HC Deb 11 March 1941 vol 369 cc1217-53
Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, realising that the quality of our pilots, aircraft and equipment, opposed to the great numbers of the enemy, has been the main cause of our success in the air war, urges His Majesty's Government to mobilise all the means of research at its disposal so that we may retain this all-important advantage of quality in the struggle which lies ahead of us." When I look at the modest two rings on my arm, and consider the gold lace and the medals for distinguished service which surround my right hon. Friend in his capacity as Minister, I feel a little diffidence in opening this Debate. But I hope I shall not be accused of immodesty, for when, some months before the war, I asked to join the Balloon Barrage, I was both flattered and amazed to receive a letter from a high and distinguished officer who asked me whether I would not find it difficult to combine my Parliamentary duties with commanding a squadron. I wrote back that I had no previous experience, and I was quite prepared to do the most menial jobs, even polishing the commanding officer's shoes. Unfortunately, the scales of fortune have now been tipped the other way; that distinguished officer is a prisoner in Sicily, and I am left here to move this Amendment.

The main theme of my Amendment is quality. The other day I happened to be standing on that portion of Black-down near Tennyson's Lane. To the South I could see Chanctonbury Ring on the Downs above Brighton, and to the North that line of chalk hills which run from Dorking and Reigate to Sevenoaks. Chanctonbury Ring is on the coast; at Sevenoaks one is already at the gates of London. Suddenly, a speck no larger than a gnat appeared off the coast, and it was not more than about three minutes by my watch before that speck roared overhead in the shape of a multi-engined modern bomber. This small incident brought home to me, as perhaps nothing else so clearly could, the speed and the striking power of modern war. And I could not help thinking at the same time of the countryside at my feet, of the patchwork of plough and pasture, of the scattered farms, the copses, the sound of the woodchopper's axe, and the smell of burning wood—the undisturbed immemorial life of the English countryside. And I could not help thinking also of our great capital city which lay beyond those chalk hills, of the millions of people who come and go to their work every day in London, of the life in city offices and in great Departments of State—in short, the life of London which, except for the scars of war, carries on as in peace time. And I could not help reflecting that all this we owe to one main fact—the quality of our aircraft and the bravery of our airmen. I feel that we cannot do too much in future to repay the men who built those aircraft and the men who fought them so successfully. Surely, that great phrase of the Prime Minister's will pass into our national heritage: Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th August, 1940; col. 1167, Vol. 364.] People will feel the same all over this country. If I may translate that sentiment into the popular vernacular, I was greeted the other day by an old lady who evidently mistook my humble Balloon Barrage uniform for that of a Spitfire or Hurricane fighter pilot. She said, "Eh, lad, you ought to live rent free for the rest of your life."

It was the Spitfires and the Hurricanes that saved us in the battle of Britain, and it is a fact well known to people who fly that a pilot in a good machine, and better still a superior machine, will take on the greatest odds. As the air correspondent of the ''Daily Telegraph'' most aptly wrote: A bad pilot in a good aeroplane is useless, a good pilot in a bad aeroplane is much better, but a good pilot in a good aeroplane is the guarantee of victory in the air. One could not fail to see the corroboration of this fact in the great air battles of last summer, when we saw two or three Spitfires charge headlong into great droning formations of the enemy, 25 or 50 strong, and scatter them. When we look back upon those days, the result seems to have been almost miraculous. I like to think that, in future times, that period when the air seemed to all of us to be full of the sound of diving fighters, rather like the sound of the screeching of angry cats, I thought—the rat-tat-tat of machine-gun fire, and the vapour trails in the sky—I like to think that those great days will rank in our history with the fire-ships of Calais and the great wind which scattered the galleons of Spain. It was quality which won us those victories. It is the old secret of quality, a secret as old as the battle of Marathon and as new as General Wavell's victories in the Libyan desert.

How are we to maintain this all-important factor of quality? Only, I believe, by daily and by tireless research. I believe that the Hurricanes and Spitfires which won us these victories were evolved from the original prototype of the Schneider Cup machine; and it is a sad reflection that in those days of peace at one time that great opportunity for experiment, the Schnieder Trophy, was left to the generosity of a private individual. We cannot afford to repeat such mistakes. I believe it is also true that the Hurricanes and Spitfires which won us victory over Dunkirk and over Britain were on the drawing board as much as five years ago. It is a fact that one must constantly bear in mind that the great machines of modern war take such a long time to prepare. Therefore, when we are fighting for our very existence, we cannot afford to lose a single minute where research is concerned.

I would like to put forward with all due humility one or two suggestions. This House has a certain characteristic which makes the charm of its atmosphere, a characteristic which makes a member regret the day he leaves it and which makes him feel, as I do, that he would rather spend his days here in the most insignificant capacity than be outside. It is that every Member has the right to get up and voice his honest considerations. Like every other back bench Member, I have no special means of information, and within such a limitation I have to reach my own conclusions.

I was frankly surprised when I found that research came under the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Diarchy is always an uneasy form of government, and I cannot help feeling that, given the best will in the world, the diarchy which exists between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production cannot but be difficult to work satisfactorily. I am making no personal attack upon the Minister of Aircraft Production. He is a man of dynamic energy and is such a good salesman that I am certain he would find no difficulty in setting up a booth for selling iced-drinks at the North Pole at a considerable profit to himself. Nor do I cast any aspersions on my hon. Friend, whose tact and sympathy make him an example of that saying of Disraeli's that "You can catch more flies with a tea-spoonful of honey than with a gallon of gall." Nor do I wish to refer to the resignations that have recently taken place in the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Perhaps they would more properly be discussed in Secret Session. I feel that this system of diarchy must work uneasily. If I may borrow a familiar school phrase, I feel that the Ministry of Aircraft Production should be, although a willing partner, the "fag" of the Air Ministry-. The Air Council has to formulate its policy. It knows what type of problem it will have to face; how many machines, how many fighters and how many bombers it will require. It should never be put into the position of merely having to take the machines that are available. If I may escape the watchful eye of Lord Woolton and use a cooking simile: Supposing I want to make a chocolate pudding for four people, I shall require an ounce of flour, an ounce of butter, a quarter of a pint of milk, two ounces of chocolate and two eggs. Say, however, that I am told that as butter is short I can use only half an ounce, but as there is a surplus of flour, I must use three ounces, and as there is no chocolate perhaps I could use horseradish to add a little spice. It is all-important that the Air Council, which formulates policy, shall have the final voice in research and production.

In the old days, before the Ministry of Aircraft Production came into being, there were, I understand, two committees working at the Air Ministry—the Aeronautical Research Committee and the War Research Committee. The first devoted itself to problems of flying, and the second to problems such as armament and other operational matters. I understand that since 1940 the War Research Committee has not been in operation. The advantage of the arrangement was that Sir Henry lizard was chairman of both committees and could, therefore, satisfactorily coordinate war operations with aeronautical research. That would be a valuable precedent to re-establish. I feel also that a scientific advisory committee might be of advantage at the Ministry of Aircraft Production. I understand that the Ministry of Supply and the Admiralty have such committees. They are composed, firstly, of scientists actually occupied in the Ministries, and, secondly, of scientists taken from outside. These are men who enjoy a wide national reputation and are in contact with men of proved scientific ability. Lord Hankey's committee, the Scientific Advisory Committee to the War Cabinet, might well be used to co-ordinate all the various scientific committees of the various Ministries. It might be a Cabinet of Science.

