have reached the stage when, as the result of an inquiry caused by the dissatisfaction of Members of this House, a report is submitted recommending an increased subsidy.
It is no use the Minister giving the House a bland statement or trying to vindicate what are already known as the grave mistakes of the past, but I do ask him to explain as fully as he possibly can exactly what will -be the duties of these two directors who are appointed on this board. It amazes me to hear responsible business men claiming that when public money is used to subsidise a company to the amount of £1,500,000 to £3,000,000 the Government are not entitled to the fullest information possible with regard to the working of that company. The Government with their majority, representing the House of Commons, are subsidising this company, and it is right that those directors should be responsible to the Government, and that the Government should make regular reports.
Now, what are the questions that affect this Government with regard to any undertaking? With regard to important national undertakings, Government buildings or Government works, one of the most important factors affecting the Government is that of the conditions of the 1917 employés. Governments and local authorities have agreed to the principle of fair wages and fair working conditions, which have been forced by the growth of the trade union movement. The general principle accepted in Government workshops, and in Government contracts and undertakings, is the fair-wages clause, giving fair wages and decent conditions. Surely the Members of this House, who are as responsible as any section of directors for the investment of public funds and here represent the people who pay them that money, are entitled to obtain reports affecting the conditions of people employed in those industries.
Here we have the Minister for one of our most important national services saying that he wants this Committee to agree to an increased subsidy of £1,500,000 for this company. The figure £1,500,000 slips very easily off the tongue in speeches in this House of Commons, but to a company it is a considerable investment, and they should be prepared to see that their employés work under the best possible conditions. The Minister says, also, that he asks us to subsidise this company and other companies to the extent of £3,000,000. He says: "We will put two Government directors there, representing the Government's point of view, to see that the money is not wasted and that the principles of the Government are kept fully before the rest of the members of the board." Yet we have to accept the statement that after the payment of that subsidy and the appointment of those two directors, anything they do and any report issued by those directors must be confidential, and that no Member of this House of Commons is entitled to the information.
The thing is a sheer farce. It is the beginning of dictatorship. I believe it will appeal very much to the ex-Minister of Health. I have heard him referred to as all sorts of things, as a new broom, and as a new collecting box, but I do not know. We cannot pass judgment on the Secretary of State for Air until he has been in office for at least six months, but if the start he is making is any indication of the lines on which the Air Ministry will be run in the future, we shall soon see a new reshuffle in the Cabinet. I advise all those young Tories on the back benches opposite to keep up their hearts; there is something coming soon. The whole position is indefensible. The 1918 Minister tells this House that we have nothing to do with the Government directors. I wonder why we are asked to agree to giving £3,000,000 out of public funds to these companies. Grave errors of mismanagement have cropped up and pilots have been dismissed without any reason being given. An inquiry has been set on foot because of the indignation of Members of the House.
I give credit to the great agitation which was raised in the House by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins). Because of that inquiry the Government directors formulated a report. The Under-Secretary of State scans the report in his spare time, and then comes to the House of Commons and tells us: "I have seen this report. I know what this report contains. In that report it says that the dismissal of these pilots was justified," but we cannot ask him any questions and cannot place the report before us. We cannot ask him to tell us what those directors said because they are a minority, although they were appointed to look after the interests of the Government, of the men and the management of the industry. What have we to do? Have we to claim in future, when subsidies such as these are given, that we must have a majority of the directors so that we shall be able to have a report? The position of the Government is indefensible. It cannot be defended in any way from a sense of fair play and good judgment. If we are to spend public funds, subsidise companies and appoint Government representatives on their boards to look after our interests, surely it is our right as spenders of public money to ask for a full explanation from those directors when obcious mismanagement, errors and unjustifiable dismissals take place. I ask the Minister to give us a clear and unequivocal statement that cannot be twisted or turned so that for once in a while we shall have a plain, honest statement from the Government Front Bench, telling us exactly what are the powers of these Government directors.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
The hon. Gentleman asks me to make a statement that will not be twisted or turned; I will endeavour to give the hon. Gentleman what he wants. If anybody opposite—
I asked the Minister for a fair statement that could not be twisted or turned. I did not suggest that anybody in this House—if this is the inference he took—would attempt to twist or turn his statement. I am asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he is suggesting to us that his statements—
§ Sir K. Wood
A suggestion was made by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), who opened the Debate to-day. He outlined and gave instances of numbers of cases of which he said information had been given concerning officers and others of Imperial Airways. Of course, I am not in a position to controvert or to deal with those statements. The hon. Gentleman made them upon his own responsibility. But in one of his statements there were references to the Air Ministry about which I can say something. For instance, he referred to a conference which was held in the Air Ministry and which I have endeavoured to verify. The hon. Gentleman will be glad to hear that so far as we can trace any such conference it was on a technical matter. The conference was held owing to complaints from another company. Imperial Airways pilots attended—it was a meeting of pilots—and expressed no adverse opinion upon the machine which was under consideration and which was subsequently grounded for night flying after special tests. The statements which I am able to check connect with the work of my own Department, and, in fairness to the names which have been mentioned, it should be said that I have no cognisance of the other matter and that I am concerned this afternoon only with a matter which was dealt with by my predecessor, in regard to these pilots. I understand from my hon. Friend that only one of the three pilots is now out of an appointment. I will do everything I can to help him.
§ Mr. Perkins
One is fixed up as a test pilot with the De Havilland Aircraft Company. One has just had an offer, as was announced by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his speech to-day, and the third, Captain Rogers, to whom I referred, is not yet fixed up.
§ Mr. Gallacher
If these men are now employed again, would not the right hon. Gentleman say something about the statement which was made that their dismissal was thoroughly justified?
§ Mr. Montague
It might be as well if the Minister could say something about the other pilots. There were 10 of them altogether, and five of them were interviewed. Are they re-employed or not, as well as the three principal navigation officers? We do not hear anything about them.
§ Sir K. Wood
My hon. Friend will no doubt speak for them. I think he is the president of their association. I want to make a statement on the matter as far as I can. I want it to be clear that we have made no suggestion ourselves at all, about these officers. The hon. Member for West Islington asserted that the Under-Secretary made some such statement, but in fact he made quite a different statement. On 23rd May he said:I have endeavoured to answer the points which have been put to me in the course of the discussion, and in conclusion may I say that I have tried to let no hasty words fall from me which may damage the reputation of these pilots and against whom no charges have been made from this side of the House." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; col 978, Vol. 336.]
§ Sir K. Wood
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my statement. That is the position. I have been very careful in my turn, as I think hon. Members of the Committee will agree, to say nothing affecting the reputation or the position of these men. Whatever the merits may be of one side or the other I 1921 am sure that every Member of this Committee wants to see them employed again. That is my position, and I do not want to say anything this afternoon that will interfere in any way with their position. The question of the attitude of the Government towards the trade union side of this matter was raised by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and many other Members, in the course of the Debate. The Government accept—and I am glad to do so for my part—the recommendations that were made by the Cadman Committee upon this particular matter. Perhaps hon. Members will remember them. The company have accepted the recommendations. This is what the Cadman Committee said in paragraphs 104 and 105:In our view personal contact must now be supplemented by collective representation of employés. The desire for such a change has been expressed to us by representatives of pilots. Imperial Airways, the company employing the largest number of such officers, has stated that it, has no objection to collective bargaining.The approach to collective representation and bargaining is, therefore, clear. It is essential, however, that any organisations formed with those objects should be in a position to negotiate authoritatively on behalf of a substantial proportion of the class it claims to represent.Following the acceptance of that recommendation by the Government and by the company the ballot is now proceeding. I would not care to give any answer to the question put to me as to what would happen if the ballot were rejected by the Pilots' Association. Speaking without very much consideration of the matter, I would say that so far as the company is concerned they would negotiate with whatever body the people concerned voted for. I should also take it that there was no other association formed in that connection. We must wait for the result of the ballot. Personally I have always taken the view, a view which I think a great many people agree with, that many difficulties will be solved when this matter is properly settled. I welcome the fact that this ballot is taking place, and it will be a great thing if the pilots form such an association as they desire. Many of the difficulties experienced in the past will disappear as soon as the company is able to discuss these matters with an association, as has happened in so many other walks of life.
1922 I am not clear just how far. I am able to deal with some of the questions put to me, but I will endeavour to answer those that will be in order. A number of questions have been raised as to how far the recommendations of the Cadman Committee in respect of civil aviation have been carried out. Actually, a large number of the recommendations have been accepted and put into operation. The Government accepted the recommendation that the post of Permanent Under-Secretary should be created.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am sorry I cannot devote myself more fully to that topic. Perhaps I should be in order in asserting that the Government is very interested in this matter of civil aviation. I myself have a very personal interest in it, and I shall do my best to see that as many of the recommendations of the Cadman Committee as the Government have accepted are carried out as promptly as possible. I shall give as much of my time as is left to me, after my duties in this House and at the Air Ministry, to that particular project.
§ Mr. Mander
On a point of Order. Would it be in order for the Minister to answer specific questions, such as those relating to the position of the managing director of Imperial Airways? Sir Dennis agreed that we could put certain questions, so long as they were questions, and I understood that replies to them would be permitted.
§ Sir K. Wood
So far as the recommendations of the Cadman Committee are concerned I do not recall any recommendations concerning the managing director of Imperial Airways.
§ Mr. Perkins
Has my right hon. Friend not read the words on page 15 of the Cadman Report where it is said:There should, in our opinion, be an immediate improvement in these respects, and this may well involve some change in directing personnel.
§ Sir K. Wood
That does not go so far as the hon. Gentleman indicates. Obviously the board and the chairman ought 1923 to direct their attention to the statement which the Cadman Committee made in this respect and endeavour to improve things. I think what the hon. Gentleman has in mind is the question of the general management of the company. During the past few days I have been endeavouring to help in that connection, and I hope we shall soon be able to announce the results. I agree that it is important that that particular recommendation should be carried out. Members will appreciate that it was suggested as necessary that, before the whole-time chairman for British Airways was secured, there should be certain financial re-organisation in the company. I saw the present chairman of the company two or three days ago at the Air Ministry and I discussed this matter with him and he is very anxious to see this done and, in fact, is engaged on that work at present. I myself attach considerable importance to both these changes and I believe a good deal of the friction that has arisen may be avoided in the future. I make no reflections on the existing personnel. I think one of the reasons why the change was recommended was not criticism of persons, but in order that there should be someone who could give his whole time and attention to the affairs of the company. That, I think, applies equally to Imperial Airways and to British Airways.
The only other matter I am permitted to refer to to-night is the question of the position of Government directors. I would not like to make a statement on this subject off-hand. Obviously such a statement would have to be carefully considered and would probably have to be made by someone other than myself, because this question applies not only to directorships of the particular companies we are discussing this afternoon, but also to many others. It is not generally appreciated that my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in one of his many moments of enthusiasm said to me—he must have been very indignant at the time—that the first thing I should do in relation to these gentlemen would be to "sack the lot." I thought that a rather big suggestion to make. I hope he realises that this is a company which is controlled by shareholders, and that the directors are for the most part 1924 elected by the shareholders. These directors are responsible to the shareholders. I do not think Lord Fisher himself would have interfered with a concern which was in the hands of other people. He might have interfered with his own staff and the people under him, but I do not think he would have pushed his way into the board-room of Imperial Airways and sacked the lot.
Another side of this question, which raises a very interesting point, is that these subsidies are paid to these companies by virtue of a contract. The contract lays down the duties of the company and the services they must perform in return for the sums of money paid to them. In addition to that you must bear in mind the fact that the Government have considerable financial responsibility in the company. But there is not a majority of Government directors, but only two of them. It is not suggested that the Government is to control the affairs of the company. If we wanted to secure control it would be necessary for us to have a majority of directors.
§ Sir K. Wood
One gets a better view of the real position when one sees it from different aspects, and it is often done successfully in this country, to provide, in addition to the contractual relationship, some direct link between the company and the Government.
§ Mr. Boothby
May I say that there is no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not ask for confidential reports from Government directors for his own personal information.
§ Sir K. Wood
It is difficult to lay down a broad rule on this point and I do not think it is my duty to do so. You must take each case on its merits, and if there was any question in which policy was involved obviously the Government would be entitled to obtain from the directors information on a question of that kind. I would safeguard myself by saying that you must consider each individual case on its merits. I hope, as a result of this discussion, that, whilst hon. Members 1925 may not feel entirely satisfied, there has been an endeavour to arrive at a proper result. I am glad to say that there is only one of these dismissed officers at present out of employment and I venture to express the hope that he will accept the offer of employment that has been made to him.
§ Mr. Montague
One of the officers has been promised employment in the new company that is to work the London to Paris service, which will not come into being for a year. Meanwhile he is out of employment.
§ Sir K. Wood
That is the officer to whom I was referring. Except for him all the dismissed officers are in employment at present.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I have sat for two hours listening to this Debate and when the Minister rose to reply I hoped he would satisfy hon. Members on this side about the questions which have been raised. But, to me, the Minister's reply was most unsatisfactory. He has met none of the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). There are two questions which the Committee have to face—one, that of the dismissed pilots, and the other that of the right of combination. But we are no further forward on either of those questions. As regards the dismissed pilots, we are told that one of them has found work with another company, and, as regards another, that Imperial Airways— now that his case has been taken up—are prepared to employ him. But there is a third man in regard to whom the Minister says he is prepared to do his best. That man is still unemployed. Why is that so?
There was a Debate last week on this question. The directors of Imperial Airways must have read the report and must have seen how annoyed hon. Members were at the dismissal of this man. Yet all that the Minister can say to-night is, "I will do my best to find that man employment." There is nothing in the Minister's words to lead us to believe that Imperial Airways will employ that man, and this Committee ought not to be satisfied with the mere statement that the Minister will do his best. Imperial Airways are in receipt of public money and they ought not to have dealt with these matters in this way. Even if it is only 1926 the case of one man, that one man is still unemployed and appears to have no prospect of employment, and he will have the sympathy of every trade unionist and every man and woman in the country associated with trade unionism. The Minister's statement in regard to that man was most lamentable, coming after all the Debates we have had on this subject.
As to the question of the right of combination, where do we stand? There are some of us here who, as trade unionists, would be prepared to die for the right of combination. We have experienced the need and the benefit of co-operation. One hundred years ago the working men of this country fought for and won the right of combination. Now we are told by this superior company that their pilots are to be allowed to ballot on the question of whether they will belong to what some of us would call a directors' trade union or a real trade union. Such a thing as a ballot of that kind ought never to have been suggested. I would have expected the Minister and hon. Gentlemen opposite to have stood up for the right of these men to combine, without holding any such ballot, with the prospect of the ballot going against them. Some of us have seen ballots taken before and we know how they are taken. [Laughter.] I wonder whether hon. Members opposite are amused because they are opposed to the right of combination, because they want to make it as difficult as possible for men to combine, and because they want to see this ballot going against the right of these men freely to combine?
The present position of affairs will not satisfy trade unionists. When the question of the right of combination is at stake, we are prepared to fight against anything which endangers that right. The Prime Minister said earlier to-day that he hoped to get this Bill, and the Herring Industry Bill, and some other Orders at to-day's sitting. I would be prepared to keep this Committee sitting until to-morrow morning at breakfact time if necessary on this question. [HON MEMBERS "Oh!"] Yes, I am reaching a stage at which I do not care for all-night sittings, but on this question I would fight the Minister and the Government, and I would keep hon. Members opposite here until breakfast-time to-morrow morning. From my point of view the pity is that we should be discussing the Question, "That Clause 1 1927 stand part of the Bill." I understand that Imperial Airways are to get £100,000 of the money that we are voting, and I would like to be able to move an Amendment that they should not get that sum, but it is not possible to do so on the Question before the Committee.
