HC Deb 14 March 1944 vol 398 cc64-168
Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South East)

I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £10.

I think I owe a word of explanation to the House for bringing forward the subject of Civil Aviation again within a fortnight of the previous Debate upon it. The reason my hon. Friend and I are taking this step is because we felt, on the last occasion, as the Debate developed, that its scope was altogether too limited, that the atmosphere which arose from the discussion was not favourable for a discussion of the immediate practical problems with which we are faced and that it was, consequently, an atmosphere too much fogged with the idea of internationalisation. My chief quarrel with hon. Members opposite is that by concentrating on it, they gave my right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary an opportunity which he did not fail to take of riding off on that topic and, consequently, circumnavigating the immediately attainable matters. In short, they were biting off more than the world is prepared to chew. Though I wish to pass to other urgent matters I must just refer briefly to some of the things they said on the last occasion. Let me say at once that I do not wish to shelter behind the skirts of America and Russia, and say that internationalisation will not work merely because they do not support it. I will be honest and say that I am opposed to the idea just as I am opposed to the idea of an international police force and similar nostrums. Indeed, internationalism, as personified by such ideas, has not been an outstanding success on the political level, and I do not see any reason to believe that its effectiveness will be greater on the economic level. I am, in addition, unaware of any successful attempt to operate communications on an international basis. But, having expressed my own distaste of the scheme put forward on the last occasion, I would like, briefly, to refer to the reactions of the United States and Russia.

In the United States, 16 independent companies wish to operate beyond the national boundaries and some have already applied, to that effect, to the Civil Aeronautics Board. The battle in that country is not internationalisation versus nationalisation, or even internationalisation versus private enterprise. It is a battle between these companies and Pan-American Airways, which, quite understandably, wishes to retain the ascendancy it has always had in operating to foreign countries. Furthermore, anybody who has been in recent contact with American aviation circles—and I think a number of my hon. Friends in this House have had that opportunity during the war—must be aware that the United States have great ambitions in the world's air and I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that they would like to dominate it, just as this country dominated the oceans in the 19th century—a perfectly legitimate aspiration, but one in which, I think, we must have our say as well.

Again, is it likely that Russia, which has the greatest armed force in the world and which has just altered its Constitution to absorb into its political orbit other willing countries, without ostensible loss of independence, would be prepared to surrender the control of its ever-growing aviation to the smaller countries of Europe, as was proposed on two previous occasions by the hon. Member for Nuneaton {Mr. Bowles)? In fact, the hon. Member opposite and his friends in bringing forward this proposal seem to have forgotten the trenchant dictum of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha) in the Debate of last June when he said: This international bird will not fly. Its feathers are too numerous and too heavy." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1 June, 1943, Col. 105, Vol. 390.] Why is internationalisation not likely to appeal to us and to other European countries? Because Britain, France, Holland and, to a lesser extent, Belgium and Portugal are the centres of great empires and they will demand control over their own imperial air communications which they are not likely to be prepared to surrender to outside bodies any more than they would surrender control of their internal air lines. Hon. Members opposite over-stated their case and, in searching for a remote ideal, overlooked what is immediately attainable. I would repeat that the question is not one of internationalisation versus unrestricted competition, but of competition guided by international regulation.

There already exists in the Paris Convention, which was not signed by the United States, and in the Havana Convention, which was not signed by this country, the nucleus for such regulation. The first obvious requirement is that there should be set up an international regulating authority to which all Powers, and certainly all great Powers, should be signatories. In Britain and in the' Empire, there is also need for a Licensing Board analogous to the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States, and our suggestion is that the existing, but disused, Air Registration Board could be adapted for the purpose. In the present state of inequality between the principal Powers in air potential—a state which has been largely created by the war—it is impossible to apply the full freedom of the air universally, and I, consequently, welcome the discussions which we were informed during the last Debate are to be started with the United States. But I do hope that the lesser freedoms of the air, that is to say, the freedom of air transit, the freedom of refuelling and emergency landings, will commend themselves as soon as possible after the war to all the nations of the world, though it is perfectly well known that they did not so commend themselves before the war.

But the freedom of air operation, which, of course, is the principal factor, must be subject to traffic agreements, and must be of a reciprocal nature, if such is the wish of the countries covered by the agreements. If no such proviso is made, then the country which is best equipped in aircraft and personnel will have an unjust advantage over the others, and could, if so minded, control the world's air routes. That is why the question of bases is of such paramount importance, and vitally affects the British Empire which is so desirably spaced over the globe for air operations. I am sure nobody will consider that what I say is unfriendly, but in an election year in the United States it is only reasonable to assume that certain extravagant claims will be made, arm the American Press can already be seen making references to the rights that country should enjoy, in many territories, where her money has been poured out in constructing airports and similar bases. I should like to point out that all such expenditure is a contribution to the United Nations' war effort and nothing more. Even in the West Indies, where certain 99-year leases have been granted to the United States for air and naval bases, the use for civil aviation purposes was specifically excluded, and in other bases in Europe, Africa and Asia the American rights expire six months after the termination of hostilities and the bases, in the normal course of events, will revert to the sovereignty of the countries in which they are situated. It is hardly to be supposed, in these circumstances, that the United States will make serious claims to extraterritoriality when, only recently, she joined with us in assuring China that we abandoned all such claims on Chinese territory for the future. These new and imposing airports which will be the nodal points of the great traffic routes of the future must be available to all on equal terms, subject to orderly international agreement.

I now want to ask the Government to be more specific and more informative on the future of British Overseas Airways Corporation. The Lord Privy Seal, in another place, gave a definition of the Act of 1939 to the effect that it granted no monopoly of operations to B.O.A.C., but only a monopoly to enjoy subsidies for overseas operations. After a close study of that Act, however, I go one step further and say that I would very much like my right hon. Friend, when he replies, to tell me if this interpretation is correct: that the General Post Office is completely at liberty to give air mail contracts to any aviation company which it chooses. In our last Debate the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) generated some heat in discussing the question of subsidies. He suggested that selected companies with great political influence would try to obtain subsidies from the State. Whatever we may think of that suggestion, I can say that there is great substance in the objection which used to be raised in the old days to Imperial Airways paying public money as dividends to shareholders. I may say, in passing, that that is exactly what happens in sugar beet companies but does not attract the same attention. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale did not seem to realise that, except in the case of new and undeveloped air routes, with every year that passes, it is becoming increasingly more possible to operate air lines without subsidies.

I would illustrate that remark by reference to the shipping companies. Many of these hope to operate air lines after the war, and I fully recognise the justice of this desire, because they will be left with depleted fleets and will have considerable sums of money available for re-equipment. It is natural that they should desire to take advantage of the form of transport which will attract, not only the cream but an increasing percentage of their traffic and will, by the effect which it has in bringing about a shrinkage of the world's dimensions, attract a whole new class of traffic. I hope nobody will remind me that the railways killed the canals. I am well aware of the historical events of that time, but I am also aware that the circumstances are entirely different and that civil aviation will be provided, whatever individual companies, railway or shipping, may do. Further, any shipping or transport company which attempts to smother civil aviation will do so at its own peril.

I want to take the case of the obvious opening for shipping companies—the South American line, which, before the war, was never operated by a British company in spite of vast British interests in that Continent. I understand that six British companies have combined to form a subsidiary to operate air services to South America, and in view of the great experience they have and their widespread agencies and organisation it seems to me that they are the right people to do it. I do not speak on their behalf, but I have heart said that this company are prepared to operate without a subsidy but they, of course, require an air mail contract. It would require an air mail contract, just as the fastest ships operated by these same companies enjoy a mail contract which provides them with a certain amount of steady and assured income. If you like, you can call this mail contract an indirect subsidy but the difference in this case is that the money so expended can be recovered from the public, which would, consequently, overcome the political difficulty to which I referred earlier in my speech. In America, the public are prepared to pay higher rates for faster delivery of mail and whereas there is a considerable acceleration in the case of air versus rail there is infinitely greater saving of time in the case of air versus sea.

I think it is unwise and unnecessary to make a flat-rate charge for a letter irrespective of whether it takes two months or two days in transit. If a charge were imposed which was proportionate to the saving of time, the Post Office would be able to recover in full probably the whole of their outgoings in the form of air mail contract.

Since our Debate of last June, I have altered my opinion in one respect. I then rather unkindly suggested that the B.O.A.C. should be wound up. Since that date we have had a Dominions' Conference, and though we do not know a great deal about what happened, the impression was given that an Empire policy had been agreed. I recognise that in our Dominions the main air routes are operated by Government controlled companies and that if Britain is to provide a link in the all-Empire chain—which I sincerely hope she will—which will encircle the globe I can see that the B.O.A.C. is the probable instrument to do it, quite apart from the fact that its predecessor company pioneered and organised the Empire air routes. But, I repeat, all this would not justify a world-wide monopoly for the B.O.A.C. and I am fortified in that opinion by the remarks of its chairman, Lord Knollys, who was reported from Sydney, in "The Times" of 4th March, as saying that the B.O.A.C. wanted to fit into the general picture of aviation after the war but had no territorial ambitions. He also said: Personally, I should welcome competition. I believe that for the development of aviation, which requires vision and initiative, it is essential to retain the best features of private enterprise. That is not to say that a certain amount of Government ownership and supervision is not valuable in the composition of British companies operating overseas. That expresses, in words better than I can find, exactly what my hon. Friends and I feel.

I now turn to the question of Air Ministry control, although I do not propose to say much on this subject because some of my hon. Friends wish to expand it. I would, however, remind the Minister that last year we advocated separation from the Air Ministry and that my hon. Friends and I wrote a pamphlet last autumn in which we advocated the same course. Furthermore, in the various Debates we have had on this subject no hon. Member seems to have advocated a continuation of the existing system. I am fully aware that the wheels of a Coalition Government move slowly and that it is likely that we shall be told to-day that no decision has been reached. Nevertheless, I think it is our duty to let the Government know our point of view on this subject once again. Although we may be prepared to make allowances for delay in this respect, we may hazard the guess that the House will react most unfavourably if my right hon. Friend shows signs of parting with reluctance from what can only be described as a neglected child. I quite understand that if no decision has been reached he may find it necessary to support the status quo, but can he assure us that if the Government, as a whole, consider that civil aviation should be removed from the Air Ministry, neither he nor his Ministry will raise any serious objections to that course?

My Friends and I have a perfectly clear and simple policy for civil aviation which we have every reason to commend to the House. It can be summarised under five headings, as follow: First, we advocate the early adoption of freedoms of transit and emergency landing, but freedom of air operation and the use of airports must be subject to mutual agreements and traffic arrangements; second, we advocate an international convention to supervise subsidies, to regulate fares and to lay down standards of technical and personnel requiremnts; third, we advocate a British or Empire licensing board to whom all applications for air operation should be made, whether by privately or Government owned companies, with the object of preventing unregulated competition; fourth, we advocate the control of civil aviation vested in a separate Ministry or in the Ministry of Transport; fifth, we advocate that sufficient transport aircraft should be constructed in the immediate future to enable the British Commonwealth to operate its own air services with British aircraft, without being in any way dependent on any other country.

Mr. Tree (Harborough)

I beg to second the Amendment.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) would like to explain why we have felt it necessary to trespass on the time of the House to-day. The answer is that we felt that the Debate on Civil Aviation a fortnight ago was couched in altogether too narrow terms. The international aspect is doubtless most important, but there are at the present time internal matters, requiring immediate attention, which should be debated. Before taking up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air, the specific points I want to raise with him to-day—and I am glad he is to reply to the Debate—there are one or two points arising out of the Debate of a fortnight ago, which I think should be answered and argued because they seem to me to be based on considerable misapprehension. I was somewhat saddened by that Debate. As I listened to the speeches of the proposer and seconder of the Amendment, and as I read them carefully afterwards, I was reminded very much of the period between the wars, when words and phrases were so often substituted for action. That was, to put it more bluntly, a sort of age of cotton wool.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), undoubtedly possesses a great knowledge of this subject, but I feel that he bases his case for the future of civil transport on two false assumptions. The first was when he quoted from the speech of Lord Baldwin, then Mr. Baldwin, at the Disarmament Conference of 1932. I am quite sure that Lord Baldwin would be the first to admit that much has changed in the field of civil transportation since that time. The hon. Member quoted Lord Baldwin as saying: Civil aviation is a thing to be feared because every plane engaged in it is a potential bomber. That was a theory very frequently held, both in this country and Europe between the wars. To-day, I believe it to be fundamentally untrue. Surely we have gone into another era in the development of air transport. Civil and military design in the course of this war have diverged so greatly that to-day transport aircraft are no more potential bombers than the "Queen Mary" is a potential battleship. It was this fear of the transport plane, in the period between the wars, that made Europe and ourselves lag so far behind in the opening and operating of routes, both in Europe and throughout the Empire. The United States approached the problem in a different way. They took the line that civil aviation did not constitute any menace to their security, and, as a result, they made immense strides, not only within their borders but right through the whole of south and central America. To-day, we must start with the assumption that civil aviation is a good thing; that the more we have of it the better it will be for the human race, and that as the peoples of the world come together and get to know one another, so is the likelihood of wars removed. The second assumption which the hon. Member for Nuneaton made—and one which I am afraid is pretty well shared by Members on the benches opposite—was contained in his sentence: I find that people are exaggerating tremendously the real importance of civil aviation alter the war. …. So long as air travel remains very dear. … [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1944; col. 1325, Vol. 397.] In other words, he considers it an infant industry still dependent for its existence on subsidies. In answer to that, I should like to read a sentence from an article in the "Atlantic Monthly" by one of the greatest experts on this subject in the world, now adviser to the Secretary of Commerce in Washington—Mr. William Burden. In it he said: International Air Transport has been transformed by the war from a Government-subsidised experiment into an economically sound transportation industry. That statement is corroborated by figures which have recently been furnished by the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington, and if I am compelled to quote American figures in this matter, it is because, unfortunately, we have no statistical department dealing with the matter in this country. I understand that the Department of Commerce in America has now something like 9,000 people engaged on technical research and statistical work. According to them, United States Domestic Air Lines are now operating at a 1½d. per passenger seat mile, and they expect that in the very near future this will be reduced to id. It is, further, officially predicted that cargo costs will come down to ten cents per capacity ton mile and that, I understand, compares with a figure of 7 cents per capacity ton mile on surface routes. In other words, the internal air lines are now operating commercially and at a profit, and even Pan-American Air Lines which have had to contend with great pioneer- ing work, and has handled it in a spirit of considerable enterprise was able to reduce by 1942 its costs of operation so greatly that the surcharge which it was receiving for the carriage of mails was reduced four times. I cannot get the figures accurately but they are something like 75 cents per 300 miles to 18 cents. I may be unduly optimistic but far from exaggerating the importance of air transport I feel that to-day we are only scratching on its surface. When you see what has been achieved in the more remote districts by the Canadian Pacific Railway, when you realise what has been done by a British citizen working without any subsidy at all, who has built up right through South and Central America, a great cargo-carrying system you realise the potentialities that exist for cargo-carrying transport.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

The hon. Member says costs were reduced to ten cents per ton. What is his authority for that statement?

Mr. Tree

It was Mr. Peter Masefield. I should like to remind hon. Members of one other thing. In 1940 the great municipal enterprise of the La Gardia Airfield was opened for operation. At the end of two years it was so crowded out that the municipal authorities of New York had to consider, and are now undertaking the building of a new and even bigger aerodrome. Therefore, let us approach these problems, not in a timid or restrictive way, but aware of the great destiny of civil aviation and determined to play our part in its development. But if we are to play that part, we should be preparing for the future now, and not only planning but seeing what we can do to implement those plans. My hon. Friends and myself are frankly worried about the rate of progress that is being made by the Government. Nine months ago when we had a Debate on Civil Aviation, we begged the Government to get on with its plans. It is difficult to define getting on with plans but certainly nothing much would appear to have happened since then. There was a Dominions Conference last October. We do not know what happened there, because only the barest details were allowed to come out. Beyond that, and the fact that an announcement about certain types of aircraft which are ultimately to be built, has been made, nothing else has come out.

It seems to me that nine months is ample time for gestation and we have every reason for concern in the matter. It was generally hoped that once the Dominion Conference was out of the way, conversations would be held, with the United States. When I was there a few months ago, and had an opportunity of talking about it, not only with members of the Government but also with operators of air lines, I was very hopeful that it would be possible to come to an agreement. I still believe that we should have that conference as soon as possible. It would remove a great many suspicions which exist on both sides, but with this proviso—that it is held in a spirit of toleration and good will and with the realisation that neither side is going to get 100 per cent. of what it hopes to get. Once those conversations with the United States have been settled, it is hoped that an international congress will be called because there are a great many matters of an international kind, such as the setting up of a permanent international air authority to decide on the rules of conduct to be carried out in the air and on the ground and between the nations.

But if we are able to reach agreement in the international sphere, aimed at breaking down restrictions and making air travel easy and safe and cheap, have we the set-up at home which will enable us to compete on level terms with other nations and do our share in its development? I say, emphatically, that we have not. Our failure is not due to the incidence of this war, nor to the Secretary of State for Air, nor to other Secretaries of State. It is due to the way in which civil aviation has been treated ever since it came into being at the end of the last war. At that time, after very considerable discussion, it was decided that it should be placed under the Air Ministry, but at the same time it was to have a very considerable amount of autonomy; its own controller-general, and, above all, the research and experimental division of the Air Ministry were to be placed under it, in order that it should develop as a commercial asset. That was the sort of general idea in the discussions that took place in 1919. But things did not happen in that way. In the first place, it was never given its own technical staff; Supply and Research were handed over to the Service side of the Air Ministry. Two years later, the economy axe came down and was directed particularly at the Air Ministry and, as was only to be expected, it was the civil side that bore the brunt and for the next 20 years literally starved to death. This was due partly to the apathy of people in this country, and also to the impending war.

The question before us to-day, surely, is this. Is this great and growing industry on which many of our future hopes depend, to continue as second fiddle to a Service Ministry? Are its affairs to be entrusted to an overworked and over burdened Under-Secretary of State? Will it have to depend for its technical and statistical research on the Service side of the Air Ministry, or has not the time arrived when it should be accorded a Ministry of its own and a Minister of Cabinet rank? It seems to me that the case was answered the other day in a perfectly satisfactory way, when it was realised that much thought and planning had to be given to the subject. It was not to the Secretary of State that this planning was handed, but to the Lord Privy Seal with sole and over-riding responsibility and, from all one can gather, he has been extremely energetic in learning as much as he possibly could in the shortest time about his job. After the war, it is to be hoped that the Air Transport Command will continue in existence. In time of war it is only right that civil aviation shall be absorbed in that command. My own feeling is that British Overseas Airways would be far better off to-day under the control of Air Transport Command, but in time of peace and particularly now when we are planning for the future, surely it is right that civil aviation should be entirely divorced from the Air Ministry.

During the past 18 months I have talked to a great many people whose whole life has been spent in trying to build up and develop the future of this industry. I have never met a single person who has not been quite emphatic in stating that he believed that, until it is so removed, it will continue to be throttled and restricted.

In the same way there is considerable apprehension everywhere about the British Overseas Airways Corporation and as to whether it will be able to carry out the great task that has been entrusted to it. Can one Government-owned monopoly, one body of directors, how- ever good they may be, plan and operate the whole future of British and Colonial air transport after the war? I do not believe it is possible or right that they should do it. It seems to me that a new and vigorous industry of this kind requires great energy and vision, and I cannot see why private enterprise that has never been backward in the past in this respect should not be, at any rate, allowed to participate. Our opinion is that licences should be granted to different companies in order to operate separate routes and that for doing this they should be allowed a mail surcharge. It is not possible in the short time at our disposal to-day to talk about the question of surcharge on mail. We hope to be able to do it at a later stage. I believe that that surcharge should be regulated in such a way as only to allow a small margin of profit in return for carrying passengers and mail. If we are to catch up the years in which we slept and latterly those years in which we have been engaged on more strenuous things, there is no time to lose now. The vision is there to be grasped, a great vision of the peoples of the world getting to know and understand each other better by this amazing new method of transportation. If we are going to do it it must be tackled with energy and initiative in the same way as we have handled many of these things in the past.