It is important, in this question of research, that no scientific ability should ever be overlooked. A man who is well known for his work on pressure cabins should not be compelled to work on fuses. It is also important that we should train as many as possible of the promising young scientists. We are told that it takes two years to make a promising research worker. Many great universities are near large manufacturing centres, and it would be useful to get the young research workers to study practical problems in the factories while they are still at the university. I also hope we are taking full advantage of the co-operation of eminent American scientists like Dr. Conant, of Harvard University, who has come here to give the benefit of his vast experience.

Thirdly, I believe that it is all-important in this war to get as much of our research and production as possible away from the range of enemy bombers. If we can do this, we resemble a man who can grapple his opponent by the throat while his opponent's arms are waving wildly in the air. Very shortly in the United States and in Canada vast arsenals of democracy will be in operation. I would like to see also an arsenal in the East based on India, South Africa and Australia. This would be an invaluable factor in saving shipping when every keel that can bring goods to this country is of value to us. I would like to see an arsenal of the West based on the United States and Canada, using this country as an advanced air striking base in the operations against Europe, and an arsenal in the East based on India and Australia, using either Singapore or Egypt as an advanced striking base against any enemy in the East.

I come back to my main point, the question of quality. I believe that only quality of our men and machines will give us victory over the enemy. We are told that the second great battle of Britain is about to start. The enemy is mobilising submarines and fleets of bombers and stakes everything on strangling us this year. The stakes are enormous. If we lose the war, we cease to survive as a nation, but if we win, we shall have the honour of shaping the future of the world to happier ends. At this moment that future may depend on so relatively small a thing, as a carburettor or the pitch of a propeller. I believe that we have the intelligence and the best scientific resources of the world at our disposal. Let us try to use them. Across the Atlantic friendly hands are now stretching out towards us. America is determined to help us. I believe that the sentiment of the average American is best expressed in those last four lines of Alice Dewer Miller's poem: I am American bred, I have seen much to hate here and much to forgive," But in a world where England is finished and dead, I do not wish to live

Major Cazalet (Chippenham)

I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so, I am glad to have the opportunity of paying in a very humble fashion some small tribute to the great and growing strength of the Royal Air Force. It may well be invidious to draw a distinction of any kind between one Service and another, but undoubtedly our fighter and bomber pilots, who go up day after day and night after night, sometimes twice a day, are owed a debt of gratitude by the rest of us which we shall never be able to pay. I warmly support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), which he moved in a most delightful and informative speech. His main theme was the necessity for quality for pilots, machines and equipment. If there is one direction in which we have the finest quality in the world to-day, it is that of our pilots. I believe that our national characteristics of intuition, individual enterprise, and decision will always in the long run make our pilots better than those of any other country. One who is certainly entitled to express a view on the subject told me that at the end of the last war the numbers of German and British machines were more or less equal, and that the machines of the Germans were as good as ours, and it was only the moral superiority of our pilots which enabled our Air Force to triumph over the German.

Could we have a better example of the effective result of quality than in the recent short but very expensive adventure of the Italian planes which came over to this country? I believe that the Italian pilots are brave, and that the planes they used were excellent machines two or three years ago. The result of the encounter is well known to all of us. Even those with limited knowledge of the air know what a tremendous source of encouragement it must be for a pilot to know that his machine will not only not let him down, but that in case of necessity he will always be able to get just that little bit more out of it. But eventually you come to the point where "the best is the enemy of the good." We have heard in the past of production being held up almost indefinitely as the result of improvements being added by one Ministry or another at the last minute. Someone must decide at the particular moment what is the particular machine to produce, and I believe that the Air Ministry is best fitted to make that decision. It is the only way in which we shall have real production. No one will deny that in the long run quality will win and to get this quality it is obvious that there must be unceasing research in all aspects of aerial warfare from high-grade octane fuel to balloons.

I think very little is known about the balloon barrage. The men in it get very little credit and no publicity. Day in and day out these men remain on duty. When raids come, they have to stay put, and I think more credit should be given to them than perhaps has been given in the past. They have performed a very vital function. They have, with very few exceptions, kept hostile planes up above a certain level. I should like to ask whether research is going on into the question whether balloons can get up to any greater height? Why has not a greater effort been made to get out to a height of double the present figure? In France balloons went up to over 20,000 feet.

Our success in the air war is due to two things—the defence put up by our aeroplanes and the defence that comes from the ground. The latter is contained in the organisation known as the Air Defence of Great Britain. This Force is for operational purposes under the Air Ministry, but for administration, discipline and so on, it is under the Army. It would perhaps be better, if we could do things over again, to put the whole of it under the Air Force, but I doubt very much whether in the middle of the war it would be possible to alter that dual control to-day. I want to say a word in regard to it as it is affected and as it is controlled by the Air Force. It is divided into searchlights, light guns and heavy guns. In regard to the first two, I have little to say. Searchlights, no doubt, are going through a process of experiment and flux: they have played their part in the past, and it is hoped that they will play it in the future. Light guns, namely those which can take on aeroplanes up to 10,000 feet, have not recently been utilised, for the simple reason that the German planes have kept well above 10,000 feet; therefore it is the heavies which have made their contribution in the last few months. It should be remembered that the A.D.G.B. has been responsible since the Blitzkrieg started for bringing down over 1,000 planes—no mean contribution to the air defence of the country. We often hear it asked why the barrage is not more effective. I think there is an answer to that. I do not think the man in the street quite realises the problem, the scientific problem, which we are up against. After all, the heavens are very much bigger than most people imagine. A very clever man once suggested that if we could divide the heavens into squares of a thousand yards or a mile and fill each square with shells, it would be a perfect and complete deterrent to aircraft passing through it. It does not require much calculation to show that to fill one square with an impenetrable barrage you would require something like 10,000 guns.

Again, I do not think many people realise that a shell from a heavy anti-air-craft gun takes 30 seconds from the time it leaves the muzzle of the gun before it reaches the altitude in which the aeroplane is expected to meet it and explodes. I am only giving these points to show the necessity for scientific research into these matters. In some cases, in fact, it is necessary to aim three miles ahead. It has to be remembered, too, that in the air we are dealing with three dimensions and not two, and it is obvious that much skill, research and scientific knowledge are necessary if we are to deal effectively with the enemy bomber by anti-aircraft fire. I believe that much research is going on under the direction of General Pile. Up to a point the barrage has been effective. It has kept the planes up, it has prevented them hanging about, and it gives us all a certain amount of courage when we hear the guns going through the night. Up to date it was luck rather than skill which brought them down, lately however, the defence has been gaining on the attack. We have heard about new inventions. They are coming into play. They are being manufactured in ever-increasing numbers.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member said just now that he had finished what he wanted to say about this. I must remind him that research into anti-aircraft gunnery is not a matter for the Air Ministry.

Major Cazalet

I only made that point because I wanted to show that, although you discover new methods either of attack or defence, the enemy is always pushing ahead just a little further. I have not any doubt that within a few months the enemy aeroplanes will go up another 5,000 or 10,000 feet and increase their speed by another 50 miles per hour. So it goes on. If we are to deal effectively with this problem, we must apply our minds, our energies and our scientific knowledge to research the whole of the time. We have to keep just ahead of the enemy. It may well be that from among every thousand offers of inventions or suggestions only one is of use. That does not matter. To win this war we have to get ahead and keep ahead of the enemy in research and in quality. I am one of those who believe that the aeroplane is not merely a form of long-range artillery but that this war will very largely be won in the air, by the Air Force. We have many assets, we have a cause in which we all believe, we have pilots inferior to none, we have the materials of the world available to us. Let us give our men everything that science and research and quality can provide, and I am sure that with this combination of moral and material assets victory will be ours.

