HC Deb 25 July 1939 vol 350 cc1407-26


Motion made, and Question proposed.

" That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for expenditure not provided for in the Array Estimates for the year."
Sums not exceeding
Supply Grants. Appropriations in Aid.
Vote. £ £
1.Pay, etc., of the Army 3,108,000 442,000
2.Territorial Army (to an additional number not exceeding 238,621) and Reserve Forces (to a number not exceeding 100,000 for the Militia) 8,217,000
3.Medical services 348,000
4.Educational Establishments 43,000
5.Quartering and movements 673,000
6.Supplies, road transport and remounts 4,680,000 18,000
7.Clothing Cr.2,777,000 18,730,000
8.General stores Cr.5,882.000 15,365,000
9.Warlike stores Cr. 5,906,000 14,394,000
10.Works, buildings and lands Cr.2,593,900 31,777.9oo
11.Miscellaneous effective services 226,000 1,000
12.War Office 8,000
13.Half-pay, retired pay and other non-effective charges for officers Cr. 144,000 4,000
14.Pensions and other non-effective charges for warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, men and others 12,000
15.Civil Superannuation, compensation and gratuities Cr. 12,000
Total, Army (Supplementary), 1939 £ 100 80,731,900
Mr. GarroJones

May we have the customary explanation?

10.55 P.m.

Sir V. Warrender

The hon. Member will realise that this Estimate deals with the bill which has to be faced as the result of the doubling of the Territorial Army and the introduction of compulsory military training. There are other items in the Estimates. For instance, measures connected with the expansion and acceleration of the defence programme for the Army, and there is a substantial sum included to pay for the reduction to 20 of the age at which soldiers in the Regular Army are officially recognised as married and can receive grants in respect of dependants. The largest item is, of course, connected with the formation of the Militia, the militiaman's pay and the money required for the erection of camps. There is also hutment accommodation and the finding of accommodation for these men. The next largest item is that required to pay for the doubling of the Territorial Army. There is a saving of over £6,000,000 to go against this, due to the formation of the Ministry of Supply. With the formation of the Ministry of Supply certain establishments which hitherto have been charged against Army Votes will in the future be charged against the Ministry of Supply. There is also certain personnel, most of them connected with technical research. I will not trouble the Committee with the details of the various Votes, but if any hon. Member has any point to raise I shall be only too glad to give the Committee what information I can.

10.58 p.m.

Mr. Bellenger

In view of the criticisms which have been made by way of questions in the House as to the manner in which some of these hutments have been put up and the rather exaggerated cost in some cases, I should have hoped that the hon. Member would have told us a little more about that subject. There have been complaints that some of the Forces have been turned out from hutments and placed in tents to make way for the Militia. None of us would desire to see the militiamen tŕeated in any other way than that their physical comforts should be looked after, but there is a feeling in certain quarters that adequate preparations have not been made for the reception of the Militia. We know, of course, the circumstances which precipitated the calling up of a considerable number of these young men, but we should have thought that could have been foreseen and that accommodation would have been provided for these militiamen. We are not asking that they should be mollycoddled, but we do expect that appropriate accommodation should have been provided, and we hope the hon. Member will set our minds at rest in this respect, as we have a feeling that the accommodation is still not there for these young men who have been called away from civilian life. Can he tell us whether sufficient accommodation in the way of huts is now available for the whole of the Militia forces which have been called up?

11.0 p.m.

Sir V. Warrender

The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that I am a little disappointed at some of his remarks about our success in providing accommodation. I think he must have forgotten that it was not until 26th April of this year that the announcement that compulsory military training was to become a feature of our National Defence was made, and that it was not until the end of May that the Bill implementing that decision became law. The fact that the War Office was faced with the task of making all the administrative arrangements, as well as providing accommodation for these militiamen, some 150,000 of whom are to be called up in the first 12 months, caused the Department to be faced with one of the most gigantic tasks which any Government Department has ever had to undertake. The fact that we shall have been able to provide hutted camps, as they will be provided in time to accommodate the men before the summer ends and the cold weather comes on, is not, I think, a matter of criticism, but is one on which those who are responsible in the Department deserve the greatest praise. I do not suggest that when a Department is working at that sort of pressure everything goes absolutely smoothly. That is more than one could expect. The hon. Member must realise the strain to which not only the Commands but also the branches in the War Office, are being put. I think they have achieved something which certainly was unparalleled in the last War, and they have done it on a scale which deserves the greatest praise.