Mr. Montague (Islington, West)

The speech of the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) particularly indicated what is in the minds of those for whom he stands in respect of the future of civil aviation. I will quote two sentences from his speech which justify me in making that comment. He said that the object of civil aviation should be competition guided by international regulation. Then he said that Pan-American Airways were perfectly entitled to seek world air supremacy as we are entitled to do. I quote these sentences verbatim—

Sir A. Beit

I did not say the second sentence, but I said the first. What I said about Pan-American Airways was that they were entitled to attempt to maintain their ascendancy in American operations overseas, but I did not say that they would necessarily retain it.

Mr. Montague

I accept the hon. Member's correction, but I took his words down in shorthand. Whether he did not say quite what he intended to say I do not know, but he certainly gave that impression in the whole of his argument even if he did not intend to use those words. I still contend that he did because I took them down. The burden of his argument was that this great instrument of progress, this miraculous invention of the aeroplane, should be used for competitive purposes by private individuals for private profit. The Labour Party does not accept that proposition. It regards the air as a universal medium which, by its very nature, should be controlled, and, so far as it is used for transport, it should be operated by the nations of the world in collaboration. I am prepared to admit that we cannot force internationalism upon countries that will not have it. I know the difficulties in the way, particularly with respect to America. I do not think they are quite so pressing in respect to Russia. The attitude of the Labour Party in regard to the difficulties is that in our set-up we should so shape our home and Imperial policy that we can go forward towards a clear international understanding and cooperation upon lines very different from those accepted by the hon. Members who tabled this Amendment. I intend to deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Tree) in due course because I support the able speech that was made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) in the last Debate upon this subject.

I would first like to make one or two remarks about issues that come up in Debates of this character, particularly in reference to the point that was made a great deal of by the hon. Member for Harborough. That is the question whether the control of civil aviation should be left with the Air Ministry or should be given to a Ministry of its own or to the Ministry of Transport, now the Ministry of War Transport. I wish that hon. Members opposite would make up their minds whether they want a separate Ministry or whether they would be content with the Ministry of Transport. The Labour Party supports the transfer of civil aviation from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Transport, but not for the reason that hon. Members opposite have. We support the transfer because we believe that transport is one and indivisible, and we want to apply the same principles to the whole of internal coastwise and overseas transport of all kinds that we would apply to civil aviation. It would be desirable, therefore, to have civil aviation under the control of the Ministry which controls transport as a whole. One cannot conceive of the effective development of world transport except upon lines that are not detached but which are universal in character.

I would like to say a word about the shipping companies. They are facing the problem—and I am quoting from their recently published official statement— of replacing many fast and specialised ships now sacrificed to the war effort, and we are entitled to ask whether aviation is to be artificially stimulated at the taxpayers' expense to the point of competing uneconomically with the ship, and, if so, with what object and for whose benefit. The shipping companies are perfectly justified in putting that point. I see no reason why civil aviation should be subsidised and not the shipping companies, who have this replacement problem in front of them and who also see the competition of civil aviation. If that competition is to be subsidised they are perfectly justified in saying that they ought to stand in with regard to Government subsidies. We, as a party, are supporters of a policy of nationalised and ultimately internationalised transport so that, although we are willing to admit the case of the shipowners against subsidies for civil aviation by itself, we would have all transport made a public concern because of the character of transport itself and particularly because of the nature of its development. It is a remarkable thing that our friends who support the shipping companies always talk a great deal about the transport experience of the shipping companies—not their flying experience, but their experience with regard to ports and harbours, docks and dues and things of that character which are the general everyday business of shipping companies.

Mr. Tree

It is not the ports, docks and dues but the services that they have been able to create in the many years in which they have been running in every part of the world.

Mr. Montague

I know that they are experienced in travelling services, but I do not see why they should consider themselves, or why their friends should argue for them, that they are more experienced any more than the proprietors of stage coaches could have had the right to say that they were the people to run the railways when railways were begun. That is not altogether the point I am trying to make. It is remarkable that the point of experience is put forward by friends of the shipping companies and friends of private enterprise in aviation who are the same people who want aviation to be taken away from the Air Ministry. I suppose that the Air Ministry has no experience of flying. If the shipping companies by their experience are the people to carry on at least some of the aviation development of the world, there is something to be said even for the Air Ministry, with its vast technical and operational knowledge of flying, having some say, if not complete control, over the development of civil aviation. I rather suspect that the purpose of endeavouring to get civil aviation away from the Air Ministry is that our friends fear Air Transport Command. They fear the whole idea of Government control of this new and developing means of world transport.

The Labour Party stands for the principle of internationalism, as far as we can get towards that principle at any rate; and we can get so far that we can have an Empire service, with its power of negotiation with other countries, which shall be organised efficiently upon the largest and most developing lines and which must be in the interest of the nation and not in the interests of private companies and private property. We are for the Empire Air Board, we are for the finest possible development of the Imperial services that can be undertaken but certainly not in order that private companies can make profit—and there are to be a number of them each chosen instruments for certain routes, and all of them to be subsidised one way or another, either directly or indirectly. It is rather disingenuous to talk about mail charges not being subsidies. It is nonsense. Of course, it is true that if you pay higher fees and charge higher for mails, you are doing it on account of speed and that you get a quid pro quo for it and therefore it is not a subsidy.

Mr. Tree

Hear, hear.

Mr. Montague

Very well, but one remembers the experience of America, and how these underground, hidden subsidies were used to develop civil aviation in America. One remembers what happened when Canada was developing commerce with the West Indies upon the same lines. They did the same thing in the way of subsidies with mails and other things, and it was not economic, any more than civil aviation would be economic if we proceeded upon a basis of subsidy. It was hon. Members opposite who came along here with figures in order to show that nationalised steamships could not be made to pay, using the figures of a definite subsidy given by Canada in order to foster trade with the West Indies. When it comes round the other way, we do not hear that kind of argument, of course, from hon. Members on the other side.

I want to say a word or two about the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Harborough, so far as he referred to the development of civil aviation in the interests of peace and of bringing the peoples of the world together. I said a moment ago that I agreed with the speech of the hon. Member for Nuneaton. I do, but I do not say that every member of my party will agree with what I propose to say now; but I think it ought to be said, and I will say it. I was barracked rather unmercifully last time, when I put points of this kind to the Committee. The aeroplane, we are told, is to bring the peoples of the world together, and the result is going to be peace. I suggest, and I do so because I feel that what I say is true, that far too much is being made about the possibilities of civil aviation in the near future. I do not want it to be thought that by my saying that I am depreciating civil aviation or saying that it should not be fostered and developed. I believe that it should be fostered and developed. I believe that it should be taken in our stride; but far too much is being made of this subject and of its possibilities at the present moment. After all, who are the peoples of the world who are going to be brought together, in the interests of peace? The ordinary people of the world, of America and other countries: are they going to be brought together? The advantage is going to be that of speed, particularly for well-to-do tourists in the first place and for business men and commercial ambassadors.

Sir A. Beit

And for trade union leaders.

Mr. Montague

That is all right so far as it goes, but there are not so many trade union leaders as all that. The hon. Member spoke about the cream of transport.

Mr. Tree

I did not mention it.

Sir A. Beit

I mentioned it, and I said that civil aviation would attract not only it, but an increasing percentage of other transport.

Mr. Montague

I do not see why I should be interrupted so much. Hon. Members might wait until I have made my speech. When they have heard what I have to say they can interrupt me as much as they like, and can take part in the Debate. I intend to make my point, which is that, in the future, and particularly in the next 10 or 12 years, civil aviation will be for the well-to-do people and those who have plenty of money to pay for air transport, such as businessmen and commercial ambassadors. I am talking about overseas transport. I admit that there is a rather better prospect for the short journey. As the result of holidays with pay, organisations for workers' travel may be able to utilise air services upon a small scale. On a big scale, what does it mean? Well-to-do tourists, businessmen and commercial ambassadors; and they are not likely to cement the peace of the world. They are not the people who are going to make peace inevitable. When we hear that kind of statement let us not forget what Brunel said about the steam engine. He used precisely the same kind of language. The steam engine was going to bring the nations of the world together and cement the bonds of peace.

Mr. Tree

Hear, hear.

Mr. Montague

The hon. Member says "Hear, hear," but we have had several major wars since. Let us not talk nonsense about it. I am not against civil aviation or any other method of bringing the nations of the world together, but hon. Members, in order to get away with their proposals for profits and subsidies, talk in this grandiloquent manner, and it seems to me that that is something which ought to be debunked. The aeroplane will not bring peace until it is controlled internationally. If it is true that an international civil aviation policy cannot be built up, I am afraid we cannot expect civil aviation upon competitive and ordinary business lines to guarantee peace in the future. We are not taken in by that kind of argument and those grandiloquent phrases. As I have said, internationalism cannot be forced upon countries that do not want it. We can do the best for ourselves and get as near to internationalism ourselves as we can, and we cannot do that upon lines of private enterprise and the making of profits for private firms.

If the House will allow me, I would like to go a little more closely into the question of the future development of the aeroplane for civil aviation. The Boeing 314 flying boat is the biggest aeroplane operated to-day for civil purposes. It takes 12 tons of gasoline to carry one ton of load 3,000 miles—I have checked these figures as well as I have been able to—at £40 a ton. That is £480. That is reckoning gasoline alone, and not counting operational and overhead charges, which are infinitely greater than for sea transport. Against that, a ship's fuel costs, not £40 a ton, but £2 10s. a ton, a far lower ratio of oil to load. The fuel bill to New York and back of the "Queen Mary" amounted to £18,000, against £100,000 for the equivalent air journeys by the Boeing 314 flying boat. Hon. Members talk about bringing the cost of aeroplane travel down to such an extent that the peoples of the world will be able to use it. I represent some 33,000 of the people of the world, and not one in 1,000 of them have ever seen the inside of a plane or is ever likely to. To talk about bringing the level of first-class air fares down seems nonsense, in the light of those facts.

Overseas passengers in 1938 by air were 7,500. I will allow hon. Members to raise that figure in argument to 125,000, which is multiplying it about 17 times. I do not think that even the most optimistic Member opposite would imagine that the figure for the development of civil aviation will be better than that, in the first 10 years after the war. That 17 times increase is from 145 to 2,500 a week. Assuming two journeys for each aeroplane, it would take 25 planes to do the job, even with planes of the type now being built by Kaiser in America, and on the drawing board in this country by arrangement between the Ministry of Aircraft Production and certain firms. They take 50 passengers and some of them more than 50. There are certainly 50 if there is no sleeping accommodation, between here and New York. For the sake of illustration, I am thinking of the New York journey, and comparing it with the journey of the "Queen Mary." To increase the number of overseas passengers by 17 times to all parts of the Empire, and to suggest that that means a tremendous development, makes me think that some people are going to burn their fingers. Of course, hon. Members do not mind if the fingers that happen to be burned are those of the community, so long as the Government pay. These statements about civil aviation are exaggerated, and I am afraid that they are exaggerated very much for a purpose.

What about goods? The hon. Member for Harborough spoke about goods and gave some figures which I question very much. I cannot controvert them, because I have not the same figures, but I have other figures from sources quite as good as his. I quote here from Professor Sorrell, an expert in transportation associated with Chicago University. His statements are revealing, and I should like to see them controverted, if they can be controverted. He made a detailed estimate of the post-war prospects of civil aviation in the United States. He reckons that no more than 100,000 to 150,000 tons of commercial goods, at the very most, can be expected to fly in and out of the United States annually, even three to five years after the war. This traffic would be about one seventh of one per cent. of America's pre-war foreign trade by sea. The entire annual traffic of 150,000 tons could be carried by fewer than 500 Clipper planes, averaging 20 round trips a year, with 8½ ton loads. If use were made of large flying boats taking 60 tons, such as Mr. Kaiser is now building, only 70 planes would be required.

The present costs of airborne freight are from 40 cents to 35 cents per ton mile, and Professor Sorrell estimates that if, with the aircraft promised for 1950, this charge can be reduced to 10–15 cents, approximately 5d. to 7d. per ton-mile, this will still be between 50 and 70 times as great as the cost by sea. It may be added that, if the entire amount of airborne freight carried in the United States in 1940 were trebled in 1947, that would only equal the amount carried in a single peace-time year by one cargo vessel of moderate size.

I do not say that that is the last word on the subject. Perhaps Professor Sorrell is as pessimistic as some hon. Members are optimistic, but I think that all this extravagant talk about what is to happen in the future about the numbers of people who are to take holidays by air is nonsense. As I say, if you take the population of this country and the most optimistic estimates possible, there is not one person in a thousand who will be able to afford to travel by air, certainly not to the Empire or to the United States of America or to Russia. If I were to take to my constituents some of the speeches that have been made in civil aviation Debates in this Chamber, I know they would rock with laughter. They would say "Blimey, it is as good as Itma."

Take the Miles X, that is the aeroplane that was invented by Mr. Miles which is now being proceeded with. It is a remarkable thing that the Government have given designing jobs to six firms—Bristol, Handley-Page, A. V. Roe, Shorts, Saunders-Roe and De Havilland. They are all getting on with first-class civil aeroplanes, first-class in every sense of the word. All that is very necessary, desirable and urgent. But we hear bitter reproach from the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) about the neglect of the Government in connection with this subject of civil aviation. It cannot fly by itself, but its profits can be guaranteed it at public expense. Consider that against this alleged urgency for building luxury aeroplanes it took three years to build two agricultural labourers' cottages in this country. That is the kind of thing the common people make comparisons about even if the argument can be described as "cheap." It is the kind of thing my constituents will talk to me about, the kind of retort working people will make if you talk to them about the urgency of civil aviation. I admit its urgency and desirability; I am not depreciating civil aviation. Let us get on with it by all means, but you are coming to the Government and you want the country to do the dirty work. I will prove that in a moment. The hon. Member for Duddeston (Sir O. Simmonds) shakes his head. He may shake his head in a moment when I come to refer to what he has had to say upon the subject.

The Miles is a machine to carry 50 passengers for a long range of 3,450 miles, or no passengers for a short range of 2,500 miles, at a cruising speed of 350 miles an hour. It is hoped to get fares down to the level of those of the first-class ocean liner fares. The first-class fare to New York and back on the "Queen Mary" was £115. There are not many of my constituents who will go either by air or by the "Queen Mary" to New York, even if they have holidays with pay. We are bound to look at it from that point of view, when Members almost browbeat the House to support a policy of subsidies for civil aviation. It really is not so important as all that. You are not going to get so much more of the world's trade as a result of civil aviation, and that way of competition means war in the near or far future, because it always has led to war.

The world's biggest air liner is to be begun at the Bristol Aeroplane Company's works, one of 130 tons. There is no landing ground in the world capable of taking that machine. [Interruption.] We can build them, I know. We are to build one now according to the proposals of British Overseas Airways, 12½ miles from London, but even the longest of the runways proposed there is not long enough for this particular machine. It requires 3 miles with 5 miles of approach for landing. Even that is not implied in this competitor to the La Guardia aerodrome in New York.

Air Commodore Helmore (Watford)

Will the hon. Member pardon me? I did not catch the figure he mentioned for the approach.

Mr. Montague

Five miles approach, 3 miles for the runway.

Air Commodore Helmore

I would be very interested to hear where that figure came from

Mr. Montague

It came from a publication called, I think, "Air Survey," which contains the statements of all sections, including the four Members of Parliament who published their manifesto. That is a statement on what is required for an aeroplane that is to be built. They are starting to build it. At any rate they are well ahead in regard to designing. We shall not get these large aeroplanes without tremendous expenditure—8-foot concrete runways, 3 miles long, all over the place. It is admitted that Service aerodromes are no basis for the aerodromes which will be required for the future needs of civil aviation. That is generally admitted.

All these things are to be paid for, if you please, by the State. It is a question of State assistance—airports, landing facilities, radio and meteorological services, direct subsidies according to routes—in spite of what hon. Members say in this House, the demand, on all sides, is for direct subsidies—and direct subsidies in regard to mails. Beyond that, the Society of British Aircraft Constructors say that the cost of prototype design and construction shall be borne by the State. The Government are to do all that. They are to arrange these conventions, incur all the displeasure that might result from arguments about civil aviation over the world routes, and deal with all the problems that arise. The Government have to do that, in order that private firms, admittedly each as a chosen instrument for certain routes, shall be able to make their money out of the future of civil aviation. Does anyone dispute that? Let us take the report of one of the Committees which says: Indirect subsidies in the form of airports and landing facilities, radio and meteorological services and route control organisation are essential. The provision of these facilities at public expense is justified on public grounds and part of the provision for national defence. In certain circumstances, direct financial assistance may also be justified on the ground that the facilities afforded by air transport are closely related to the interests of national commerce and defence. That is the report—a report signed by the hon. Member opposite—of the Lamplugh Committee. They go on to tell us the routes over which there must be separate chosen instruments—all on the same lines of having no real public control. All this is to be done for the benefit of private companies.

We as a party are not against subsidies. Personally, I am not against them. I think that subsidies are a method by which, in many cases, you can even out commitments. They are a way of arranging fair play between certain things nationally required and so on in respect to industry, commerce, development and the rest of it. I am not against the principle of subsidies. Unquestionably, if we are to foster civil aviation it will have to be subsidised for a long time. We are prepared to do that because of the value of civil aviation in the future even if that value is not so great as some make out it will be in the near future. But we stand by the principle that, if we are to pay public money to foster enterprise of any kind, there must be Government control, national control of that enterprise. We will not depart from a principle of that character. I do not agree with the idea that private firms shall weigh in when a new invention comes along, take the cream of the profits—and they are not in the business for their health but for their profits—and leave all the dirty work and all the risk for the Government, because if the Government make these airports theirs will be the risk. If we make adequate airports for exaggerated anticipations, what will happen? The Government have to take the risk, a very big risk, in making the airports required for these mammoth aeroplanes. All that is to be done by the State and then it is left to private enterprise in general to reap the advantage of the profit. The Society of British Aircraft Constructors say: It must not be taken for granted that the mass of airfields and runways laid down for the war will be suitable for commercial air transport operations. Major commercial airports are strictly controlled in position, size, and so forth, by factors which may be unimportant, even undesirable, in war. That is to be done by the State. We say of civil aviation, "By all means let it develop, let the State assist its development, but if you are to continue after the war promoting a policy of private enterprise and private competition, in a matter which is essentially world-wide, then do it in your stride and do not ask the State to pay."

Air Commodore Helmore (Watford)

In considering this problem of civil aviation it seems to me that we are tending to place an enormous amount of stress on what to my mind are largely matters of administrative detail. The hon. Member for South East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) and the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Tree) started off by commenting on the desirability of removing control of civil aviation from the Air Ministry and also for dealing with the alleged monopoly of British Overseas Airways. As far as I am concerned my attitude towards the whole problem is that at a time when we are involved in a great war, when the whole social, geographic and economic structure of the world is in the melting pot, to attempt to find complete solutions to such problems is rather like endeavouring to solve a chess problem before the pieces have been properly arranged on the board. Admittedly these matters are important and should be debated but they are not matters of paramount importance. I listened also with great interest to the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), who provided us with a great deal of mathematics with some of which I disagree, particularly in respect of certain figures which he has quoted.

Mr. Montague

The figures were published. If the hon. and gallant Member wishes I will give him the information.

Air Commodore Helmore

It is a matter we can discuss. It seems to me that some of those figures were a little pessimistic. It must be admitted quite frankly that one has to pay for speed. Even those constituents of the hon. Member to whom he referred sometimes choose to travel by bus and pay a penny instead of walking. They pay that penny for speed. If you want to go faster you have to pay more. I am hoping that improved social conditions will enable many persons to change their standard of living, and so be able to afford to pay for the speed involved in travel by aeroplane. The aeroplane will thus become the bus of the future. We shall be able to pay more through our improved social conditions for more speed.