Dr. A. V. Hill (Cambridge University)

It is recorded, I know not with what truth, of the late Lord Fisher that, when it was suggested to him that meteorological research and observation should be taken due account of in planning naval operations, he replied that His Majesty's Navy did what it intended to do, D.V. or otherwise. Fortunately that over-simplified attitude no longer exists in the Admiralty. Last week the First Lord of the Admiralty announced that a scientific advisory panel had been set up in the Admiralty. It was first proposed in 1917 that such a panel should be set up. It is no blame to my right hon. Friend that 24 years have elapsed before it has at last emerged. The proposal was made to him only three months ago. May I say how warmly it is welcomed by the scientific community.

The panel is to contain a Service scientist—that is, one within the Admiralty— two serving officers and two independent scientific men from outside. It embodies the principle which has long been urged of co-operation between inside and outside scientists on the one side, and between scientific research people and naval Service staff on the other. We hope that this is the beginning of very important developments in the use of research in the Navy in relation to war. A similar organisation already exists in the Ministry of Supply, where it functions admirably. One could recount a number of recent important achievements made within this organisation. Some of them are relevant to the subject under Debate, since they are concerned with air defence. The organisation contains a Council and a number of committees, the chairmen of which are members of the Council. It deals with every subject of interest to the Ministry of Supply, from substitute materials to mathematical ballistics.

I know how much value there is in this co-operation between inside and outside scientists and between scientists them- selves and Service staffs. My own recent experience has been more particularly in the direction of co-operation between scientists and the Anti-Aircraft Command. During the last six months very great activity has taken place, and I am sure that the Commander-in-Chief would agree with me in the value that I attach to that co-operation. I should like to pay the warmest tribute to the friendliness and imagination shown by him and his officers in their co-operation with scientific people. It is fortunate that the organisation exists in the Ministry of Supply. There has been no serious criticism of it. Many problems, including the very difficult one of the night bomber, are being tackled. The Secretary of State for Air said that we must not expect spectacular results. Research on these matters ought to have been intensified years ago, but continuous progress will now be made as methods and devices which we are now trying help us to get over our problems. The Ministry of Home Security, through the organisation of its Civil Defence Research Committee, has the best available outside advice at its disposal, and it has excellent internal research and experimental stations.

What then about the air? The Ministry itself, as is also the case with the War Office, where research is dealt with by the Ministry of Supply, has practically no research organisation. I say practically none, but it does do research under the so-called Personnel Committee, which is a joint committee of the Medical Research Council and the Air Ministry, of which Sir Edward Mellanby is chairman. This Personnel Committee deals with problems of research into high flying, the comfort of pilots, selection, questions of vision and visibility and the design of equipment in relation to the personnel who have to use that equipment. This latter subject has been greatly neglected in the past. It is a very important branch of Service research. It is apt to be neglected because engineers are inclined to concentrate on matters of performance—aero-dynamic or other performance—rather to the neglect of the personnel and the human question of the men who have to use the equipment. That point, however, is now in hand, and one has hopes that similar research will be undertaken in the other Services.

There was a research organisation analogous to that of the Ministry of Supply in the Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Defence, the so-called Tizard Committee founded in 1935. That, in co-operation with the Director of Scientific Research and the Air Staff, through those critical years between then and now did work of the very greatest and most vital importance. It had the advantage of frequent discussion with the officers commanding in different Commands, with the Air Staff and with the officers concerned with research and development. There was, therefore, very close touch with that Committee between the scientific people inside the Air Ministry and the scientists outside. There was also the closest touch between science and research on the one hand and the operational people on the other. Its success was due largely to the chairman of the Committee. The battle of Britain was won last autumn, first by the skill, courage and devotion of our pilots; then by the high quality of the material which they had in their hands, and thirdly—and it must not be forgotten—by the effectiveness of interception. Without interception, pilots and machines are of no value. That interception depended upon the organisation of the Fighter Command. It also depended upon research into methods and devices of interception.

The Committee to which I am referring just grew up, unlike that in the Ministry of Supply, which was planned from the start. It had little status and authority. It worked rather by good will and friendly co-operation. When the Ministry of Aircraft Production was formed it was found that the Committee no longer existed. Sir Henry Tizard himself, the chairman of the Committee, after a successful mission to America which has resulted in the cooperation of which we now read in the newspapers and the presence here of the President of Harvard, succeeded Sir Wilfrid Freeman as Air Member for Research and Development, but without any authority, as he was not a member of the Air Council on which his predecessor had been.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)

I think the hon. Member means the Director-General of Research in the Ministry of Aircraft Production?

Dr Hill

He found all sorts of difficulties in his way. He faced those difficulties with much more patience than I should have faced them. I know those difficulties, and I agree with the decision to which he has now come. It is true that much work of the highest quality has been done by the excellent scientific departments of the Ministry. It is true also, however, that we are now living on our fat. Research does not consist only of following up known and existing lines; it consists of anticipating the enemy, of knowing what the problem is going to be one, two or three years from now, or at any rate guessing it; of seeing the enemy's countermoves to moves that we make against him, and of anticipating them. That anticipation or looking forward, that judgment of the future, is the essential basis of real research. It is those characteristics which make the great research man, and it is those qualities which, particularly in regard to the solution of the problem of interception, helped to win the Battle of Britain in the autumn. That anticipation is the function of inside scientists and research workers co-operating with those from outside, of scientists co-operating with the officers who have to deal with operational work. The matter could be put right now if Sir Henry Tizard could be induced to return by offering him proper facilities and proper authority in his work. He is not like Achilles, sulking in his tent. He is unique, alike for his operational knowledge, for his knowledge of aeronautics and aerodynamics, for his technical and scientific knowledge, and for the complete confidence which his scientific colleagues and, I may say, the officers of the Royal Air Force, have in him. I submit that it is intolerable that we should not be using a man of his quality to the full, and that it is disgraceful that he should be driven from his position in the Ministry.

An hon. Member has spoken about the presence of our American scientific colleagues here, and I mentioned them earlier in my remarks. There is another side to that bearing on the same question. The arrangements for this co-operation between ourselves and America have new gone through, but not without hesitations and delays in the Ministry of Aircraft Production. There have been temporary alarm and dismay in the minds of our friends in the United States owing to these apparent hesitations and delays. The arrangements on which so

much hope was based seemed to be lagging, for no apparent reason. The situation fortunately has now been put right, before irreparable damage has been done, and it is only fair to let them know that these hesitations were not the fault of their colleagues here, nor were they the fault of the Royal Air Force. We are very well aware of the advantages of this co-operation, we hoped and prayed for it, and the hesitation was due to the same personal cause as the other difficulties which I have mentioned.