On the subject of the directors, I was dissatisfied with the Minister's reply. He quoted from the OFFICIAL REPORT what the Under-Secretary said a week ago, but he read quite a different passage of the speech from that to which hon. Members on this side were referring. He did not read the part which we wanted him to read. I do not think the Under-Secretary will deny that he said last week that the Government directors had investigated the dismissal of these men and were satisfied that the company had been justified in dismissing the men. I rely upon that statement. If it is true, then, in my opinion these Government directors ought to be removed from the board of the company. I hope that the last has not yet been heard of this question of the directors. I hope that in some way, and at some time in the near future, we shall be able to raise the question of these two Government directors and force a Division on the question of whether they are fitted to continue in that position in view of the report which they made upon these men. In my opinion this Committee ought not to vote a penny to Imperial Airways until that company is prepared to grant freely the right of combination to their pilots and to reinstate this man. If necessary we shall oppose this Bill at every stage, in order to make our protest against the company's action up to the present.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
Earlier in the Debate I said I would like the Government to make known the contents of this report. The Minister in reply said that could not be done, but that later on, if it were found necessary, they might make another report. This evening we are asked to vote a certain amount of public money to this company. I have always held that when we grant public money we have the right to demand the investigation of every point connected with the spending of that money. We ought to know how such money is being spent, and we are entitled in this case, I contend, to call on those who represent the Government 1928 on this company, to divulge to us information on any point about which we desire to know. I shall never agree to voting public money unless I am sure that if we desire information about the company to which that money is being given, the Government will be able and ready to afford such information.
We have arrived at a curious position on this Measure. The Under-Secretary was placed in a difficulty the other night. I believe that if he had been occupying the position which he occupied before taking office, he would have been as keen as any of us on the right of Parliament to know everything in connection with the expenditure of public money. He admitted to a certain extent that those were his feelings, but, apparently, it was thought afterwards that he had gone rather too far, and when we pressed the point about this report, the Chairman had to decide that Parliamentary procedure would not allow of the report being divulged. That is the position now, and it is for the Opposition to refuse to allow the Measure to be passed, until they are satisfied that they can demand and get this report. If we acquiesce in this Bill to-night, without making that protest, we sacrifice the right of Parliament to have the fullest investigation into these matters and to have the results of such investigation made known to us. I join therefore with my hon. Friend in opposing this grant, until the representatives of the Government tell us that on all occasions when any report of this kind is demanded, it shall be forthcoming.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
I make no apology for detaining the Committee in view of the unsatisfactory and inadequate statement of the Minister. After all that has been said in this Committee and in the Cadman Report, I submit that Imperial Airways is an organisation which ought not to be entrusted with the expenditure of public money. More and more, in Parliament, and especially under this Government, the State is becoming the pawnbroker of inefficient private industry, and inefficient private industry is, more and more, becoming a mendicant at the back door of the State. The Minister expressed a desire to say nothing which would affect the reputation of these men and he was excessively cautious to say nothing which would affect the reputation of Imperial Airways. But it must be 1929 many years since a document was produced which so emphatically and categorically condemned an organisation, as the Cadman Report condemns Imperial Airways. The Prime Minister, during the Debate on the Cadman Report, on 16th March, said:I am glad also to be able to say that the two companies concerned in civil aviation, Imperial Airways and British Airways, have also signified that they agree, very largely, with those parts of the report which concern their own organisation and administration. I therefore have no hesitation in moving this Motion.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1938; col. 433, Vol. 333.]That can mean only that the Prime Minister moved the Motion on the assumption, which now proves to be totally false, that Imperial Airways not only accepted the recommendations but intended to implement them. It is clear, however, from the statement of the Minister, that Imperial Airways have not yet implemented either of the two very serious recommendations in the Cadman Report. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) put a pointed question in regard to recommendation No. 1, as to the appointment of a permanent chairman.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The Chairman allowed that question to be asked and an answer to be given, and the matter is not to be further discussed.
§ Mr. Ridley
I bow to your Ruling. I was only emphasising the fact that the Minister did not answer the question in a way that justified us in feeling that measure of confidence in the conduct of Emperial Airways which would justify us in agreeing to vote this substantial sum of money. In regard to point No. 2, I cannot believe that Imperial Airways have accepted the recommendation of the Cadman Committee as to the rights of 1:he staff to combine. We have been told that a ballot is to take place, and the Minister regarded that as satisfactory. Every experienced trade unionist knows 1he ballot to be a thoroughly unsatisfactory process in such matters. Why should a gang of employers have the right to require their employés to signify by ballot whether they desire to be represented by a trade union organisation or otherwise? I belong to an organisation which, unhappily, 30 years ago, on the Floor of this House, because it was a minority organisation, had to fight for its very life against the cruellest kind of tyranny and 1930 victimisation. Had those men in those days been subject to the process of ballot we should have been defeated on the very principle for which we were fighting.
The question which was addressed to the Minister by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was a very pertinent one. If a minority of Imperial Airways pilots signify their desire to be represented by a trade union, Imperial Airways will say that the ballot has negatived the right to be so represented. When the Minister says that nothing can prevent anyone from joining what organisation he likes, he speaks in face of very bitter experience. There are all sorts of things that come in to prevent men doing that. Ask any agricultural labourer whether he is free to join the Agricultural Labourers' Union. Ask any domestic servant whether she is free to join the Transport and General Workers' Union. Ask any typist in any isolated office whether she dare tell her boss that she is a member of a trade union. If the Minister had any knowledge of any real trade union organisation—not the organisation of the profession which he adorns, and from which I suppose he derives very considerable advantage—he would not have made a statement of that sort.
I can understand the diffidence of the Minister in saying that not only has he the right to know what sort of policy is being pursued by the Government directors but that this House has the right to know. We have made contributions to Imperial Airways of sums of money representing about one-half of the net revenue in any financial year, and we ought surely to have the right to know whether the board as a whole has obstructed what this House regards as a desirable policy. I can close my eyes and almost fancy that we are back in the middle of the nineteenth century in the matter of trade union organisation. A great many hon. Members opposite seem still to believe that trade union organisation can be conducted by patronage. Bitterly, for the last 100 years, predecessors of hon. Members opposite have done their best or their worst to prevent trade union organisation.
§ Mr. Ridley
I say that they would put us back again in the middle of the nineteenth century. However, I will not be 1931 diverted by the discourteous interruption of the Noble Lady, who is now leaving the Chamber, to our great pleasure. Trade union organisation under an inefficient board of directors such as the board of Imperial Airways is not trade union organisation. The Minister, before we leave this Clause, ought to tell us that he has instructed the Government representatives on the board of directors to insist that the pilots and the navigation officers and other employés of Imperial Airways shall be free, completely and absolutely, to join whatever trade union organisation they like, without intimidation and without the fear of those bitter economic consequences that have been experienced by the four or five men who have been mentioned to-night. It is not enough for the Minister to say that they have all, except one, got jobs, and that he will do his best to get that one a job. That is a very decent offer on the part of the Minister, and everybody will be grateful for it, but what matters is not the personal experiences of four or five men, but the principle involved—the fact that Imperial Airways still think they have a free run to hold the threat of the sack over the heads of men merely because they desire to walk erect in the world, to keep their heads high, to live freely with their fellow men and to be associated with a trade union organisation.
It is a curious thing, which I have noticed through bitter experience, that the employing class does not so much mind the manual worker joining a trade union, but it does not take the same view about the black-coated worker. The black-coated workers owe a deep debt of gratitude to the manual workers for their early courage and sacrifice in regard to trade unionism. The employers object to the black-coated worker being a trade unionist. They have regarded him for so long as their tool, the man who was always willing to succumb to their patronage and pleasantries and to eat corn out of their hands for an extra 2s. 6d. a week. My own organisation has helped in this direction, and the black-coated worker is now beginning to stand up for his rights, just as the manual worker did over half a century ago.
The Minister ought to say something much more definite and emphatic in regard to what the House must regard as 1932 the entirely reprehensible conduct of Imperial Airways in this matter, and to make it clear that this subsidy will be paid upon a new code of conduct, and that the Government nominees on the board will be instructed to see that the board as a whole observes that code of conduct. In the absence of a categorical statement of that kind by the Minister we shall be compelled to vote against the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Two or three questions of great importance are raised in this Debate, and we are perfectly entitled to ventilate them until we get satisfaction. We are all agreed that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) raised a very important question of precedent, which will very largely be used to guide this House in the future when dealing with matters of this kind. For that reason we are entitled to a satisfactory answer, and I hope that hon. Members on this side of the Committee will keep the Debate going until the Secretary of State for Air has had his dinner and returned to the House. There is the question of the right of men to belong to a trade union. That right has been won for us by our forefathers, against the continued hostility of the classes represented on the other side. It is not a gift. It is something that we have won for ourselves. We have won it in spite of bitter and continued hostility, and we keep it only because we continuously use it against the opposition of hon. Members opposite, and their class. That right is the right of the workman, whether he be a workman who has a black face or a black coat, who has to sell his labour, to organise freely with his fellows for his own self-protection. That right is more essential in these days than ever it was, because in every industry the employers are now so well organised that the un-organised workers have not the slightest chance of getting fair play. They can get fair play only if they are protected by a strong organisation.
All hon. Members will agree that the right to join freely the trade union of one's own choice ought to be generally acceded, and it should be claimed especially by men who are engaged in dangerous occupations. These pilots are engaged in a dangerous occupation, in pioneer work and in pioneer service. Each 1933 time they go into the air they take their lives in their hands. They are risking their lives for the sake of developing this service for the nation. Who has a right to tell these men that they must not do this or that? They are perfectly entitled, as British citizens who are giving great service to the nation, to join the trade union of their own choice. It is one thing to have safety precautions laid down in an Act of Parliament but another thing to see that they are observed. If the Coal Mines Act was observed there would be no explosions. It is because those regulations are not observed that we have accidents. Here is a new service, and the Air Ministry has regulations in regard to it, but it is one thing to have standards in Kingsway and another thing to see that they are observed. The best way to see that standards are observed is through a strong trade union.
These pilots are to ballot. Why should they be told to ballot as to which union they should belong to? Why should they not have the right to organise without ballot? Who is to conduct the ballot? Who handles the ballot papers? Who sends them out? Who counts the votes? Is the ballot free of any influence? Can we be assured that there will be no influence of any kind exercised on the men when they take part in the ballot? Some of us have had bitter experience of ballots. Hon. Members opposite laughed when my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) referred to ballots. I had some idea what they were laughing about. They think we are able to influence ballots. When men are to ballot in the presence of their employers or the representatives of their employers at times like these, what can we expect? When a man loses a job it is very difficult to get another. We have heard of a highly skilled pilot in this new and developing service having been dismissed eight months since and he is still out of a job, although he has the promise that he may have one 12 months hence. With this experience before them, the men are to ballot in an atmosphere of that sort. As trade unionists we detest this method of asking men to ballot. They ought to have the right to join a trade union without balloting.
The question has been asked, suppose the ballot goes in favour of a company union? In that case, some of the pilots 1934 may desire to join the Pilots' Association. The Secretary of State for Air said, if I understood him rightly, "We have no objection to that." Suppose that the minority of pilots maintain their membership in the Pilots' Association, even though, for various reasons, good or bad —we are inclined to think they may be bad—the decision goes in favour of a company union. We have too much faith in our fellow-countrymen to think that any body of workmen would choose a company union unless there was undue influence, but supposing that the majority should vote for a company union, and the others prefer to stand by the present organisation and build it up as a trade union for the service as a whole, will Imperial Airways recognise such a trade union? If not, there is no recognition of a trade union. The right to join a trade union means nothing unless the trade union is recognised as representative of the workmen who belong to it. Therefore, to tell them they can join is meaningless unless the trade union can speak collectively for its members.
The Government have the right to give instructions to the Government nominees on the board of the company, and we have a right to ask, will the Air Ministry, will the Government, instruct the Government directors that they must urge and press and compel the company to recognise the union, whatever may be the result of the ballot? Unless that is done, the ballot can be used as we have seen it used so often in the course of our comprehensive and bitter experience in the mining industry. We know something about company unions. After years of bitter struggle we are beginning to wipe them out, and I hope we shall do everything we can to prevent their formation in other industries. We are now pouring out money in subsidies to industries, and we have Government nominees as directors of these companies. The question has been asked whether the Government have the right to ask their directors to present a report on matters that come before the board of directors. We have heard it said to-night that this would be very dangerous. Of course it is dangerous to the interests of private enterprise. What private enterprise wants is money from the Government, and then it wants the Government, having given the money, to run away and leave them to handle it as they like.
1935 The Government will appoint these two nominees, and, presumably, will have the right to give them instructions on various matters that come before the board— matters of policy, matters of administration, matters of detail. Of course, the Government cannot instruct them every day, or at every monthly meeting, but there will be important matters of policy on which the Government directors will have to be advised and instructed by the Government. The right of the Government to instruct their nominees is unquestioned. Unless they have the right to ask these directors to present to them a full detailed report of the meetings of the board, how can the Government know whether their directors are carrying out their instructions? The principle of making nominees involves the right to give instructions, and this right involves the right to have access to every document and all the information that is required for the purpose of seeing that those instructions are carried out.
We are at the beginning, and a matter of great public policy is at stake. Where the Government are giving public money, which has been voted by the House of Commons, to any concern of this kind, our first function is to see that every penny voted is used for the purpose for which it is given, to see that it is well used and well administered. How can we be satisfied that that is so unless we have the right to examine the administration of these companies and to call for reports? Is a ballot taken of employers as to whether they shall have the right to belong to their employers' federations? When subsidies are given to shipowners, is a ballot taken to see whether they do or do not belong to this or that association? The employers have the right to organise, and no men ought to have a ballot imposed on them. These pilots have not asked for it, and who else has the right to ask for it? If they asked for it, they would have a right to do so, but all that they ask is the right to belong to their organisation, and no one is entitled to deny it to them. This ballot is something that has been conceived by the company. They know that they have to give way a little; the Cadman Committee reported that there must be some kind of collective organisation; and they are trying to palm the workmen off with this company union. I hope that these pilots, 1936 who are building up this great new service, will refuse to be parties to the ballot—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the Noble Lady wants to make an interjection, I will give way, but what we object to is noises in the gallery.
It is really perfectly absurd. When Ministers on the Front Bench are speaking, hon. Members talk the whole time, but, when one of them is speaking, there must be complete silence. It is not the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that I am talking about.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am sure that the occupants of the Front Bench who are here now will agree that we listened with scarcely any interruption to the Secretary for Air speaking in a quiet undertone for half an hour. If there had been any interruption he would not have been heard, he spoke so quietly. I was going to say that those who speak from this side have behind us the experience of fighting for the right of combination; we have that right not because it has been given to us, but because we have fought for it, and we will continue to fight for it. I say, "Good luck" to these pilots. I hope that they will stick to their organisation, and that this House will support them in claiming their rights from their employers.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Boyce
During the whole time I have been in this House I have never heard a less convincing argument on the question of joining a trade union than that which has been placed before the Committee by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). What possible reason can there be for refusing to allow men to decide by secret ballot what union they want to join? The Labour party go about the country and say, "We stand for democracy." One of the things about democracy as we know it in this country is that it gives you a free choice in a secret ballot; but when it comes to the question of trade unions, one of which is under the jurisdiction of Transport House, affiliated to the Labour party, and another is not under Transport House and not affiliated to the 1937 Labour party, they say, "We will not have a ballot, because we are afraid they will not have a free choice."
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I asked whether they had asked for a ballot themselves. If they want one they have a right to it.