The hon. Member asked me whether it was true that Regular soldiers are being turned out of barracks and put into tented camps in order to make room for militiamen. That is true. I will tell the hon. Member why it is being done. Some of the young militiamen who are coming up are in a very soft condition. The Regular soldier is kept fit and tough, and he can turn out of the barrack room and go into more arduous conditions without suffering any ill effects. I think it was only fair— and I do not think the Regular soldiers have resented it in the very least—that the personal condition of the militiamen in their initial stages should take precedence in settling where the two classes of men were to be accommodated. I assure the hon. Member that within a very few weeks the militiaman will be in just as healthy and tough a condition as the Regular soldier, and that he in his turn will be fitted to suffer the rigours of an English summer. I do not think there is any grievance on that score, but naturally we are anxious to do the militiamen well. We believe that much depends upon the initial batch going home and saying what a fine time they have had, and if it means a little discomfort for the Regulars, I think the Regulars will understand and appreciate the reason why.

The hon. Member also asked whether there would be sufficient accommodation for all the militiamen. I think that will be so, in spite of the fact that more men have been allotted to us than we had anticipated would be. I do not pretend that all the camps will be ready on the exact date on which we had hoped they would be, but there is no doubt, I think, that the hutted camps will be ready in sufficient time to accommodate the militiamen before the cold summer ends and the warm winter begins. I realise, as does the hon. Member, that the unfortunate conditions of the last fortnight have caused considerable discomfort in these camps, but every step is being taken to mitigate that discomfort. I am not sure that they would have been very much more comfortable had they been in hutted camps, but the hutted camps, when they are completed, will be model establishments, as I think everybody will admit. They will be amply large enough to accommodate the men who will go into them, and there will be ample accommodation in the barracks and depots where the militiamen not in the anti-aircraft camps will be accommodated. Perhaps the hon. Member would like to have an opportunity of visiting them.

Mr. Bellenger

I shall be happy to avail myself of that invitation.

11.5 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

I fully realise the magnitude of the task which has fallen upon the War Office, but I must point out that it is a task which the War Office invited and not one which was thrust upon them. Can the hon. Gentleman give us some facts and figures to show what the situation is at present? How many militiamen are living under canvas, and about what date is it expected that they will be accommodated in huts? I can imagine that when the Bill was passed, about Whitsuntide, when we had a few days of fine weather, the idea of living under canvas may have made a strong appeal to the prospective militiaman. But in the sort of weather which we are experiencing at present, the glamour of living under canvas has probably worn off, and it would be interesting to know at what date it is hoped to relieve the militiamen of the hardships which they are now enduring, and to accommodate them in huts.

I am sure that the militiamen do not wish to live softly. I do not think that is their spirit at all. I read with great interest the remarks made by the Secretary of State for War on that Saturday when he made a tour of inspection of the Militia camps. He said, in effect, to the militiamen, "You are the guests of the nation and the nation wishes to do you proud." But I think the wisest words said upon that Saturday were said, not by the Secretary of State but by an unknown sergeant who was reported in the Press as having said that he thought the militiamen would be very disappointed if they did not get "a little bit of the real sergeant-major stuff." He was probably nearer the truth than the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure, as I say, that the militiamen do not wish to live softly and that they would be disappointed if things were made too easy for them, but in view of the present weather conditions I think we ought to know how many are living under canvas and when it is expected to transfer them to hutments.

Sir V. Warrender

The majority of the men are in huts at the present time. I would hesitate to give the exact date on which all the hut camps will be completed, but I hope it will be towards the middle of September and a large number will be completed before then. No effort is being spared to get on with the work as quickly as possible, but there are certain difficulties which militate against speed in this connection. I appreciate what the hon. and gallant Member said about the spirit of these men. Wherever any of us has gone among these camps we have found the same thing. I think it would be an excellent idea for hon. Members to see for themselves and my right hon. Friend will be only too pleased, if hon. Members give him notice or give me notice, to arrange that they shall see for themselves the conditions under which the men are living.