The essence of research in war is to be ahead of the enemy. We are ahead now, but that is because of what we did three years back. What we do now will have effect, not next week, perhaps not next year, but it will have its effect some time. Where we are not ahead at present is where we did not do research at the right time. The danger is that of living on our fat. The nature of research is threefold. Firstly, there is the limited amount of long-range research, particularly into those subjects where 1 per cent. difference in performance, as in a race or fight, may make the difference between victory and defeat, and research into these matters can largely be obtained from our friends and colleagues in America. Then there is the ordinary research and development of the Goverment research establishments; and, thirdly, we come to this kind of operational research, if I may call it that, which is of the utmost importance and whose importance is not yet fully realised. It involves new, untried equipment which is going through its teething troubles and which has to be tried out under war-like conditions. If the new equipment is not understood by those who have to use it, it will be discarded without proper trial. Its trial has to be planned, its proper use by those who are to work with it has to be planned, and we have to try to anticipate the way in which the enemy will counter its use. This reaction between the pure research people on the one side, and those doing the business in the air or with the guns on the other side, is of the utmost importance in the type of war in which we are now engaged. Such organisation of research exists in the Ministry of Supply; it is now going to exist in the Admiralty; it exists in the Ministry of Home Security; and it must be made to exist to the same degree in the Ministry of Aircraft Production—or, failing that, let it return to the Air Ministry.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)

I think the House will agree with me that this is likely to be a very useful Debate. The point raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Dr. Hill) is one that we and the Government should consider. The point is, whether this is a suitable opportunity for reviewing the situation in regard to air research and making different arrangements from those which have prevailed. Other hon. Members have pointed out some of the difficulties. The hon. Member who spoke last referred particularly to the break-up of the scientific committee on air defence, but he did not give the reason. In order to avoid contoversy, I will not mention names: I will only tell the House that the break-up of that committee was totally unnecessary, and that it was due to the interference of a certain person, who shall be nameless, but who made the conditions under which the committee had to work absolutely impossible. I leave it at that. This is an opportunity for the Air Ministry to reconsider its position in the matter. As has been pointed out by the last speaker, there is the closest connection between air research and actual operations. It is highly probable that new tactical schemes of value may originate from quite junior commissioned officers of the Air Force, and that they will be unable, owing to lack of scientific and technical knowledge, to judge whether the schemes are practicable or not. It is necessary, therefore, that there should be the very closest liaison between actual operational squadrons, and their officers, and scientists and technicians who are capable of judging such matters. On the other hand, any research department must also have the closest liaison with actual technical developments.

The House and the Government have to consider whether we are likely to get better results by making the gap between research and development, or between research and actual operations. My submission is that, on the whole, it is better, as research has to be, as it were, in close touch with one, and in less close touch with the other, that there should be close touch with operations, and less close touch with development. When we get on to technical questions, as apart from scientific questions, one wants a completely different sort of brain to tackle them. That has become evident already in the working of the Directorate of Research and Development at the Ministry of Aircraft Production. May I give examples, and may I say, in presuming to address the House on this subject, that I have had some forty years experience in invention and development of new devices? I want to put it in non-technical and non-scientific language to Members of the House. I have found in my experience that the technical side of development of any device of one sort or another depends ultimately upon scientific research. In ordinary commercial engineering we are usually unable to get the best scientists in the scientific world and have to be content with what I may term cheap scientists. But we who are technicians pure and simple, and concerned with the actual production of mechanical devices, are, generally speaking, totally unable to deal with scientific research even in the branch of engineering in which we are engaged.

The important thing about Sir Henry Tizard, which makes him of supreme value to the country at the present time, is that he is almost unique in his flair for appreciating on the one side operational requirements, and on the other side purely technical considerations. I think, with the last speaker, that it would be a disaster if we did not employ a man of unique qualities such as are possessed by Sir Henry Tizard. He has found it—and I make no bones about the matter—quite impossible to work at the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Whether that is due to some fault on his part or some fault on the part of other people, it is not for us to judge. The fact remains that he just cannot do it and that his work has not been carried on under conditions where he could get the best results. It seems to me that at the earliest moment, particularly now that the disturbing element to which I have hinted already is out of the way at the Air Ministry, he should be able to develop his unique qualities under very much more suitable conditions. It is notorious that he has also, in addition to the capacity of understanding all technical and scientific problems, a great flair for being able to get the best out of junior officers. I believe that is due to the fact that he has had Air Force experience himself. I ask the Secretary of State for Air to consider this point very seriously.

An opportunity has arisen for re-establishing scientific research on a proper basis in his own Ministry. That opportunity might well be made use of and be a factor tending to the efficiency and, I think, the satisfaction of the Air Force itself.

From the point of view of the Admiralty and Fleet Air Arm, though I am not authorised to speak on their behalf, I think the relations between the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force at the present time are so satisfactory that we should be perfectly content for this change to be made. We do not say that we must have research in a neutral country because we are at war with the Air Force. We are not at war with the Air Force. In spite of all efforts in recent months to put us at war with the Royal Air Force, we refuse to be at war, and all these attempts have resulted in better relations and more mutual confidence between the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force than have ever existed before. I think, speaking subject to correction by superior officers, as I am not authorised to speak for them, the Fleet Air Arm would be content to see research, and possible development as well, transferred from the Ministry of Aircraft Production to the right hon. Gentleman's Department.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production (Colonel Llewellin)

Perhaps I might be allowed, first, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), who moved this Amendment, on having been lucky in the Ballot and having had an opportunity to raise matters dealing with the Service in which he himself is now serving. I would also like, if I may, to congratulate him on his speech. One of his points, which was followed up by three succeeding speakers, was why technical development and research should be at the Ministry of Aircraft Production and not at the Air Ministry. In some ways, I am in as good a position as most people here to deal with a problem like that because not so very long ago—within two years—I was at: the Admiralty. If you look at the organisation at the Admiralty you see under which superintendent Sea Lord the Director of Scientific Research works. If you look to see whether he is under the First Sea Lord, who is responsible for operations, or the Third Sea Lord, who builds ships, you will find that he is closely allied to the production side and not to the fighting side.

Passing from that very pleasant Department, as I did, to the Ministry of Supply, the first thing I found was that we were raising with the War Office the question of whether technical and scientific people should remain at the War Office or go to the Ministry of Supply. The decision in that case was that they should go over to the Ministry of Supply and there they are to-day. Exactly the same thing happened when the Air Ministry shed from itself a part which became the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Originally, I am told—and most of us know it—Air Council research did not come under the Air Member for Production. Here let me say in passing that the Air Force and the Ministry of Aircraft Production, in particular, owe a very great deal to Sir Wilfrid Freeman. I think he ought to be given a great deal of credit for the production which won us the battles of last May and for the many new types which we are now bringing into existence. What I wish to stress is that when he was made Air Member for Production he was also made Air Member for Development and Production. That is to say, the Air Ministry decided that development and production, to be any good, must go hand in hand.

It is not usual for a member of the Government belonging to one Ministry to be replying on the Vote for another Ministry and several people to-day have asked whether the Air Ministry and Ministry of Aircraft Production are in close touch. I think the fact that we are can be envisaged by anybody who sees me standing at this Box to-day. This Amendment, too, is only in order because part of the expenditure on work in the Development Department at the Ministry of Aircraft Production is still borne on the Air Ministry Vote. That is the only way in which my hon. Friend has been able to get his Amendment in order on the Air Ministry Vote. So, what are we to do? We cannot put production engineers from the factories into the Air Ministry and attach them to various offices, but we are, in this set-up of production, in close touch with the user side by having a large number of Air Force officers—most of them extremely valuable —attached to, and working in, the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Therefore, the users are close to the scientists and the technical people, and they in turn are close to the producers. I should be horrified to see research and development taken far away from production. I should have thought that my hon. Friend, being a manufacturer, would have known that we must, if we can, keep new development in line so that we can get mass production in the factories; that we must get the aeroplane into the air as soon as it comes from the factory, so that we can produce in large numbers. I think we had better leave the matter in the keeping of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, thus following the method by which scientific research and development work at the Admiralty, the War Office and the Ministry of Supply.