§ Mr. Boyce
What possible objection could there be to a free ballot, other than the objection I have referred to? If the pilots are of the opinion of hon. Members opposite they will vote accordingly. If they are exercising their choice freely if simply means they are doing so without any intimidation from the Labour party.
Sir S. Griggs
Suppose it were a question of whether hon. Members opposite were to join a Conservative club or a Liberal club, would the hon. Member agree that it was reasonable to impose on them a ballot and make them join the club on which the majority decided?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. Member is evading the question. Will he say what is the difference between the example I put to him and the example he gave?
§ Mr. Boyce
A pilot is quite entitled, if a ballot is given, I presume, to destroy his ballot paper if he does not want to vote. But the real gravamen of the case made by the Labour party is that these men are able to decide without intimidation by another section of the community which union they want to join.
§ Mr. Montague
Surely they can decide that by joining one or the other? That is the proper procedure.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. Member is a little inaccurate in his information. I do not blame him, because he has such a small knowledge generally. What I observed was that I have no information about any intimidation being exercised by the Labour party with regard to joining a trade union. I challenge the hon. Member to give an instance.
§ Mr. Boyce
I bow to your Ruling, though it is imposing a heavy sacrifice upon me. I hope the Minister and hon. Members on this side of the House will support the proposal that the men should be given this free choice, and I hope that, in view of what has been said here by the hon. Member for Llanelly and other hon. Members on that side, every precaution will be taken to see that the men who participate shall be given an absolutely free choice as to what union they join.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I had no intention of taking part in this Debate until I heard the courageous speech which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey). That reminded me, a relatively young man, of what we owe to the Labour party. It was based on the principles that have given birth to the movement which we represent on these benches. The principle contained in it and the spirit in which it was delivered ought to be remembered by every Member of our party, and I would have been failing in my duty did I not play my part in this Debate.
I must admit that when the original Debate took place I had a certain amount of sympathy with the Under-Secretary. I said to one or two of my hon. Friends that he had inherited a legacy for which he was having to accept responsibility, and that he was in a very difficult position. But I have considerable experience in industrial negotiations. Time after time I have met captains of industry in this country, and I have found that those responsible for running big-scale industry in this country, when they have to face a situation of this character, generally realise that it is a good business proposition to do a thing in a generous way, in order to eliminate all The things that matter are: first, that we establish 1939 the principle of collective bargaining for these pilots; secondly, that they should be able to join a trade union which is, in the real sense of the word, a trade union; and thirdly, that the new Secretary of State and Under-Secretary of State shall accept the responsibility before the termination of this Debate. In view of that fact, I hope that they will reconsider the whole position in order to do justice to these pilots.
There is a side to this issue which has not yet been mentioned, but as one who has had experience in dealing with matters of this kind I realise that it ought to be mentioned. A number of these men, it has been said, have obtained alternative employment and are working on other lines, but the circumstances of their dismissal by Imperial Airways will follow them throughout their lives unless the Secretary of State for Air and the Under-Secretary make a thorough investigation and let it be known to the country at large that they intend to deal with this issue in a big and generous way by saying that what has happened will not be allowed to affect their future in any way at all. We owe a debt to these pilots, and they ought to be given a statement that nothing is held against them, and that whatever has happened in the past is to be regarded as the past. They ought to be given a typewritten statement to that effect in order that, when they apply for employment in the future, they will have a clean character to place before anyone who is interviewing them. I have met a number of these men. A few weeks ago it was my privilege to shake hands with them and look them straight in the face and discuss these questions with them. Men who are used to handling machines of the kind entrusted to these men are of a very fine type and of great character, and no one knows this better than the Under-Secretary himself, with his record of service during the late War. He must realise that it is not being fair to leave these men in their present position. I hope that the Under-Secretary will take notice of this aspect of the situation, in order, even at this late time in the Debate, to use his influence with the Secretary of State so that a statement may be made before the conclusion of the Debate with the object of clearing the character of these men.
1940 Does anyone in this Committee believe that the ballot is to be a real ballot?
§ " Imperial Airways Limited, r8th May, 1938. Private and confidential. Dear Sir. With a view to establishing negotiating machinery between navigating personnel and the Company, the Company desire to ascertain the wishes of their captains.
§ The original intention was to invite you to choose between (1) the domestic committee; (2) the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators; (3) the British Air Line Pilots Association. The Guild, however, regard the ballots as a domestic matter which concern only the Company and its navigating officers, in which it would be improper for the Guild to intervene directly. They therefore do not wish to be included in the ballot of captains and express the opinion that the properly considered interests of pilots would be best met if our navigating officers were represented by their own elected committee. The ballots have therefore been restricted to (a) domestic committee; (b) the British Air Line Pilots' Asaotion."
§ Will you therefore please indicate your preference, by means of a cross on the enclosed ballot paper, and then send it in the enclosed envelope direct to Sir Harold Howitt, Messrs. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company, 11, Ironmonger Lane, London, E.C.2. In the event of your not wishing to vote, will you please forward the ballot paper unmarked so that all voting papers may be accounted for.
§ It is intended that the ballot shall be secret, and you are therefore asked not to put any other mark on the ballot paper. The envelopes will be opened by Sir Harold Howitt and the votes will be counted in the presence of a representative of the company and of the British Air Line Pilots' Association.
§ In the event of the ballot indicating that captains wish to be represented by an Employés Association rather than a domestic committee, the company naturally reserves the reciprocal right to join any Employers Association.
§ I shall be obliged if you will sign and send to me the acknowledgement slip accompanying this letter.
§ Yours faithfully,
§ For and on behalf of Imperial Airways, Limited."
§ Does anyone in this Committee consider that it is a fair way of conducting a ballot when a circular of that kind is sent out?1941
§ Mr. Boyce
Let me inform the hon. Member, if he does not already know, that Messrs. Peate, Marwick, Mitchell and Company are a firm of chartered accountants in the City of London of very high repute, and—I speak with some considerable knowledge of the subject—probably more secret ballots are taken by this firm sending out notices to employers in this way than are taken by any other firm of accountants in the country.
§ Mr. Smith
I am not saying anything about that, and I am not making any charges of suspicion against the chartered accountants, but, having had experience of this kind of thing, I have no hesitation in saying that no company which has had any experience of workpeople would intervene in this way. To send out a letter under the heading of the company in this way arouses the suspicions of the workpeople. The very fact that the company send out a circular of this description on their official notepaper is an indication that this is not a fair ballot. The communication even goes further and includes this form, stating:I have received your letter enclosing ballot paper, and I have despatched it to Sir Harold Howitt as requested.That means that every person receiving this letter is expected to return this form to indicate the receipt of the letter. Alhough this may not seem much to hon. and right hon. Members who have not had experience of this character, every step taken of this kind undermines confidence and intimidates, with the result that a ballot of this kind cannot be a really democratic ballot.
§ Mr. Smith
This cannot be a fair or democratic ballot or the British way of dealing with things. Even at this late hour I hope the Under-Secretary will reconsider the question and come to a decision worthy of his past. Politically I differ fundamentally with the Under-Secretary of State, but when one considers his record in the last War one has to admit that it is a very fine record. He knows the men with whom we are dealing and for whom we are pleading. We have already won the battle for collective bargaining. We have already won the right to negotiate, and we are pleading that 1942 these pilots who do not belong to the class of people for whom we generally speak shall have the same right as other workers in this country, that is the right to join the association they desire. I hope the Under-Secretary will announce that the Government are prepared to reconsider this matter and do justice to these men.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
It is somewhat amazing that at this time of day we should be pleading for the right of combination for any class of worker in this country. We are convinced that these pilots have been victimised. It is quite true that the right of combination was won over a century ago, but I would remind the Committee that trade unionism is not confined to the horny-handed sons of toil. The strictest trade unions in existence are those of the professional classes. There is the legal profession, 6s. 8d. every time, and you do not find members of the legal profession blackmailing each other. There is the medical profession. We know how well organised they were. They were able to bring the strongest Government of modern days to its knees when the Health Insurance Act was passing through the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Leslie
I was only endeavouring to demonstrate that there is trade unionism in the professional classes, and I think these air pilots can be put in that category.
§ The Chairman
Then I hope the hon. Member will confine his remarks to the application to these pilots.
§ Sir S. Cripps
On a point of Order. Is it in order in the course of a Debate when we are discussing the desirability of trade unionism for pilots, to draw analogies from other professional trade unions' rules?
§ The Chairman
That is one of the matters which I think I must ask the hon. and learned Member to leave to the Chair.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Surely, when you give a Ruling an hon. Member has the right to point it out with a view of seeing whether in the circumstances your Ruling may not be altered?
§ The Chairman
The hon. and learned Member did so, and the effect of my reply was that I thought that matters with which I had to deal myself should be left to myself.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am sorry you have put it that way. I understand it is the right of any hon. Member to raise a point of Order in the way I did, I hope with complete courtesy, and ask you to reconsider the decision you have given. I suggest with equal courtesy that the Committee is entitled to know that decision, and whether you have in fact altered your mind as a result of any observations which may have been put before you.
§ The Chairman
The hon. and learned Member did not ask me to reconsider my decision. He asked me, if I may say so, a different question altogether.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am sorry I did not make my question clear. May I put it again? Is it not in order, when discussing the desirability of pilots having a trade union organisation, to draw analogies from other professional bodies such as doctors and lawyers?
§ The Chairman
That may be so up to a certain point, and that point depends on the discretion of the Chair.
§ Mr. Leslie
All I wanted to point out was that if it was good for these professional classes it could not be bad for pilots, who I consider are in the professional class. We have had in this House the Grand Old Man of the Liberal Party declaring that trade unions were the bulwarks of democracy and, on the other hand, the late Lord Balfour, when the Trade Disputes Bill was passing through the House, declaring with perfect truth also that trade unions had done much in lessening labour disputes. If it is right for professional classes to organise, surely it cannot be bad for pilots in the service of this company. I want to know why this ballot? Surely, the pilots have a perfect right to join a trade union if they desire? What right have Imperial Airways to lay it down that they can decide it only after they have taken a ballot, and in the ballot to give them two choices: one, representation by committees of first officers chosen by themselves on similar lines to the existing captains' committee, and two, representation by the British Air Line Pilots' Association.
1944 If there is anything which stinks in the nostrils of free man it is the idea of shop councils. I have some experience of what are called shop councils, which are formed by the directors on the one hand and representatives of the Employés on the other. They have periodical meetings which are held simply to ratify what the directors have already decided. The men in reality do not have a free choice or representation as they would if they were in a genuine trade union. I think these men should have the right to belong to the Pilots' Association without any ballot of this kind, and I hope that whoever replies for the Government will decide that the one individual who is still victimised will be immediately reinstated.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I hope the Minister, on reflection, will regard this as an extraordinary Debate and certainly as an extraordinary subject matter for discussion. Well over 100 years ago the anti-combination laws of this country were repealed, and from that time the right of free organisation amongst the workers has been granted by the laws of this country. I wish to join in the protest which has been made against the attitude of Imperial Airways, Limited, whose record up to now has been nothing to boast about. When the exposures were made by the Cadman Committee, I was amazed that the company had permitted such an issue as we are discussing to-night to become public matter in one of the most strongly organised countries in the world as far as the working classes are concerned. I wish also to join in the protest against this ballot that is being staged at the expense of the pilots. Some of my hon. Friends have had considerable, and not on the whole very happy, experience of the subtle forms of intimidation which can be practised when employers are against the organisation of their workers.
It seems to me as though the position has been staged among these pilots for the same practices to be carried on. Of course, the employers will not shout at their workers that they must not join trade unions. That would be rather too crude a method even for the pre-Victorian mentality which still dominates Imperial Airways. But hon. Members know that such methods can be used as promises of promotion, and that subtle threats can be made that there will be 1945 the loss of privileges or the reduction of salaries. We also know that human beings differ very considerably in temperament. Some people can be attracted by subtle suggestions that might be construed as forms of bribery, whereas others would resent very strongly any approaches of that nature.
My hon. Friends have already said that this ballot is nothing but a form of intimidation against any of these pilots who understand the meaning of trade unionism and what a contribution collective bargaining can make in regard to their conditions of employment. One of the most amazing things about the correspondence associated with the ballot is that the votes must be counted in the presence of a representative of the company. That is the limit of effrontery. Can hon. Members imagine an employer coming into my branch of the Mineworkers' Federation, and saying, "I have come here to-night to see exactly which men are paying contributions to the Mineworkers' Federation"? The fact that Imperial Airways must be represented at the count in that ballot means that the Government, through their (Erectors on that company, are determined to obtrude themselves into an ordinary trade union incident. The fact that we have to make this protest 113 years after the anti-combination laws have been repealed is a most disgraceful situation for the Government to have permitted to exist in connection with Imperial Airways. Hon. Members must assume responsibility for what is taking place.
I hope that the Minister and the Government will pay attention to the protest that has been made from these benches to-night. I have seen situations of this kind develop very rapidly in other parts of the country. When the organisation of the Employés is prohibited by the employers and when all forms of intimidation are practised, one may anticipate trouble immediately the Employés get into an organisation. These men will organise in a sense of the strongest resentment against the company, which is a failure in the commercial sense and which can exist only through the receipt of huge subsidies from the State. I hope the Government will take a warning from the protest that has been made this evening. Hon. Members on this side will back the pilots in whatever step they may take in future in 1946 defence of rights which belong to every workman in this country. Surely, the Minister, with the long experience which he has had in other Government Departments, must know that no industry can develop unless the Employés in it are intelligently and effectively organised. It is only through an organisation that most of these pilots can become articulate; such an organisation would be the instrument by which they would make known to their employers the defects in the service and suggestions for improving it. The Minister knows that industry would never have developed to the degree that it has developed if collective bargaining, determined by trade union organisation, had not become a factor in our industrial history. How can we expect this service to develop other than along those lines?
Frankly, if I were one of the Government representatives on the company I should do my best to encourage the pilots to make their suggestions collectively as to how the service could be improved and what methods could be adopted in order to increase the standard of safety. I was cradled in trade union organisation, and those hon. Members who belong to the miners' organisation know that we have contributed not a little towards reducing the casualty list in the coal industry. Hon. Members know only too well the casualties that have marred the development of these air services. We want the experience of the pilots translated into suggestions in order that the services may be improved and the casualties reduced, and in order that we may enlarge our knowledge as to the splendid work that these men have done.
As one who started his work in life by going down into the bowels of the earth—not as thrilling or romantic as the work of these pilots—I admire immensely the splendid and heroic work which the pilots are doing. It is not for these directors, who largely exist upon funds supplied by the State, to throw a challenge to those of us who know the absolute necessity of working-class organisation and trade unions in this country. We will continue to resist such interference in the historical right of a group of workers. I would add my appeal to the Minister to stand no nonsense in this matter, and not to allow a service of this kind to be handicapped and imperilled by an attitude which I can only describe as that of a 1947 pre-Victorian mentality. I am inclined to believe that the Minister, with his experience of working-class organisations and the innumerable deputations he has received from them from time to time, and owing to the fact that he has been compelled to appreciate the pooling of knowledge and experience which working-class organisation makes possible, will act in such a way that we shall not have to repeat a protest of this kind. I believe that after this Debate he will put an end to this farcical ballot, which means that if a pilot feels that he would not like to join in it he will, by implication, have on his side the influence of the company in order that he may work on as a non-unionist and a renegade to the interests of his own class. We shall raise on every opportunity any grievance that these pilots may suffer as a result of the farce that is being perpetrated to-day.