11.10 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

As one who has felt rather sore about the subject, I should like to bear out what has been said by my hon. Friend as to the date on which these camps will be completed. I think it will be about the middle of September—about the same time as the Territorials return from camp. The huts are being put up where we have been soldiering under canvas. When we arrived there they were about half way up. I should say that about the day we return they will be up and ready for the Militia, which is about the middle of September. I should like to bear out my hon. Friend in what he said.

Mr. Assheton

I should like to pay a tribute to the enormous speed with which the huts have been put up.

Question put, and agreed to.



Motion made and Question proposed,

" That an additional number of Air Forces, not exceeding 32,000 all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at home and abroad, excluding those on the Indian establishment, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, beyond the number already provided in the Air Estimates for the year.''

11.11 p.m.

Captain Balfour

I think it would be the wish of the Committee that I should endeavour to give a brief outline of what we are asking for in this Estimate. We are asking for an increase of personnel of 32,000 regular officers and airmen, bringing the maximum number who can be borne on our establishment up to 150,000, and it is expected that this number will be substantially reached by the end of the present financial year. These additional personnel are required for three reasons, firstly because of the acceleration of delivery of aircraft, secondly, because of the decision to man permanently a portion of the balloon barrage, and thirdly, because of the formation of more squadrons for overseas and trade protection. The fact that these extra squadrons were to be formed was announced by the Secretary of State in the Estimates presented on 9th March last but, as a decision regarding the actual number of squadrons to be formed had not been reached at the time when the Estimates were prepared, it was not practicable to include that number in the Estimates.

The personnel of the Auxiliary Air Force called up for service in the balloon barrage count against Vote A, but those young men who are allowed to volunteer, and whom we are able to take for six months continual training, do not appear on Vote A. As regards finance, the money to be voted is only £100, but we are asking for authority to appropriate receipts amounting to £40,000,000. Of this sum £500,000 appropriated in aid of Vote I represents the Royal Air Force's share of gifts generously given towards Imperial Defence by certain Rulers and the Governments of certain oversea Dependencies which are named on page II of the Supplementary Estimate. The remaining £39,500,000 is being provided from the Defence Loan and, as to £23,500,000 is in aid of Vote III, Technical and Warlike Stores, £16,000,000 in respect of Vote IV, Works, Buildings and Lands; and these are the Votes which bear the capital cost of rearmament. I could give details of the items Vote by Vote, but I have endeavoured to give a general picture as regards the personnel and finance for which we are asking authority.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Poole

In connection with the increase of personnel of 32,000, there is one matter which I should like to raise. I regret that I have not informed the hon. Gentleman of my intention but I overlooked the fact that an opportunity would be afforded to-night. I want to speak specifically about the camp which the Department is in process of building at Cannock Chase, in the division which I have the honour to represent. I asked a question a fortnight ago of the Secretary of State for Air as to the rates of wages being paid in the construction of this camp, and I was informed that for a 48-hour week labourers in the employ of the Department were being paid 47s. a week, and I was told that that was in conformity with the general wage rates prevailing in the district. I do not know where the Secretary of State obtained his information. I have suggested that he might approach the Ministry of Labour in the area, because if he does, he will find that the rate of pay which his Department is paying these men is completely out of conformity with the general rates prevailing in the district. I have in my hand a letter from one of the trade unions concerned, the Union of General Municipal Workers, which caters mainly for unskilled labour in this area, and the rates which they give me as applicable in this area are as follows: building trade labourers, is. 1¼d. per hour; civil engineering labourers, is. id.; electricity labourers, is. 1½d. The lowest of these figures would give a higher wage rate than 47s. for a 48-hour week, and I would like the Under-Secretary to tell me on what he bases his figure of 47s., unless he is taking into consideration the wages of agricultural labourers, which would be grossly unfair.