It is speed that the aeroplane gives the world—a speedy means of transport and a speedy means for the exchange of ideas and contacts. In fact, I wish there were a speedier means of exchanging ideas than is provided by speech in order that we might exchange our ideas more rapidly than we do now. Up to the present we have been discussing these problems chiefly on a basis of administration and organisation. We must get down to the question of providing aircraft and making something factual. It takes only four weeks, as has been proved in this war, to make a Ministry, it may be no better nor worse than any other Ministry, but it takes four years to make a new type of aircraft.

Before I turn to technical matters there is one administrative question to which I would like to refer that was raised by the hon. Member for South East St. Pancras. He disagreed with the idea of instituting an air police force. I do not know on what ground he can object. We are trying to get together with our Empire and Allies to plan the future of civil aviation. I am informed that active steps have been taken in this direction. To the best of my knowledge the Lord Privy Seal with his customary energy, enterprise and ability has issued an invitation and spread an inviting feast, but whether he has been able to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in I do not know.

We must get together with our Empire and our Allies and study the air problem broadly, not merely as a commercial or civil undertaking—but as a whole. We have built up in this war a very great comradeship between our fighting men of the air and those of our Allies. We must perpetuate this comradeship which is now fighting aggression in order to suppress future aggression. By arranging for a joint period of training for certain representative airmen of the Allied Nations after the war we should be able to deter or suppress any future attempt to disturb the peace of the world.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I understood my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) to say that he objected to the establishment of an international air force. He seems to be confusing two things. Surely we should have an Allied air force as strong as possible.

Air Commodore Helmore

I understood my hon. Friend to object in general terms to an air police force.

Sir A. Beit

I referred to an international air police force as a thing of which I approved.

Air Commodore Helmore

I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I misunderstood him. My contention is that we should have an Allied air police force and that this should be one of the subjects which we should discuss with our Empire and our Allies. If this were included as a subject of discussion it would broaden the scope of our invitation and make it more likely to be accepted. It would give the world an opportunity of facing the future with a little more confidence. Unless something is done about this matter all our post-war planning may fall to the ground and we might as well face up to it here and now and make as the first item of our post-war planning our plans for the next war. We shall only be building up in order that what we build may be knocked down again. We must stop this terrible rhythm of creation and destruction—creation and destruction. I believe that in the air we can find the means of doing this. We can create a striking force for rapidly and finally eliminating aggression.

I had not intended to discuss this particular point so long and would now like to turn to the vital question of making our civil aircraft. As I have said it takes four weeks to set up a Ministry and four years to build an aeroplane. We are faced with an enormous difficulty. We have a war on our hands—we are in the front line and from these Islands can practically see the whites of the enemy's eyes. If this House were asked to decide what percentage of our war aircraft we should be prepared to sacrifice in order to make hypothetical aircraft for peace, I am confident that the percentage conceded would be a very small one. I do not believe that this House or the country would like to see one squadron of our bombers fall out of formation from attacking Berlin, or would countenance the removal from the defence of this country of one squadron of fighters in order that they might be replaced by civil aircraft for the future.

I will endeavour to suggest a compromise whereby without measurably detracting from our war effort the construction of civil aircraft may proceed. There are four stages. The first stage in making an aeroplane is to get some sort of specification of its performance. It has been mentioned in another place that a Committee, under Lord Brabazon, has been formed to advise the Government, in the light of users' requirements and after consulting with experts as to the type of specifications suitable for such aircraft as may be needed after the war. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Air may be prepared to inform the House further on this point. I cannot do this myself because I happen to be a member of Lord Brabazon's Committee. In any event the specifications are now in course of being submitted.

After the specification, the second stage in constructing a new type of aircraft is to get something on the drawing board and this is important, because, of the four years required to make an aeroplane, one year at least is occupied in draughtsmanship and design. We have in this country a number of master designers, men of great genius and patriotism who have made the finest fighting aeroplanes in the world and expended a lot of midnight oil on the job. I believe they would expend even more midnight oil in order to put civil aviation on the map and in this way one year of the technical process of development would be saved.

The third stage is to get ahead with the necessary technical and scientific research. This is a difficult thing to do in war-time and is a problem for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Aircraft Production. It so happens however that the experiments necessary for creating war aircraft and peace aircraft frequently run on substantially parallel lines. If we are prepared to give a civilian bias to our military research, for example in the construction of power units and other accessories, we should be able to get a long way forward with the technical experiments necessary for developing civil aircraft without detracting from war production.

The fourth point, which is an extremely difficult one because it involves labour, is to get something concrete made. This could only be done, and then in a very limited sense, by using a slack period which only very occasionally occurs in our war factories owing to changes of production needed for the war. If it is feasible, and it may not be, to use some of this occasionally available energy and material, we might at least, if the stage is reached, get some mock-ups or even prototypes constructed.

Apart from the creation of civil aircraft there is one more further technical requirement which is to my mind an essential development before the aeroplane can really come into its own as a transport vehicle. I refer to the provision of means to enable blind landing to be effected. This would enable an aircraft to land under conditions of nil visibility, for example in fog or snow. If we could solve this problem of blind landing we should give the aeroplane the one thing it lacks—regularity. To do this we might well employ some of the skill which we have gained in the art of radiolocation—and this country is the mother of radiolocation—and by employing this and other techniques available secure a very great objective for the air both in war and peace. Such a technical achievement would be of inestimable value not only to this country, where we suffer from difficult flying conditions, but to the world. We should have taken a step further forward in making this unsinkable aircraft carrier a regular terminus for air transport.

It is very easy to be pessimistic about the future of aviation—just as easy as it was in the old days to be pessimistic about the original railway between Stockport and Darlington. To negate the future of a new means of communication such as this is to negate the possibility of human progress. I believe that the aeroplane is going to prove a great civilising influence by increasing and widening contacts between the peoples of the world and so leaving less time for misunderstanding to grow up.

I would not like to dangle before the eyes of those many young people who have given their work and their lives to aviation any gaudy visions which could not be fulfilled. We have a great Empire, we have only to look up and reach up into the air above us to grasp an even greater empire—the empire of the air.

Mr. Wakefield (Swindon)

I would like to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Watford (Air Commodore Helmore) on that point which he made so well—that speed enables personal contacts to be made, where personal contacts were not possible without the aeroplane. I feel that the approach to the future of aviation which the hon. and gallant Member has taken, is far more in line with reality than the attitude adopted by the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) and by hon. Members opposite who spoke in the previous Debate. Like the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Tree), I was disturbed at the most depressing ideas about the future of aviation expressed in the last Debate by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) and others, and in this Debate by the hon. Member for West Islington. It seemed to me that they were looking at it from a narrow, restricted point of view. I felt that if that were the attitude adopted by the people of our country in general, the outlook for our future progress was indeed gloomy. In one way, I rejoice to hear them put forward that view, because I cannot see that a party that has such a narrow and reactionary view could get into power, in the way the hon. Member for Nuneaton recently suggested. On the other hand, I was depressed beyond measure to think that a great party should have such views about the future of civil aviation, which should not be a party matter, but a really national matter.

Mr. Montague

That is what we want.

Mr. Wakefield

It is on that account, that I am depressed to think that hon. Members opposite take such a narrow and reactionary view. I would like to give another view recently expressed by the President of the American Air Lines in a very remarkable article. Referring to the future of aviation, he said: To-day, we, in America are faced with perhaps the greatest of all epochal transportation changes. … No other form of transportation ever achieved so much progress in so few years as has aviation. It has explored and conquered a new world—a world much larger than all of the land and waters it covers. Then he goes on to say, and this, I think, is of much substance: Surface methods are limited to two dimensions. Trains can only go where tracks go on land; automobiles mostly go where there are paved highways; ships travel only where there is water. Because air is everywhere (an elementary fact that we believe requires constant repetition), the air-realm presents the greatest transportation potential in the history of mankind. Then he goes on to say that automobiles have not simply done what horses did—the hon. Member for West Islington mentioned stage coaches—but that they did what horses cannot do, and, in so doing, automobiles created wealth that did not exist before. They enabled millions of people to shorten miles and lengthen hours and to enjoy benefits in every phase of their lives. We believe the increasing use of air will bring a transformation all over the earth even greater than that which automobiles accomplished within continental United States. The use of air will do it in less time, with effects that will dwarf the changes brought by motor cars. Let us not set the cart before the horse. It is unproductive to try to measure the potentials of universal air by the limitations of surface-bound foot-rules.

Mr. Montague

The hon. Member must not misrepresent me. I did not say I was opposed to the use of the air. I did not say that the aeroplane was not a very beneficent instrument with great potentialities. I said the exact reverse. I want to know why, if it is so universal and necessary and progressive, you should want the public to pay for it, without having the right to control the services?

Mr. Wakefield

The hon. Member has raised a point with which I will deal later.

Mr. Montague

Why not get on with it?

Mr. Wakefield

I am quite sure that the attitude of hundreds of thousands of young people in this country is more in line with the view which I have just read out, and which was expressed so vigorously in America. I believe our young people have that vision rather than the view expressed by hon. Members opposite. It is because we on this side of the House believe that it is of such importance to the future of aviation to get on with planning now, that we have raised this matter again. It is because we feel that we have had no adequate satisfaction about the plans the Government are making about the future position regarding two points. We feel that the responsibility for the control and supervision of civil aviation in this country, and its relation with the Dominions and with foreign Powers, ought to be considered, and, as hon. Members who preceded me have said, we believe that responsibility should be divorced from the Air Ministry.

The other point that needs consideration is the future of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and the policy adopted by the Government of using it as the chosen instrument of a State monopoly. I think it is true to say that the general feeling in the last Debate, and in the Debate which took place last summer in this House, was that civil aviation should be removed from the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Air. I support this view, for these reasons. It seems to me that aviation was developed under the shadow of the last war, and I believe that, if it had not been so developed, under the shadow of a great war, there is every probability that it would not have been allocated to the Air Ministry. After all, 100 years ago, when railways were developed, they were not put under any particular Ministry, although it is possible that, if there had been a great war at the time, they might have been put under the War Office. I do not think that would have been an advantage, and I do not think we would have led the world in the way we did, if the development of railways had been entrusted to the War Office.

I think we are all very glad indeed that a Department, the Air Ministry, was created for fighting in the air. The Air Ministry is a junior Service. It has had a great struggle in its fight for funds, and I would like to suggest that, when peace returns, there should be another great struggle by the Air Staff to secure adequate funds. The Air Minister indeed is now planning the future of the Royal Air Force and the auxiliary services, to ensure that, in the future, there will be an adequate, whole-time, professional Royal Air Force, with suitable auxiliary voluntary reserves, Air Training Corps and other organisations, able to maintain, should it ever be needed, an adequate defence of this country. It is, I think, important that every consideration be given to ensuring that we do have, from the earliest day in view of our falling birth-rate, and in view of the fact that people can only be taught to fly when they are young—a long-term policy for training and a policy of expansion for 15 or 20 years ahead. We cannot foresee what will be necessary 15 or 20 years ahead.

If civil aviation is under the Air Ministry, if the Secretary of State for Air is responsible for civil aviation as well as for the Service side, he will have a duality of responsibility. In the seeking of funds, the question is bound to arise, of which is to have the money—the Service side or civil aviation. One or other will suffer, and I submit that the Secretary of State for Air ought not to be put in that position. He should have the prime duty of ensuring that the Service side is adequately supported, and, if he does that, he may fail on the civil side. If he supports the civil side to the full, then the Service side may go short. I suggest that it is intolerable, as has been evidenced by the past, that the Secretary of State for Air should have this duality of loyality. For that reason, I suggest that it is desirable to plan the removal of the responsibility for civil aviation from the Air Ministry to a Communications Department. The Admiralty have concentrated upon defence at sea. The organisation of the Admiralty is not fit to consider and control, and operate the sailing of ships, and the services necessary for trade and commerce by means of ships everywhere. The War Office is not a suitable vehicle for controlling and operating the various kinds of transport in this country or abroad, and, because of exactly the same thing, I suggest that the Air Ministry is not the appropriate Department for operating and controlling civil aviation.

But it is not only the flying of aircraft which must be considered. Closely bound up with the flying of aircraft are the uses of the air for other purposes. Radio-telecommunication is an all-important, integral part of aviation, and that, together with meteorology, with which ships and transport are concerned, should be transferred to a Communications Department, in which you could have, on the one side, control of all home transport activities, coast-wise shipping, roads, railways, canals and civil aviation, all under one head, and, on the other, the air, civil aviation, shipping and telecommunications, all dealing with telecommunication matters which have to be discussed with foreign countries. I suggest that that proposal is more in line with the proper development which civil aviation ought to have than the present provision of having it under the Air Ministry.

An hon. Member earlier made reference to a Transport Command and said we on this side feared a Transport Command. I do not quite know what he meant by that, but I do suggest that it is of the utmost importance that the Air Ministry in the future should have a Transport Command. One of the things from which we suffered at the outbreak of the war was the fact that the Royal Air Force, instead of being the most mobile of our organisations, was completely earthbound and static. It is extremely important that the Royal Air Force should have at its disposal in the future a Transport Command, so that men and the apparatus and equipment required for servicing, can be quickly removed from one part of the world to another, where a danger may exist. That Transport Command should also provide speed of mobility for the Royal Navy and for the Army, and therefore the Air Ministry and the Air Staff, in making their plans for the future and their dispositions, should be able to have their Transport Command able to transport people in accordance with military requirements, which are quite separate from the requirements of civil aviation.

A different approach and attitude of mind are required for these problems. I would like to suggest that such a Transport Command as I have suggested would provide a valuable outlet for civil aircraft which are becoming obsolete. We know how, in pre-war days, British aviation was at a discount compared with the aviation of other nations, because our aircraft were obsolete, so that the same service and speed could not be given by us, as by other countries. Our merchant fleets of the air could be kept up to date by transferring aircraft as they become obsolete to this Transport Command, where they would be able to render, for many years, an adequate and suitable service. My right hon. Friend, in his reply, may argue, as a reason for retaining civil aviation within the Air Ministry, that research and development are such that it would not be in the interests of civil aviation to remove it. I hope that, after the war, there will not be a continuance of separate Departments of Supply and Aircraft Production. If the Service Departments gave their specifications and requirements, industry, given the necessary support in the way of research and development, is quite capable of producing what the Services and the consumer departments require without these other Departments.

The development of the Mosquito and the Lancaster were done on their own by firms to a great extent. Do not let us forget that. Let us also remember that the first 100 Hurricanes put on the production line were done at the risk of and on the responsibility of a private firm that was concerned with no Government order. Do not let us forget these things at a time when we talk so much of nationalisation and say that everything possible ought to be done by the State for the benefit of the people. Let us realise that private enterprise also has had responsibilities and has carried them out in the past to a great degree. I trust that some of the points that I have put are substantial ones and will receive that careful consideration which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air always gives to those who try to put forward helpful and constructive suggestions in, what is agreed, a very difficult position to be met in the future.

Now I come to the second bone of contention, that of the subject of British Overseas Airways Corporation. I will deal with some of the points made by hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), who said that he was opposed to competition by private interests for private profit. I understood him to say that he wanted to go forward to a clear understanding and international co-operation. He seemed to suggest that we could not go forward to a clear understanding and international co-operation unless the State ran civil aviation, and that that could not be done if there was competition between private interests for private profit. I am not at all clear—and he gave no arguments in support—why that should be so. We have seen for a century private shipping interests working for private profit in great collaboration and co-operation. In pre-war days the Shipping Conference settled differences much more amicably among themselves on a commercial basis than ever a Government seem to be able to settle things when political considerations arise. There is far more likely to be clear understanding and international co-operation in civil aviation in the future if it is left to business men, in their own way, to work out, in the same way that the shipping men worked out their problems, on a commercial basis. The hon. Member seems to suggest that the interests of nations and of private companies and their profits could not coincide. I do not see that at all. They do not seem to me to be mutually exclusive, but to be supplementary and complementary. If these private interests are not providing the national services, they will not make profit; they only make profit by providing a good service for the convenience of their customers, the general public. When you get a monopoly, whether it is of private enterprise or of the State, you do not get that service which is so highly desirable and essential. That is why I am opposing the retention of British Overseas Airways Corporation in a position which cannot be other than monopolistic.

A century ago, when the trade from India to England was protected by the navigation laws, it was cheaper and quicker to ship by American line from India to New York, and then from New York to Liverpool than to come here direct because of the slow, costly and protective East India Company's route. When these navigation laws were repealed 30 years later, we saw the position reversed, and private interests, the new British steam-powered Mercantile Marine, with competitive zeal, leading the world. If we in this country restrict ourselves to a single State monopoly, or indeed, a private monopoly for that matter, we shall be in the same position as that which existed at sea 100 years ago with our mercantile commerce. Hon. Members talk much about international organisation. We must be careful not to be confused on that matter. I do not think that there is anybody who would not welcome an International Air Board which would provide for the laying down of standards for first, second and third class aerodromes, the necessary landing equipment, the rules of the air, loading, aircraft structure, minimum requirements for the safety of goods and passengers travelling throughout the world.

Let us have that international board, and let it delegate these powers to various regional boards in different parts of the world where such regional boards could carry on, with an executive, inspecting the international laws that were laid down. We are all in agreement with that kind of internationalisation. When we come down to ownership and control of a central world-wide international authority, we are getting towards an impracticable proposition. I do not agree that because, at the present time, it seems to be an impracticable proposition an attempt should not be made to see if something of that kind cannot be developed. There is in certain parts of the world, in particular Europe, an opportunity where you might create a kind of wagon-lit. There you have densely populated areas and a number of sovereign States, with boundaries closely adjacent, and you have a big Axis Power in Germany which will need, after the war, a transportation system, but which ought not to be allowed to ply or operate aircraft or play any part in operating aircraft for some time to come. That area seems to be a very suitable one for the countries concerned to join together and form a kind of wagon-lit system. If it was successful, it could be extended elsewhere, and if it was not successful, no harm would have been done. The British Overseas Airways Corporation might take an interest in such a European wagon-lit project and be the suitable machinery or method for carrying out such an experiment.

Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

Is there not an essential difference between the wagon-lit system and the air? The wagon-lit system is necessary in order that a person may get a through carriage from one capital to another, which may be two or three days away, whereas in air it is quite different, as you can get a through aeroplane practically right across Europe.

Mr. Wakefield

The point which my hon. Friend makes is a good one, but after the war there will be a number of practical difficulties in getting across Europe; we shall be in a position to provide a service there, and we ought to be given an opportunity. I am suggesting some kind of wagon-lit organisation for that particular part of the world. If it works, well and good, extend it; if it does not, then no harm can be done.

I hope that progress is being made and that note is being properly taken of Article 22 of the recent agreement between Australia and New Zealand. Article 22 says: In the event of failure to obtain a satisfactory international agreement to establish and govern the use of international air trunk routes the two Governments will support a system of air trunk routes controlled and operated by Governments of the British Commonwealth of Nations under Government ownership. I hope that that position is being exploited. It may well be possible to have the earth encircled by an Air Commonwealth line in which the Governments of the British Commonwealth are all interested. The British Overseas Airways Corporation should be the medium or machinery for such a purpose. Such a medium could at the same time take an interest in any other regional part of the world, such as China, South America or Africa and in that way the British Commonewealth would act as one in having interests in various parts of the world, together with other countries interested in a particular part of the world. At the same time, a complete round-the-world service could be given by this British Commonwealth service organisation. I would not have that as a monopoly, but would urge that consideration should be given to various other interests, whether shipping or otherwise, which have experience in other forms of transport, so that they would be able to run their forms of service from point to point in competition with this round-the-world service. Facilities ought to be given, and there is no reason why regulated competition in exactly the same way as that which has obtained with the shipping companies shoud not be able to be obtained by air lines operating in competition with each other for the benefit not only of our people but of mankind in general.