Mr. Hopkinson

The Minister says that we should leave the matter in the keeping of the Ministry. Our contention is that the Ministry have failed to keep the men.

Colonel Llewellin

Does my hon. Friend mean that the Ministry of Aircraft Production have not taken hold of the job?

Mr. Hopkinson

They have failed to retain the scientists.

Colonel Llewellin

I think my hon. Friend the member for Cambridge University (Dr. A. V. Hill) was under a misapprehension. I have seen two letters that have passed between Sir Henry Tizard and my Noble Friend. Sir Henry has not resigned, and if the hon. Member for Cambridge University will look at the letters, I think he will come to the some conclusion. Sir Henry Tizard is, I regret to say, ill. He is certainly not sulking in his tent. He wrote that he thought as he could not come back for two months he ought to put his resignation in the hands of my Noble Friend. My Noble Friend wrote a letter saying that we hoped to see him back, and encouraging him to come back. Sir Henry then wrote another letter saying that he would think the matter over and he hoped he would be able to come back. My Noble Friend wrote a second letter wishing Sir Henry a speedy return both to health and to his duties.

Mr. Mander

Is it not the case that four other distinguished persons in the sphere of production on a similar kind of work either have resigned or are so dissatisfied with the present situation that they are thinking of doing so?

Colonel Llewellin

I know that there are rumours. There has been a resignation of one person holding a high position in the Ministry, and rumours have got about. As far as Sir Henry Tizard is concerned, I can assure hon. Members that we do not want him to leave us, that we realise the good work he has done for the Royal Air Force in the past, and that he can do in the future; and both my Noble Friend and I will try to get him back, if we possibly can, as soon as he recovers from his illness. As rumours have got around, perhaps it is as well that I should tell the House what has happened. Sir John Salmond, a Marshal of the Royal Air Force, has indeed left us. Having served as Chief of the Air Staff, he came into the Department at the beginning of the war, and served in a comparatively low position in the Ministry, having once been Chief of the Air Staff at the Air Ministry. He came into the Ministry as Director of Armament Production. He has now resigned. My Noble Friend has been ill for three or four days and he was going to see Sir John Salmond on this matter, but when he returned after his illness, he had another letter saying that Sir John had handed over to his successor and had left. That is one case of somebody who has retired. There are three other gentleman whose names have been bandied about. I do not know whether I need mention them by name and I do not think I need go into their cases now. One wanted to go back to his firm, another wanted to go back to his association, and the third, as far as I can find out, never wanted to leave at all. To say that any of them wanted to go because they were dissatisfied with development or research, is quite wrong. They are not on the research or development side. They are still working in the Ministry and I do not think that any of them has any present intention of leaving. A great deal of rubbish has been talked about resignations from the Ministry.

Mr. Mander

These gentlemen are thoroughly happy and satisfied?

Colonel Llewellin

I believe they are. One of these gentlemen is Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner. He is paid by the Association of British Aircraft Manufacturers and not by the Ministry, and it is a little difficult for us to keep him, if that association demands to have him back. It has asked to have him back. My Noble Friend has asked the association to let us keep him, but eventually, of course, he may go back and he is at liberty to do so. These gentlemen have not resigned, and it is really some malicious tongue that has spread the story that we have had all these resignations.

Mr. Garro Jones

With regard to Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, is it not a fact that he was appointed by the Society of British Aircraft Constructors in order to maintain liaison with Government Departments and that he was in the anomalous position of being paid by the society to do that duty? He then appeared to make some kind of transfer from the society by whom he was paid to the Government side, but nobody ever knew who was his real master and nobody knows to-day for whom he is working.

Colonel Llewellin

I think I ought to defend Sir Charles a little. He knows a good deal about aircraft manufacture and was doing valuable work with the Air Ministry. He is now doing extremely good and valuable work for us. He has been working on our dispersal scheme for factories and we are very much indebted to him for the work he has done. There is no question that he is working just as though he were a paid servant of the Government in the Ministry. He gets his instructions from the Ministry through the ordinary channels. I ought to say out of loyalty to Sir Charles, that he has worked hard for the country both under the Air Ministry and, since I have known him, in the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

Mr. Garro Jones

I have no intention of casting any reflection upon the integrity of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner. What baffles me is the anomalous nature of his position, and I want to know who gives him the instructions to guide him in the work he has to do from day to day.

Colonel Llewellin

They are given to him in the main by the Minister. Sometimes they are given by the Air Supply Board, of which I am chairman, or they may be given by me, or by the permanent secretary, or anybody who is senior to Sir Charles in the organisation. He acts under the instructions of the Ministry as opposed to acting in any way under the instructions of the trade. In other Departments there are cases where remuneration is still being paid by the firms and where no remuneration is asked from the State. There are a number of cases in the Ministry of Supply, and quite a number elsewhere.

Mr. Mander

Could the Minister state the position of Mr. Pate?

Colonel Llewellin

Mr. Pate wrote a letter asking to be allowed to go back to his firm instead of being Director-General of Engine Production. The Minister saw him, and I am glad to say Mr. Pate is still serving at the Ministry. Mr. Buchanan is a Civil Servant, and I have never heard that he wished to leave. I think it is rather unfortunate to bring a Civil Servant's name forward in this connection. I think I have dealt quite fully with the cases which have been going around. The hon. Member for Cambridge University stated that there was no independent scientists working with the Aeronautical Research Committee of which Sir Henry Tizard is chairman. There are, in fact, several outside scientists on this Committee, and in addition, the Chief Superintendent of the Royal Aeronautical Research Establishment, the Director of Scientific Research at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the Director of Meteorological Research at the Air Ministry and the Director of Scientific Research at the Ministry of Supply. At any rate, that Committee is going fully ahead.

A question was asked with regard to balloons. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the French balloons did not go as high as was suggested. They did not reach 20,000 feet but 15,000 feet. That is higher than the balloons around London, but that French balloon was not lethal, that is to say, if an aeroplane ran into its wire, the wire would snap, the balloon float off, and the aeroplane fly on. There is not a great deal of point in having a balloon of that sort. We believe in keeping our balloons lethal, so that if anything hits the cable the probability is that the aeroplane will be brought to the ground. The hon. Member can rest assured that we are going very fully into the problem. and I think we have a solution to the problem of having a balloon with a lethal wire at a very much greater height than at present. My hon. Friend will not wish me to give more particulars than that.

I want to say a word or two not so much in reply to anything that has been said as to ask indulgence in respect of one matter, should it arise. In the old days before December the Department which deals with this matter received suggestions from inventors at the rate of about 1,000 a month and some of them were very good, but I am afraid the majority of them had been thought of before or were not much good. In December the figure of inventions received, rose to 40,000 in that month alone. They have all been answered now, but if anyone gets a letter from a constituent complaining that his suggestion has not been promptly answered, I hope he will bear that fact in mind. I have said that some of the suggestions were not so good. One was that the way to tackle the night bomber was to take up a cat in every fighter aircraft and, as the cat could see in the dark, wherever it was looking you could aim your gun and you were certain of bringing down a machine. Another gentleman could not think why we had not decided before to freeze the clouds and mount anti-aircraft guns on them. He did not tell us how we could get the guns up there and he did not realise that the clouds are not a stationary platform and that ice is, unfortunately, heavier than air. But we get very good suggestions, and we do not want to discourage anyone from sending them in. We hope we shall be forgiven, however, if we do not deal with all of them as quickly as might be expected.

