HC Deb 20 May 1942 vol 380 cc207-8
5 and 6. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) whether his attention has been directed to the success of the United States dive-bombers in the Battle of the Coral Sea; what is the Air Ministry policy on dive-bombers; and what steps are being taken to profit from the Coral Sea experience;

(2) whether he is aware of the success of the torpedo-planes in the Coral Sea action; and what is the Air Ministry's policy in regard to torpedo-planes?

Sir A. Sinclair

Full details of the part played by dive-bombers and torpedo-carrying aircraft in the action in the Coral Sea are not yet available. When reports are received they will be carefully studied to see whether any new lessons can be learned. As for policy, I would refer the hon. Member to my speech introducing the Air Estimates and to the statement regarding torpedo-carrying aircraft which I made in my reply to the Debate on that occasion.

Mr. Smith

In view of the evidence that has been provided by war correspondents, has not the Air Ministry received similar evidence that accurate bombing cannot be carried out at a high altitude? If so, what steps are being taken to provide the Royal Air Force with an adequate supply of dive-bombers?

Sir A. Sinclair

The steps that we took to provide the Royal Air Force with an adequate supply of bombers were to order them in July, 1940. As regards the inaccuracy of bombing at high altitudes, it is our constant endeavour to make it more accurate, and our endeavours have not been without success.

Mr. Ammon

If they were ordered in July, 1940, when will an adequate supply be coming along, in view of the growing concern at enemy ships getting away as easily as they have done?

Sir A. Sinclair

The orders were placed not by my Ministry but by the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and perhaps the hon. Member will address his Question to them.

Mr. Montague

Is it not a fact that questions of policy rest entirely with the Air Ministry itself. Also is it not a fact that no dive-bombers are made in this country but that they come from America?

Sir A. Sinclair

The question of policy was decided in July, 1940, and orders were placed by the Ministry then. Where the orders are placed, whether in this country or the United States, is entirely a matter for the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to receive reports on the Battle of the Coral Sea?

Sir A. Sinclair

I need hardly tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are most anxious to receive them as quickly as we can.

Major Lyons

If the policy was decided upon in July, 1940, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it about time that some further review was made in the light of recent developments?

Sir A. Sinclair

The policy that I was answering about was the policy of ordering dive-bombers. They were ordered in July, 1940, and we are ready and willing and anxious to employ them as soon as they are delivered to the Royal Air Force.