I hope that I have said enough to show that there is deep reason for the fears that exist throughout the country, that if British Overseas Airways Corporation is kept in a monopolistic position, the visions of the air expressed by the President of American Air Lines, which the Americans and so many of our people foresee, will not be realised by this country. There is a great opportunity for vision before us. The air age is now with us and in the next 20 or 30 years there will be the same big expansion of traffic, of trade and commerce on account of the annihilation of time and distance as there was for the first 40 years of the development of the steam age. Are we to seize the opportunity, as did our forefathers, and play that part in world progress which, by our achievements and our exertions, in this country we are entitled to play in her development; or are we to sink back and become a fifth rate Power? Our ability to live, and indeed, our ability to exist, depends upon our ability to trade and to carry the goods and provide the services in the world. That, in turn, depends upon a vigorous effort, the taking of risks, initiative and all those things which can be done so much better by competitive private enterprise than by a monopoly, whether run by the State or in the name of the State. I hope that, in the plans that are being made for the future, our young men who are fighting our battles in the air so magnificently will not find, on their return, that the very thing they are fighting to preserve—some measure of individual liberty, or freedom for themselves and their families—has gone and that in its place is the dead hand of monopolistic State bureaucracy.

Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)

I rise to give general support to the case which has been unfolded by my hon. Friends the Members for South-East St. Pancras (Sir Alfred Beit) and Harborough (Mr. Tree) in speeches informed by such knowledge and delivered with such skill. The case has been reinforced by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) who has just spoken. He, at any rate, has played his part in pre- paring the youth of this generation for the responsibilities which they will have to undertake in carrying on the tradition of our valiant pilots. We are very much indebted to these hon. Gentlemen and others, for directing once again the beam of public attention on to this important aspect of national policy. In it the future of Britain is very much involved. For great federations like the United States and Russia, with vast land areas under their control, air transit may be a convenience; for this small island, with its widespread and scattered responsibilities, it is a necessity. There is no "globoloney" about this for us. This is a deadly earnest matter. Nor is the task which we are invited by the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion to undertake a new one.

The science of aerodynamics has not been newly discovered; several generations have been brought up with some knowledge of it and under its influence. No, the matter is not a fresh one, nor do we come freshly to it. We have been pioneers. There is no country in the world that has run services so extensive over the seas as Britain. In 1911, on the day when King George V came to the Throne, we instituted our first mail service—letters were carried from London to Windsor, a distance of 20 odd miles. By the time that his late Majesty celebrated his Jubilee we were running a regular mail service to Australia, 13,000 miles away. No, we are no newcomers. The Cape to Cairo service was pioneered by us. The jungle and the swamps were overcome, the weather conditions were baffled, and a causeway of aerodromes was made to stretch from north to south of that great continent. The tree threw out branches; not the least important of them was the West to East Africa service, which the Americans have been so glad to use. That service has indeed been a lever with which we have been able to crack the Axis. When it was established, it was the most noteworthy achievement in the history of aviation. It has been equalled, if not excelled, by the setting up of a regular service across the North Atlantic which had never before been flown in winter—a service which has continued throughout this war for three years, a service which has been run by our pilots where other pilots have been daunted. No, in this matter we are pioneers. We have to go to no capital with our cap in our hands and our knees trembling. Any nation which makes an agreement with us may consider itself fortunate.

What do we want? Let us be clear what we want and who can give it to us. The Government have a part to play. What is the part? In the first place to run services over the world you need aeroplanes. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Watford (Air Commodore Helmore), in a competent and expert speech, gave the Government some advice. You need aeroplanes. Personally I regret, and have frequently said so, that we have concentrated on the development of machines that are described as fighting machines to the exclusion of transport machines. I believe, taking a survey of the war as a whole, that it can be shown that the transport machine has played a part approaching, though not of course attaining in importance, the part played by combat aeroplanes. The key position of Crete was gained for the Germans by transport aeroplanes. Owing to transport aeroplanes, they have been able to carry in this war an air borne Army. We have never recorded such an achievement. After bringing an armada 3,000 miles across the sea from America to North Africa, we halted within 100 miles of our objective while the Germans, by means of transport aeroplanes, put an Army into Tunis which held up our progress for six months.

I believe it to be unfortunate that we have concentrated on fighting aeroplanes to the exclusion of transport aeroplanes, unfortunate both for peace and for war. There may be some explanation of that, there may have been some agreement that America would make the transport aeroplanes and we would make the others. I do not wish to indulge in reproaches, for anyone can look back and say that we could have done better if we had done something else. That is not my object. My object is to stress the importance of the transport aeroplane. We are told that there are some designs on the drawing board for transport aeroplanes. Of course, they cannot mature for some years. Even though that be the case, even though peace should supervene before we have the aeroplanes, I do not think that we shall be permanently disadvantaged. After all, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, or any other concern running aeroplanes, is selling seats, not aircraft, and it will, with the Secretary of State's permission, obtain the best available aircraft at the time. Therefore I shall not despair even if these new models have not matured. We have heard about them—the Brabazon, the York, the Tudor, and so forth. The hen has cackled; I hope the eggs will be good, even if they are not served up on the breakfast table for some time.

So much for aircraft. The next matter in which the Government can assist is in aerodromes. Birds have nests, ships have quays, engines have sheds, but the British Overseas Airways Corporation has no aerodromes. It shares aerodromes. Last week in the Debate we heard something about a terminal airport in Scotland. "Aerodrome" it is called. We all know exactly where it is, but we must not say. It is in Scotland. When that aerodrome was mentioned the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) said: "Good Heavens, Scotland has a terminal aerodrome! What about Wales?." Sir, is the English rose born to blush unseen? Is it not to be watered by my right hon. Friend? There is no English terminal aerodrome capable of taking a four-engined aeroplane within taxi distance, or a short railway distance of London.

Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the fact the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) when he was pleading for Wales, had forgotten that during his earlier speech he was pleading for nationalisation?

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)


Mr. Hore-Belisha

That, doubtless, is a very important diplomatic matter, but I was on a botanical matter for the moment, on the matter of the sweet English rose that I wished to see growing in the soil of the Home Counties. Why have we not such an aerodrome? Perhaps rather I should ask, when are we to have such an aerodrome? My right hon. Friend can take refuge, as is sometimes done in rose gardens, beneath the heavy Victorian skirts of the war. He can say: "The war explains why we have not given you such an aerodrome; it is because we have had to concentrate upon other matters." I accept that, but I plead for a hastening of the process whereby we may have such an aerodrome. Why? There is an enormous transport service—traffic—to Africa and to the East, and all manner of distinguished personages, not only British but foreign, are having a conspectus of our capacity to run airlines. If they are put in an uncomfortable aerodrome and, while waiting for the service to depart, are made to sleep four in a room—distinguished foreign potentates, overcrowded in that way—

Lt.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

Is the right hon. Gentleman referring to Terminal X in making these allegations?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

No, Sir. Scotland has been dealt with by me in a proper order of priority. I have finished with Scotland. Surely I may make a plea for England. I do not wish distinguished personages to be overcrowded and treated with scant attention in the aerodromes which they use. I do not make any complaint about the past. Nobody wishes to do that, because we have had great achievements, of which my right hon. Friend may well be proud, excelled by no other Power, not even by America. I am merely pleading that he may be able to tell us that we shall have a London airport of great and adequate dimensions and with all the facilities that go with air travel. Those are the material aids the Government can give. There remains, however, the bigger quest which has so much agitated the House again to-day, namely, the world framework within which we are to operate.

What kind of agreements are we to make? My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) wishes us to make operational agreements. He has unfolded to the House a charter or articles of association for "World Airways Limited," as my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary so appositely called it. All nations, great and small, are to participate in this undertaking. That is the proposal. Is it a sound proposal? I said last time that that international bird will not fly. It is a cockatoo. It will screech, but it will not soar. Let me tell the House why I think that. The world is not on one level of civilisation and development. There are many different nations and races. There are many degrees of independence. Very few nations have the capacity to run air lines, and they are mainly the industrial nations. The fact that technical knowledge is required, that experience is necessary, that the study of meterology is an essential element in the running of such services, that the development of radio plays a great part, limits the number of nations which can effectively run air services. Then why bring in all the others?

Mr. Bowles

My right hon. Friend has referred to the proposal I have made as a cockatoo. He seems to be a parrot repeating himself from the Debate that took place nine months ago and still saying he does not understand what it is about at all.

Mr. Hore-Belisha

That is a very vacuous observation. I am not, in fact, repeating myself, but if I were the acid test would be whether I was talking sense or not. I am, at any rate, presenting an argument to the House which cannot be dismissed by a shrug of the shoulders or a disapproving phrase, a pouting phrase, from my hon. Friend.

Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)

By a cockatoo.

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I say that these scientific requirements limit the possibilities and when you come to analyse them you find that there are, in fact, only three main groups of nations which can run world services You come down to Russia, the United States and Britain together with her associates. Those are the three main groups. Russia—[Interruption.] I am talking of main groups. My hon. Friend interrupts me and says "China." This matter is really based upon industry. Military power and air power are based upon industry, and I say that the three main groups must be—I hope that the Dutch and other States will be associated with us or in the European group which I propose to mention in a moment—Russia, the United States and Britain. I thought that was understood.

What is the attitude of Russia? It is not defined. The subject presses, days pass; peace, let us hope, approaches, with the assistance of the Red Armies. We cannot stand still and wait for Russia to declare herself. Then we come to the United States. The United States has declared herself. President Roosevelt has spoken and he has said that the United States will continue to place reliance on private enterprise. The great Republic may be misguided, it may be wrong, but that is one of the hard facts of the world which must be faced—the United States will not be in such a corporation as my hon. Friend envisages. I hope he does not think that I am disputing his sincerity. I am disputing the case which he puts, and I say that the United States has rejected this proposal. Therefore, let us deal with the world as it is and get what we can. If we cannot obtain universality well, then, what can we obtain which is short of universality?

There are certain principles which must be accepted. The first principle is contained in the answer to the question: "Should a nation have control of its own domestic airways or should these airways be controlled by other nations?" The United States is not going to allow any international body to control its internal airways. Do we, then, start from the principle that each nation controls its own internal airways? My hon. Friend behind me says "Yes." He agrees that each nation must control its own airways in the manner it thinks best. The next principle which has to be decided is, when there is a voyage outside a country and a landing is made at a terminal, is that landing to be made as of right? In other words, are you to place terminal airports on the same basis as seaports? Are they to be open to the world subject to the fulfilment of safety and other general provisions? I should imagine that we would agree with that.

The next question is the right of innocent passage. President Roosevelt has accepted the principles I have mentioned. He has also accepted the right of innocent passage, namely, that you may fly over the territory of another State. That is a very great advance. In the Paris Convention, unqualified national sovereignty was accepted. A State could say: "We shall not allow you to fly over this or that territory because of security reasons," and the Government could also say where landings were to be made. What was the result? The result was that our service to India was interrupted because of the attitude of Italy, and, again, because of the attitude of Persia. Is that going to be tolerated in the post-war world? Surely the right of innocent passage must be accepted? An international authority, in my submission—and I would like to know what the Secretary of State thinks about this—must be enabled, in cases where a State obstructs the passage of a trunk route, to require an aerodrome to be made and a service to be given or supply these needs itself. It is unreasonable that small and undeveloped States should be enabled to obstruct the air transport of the world. That is where international authority can come in.

Mr. Bowles

Do I understand that big countries such as ours should have the right to, say, build an aerodrome in Iraq, even though the Iraq Government refused that right?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I said that these are matters properly to be dealt with by international authority. Operation was not one of them but administration was. I accept the case put forward by my hon. Friends who have moved and supported the Amendment and I am trying to develop it.

Finally, there is the question of whether aircraft proceeding from one State should have the right to pick up passengers in another State, not to take them back but to deliver them either elsewhere or somewhere else within that State. That is the principle which President Roosevelt rejects. He says that we may have the right to go to New York en route to Australia, that we may stop in New York or San Francisco but cannot pick up any passengers in New York and drop them at San Francisco. How does that effect us? If Britain is the unit which is to enter into a convention what have we, in this little compact country, with few air lines and with few places to be visited by air, to offer? Britain is diminutive compared with the United States and, therefore, under such a principle, if it be persisted in, we gain nothing. If, however, we enter a convention as an Empire then we have an area greater than that of the United States and in return for a refusal of the right to pick up and land passengers or cargo in America we shall be able to refuse a like convenience or obtain it in return for a like convenience. Therefore, it is imperative that we should, if possible, enter this conference as an Empire, as a unit. Every part of that Empire has an advantage in associating itself with us.

My right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary was a delegate to the Imperial Conference which was held. We have been told that complete agreement was reached and I hope that that agreement covered this matter. If I know anything of my hon. and gallant Friend, who is highly experienced in flying, is a great enthusiast and has rendered great service, I should imagine it would have been included as a pre-requisite to any convention. However, I can only express the hope, because I think the matter is important. If we are to proceed as an Empire—and that does not depend upon the Minister; I am not making a criticism, but expressing an aspiration—then we shall be on the same footing as the United States, another great unit. Then there is Europe, a continent composed of so many different peoples, speaking so many languages and having so many Governments. The continuance of that anarchy is inimical to the interests of peace. Here is an opportunity—there have been others and there will be others again to consolidate that Continent and make a United States of Europe. Then the Dutch, Swedish and Belgian air lines will fall into place either as part of that unit—and I am glad my hon. Friend behind agrees with that—or as part of the British Empire unit, or as part of both. At any rate, you will have three groups to form a tripod on which the world can stand securely—the British Empire, the United States of America and the United States of Europe. I do not know where the next leg, the fourth, will be inserted in the stool, because that depends on Russia. On that matter I remain silent, but hopeful. It is for Russia to decide. Russia is two and a half times the size of Europe and of itself forms a great unit. However, I hope Soviet policy may allow the world to rest on four legs rather than three. There may be one or two other legs sprouting in the course of time but there are enough for our immediate need—for stability.

I hope I have made it plain to my right hon. Friend that my speech, in so far as it is backward-looking, is one of pride in our achievements. I do not think we need defer to any nation in the world. In so far as my speech is forward-looking it is one of trust that under the direction of my right hon. Friend we shall avail ourselves of our great opportunities.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)

I desire, in the first place, to follow the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). The chief point in his speech was that he desired to see the growth of the rule that would make the air free, that we should see that the rule enshrined in past ages by which a State controlled all the ground from the middle of the earth to all the sky above it to the heavens, and by which it could forbid and control the passage of aircraft, should be eliminated, and that there should be, all over the world, the free right to the use of the air. That was a most admirable sentiment, but we have to regard that in the light of the second major point of my right hon. Friend's speech, namely, that the number of Powers in this world who can run air lines across the globe is limited. My right hon. Friend said that there are only three to be taken into account—the United States of America, the British Commonwealth and Empire and the U.S.S.R. He dismissed the U.S.S.R. because, he said, we do not know what their policy is. Have they ever been asked? Has any inquiry been directed from this country to the U.S.S.R. to ask if they would be prepared to collaborate in some system? We would like to know. My right hon. Friend could have dismissed the U.S.S.R. on other grounds, because so far they have never run any air lines at all outside their own boundaries. Therefore, if we leave the U.S.S.R. out of it there remain the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States of America, the only two countries, as my right hon. Friend says, who can run these grand international air routes.

I invite the House to link these two together. Freedom of the air all over the globe is to be linked with the right of these two nations to operate it. That is what the claim of my right hon. Friend amounts to—the sharing out of the domination of the air of the world between Great Britain, the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States of America. On what basis? He gave credit to the sentiment and the skill of those who moved and seconded the Amendment and some others who have spoken. What was the tenour of their remarks? There must he no internationalism, there must be no nationalism. Taking the sum total of their remarks, the system that he was supporting was one which meant competition between the States and competition between organisations within those States. What a vision of the world we are to see after the war—parcelled out between a couple of selected States and those quarrelling within themselves and within their own boundaries, quarrelling between different organisations and different aeroplane companies, a kind of set-up which could only lead to another war bigger than the one we have the advantage of seeing at present.

Mrs. Tate (Frome)


Mr. Hughes

Apparently, judging from the enthusiasm with which the prospect is supported in other quarters of the House. I must say a word about Wales by way of justification. I have quarrelled with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I do not quarrel at all with his claim that the rose should get the same fair play as the leek seeks to get. The only claim that he has made on behalf of Wales or Scotland is that, if a large seaport is desired, the place where it should be should be adjudged upon its merits. If, upon its merits, Wales is the right place, with all respect to his claim for England's share, it is to Wales that it should go. That is the only claim that we make. I apologise for the parenthesis, but I think it only right as a Welshman that I should make it.

It is very significant that this Debate should have taken place. We had a Debate only a fortnight ago on the subject that it was proper that the main air lines of the world should be international lines, and it attracted a fair amount of public attention. It is amazing to find that the same topic should occupy another day now. There are subjects of considerable importance which have been seeking the attention of the House for a considerable period. There are local government, the price of the acquisition of land and the location of industry, and I could give a series of others. It has been sought again and again to obtain time to discuss them, yet somehow, though there was a Debate based upon an Amendment leading to international control, within a fortnight we have another Debate. What are the influences? Where have they come from? We are entitled to judge, from the speeches that have been made on the other side of the House, that they are the in- flences that desire to foster an Imperialist nationalist outlook on the development of civil aviation, to see the beautiful outcome of the profit making system, which has done so well for this country that before the war we had to draw a blanket over vast masses of our organisations to hide them in shame from the rest of the world. Now, in this new sphere, they are so eager and anxious to introduce this element of private profit and control that they are able to bring back to Parliament within a fortnight a discussion which we have already had.

Perhaps, too, one ought to comment upon the fact that the attention this topic has received from Members of the Government has varied on these two days. When the topic of discussion centred on international regulation and control, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) and seconded by myself, the Members of the Government concerned were content to be represented by the Parliamentary Secretary. We had a very pleasant discussion and he was able to dispose to his own satisfaction of the arguments for internationalisation. To-day the attitude of the Front Bench is going to be a blessing upon those who have not come here to support internationalisation but national competition, and competition within the nation, and we find that for most of the time the Treasury Bench has been graced not only with the presence of the Parliamentary Secretary but of the Secretary of State himself.

Mr. Wakefield

It shows the importance of it.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

It also shows with equal significance—and I say it with regret—the attitude the Government appear to be taking upon this fundamental matter. It shows that they are apparently more inclined to international competition than to international organisation. I do not want to repeat anything I said in the Debate a fortnight ago. There is only one thing that seems to me to be fundamental in this approach to the control of civil post-war aviation. There is a doctrine which is accepted as a doctrine of international law—the doctrine of national sovereignty. It has been mentioned in this Debate already as a doctrine the result of which would be the control of the air above it by each national sovereign independent State. I believe that it was mentioned by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield). That doctrine, as long as it is accepted and acted upon, must necessarily defeat any attempt to organise this world upon a basis of peace. As long as every country demands the right to be national, sovereign and independent, it is impossible to have a world peace organisation. It must be, describe it as you like, a world set-up in which the only arbitrament for a decision must be conflict and war. That is inevitable.

I would be the last to suggest that it is possible to legislate this notion out of existence. It has been accepted, if not in terms by implication, by the statesmen of the countries and by the peoples of this world for almost 200 years. It cannot be legislated out of existence. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it grew up after the event; when sovereign independence became a fact the doctrine of sovereign independence was accepted as a governing rule of relationship between States. We have to turn that back. We have to get away from that idea or there never will be world peace. How are we to do it and get the acceptance of something which tears away some little bit of the governing idea of national sovereign independence of States? We can only do it gradually. We can only do it by stages.