§ 9.7 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
Members on this side of the Committee, during the Debates on Defence, must have been strongly convinced that the Government are out of touch with the industrial life of the nation; and the Debate to-day must have convinced even the most careless auditor that that is indeed the fact after what has happened in regard to Imperial Airways. For a Minister to stand up in these days in the House of Commons to defend the conduct of Imperial Airways in their attitude to collective bargaining and the independence of the Employés to choose whatever form that should take, indicates that the Government are out of touch with the industrial age in which we live. I do not say that because of any feeling that we have a Government on which money and privilege in various forms have probably a greater hold than on any other Government of modern times, but because the average employer to-day in any industrial organisation would have advised the Government, as they have indicated again and again at employers' meetings, that trade unionism and the organisation of the workers in particular industries has been one of the greatest factors in the development of the industrial life of the nation and ought to be preserved at all hazards. I have heard that again and again among employers on Tyneside, and I should like to know who are these directors of Imperial Airways who claim the right to in- 1948 sist on no interference with their Employés.
Imagine the Federation of Engineering Employers attempting this sort of thing with any group of engineers. They are too intelligent and too well versed with the present day to attempt any such thing, but assume that they did so; assume that it was done in any of the great industrial organisations. It would not be tolerated for a minute. Black as the Cadman Report was against Imperial Airways in regard to matters of omission and commission, it is clear that that company has learned nothing from the report and have determined to travel in their own way with a sense of independence instead of acting as a company which is receiving heavy subsidies at the hands of the State. I should like to know who these two Government directors are. Are they automata? I have never heard of two directors so lacking in a sense of their obligations to their employer—and this House is their employer. I have served in the capacity of a director of a subsidiary company of a large concern. Is it conceivable that in my position upon a subsidiary company I could please myself whether I made a report to head office or not as these persons do? They claim the right not to report to the Government, not to admit any sense of responsibility. Are they merely to draw their substantial salaries and have an enjoyable existence bereft of a sense of obligation to the community that has placed them there? Imagine the position of a director appointed by one of the banking corporations. There are large numbers of such directors in various industries appointed by the banks which have special financial interests in those concerns. Is it conceivable that such directors should make no report to their banks except at their own free will? A creditors' meeting appoints someone to, look after the financial interests of the creditors. It would be just as reasonable as the conduct of these two directors if such a person determined that he would make no report to the creditors.
It is high time that the Government ended this completely nonsensical farce. I have never heard in my long experience of trade and industry of two directors who dared to pursue the course that these Government directors pursue in declining to' make their report to the Government. The reason for their action is that the 1949 Government have fortified them in their attitude. The Government have indicated that all they have to do is to look after the interests of Imperial Airways and never mind the supreme interests of the House of Commons. We are the employers, we also find the funds, and we demand as public representatives the right to have our interests safeguarded along the lines which I have indicated.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
Perhaps the Committee will allow me to say a few words upon the Debate in its recent aspect. I would say to the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), whose contributions to our Debates are always valued, that so far as I am aware, and I am sure that it is the case, there has been no question whatever of the Government, or my predecessor, or myself, in any way endeavouring to influence the Government directors in their examination into this unfortunate case. I think the Committee will agree that both of them are men of outstanding character, and one of them is particularly interested in the service so far as the pilots are concerned, and I am confident that they were actuated by a desire to see that justice was done and to arrive at a fair conclusion. I think that testimony ought to be given to-night, and I know of no motive—I would tell the Committee if I thought there were—which actuated them in making their report. They occupy practically an independent position. They are on the board as representatives of the Government, nominated as a result of the Government's action, and from the point of view of having base or sordid motives there was nothing to actuate them in that respect.
I should like the Committee to feel assured that in my opinion, though people may differ from me, they did give a fair examination to the case of these officers. Further, as I said at the beginning of the Debate, a representative of the Association was present throughout the discussions and hearings, and I understand that at the end of each examination he was asked whether there was any point which he desired to put forward. In that respect a full and complete examination was made.
§ Sir K. Wood
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to repeat what I said 1950 at the beginning of the proceedings, that obviously—and apart altogether from the merits of this case—if there is to be real advantage derived from the relationship of the Government to the Government directors those directors must be in a position to give confidential reports to the Government. I am sure it is of advantage that they should be able to do so.
§ Sir K. Wood
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who always puts his finger on the spot, asks, "Why so secret?" I do not think anyone can say with reference to the discussion of the case of these officers that there is any secrecy.
§ Sir K. Wood
If I were asked for one of the advantages of Parliament in a democratic system I should find an illustration of it in this case, because if ever there has been a thorough examination into the position of certain individuals we have certainly had it in the course of our proceedings during the last few weeks. In conclusion, I would say a few words upon the ballot which is now taking place. I hope hon. Members will appreciate the fact, and that it will weigh with them, that the conduct of the ballot has been arranged with the Air Line Pilots Association, and that they have intimated that they are in agreement with the procedure which was proposed and is now being followed. I think that ought to dispose of any apprehensions expressed by hon. Members opposite.
§ Sir K. Wood
I inquired about that, and I understand that the ballot papers of one colour are for captains and the papers of the other colour for first officers. The object is to facilitate the counting. I do not think there is anything sinister in the fact. That is really the only objection which has so far been advanced, and I do not think it is a very substantial one. The ballot is entirely secret. Nobody signs his name, or anything of that sort.
§ Mr. Lathan
Are we to understand that the Air Line Pilots Association desired a ballot? If not, does the Minister agree that the employer has the right to impose a ballot?
§ Sir K. Wood
I was dealing with the arrangements for the conduct of the ballot and was endeavouring to satisfy the Committee that, the ballot having once being determined upon, the arrangements were made with the Association and are being carried out in conformity with the agreement mutually arrived at.
§ Mr. Lathan
Does the Minister recognise that fundamental questions of human rights and liberties arise? That is what is behind our objection. It is not a question of the methods of procedure or whether they were subsequently arranged in agreement with the association.
§ Sir K. Wood
I was endeavouring to deal with some of the points which were made by hon. Members who preceded the hon. Member for the Park Division (Mr. Lathan) as to the ballot itself. I say that if there is to be a ballot the arrangements in this case are generally satisfactory. There is secrecy so far as the papers are concerned. I looked into that point and there are no means of identifying how a particular man votes. The counting of the votes takes place in the presence of a representative of the company and of the association, and the final determination rests with a completely independent individual, one not involved in any way in this controversy, and that is with a member of a firm of chartered accountants. It would be difficult to devise a system which would be more likely to give an impartial result.
I would only add, in answer to what was said by the hon. Member for the Park Division, that it is my view, and I think it is the general view of the Committee and of the country, that undoubtedly the best results are obtained where there is in existence an association of this character. That has been my experience in other Departments. Some of the best achievements we have been able to obtain—for example, in connection with the Association of Municipal employees—have come about where employés have been associated together. From the point of view of the Government of the day there can be no greater inconvenience than not to have an association of this character, and any influence which I have in matters of this kind will be directed to-day, as it has been in the past, to endeavouring to get together an association of employés commanding the support of the majority of those whom they represent, and able to 1952 discuss matters which are appropriate for discussion between employers and employés. That means that the best results are obtained. I hope as the result of this ballot many of the difficulties which have confronted the company and which have been referred to in this House to-day will be on their way to settlement. Therefore, I want the Committee to feel that, so far as I have any influence, it will be used in the direction that I have indicated.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman has stated that one of the advantages of democracy is that we can in such circumstances as these have a thorough examination and discussion, and he told us that to-night we have had a thorough examination of this problem. Anyone who reads the record of this Debate tomorrow will be able to see what the result of that thorough examination is. The most damning case was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) and no explanation whatsoever was given by the Government. If that is so, then all I can say is that people must draw the conclusion that the accusations are unanswerable, and there is the clearest possible case for some inquiry into the whole circumstances of employment in Imperial Airways. Some of the things which were put forward by my hon. Friend were really quite incredible things to happen in any decent company anywhere in the world, and though they are happening and are not disputed, there is not a word against them from the Government Bench.
§ Sir K. Wood
I expressly stated this afternoon that I was obviously not in a position to refute them, and I think the hon. Gentleman himself will appreciate that. He himself stated that things were repeated to him. I must reserve so far as I can the right of the Government to refute them in the future.
§ Mr. Montague
I only said on one point that I could not accept responsibility, but, so far as the other points were concerned, I had documentary evidence for every one of them.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It is absurd for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he must reserve the right of the Government to refute them in future. After all, they were fully aware after the regrettable incident of a few nights ago that this 1953 Debate was coming on again. They have had full time in consultation with their directors to know exactly the sort of points that were to be raised, and, if there were any justification, to have the information in order to put it before the House. In these circumstances there is only one thing for this Committee to do, that is to vote against the Government in order to show that we cannot be treated in this way as regards serious matters arising in companies to whom we are paying millions of pounds annually. The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the very serious question of directors in this subsidised company. This is one of the problems that arise from the breakdown of capitalism. In the old days people used to say, "You must leave people free to trade as they like—free dealings with their employés, no Government interference, and then this splendid virile growth of capitalism that will flower for the benefit of the whole nation."
That song has long since ceased to be sung. Now it is, as the Secretary for Mines picturesquely told us not long ago, "the old man with the hat." And in these cases, and where the Government are compelled to come forward and to put up very large sums of money in order to maintain essential services and as a condition of that insist—very rightly if you are going to have subsidies at all—on imposing directors upon it, what on earth is the use of imposing directors if we in this Committee who control the expenditure of the country, or ought to, are told, "Oh, this is too confidential. We cannot let you have a report on this. That would not be right. It might interfere with the ordinary commercial undertakings of the company"? If the company think it might interfere with their ordinary commercial undertakings, let them not have the Government directors, or the million and a half, and let them get on with the job, and let us run a proper nationalised air service instead, where we shall have the control, where we can ask the Minister as regards the conditions of employment, and where we can keep our hand upon the expenditure. But this hermaphroditic type of industry, neither one thing nor the other, brings you into just this sort of difficulty. Here is a great expenditure. Are we or are we not to be able to control it? That is one of the 1954 principal points in the course of this Debate.
There is another point—as regards these pilots. The right hon. Gentleman really takes the view that "This is past and over. No doubt if I had been there before it would have been dealt with reasonably, but as decent people were not there it was not. But I cannot go back on that." Let me remind the House of what the Under-Secretary said about these men on the former occasion. He said:May I repeat that I am making no charges against these pilots, and that to the best of my knowledge no charge has been formulated against them which has been made public, and which has affected their reputation. All that has happened is that they have been dismissed and that, in the opinion of the Government directors, those dismissals were justified.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; col. 975, Vol. 336.]What does that mean? It means "I, as representing the Government, accept the view that these men were properly dismissed." That means to say that they have been guilty of something, and we have never had any suggestion of what that guilt is. The Star Chamber was a mild procedure compared with this. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would have said in those days, "But the matter has been inquired into by the Star Chamber. Of course you cannot see the proceedings, but I can assure you the President told me himself that the matter had been properly investigated."
§ Sir S. Cripps
Yes, by lawyers. The Star Chamber proceeded upon the basis that these people have had, after all, a fair examination. The Government directors have examined them. True, the Under-Secretary said, "I do not know what their decision was based on. I simply say it was what it was, and that satisfied me." I think the right hon. Gentleman has gone a little deeper, I think he has inquired, but he, like his great predecessor, comes here with sealed lips. We suggest that in those circumstances, with these unanswered accusations, the only proper way to deal with this, not as regards these pilots but as regards the whole atmosphere of employ- 1955 ment in Imperial Airways, which is a much bigger question, is to have some further and specific inquiry.
Let me say one word about the ballot. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that everything is going to be done in due form and order. But why a ballot? Why should these people who have not asked for it be compelled to have a ballot? Why, because they are employed persons, must they be compelled to have a ballot? The right hon. Gentleman has never heard of a ballot of employed persons. It seems a peculiar weapon to be used against employed persons when there is a danger of free trade unionism. Then he says: "What could be fairer than the employers being present with a representative of the union?" What have the employers to do with it? It is no concern of theirs whether these pilots belong to one or other organisation, they are not a party to the proceedings; they are not one of the people whom the pilots will elect. It is not like a Member of Parliament and a candidate attending at the county poll. Imperial Airways have no right of any sort or kind to interfere with these people in what these people choose to do. The only reason for their being present is that they hope to ascertain some information.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I assure the hon. Member that the pilots can dispense with that guarantee without the slightest difficulty. They have not asked for it and they would be just as happy—they would be happier—if those people were not present. Why should the company impose themselves upon the pilots in their ballot? The whole mentality of the hon. Gentleman is that the employer has a right to interfere in these matters. If that is not his mentality why are Imperial Airways going to do it? If they have no right to interfere why are they to be there? The hon. Member cannot answer the question.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Now, you see, the hon. Member says that they have a right to be there. He is only comparing it with somebody else's right. I am not suggesting that the Association should be there. I am suggesting that when the ballot is counted it should be done by the accountants, and that nobody should be there. We can always trust Messrs. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company. We trust them quite well, because they have carried out work of this kind in the past. Representatives of both sides do not have to be present when the coal companies' affairs are gone into. When some of their results have been got out by accountants they would very much object to others seeing those results. The hon. Gentleman's mentality is such that he believes that the employer has a right to supervise everything that the employé does. We want arrangements to be made by which neither party has the right to be present.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Some people think it does matter. The circumstances in which these matters are agreed upon are not always very willing circumstances. It is sometimes the best thing that you can get and the result is that you agree to do something rather than not agree to anything. The whole idea is that we object to the ballot being forced upon people who have expressed no wish for it. They should be allowed to do as they like and if they want to join a union they should be allowed to do so without being controlled by a majority in which many of them could have no confidence. For these reasons we shall vote against the Clause.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I want to say a word or two as a lifelong trade unionist who has some knowledge of his own organisation and of the travail and sorrow through which that organisation has gone. Apart from the ballot, and apart from the proceedings that have been suggested, I believe that the action of Imperial Airways is trifling with the liberty of the individual to please himself. The Secretary of State for Air has said that this matter has been agreed upon, 1957 but evidently it has been Hobson's choice. Matters have been taken so far that there is nothing left for the men to do but, as a last resort, to take this course because there is no alternative. After their graduation the livelihood and the life of the pilots of Imperial Airways depend entirely upon the good will of the company. Undoubtedly the intention in this case is that there shall be what is called a company union and that the men employed by Imperial Airways should be entirely dependent in future for their livelihood upon the attitude of the managing director or whoever is responsible between the company and the pilots.
We have had a good bit of experience of this sort of thing. It took many years before we could have an association for the miners. The coalowners as an association put our men's furniture out on the streets and into the woods in the depths of winter before we had that association, because they believed that it was not in the interests of the industry that the men should be organised. We have developed from those days, and it has been recognised that the manual worker is to be allowed to work. Why should there be objection and restriction in regard to the black-coated workers being in their own associations? You people on the other side of the Committee have the greatest objection when anybody talks about class, but it seems to me that this is a case of sheer class. You allow the manual workers to organise but you object to organisation among people who, by education, have come into some sort of profession or specialised industry. Why? Is it because you want to retain control over them and thus also control the workers if need be?
Is this one of the ideas that have come from America? We had read an awful lot about company unions in America. With all the strikes and industrial turmoil in America we cannot believe tint the industrial upheaval has not been dissociated from them. It was only after the nation was turned upsidedown that organisation was made illegal. We have had many bad things from America and some that we could well do without. If this idea of company unions has come from America let us say that we can carry on in our old-fashioned British way without any of these company unions. If the pilots believe for one moment that they 1958 can have justice when they most need it by having a company trade union, then they are making the greatest mistake they ever made. Even with our strong industrial organisation amongst the workers, where does our safety lie to-day? It lies in the fact that we can make a complaint on behalf of a man, without the company being able to put a finger on the man who has made the original complaint. The days of victimisation are not over in this country. We have men who have never had a job since 1926 because they took a strong stand then for what they believed to be right. They have never worked since.