I should like to tell the House what I can about one or two other things in addition to what the Secretary of State had to say, on what we have been able to do. It seems to me that a fighter in the air is very much like a fighter in the ring. The pilot is the head and the eyes, the controls are like the nerve system of the human body, the guns are the arms which deliver the blows and the engine is the heart and, if you want to get increased power of performance, you want to increase the engine power. We have approved and have now under development five new engines. Four of them we are now producing and installing in aircraft. The Rolls-Royce Merlin is famous the world over, and two new types of that are two of the five of which I have spoken. They give increased speed and they give performance at greater height. One is a conversion of an existing engine, and anyone concerned with production will know what that means. It is a change which we can make in the minimum possible time and with the minimum number of man hours. The other three are made by other firms. One of these, which is less than six feet in length, develops more power than the Royal Scot. The next thing I spoke about was the poise which gives the manoeuvrability to the aircraft. My right hon. Friend has also spoken about our three new heavy bombers, the Halifax, the Stirling and the Manchester, and also about the Tornado fighter and the Whirlwind. Naturally, he did not mention the full number we now have. There has also been the addition of the Fulmar to the Fleet Air Arm. These six aeroplanes are new ones which have come into operation since last May, and the Fulmar has already done very good work with the Fleet Air Arm.

In addition to these we have seven other prototypes, including the Tornado, about which my right hon. Friend has spoken, and one of them, I hope, will fulfil the requirements which my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr Simmonds) had in his mind. As regards both the engines and the aircraft, we ought to give a great deal of credit to the grand designers with the firms as well as to the large number of very good and very hard-working officials in our Ministry to whom, in part, the perfection of these designs belongs. I do not want to mention any designers by name, because it would be invidious to do so, but just as the name of Mitchell, the man who invented and brought out the Spitfire when he was dying of cancer—though I am thankful that he saw it fly before he died—will go down to history, so will the names of these others be on the roll of fame. As to guns, we are increasing their power and the number of rounds that can be fired from an aircraft during each second. With the increased speed of aircraft there is less time in which they are within range, and you need to deliver more lead into the machines you are trying to bring down. We have also to contend against any armour which may be put on the vita! parts of enemy machines.

I am afraid that I have talked much longer than I had meant to do, but I would assure the House of this—that there will not be production in quantity at the expense of production in quality. It is true that, here and there, we have turned down modifications which will not affect the fighting efficiency or the safety of an aircraft. Gadgets tend to creep in as somebody wants this or that personal device, but where a good thing is produced the House can rest assured that my Noble Friend will push it forward for all he is worth. He has a method of seeing the problem and of getting the man to deal with it. He takes advice as to who it shall be and sees him personally, and if he makes up his mind that the man has drive, the man has to go round and follow things up. On a question of guns, for instance, a distinguished officer in our Ministry had to report to the Minister by telephone several times a day on the progress that was being made. That is the way my Noble Friend pushes these matters through. For my own part, I happen to remember that in the last war we first gained superiority in the air, then lost it, but eventually regained it. I was at that time commanding a battery in France and a lot of my good friends the pilots who were observing for us were shot down—in the days when the Germans gained ascendency in the air. With those private recollections at the back of my mind I can assure the House that I, too, shall try to see that we not only produce aircraft in large numbers but of better quality than those of our enemies. That, indeed, is the aim of my Noble Friend and myself. We intend to succeed in that aim.

Mr. Granville (Eye)

I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for Air on the very interesting survey he gave us of the work of the Royal Air Force. Limited, as he must have been, by important considerations of secrecy, he was, nevertheless, able to give us a certain amount of reassuring information. He said that he refused to be over-optimistic in certain respects, and he gave the House a warning again that we have not yet seen our way to conquer the night bomber. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) moved his Amendment. It is extremely difficult to talk about technical developments and research in a Public Session of this House, because most of such questions must be secret in war-time, but my hon. Friend initiated a Debate which has proved worth while.

In his opening speech, the Secretary of State for Air answered in advance a certain number of the criticisms that have since been made. He told us that the Royal Air Force is facing the spring and summer stronger, and better able to meet any attempt of the Luftwaffe at a new battle for mastery of the air. We must remember the difficulties through which the Royal Air Force have had to go, including those of training, during the last year. The aircraft industry also have had difficulties, including those of demands made by the Services upon our man-power. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who made a speech in criticism has left the House, I am sorry that he makes these speeches. It is vital that the Air Ministry and those responsible for production should work together to enable us to attain not only superiority over the Germans in quality but eventually in numbers, in the air.

Some hon. Members look upon questions of research and technical development in aircraft production as though they were entirely new, but they are not. This matter has a history. We lost on technical development in 1935, when we went in for the deficiency and expansion programmes. Most of the good experts said at that time that when you turned over to mass production and quantity production you were bound to lose something of the value of whatever help the Air Ministry might be able to give in the way of research and technical development. This is how we had to envisage this problem in 1939. When the Air Ministry had to make hurried decisions at that time, and to consider a doubled or trebled Royal Air Force, the position was not quite the same as it was when you could come to this House and say that technical development and research could be carried out in an entirely academic way.

This question of research and technical development concerns not only the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production said, it is not a new question to the aircraft firms themselves. I was glad that he paid tribute to the late Mr. Mitchell for his great work in designing the Supermarine Spitfire, and, of course, there was Mr. Camm, who designed the Hawker-Hurricane. I would also mention men like Mr. Feddon, who gave us reliability in aircraft engines, when they themselves may not have realised how vital it was going to be to us to-day. I would also pay my tribute to the Air Ministry. I have never been able to make up my mind whether they are good or bad on this vital question of research and development, but I would say this: They certainly guessed right with the eight-gun fighter and with the reliability long-range bomber, and they were not to know that we were going to lose France as an emergency landing-ground. Therefore, I would pay my tribute to those men in the Air Ministry who gave a good deal of time, thought and study to this problem in the past and whose foresight has proved right.

The German air force gambled on quantity. They went in for vast numbers without the system of modification, without prototypes and without a period of experiment, whereas in this country, although we had a small Royal Air Force, we had the benefit of all those years when we were steadily producing and improving our types, so that when the expansion period came in time of war we were able to reap the benefit. I am certain that the Luftwaffe, when it made its great gamble in mass production—because, after all, it could not have started much before 1934—in turning motor-car factories over to aircraft production, and so on, must have made many mistakes, and here, I believe, was perhaps the key to the success of our aircraft last September, when, by reason of the long number of years of research and technical development, we were able to put into the sky aircraft which proved completely superior in design to those of the Luftwaffe.

One hon. Member has referred to America. I would like to pay my tribute to the American aircraft industry in sending those first-class military aircraft to this country, and I am glad that we had the reassurance from the Secretary of State for Air that they are coming in increasing numbers. I was also glad to hear an hon. Member behind me refer to technical developments and to co-operation between the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the American industry. America can teach us much with regard to range and reliability, particularly on the civil side, but in fighter aircraft most improvements and modifications must be based on combat and fighting experience, and the Royal Air Force has had the opportunity of this experience. Designers, whether in the industry, in the Ministry of Aircraft Production or in the Air Ministry itself, must continually watch for the lessons of actual aerial combat with regard to fighter machines when they are carrying out modifications in development.