There is only one possible approach at the present time by which we can override it. That approach is to be found in the field of the air. No country at the present time would face the idea of a general international army. Very few countries would accept the idea, within an effective range, of an international currency. Very few would get together and accept the idea of an international tariff boundary. None of these is a practical possibility. There is only one practical possibility, and that alone is to be found in an international organisation of the main trunk air routes of the world. It is the only practical possibility for beginning to break down the theory of national sovereignty which is inimical to the peace of the world. I am prepared to be told there are difficulties and to hear that this State or that may not be able to co-operate. But we in this country, if we are really anxious for peace, must hold ourselves up as ready and willing to operate the air internationally on its main trunk routes after the war, or—and I say it with all seriousness—we cannot truly say that we are building after the war for peace and not for the next war.

Mr. Perkins (Stroud)

The object of this Amendment—and my name stands second on it—was to draw the attention of the House to the urgent need of getting civil air transport from the control of the Air Ministry. Attempts have been made by various hon. Members to ride it off. We have had an interesting discussion on the virtues of cockatoos and parrots and theoretical arguments about nationalisation. I suggest to hon. Members interested in those subjects that they could not do better than go down to the Oxford Union and raise them there. I will endeavour to bring the Debate down to earth. I do not believe in flying in the stratosphere when one cannot do a circuit and bump without pranging one's aircraft. There is a fundamental difference of outlook in this House and the country between those who fly and those who do not. Those who fly suffer from the disease of airmindedness, and those who do not fly suffer from the disease of acrophobia. Those hon. Members who suffer from aerophobia bitterly regret that the art of aerostation was ever invented. They would like to stifle it and destroy it, but they cannot do this and so wish to control it by every possible method in their power.

We who suffer from the other disease of air-mindedness admit fully and frankly that the aeroplane has been misused in two wars, but we believe that ultimately it will bring untold blessings to mankind. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) said that it would bring untold blessings to mankind, but not next week, or next year, but it may be no years off. If the Secretary of State at the beginning of this century, in 1900, had gone courting a girl in the neighbouring village he would have found himself in considerable difficulties. All the young gentlemen in the neighbouring village would have been after his blood, because there was an artificial barrier between one village and another. If a boy went courting a girl in a neighbouring village he did not get the girl, but he got a black eye. In that narrow space of 45 years these artificial barriers between villages have been broken down by the motor bus. Just as the motor bus has broken down artificial village frontiers in the narrow space of 45 years, so we believe that in the next 45 years the civil air liner can break down national frontiers to the ultimate benefit of mankind.

Civil air transport will never come into its own and will never be able to fulfil the rightful purpose for which it was given to us until we can get it away from those men in the Air Ministry who suffer from aerophobia. In the past we have had many Debates on civil aviation and I have listened to most of them. Never at any time have I heard any hon. Member get up, except the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary, and say that civil aviation is perfectly housed in the Air Ministry. I am thankful to-day that a great milestone has been passed, for the official Labour Party, headed by the hon. Member for West Islington, has come out whole-heartedly on our side. He has told the House that his party think that civil aviation should come away from the Air Ministry. Now we are all united. We may differ as to where it should go, but we are united in the main.

He twitted us. He said we differed where it ought to go. I could also throw stones. I remember that we had a very interesting Debate about this time last year, when the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) made a most brilliant and interesting speech from the Opposition Front Bench. He did not agree with the hon. Member for West Islington. The hon. Member for West Islington wants civil aviation to go to the Ministry of Transport while the hon. Member for Burnley wanted it set in a house of its own. Although we may have our little differences of opinion, so also have the Labour Party. The great thing is that all political parties in this House are unanimous on the point that it must go—except of course, the Secretary of State for Air. I am not so certain of the Under-Secretary. I had to read some speeches of his the other day and they suggested to me that, perhaps, after all, he was on our side.

I want to have a heart-to-heart talk with the Secretary of State to-day. I have no doubt that he is extraordinarily proud of the great part that his Department has played in the development of civil transport during the last 20 years. I confess that last Sunday I did not go to church. Instead, I sat down and read a most interesting report called the Report of the Committee on Inquiry into Civil Aviation. It inquired into the whole question of civil aviation after 20 years of Air Ministry rule. I read that Report twice and I was greatly shocked with what I found in it. At that time, in 1938, our air lines in Europe were almost nonexistent, and where they did exist they were flown with obsolete machines, many of which were fit only for the British Museum. An hon. Member in this House said that they were the laughing stock of Europe. Immense sums of money were spent every year with Swiss and Belgian air lines to carry British mails. The British Empire routes to the East and to Singapore were a bad second to the Royal Dutch lines. I believe that if it had not been for the war we should have been swept out of the sky. Only in Africa did we excel, but there we were up against no competition. It should be recorded that so short were we of aircraft just before the war that the operating organisation at that time had to knock off all passengers on the Empire routes in order to concentrate on mails. We had no available aircraft. Our great Dominion lines were run by German and American aircraft and our own air lines in this country were also run by German and American aircraft. So far as I know, unless within the last six months, no British Prime Minister had ever flown from this country in a British machine.

In this country the municipal airports, for which the Air Ministry are directly responsible because they urged the municipalities to build them in 1928, were becoming white elephants, fit only for housing estates. The London Airport was definitely second class. We had no line over the South Atlantic, and so we merrily paid German and French companies £100,000 a year to run our mails. We had no lines across the Pacific, although America had one. That was the position after 20 years of Air Ministry rule. No doubt the Secretary of State is proud of the great achievements of the Air Ministry in civil aviation, but I am not. I consider that it was 20 years neglect, characterised by a deplorable lack of vision, during which time our civil air transport was nobody's baby. The Report of the Inquiry said: We view with grave disquiet the position disclosed by our inquiry. Before I point out some of the advantages of removing civil aviation from the Air Ministry, let me briefly examine the case which I have no doubt the Secretary of State will put up to-day. Nine months ago he put up a very interesting case. He produced many arguments, but I will merely summarise the main ones. He said he thought that if it was moved to some other Department it would be difficult, and much harder, for the operating companies to obtain supplies, equipment and spares. I do not quite know what he meant by that, and I would like to ask him: Are they happy now? Have they got all the spares and equipment they want? Is their maintenance 100 per cent.? It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman will have to explain that argument at some length. Does he really mean that if civil aviation is taken away from his Department and handed over to some other Department that his Department, out of spite, will cut off supplies? Is that his argument?

The next argument he produced was the three Reports, called the Lamplugh, Gorrell and Cadman Reports. It was obvious to me that he had not read those Reports, or that if he had read them, he obviously did not understand them. In the case of the Lamplugh Report he misquoted what was said. According to him, the Report said it was almost impossible to take civil aviation away from the Air Ministry, or words to that effect. He used the words "almost impossible," but as a matter of fact, that Report said nothing of the kind. It said: Unless urgently necessary, it would be unwise, an entirely different thing. I think I can dismiss that argument, because obviously the right hon. Gentleman had not read the Reports or he did not understand them.

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

I accept that one.

Mr. Perkins

Then, as to design and research. He told us that if civil aviation were moved to another Department, it would not get the same facilities for design and research. Civil air transport in this country has never had one penny spent on it for design and research. All the money was grabbed for the Royal Air Force; every farthing was put into the coffers of the Royal Air Force to produce Spitfires and Hurricanes to win the Battle of Britain. Nothing was allocated to civil aviation. If we can only have our own Department, we will do far better. We will have our own design and research department. The crowning fallacy of all was when the Secretary of State used some such words as these: "If you take civil aviation away from my Department and put it in another Department, no young man or young woman in my Department and in the new Department will have the same zeal for flying." Those are the words he used—"the same zeal for flying." He suggested that all these civil servants in civil aviation are merrily flying up and down the country and are keen on flying. What are the facts? None of them fly. None of them can fly. They have not got aircraft of their own and there are no internal air lines in this country, except over the water. He himself, as Secretary of State, has given a direct order that no civilian shall fly an R.A.F. machine without special permission. Therefore to suggest that these men are flying all over the country—I have no doubt whatever they would like to—is a complete travesty of the facts. They go by train and by car.

Now I come to the advantages of getting civil aviation away from the Air Ministry. Unfortunately, these plans have to be laid for the future. Decisions have to be taken and I think it is unfair to expect the Secretary of State to take those decisions, because he has not the time. There are matters of very great urgency, and I will mention some of them. There is the whole question of terminal airports in London for the Empire. Has one been decided upon yet? If it has, has the land been bought, or are we waiting for speculators to have the first rake off? In the future, are we to be sucked by propellors or squirted by jets? What is the future of British Overseas Airways? Are we to have one chosen instrument or five or six? Are we to have a Port of London air authority to control all the airfields round London? What is to happen to our municipal aerodromes? Are they to be white elephants and will local authorities be free to use them for housing estates?

What is to happen to all the people in the aircraft industry? Are they to be unemployed? What is to happen between us and the United States of America? It seems to me quite unfair to expect the Secretary of State to settle these problems. He has already got a plateful. He is no doubt now planning the air war for the new front when it opens. He has on his hands the Battle of Berlin, the Battle of the Pacific, the Battle of Italy, the daily Battle of the High Seas, and shortly he will have new fronts—perhaps in Norway, France or Belgium. It seems to me that the Secretary of State has already too much to do. I want to take this load off his shoulders in order to leave him absolutely free to go all out in the fight against the Hun.

There is another and shorter reason, the question of which Department is to negotiate with the U.S.A. His Department has been for the last four years on bended knees, cap in hand, asking for favours from the United States—"Please lend us aircraft." Is his Department the right one to go now and stand up for British rights in any future conference with the United States? It seems to me it is vital that it must be taken away from my right hon. Friend's Department before that conference takes place. I believe the time is ripe now, and by now I mean immediately, when this hitherto unwanted child can be weaned from its tired and bored mother.

I want to go on to another subject which has been touched upon, the subject of aircraft. I remember that nine months ago the House was very worried about the position. I for one am very much happier now than I was. I know that we have our critics. People say it is wrong to build civil aircraft in war-time, but unfortunately these critics do not realise that an aircraft that is meant to take passengers in peace can also take soldiers in war, and when we open these new fronts on the Continent or in the Pacific we shall want every single air transport upon which we can lay our hands. We cannot have too many. Any air transports we are building now will be used in this war. My critics will say that if we design one now it will not fly until 1948 or 1949. Therefore those design staffs who are working now on designing bombers for 1948 or 1950 are, in my view, wasting their time. I believe the war will be over by that time. I suggest that the right course is to switch over from designing military machines for 1948 or 1950 and concentrate all that effort on building civil machines for that period.

We have the York, the Tudor and Brabazon. Just one word about the Brabazon. It is going far too slowly. About six months ago—I admit I am absolutely out of date—I made inquiries from a friend of mine who knows someone in the works. He told me that somewhere about 25,000 drawings would be needed. He also told me that they were turning them out at the rate of 10 a week. I would like to ask the Secretary of State whether he will tell the House how many years it will take to complete 25,000 drawings if they are being produced at the rate of 10 a week? Perhaps he will tell the House the answer to that question. On the question of this Brabazon aircraft I suggest that we are going too slowly. I will add two constructive suggestions. At the moment this machine is in the hands of one firm. Is it wise to leave it in the hands of one firm or one designer? Should it not be a great national venture and should not we rope in all the brains of the aircraft industry? The second suggestion is, Is it wise to concentrate entirely on one machine? When we went in for airships we built two. One flew and one did not. When we went out to win the Schneider cup we had two machines. One flew. The other did not. Therefore I suggest we ought to have two Brabazons, two machines of that size being undertaken in the country now in case one should be a failure.

The question of engines is, I am afraid, very unsatisfactory. Nothing is being done at all. We are still designing military engines for the fictitious war which is to come off in the year 1950. I would like to switch over a portion of that designing staff to the work of designing some civil engines for that time. I do not know what has come over the Secretary of State. A big change has taken place in him during this last few years. He is now a born pessimist. His view is, I believe, that as far as the industry is concerned the vast majority of the people will be unemployed when peace comes and that the vast majority of those in the R.A.F. will be unemployed. That is a very shortsighted view. I do not believe that is necessary. I do not believe that we ought to scatter to the winds all this great accumulation of skill and experience in the factories and in the R.A.F. The Secretary of State has lost his spirit, drive, initiative and love of adventure. I do not know whether it is a case of lack of moral fibre, or whether it is a case of loss of nerve or, "Jam veniet tacito, curva senecta pede" or whether he is too busy. I do not know what it is, but there has been a change. I remember that only 15 years ago, when the Secretary of State was the protegé of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), for the whole of three weeks or one month of the summer he went up and clown the country as a great crusader who was out to kill the dragon of unemployment: "We can cure unemployment. We have only to spend £200,000,000 and unemployment in this country will disappear for ever." Instead of that great crusader he now sits back with his feet on the table and arms folded and is completely resigned to the fact that the vast majority of the people in the industry will be unemployed the moment the last shot is fired. He makes no effort to plan for the future.

I know that for a Member of this House to put up a suggestion to the Air Ministry is quite fatal. It is automatically turned down, particularly if it comes from me, as I have had to criticise them once or twice in the past, but I will say this for the sake of my own conscience. If you compare the total number of people employed in our main air line, British Overseas Airways, and divide that number by the number of machines they have got, and do the same thing with American air lines, you reach the conclusion that to keep an air liner in the air employs about 100 people. In one case it is 95, in the other 121. Let us call it, roughly, 100 to keep one air liner in the air. If by any stretch of the imagination we could keep 10,000 air liners in the air in the Empire we would find permanent employment for 1,000,000 boys out of the R.A.F. I know that 10,000 is quite impossible now, but I think it should be our ultimate aim. I think we ought to aim at a figure after the war of 2,500, which would employ about 250,000 people out of the R.A.F., and work up by 500 a year until we reach that figure of 10,000, giving permanent employment for 1,000,000 of our R.A.F. boys.

The Secretary of State will say that that is all right for the R.A.F. but what about the industry? The Civil Aeronautics Board in America has stated that they are planning for almost 500,000 planes of all kinds in the States by the year 1950. The vast bulk of those, probably 95 per cent., will be small aircraft, air taxis or private owner machines, or machines of that sort—a kind of four-seater Ford car of the air. If, in America, there is a market for 500,000 aircraft, surely in our own Empire there is a similar market. My right hon. Friend must not neglect that market. Let us design now a very light aircraft, which can be produced by mass production and ultimately sold for £200, £300 or £400. Let us make 12 of them and send them out to the Dominions; let them lie in the sun and the snow; let them bounce about, and let us get the bugs out of them. Then, when the war is over, we can compete with our American friends. If we delay, we shall lose this market, which ought to be ours because we were the pioneers of light aircraft, and it is the type of aircraft in which, above all, we have always excelled. I beg my right hon. Friend to come out of his cocoon, and to drag the Air Ministry from their Little England culs-de-sac and to think Imperially.

Mr. Granville (Eye)

I do not wish to stand between the right hon. Gentleman and his exit from his cocoon for more than a few minutes, but I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) on a very powerful and constructive speech. My hon. Friend on the last occasion when he made a speech of a similar kind had something to do with the appointment of the Cadman Committee of Inquiry. I believe that one of the subjects referred to in the inquiry by Lord Cadman was the setting-up of a Ministry of Civil Aviation. I hope that the persuasive speech to which we have just listened and the challenge which the hon. Gentleman has made to my right hon. Friend will have equally important results in the setting-up of a Ministry of Civil Aviation.

I must confess that before the hon. Gentleman made his speech I thought, listening to the speeches of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) and the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes), that this was a discussion on the electoral truce. Speeches of that type would be better made in a debate on foreign affairs or even in a debate on the war. If these debates are to be challenges between that side of the House and this side on whether the future of civil aviation should be on a national or an international basis, the post-war civil aviation of this country will never get airborne at all. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) was a very valuable contribution to the Debate, and I look forward to hearing the reply of the Secretary of State to many of the important points which my right hon. Friend put forward.

I observe in the newspapers that there are to be several changes in the personnel of the organisation of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and I hope that the Secretary of State is going to confirm that, or to give the House of Commons some official statement about what is behind these contemplated changes. I hope that, whether the 1939 Act is going to be repealed or not, now that the Chairman and the Director-General of British Overseas Airways Corporation have settled down to the job, they are going to be left to get on with it. I was one of those who regretted that men of the calibre of Mr. Clive Pearson, who, I think, made a considerable contribution to the organisation of civil aviation in this country, left British Overseas Airways as a result of criticism. What civil aviation needs is experience and expert leadership. I can think of no industry where experience is more important. It is not only an expert industry, but it is a complicated and in some respects a dangerous one. If I may suggest it what civil aviation in this country needs is more of the practical planners, and less of the political play boys. Whenever civil aviation has got going in this country some enthusiastic amateur has come along, backed very often by the Treasury, and the result has always been to put back the clock. I was one of those who opposed the idea behind the 1939 Act, of lumping together British Airways and Imperial Airways. Unfortunately nobody knew how to resist the ideas of Lord Reith, and disastrously, Lord Reith knew nothing about civil aviation. The British Overseas Airways Corporation was never set up by informed opinion in the House of Commons: the House of Commons was actually presented with a fait accompli. It was the child of Treasury mandarins, backed up by the Air Marshals and the Air Ministry. In my judgment, having had some experience on this matter, the development of the British Overseas Airways Corpora- tion has been a failure. I hope that now, as a result of these debates, there will be sufficient pressure on the Government and the Air Ministry to bring about in the future the repeal of the 1939 Act.

In these Debates we seem to get on to the higher policies of the future of civil aviation, and it is extremely difficult for the House to make up its mind about these practical questions, for the simple reason that the Government never give us sufficient information. If we had a Minister of Civil Aviation, I imagine, he might be able to spare the time to come down to the House and tell us the practical details and the advantages or the disadvantages of the flying boat as against the long-distance land planes, or to tell us something about the facts from the technical experience of flying the South Atlantic, as against that of flying the North Atlantic. We should be far better informed if they could give the House of Commons, almost in Committee, as it were, some information on all up weights and pay loads over long distances. I would like to know something about the development which has taken place in the various safety devices, particularly with regard to de-icing. I think also that there is a good deal of information which the spokesman for the Government could give us about radiolocation, and whether after the war it is proposed that it should take the place of the old beam wireless. There is far more that we could be told about the requirements for the training of the crews of the modern air liner, and about international experience with regard to minimum requirements of passenger comfort. One of the things in respect of which this House has been completely starved of technical or practical information is the organisation necessary and the results of monopoly as against the system of airline competition.

There is another question to which I will very briefly refer, because I think it is extremely important. I believe that, for a long time to come, the governing factor in civil aviation with regard to the public will be the safety factor. It is all very well for a number of my hon. Friends to come here and talk in general terms of a vision of the future and what young men want to do to develop flying, but anyone who has had the responsibility, the practical responsibility, of running air lines without Government subsidy will realise that, to the mind of the public, you must develop satisfac- torily the safety factor. Therefore, it seems to me that, so long as the safety factor in running a civil air line is of vital importance, you cannot entirely leave the running of an air line to be subject to exclusively the profit and loss motive. If the safety factor—that is to say, requiring of all lines the maximum of safety devices—means that you cannot possibly run them on a commercial basis fulfilling these requirements unless you are subsidised by the Government, it seems to me to be obvious that such a subsidy must mean the closest Government supervision and direction of civil aviation.

I would like to ask a question of the Secretary of State for Air. Many hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, to-day referred to the three great groups after the war, and specifically referred to the British Empire as a unit rather than this island alone. We are to have discussions in the near future with the Dominion Prime Ministers. I would like to ask the Minister, if the discussions which his right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary stated began in London, are to be continued, who is to represent the Government's view on civil aviation? Is it to be the Lord Privy Seal or the Secretary of State for Air? If we are to have, as I understand is the aim of the Government in the future, an All-Red Route of the British Empire, a route which is to run right through the Empire and which will be run by British companies and with British aeroplanes, as a minimum, is it contemplated that the British Overseas Airways Corporation will be responsible for running that route in co-operation with Australian, South African and Canadian companies, or is the right hon. Gentleman to accede to the requests made to him from time to time from various parts of the House and submit to the Dominion Prime Ministers, when they come to meet in London in a few weeks' time, a plan for setting up an Empire Air Board in London?