In the conduct of Imperial Airways there is not a single thing of which anyone could be proud. In all the Debates, we have had nothing has been revealed of which we could be proud. We have had pilots dismissed without any charge against them. Who is going to defend men in those circumstances if a company union is formed? There is no one to defend them, because every man who steps into the breach will be another man marked for the road. That is why they do not want a free organisation with representatives of the men—men like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins)—who could represent the men without fear. That is why we have the checkweighmen in our mines—because they could not be given the sack. They could say what they thought without fear, but the companies played havoc even with the checkweighers system. They have power to dismiss a checkweigliman if he becomes—not exactly a nuisance, but something of that sort. I only rose tonight because the important thing is that this is a transgression of British liberty. We, in the trade unions, would be making a fundamental mistake in allowing anything other than a free association chosen by the men themselves.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Poole
I feel that I should be false to my sense of duty if, in a Debate so vital to trade unionism, I did not make my contribution to the expression of exactly what we feel regarding the attitude of the Government in this matter. I have sat through the major part of the Debate to-night, and the one thing that has impressed me is our inability to make any impression on the Government benches. There have been very few 1959 people there to be impressed, but those who are there, including the Secretary of State, have shown themselves absolutely incapable of being moved in any way from the stand they have taken. The Secretary of State for Air in his two replies reminded me of the song which says:He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, The daring young man on the flying trapeze.No stability, fixity or certainty was to be found in any of his statements, nor was there any attempt to deal with the points raised by those on this side of the Committee. In my opinion, there would appear to have been good reason why Guy Fawkes wanted to make an impression on the Government of the day. He must have been faced with an unreceptive attitude on the Government benches, such as we have faced to-night. Is it not apparent to the Government, making, as they are, an approach to organised trade unionism in this country to help them in the rearmament programme, that organised trade unionism will not be anxious to help them while they deny to men the right to form their own union? The Secretary of State said that no attempt was made to influence the company in that inquiry. But an attempt should have been made to influence the company to form a free and impartial tribunal that would inquire into any charges levelled against these dismissed men. No one seems to know the charges or the defence. We only know that men have been sentenced in the dark, and that is contrary to every conception of British justice.
The Minister says we have had a very thorough discussion. But that is not because the Government has contributed to the discussion. The Government has not made it possible for this Committee to discuss this matter very fully. They will not lay before the Committee the material facts of the case. All that has been acquired to make discussion possible is what Members on this side have been able to acquire from their own personal and secret inquiries. The Government are subsidising this company and have two representatives on the board of directors who ought to place the facts before this Committee. That is my prime objection. I am not well up in Parliamentary pro- 1960 cedure, but if this is Parliamentary procedure and democratic government, it is not my conception of democracy.
Should we have two directors on the company and have no knowledge as to what happens to the money which the country is putting into the company? Is it proper that we should not have the elementary right of inquiry when men under the company are dismissed, and is it right that workers should not be allowed to form a trade union? I did not think such things possible in this enlightened twentieth century. I understood the Minister to say that the ballot was to be carried out by a chartered accountant. We are opposed to the ballot. It is contrary to what we, as trade unionists, have always understood to be right, but we are even more opposed to men being charged, tried and sentenced in the dark without this House being made aware of the facts of the case, and to the fact that we should hand over £1,500,000 without being able to ask a question about the money.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In view of the remarks made earlier in the evening and the quotation which the Minister gave from the speech of the Under-Secretary, I ask the Minister to get up at that Box and withdraw the statement made by the Under-Secretary that these men were justifiably dismissed.
§ Sir K. Wood
The Under-Secretary did not make any such statement. He referred to the report of the Government directors and to their decision in the matter.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that the Under-Secretary said that the Government accepted the report of the directors. Therefore, is it not right to say that the Government's attitude is that these men were justifiably dismissed?
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
What my hon. and gallant Friend said was:I will be perfectly frank with the Committee and give them the full knowledge I have got. I have seen the Government Directors' report to my right hon. Friend's predecessor, which says that the Government Directors investigated the circumstances of the dismissals and found that the dismissals were justified."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; col. 971, Vol. 336.]1961 We appointed a tribunal and the tribunal came to a certain conclusion. I made an investigation and we came to the conclusion that they had conducted their investigation with fairness and justice and the desire to arrive at a right decision.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman makes it worse. Does he suggest that the directors were inquiring into their own conduct? They are directors on this board. These men were dismissed by the board. He now says that these directors inquired as a tribunal into their own conduct and discovered to his amazement that their own conduct was justified. Really, the right hon. Gentleman is below his usual form and I could not say worse of him than that. It is appalling that this Committee should be replied to in those terms. The directors have made a report; the report has been seen by the Under-Secretary, and the Under-Secretary has said that the directors are satisfied that they did the right thing. The Committee is supposed to accept that reply. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is not doing justice to the Committee. He ought to carry this matter a little further. Either he should say that there is no evidence to justify the dismissal of the men or he should place the report before us. The right hon. Gentleman is starting off in his new office in a very bad way indeed. I always thought the appointment singularly unfortunate. I know he was appointed because he was a politician, and not because he was a statesman, but, even as a politician, he is failing this evening. We must have a little more from him before we are justified in leaving this matter where it is.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want further light on this point. The Minister said there was no charge against these men. He quoted the latter part of the Under-Secretary's speech to emphasise that point. Now he says "I myself made an investigation arid am satisfied that the report of the directors is a correct report." In other words he says "I am satisfied that the dismissals were justified." The dismissals can only be justified on the basis of a charge against these men. How then can the Minister having told us earlier that there was no charge against them, now say that he is satisfied that the charge against them was found by the directors to have been maintained and that the 1962 dismissals were justified? The Minister must do one of two things. The Committee has a duty to these pilots as well as to the House of Commons as a whole to see that he does one of those two things. He must either withdraw his statement that the dismissals were justified, or present to us the report which he claims to have investigated, so that we may see whether there is any ground for his statement that the directors were justified in their decision.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I ask the Minister to take this matter a little more seriously. He says these two directors sat as a tribunal. Surely he realises that a tribunal which considered a case of this kind ought to report to us, and that we are justified in demanding a report from them. We are entitled to know what was the decision of the tribunal and on what grounds that decision was made. We are entitled in the interest of the people, whose money we have passed over to this company in the past and are likely to pass over to it in the future, to ask for such a report. I hope that the Patronage Secretary, in the interests of fair play and British methods, will use his influence to see that a report is presented to the House of Commons. As it is, these men are under suspicion of having done something so bad that they are no longer fit to be employed by Imperial Airways. The country now thinks that these men must have committed themselves badly, and in the interest of the men themselves, as well as in the interest of the House of Commons, I hope we shall have this report.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The Minister has just raised a very serious point. We are not clear whether the Government accept responsibility for the acts of the Government directors. As we understand it, if the Government appoint directors they cannot shift responsibility for the acts of those directors from themselves on to the directors. It becomes a Ministerial responsibility. If they say that the directors found that these dismissals were justified, they must accept responsibility for that statement. Otherwise the responsibility is nowhere. They say that these Government directors sat as a tribunal to consider an act of the board of directors. Can anybody imagine an ordinary company appointing directors to conduct an inquiry 1963 into what the directors themselves have done? It is fantastic. The only conceivable basis for the holding of this inquiry by two Government directors into the acts of the board of which they are part, is that they occupy a special position as direct representatives of the Government and that the Government accept responsibility for what they do. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny the proposition, that the Government must accept responsibility for what they ask their representatives to do and for the result of this inquiry?
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
In a commercial company, in the ordinary way, decisions of the directors are matters for them. In this case, having regard to the allegations that were made in this House about victimisation, the Government directors, who occupy a special position as far as this company is concerned, were asked to reexamine the matter. They inquired into it, in the presence of the representatives of the association. I have reviewed the whole position, and as far as I am concerned I see no reason to differ from the decision to which the directors came.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has reviewed the whole position and he finds no reason to differ from the decision of the directors. Therefore his opinion, the opinion of His Majesty's Government, is that these men were rightly dismissed. Am I right in that assumption?
§ Sir K. Wood
As far as I can say, from my review of the position, I would not say that they were rightly dismissed, because that is not the proper term to use, but that their engagements were terminated and that there was no victimisation, as far as I can judge, in connection with the termination of their engagements. We must remember that the responsibility in the ordinary course rests with the directors of the company. This is a commercial concern and the majority of the directors are outside any supervision by the Government. Therefore, that consideration must always be borne in mind. It is only because there are Government directors and there is a contractual relationship between the company and the State, that this exceptional situation arose. Reviewing the position 1964 as I see it, I do not think there has been any victimisation.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. The Under-Secretary said on the last occasion:All that has happened is that they have been dismissed, and in the opinion of the Government directors those dismissals were justified.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; col. 975, Vol. 336.]The question that I am putting to the right hon. Gentleman is this: Does he, after his independent investigation, agree that those dismissals were justified?
§ Sir K. Wood
So far as my review of the matter is concerned, I should have come to the same conclusion.
§ 10.8 p.m.
I want to raise one or two points on precisely the matter with which the Minister is concerned. The Under-Secretary stated that he saw the report of the tribunal, and he stated that, having seen that report, he felt that the dismissals were justified.
Yes. Now, the Secretary of State for Air states that, after investigating the tribunal's report, he is satisfied that the dismissals were justifiable decisions. Has he seen the full report submitted by the two Government directors who formed the tribunal? If so is he prepared to submit to this House the reasons for the dismissal of those pilots? Does he recognise that employers dismiss men only for bad workmanship, for misbehaviour, or for some action against the good interests of the firm? I, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman when he states that these pilots were dismissed on justifiable grounds, were those grounds the grounds of misbehaviour, of bad workmanship, or of acting against the interests of Imperial Airways? Only on one or other of those grounds could the dismissals be justified. The Minister states that because two Government directors were on the board, that should not make much difference. He recognises that this investigation arose because the question was raised in this House and this House desired to exercise some right in regard to the conduct of a company to which it has given considerable subsidies.
1965 Will the right hon. Gentleman answer this question? Has he seen the tribunal's report? Is he satisfied that the dismissals were justified on the same grounds that dismissals take place in regard to ordinary firms? If so, will he explain why he is so anxious to reinstate dismissed men, whose dismissals he says were justified, and to place them in other positions of trust? If their dismissals were justified, why is he so anxious to see these men reinstated in some other positions? I should like him to answer these questions and to tell the Committee the real reason for the dismissals. It must have been misbehaviour, bad workmanship or acting against the interests of the company. It cannot have been for bad dress or lack of decorum. It must have been on one or other of three issues which are recognised as grounds of dismissal throughout the country.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
I have considerable sympathy for the right hon. Gentleman. I realise that he has taken over a very responsible position at a very difficult time, and in doing so he has inherited some of the troubles of his predecessor. That makes it difficult for him to take up his new position in a new attitude. On the other hand, this is a service which is vital to the well-being of the country, and it is necessary, if he is going to make a success of the civil side of aviation, that he should have the good will of the whole staff and also of my hon. Friends above the Gangway who are so much identified with the trade union movement. From what we know of my right hon. Friend, I feel sure that he has done his best to do justice all round, but he is apparently precluded from making a statement.
Cannot he make some concession? This will remain an open sore. We have listened to many speeches, and they have largely been repetition. I do not mean that disrespectfully, for it only shows how strongly hon. Members feel about the matter—so strongly that they have kept the Debate going for many hours. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman, with his skill as a conciliator, make a gesture to hon. Members that will enable him to get his Bill and to proceed with his great and responsible job at the Air Ministry? Would is not be possible to appoint a Committee of, say, three impartial people to report 1966 to the House whether they were satisfied that the directors had done their job? We desire to end this very unfortunate episode, and enable the right hon. Gentleman to get on with his far more important work as Air Minister.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
Perhaps I might say a word in reply to the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). I really do not think that his suggestion would be very useful. As a matter of fact, all the men concerned are re-employed except one, and any further investigation would not really be of any practical value. I have indicated the position of the company so far as one man is concerned, and I very much hope that he will accept the offer of the company. From a practical point of view there remains only one man, and, so far as I am personally concerned, I will do my best for him. As regards victimisation, and the question of trade unionism and matters of that kind, I have already indicated that certain steps have been taken to deal with the matter of trade union organisation, and I have no doubt that that will be satisfactorily settled. As regards victimisation, with which the Committee alone is concerned, I myself, after a review of the matter, see no reason to think that there has been any victimisation.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has spoken of repetition. It would have been possible for us to have divided the Committee three-quarters of an hour ago had the Minister repeated himself, but in fact he has shifted his position on two occasions. In the early part of the evening he said that the directors had made an inquiry, and he was disposed to accept their conclusion. Later on he said, "I have heard the evidence upon which the directors have come to their conclusion, and I think the matter should rest there, because I cannot interfere with the administration of the board." Now he has said, "I have seen the evidence upon which these men have been dismissed, and I should have reached the same conclusion as the board has reached." Therefore, if hon. Members opposite go into the Lobby in support of the Government, they will be voting in support of the statement of the Minister that the dismissal of these men was justified, 1967 although no charge has been made against the men.
The matter would have been very simple for us if the right hon. Gentleman had kept to his original position, but this dishonesty on the Front Bench is becoming intolerable. If the Government would take the Committee into their confidence at the beginning and state their position, it would be easier for us, but it is obvious now that during the whole evening the right hon. Gentleman has not stated his real line, and has only done it under the provocation of Debate. He now says that the dismissal of these men was justified. Does he stick to that? We must be told. Does he believe that these men ought to have been dismissed? If they ought to have been dismissed, why have they been reinstated? The Committee is entitled to a reply. If the dismissal was justified, the reinstatement is not justified. But obviously everyone in the Committee knows that the men were reinstated because their dismissal was not justified. And yet the right hon. Gentleman says that he would have reached the decision to dismiss the men had he had the evidence.
Before we vote on this matter, we are entitled to be told what the evidence was upon which these men were dismissed; we are entitled to receive the report of the directors; and we are entitled to know the charges made against the men. The House has discussed this matter on two occasions. I will give way to any hon. Member in any part of the Committee who will get up and say what was the charge made against these men which led to their dismissal. Will the right hon. Gentleman state it? He has told the Committee that he himself would have dismissed them. Upon what charge? There is no reply.
§ Lord Apsley
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) was dismissed from the executive of the Labour party. I am sure it was not for bad behaviour, I am certain it was not for bad workmanship, I hope it was not for conduct derogatory to the party; yet no charge was brought before him, and subsequently he was reinstated.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Will the Noble Lord be good enough to tell me the occasion of which he speaks? I am wholly unaware 1968 of it. I resigned from the executive on a difference of policy over Abyssinia. I am quite unaware that I was dismissed. Perhaps the Noble Lord will now get up and withdraw.
§ Lord Apsley
I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman resigned. It was, I think, a case of being asked to resign rather than of resigning of his own volition.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The Noble Lord is now trying to be humorous. I was not asked to resign in any way, directly or indirectly. I resigned entirely from my own point of view, because I disagreed with those in authority: which is a very common thing in the case of people on executive committees, and is not unknown with members of Cabinets.
§ Mr. Bevan
Perhaps we can now get back to serious matters. We on this side do not treat the dismissal of pilots with the same frivolity as hon. Members opposite. Here are men who labour under the injustice of a statement by a Minister of the Crown that they ought to be dismissed. They are men who are in a very responsible service. Their names are known to their colleagues and to hundreds of thousands of other people, and it is now said by the Minister that they ought to have been dismissed and that had the right hon. Gentleman been in charge he would have dismissed them. Yet he refuses to tell the Committee or the men why. No charge has been made against the men or announced to the Committee.