I hope that, in envisaging as we must, a great striking force composed of American and British aircraft, we are going to keep the closest liaison in technical development between this country and America. It may be that we shall see the American industry taking advantage of our lessons—the lessons of the fighting of last September and since—and it may be that we shall be able to incorporate some of the great advantages of American technical development in civil aviation. But in any event I would support the plea that has been made that we should do everything we possibly can to build up air production in every corner of the Empire, not excluding Australia. Australia is producing her own trainers today, and if we can spare the vital alloys and technical advice, we should aim at the building-up of an aircraft producing industry in every part of the British Empire.

My hon. Friend referred to the night bomber, and I would like to pay my tribute to those young men of the Royal Air Force who, night after night, are carrying out these difficult and dangerous experiments. They are working at a dangerous task, they work long hours and, I understand, many days at a time, without much leave, but they are a gallant band of super-optimists, and I understand that they themselves believe that they will one day succeed in meeting this menace. It was Lord Baldwin, I think, who said that the bomber will always get through. It was Goering who told the Germans that our bombers would never get through. At the present time Lord Baldwin has been proved right and Marshal Goering has been proved completely wrong, but I have confidence although the Secretary of State was very cautious, that the young men of the Royal Air Force, working as they do day after day and night after night, will one day make it extremely difficult and certainly very dangerous for the German bombers to cross to this country and carry out bombing raids upon vital military objectives.

Nevertheless, I hope that the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production will not neglect this question of research and technical development. I hope they will give every opportunity to young scientists to come forward with their ideas, and despite the fact that my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary says he has had as many as 40,000 would-be inventors, I hope that the inventor will still find the door open at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and at the Air Ministry, because I believe that the civilian can still achieve much to help us solve these problems. When we have reached equality in numbers based upon the magnificent superiority of British design, I believe Hitler is doomed.

Mr. Hamilton Kerr

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Captain Harold Balfour)

It is my duty to reply on some of the many points that have been put to the Government. I would like to say how much my right hon. Friend and I appreciate the spirit of constructive criticism in which these Estimates have been debated, and to give an assurance that, even if I give a reply which hon. Members may consider unsatisfactory on some of the points that they have raised, or if I do not comment on every point, we shall carefully examine the record of to-day's proceedings, in order to elicit the maximum benefit from the suggestions which have been put forward.

I will take first the speech made from the Front Opposition Bench by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones). His first point was, whether liaison between the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the Air Ministry on production matters was all that it should be, and whether there was any friction. I think that that point has been answered in the Debate, following his speech. The best example of that liaison was in the speech delivered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aircraft Production on these Air Estimates. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Gentleman harked back to the days of peace, when he used to make speeches, from an Opposition point of view, which were not so constructive as he has made to-day, when he tried to make the point that my right hon. Friend had been somewhat niggardly in the tributes he paid to the Minister of Aircraft Production, and that he had said more about the Ministry in general than about the Minister. I would point out that the words which the Secretary of State used were, "Under the dynamic leadership of the Minister of Aircraft Production."

Mr. Garro Jones

That was the expression used by Mr. Baldwin to oust the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) from the Premiership.

Captain Balfour

There have been changes since then in the use of expressions, just as there have in the way that the hon. Gentleman is now helping us in our task, as compared with the time when, I must say, he did not help us to prepare for these tasks. I come to the main point of his speech—a point which interested us very much. It was whether we are giving information of value to the enemy in the publication of technical journals. He was good enough to say—as was the case—that last autumn I investigated this matter, as well as specific examples which he brought to my notice. He was also good enough to say that he did not think that I had power to deal with the matter properly, and that he was not enirely satisfied with the result of my investigation. We had better examine, first, what powers we have. If he asks, "Can you stop articles appearing in the technical Press?" my reply is, "No, we have not the power to stop articles appearing in the technical Press, as long as the Government retain, as a matter of policy, the principle of voluntary censorship." Therefore, he is right in saying that I have not the power to stop these articles—nor has my right hon. Friend—since it is a major Government decision. On the other hand, if he says, "Have you ample powers to prosecute for the publication of information of value to the enemy?"

the answer is, "Certainy, ample powers are provided; and they would be used if the offence was substantial." The hon. Gentleman is a barrister—I have not that advantage—and he knows that Section 3 of Defence Regulation 39 gives that particular power.

All these cases are reviewed, and we are satisfied that so far nothing substantial has recently been published which would be of any value to the enemy. The hon. Gentleman quoted two or three specific instances from a whole score that he brought to me, and which I was delighted to examine in a constructive spirit. I hope that he will agree that I too am just as keen as he is to see that we win the war in the shortest possible time and in the most efficient manner. The hon. Gentleman has raised this case to-day, and I must admit that the case which he said was the worst, that of why incendiary bombs, or what we call the oil bomb, failed and what their defects were, was a bad case. But this occurred on 20th September last. It was after that date that we went into this particular question, and as a result, the editors of all the technical papers in the country were called to a conference at the Ministry of Information at the end of October or the beginning of November last. Since then very few errors have occurred. The hon. Gentleman quoted this week's "Aeroplane," and he has quoted to me the case of an article dealing with a comparison between the Merlin X engine, and the German Juno.

This article—and the House would wish to have this assurance I know, and so would my hon. Friend—was not published without reference to the Air Ministry, so we must accept the responsibility. It is not the Editor who can be blamed for the publication. We agreed that it should be published, and I will tell the House why. There were very good reasons for allowing it. The Germans have captured a Merlin X intact, and they know its performance and its structure, and, of course, they know the performance of their own aircraft. There has been much criticism in many quarters in this country of our policy of using carburettors instead of injection mechanism. This article showed clearly the advantages of the carburettor over the injection mechanism under certain conditions, and we felt it right that the country and the technical people in general should have that particular knowledge. Our Intelligence Service must be the judge of what is likely to be of value to the enemy and what is not, and if anything has got out—I think the oil bomb story was undesirable, and immediate action was taken last September after it had appeared—let us remember that, in a democracy, security must be weighed against the morale of the population, and our policy is to tell the people all we can rather than follow the German line of silence and the consequent breeding of suspicion. The risks of slight leakage are, I believe, outweighed by the public support which is in general given for our policy.

I will deal briefly with one or two other instances given by hon. Members. I have here that particular article of 15th November in the "Aeroplane." It is an article by a gentleman I have not the privilege of knowing, but who is a civilian having nothing to do with the Air Ministry or the Ministry of Aircraft Production, who gives a most interesting discourse upon gliders, and who tells us, and probably the enemy, quite a lot that we may not have known before, but certainly nothing which could not have been known to the Germans or any one who studied the subject. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen talked about the danger of letting the enemy have information about identification. Nothing about identification has been published in our aircraft papers or in any aircraft papers of value to the enemy. But the Observer Corps do get information of a secret or confidential nature which has not been published in any paper.

I can assure the House that if we ever do find something serious, we shall not hesitate to act. If we are to have no discretion, then the main censorship policy must be called into question and altered, but under the present policy we have ample powers.

The final point put by the hon. Member was that the "Aeroplane" showed bias against United States products and orders placed in the United States. I, like him, deplore these articles, and from that point of view we have made representations to the paper as regards editorial policy, and, indeed, there have been complaints from the United States newspapers about this periodical's attitude. It is unwarranted and contrary to our experience, but so long as we have liberty of expression and wish to take advantage of this fact in our national life, I believe we must also face the disadvantages. What the hon. Gentleman is really asking for—and I am sure neither he nor the House would assent to it—is tantamount to censorship of opinion when one does not like it. I thoroughly dislike these comments about American aircraft, which are doing splendid work and are coming forward in increasingly great quantities for our Air Force.