There is very serious unrest in this camp on account of the rates of pay, and I appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, for the sake of harmony and of getting the job completed, to look further into the matter, and, having satisfied himself that these rates of pay are not the recognised rates prevailing in the district, to do what is only right and proper, implement the fair wage principle, and pay the rates applicable. I have a letter from one of the people concerned, a civilian waiter in the sergeants' mess, who says: I assure you that there has been grave discontent with regard to the people mentioned, and many of the employés feel that they are definitely being outrageously robbed. My wages are not even £2 5s. 5d., but £2 3s. 5d. a week, for a 48-hour week, with two hurried meals. He goes on to say that three weeks ago a warrant officer came into the mess demanding food two hours after the time, and the staff attempted to serve him, but because he was short of soup, he sacked the whole of the staff. The rest of the staff on the building threatened to walk out, but the chief, sensing trouble, reinstated the whole staff the following morning. For the guidance of hon. Members, I may say that this camp is located at Cannock Chase and is many miles from anywhere where warrant officers could get meals provided for them so that it was probably a question of discretion being the better part of valour that the whole staff was reinstated. That gives some indication that there is discontent, and I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he considers that 47s. is a reasonable remuneration for men engaged in laborious work at Cannock Chase. These men have to travel long distances to their work, which necessitates their being away from their homes, not eight hours a day, but 11 and 12 hours a day, in order to get in eight hours' employment. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give the matter his further consideration.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. Garro Jones

I think that neither the hon. and gallant Gentleman nor his right hon. Friend can complain of the amount of interrogation which they have suffered in regard to air matters during the last six months. In particular, there has been a screen of secrecy thrown over the operations of the balloon barrage, and I think it is time now that we should have some information upon this form of defence, upon which such large sums are being expended. At present all we know about the balloon barrage is that the right hon. Gentleman has been made an honorary Air Commodore of one of the squadrons, and that the balloons themselves will have a moral effect upon the enemy pilots. I see also that the Prime Minister has been accorded an honour of that kind. Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman satisfied that the balloon barrage is really worth the amount that is being expended upon it? I do not wish to extract from him any military information. All the information I propose to refer to is certainly available to anyone who cares to get it.

To what height can these balloons go? I have observed the thickness of some of the cables—that is a little point which anyone could get who cares to see them— and we know that this is information which is already in the hands of any possible enemies. The cable is almost a quarter of an inch thick. It is a perfectly simple matter for anyone to work out from the size of the balloon what length can be carried to what height by that size of balloon. Why, therefore, should that question be surrounded with such an element of secrecy? Then, why is it that one of the largest depots of the balloon barrage, where are stored enormous quantities of equipment, is situated in what is believed to be one of the most vulnerable parts of London? Why should these depots be centred in the industrial and vulnerable areas? These balloons are supposed to be extremely mobile and is there any reason why these accumulations of supplies should be in one place?

What measures are being taken to forestall what I would describe as counter-balloon-barrage methods? For example, are any experiments being conducted into the possibility of the utter destruction of balloon barrages by some form of cutting instrument on the leading edge of an aeroplane wing? I believe it is right to say that certain experiments are being carried out, I think in Germany. It is said that in Germany they are emulating our example in establishing a large number of balloon squadrons, and yet in another quarter I have been informed that the emulation of our balloon squadrons is merely undertaken to lull us into the belief that these balloon barrages are really effective. This is the time for us to have some information. I do not believe that it is possible to bluff anybody with balloon barrages, and if it were ever found that these were an illusory form of defence the day of retribution would be very serious for the Ministers who are responsible for it. It may be that information with regard to the effectiveness of this idea—I will not put it higher than that—has not reached me, and if it is possible for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give us some assurance as to the number of the balloons, the height to which they will go and the measures which have been taken to test their effectiveness I am sure he will be doing a useful service.

11.25 p.m

Mr. J. J. Davidson

I wish to put one or two questions to the Air Minister. There may be certain questions which, for reasons of high policy, he may not desire to answer openly in the Committee, and I do not desire to ask any question that, would hinder the advance of the Air Service to-day. For a number of years I have received most unsatisfactory replies when I have raised matters re-relating to the progress of the Air Service in Scotland. I would remind the Committee that the Government Chief Whip, when asked about the anti-aircraft units, told us that the position in Scotland was very satisfactory, and that when hon. Members asked for information he told us that we had two anti-aircraft units in the whole of 'Scotland. With a great flourish in the country an announcement has been made that there would be nine balloon barrage systems established. We were to have one in the North of England and one in the Glasgow area. I trust I am making myself clear; I am speaking under very great disability. When I raised the question of the balloon barrage system in the Glasgow area, I was assured that progress was being made and that the contract had been established. I hope the Minister can refute the information which I have received from a very reliable source, the representative of a national newspaper in Scotland. [Laughter,] The right hon. Gentleman laughs, but I would tell him that the Scottish newspapers have a reputation that is the envy of the newspapers in every other country of the world, with regard to the issuing of correct information. I have been informed that, after many months, Glasgow has now one balloon, and that it has been lent to Glasgow by London. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to assure me that that is not. so and that definite progress is being made with respect to the balloon barrage system in our area. I have continually believed, against the scepticism of many of my friends, that the balloon barrage is one of the most effective weapons of defence for the ports and shipyards of Glasgow, which would be an essential food centre for the rest of the country. I trust that this story can be refuted to-night by the right hon. Gentleman and that we may be assured that definite progress is being made.