I submit that we have now carried this Debate to the lowest point of ignominy for the Minister. He is left completely defenceless. All he can do is to resign himself to a silence that would have been far better had he adopted it throughout the evening, because every speech he has made has shown how dishonest his previous speeches were, and has shown how he has concealed from the Committee information that the Committee should have. He has also shown his utter incapacity for the office he holds. He has shown how justified, too, were the engineers, at their conference to-day, in refusing any confidence in the lies of a lying Government that cannot be trusted to do the decent thing. If this 1969 had been ordinary Parliamentary obstruction it would have been a different thing indeed. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that if they want the Air Force to be properly organised they ought to have somebody responsible other than hack politicians who are more concerned with getting votes than with giving justice to these men.
It really has become intolerable. I have been in this House nine years, but I have never seen a Government reduced to such an appalling depth of shilly-shallying evasion as I have seen on the Front Bench on this occasion. It is deplorable. We who belong to the trade union movement and have been asked by the Government to make certain concessions in order that the programme may be carried through will have to wait a long time before we can repose confidence in Ministers because of the way they have behaved this afternoon. We are not taking an entirely party point of view at all. This matter has not only been raised on these benches, but on all sides of the Committee; there has been a universal desire to see justice done to these men. Evidence has been forthcoming both from that side and this side of the Committee of the behaviour of Imperial Airways. None of these charges has been refuted and almost every one has been admitted, and now, at the end of the Debate, the right hon. Gentleman commits himself to a statement which slurs the character of decent people without giving them the opportunity of replying. It is a disgusting exhibition.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
The position is perfectly clear. The Government have made up their minds, after investigation, that these men were guilty and were rightly dismissed. I think that the Government were entirely wrong, from the evidence, which I have read very carefully, but they have made up their minds. Their proposal is an act of grace to do the best they can for the men and to find them jobs. That really leaves the position as it is, and I do not know that we can get much further than that. I want to make a point which has not already been made. The right hon. Gentleman, or rather his predecessor, has created a very important precedent. He asked two Government directors, without consulting the rest of the board, to hold an investigation for him into the way in which the 1970 business of the company had been carried on in certain respects concerning the way they were treating the pilots. That is a very important precedent. It is a very different thing from what has been said to-night to the effect that the board must act together, and the Government have no control over these directors. The Government called upon these directors to make an investigation for them on a specific point. I hope that that will be remembered, and that when other occasions arise, and we want to know what has been going on, the Minister concerned will call upon the Government director to report to him direct, without bothering about the rest of the directors of the board. We have had the position made perfectly clear, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having set up a very valuable precedent which will be followed, I hope, a great deal in the future.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyce
No. With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, I have listened very attentively to everything the Minister has said and I did not gather that that was so, and I do not see how, even if that impression was conveyed by the Minister, he could in any way be responsible for the direction of a company, which, in fact and in law, must vest in the directorate. This company has other directors besides those who are nominated by the Government. The directors who are nominated by the Government, if they are to associate with the other directors and be jointly responsible for the policy of the company, must have some regard to the confidence of the board room. If you are going to have Government directors appointed as directors on a public company with other directors, arid the con- 1971 fidences of board meetings are to become the subject of debates in the House of Commons, it will be utterly impossible to get any responsible business man to enter into such an association. It would redound to the disadvantage of the company concerned. That is the Minister's position. I do not know what hon. Members on the Front Bench think, as I have never had the pleasure of sitting there—and I imagine that it is far more comfortable to sit below the Gangway than on the Front Bench—but I feel, and I am sure other Members feel with me, that it would be a mistake if this Debate ended leaving the impression that the Minister is wilfully concealing something from the Committee which, in fact, he is not entitled to disclose and which he would not in any circumstances be justified in disclosing.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt
One serious aspect of this matter has not yet been touched upon. It is the future effect on a company like Imperial Airways of the way in which the Government are now behaving in this matter. Imperial Airways have dismissed men at a moment which happened unfortunately to coincide with the formation of a union. Nobody knows why they were dismissed. The Government directors have held an inquiry and have said that what their colleagues on the board did was right. The Secretary of State has now looked into the matter and he says that they were right, and the reward of the board of Imperial Airways is that they are to have twice as much public money as they had before. What does that mean as regards the future? It means that if some time next year, or the year after, five or six, or nine or 10, competent pilots venture to lift their voices and behave as independent human beings and want to form a union or do anything reasonable to get proper conditions, and the board meets to consider it, they will say: "As far as we can judge from the conduct of His Majesty's Government in the past on matters like this, we are entitled to regard them as thoroughly consistent. We know that if we dismiss these men and refuse to give any reasons whatever, our colleagues on the board, the Government directors, will say that in their humble opinion we were right to do it, and were right not to publish the reasons; and the Secretary of 1972 State for Air"—who now sits there looking like an elder salesman— "will get up in the House of Commons and give as the third reason in one night that he has read the papers too and he thinks the board were right." The board will consider what is going to happen and will say, "If we take this serious step, as far as we can judge from the precedent of this consistent Government, the probable result is that the following year it will vote £6,000,000." If anybody expects decent treatment from Imperial Airways after that, he is at last the classic definition of an optimist.
Another point which I wish to mention is the presence of the Government directors. We have it on the authority of the hon. Member who wisely knows that it is more comfortable to sit below the Gangway than to sit above it—and he is confirmed also by the Secretary of State—that the two Government directors are in a minority. So they are. But let us be clear about this, that if you put Government directors upon the board of a company with some idea of safeguarding public money and procuring the unusual and unprecedented importation into a great concern of common decency in the treatment of its servants, it is no good saying hereafter, "We are very sorry, there are only two of us, and there are three, four or five ordinary business men, so how could we do anything?"
The Secretary of State and the Government must make up their minds about this and have some concerted policy. Either they must tell the House what the Government directors on the company can do towards maintaining proper conduct, and that the public can look towards them to maintain some proper conduct in the public service; or they must admit that the whole thing is a fake, a humbug and a sham and that the two directors are of no use whatever; and just shovel out money to independent concerns in this ancient game of bribing capitalism to keep going on its sticky and unlubricated wheels. I would like the Secretary of State, before the Debate ends some time to-morrow afternoon, to tell us whether he regards the Government directors as some safeguard for the public. If so, let him withdraw the statement that they are only a minority. If not, let him say that it is only a humbug, and let him withdraw the Government directors.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), the Minister said that he would not say that the pilots were rightly dismissed, and then he corrected himself and said that he would put it another way, and say that the pilots were not victimised. But from the point of view of the Government, the question of victimisation is quite a secondary one. Why does the Minister fasten on to the secondary question and say nothing about the first question? Is it not obvious that he dare not face up to it? I wish to quote what the Under-Secretary said in regard to this matter, and I hope the Minister will pay attention to it, because I want an explanation. The Under-Secretary said:The facts are that the pilots were dismissed by the company and that, at the request of the Government, the Government directors went into the question as to the reasons for the dismissal and the justification or otherwise for that dismissal. They interviewed five pilots, and I shall not prove to be wrong, because I saw the Government directors' report myself. The Government directors found that the dismissals were justified, and they secondly found "—There were then a few interjections, after which the Under-Secretary continued his statement as follows:We asked the Government directors to investigate the circumstances of the dismissal of these pilots, and they reported to us that the dismissal was justified, and, secondly, that it had nothing at all to do with membership of the Air Line Pilots' Association."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; cols. 970–1, Vol. 336.]What are the reasons that justified the dismissals? I want the Minister to deal with that point. The reasons were examined by the directors, we are told, and they found that the reasons justified the dismissals. The Committee has a right to know what the reasons were. The Minister says that they are being big-hearted and trying their best to fit these men in somewhere else. Four of them have been fitted in and they hope to fit in the fifth. What has that to do with it? If a man comes out of prison there is an association to help him. What has the big-hearted philanthropy of the Minister who is trying to help these men to find employment to do with this matter? An offence has been committed against these men. Opportunities have been given to the Minister to give an ex- 1974 planation for the offence against them but we are not told anything. The reasons were examined and the dismissals justified, but I declare that neither the Minister nor the two Government directors can provide any reason of any kind for the dismissals. I declare that and I challenge anybody to deny it. If there had been a reason it would have been given long ago. There never was a case of a dismissal of a worker in which the simplest reason could not be found against him to justify it. Here the thing has been going on month after month and we never get a solitary reason for it. I am justified in claiming that they give no reason because they have none to give. Any Member of this Committee, any of the automatic majority of the Government, who votes for the Government on this question is committing a crime against these pilots who have done no wrong and were thrown out by this company because they took up the question of forming a trade union. There is no justification for this Committee voting money to the Government that will go to this company until the statement that these dismissals were justified is withdrawn and these men are reinstated without a stain on their character. That is not much to ask for pilots who have given as much service to the country as many of the people who parade here as admirals and generals. I can imagine what would happen if certain people here had got heaved off the quarterdeck. What a noise there would have been about it! I want the Committee to realise the pitiful demonstration that has been made by the Minister on this question. Read the last Debate and then consider this Debate. What an exhibition. Are these the Ministers on whom the people of this country have to depend for air defence? They are cringing before this company, are afraid of this company. How is it possible for them to carry on the great business of air expansion which has been entrusted to them when they take up such an attitude before this company? I ask the Minister—please, I ask you—to get up at that Box and withdraw the statement against these men. [Interruption.] Instead of hon. Members shouting at me possibly you, Captain Bourne, would be shouting at me if I were to use the language I should like to use towards the 1975 Government. I am entitled to ask that the Minister should get up and make a complete withdrawal. Once again I say that at the beginning he got up and said that there was nothing against these pilots. [Interruption.] I shall say it over and over again until the Minister is prepared to get up and make the withdrawal. I am concerned about these pilots—not that I know them. It is the principle involved. I have had to suffer from much the same thing myself, as have other hon. Members on this side—not an open charge, but a suggestion that there is something wrong.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am certain that if I were provided with the necessary implement of destruction I would hit him hard. There should be an open charge. It is one of the fundamental features of British law, of British justice, one of the fundamental rights accorded by Magna Charta. How would any hon. Member of this House like to have a conviction recorded against him without knowing the charge or without any opportunity of refuting it? I say that I demand of the Minister—[Interruption]—Whether it is a request or a demand, I insist that the Minister should categorically withdraw the statement that the dismissal of these pilots was justified. No more wriggling. These men were dropped and the Minister for Air has great responsibility. It is the least he can do to do justice to these pilots.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
I am afraid that nothing that can be said on this side of the House, or even by the supporters of the Government, who at this moment are supporting the contention from this side of the House, will move the Government to change its opinion, but I think there is an aspect of this matter that has not yet been forcibly brought home to the House, and it is that this is not the first time that Imperial Airways have done exactly the same thing. I remember in 1921 or 1922 when the same gentleman who is responsible for the dismissal of these pilots arbitrarily told the men because they joined my union that they should not have the right in the future to say whether they would go into the air, as any captain of a ship has the right to 1976 go to sea. He took away the flying money of the men and offered them 2s. an hour flying time, and compelled the men to pay for their insurance, and when they came to my union immediately there were dismissals among the men. I took the matter up with the Transport Workers' Union and got them reinstated, but it was on the condition that the men left the union and formed an association among themselves. What happened? When they did so they appointed the late Mr. Joynson Hicks and his firm to represent their interests and broke away from the union. That is a fact, and I say that this is history repeating itself.
Do the Government think they are doing any service to Imperial Airways or to the aeronautical repute of this country by having the name of the company and of this country's pilots dragged through the gutter? That is what is being done by the attitude of the Government. Thoroughly efficient men who have given hundreds of hours of flying time without an accident have been arbitrarily dismissed. If it were a docker we would see that he was protected. If he was a busman or a lorry driver we could protect him, but because these men are not sufficiently organised, and because Imperial Airways is a subsidised firm pocketing public money, hiding away the inequities of the same gentleman who was responsible for the last affair, they are bringing the whole name of our Air Force into disrepute. I am talking of Mr. Woods-Humphery, and I say that the Government ought to look at the past history of this. Every effort the pilots have made to organise themselves to get reasonable justice has been met with conditions such as have been met with on this occasion. Whilst the Government may say they will not protest, it is their duty to see that fair play is given to every man who risks his life in the air on behalf of the people of this country.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I think I have something of interest to say that has not been said before. Questions have been asked as to the reasons why the pilots were dismissed. I think I can throw some light on that with regard to one particular case, that of Captain Rogers, and I take the opportunity of again thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his promise to help this gallant officer, which I am sure he 1977 will do to the best of his ability. Captain Rogers was concerned in organising the Air Line Pilots' Association, of which he was vice-chairman. On one occasion he was sent for by the managing director and he was handed three letters and was asked to take them away and come back the next day and decide which of the three he would sign. The first was dismissing him because he was out of sympathy with the company's work, the second alternative was dismissing him under his contract because he was reluctant to recognise authority and disobeyed orders to fly Avro No. 652—I may say that he has a complete answer to all those things—and the third was his resignation. Captain Rogers took those three letters away. He did not go back again next day and he retained the letters, I think very wisely. He was then dismissed as he would not accept the offer that was made to him to resign. With regard to the interview that took place with the directors, he was represented by a friend and not by counsel or anything of that kind and of course he was present only when the pilots were there. That is an accurate statement of the case.
While it is right that the Minister should assist this officer, may I ask whether he remembers that he stated that he was convinced that the findings of the directors as to this officer's dismissal were justified, and may I ask him whether he still stands at that Box and states, in view of those facts, that he believes, from the evidence submitted, that that officer and the other officers were justifiably dismissed?
§ Sir K. Wood
As a matter of fact, what I said was that the Government directors had looked into this matter and had come to the conclusion that the termination of this officer's engagement was justified and I saw no reason to differ from that conclusion; nevertheless, as in the case of very many others I saw no reason why I should not help this officer.
§ Mr. Montague
The Secretary of State said that in the same circumstances he would have done the same thing himself and accepted responsibility.
§ Mr. Benn
The Secretary of State was asked to produce the report; he refused. Then he was pressed to say whether he 1978 had investigated the thing himself, and he said he had. He said he had gone into the whole matter and he was satisfied and would have acted in a like manner himself. Had the right hon. Gentleman seen those letters?
§ Sir K. Wood
That may be so, but it was a matter, as I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, that did not affect the question of dismissal.
§ 10.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
We have heard from the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) some of the things that happened to Captain Rogers. He was given three letters and was asked which of the three he would choose as the way of committing hari-kari in the service of this company. He declined to sign any of the letters and was subsequently dismissed. In view of the fact that the company receives a subsidy, has the right hon. Gentleman informed the company that that is not the way, while they are receiving Government subsidy, that they should treat their employés? After the way the men were treated it would be very difficult to convince any reasonable tribunal that Captain Rogers' attitude towards those three letters had nothing to do with his subsequent dismissal.
§ Mr. Ede
As one who has had on occasion to represent people who are in a semi-professional capacity not unlike this, I have met the same sort of thing. I have had a case where a teacher was unpopular with the district manager, who said to him, "We do not want to dismiss you, but if you will send in your resignation we will help you to get another job. Go quietly and we will make it all right with the beak." That is the attitude taken up. I have had to advise persons in cases of this sort whatever they did not to resign, to put the responsibility on the other people to find them guilty, because persons in public employment can 1979 rest assured that the public authority behind them will see that they are not dismissed unjustly. That is the whole position. These people, by receiving a Government subsidy, put themselves in a very different position from the board of directors envisaged by the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison).
§ Mr. Ede
I would apologise to the Minister for Agriculture if he were present. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Boyce), I think, was in the House when the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) spoke earlier in the Debate. He anticipated what the hon. Member for Gloucester said. The hon. Member put this position to the Committee: What bank, having advanced money to a semi-derelict concern, would accept the position which is accepted by the Government in this matter concerning the Government directors? I suggest to the hon. Member for Gloucester that he could not compare this company with one not in receipt of Government assistance. This is a case where private enterprise is being bolstered up by State contribution and one of the things that goes with State contribution is a reasonable security of tenure for employés.
