§ Order far Second Reading read.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ The Minister of Aircraft Production (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is introduced for the purpose of carrying out the undertaking given by the Government to the House at the time that the announcement was made as regards the setting up of a new Ministry of Civil Aviation. It was stated at that time that my Noble Friend who is the Minister of Civil Aviation would not immediately be endowed with the necessary powers, as legislation would be required, but that the Government would, at the earliest possible moment, introduce a Bill in order that those necessary powers might be given to him for carrying on his office and his Department. I think I may say that that announcement met with very general approval from all sides of the House and also throughout the country. Since that date my Noble Friend has held the position of Minister of Civil Aviation, though there has been no Ministry of Civil Aviation. He has been functioning, as was explained to the House, by arrangement with the Secretary of State for Air, as his deputy or agent in carrying out the responsibilities which Parliament has placed by its various Acts upon the Secretary of State, and which must remain with him, until the new legislation setting up the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been passed through this House. It is this decision that we now ask the House to make, to provide the proper machinery in order that this Ministry may come into full operation.
Perhaps it would be convenient if I recalled to the House in a few words, the legislative history of civil aviation in this country. The Air Navigation Act of 1920, which was really the foundation of legislation on civil aviation, by Section 6 1898 placed all matters in connection with air navigation—a very wide phrase—under the Air Council, which had been constituted, as the House will recollect, by the war-time Act of 1917. There the power remained until the Act of 1936, when, I think one might say, there was a general feeling both in the House and the country, that some better arrangement was required. That led to alterations being made in the Air Navigation Act of 1936. By Section 23 of that Act the powers which have hitherto been vested in the Air Council were transferred, so far as civil aviation were concerned, to the Secretary of State for Air, as such, that is to say in his individual capacity. As the House knows a special directorate-general of the Air Ministry, was set up in order to deal with civil aviation, as part of the responsibility of the Secretary of State, and separate from his military responsibilities.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Yes, but in 1936 the directorate was set up with direct responsibility to the Secretary of State for Air in order that matters could be put on a better basis. Under the Act of 1936 there was no widening of the powers. The powers remained as they had been in 1920, but there was this transfer of the authority from the Air Council to the Secretary of State.
Subsequently it became clear in many people's minds, that the arrangement was still not wholly satisfactory and criticisms were cast upon it from several quarters, including some commissions and committees then sitting. However, in subsequent Acts dealing with civil aviation, such as the British Overseas Airways of 1939, the Secretary of State was named as the responsible authority for civil aviation. Now it has been decided, as I have said, to ask the House to regularise the change over of these functions of the Secretary of State, that is in all matters connected with civil aviation, to the Minister of Civil Aviation. The Bill itself, of course, is in the form of what one might call a machinery Bill. It is a common form for setting up a new Department, and there 1899 is very little I need say to the House about the particular provisions.
The first Clause is, of course, the important one. Apart from the transfer of the functions of the Secretary of State as they now exist, it does define the functions which the Air Minister will be charged with by Parliament. They fall under four heads. He is charged with the duty of organising, carrying out and encouraging measures—which is the phraseology used—for, first of all, the development of civil aviation. That one might define as the operational side connected with the development of air lines and such matters as that. Secondly, he is charged with the designing, development and production of civil aircraft, that is the constructional and research side—I will say a word or two in a moment as regards the relationship with my Department in that matter; thirdly, "the promotion of safety and efficiency" in the use of civil aircraft. That, of course, is the safety side, and one hopes it will be very largely regulated by international regulations, when those are finally decided upon. Lastly, there is "research into questions relating to air navigation," that is, the navigational aspect. So, under these four headings, all the necessary duties in looking after civil aviation are covered, and are conferred upon the Minister by Clause 1.
The Minister's plan as regards the operational side have recently been placed before the House and the country in the White Paper, which was recently discussed, and therefore I will not refer to any of these, nor would it be relevant to this matter of setting up the Ministry. I would like to say a word about the second point, the responsibility for "the designing, development and production of civil aircraft," the constructional side, so as to make clear what are the relations which are contemplated between my Department and the Department of Civil Aviation.
§ Mr. Montague
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that point, may I point out that the White Paper has not yet been the subject of any formal discussion in this House?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I did not suggest that it had been the subject of formal discussion. I said it had been discussed.