When first I received this disquieting information I said to my friend: "One cannot wonder, because I understand that only English contractors are operating in Scotland and until the Air Ministry decide to give Scottish contractors the benefit of using the opportunities which they have of being on the spot and having labour and organisation available, this state of chaos is bound to occur in national defence." I would take the opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the invitation he extended to us with regard to the Air Forces of Scotland, and to say that we shall be very glad to have information to-night with regard to the progress and expenditure that are taking place in Scotland. I understand that the Defence Departments have realised for some time that Scotland is still a part of the British Empire, and that it would be dangerous to neglect the Defence Services there. I trust that I can be assured that some considerable part of this money is being expended in maintaining progress in regard to the defences of the northern part of the country. I would also like some assurance that the Auxiliary Force will be open to men who in many ways can give special service to the nation in this respect. I have seen one or two applications from men who were well fitted but who have been rejected on grounds which I cannot but regard as rather flimsy. I trust that this expenditure will result in an opening up of the Auxiliary Force to men whose capabilities will ensure their becoming useful members of that Force.

11.32 p.m.

Sir H. Seely

As has been said before, the right hon. Gentleman has had a very easy time during the last four or five months, in that he has not been questioned very much in this House as to what has been happening. I am not going to question him very much, but there are one or two points on which I should like some information. The right hon. Gentleman is asking for a good deal more money, and I should like to know a little more about what is happening at Cranwell. Cranwell is a sort of Sandhurst for the Air Force, but, as far as I can make out, it is not the policy at the present time to extend the number of entries into Cranwell for training as officers. The Air Force is, as the Minister said, being greatly expanded, and we want to know that the fabric is being built on a sound basis. The number of officers now demanded is out of all proportion to the number still at Cranwell. Is the Minister satisfied that the right method is being followed, and with the present extension of the granting of short-service commissions to people who merely have flying experience, with no experience as officers or of any responsible position?

I am not going to join issue with the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) on the question of the balloon barrage. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman says that we have a great many things in store for the bomber, but no doubt when he visits a bombing squadron he says that the bomber is going to get through into other countries. There is no doubt that in the future all defence against air attack is going to be of a nature which will be unknown to any of us until the actual facts appear, as everyone hopes they will not.

11.35 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

I cannot help contrasting the interest which was aroused among Conservative Members by the House of Commons Members Fund Bill and the interest displayed now. I feel mystified over these proceedings. If I understand aright, we are being asked to vote £100, and if we do the Air Ministry will be able to spend £40,000,000. I am trying to buy a car on the instalment system, and this makes my mouth water. I think we are entitled to protest against the magnitude of the sums which we are being asked to vote so hurriedly and at so late an hour. For "aircraft and balloons" the original Estimate was £93,000,000 odd and the revised Estimate is £107,000,000 — an increase of £14,000,000. I think it a great mistake to bracket aircraft and balloons in that manner. Undoubtedly the greater amount of the expenditure is due to aircraft. It would give us a clearer picture if there were some dissection. We have had a great deal of publicity about the balloon barrage; in fact, I remember two remarkable photographs last year of the Secretary for Air. One showed him shaking hands with a gendarme at Monte Carlo. I was never able quite to understand why it was calculated to promote confidence in our defences, but it was a good photograph. I remember another which showed him crawling inside one of the balloons of the balloon barrage. That was very interesting indeed. I have always wondered what he saw when he got inside, but I do not know that these things have increased my confidence in the efficacy of the balloon barrage, which I am rather inclined to regard as eyewash. But, assuming that it is a good thing for London, I should be glad to know when it is to be extended to some of our provincial centres, which are equally in need of protection. I would invite the Committee to look at page 8 of the Supplementary Estimate, to sec the enormous sums with which we are dealing in this hurried fashion at this time of night. There is a heading "Works, buildings and lands." A great many pertinent questions have been asked in this House recently about the purchase of land. Some very disquieting figures have been brought to light by the purchases of land, and here we have these Estimates. The original Estimate totalled £44,820,000 and the revised Estimate, £60,820,000. I notice that the £820,000 seems to correspond in a remarkable way but there is an increase of £16,000,000. In these days of astronomical estimates, when these enormous sums of money that we are borrowing may never be repaid, naturally one says, "What does it matter if we shove on a few more noughts?" But even in these days a sum of £60,820,000, involving an increase in the original Estimate of £16,000,000, is worth a little attention from this Committee, yet we are asked to deal with it in a few minutes at this late hour of the night, when a little intervention on the subject is possibly slightly resented by Members who would like to get home to bed.