§ Mr. Boyce
No bank which nominated a director on the board of another company would be justified in obtaining information from its nominated director and then broadcasting that information to its own shareholders. That is what the position would be if the Government were to nominate directors to the board of a company they were helping to finance, and then used those directors to obtain information in order to broadcast it to the House of Commons. I think you will find that I am right.
§ Mr. Ede
That would be a discovery. I do not accept that position. If the shareholders of a bank at the annual general meeting 'thought it was not being conducted in a way to safeguard their interests, does the hon. Member suggest they would not have the right to safeguard themselves? One of the things that we have to safeguard is the position of employés in concerns into which public money has been put. We must see that they treat their employés according to modern traditions, and not 1980 in the eighteenth century manner which this board has chosen to adopt. It is a very serious thing that people employed by a subsidised company can be dismissed on the basis of secret reports and especially secret reports made by the kind of officers alluded to by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). The more the Minister tries to explain this away the worse it becomes.
Now we are told that the incident to which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) referred, arose after the decision to dismiss had been taken. This was a way of "getting out of it." If the directors were challenged, they would be able to say, "The man was not dismissed; here is his resignation." Is not that a sufficient reason to suggest that this board requires more attention than it has received hitherto? I am not going to the Derby to-morrow and I am prepared to stay here until after the race has been run, if only we can secure justice for these men. But I suggest that this matter cannot be left where the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary are attempting to leave it, and that we should be guilty of a gross dereliction of our duty to the people employed in a subsidised firm if we did so.
§ 11.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt
I intervene again in this Debate only because I want to do so. I want to address myself to two points. A suggestion has been put out by the Minister and by the very few in the Committee who are supporting him at irregular intervals that it does not matter much about Captain Rogers, or anybody else, because the Minister is finding them jobs. That will not do. We are not discussing whether some person who has, presumably, been unjustly dismissed, is getting back into employment or not. We are discussing whether a concern which is living on the public dole has been treating its people decently or not. It is no answer to say "Do not let us discuss whether Imperial Airways have treated these people abominably, because the Minister is going round begging other people to give them jobs." Just think of it—in a free country, where people are supposed to get justice, the Secretary of State, with his beautiful plausibility of manner, goes to somebody who is run 1981 ning an air service and says, "I have a friend who has been sacked and I am going to say in the House of Commons on 31st May that I would have sacked him too if it had rested with me, but if you could find him a job, as a butler or an airman or something, it might get me out of some of the awkward questions which are to be raised on 31st May—and 1st June."
There has been nothing like it since the Government's friend Herr Hitler, on 30th June, 1934, had some 1,700 people shot and one Mr. Schmidt was shot in mistake for another Mr. Schmidt. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Stalin?"] No, Herr Hitler did not shoot M. Stalin. Herr Hitler bears some resemblance in this matter to the Secretary of State. He sent an officer of considerable distinction to apologise to the widow. [An HON. MEMBER: Stalin does not even do that."] There are a good many authorities on Russia in the House; and a lot of nonsense they talk. [Interruption.] I am unable to describe that interruption as nonsense because I did not hear it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us about Stalin."] If hon. Members are not careful I will tell them all about Stalin until the last horse passes the post in the Derby. Some hon. Members on my left are asking me if I will tell them the name of the first horse. That is perhaps their only qualification for participation in the work of legislation that I have ever discovered.
The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Boyce) explained the ethics of banking. He told us what a bank does when it plants directors on somebody else's board. He said that if the bank had directors on a board you could not expect the confidential information obtained by the bank directors to be broadcast to the shareholders. I know how important it is that what really happens in a company should not be told, otherwise capitalism would collapse in five minutes. But the hon. Member got a little astray, because on the 23rd May, col. 971, the Government could not merely not tell the House; they could not even tell themselves. The Under-Secretary said:I do not know, and I submit that no one in this Committee, either a Member of the Government or anyone else, is entitled to ask for the full private domestic reasons as recorded in the minutes of the board of the company.The hon. and gallant Member, who has recently assumed his high office, does not 1982 know that the full private domestic reasons are never recorded in the minutes. He went on to say:I never said I knew. I will be perfectly frank with the Committee and give them the full knowledge I have got. I have seen the Government Directors' report to my right hon. Friend's predecessor, which says that the Government directors investigated the circumstances of the dismissals and found that the dismissals were justified.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1938; col. 975, Vol. 336.]If these passages mean anything they mean that in the opinion of the Under-Secretary and the Government not only no body roughly corresponding to shareholders but not even the Government itself can be told everything, or anything. It is becoming plainer and plainer that there is nothing in this transaction that is sufficiently respectable even to be risked by being presented to the tender consciences of Cabinet Ministers. What would happen if it were presented to the ordinary general public, Heaven alone knows.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Before the Question is put, we are entitled to have some further remarks from the Minister on this question of a withdrawal of the accusation against these pilots. I ask the Minister if he is not prepared—keep your head up; you do not need to keep it down on your knees.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to ask the Minister to keep his head up, to face up to his responsibility, and to make a statement, before the vote is taken, withdrawing this allegation against these pilots. Especially after the statement by the hon. Member who spoke from the second bench below the Gangway, and the letter he read showing how these pilots were treated, no Member of the Government can justify this anywhere. When the Minister goes to his constituency he will have this thrown against him. I am certain that he canont justify it in his constituency. I ask him, through you, Sir Dennis, to make this belated withdrawal of the accusation which has been launched against these pilots. If he does not make it, not a single Member on the other side should be prepared to vote this money and participate with the Minister in a crime against honest, conscientious airmen who have given great service, not only 1983 to this company, but to aviation in this country.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I have not intervened in this Debate before, because I have had other matters in hand, but I have been rather surprised at the complete silence of a large number of Government supporters on this matter. I can understand that they must have been feeling distinctly uncomfortable, because, when they go to meet their constituents, they will find that questions are being asked in their constituencies. If there is one thing that this Government has prided itself upon, it has been its appeal to the middle class, to the professional class, to the black-coated workers, to everyone, in fact, except the horny-handed sons of toil. The Government have not made a very good show in the way they protect these people whom they specially claim to represent. They cannot come to the House of Commons and say they represent the railwaymen, the dockers, and so on. They have to find some kind of social basis; they cannot get up and say they are the shareholders' party, or the party of the City of London, or the party of big men and big business. Members for places like Hendon and Ilford talk about the numbers of clerks and the numbers of professional men in their constituencies, and how these are the really patriotic people who can look at matters from the Conservative point of view.
There was a time when these people thought it could be left to Conservative Ministers and patriotic people generally to look after their interests, but many of them are finding that they are not so well protected, and are not doing as well, as the docker, the railwayman, and the transport worker. I warn the Minister of Health—[Interruption.] —I warn the right hon. Gentleman—who ought to be the Minister of Health, in which capacity he was some good, instead of Minister of
§ Air, at which he is no good at all—that in his constituency he has a very large number of black-coated workers and professional men. What is the answer of the Government to these professional men? It is that they will not stand for the organisation of the black-coated workers and the professional men? I shall spend most of Whitsuntide at the various by-elections that are now in progress. I had proposed to attack the Government on their appalling foreign policy, but I have a very much better thing to attack them on in this attitude of theirs to professional men. They will not allow a professional man to join his professional organisation; if he does so, he will be sacked. These men were sacked; and they would have stayed sacked had it not been for the publicity the Labour party have put up on the matter.
§ I wonder what is going to happen to this Government that talks such a great deal about patriotism and all the rest of it? You can ask these people to sacrifice their lives, but you will not even allow them to form an organisation in order to secure not only decent conditions for themselves but conditions of safety for the general public. One of the things for which the Air Line Pilots' Association stood was conditions of safety for the general public. But in order to protect the dividends of Imperial Airways—which would have been more or less non-existent but for the subsidies which this House voted—the Government have not only made these men sacrifice their right to organise, but refuse them the right, through an organisation to make recommendations with regard to the safety of the public. That is the issue; and it is an issue which many of us on this side will take care to put before the public at the by-elections.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 214; Noes, 127.1987
|Division No. 228.]||AYES.||[11.23 p.m.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Beechman, N. A,||Butcher, H. W.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Bottom, A. C.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Boulton, W. W.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cary, R, A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Boyce, H. Leslie||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Channon, H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Christie, J. A.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Bull, B. B.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Beaumont. Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm h)||Bullock, Capt. HI.||Colfox, Major W. P.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Reid. Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hulbert, N. J.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Crook, Sir J. S.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Rowlands, G.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Cross, R. H.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Joel, D. J. B.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Keeling, E. H.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Selley, H. R.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Kimball, L.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|De la Bère, R.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Denville, Alfred||Leech, Sir J. W.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Levy, T.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lloyd, G. W.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Loftus, P. C.||Spens, W. P.|
|Dunglass, Lord.||Lyons, A. M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Storey, S.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark N.)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Everard, W. L.||McKie, J. H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Tasker, Sir R. 1.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Magnay, T.||Tale, Mavis C.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Maitland, A.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Furness, S. N.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Markham, S. F.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||May hew, Lt.-Col. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Morrison, G. A, (Scottish Univ's.)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Munro, P.||Wedderburn. H. J. S.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Nail, Sir J.||Wells. S. R|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hambro, A. V.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Peake, O.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Harbord, A.||Peat, C. U.||Wise, A. R.|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Petherick, M.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Porritt, R. W.||Wood Hon C I. C.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Procter, Major H. A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Radford, E. A.||Wragg, H.|
|Hepworth, J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Higgs, W. F.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Rankin, Sir R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hopkinson, A.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Mr. Grimston.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Adams, O. (Consett)||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Groves, T. E.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Daggar, G.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Davies, R. J. (Wisthoughton)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hardie, Agnes|
|Banfield, J. W.||Dobbie, W.||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)|
|Batey, J.||Ede, J. C.||Hayday, A.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Benson, G.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Bevan, A.||Foot, D. M.||Hicks, E. G.|
|Broad, F. A.||Frankel, D.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Bromfield, W.||Gallacher, W.||Holdsworth, H.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Gardner, B. W.||Hopkin, D.|
|Buchanan, G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Burke, W. A.||Grenfell, D. R.||John, W.|
|Cape, T.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Cluae, W. S.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Cave, W. G.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Han. T.||Naylor, T. E.||Stephen, C.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Lathan, G.||Oliver, G. H.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Lawson, J. J.||Owen, Major G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Leach, W.||Parker, J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Parkinson, J. A.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Logan, D. G.||Pearson, A.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Lunn, W.||Poole, C. C.||Viant, S. P.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Price, M. P.||Walkden, A. G.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Pritt, D. N.||Watkins, F. C.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Ridley, G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|MacLaren, A.||Riley, B.||Westwood, J.|
|Maclean, N.||Ritson, J.||White, H. Graham|
|MacNeill Weir, L.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland. N.)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Mander, G. le M||Seely, Sir H. M.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Marshall, F.||Sexton, T. M.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Mathers, G.||Shinwell, E.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Maxton, J.||Silkin, L.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Milner, Major J.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Moreing, A. C.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Muff, G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Sorensen, R. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Adamson and Mr. Anderson.|
§ Clauses 2 and 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ NEW CLAUSE.—(Secretary of State to have regard for assisting certain undertakings.)
§ The Secretary of State, before agreeing to pay any subsidies under this Act amounting in the aggregate to a sum in excess of the amount of one million five hundred thousand pounds during any financial year, shall have regard to the desirability of assisting undertakings authorised by him at the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, and entered into by persons with respect to the provision of air services between Great Britain and other European countries where such services are liable under reciprocal agreement to subsidised competition by the air lines to those countries.—[Colonel Ropner.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.—[Colonel Ropier.]
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I hope the Committee will extend to me a certain measure of sympathy rather than display any resentment. I have sat here for several hours, and it is not my fault that I have to move this new Clause at this late hour. At the same time I do not in the least complain of hon. Members opposite for having given so much time to the last Debate. I hope the Secretary of State will be able to accept this new Clause and at the same time give the Committee a little more information as to exactly which operating companies are to receive the subsidy. The Committee is, I think, entitled to ask whether it has been finally decided that so far as external airlines are concerned 1988 only Imperial Airways for Empire routes and British Airways for European routes shall receive the subsidy. I think the Committee would be interested to hear even if a decision has been arrived at in principle whether exceptional circumstances do not warrant a departure from this course in certain cases. Let me draw the attention of the Committee to page 32 of the Cadman Report and the recommendations Nos. 9 and 10 under the heading "Air Services and Operating Companies." Recommendation g reads as follows:British external air transport should be concentrated in a small number of well founded and substantial organisations;and Recommendation 10 reads:The same external route should not be operated by more than one British company, so as to avoid indiscriminate competition.I do not think there is any hon. Member who would dispute the wisdom of those recommendations. If they are accepted by the Government, we are encouraged to believe that there will be a small number of highly efficient air operating companies working over well-defined areas with no direct competition, but all subject to the encouragement of a certain amount of rivalry, and the increased efficiency which comes from competition of that sort. Later on, there is Recommendation 13 which reads:British Airways, suitably organised, should develop the other air services in Europe ••It seems to me that there is a certain amount of contradiction between Recommendations g and 10 and Recommendation 13. One company is, indeed, a very 1989 small number; it is, in fact, the establishment of a monopoly so far as the European services are concerned. Even if there were no history, even if there were no previous commitments or no prior obligations, I believe that it would be better for the Government to encourage three or four operating companies for our external services rather than one or two. I feel certain that in this way you would get, without any direct or wasteful competition, wholesome rivalry. Each company would serve as a basis for comparison with the other companies, the relative efficiency of each could be compared; and you would, in fact, get something very much in the nature of the organisation of the railway companies in this country to-day, where each company operates over a definitely defined area, but each tries to provide for its customers quicker trains and more comfortable accommodation, and there is a healthy rivalry between the companies which in many senses do not compete at all. I feel that it would be altogether to the good that experience in operating air routes overseas should be distributed among three or four offices rather than concentrated in the no doubt sumptuous offices of Imperial Airways and British Airways. As a matter of principle, therefore, the Government would, I submit, be well advised to develop three or four companies rather than one or two, and for that reason alone I would press the claim of Allied Airways for financial assistance in maintaining its Newcastle-Norway service. But I submit that the claim of this company is even stronger than one based only on disagreement with an arbitrary decision. Civil aviation in this country has a history. We cannot pretend that we are starting afresh at the end of May, 1938. Long before the Cadman Committee was appointed the Fisher Committee was set up and it carefully considered the problems presented by international air transport. In the Cadman Report, page 45, there is a summary of the recommendations of the Fisher Committee. Paragraph 21, referring to the Fisher Committee, reads:They came to the conclusion… that the future policy of the Government in relation to operating companies must be based on three conditions—(1) Government support to more than one company; (2) each supported company to have its own de-limited sphere of 1990 operations; (3) Incentives to expansion and effort by restricted competition and effective Government control.There is no sort of indication in these recommendations that European air services should be made the monopoly of one company. Inded, there is good reason for believing that in 1935 and 1936 it was not the intention of the Government to establish a monopoly. About that time those who were responsible for the direction of Allied Airways asked for the assistance of the Government to establish an airline from Newcastle to Norway. I am informed that Sir Francis Shelmerdine, the Director-General of Civil Aviation, wrote on behalf of this company to Colonel Klingenberg who was the head of Norwegian aviation. The result was that Allied Airways came to a working arrangement with the Norwegian Government, and in 1937 they commenced a regular daily service between Newcastle and Norway, a service which has been maintained with efficiency, regularity and safety. The service was maintained throughout the summer of 1937 and it commenced operations again in April this year. I am informed that it is alleged by the Air Ministry that this company cannot be considered for a subsidy and that its very existence was not even mentioned to the Cadman Committee because it ran only a seasonal service. It ran for six months last year and it is doing the same this year. The Air Ministry should know that its discontinuance during the winter was in accordance with the wishes of the Norwegian Government itself. No doubt the company, if it is given the chance, will in course of time and in co-operation with the Norwegian Government, develop a service which will run the whole of the 12 months. But the existing contract, under which it was working last year and under which it will work this year, is for six months. Whatever the mother country of this British company may think of it, the Norwegian Government appears to have every confidence in it. I am informed, and I believe other hon. Members have the same information, that the Government of Norway has extended a one year contract and granted a concession for five years, and has granted to Allied Airways the right to prolong the service from Stavanger, on the coast, to Oslo, the capital of Norway. 1991 Finally, the Norwegian Government sends its mails by this line. I do not think, after full investigation, that the confidence of the Norwegian Government has been misplaced and I feel bound to ask why the Government of this country withholds equal confidence in this British company. It is not a mushroom concern. It has already found £150,000 and has spent tens of thousands of pounds upon British aircraft. It has built an airport at Aberdeen, it holds the Shetland air mail contract; it operates skilfully and regularly on several internal air routes, and its machines cover 1,200 miles a day over the sea. Moreover, it is in no sense in direct competition with any other operating company. Its very existence, as I have tried to point out, depends upon the assistance of the Air Ministry. If help in the shape of a subsidy is refused and it is elbowed out of existence I have not the slightest doubt that the Government will have to subsidise some other company to fly over that route. Perhaps I ought to say that I have no sort of personal contact with or interest in this company, but they have pioneered the North Sea passage and if any company deserves a subsidy on this route I submit that it is Allied Airways. I know that Governments dislike creating precedents. There is always the fear of consequential claims. I should be the last to advocate that whatever sum we have to devote to subsidies should be frittered away among a dozen or a score of competing concerns, and the Secretary of State will, in his wisdom, have to deal with consequential claims, if there are any. But if that argument be used, and I hope that it will not be, surely it is a cowardly argument. The consideration due to the company should be judged on the merits of the case alone. I know also that Secretaries of State share with lesser mortals a national desire to take the easy path. It is easy to say "A subsidy for Imperial Airways on Empire routes, a subsidy for British Airways on European routes and no subsidy for anybody else." It is a symmetrical argument, but I submit that it is a lazy argument. I should never accuse the Secretary of State for Air of being either cowardly or lazy and I think that he will find that in the end it is better to take the more difficult course and reconsider the question of 1992 subsidising one or two other companies with external services. Only one word more. Governments and Secretaries of State have sometimes sheltered behind the recommendations of committees, but the Cadman Committee were not even told of the existence of Allied Airways. That committee has made its recommendations, and the responsibility now rests solely upon the Government. I am certain that the Secretary of State wishes to be fair; my submission is that it is not fair to kill this company, this child for which the Government are partially responsible. Some air company must run a service to Norway. That company should be Allied Airways which has blazed that particular trail. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the proposed new Clause; if he cannot do that, I hope that he will at least agree that there should be no hard-and-fast rule that would for ever debar enterprising companies from subsidy, other than Imperial Airways and British Airways.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell me the meaning of the last two lines of his new Clause:where such services are liable under reciprocal agreement to subsidised competition by the air lines of those countries.