Mr. Simmonds

Could my hon. and gallant Friend, in the light of what has been said, give the House an assurance that the editors of these aeronautical and technical papers have shown themselves anxious and ready to understand the Air Ministry's point of view and to fall in with it?

Captain Balfour

As regards giving information to the enemy unwittingly, they have shown themselves entirely helpful. 1 did say that since our conference at the Ministry of Information last autumn I did not think there have been any cases of giving away, unwittingly, information which might be damaging.

The hon. Member for North Aberdeen and my Noble Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Lord Apsley) talked about the conflict between agriculture and the Royal Air Force as regards our need for aerodromes, and the hon. Member for North Aberdeen made two suggestions. He said could we not bury the overhead electric grid cables in order that we could place our aerodromes, without having to take into consideration the grid locality, and so perhaps save agricultural land which would otherwise have to be taken. Well, we have done that in certain cases, but when you put a high voltage grid underground, you have to have brick channelling, specially armoured oil cable and use a great deal of steel, labour and time, and unfortunately with our need for expansion being what it is, we cannot always allow these factors to enter into our consideration when having to go forward with an aerodrome.

He also made a suggestion about doing something more in the direction of grass drying. My right bon. Friend has recently appointed a horticultural adviser to the Air Ministry in order that we shall make the best use of spare pieces of land on which to grow vegetables, advise us generally, and keep in close touch with the Ministry of Agriculture, but, as regards grass drying, we have for some time past been using a special type of hard grass suitable for aerodrome surfaces, and we have had the help of the Ministry of Agriculture in doing that. Where we have developed this hard grass, it is quite unsuitable for drying. It is true that opportunities for drying at aerodromes are limited in war time, but the difficulty is one that existed before the war. The matter was carefully considered by a Scientific Agricultural Committee, which visited a number of aerodromes, and they came to the conclusion that cutting and removing of grass for fodder purposes could not be carried out without retarding the development of a hard surface suitable for continuous use. In the last few months the matter has been reviewed again, and the same conclusion has been reached. I can assure the House that there is no prejudice at the Air Ministry against the use of mowings from aerodromes for fodder if conditions are suitable. We are quite prepared to consider any suggestion and would adopt it if it were found to be practicable from the point of view of operational requirements. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air have personal knowledge of, and have been in close touch on, this particular question.

The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and my Noble Friend the Member for Central Bristol asked questions about the Observer Corps. One question related to uniforms. My right hon. Friend has had this matter and other matters concerning the Observer Corps under review during the past few weeks, and no doubt in due course he will be able to give the House some information as to the results of that review. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton said that the accounting system in the Training Command was absorbing a great many accounting officers, and that there was a good deal of unnecessary red tape. We have three systems— A, B and C—of accounting in the Royal Air Force. System A is a peace-time system, system B is a simpler one in respect of operational units in this country, and system C is the system used in the field for units abroad. On the one hand, the House is quite rightly jealous concern- ing any questions of spending public money without proper consideration and without due regard for economy; on the other hand, we want to get on with the job as fast as possible. At present the Training Command works under system A, and I am informed that if they went on to system B there would not be any great saving; nevertheless, as the hon. Member has raised the matter, we will look into it.

My Noble Friend the Member for Central Bristol referred to Army cooperation and the question of transfers from the Army for air-crew duties. I believe he said that he passed all the tests some time ago, but has heard nothing. We have already welcomed the War Office offer, and we propose to take in the Army personnel, of which there is a very considerable number, with all possible speed. The bad weather has slowed down the intake of our trainees to some extent, not only as regards the Army, but all other forms of trainees; and therefore, the Army intake has been slower for that reason. We shall take all of them as quickly as possible. Some hundreds have already been taken into training, and we shall look forward to my Noble Friend coming to the Royal Air Force to continue that flying career which we all admire. The Noble Lord also said that we are behind hand in transport aircraft. He made a comparison with the German position, and said that the Germans can move divisions about by air. Possibly it is true that we have not got the number of transport aircraft we would like to have, but equally we admit a gap in our requirements in all other types of aircraft. My right hon. Friend has said that we are relatively and absolutely nearer the German strength than we were last year, but there is still a gap to be made up as regards numbers. A prerequisite for the economical transport of air-borne forces is air superiority over the fields of operation. Any deflection from our primary aim of achieving air superiority will only delay the time when it will be possible to employ air-borne forces on a large scale.

Lord Apsley

I laid particular stress on the fact that this fighting and bombing potential should not be interfered with, and I suggested that we should use light aircraft engines and machines of wooden construction the potential for which was extant and which could be still further developed in this country and the Empire and in America.

Captain Balfour

I do not think the House will expect me to argue that suggestion, which is a technical one, on the Floor of the House. It is sufficient to say that engine capacity is the important factor for a long time ahead, and those responsible for supply must decide whether the development of a particularly specialised kind, which the Noble Lord suggests, would be practicable for the main purpose which is common to all of us, and that is to beat the enemy in the air with our fighters and bombers.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Erdington (Wing-Commander Wright) and my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston spoke on the need for conserving our position in civil aviation as far as is compatible with war-time requirements. My right hon. Friend said in his speech that unfortunately at the moment we cannot think in terms of civil aviation unless the resources of civil aviation can be used primarily for war purposes.

I was attracted by the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston that we should see now whether we should prepare to weave into post-war life some service aircraft converted for civil use. I know that my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production will have the full co-operation of the Air Ministry as and when reserves of design capacity are available for that purpose. I can give the House one piece of information about civil Ensign aircraft, which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Erdington said were lying rotting in the corner of a shed. These were produced for a particular type of engine which was found not suitable. American engines were purchased. Many of them are suitable for other types of war aircraft for which they are required, but, nevertheless, a decision has been taken that a certain number of these aircraft are to be completed and used for overseas communications. I can give my hon. and gallant Friend the assurance that the purpose of British Overseas Airways Corporation is to help the war as the chosen instrument of the Government for the maintenance of overseas communications.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), who has taken part in a good many air Debates, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Duddeston raised the question of offensive as opposed to defensive. The latter said there should not be too much concentration of fighters, and the former asked, "When they hit us shall we hit them back?" I firmy believe that we shall win this war by offence and by reducing to a feeble impotence the ability of Germany to wage war through the destruction of her industrial core. It is necessary that each one of us should take precaution and care to preserve our lives from becoming needless casualties because each has to play his part as a citizen in the war effort. Therefore, it is vital to defend our man-power, our women and our machines by Hurricanes, Spitfires, balloons and other defensive measures. But I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that it is not in the sounding of sirens or warnings, by hours spent in shelters or by measures of defence that we are going to achieve victory. It is in the bomb, the tank and the gun, pounding away gloriously and relentlessly every day and night, and in our bombing force, where lies the best prospect of bringing the enemy crashing down.

Although we only show a token Vote, these Estimates are gigantic in their conception of the air effort which is to be achieved from this supply. In voting the token to provide material for defence and offence, I know that the House will share with me the feeling of humble thanks and pride that we are given such standard-bearers for the forces of morality and decency as our pilots and air-crews, to whom we gladly pay tribute.

Question, "That Mr. Deputy-Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.