There is only one other point to which I would like to call attention, and here I really would ask the Under-Secretary for a little information, because I think that some of it might be of an interesting nature. On page 9 we find the item for Women's Auxiliary Air Force. The original Estimate on this account was £3,800, but the revised Estimate is £18,800, an increase of £15,000. I imagine that hon. Members of this House probably find in their experience that women do become a little more expensive. The Minister must expect it when he embarks upon this sort of thing. Here is the Air Minister reaping the experience with which most hon. Members are familiar, that whereas he thought that he was going to get these ladies for £3,000, they have, in fact, cost him £18,000, which is £15,000 more than he expected. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will be able to afford the Committee some explanation.

11.43 p.m.

Captain Balfour

I will endeavour in as short a space of time as possible to satisfy hon. Members who have asked questions on the Supplementary Estimate. The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Poole) asked about the local rates of wages paid to civilian employés at the Cannock Chase Camp, and wanted to know whether the rate which he quoted was considered to be adequate. He also said that he had not given specific notice that he was going to raise the question, so he will not expect me to deal with specific figures when I tell him and the Committee that the principle that we adopt for the payment of civilian employés is to pay the local rates applicable for the particular sort of work in the district, and, further, that there is machinery for revision periodically, and when representations are received as to whether the rates that are being paid are comparable with those that are paid in the district. The hon. Member asked my right hon. Friend a question on this subject a short time ago, and if my memory serves me rightly, my right hon. Friend said that, if the hon. Gentleman would send him particulars, he would be glad to look into the matter himself.

Mr. Poole

Actually the figures for which the Minister has asked are in the process of travelling between me and him at the present time.

Captain Balfour

I can assure the hon. Member that my Department and my right hon. Friend will see that the matter is dealt with expeditiously. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) raised the question of balloon barrage efficiency and asked me whether I was satisfied as to the value of the balloon barrage. I can give him an affirmative answer, and I may say that the same opinion is held by those who have a far greater knowledge of these matters— the Air Staff. I can assure the hon. Member and the Committee that the Air Staff think highly of the efficacy of the balloon barrage, and that our experience up to date has not in any way disappointed our hopes. The hon. Member asked questions about cable thicknesses, which I would not go into. He also asked why it was necessary to have centralised stores in an industrial area. He did not specifically say what particular stores he was referring to nor what area, but I would inform him that the balloon barrage is essential to form a protection for industrial districts, and! therefore, in each particular area we need a depot to serve the barrage for that particular area. The hon. Member also asked me about counter balloon barrage measures. My reply is that these matters are entirely confidential. He said he wondered whether all information did reach him. Let me give him an assurance that all information on this subject has not reached him.

The hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) asked me about Cranwell and whether that establishment was being increased in relation to the large growth of our Air Force. The Cranwell establishment has been increased. The intake of cadets this year is materially greater than last year, but we have to guard against increasing the number of permanent careers in the Air Force beyond the point at which we can safeguard careers for these officers right up to their age of retirement. Our Air Force is largely an expanding one and we have candidates from among short service officers, candidates from aircraft apprentices and from the ranks, candidates from the universities and from the Dominions as well as from Cranwell, and if we increase the numbers from one class we must proportionately increase others; and we are doing this.

Sir H. Seely

Can the Under-Secretary say the number which has been increased at Cranwell?

Captain Balfour

I will try to let the hon. Member have it, but I can tell him the broad principle on which we are increasing, and that is that we are having regard to the permanent careers of the officers in the Service. The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) asked about the progress of the balloon barrage in Glasgow. I can give him an assurance that definite progress is being made, according to our plans, with the equipment, personnel and buildings for the barrage in Glasgow. The Committee will be glad to know that recruiting in Glasgow has been as satisfactory as we expected and is in keeping with the high standard of volunteers we meet with all over the country for the Service.