§ Colonel Ropner
They limit the discretion of the Government to giving subsidies, if the Clause is accepted, to external air lines which may meet competition from subsidised foreign companies. This particular company will surely in the course of time have to meet the competition of a reciprocal service run by the Norwegian Government.
§ Sir S. Cripps
What sort of reciprocal agreement is there which makes one liable to subsidised competition?
§ Colonel Ropner
I was trying to explain, and to give an instance of that very thing. The company has a working arrangement with the Norwegian Government on a fifty-fifty basis, and the reciprocal arrangement with the Norwegian Government may, and in fact will, lead to the Norwegian company being able, if 1993 it is subsidised, to run machines highly efficient, more luxurious and faster than the company with which it is actually working. It is very reasonable that the Government should grant a subsidy to a British company which is working on a reciprocal basis with a subsidised foreign company.
§ 11.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
Most of my speeches on this subject have been made at an earlier stage of the proceedings, but I should like to associate myself with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the other side has said. I would remind the Committee of what was said during the Debates on the Air Navigation Bill two years ago, as it closely affects this matter. We were exceedingly anxious that there should be full opportunity for competition in the case of new subsidies and new services, and we were assured that every facility would be given. Tenders could be put in and everything would come before the House of Commons. If the proposed new Clause is not agreed to, that permission will be broken, and if British Airways is to run all these services none of the other companies will be able to exist at all, or put in any tenders. There is a very strong case for allowing such other companies as have established routes and are carrying on successfully to put their cases forward, and have them carefully considered by the Air Ministry at the present time.
I am not too much impressed by the claims of British Airways to have the monopoly in this matter. They have just put out their balance-sheet, showing that on a capital of £365,000 they have succeeded in losing £367,000. It may be inevitable, but it is hardly a recommendation for giving the company a monopoly of all these air services. I sincerely ask the Minister to give an assurance, in respect of existing air companies, such as this Allied Airways to which reference in detail has been made, North-Western Airways and many others, which participate on certain routes, that before any final decision is arrived at, personal consideration will be given to the matter by the Minister himself. If the right hon. Gentleman can give that assurance he will go some way to meet the views of those who are interested in these matters—although I have no interest in any of these companies.
§ 11.57 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
The matter that has been raised by my hon. and gallant Friend was carefully considered by the Cadman Committee. I would draw attention to their recommendations, which, hon. Members may also remember, were accepted by the Government. That committee said:We feel that, if our national prestige is to be maintained, our external air services must be concentrated in a small number of well-founded and substantial organisations, rather than dissipated among a large number of competing companies of indifferent stability. Subsidised foreign lines will provide all the competition "—that was the point which my hon. and gallant Friend made—necessary to stimulate improvement in services and equipment.They then go on to deal with the matter more in detail in paragraph 37. In paragraph 38 they refer to the participation of Imperial Airways, and they say in paragraph 4o:Subject to our remarks below, the British air services in Europe should be developed by British Airways, which since 1936 has been the chosen instrument of the Government for air transport.The effect of this Amendment would be to cut right across the recommendations of the Cadman Committee.
§ Mr. Mander
I would remind the Minister of the precise wording:external air services must be concentrated in a small number.It does not say what is a small number.
§ Sir K. Wood
The effect must be read in conjunction with the paragraph that follows in which they discuss how you should do it. If the Clause were accepted it would mean the dissipation of this money among seven or eight companies and would destroy the whole object of the concentration into two main agencies, so far as this Bill is concerned. It is such dissipation of money and force that the Cadman Committee was anxious to avoid. As regards British Airways, as I have told the Committee, it depends on the reorganisation of its capital now taking place. I would also like to say that practically all the Continental countries concentrate on a single national air company, such as was advised by the Cadman Committee. I must maintain the principles of the Cadman Report which were accepted, not by myself but by the Government, but I will submit to 1995 my colleagues the case of Allied Airways and see whether, while preserving the principles laid down in the report, it would be possible to bring that company within the terms of the arrangement. Hon. Members will realise that the Government may be prepared to treat Allied Airways as a special case.
§ Sir K. Wood
If I go on to include others I immediately begin to defeat the whole object, which is the advancement of national prestige through one or two companies. I think the hon. Member will see that once we begin to dissipate the money in this way we are not achieving our object. I will have regard to what the hon. Gentleman said to-night, but I will not hold out any hopes, because this is a Government decision and I shall have to consult my colleagues.
§ 12.2 a.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
Will the Minister consider the value of Allied Airways from a defence point of view? They are very useful in training pilots to fly over the sea, and these pilots would be very valuable in time of war in looking for submarines and mines. Will the Minister not say whether he will reconsider the decision to turn down the claims of Allied Airways? I ask him to do so in the interests of Defence, and the training of extra pilots, about which, I know, the Under-Secretary of State is so keen.
§ 12.3 a.m.
§ Mr. Everard
—although I do know more about the subject than some hon. Members opposite. I am obliged to the Minister for meeting us on this new Clause. He has promised to give further consideration to it. I am certain it was never the intention of the Cadman Committee or of anyone else to suggest that the European air services of this country should be run by one company, and that no consideration should be given to those people who have expended capital in building up services. I have watched the growth of transport in various forms, and I have noticed that the small man who 1996 made the start was generally swallowed up by the people who came afterwards. There is no doubt that this company and many others have spent much money in private enterprise for the good of the country, gaining no profit and often meeting with large losses.
I do not think it would be fair to give one company full control of the European services without the Air Ministry coming to an arrangement with these other companies. At the very beginning Imperial Airways itself was an amalgamation of four or five companies. Surely if we are to have a European Air service by one company it can only fairly be made out of an amalgamation of those companies which are to-day running various services. I look upon the Norwegian service as of great importance. The Scandinavian countries have always been great friends of this country, and I hope always will be, and I am delighted to think that an air company operating from Great Britain is able to show the flag in those countries. It is only in that way that we can improve our trade and our relations with those countries. I hope the Minister will bear in mind the large amount of money which private enterprise has expended on these services, and will see that everybody gets a fair deal.
§ 12.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I intervene in this Debate only because I know that nobody in the Committee wants me to intervene. I think at this stage we ought to report progress, but I do not know whether it is possible to move such a Motion now under the Rules of Procedure. But I would like Members to understand, in connection with the Minister's statement on this proposal, that we are facing a serious situation. Money is to be used for two great companies over which the Government have no control of any kind. That has been shown by the earlier Debate in the case of Imperial Airways. I would like the Committee to understand that this proposal destroys all the principles on which capitalism is supposed to be built. What about the spirit of enterprise and initiative now? Where is the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) who says that nothing should be allowed to interfere with the right of a man to start a business? Here we have the Minister presenting a proposal which is directly con- 1997 trary to that principle and hon. Members are ready to go into the Lobby in support of it when the Chief Whip orders them.
The Minister proposes to put all these independent businesses on to the scrap-heap. What chance is there for Allied Airways or North-Eastern Airways to carry on business against powerful companies which are receiving big subsidies from the Government? It simply means that the Government have decided that all these other companies must close down and that a monopoly will be given to Imperial Airways and British Airways. Do hon. Members agree with that proposition? If it is impossible for ordinary capitalist methods to function in this connection, why not have one public company controlled by the Government to run the whole business? But here we are asked to say that two big companies over which the Government have no control are to have a monopoly and are to be supplied with finance to the amount of £3,000,000, while, I suppose, Allied Airways and North-Eastern Airways and the others are to be shut down. It means that all other companies would be shut down, and nothing would be given to any of them. It might be, in a very short time, that Allied Airways would be ahead of them all. To say that only two companies are to be subsidised is rather a peculiar position for a Minister representing a Capitalist Government to take up, and it is a most astounding situation that Conservative Members should support such a proposition.
This matter is of such serious consequence that it is not possible to allow the companies to build up on their own. If this money is to be used it must be for the purpose of founding a public company to run the air lines of this country. The proposed new Clause of the hon. and gallant Gentleman has raised an important matter for all Members, and it should be given serious consideration, and not this flippant reply of the Minister about subsidising Imperial Airways and British Airways. I am sure that a large number of Government supporters are not in favour of companies being pushed out of existence and of the two other companies getting the monopoly and Government subsidy without any control. We demand, instead of that, that a public company should be set up. The two propositions are, that of the hon. and 1998 gallant Member that the small companies showing initiative should get support as well as the big companies, and that there should be a public company. We cannot simply brush this matter aside; it should be taken back for reconsideration, whether by reporting Progress or not, if that course is in order, before Members are rushed into voting for one thing or the other.
§ 12.14 a.m.
§ Colonel Ropner
The proposed new Clause appeared on the Paper for the first time this morning. The Secretary of State has now told us that he will consult his colleagues; I cannot see that he could do more this evening. If the Committee wishes to divide I shall, of course, support the new Clause.
§ Colonel Ropner
On the other hand, with the permission of the Committee, I would beg leave to withdraw the proposed new Clause, and to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not only put the matter before his colleagues but will do what he can himself for these new companies.
§ 12.15 a.m.
Mr. David Adams
As a member of a local authority which owns a municipal airport, may I say that the proposal contained in this Clause has the hearty support of the City of Newcastle-on-Tyne? Newcastle has expended on its airport a great deal of money which today is virtually wasted. An increase both in our internal and in our external air lines is urgently required, and Newcastle, as a maritime port, feels strongly that there ought to be a direct air service between it and near and distant Continental ports. Moreover, if we are to have, as we all desire, an air-minded population, airports must receive something more than the neglect which has been accorded them for years past. If we are to be supreme in the air we shall have to accustom ourselves to the air as we have to the sea.
The opportunity to pursue that course is afforded by this proposal, to which the Minister has indicated he will give favourable consideration. Allied Airways have fought a very hard fight and have expended a great deal of money without any support beyond the local support accorded them in connection with the ser- 1999 vice between this country and Norway; and, since Newcastle is our nearest port to the Norwegian coast, it is naturally desirable that such a service from Newcastle should be maintained and if possible extended. While I would not argue in favour of subsidising any particular air line, I suggest that in the general interest of the air-mindedness of the nation the whole question ought to be favourably considered by the Government.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time."2000
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Benn
We propose to divide the House on the Third Reading. Although, under the new Standing Order, it is quite in order for the Government to take all stages, from the Committee stage to the Third Reading, on the same day, we do not think it is a correct procedure to adopt with a Bill which involves such a large sum of money, and on which such grave dissatisfaction has been expressed by hon. Members.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 141; Noes, 80.2001
|Division No. 229.]||AYES.||[12.21 a.m.|
|Adam, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Hambro, A. V.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Harbord, A.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Apsley, Lord||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Herbert, Major J, A. (Monmouth)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Hicks, E. G.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hopkinson, A.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rowlands, G.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hulbert, N. J.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Bull, B. B.||Joel, D. J. B.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Selley, H. R.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Keeling, E. H.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cary, R. A.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montross)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Kerr; J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Channon, H.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Leech, Sir J, W.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J|
|Craven-Ellis, W||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Strauss. H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Levy, T.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Tale, Mavis C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lloyd, G. W.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Lottus, P. C.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Lyons, A. M.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Duggan, H. J.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Dunglass, Lord||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Fastwood, J. F.||McKie, J. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Emery, J. F.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Magnay, T.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Everard, W. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Markham, S. F.||Wells, S. R.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Mayhew, Lt.-Cot. J.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Furness, S. N.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Wise, A. R.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Munro, P.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Gluckstein, L. H-||Nicolson, Hen. H. G.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wragg, H.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Petherick, M.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H, (Drake)||Porritt, R. W.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Procter, Major H. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir O. W.||Radford, E. A.||Captain Duģdale and Major Sir James Edmondson.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Banfield, J. W.||Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Barnes, A. J.||Benson, G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Batey, J.||Bevan, A.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Bellenger, F. J.||Bromfield, W.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Holdsworth, H.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Hopkin, D.||Silkin, L.|
|Daggar, G.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||John, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dobbie, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Kirby, B. V.||Stephen, C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpath)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lunn, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||McEntee, V. La T.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mander, G. le M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Maxton, J.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Gallacher, W.||Moreing, A. C.||Westwood, J.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parkinson, J. A.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Pearson, A.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Poole, C. C.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Price, M. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hayday, A.||Pritt, D. N.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Anderson.|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ridley, G.|
Resolution agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.