In a speech which was made upstairs by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey), he dealt with airways in Australia and said that, in a sense, Australia before the war had to look to America to get aeroplanes. Over and over again, in the House, pleas have been made to the Government for a British Empire Air Council or Commonwealth Board set up in London. If we are to have an All-Red Route, as envisaged by the Lord Privy Seal in a speech in another place, and if the British Commonwealth is to enter into discussions, the obvious thing to do is to set up the Board here in London now, so that it will be something which has been planned by the co-operation of all the Dominions and all the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is going to tell us that, at long last, the Government, at this conference of Empire Prime Ministers, are going to take the initiative. There is nothng to the detriment of the United States in this suggestion. Surely, if we have to come to negotiate with the United States on the development of civil aviation after the war, it will be very much easier if we go with a Board already set up in London to represent the British Commonwealth of Nations, instead of allowing each to go to Washington to put their separate points of view?

A great deal has been said about competition between private enterprise and State monopoly. I think the most important thing about this is the question of technical competition. In the old days, when British Airways was run as a separate company from Imperial Airways, the latter had the North Atlantic route and the Empire routes, and British Airways ran the European services with American machines, and, so long as they were separate, we could have a certain amount of technical competition between the two companies. It gave us a yardstick of efficiency, as it were. I wonder if that has disappeared after the setting up of the British Overseas Airways Corporation? I would suggest that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport suggested, there should be a European group, and I think there should also be set up, in our post-war planning, an Atlantic group. Various references have been made to the question of international control or ownership of airways. What I think is necessary is that, first, you should get the British Commonwealth of Nations to organise its post-war civil aviation as a unit, and you should then discuss upon a reasonable basis with America the allocation of various air routes. Having done that, then would be the time to set up your international authority for the consideration of the various questions referred to by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield). If civilian transport is to have any future at all; and if the right hon. Gentleman, in the terms of the appeal made by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) feels that this great subject is too much for him to-day, then I beg him to tell the House, here and now, that it is the intention of the Government immediately to set up a Ministry for Civil Air Transport so that we can get on with the job.

Sir Oliver Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)

I have been frankly disappointed. I think that all the speeches from the Socialist benches to-day—

Mr. Bowles

There have only been two.

Sir O. Simmonds

I think there were more. Every one of those speeches has suffered from the spirit of the impracticable internationalisation, upon which the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) spoke on the Committee stage of these Estimates. I presume that the pièce-de-résistance was the speech of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). I listened with very great care to the hon. Member, and his speech, I think, suffered from a number of inconsistencies. I elucidated these three points. He and his friends are in favour of transferring the control of civil aviation from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Transport. He very much regrets that Members on this side of the House want to do something of the same sort, but he desires to assure us and the country, that the reasons for the change, in his mind, are vastly different from those which prompt us. He chides us when we avoid being too specific when we say that we think that civil air transport should come under the control of the Ministry of Transport. I would say to him and his friends that we are much too careful, when we commit ourselves to a policy, to agree to transfer a vastly important sphere of national and Imperial activity to a post-war Ministry, whose structure and responsibilities are at the moment wholly conjectural.

One cannot say whether, for example, shipping will remain within the Ministry of Transport. It used to be elsewhere. One cannot say to what extent the railways may pass under another aegis. Therefore, we say, if there is to be a Ministry of Communications, by all means let civil air transport be included in that Ministry. But if the Ministry of Transport is to be a junior Ministry, such as it was before the war, controlling very little, except road signs, it would be wholly retrograde to put civil air transport under that Ministry. If that were so, I would regretfully come to the second alternative, which then I have always advanced, namely, a separate Ministry for civil air transport, but that I should regret because the Minister could not be sufficiently senior to bring before the Cabinet in the. appropriately powerful manner, any of the vital problems which will face air transport after the war. My hope is that there will be a strong comprehensive Ministry of Communications, or of some similar name which may be selected, to include all forms of transport, and possibly some other forms of communication as well.

The second point that I gathered from my hon. Friend's speech was that he was not anxious that there should be private enterprise. He was willing that there should be a State subsidy and control. That seems to be a contradiction in terms, because private enterprise has always said, "We will take the risk." Similar risks have been taken and vast sums of money have been lost when these risks have been based on wrong premises. Let there be no mistake about that. If, therefore, he is so anxious that the State should retain the control and operation of these services, which he is so sure will lose money, why should he want to relieve private enterprise, if it is willing to take its share of this loss, from so doing?

Mr. Montague

Is it?

Sir O. Simmonds

Indeed, it is. That is the proposition. I ask him to address himself seriously to this.

Mr. Montague

Will the hon. Member read the Report of the Lamplugh Committee, which he signed himself, and he will see the demand made then for Government subsidies.

Sir O. Simmonds

As the hon. Member said I happen to be one of the members of that Committee, and I know what is in that Report and there is nothing in there which is at all inconsistent with what I have said. The position with regard to the subsidy is well understood and I am prepared to discuss it at any time with the hon. Member. The third point he made is that we were too optimistic with regard to civil air transport and that we were too progressive altogether with regard to it. On this side of the House, we are, proverbially, progressive, and my hon. Friend and his friends will find that it is true in a number of different spheres in the course of the months to come.

I am certain that it is only by a curious coincidence that I have found, over the number of years during which I have had the honour to be a Member of this House, that when a Department is feeling a little unhappy or uncertain about itself and the subject of the day's Debate has been its activities, there has been, most frequently, a leader in "The Times" that morning. I was not, therefore, very much surprised when, on opening "The Times" this morning, I found the first leader headed "Planning Air Transport." I thought it an extremely interesting leader, but also, in some respects, a somewhat confusing one. In particular, I am sorry that "The Times" has confused us still further as to "the chosen instrument," what the chosen instrument is and what it prevents other instruments of transport from doing within the same sphere. "The Times" writes: A 'chosen instrument' does not enjoy a monopoly of flying rights. It is the sole recipient of Government subsidies, commonly in the form of favourable mail contracts. It does not enjoy a monopoly of flying rights. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State may rake up one or two exceptions, but they will only prove the rule. But the rule has been, and inevitably will be, that Governments do not arrange, through their Foreign Offices, rights for other air lines to compete with chosen instruments of their own State upon a given route. Therefore, it is a legalistic truth that "The Times" recites. The facts are wholly different. It is also a well-known fact that, if on a given route, an unsubsidised company were allowed to fly other than as a chosen instrument and that company remained successful, there would be no justification for continuing the rights of the chosen instrument and thus ipso facto the chosen instrument would cease to fly over that route. But this problem of a chosen instrument is a very debatable one, as almost every speech has indicated. We are suffering at the moment from the paralysis of a State monopoly. I say this to the House with some not inconsiderable knowledge of aeronautics. It is very pleasing to be able to praise British initiative and British services, and particularly British international services, but I ought to be frank, and I say that our friends overseas are dismayed at the lack of success which we are evidencing through our handling of air transport.

It really is time that the House faced this fact. The hard fact given to us by the Cadman Committee in 1939, as the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) pointed out, is that we are not at the moment making a success of air transport. A number of reasons have, from time to time, been adduced as to why a single State monopoly is unsuitable to air transport. One I can illuminate from the discussions to-day. There has been some mention of the Brabazon Committee. Now if civil air transport were healthy, there would have been no Brabazon Committee. When the United States want new airliners, they have the aircraft operators, each of whom knows what he wants for a given purpose and is willing to give a specification to the aircraft industry. That has been the basis on which American civil air transport has been designed from the very beginning. The famous early Douglas machines were built largely to the specification of the air line operators, and although there are a number of estimable gentlemen upon the Brabazon Committee, I must observe quite frankly that the actual experience in air transport operation represented upon the Committee, as compared with a similar committee in the United States, is almost nil. They are sound men whose judgment is admitted, and whose advice we will take, but they are not men with a background of experience in air transport which gives us any very great assurance that their guesses as to the requirements of the future are likely to be more right than anybody else's.

I hope that the Government will approach this problem anew. It is very difficult for a Government wholly to retrace their steps, and there are many in the Air Ministry and elsewhere, who are responsible for having suggested and put through the scheme for the creation of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. Therefore, I will not press for the destruction of B.O.A.C. but would suggest that it should be given a limited field more appropriate to its personnel and its experience, so that other companies or—I would not exclude these—other State corporations, in certain circumstances, might come into the field in those other spheres. Therefore I do not want to take any too definite attitude as between private enterprise and State enterprise in regard to the air transport of the future. What I am vitally interested in is to have, as the hon. Member for Stroud said in another connection, two to try it out. Let us have State enterprise, if you want it—B.O.A.C. running a certain section of Britain's world air routes—and let private enterprise,—the shipping companies or ad hoc companies—operate other sections. Then in the course of ten years or so, I am certain that both my hon. Friends opposite and my hon. Friends around me will see the figures in a not dissimilar light.

Let us put this to the test and see from practical experience of operation which is the way to handle our great air services of the future. Therefore I would hope that we might have possibly six or seven selected areas. There could be what are now called the England-Cairo-Karachi and the England-Cairo-Cape Town areas, which possibly could be given over to B.O.A.C. because they are fairly well entrenched in that area. There would then be the North Atlantic area, which I certainly hope would not be given to B.O.A.C.; they are not the right people to develop a brisk commercial passenger traffic such as is necessary in that area. To my mind, something with the name, Cunard Air Line, would, from what I know of my American friends, attract them into the air on a British aeroplane to fly to England and to Europe, because the Americans used our ships not only to the British Isles but to Europe in the past. Then I think we should have separate lines both on the South Atlantic and on the Pacific. It is monstrous that we have allowed ourselves to be excluded there so far. Of course we are going to be with our European friends in Europe and I fancy that we should also plan some Northern-Asiatic-British links which should go through Siberia to Canada, Hong Kong, and other British possessions.

I would like to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air if he can give the House some definite information on this point. We all know that the Lord Privy Seal made a recent statement welcoming the shipping companies and stating that they are quite free to come into the air transport field. But, as I have indicated—and the House was with me on this when I analysed the legalistic statement as to the meaning of "chosen instrument" in "The Times"—it is not good enough just to say they can fly. Of course they can fly if they have a certificate of air worthiness, but can they fly for hire and reward? Will the Foreign Office back them in getting the necessary permits from the foreign States at the other end? That is what the Lord Privy Seal omitted to say, and I press my right hon. Friend to tell the House very frankly to-day what is the Government attitude on this point. Have the Government yet made up their minds? It is just not good enough to play about with trade and industry in this way. Let me say here that I have no shipping interests, not remotely, but I think the shipping industry can serve us well as regards air transport, and I think the time has passed when they should be fooled with this ambiguity. I ask for a straightforward answer to what I hope has been a straightforward question.

With regard to the Empire, the cogent and very witty speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has greatly advanced one's understanding of this problem and will do much more than the numerical strength of his party at the present moment. The essence for the Empire is unity, and if we have attained some degree of unity through the recent discussions under the chairmanship of the Lord Privy Seal, then we are in his debt, but I must ask the Government to watch this carefully. Unity is not something which will remain constant unless it is tended with care, and if we are to hold the Empire together with us on this subject, we have to keep them in closest touch with all our intentions and endeavours.

Now a few words on the vexed question of international organisation and control. It is manifest that we shall have some form of international control. In its limited form it will be control of airworthiness conditions and size of air ports while in its major form it could be even control and ownership of air liners themselves. What I feel on this subject is that we do not want to commit ourselves indefinitely. Any agreement the Government make should be for a period not exceeding five years. During that time the world will be settling down and we can then arrive at final conclusions as a result of that control period. American air lines have invited the rest of the world, and the British Empire in particular, to join with them in "free and open competition." If I had all the trumps in my hand that is exactly the sort of thing I might be prompted to do. But that is not a very useful suggestion. It leaves out, for instance the Royal Netherlands Air Service, which has virtually no machines and no managerial personnel, at any rate together in one place. How can Holland compete in free and open competition with the United States of America, bloated as they are with air transport machines, crews and other facilities for the successful operation of air lines? No, this is not quite the hour for free and open competition, although I sincerely hope that in due course we will come to that. What I think we can have immediately is a multilateral understanding between the United Nations and those other neutral States which we wish to welcome into this understanding.

When one comes to analyse carefully the possibilities of this multilateral agreement, I must say, as one who is opposed to it and as one who believes in private enterprise, that for the moment I think the safest course for the world to adopt would be to agree to have a quota for this five years on the world air routes for each nation. Until a few months ago, it might have been said that it was almost impossible to get agreement in a friendly way on such a subject, but I would remind hon. Members of the decisions and great agreement reached on the spot by U.N.R.R.A., where it was not only not a question of the possibility of making profits, but of States putting their hands into their pockets for many millions of pounds sterling for rehabilitation work. That prompts us to believe that there is more common sense among the United Nations' statesmen than was apt to be thought at one period. I believe that there are men in the United Nations who could work out what would be an agreeable quota system for civil air transport on the international routes throughout the world. Within this Scheme the relationship of the British Empire and the United States should be one of parity. I have spoken to many of my American friends, both inside and outside the administration in Washington, on this subject, and they do not think it unreasonable that the British Empire and America should have parity in this quota system, that parity to be measured by some mutually acceptable yardstick.

At a very interesting conference I had in New York with a number of interested people I was asked to discuss whether in fact such a system would be flexible. I claimed that it would be. Assuming, for example, that the yardstick was taken as ton mile capacity, if a nation had more quota than it needed on a given route, it could ask the international authority to permit it to transfer that surplus quota to some other route where there was more traffic than quota capacity available. That would give flexibility which would be justifiable in all circumstances. If we do not have international control and a quota system, I believe we shall be forced back on two other alternatives. One is the old system of bi-lateral agreement. Do not let us delude ourselves by thinking that because the President and Prime Minister have agreed tentatively to freedom of air passage and freedom of air facilities, that the problem is solved, because as my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport indicated, there is the problem of air trade. Are you going to allow air lines to embark and disembark passengers, mails and goods at certain spots in foreign territory? In exactly the same way as we were held to ransom by Persia over the problem of freedom of air passage so we can be held to ransom in the matter of air trade.

I can conceive that the most dangerous international situation might occur if a rich State, by economic or other pressure, made arrangements to purchase or obtain in some way preferential rights in air trade in a certain smaller State so that other nations would be precluded from embarking or disembarking passengers. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport said, "You have not yet tackled the problem if you have not tackled the question of freedom of air trade." It is as vital as the problem of fiscal protection. It gives rise to exactly the same nationalistic feelings in the breasts of manufacturers and traders, and those feelings are quite well developed in some breasts throughout the world to- day. Until we see what freedom there is to be for air trade let us not give away the right to use the vital bases in the British Empire which as my right hon. Friend said are such an important asset to us.

The other alternative is the one suggested by my hon. Friends opposite, international ownership. I put it to them in all sincerity, and without making any debating point of it, that though this may line up with their whole political philosophy, it is quite impracticable during the next decade. I am ready to have a Debate for the sake of debate at any time with any of my hon. Friends opposite, but we ought not to mislead the country as to the possibility. They must know, in their heart of hearts, from what has been said by the spokesmen of foreign Governments, particularly those of the United States of America, that for the next decade at any rate—I do not ask them to go further—international ownership of international air lines is wholly impossible. If they do not see that, then I can only pray that light may come ere long. If they will face the facts, and see what is the best proposition they can get that will fit into their political philosophy, then they will be doing greater service in this vital discussion than they will by insisting on something which now has become wholly impracticable and wholly academic.

I end by saying this. Let us not be disturbed by those who cry on the one side of the Atlantic, "As Britain intends to have a State corporation therefore we must," or by those who cry on this side, "America intends to have a single chosen instrument and therefore we must." I am very doubtful whether there is much sincerity behind these statements. The issue is clearly before us. America intends to maintain private enterprise, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air will be very frank with us and tell us what is the position of the Corporation, whether the Government are prepared to localise its activities, but in that locality to support it with all their power, and in other areas allow private enterprise to operate the British air plan.

Mr. Montague

May I ask the hon. Member whether I understand him to say that the North Atlantic route should be left to the operation of the shipping com- parties? If so, for whom then is he speaking?

Sir O. Simmonds

I am speaking for myself entirely, as I have spoken throughout.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

Ten speeches have been made so far to-day in this Debate, but leaving out that made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha) only two have been made from these benches. We have wondered why the Members who have taken the trouble to put this Amendment on the Order Paper, and to speak to-day, did not say their piece during the Debate on civil aviation a fortnight ago. I suppose there is only one explanation, and it is that they realised that the Minister would make a long speech in introducing the Air Estimates; that that would fill a good deal of the Press and take up a good deal of time on the wireless; that there would be a Debate on it, and that following the Debate on civil aviation on an Amendment which I had the honour to move, their case might be pushed well into the background. So, quite naturally, they hung back until to-day—

Mr. Tree

We have made it quite clear why we did not enter into the Debate of a fortnight ago. That Debate dealt exclusively with internationalisation. There were many other matters which we wanted to debate but which would then have been out of Order.

Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

I was interrupted three or four times when I spoke a fortnight ago on the hon. Member's Amendment because the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) himself said that I was not keeping to the strict terms of his Amendment.

Mr. Bowles

I did not say that no Members spoke at all but that hon. Members opposite felt that they ought to have a day to themselves. They felt that the international case which my friends and I put across a fortnight ago would go out to the country and other parts of the world as the view of the House of Commons. Frankly, they were right, because I have received many letters from people who have told me to carry on with this international idea, as it is the only one which will give us any kind of hope for the future of world peace. One of the letters I received was from a lady who ended by saying: I am a young war widow. My husband gave his life in the R.A.F. and I earnestly desire to see a better world in the future. The fact that my widow's pension is taxed makes me determined to do what I can to change the present system and it is only by appealing to men like yourself, who work for the common good"— I do not know who she is; I do not even know her address.

Mr. Bartle Bull (Enfield)

She cannot know much about the hon. Member either.

Mr. Bowles

I want hon. Members opposite to hear what this lady says. She goes on: I was glad to read of your proposals in connection with future airways. I am not a member of your constituency. I have the misfortune to be represented by a Tory M.P., which means, of course, that my interests are not represented at all. Go ahead on this airways question. It will make a great deal of difference to the little man. The lady then goes on to explain where the Tories get their support from, but I will not go into that now. To the case which my hon. Friends and I put across a fortnight ago—and which I do not intend to repeat to-day for it is all on record and well worth reading again and again—not a single speech has shown that it was not completely watertight. In fact, the whole Debate to-day has shown how the various interests are beginning to get going so far as the scramble for the future of civil aviation is concerned. In "The Times" yesterday a man calling himself "William Baird" was putting in a plea for the shipping companies. The hon. Member for Duddeston (Sir O. Simmonds) also put in two pleas for the shipping interests to-day, one as a whole and the other for a particular shipping concern. I cannot understand how it can be suggested that because a company can run a liner from Liverpool to Sydney, feed the passengers and cater for their comfort for something like six weeks, they have any qualification or experience for feeding people on a seven hour trip. It would be much more sensible, I suggest, to let Thomas Cook and Sons do it. They have had great variety of experience in catering for all kinds of passengers in all parts of the world.

Mr. Bull

If my hon. Friend would travel around the world he would be unable to find out which is the worse, Thomas Cook and Sons or the American Express.

Mr. Bowles

I have travelled a good deal about the world though I have not stayed anywhere as long as my hon. Friend, but what we are concerned about is this, and it really is a very serious situation. I listened with very great respect to the hon. and gallant Member for Watford (Air Commodore Helmore). He said and this was the most menacing part of the speech that we ought to call together all the nations of the world, to discuss this question of world airways. He said the first item on the agenda should be the preparation for the next war.

Mr. Wakefield

The hon. and gallant Member said he did not want another war and went on to say his suggestion was to avoid war.