Mr. Davidson

I do not think that answers the point that I put specifically to the hon. and gallant Member. Although the hour is late I hope he will not try to dodge the issue. My information, plainly, is that this balloon barrage system, which was instituted with a flourish by the Air Ministry a consider- able number of months ago has, up to date, only one balloon, and that balloon has been lent to them from London. I ask specifically and definitely whether that is true.

Captain Balfour

The hon. Member has given me no notice of that particular question, so I do not think he can expect me to say whether the balloon barrage in Glasgow has merely got the practice balloon, which is sent to all barrages, or something more. It may have its complete number of personnel and may have its total equipment issued within, perhaps, a period of one week. You may have a barrage squadron with only one balloon and next week it may have its complete equipment.

Mr, Davidson

I am sorry to intervene again, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman stated that the balloon barrage system in Scotland was in a satisfactory state of progress. Is it the opinion of the Air Ministry that a balloon barrage system instituted many months ago and not having one balloon is in a satisfactory state?

Captain Balfour

The hon. Gentleman should be a little more careful in trying to repeat what I said. I said the balloon barrage in Scotland was progressing satisfactorily according to our plans. I may tell him that the date is not yet due for the Glasgow balloon barrage to be completed, but I have no reason to think that it will not be completed by the planned date, and there is no question of its lagging behind. I can assure the hon. Member that it will be completed by the time that we have planned for it so to be.

Mr. Dalton

May I ask if we can be told, without the disclosure of secrets that might aid the enemy, what is the planned date?

Captain Balfour

My right hon. Friend says he mentioned it in his Estimates speech. The date for the final completion of the provincial barrage is the end of this year, but actually it will be largely complete about September of this year.

Commander Fletcher

When do we get our balloons back for London?

Captain Balfour

Let me at once answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman that not one effective balloon has been taken from London, but what we have tried to do while we are building up the organisation of these provincial barrages is to give each unit a practice balloon in order that the men may be taught to handle the balloons so that when their equipment comes in full they are ready to handle it. The hon. Member for Maryhill also asked me about the progress of air defence expenditure in Scotland. We do not segregate the expenditure on Scotland for air defence in relation to that for England, but I can assure Scotland that it is getting full value as regards the plans for the air defence of the essential ports and cities of Scotland, and if there were in our national budgets a division as between Scotland and England it might be found that Scotland was winning.

Mr. Davidson

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has misunderstood my point. A certain expenditure was allowed us in the Estimates with regard, for instance, to Wick and the training schools, and how much of that expenditure has been spent up to date? Can we have an indication as to whether the progress of the work is satisfactory?

Captain Balfour

If the hon. Gentleman is asking for specific items of Vote 4, works buildings, I cannot tell him without going through the complete Schedule, except to say that so far as I know works and buildings in Scotland are progressing well. If the hon. Gentleman will look at the growth of Vote 4 he will realise the tremendous task which has been undertaken by the Air Ministry in the construction of these preparations. finally, I was asked about the Women's Air Force. I cannot answer that without notice, and I would like to make this final comment on the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Nuneaton (Commander Fletcher). He commented upon the magnitude of the totals. I agree that they are tremendous. But I do think that this is an indication of the money needed for expenditure on a rapidly growing force both in personnel, equipment and works and buildings. I have done my best to answer the specific questions which have been put to me, and I hope the Committee will not grudge voting this vast sum of money, because it is needed and is being well spent.

11.56 p.m.

Mr. Dalton

I only want to point out that whereas at an earlier stage hon. Members on these benches satsilent im- patiently waiting for the debate on a small domestic matter to pass in order that we might discuss these important matters of Defence, now that we have reached these important topics the Debate has been wholly conducted by hon. Members on these benches while Government supporters have sat in silence like a dumb friends' league of the Government. They have shown no interest in the Defence of the country. Hon. Members opposite have sat in sullen and ignorant silence. I am sure that the Under-Secretary will give His Majesty's Opposition credit once more for pressing forward the Government to make provision for a more effective defence of the country and a removal of the many neglects of the past.

Question put, and agreed to.

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