Mr. Bowles

It is recognised by a large number of people in this country that this question of the future organisation of civil aviation is a testing question of any form of international law and order after the war. I emphasised in my speech a fortnight ago, and my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) did so to-day, that the important thing in civil aviation in the future is the danger of international rivalries and what may spring from them. Therefore we say, and I think I am speaking on behalf of the whole of my party in this matter, that we do not believe in internationalisation of civil air traffic just because it fits in with the rest of our policy, but because we have seen enough of these scrambles between businesses and nations which result every 20 years in war. We know why there is this world war. It is because of the continuance of the system which hon. Members opposite support and that they are here to continue to support. I personally regard hon. Members opposite as a real menace to world peace, as they have always been. It apparently escapes the notice of hon. Gentlemen opposite that the first consideration should be service to the user and not the financial interests of the people who are to run the service. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) made a very good speech, but he took the same line, that this should be left to private enterprise but subsidised by the State.

Mr. Wakefield

I never said that. I never suggested there should be subsidies.

Mr. Bowles

I think the word was surcharge.

Mr. Wakefield


Mr. Bowles

It amounts to the same thing. If the hon. Gentleman did not say so, does that indicate he is not in favour of subsidies?

Mr. Wakefield

I said private enterprise was the best way to provide a service, and also that private competitive service ought to be able to run without State subsidies.

Mr. Bowles

It is obvious that like his friends the hon. Member believes in private enterprise but if it is likely to go under, it must call on the State to save it from sinking. We see no reason why the taxpayers should subsidise private enterprises that are in such a risky state that they are likely to sink. It is reinforced private enterprise without the entrepeneurs taking risks they used to pride themselves on taking in the days that are dead. They want subsidies, but unlimited profits of course. They want profits secured and any surplus to go to them or to other residuary legatees of the business. In "The Times" this morning the leader-writer referred to four matters which seemed to me to assist my case. There is talk about a survey of the facts, which indicates what groups will be the chosen instruments. Behind these suspicions there is fear of the use of civil aircraft for espionage. A third is the probable conversion of aircraft into bombers and, fourthly, a clear line should be drawn between the organisation of great trans-Continental lines and the regime which will control air transport in Europe. It seems to me that all these four difficulties and dangers which "The Times" leader [...]riter sees ahead will be got rid of if the policy that we are adumbrating is adopted, namely full internationalisation of control and ownership. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the President of the United States had plumped for private enterprise as one of the hard facts that we have to face. The right hon. Gentleman plumped for it as well, so that is two hard facts. I suppose other Members, to make my case more difficult, will plump against it, but that does not alter its correctness or its desirability at all.

I am certain that all this plumping for private enterprise does not really represent the views of the people, the common man or woman in the street, as indicated in the letter that I quoted from, and many other letters that I have received in the last fortnight. All that hon. Members opposite are concerned with is to maintain, if they possibly can, the continuance of the private enterprise system. Quite naturally. I am not surprised. I am not surprised at anything any hon. Member opposite has said to-day. Every bit of it was expected. We have had the usual repetitions. "Let us come down from the clouds"—"Come down to earth" "Come down to reality." The hon. Member for Duddeston (Sir O. Simmonds) seemed to think it might be practicable in about 10 years' time. I think it may be practicable now.

Sir O. Simmonds

I said I hoped that in 10 years possibly some hon. Members opposite would have cooled off.

Mr. Bowles

The hon. Gentleman knows that the case we have been putting across has got across to the country. That is the thing they want us to cool down upon, but we have no reason to cool down. In fact, we are getting more and more heated about it. The hon. Gentleman uttered some interesting remarks, some of which were new to me. He would not mind going into competition if there was no chance of being beaten. He is not surprised at the Americans inviting world competition, because the Americans have all the trump cards in their hands. Surely there is some sporting aspect of this question. Competitors ought to be sufficiently sporting to go down if they do not win the competition, but that seems to be anathema to hon. Members opposite. They like to have it both ways. They think they can go up, but the State must see to it that they do not go down. Even between nations he is prepared to have competition if it is certain that he is going to win. He knows that he is not going to win as far as the United States are concerned. I feel that there are ways and means of appealing over the heads of Governments to the people, and I make the suggestion for presentation to Presidential candidates for the next election that this might be one of the planks in their platform if they want to get in. They will probably both adopt it. I beg hon. Members opposite to realise that this is a testing question.

The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) referred to the Debate as being in the nature of a breach of the political truce. One political party puts forward its point of view and the other its. It is quite natural. That is why we had a good Debate a fortnight ago and a rather one-sided one to-day. This is the recognised and adopted policy of the second largest party in the House. You must not just put it aside in one or two sentences. I want to hear from the right hon. Gentleman—I have not heard it from any one who sits behind him—any argument against this case for full international control and ownership. I do not mind waiting all night for the Minister to answer all the small administrative queries put to him by his loyal supporters. We expect much more of an answer than we got from the Parliamentary Secretary a fortnight ago. If no answer is given, there is no answer to our case.

Wing-Commander Grant-Ferris (St. Pancras, North)

I think I find myself in the rear turret in this Debate. That being a very dangerous place, I intend to drop my small 250 lb. bomb and be gone. I find myself in entire agreement with my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. I thoroughly appreciated everything that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. HoreBelisha). I shall read his speech very carefully, as will the rest of the world who are interested in it. One salient point comes out of the Debate. I think we are all united in saying that civil aviation must come away from the Air Ministry. My right hon. Friend is in a very great difficulty over this because, quite clearly, the Government have not made up their mind whether civil aviation is to be run as an economic factor or whether it is to be part of the defence of the country after the war. Until we know for certain which it is to be we cannot be certain whether it would be right for it to be a separate Ministry or whether it should be under the Air Ministry. Obviously, if it is to be run as an economic concern, it must come away from there. But I ask my right hon. Friend to try to get a decision about this as quickly as possible. We must get on with this, we are losing time terribly. It is very difficult to stoke up enthusiasm for what is going to be a most important thing for the preservation of the peace afterwards. Look at the House. It is not a quarter full. If it were really a matter which the Government had pushed forward as a matter of urgency, it would be full. I beg the Government to apprise the country of the importance of civil aviation and to get on with it.

Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

As my hon. and gallant Friend has just said, all parties in the House are practically united on one main theme. That is that civil aviation must be removed from the Air Ministry. When I say "all parties," there is one party that does not seem to be in agreement with the general thesis. That is the Government. I have noticed once or twice before on certain occasions that the Government, oddly enough, seem to form a party themselves and the rest of the divergent interests and parties in the House of Commons unite in denouncing the Government's policy. It seems to me that my right hon. Friend, when he comes to reply, will have a difficult case to answer. Here we are almost demanding the same thing, although perhaps for different reasons. My hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) rather suggested that that which he was advocating and which others opposite have joined in' advocating cannot really be quite nice because we on this side are in it too. It reminds one of "The Hunting of the Snark": Each thought he was thinking of nothing but snark And the glorious work of the day, And each tried to pretend that he didn't remark That the other was going that way. My right hon. Friend will, I think, find that the House will not consider it sufficient if he merely gives the reason why civil aviation should stay within the control of his Department. He must answer the strong case which has been put on the other side by many hon. Members. I would ask him particularly to pay attention to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield). He pointed out that, after all, the Admiralty does not have control of merchant shipping in peace time and that the War Office does not have control of horse transport or the lorries on the roads or the railways. Therefore, why on earth should the Air Ministry have control of this new, rapidly growing and virile form of locomotion? I suppose that the original reason why the Air Ministry took it over was that it was a very young baby and the Government were looking for some kind of crêche or institution to put it into, and the Air Ministry said, "We know all about this kind of baby and we will accept it." This often happens in different branches of public administration. Some Ministry either takes over a certain sphere of operation or it invents something new, and however great may be the arguments against its retention of it, there is an almost solemn wedge which says, "There it is, we must find some reason for keeping it and if we cannot we will keep it anyhow." That is roughly the position of civil aviation to-day. I hope that my right hon. Friend will—I do not think he can satisfy the House—at least make a stronger case to show that there is something in the contention that civil aviation should remain with the Air Ministry than that which has been made.

The question of the internationalisation of air communications after the war has been brought up again. I do not think it is desirable. Whether it is desirable or not, hon. Members opposite who are in favour of that particular method of dealing with air communications will not get it. They are just baying for the moon. They have only to ask America if they will agree and they will see why. Therefore it seems to me a sheer waste of time in this House or anywhere else to advocate the internationalisation of air transport. Even if they did get it, which they will not, it would not be desirable. The idea is, broadly speaking, that if the whole system is internationalised the lion will lie down with the lamb, the vulture with the bear, and so on. But is it not much more likely to lead to international rivalry? We shall see each country striving to get more control and more shares in the international company. There will be bickering, fighting and bad blood, and the last state will be worse than the first.

The question of nationalisation has also been raised to-day. My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Sir O. Simmonds), being a good Tory, takes a sensible and objective view. He said that he would not shut out the idea of having a State-owned company or companies. Nor would he ignore the idea of having, for instance, a shipping company—he mentioned the Cunard—owning and operating an air line across the Atlantic. That is a probable project. We on this side of the House are not doctrinaires. We look upon all these matters as purely business questions. We do not object to experimenting if necessary. It is conceivable, although it is extremely unlikely, that there might be a British air line run by the State with a monopoly of the service to Africa, and another British air line run by private individual enterprise operating to the West Indian islands, and it is conceivable that the State-run line would do it better. I do not believe it would, but we do not object to trying. Hon. Members who take up the extreme Socialist view shut out all the merits of private enterprise, and say that only one thing is possible, that the only way in which to run an undertaking efficiently is to run it by the State. We try to look upon these matters far more as reasonable beings and try to arrive at a reasonable solution.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) once again made a strong plea for Empire action with regard to post-war civil aviation. We have heard much of the all-red route. I should like an all-red route linking up all the different parts of the British Empire. Whether it is run by the chosen instrument, which would no doubt be described as an "all-pink route," or run by a series of State companies or by private enterprise will be for the future to decide. After the war, however, we shall be in a difficult position with regard to civil aviation. We shall have, it is true, a large number of highly trained pilots. We shall have, I hope, all over the Empire a large number of fairly efficient aerodromes designed for different purposes, namely, military aviation. We shall have practically no transport aerodromes and virtually no commercial aeroplanes to carry tourists. These will be owned by different countries. Therefore, our position will not be too easy because our factories will also be designed for the construction of military aircraft. We have one strong card to play. That is the fact that we have an Empire which contains an immense number of strategic points from the point of view of civil aviation all over the world. If we found that we were being done out of our rightful place in civil aviation, it would be open to us by agreement with the Empire—I hope everything will be done by Imperial agreement—to say that we will reserve inter-Imperial traffic for our own Imperial British subjects whether it be run by the State or by private enterprise or by the chosen instrument. We are willing to negotiate with any foreign country for traffic in between parts of the British Empire and other countries, which do not belong to it. That is a very strong point in its favour. I do not say that we should exaggerate our desires but I only want to maintain that to which we are entitled.

After all, we are a great world Empire, and the future of the Empire will depend—although I am one of those old-fashioned people who rather regret it—to a large extent on the development of our inter-Empire aviation. We must lose no opportunity of developing it, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give us some assurance that, if the Air Ministry cannot hand over civil aviation to another Department—some communications department would seem to be the best—he will give the House an assurance that he will re-examine the whole question with an open mind, in view of the very strong representations that have been made from all quarters of the House.

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend who has just sat down, because he has made it clear that the House ought not to expect me to give them satisfaction. So little is expected of me that I will try to give hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate at any rate the measure of satisfaction of assuring them that I, and the Government for whom I speak, take seriously the contributions that they have made to the consideration of this important question. When I was told some two or three weeks ago that hon. Members wished to have this Debate I suggested to those who approached me that it might be a good thing to leave a rather longer interval between the previous Debate and the present one At any rate, I made it clear that I should not be able to give definite answers on two points which hon. Members wished to take this opportunity of ventilating, the future of the public Corporation and the future administration of civil aviation.

That being understood, I must say that this Debate has been most useful. The House has not met to hear and criticise a considered statement of Government policy, but to make its views known in advance, and so to influence the formulation of policy. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) said that there was a fundamental difference dividing the Members in this Debate, the difference between the old, who want to suppress flying, and the new, who believe in it and believe that it will bring untold blessings. The first party has been remarkably silent in this Debate, for all those who participated in it believe firmly in the future of civil aviation and in the great service which it can render to the Commonwealth and Empire. The different opinions which have been expressed will certainly be taken into careful account when our own policy on these subjects is framed. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) tried to draw me into a much wider field than I can possibly attempt to cover to-day. He asked me whether some of these subjects would be discussed at the Conference of Dominion Prime Ministers, but of course I cannot answer about the agenda of the Dominion Prime Ministers, and the hon. Gentleman must address himself to the Secretary of State for the Dominions or the Prime Minister on that subject.

Before I come to the principal subjects on which opposite opinions have been expressed to-day, there is one thing I should like to make clear at the outset. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) made a particularly interesting speech on behalf of the Labour Party. He made it clear that the Labour Party is favourable to three lines of policy: in the first place it advocates international co-gperation and the maintenance of the public corporation policy; secondly, the Labour Party wants the Ministry of Transport to administer civil aviation; and thirdly he said that before making any change as to the future administration of civil aviation, it was necessary to decide whether to alter or maintain the policy of the public corporation. These are subjects with which I shall be dealing presently; but the hon. Member went on to say something about which I feel I must make clear my own position and the position of the Government. He went on rather to deprecate too much being made of civil aviation and to suggest that it would be a matter for well-to-do tourists, business men and ambassadors. It sounded paradoxical in a way to me, because I know how keenly interested he is in the subject of civil aviation and how much he did in earlier years to further its interests. I had the honour at one time of serving on a committee under his chairmanship when he was Under-Secretary of State for Air, and at first it seemed to me inconsistent with all I know about his interest in civil aviation that he should take this rather depreciating line. I think I know what is in his mind about it. He realises that in the earlier years, at any rate, it cannot be a large enterprise, and he is afraid that exaggerated estimates of the employment which will be immediately available in our aircraft industries after the war, will hold out expectations to people who have been working so hard during the war which will be disappointed. He does not wish to have the responsibility of giving pilots and workers the idea that there will be ample scope for all those who wish for employment after the war in civil air transport.

Mr. Montague

Also, if I may say so, I deprecate entirely exaggerated statements made to bolster up a particular political policy with regard to civil aviation. I wanted to "debunk" a good deal, but I am not in the slightest degree desirous of depreciating aviation as such.

Sir A. Sinclair

That is another reason, perhaps, but the hon. Member did go on to say he thought that with holidays with pay and the workers' recreational associations to help, there would be a possibility of enlarging the custom for civil air transport after the war. I want to make it abundantly plain that I dissociate myself and the Government from the view that civil air transport is an unimportant subject, that it is remote from the people, that it will never be more than an insignificant part of our carrying trade, and that it can be regarded as a mere ancillary of the railways and shipping. We must see that it is not developed merely as a luxury for the rich and the captains of industry. Its beginnings had to be small, but it will create new forms of traffic as it grows, and its growth will be relatively swift. Just as I have always fought the idea that the Air Force should be split up and developed as ancillary to the Army and Navy, so I believe it would be shortsighted to allow the growth of civil aviation to be subordinated to the interests of older forms of transport. That consideration was obviously very much in the minds of my hon. Friends the Members for Harborough (Mr. Tree), for Stroud and for Eye, because they argued for a separate Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The hon. Member for Eye used an argument in which I did not think there is much substance, that technical questions could be explained by the Minister to Members of Parliament, for example, the controversy about flying boats versus land planes, and beam wireless and matters of that kind. I do not think that those are really appropriate subjects for Ministers to come to explain to Members. If there are Members who wish to know about these subjects, I could readily arrange for the information to be made available to them. But use was made of the argument that it was cruelty to the overworked and overburdened Minister to leave him with these responsibilities for civil aviation, and that there ought to be a separate Ministry. It was suggested that the necessity for that was proved by the handing over to the Lord Privy Seal and the Civil Air Transport Committee of the Cabinet of all the responsibility for the future planning of civil air transport. But in fact the formulation of the plans for international civil air transport has been done in my Department. There are, of course, a great many other Departments concerned. There are the Colonial Office, which is interested in the development of feeder services in the Empire, the India Office, the Dominions Office and the Foreign Office, because, of course, the commercial future of air transport cannot be dissociated from the whole of our foreign and economic policy after the war. The co-ordination of these departmental activities has been undertaken with immense energy by the Lord Privy Seal. His leadership of our united efforts has been invaluable, but, again I say, that the formulation of the plans and the documentation supplied to the Civil Air Transport Committee has been supplied by the Civil Aviation Department of the Air Ministry.

Many of the arguments used by these hon. Members were cogent. I am far from rejecting them out of hand. They will have to be carefully examined. Clearly, however, the establishment of a separate Ministry for Civil Air Transport cannot be considered, as my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Sir O. Simmonds) pointed out, apart from the whole of the problem of the machinery of Government. Should the Minister in charge be a Member of the Cabinet? I am sure that all those who advocate this departure in policy will answer that question with an unhesitating "Yes." For if not, as my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston feared, his influence would be small. But if it is the proposal that he should be a member of the Cabinet, the next question is, Can he be accommodated in a Cabinet of reasonable size? What other claimants will there be to seats at the Cabinet table in the post-war Government? Where, too, will the responsibility for air research and development lie? My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) suggested that there should be a special research department for civil aviation. But the cost of modem research and development is immense, and there will have to be a great pooling if we are to have efficiency in our research and value for the very large sums of money which I hope we intend, after this war, to spend on research, because research is going to be vital for aviation on both the Service and the civil sides. If there is to be value for that expenditure, there will have to be a great concentration and pooling of research. It is in the light of the answer to these and similar questions that any decision to establish a separate Ministry of Air Transport will have to be reached.

Mr. Hore-Belisha

That will not apply to the Ministry of Transport.

Sir A. Sinclair

I was speaking of a separate Ministry. What I was arguing at that stage was that if you were considering the establishment of a separate Ministry for civil aviation, you must consider it in relation to the whole problem of the machinery of government.

Several hon. Members have urged that civil aviation should pass to the Ministry of Transport. The risk that the development of civil aviation would, in that event, be controlled and directed into those channels least hurtful to the older forms of transport is not one to be ignored. Obviously, it is not one, either, to be regarded as entirely conclusive in itself, and it has to be weighed against the advantages which have been urged. It would, for example, avoid what my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) suggested was a duality of loyalty in the present situation (though I would rather, for his phrase "duality of loyalty," suggest the phrase "common allegiance"). He suggested that if only so much money is available for aviation either the Service side or the civil side is bound to suffer. That is perfectly true under the present system, but it is bound to be true under any other system, too. You do not increase the amount of money available for development merely by moving civil aviation into a separate Ministry.

Sir O. Simmonds

Surely my right hon. Friend, with all his experience, is not going to suggest that two Ministries fighting the Treasury are not going to get more money than one?

Sir A. Sinclair

I do most decidedly suggest that. I say that Chancellors of the Exchequer, having a double dose of original sin, are not above playing off one Ministry against the other.

I agree that the case for the administration of Civil Air Transport by a Ministry of Communications would be strengthened if we were to depart from the public corporation principle. It is true that at present there is no statutory bar to the operation of unsubsidised services by other interests, but I am afraid that only the most lucrative routes would be attractive to those other interests, and I cannot help doubting whether Parliament would approve of a policy which left the most profitable routes to private enterprise, and left the State to shoulder the burden of the unprofitable. Moreover, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston that Governments are hardly likely to seek from foreign countries—he asked me to answer frankly, and I tell him frankly that I agree with him—facilities for private undertakings to compete against a public corporation, to deprive it of profitable traffic, to leave it, to use my hon. Friend's own illustration, with the Cairo to Karachi route and to take from it the New York to London route, thereby increasing the burden on the taxpayer of maintaining the public corporation, which would be indispensable for national, Imperial, Colonial, commercial and defence purposes.

If, however, Parliament so decided, or if Parliament decided to go even further in entrusting the development of civil air transport to private enterprise, there would be much more to be said than otherwise there would be for transferring its administration from a Department with a wealth of practical experience of air operation, like the Air Ministry, to a Department like the Ministry of Transport, which is concerned with the regulation of private enterprise. Then civil aviation would be handled by the same Department as handled other forms of transport. The air-line operator would be in the same relation to the Ministry as the shipping, railway or road haulage company.

My hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) said that, with every year that passes, unsubsidised air operation is becoming more possible. We are, I am afraid, some way from the possibility of unsubsidised operation of air transport on any except, at any rate, the most lucrative routes, and a long way yet so far as the great trans-Asian, trans-African and trans-ocean routes are concerned. He suggested that the all-British chain should be operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (he said that his reflections had matured to the acceptance of that policy since our Debates last year) but that there should be scope elsewhere for competition. But if the British Overseas Airways Corporation remains the single chosen instrument, I have no doubt whatever that there will be, on the great world air routes on this now very shrunken globe, an ample measure of competition, and the problem would be not so much to inflame competition as to exert wise control over it. It will only tend to make all that more difficult, I am afraid, if we depart from the principle which has been adopted by other countries, including all the great Dominions, of Government-owned or Government-controlled monopolies, and throw these services open to private enterprise.

Sir A. Beit

When my right hon. Friend said that he thought I was rather over-optimistic and that we were a long way from making these services pay, was he taking into account my suggestion that these services would in all probability enjoy air-mail contracts?

Sir A. Sinclair

If my hon. Friend means air-mail contracts on ordinary business terms, I think we are still a long way from making these services pay, but if he means that there would be a concealed subsidy in the contract, that would make a difference.

Mr. Tree

Does my right hon. Friend consider a surcharge on the mails a hidden subsidy?

Sir A. Sinclair

Any addition to commercial rates is a subsidy. It may be quite in order to charge a surcharge rate for great speed, for some special advantage; but I am drawing a distinction between the commercial rate and the rate which holds a concealed subsidy.

Sir O. Simmonds

In the light of what my right hon. Friend has now said, are we to understand that the statement of the Lord Privy Seal that we should invite the shipping companies and others to come in, and that they were free to do so, was purely academic, and that it had no real basis in policy?

Sir A. Sinclair

Certainly not. But the House will recall the announcement made on behalf of the Government by the Minister without Portfolio. We have said that we cannot decide on our national setup until the international organisation of civil air transport has been settled. We have made it abundantly clear that there is no immediate intention of obtaining facilities for shipping companies to work on international routes. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Eye, I would say that the changes which have been announced by the British Overseas Airways Corporation to-day are a matter of internal management, which call for no comment or confirmation by me. Meanwhile, we cannot ask for additional facilities in foreign countries nor are foreign countries asking for these additional facilities from us for international civil air transport in advance of the international discussions which are pending. The hon. Member for Harborough urged faster progress with these discussions. He told us—and I was very glad to hear it from him, because I know how well he knows the United States and how recently he has been there—that he was very hopeful of an agreement, but urged that we should hold the conference soon. He said that tolerance and goodwill, and a realisation on both sides that neither side may get 100 per cent. of what they wanted, should ensure success. I agree with him, and, as the Lord Privy Seal said in another place a month ago, we are ready for these international discussions. We have reached a broad measure of agreement with the Dominions. We have our proposals to make and I hope it will not be long—and I am not saying that lightly—before these discussions start.

The right hon. Member for Devonport raised a series of very interesting ques- tions, which will certainly form an important part of the agenda of these discussions which we shall presently be holding with other countries. It is impossible for me to give a definite answer to these questions. They are among the subjects on which we are about to enter into confidential discussions with these other Governments. But I think everyone would agree with him that a nation must have control of its own domestic airways and that there should be a right of innocent passage. Of course, the sovereignty of the air would remain with the country over which the air was, but the country would have consented, by international agreement, to the limitation of its sovereignty in concert with those who joined in signing the agreement.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman is trenching on something now which is of supreme, vital importance. I want to ask him, Is it the declared view of His Majesty's Government that the sovereignty of the air above the ground of States must remain within those States, as a declaration of post-war policy?

Sir A. Sinclair

Not as a declaration of post-war policy. I say that some change would be effected where we joined with the Governments of other countries in signing an international convention under which we agreed with those nations to limit our national sovereignty by an agreement which would be binding on all.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

In other words, national sovereignty will remain and the agreement would be recognised as mere derogation by agreement from it, but the doctrine of national sovereignty is accepted as the policy of His Majesty's Government?

Sir A. Sinclair

It would certainly remain until it was removed, but, as I said at the beginning, I am not prepared to say what the policy of the Government is, as these are all matters on which we shall have confidential discussions with other countries.

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

I can understand that countries like Russia and America may say "Over our territory we run the law as regards international aircraft," but, if we take the African Colonies and great stretches of the world, where it would be quite impossible for every country to be able to have aerodromes, is it not possible to have international aerodromes under the control of all the nations, with extraterritorial rights, where there would be free passage for all aircraft?

Sir A. Sinclair

All these matters are subjects for discussion and will be discussed by the conference into which we are entering with other nations, but unless there is agreement, certainly air sovereignty for us in our home territory and the Colonial Empire will remain unimpaired. So with the question of picking up and dropping passengers. All these matters will be discussed at this international conference, and I say, too, that we shall certainly enter the conference as an Empire—the Mother Country and the Colonial territories.

Now, I have listened to a good deal of criticism of my Ministry. I welcome it and hope to profit by it. Some hon. Members said "Send civil aviation to the Ministry of Transport," some said "Send it to a separate Ministry." The hon. Member for Stroud said "Never mind which, but do one or the other; something must be done." Lord Melbourne used to say, when somebody told him that something must be done, "I always think it means something silly." As responsibility for civil air transport rests, and must, for the duration of the war, rest, with me, there is no loss of time in the Government taking their time to consider this matter carefully, and, as I have said, they will certainly, in considering it, take into account the opinions of hon. Members expressed here to-day. In these circumstances, I am sure hon. Members will bear with me while I give them some account of my stewardship, and commend the admirable work of the Civil Aviation Department to the impartial judgment of the House.

The hon. and gallant Member for Stroud spoke of 20 years of neglect between the wars. Those were not 20 years of neglect by the Civil Aviation Department of the Air Ministry, but 20 years of neglect by successive Governments, who were responsible for the failure to nurture, and give rises to the expansion of, British civil air transport. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport paid a generous tribute to British aircraft industry achievements in developing air transport during the reign of King George V in the great trans-African pioneering, and development, and in the trans-Atlantic development. As he said, we are pioneers, and he paid a well-deserved tribute to the pilots and crews who, for example, have maintained now for successive winters this service across the North Atlantic ocean. I join, too, with him in paying that tribute to the pilots and crews, but we must also pay our tribute to those who have planned these services. It is not fair to leave them out. The Air Ministry was, at the outbreak of the war, making itself not only an office of air war, but a Ministry of Air administering three separate services—the Royal Air Force, civil aviation and the Meteorological Office. The Air Council is responsible only for the Royal Air Force. The affairs of civil aviation are not discussed in the Air Council. Except for war requirements the Civil Aviation Department is entirely independent of the Air Staff and air marshals.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud asked, "Is maintenance 100 per cent.?; are all necessary stores available?" I wish I could answer him, "Yes," but that would not be true—nor would it be true, I am afraid, of the Royal Air Force. But we do our best, and the fact that civil aviation is able to share in the pool of resources and supplies of the Royal Air Force is of great advantage to it. The pooling of knowledge, experience, resources, radio, airfields, meteorological service, facilities, basic research and development is of immense advantage both to the Service and to the civil sides, and the reconciliation of differences and co-operation in the expansion of air transport are much facilitated by a common allegiance to a single Minister. The Civil Aviation Department, which owes so much to the devoted work and leadership of the Director-General, Mr. Hildred, does the day-to-day administration and makes plans for the future. The two are inextricable, for day-to-day decisions must be influenced by an intelligent understanding of future requirements. Similarly, future planning would not be well done by theorists planning in vacuo. It has done its work well, and as the House knows, we have been first in the field with our plans for the international organisation of air transport.

May I mention some of the other things, apart from those which I have already mentioned, upon which we have been engaged. Take airfields, for example. We have looked as far into the future as possible and considered the length of runways and other characteristics which airfields of the future must have. We have set out our ideas in a special pamphlet. Some hon. Members may have seen that, because we have sent it to aircraft constructors, operators, and aerodrome owners and to the pilots themselves, so that they will let us know what they think of it. When we have had their contributions, we will put the pamphlet on sale, and I have no doubt that a pamphlet like this epitomising the most up-to-date and most authoritative opinion, will be the foundation of airfield planning in this country. Having worked out what kind of airfields are needed, we have been looking at the existing airfields in this country to see which of them should be developed for the routes of the future. This means not only inspecting each airfieold, but the surrounding country as well. We have got a long way with our survey. Thus we shall start after the war with an airfield system which was planned, not just grew up, and was planned to take advantage of all developments which the best brains and greatest experience could foresee.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport rightly urged the provision of a great international airport for the future of British civil air transport. I can assure him that that is always in our minds. But military requirements must predominate now. The construction of a modern air port on an international scale—

Mr. Hare-Belisha

Near London.

Sir A. Sinclair

Near London, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that is most important. It would be a costly project, and, when I say costly I mean, of course, not so much in money but in labour and man-power and skill. But in planning, as we have to plan, our military transport facilities, I can assure him that we are not overlooking the importance of the considerations which he has in mind.

Mr. Granville

There was a statement in the Press this morning that British Overseas Airways Corporation have made certain recommendations to the Air Ministry with regard to a London air port. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the delay is in his own Department, and if an announcement may be expected in the near future?

Sir A. Sinclair

There is no delay at all. The fact is that we are using all the resources of this country now for the prosecution of the war. Fortunately, this is not a question on which there is much conflict of interest. There is hardly any. As my hon. Friend knows, we need fine airports built for Transport Command, and in planning such airports we shall certainly have in mind the possibility of extension to the still ampler scale which will be required for international air transport after the war.

Mr. Perkins

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether they have definitely chosen the sites, whether they have paid for them, and whether the land is theirs?

Sir A. Sinclair

It is not a question for British Overseas Airways Corporation but for my Department. All I can say on that is, that any project which we have in mind now is a project solely for war purposes. At this moment, when we are approaching the climax of the war, we could not and would not undertake any project which was solely for civil aviation purposes. But what I ask hon. Members to understand is this—because it is really the essence of the whole thing—that we must have very large airports for transport purposes. The demands of Transport Command are as great now, and will be for some years to come, as those of civil aviation will be. They require runways as long, and facilities as ample, and in meeting those demands we shall meet them in such a way as will facilitate the meeting of the requirements of international air transport.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

The question of the location of the grand international airports to be set up in this country is a matter of some importance to different parts of the country. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the sites now being picked, which are based entirely upon war requirements, are going to prejudice the issue as to the desirability of those sites when civilian requirements alone are under consideration?

Sir A. Sinclair

I am afraid my hon. and learned Friend has misunderstood what I said. I said that this survey is being made having regard to aviation requirements at the present time.

Mr. Perkins

Has the land been bought? Can the answer be "Yes" or "No"?

Sir A. Sinclair

No, Sir, I am afraid that it cannot be "Yes" or "No." The fact is that we are making provision for Transport Command, and only for Transport Command, and we are making no other provision at the present time, but the provision we are making for Transport Command will be useful to British airways.

Mr. Granville

I understand that one official of the British Airways Corporation made a statement to the Press which appeared this morning that they had chosen a site and submitted it to the Air Ministry and were waiting for the decision of the Air Ministry.

Sir A. Sinclair

I think the hon. Member had better take what I say rather than any statement of that kind in the Press. We are preparing for the future to convert to civil use the great technical advances made during the war. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Watford (Air Commodore Helmore) suggested that we should have regard to the importance of blind landing and I can assure him that that is a matter very much in our mind. We began by clearing our ideas by discussions between the several Government Departments that are users of wireless; we went on to get agreement between the countries of the British Commonwealth. The House will remember the recent announcement about the Commonwealth Radio Conference presided over by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production and we are aiming at following this by further talks on a broader international basis.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Watford said that speakers had stressed too much matters of administrative detail and he asked the House to get down to the question of production of aircraft. It was just over a year ago that I announced in the House the Government's decision that work should proceed so far as preoccupation with the war would allow on the design on a limited number of aircraft for civil use and on the adaptation for civil use of aircraft which had already proved themselves in war time. Considerable progress has been made with this work. Two committees have been established under the chairmanship of Lord Brabazon. The first Com- mittee recommended the design of five new types of aircraft and considered that at least four of our wartime military aircraft would be suitable for civil use with varying degrees of modification. In this class the Avro York is now flying successfully. The second, a military transport version of the Halifax bomber, will be readily convertible to civil operations. There is also the famous Short Sunderland flying boat which has already proved its worth as a transport in the hands of B.O.A.C. Then there is the Avro Tudor about which the Lord Privy Seal has made an announcement in another place. But that is not necessarily the final list. I hope that it may be possible to construct civil versions of other types as time goes on.

I now come to the new types. Those recommended by the first Brabazon Committee, as I have said, were five in number. The Minister of Aircraft Production after taking into account the military commitments of the industry found it possible within a short time to select designers for four out of the five and these firms were authorised to prepare outline designs within the brief description given by the Committee. The Minister of Aircraft Production and myself recognised however that it would be of great help to the designers if they could be given a more detailed description of the exact types of aircraft which operators in various parts of the world wanted. I therefore asked Lord Brabazon to preside over a second Committee to undertake the task of drawing up a detailed list of requirements for each type. This Committee, which is still sitting, has done invaluable work. It has taken evidence from many quarters representing a diversity of interests and has considered the problem from every angle in an effort to devise a type of machine which would satisfy the widest possible market. It has studied the wishes of potential operators, it has paid attention to economy of operation and with the help of departmental advisers has considered various technical aspects. In the course of its review it has recommended the design of two new types additional to the original five.

All these recommendations I have accepted. The first of the seven types is the big trans-Atlantic landplane being designed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, about which the Lord Privy Seal has already spoken in another place. The second is a landplane of over 100,000 lbs. all-up weight which will be capable of operating the North Atlantic route with an interim stop at Newfoundland. It will also be suitable for long range operation on other trunk routes. Like the Bristol machine it will have a pressure cabin. The third is a slightly smaller four-engined aircraft, of about 70,000 lbs. all-up weight, which will also be pressurised. It will be designed with a more capacious body than the previous one and is intended for the operation of trunk routes in medium stages. The fourth is a twin-engined landplane, with a pressure cabin of about 40,000 lbs. all-up weight, and is capable of seating about 30 passengers. This will be suitable for European services and other short-medium range work. The fifth type is a revolutionary one, of which I cannot yet give any details, but its main purpose is that it shall represent the application to civilian purposes of jet propulsion. Its speed will far outclass that of any civil machine now in operation. The sixth is a landplane of conventional design for which the Brabazon Committee's specification has not yet been drawn up. It will seat about 14 passengers and is intended for use on feeder lines in the Colonies and in other overseas countries. It will also be suitable for internal services in this country. The seventh and last is a smaller twin-engined landplane of 8,000 lbs. all-up weight, seating up to eight passengers. It will also be suitable for feeder lines and taxi work.

That is the complete list as it stands to-day. I have not attempted to forecast the dates when these various types will be ready for service, as progress is so intimately bound up with the course of the war, but we shall press on with vigour so far as our military obligations allow. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud particularly stressed the point of engines and engines for civil air transport. From what I have said he will see that these are very much in our minds. Within the last few days my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production has been good enough to send me a programme of large scale adaptations to existing engines for the use of civil air transport, and of new engines freshly designed for the purpose of civil air transport. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Watford said, war requirements must predominate. I must tell the Minister of Aircraft Production what our war requirements are, and he must decide what design and production capacity can be made available for these other purposes. As I have said, we are pressing forward with vigour, so far as our military obligations allow, on the lines which my hon. and gallant Friend proposes.

My hon. and gallant Friend also made some interesting observations on the importance of an international air force and the relation to security of plans for international civil air transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough deprecated the view that every civil aircraft is a potential bomber. He said that we had gone into another era and that a transport aircraft was no more a potential bomber than the "Queen Mary" was a battleship. I am afraid that that is looking some way further ahead than we have yet reached. A bomber is more like a civil aircraft than it is like most other forms of military aircraft, and we must always remember—as I have always remembered and my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport has impressed on us to-day and on previous occasions—the importance of military air transport. The relation between civil air transport and transport units of the Royal Air Force, which of course have to provide for the needs of the other two Services, particularly the rapidly increasing demands of the Army, is quite different from that of the Admiralty and the Merchant Navy.

After all, the merchant marine grew up even before the Admiralty and long swam by itself, whereas for many years to come we shall have a Transport Command—I expect it to be a permanent part of the Royal Air Force but for many years to come it will be a very large part—[HON. MEMBERS: "Always."] It will always be a part of the Royal Air Force and for many years to come it will number many more aircraft than the aircraft at the disposal of Civil Air Transport. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport was inclined to regret the concentration upon fighter machines at the expense of transport machines. He said he was making no reproaches. I do not suppose he was, because, if there were reproaches, it would be for him rather than for me to answer them for, after all, we have built up Transport Command and it was we who found that there were no military transports and not many fighters at the beginning of the war, and we had to put the whole of our strength and energy into the production of appropriate types.

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The Air Force did not take that view.

Sir A. Sinclair

Because it had such inadequate resources at its disposal, fighters were more important. He said, "See what the Germans did with their airborne division at Crete." They never tried it again. They never tried again because of our superior air power, in the face of which it was impossible for their airborne divisions to operate. You must win the war in the air first and then, and only then, operate with airborne divisions.

All this, however, brings me back to the point where I started in commenting on the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend, the supreme importance of subordinating any international organisation for civil air transport to any authority there may be for international security after the war. Some hon. Members took exception to the view which has been expressed that there should be an International Police Force after the war but, when my hon. and gallant Friend suggested an Inter-Allied Police Force I was delighted to find that that met with warm approval in all parts of the House. No one would suggest for a moment that our enemies should have any lot or part in any international Air Force of the future. I think we all ought to come to a general agreement on the basis that my hon. and gallant Friend suggested—that it was well worthy of study and fostering and that there should be after the war permanent co-operation between those who fought side by side during the war against the enemies of mankind in preserving permanent peace.

Mr. McNeil (Greenock)

The right hon. Gentleman said none of us would visualise our enemies having any part in future in an international police force. I take it that he meant in the immediate post-war future, to which everyone will agree, but it is such a serious statement that I expect he wants to qualify it.

Sir A. Sinclair

No, Sir, I do not want to qualify it in the least. It is clear to the House, and it will be to the country, that I was dealing with the immediate post-war period. Prophecy is a gratuitous form of error and I would not look too far forward into the future. I was talking about the arrangements we should make for the preservation of peace immediately after the war. On these lines we are working with a will in close co-operation with other Departments, under the skilful co-ordination and vigorous leadership of the Lord Privy Seal, to prepare a great future for British civil aviation. I believe that rapid and easy transport by air will do much to reinforce the cohesion and influence of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and, if accompanied by wise measures of international organisation, will serve the interest of trade and the security of mankind.

Sir A. Beit

Before asking the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment, may I thank my right hon. Friend for the courteous reply he has given to Members who have spoken in the Debate? He will forgive me if I say that we are not altogether satisfied with the answers he has given to the two main points we have brought out and that at a later date we shall have to return to the attack.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Fourth Resolution agreed to.

REPORT [2nd March]

Resolutions reported:

    1. c163
    2. NUMBER OF LAND FORCES 45 words
    3. c163
    4. PAY, ETC., OF THE ARMY 41 words
    5. c163
    7. cc163-8
    8. ARMY SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATE, 1943 1,749 words