§ Sir S. Cripps
No, I did not say that. I said that the plans had been developed in the White Paper. I did not say that the Minister was going forward with them. I would like to say a word or two about what I call the constructional and research side. So long as my Department remains in existence, and that, I imagine, will anyhow be until the end of the war, it is the intention that I should be responsible for the design, development and production of civil aircraft, in accordance with the requirements put forward by the Minister of Civil Aviation. It will be the task of that Ministry to look after the interests of the operators, and to coordinate their needs. During such time as circumstances render it necessary, as they do at present, for the Government to place orders for civil aircraft, such orders will be given by my Ministry on behalf of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Eventually, as is envisaged in paragraph 41 of the White Paper, the operators will no doubt wish to buy their aircraft direct from the constructors, and the new Ministry will, of course, desire to keep itself informed and interested in that very important matter of the provision of civil aircraft. Under this Bill it is given the power to do so.
The second Sub-section of Clause 1 lays it down that in the matter of the acquisition and disposal of aircraft, engines and equipment the Minister shall consult the Treasury. That is merely to maintain the proper financial control over the actions of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Clause 2 effects the transfer, of which I have spoken, of all the functions of the Secretary of State for Air with regard to civil aviation, and set out in the Schedule are the various Acts and Sections to which that transfer relates. The House will notice in that Schedule that in a few cases certain powers and duties are not completely transferred, but are to be shared between the new Minister of Civil Aviation and the Secretary of State. Such cases are, for example, the investigation of accidents and matters of that sort, where the military side of aviation may be equally concerned with the civil side, so that both Ministers must have the necessary powers under these provisions. But apart from these particular instances the transfer of powers will be absolutely complete. That covers the powers of the 1901 Secretary of State under the various Railway Air Transport Acts passed by this House in 1929 and under the British Overseas Airways Act, 1939. The rest of the Bill merely comprises the formal Clauses necessary to setting up a new Ministry, including the payment of the salaries of the Minister and his staff, and the payment of the authorised expenses of the Ministry.
That covers the whole of this short Bill, and I trust the House will be prepared to give it a quick passage, so that my Noble Friend may have the greater facilities which he will derive from a properly constituted Ministry of his own in carrying on the good work he has been doing, and so that he may be able to build up what will become, I think, a small though nevertheless efficient Department, which he must have if we are really to get ahead rapidly and efficiently with the solution of the many outstanding problems of civil aviation. Although the Bill may be regarded as a short, and perhaps not very important one, in one sense, being merely of a machinery character, I feel it will provide us with a much firmer foundation on which to build the future supremacy which we must get in civil aviation.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Sir Oliver Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)
The issue before the House falls into two parts, first whether civil aviation should be removed from the control of the Secretary of State for Air, and secondly, whether the Ministry of Civil Aviation should be established. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production has told the House that civil aviation has been the responsibility of the Air Ministry, or the Air Minister, ever since the inauguration of civil air transport after the end of the last war, it behoves the House to give thought, for one or two moments, to the prudence of this change. As one casts one's eye over the years since 1918 one will find, regretfully, that the history of civil aviation in this country has been the history of a series of inquests. There has never been a period, I believe, when this House felt that all was well with British civil aviation. In the early '20's we had the Hamblin Committee of Investigation, when the original air lines operating from this country to the Continent were amalgamated in Imperial Airways. Then we had the Gorell Committee in the '3o's, and ulti- 1902 mately the Cadman Committee in the late '3o's, as the result of which, and with doubtful wisdom, this House decided to establish the British Overseas Airways Corporation in place of Imperial Airways and British Airways.
In the light of the magnificent record of the Air Ministry as regards military aviation it will be manifest that this situation could not have occurred if the same persons who were mindful of Service aviation then had also had time to give to civil aviation. The tragedy of British civil aviation between the wars has been that military aviation demanded all that was available of the thought and effort of the best people in the Air Ministry, so that they had not time and energy for constructive effort in civil aviation. Secondly, and I very much regret to say this, those who were jealous of air development in this country by some other Department were never willing that civil air transport should pass under the aegis of, say, the Ministry of Transport or some other suitable civil Department. Thus air transport had to stay within the four walls of the Air Ministry, when the Air Ministry really had no great interest in it, simply because they did not want it put into the hands of any other Department.
The whole structure of civil aviation has been one of a very insignificant Department compared with the main Departments represented by the Air Members on the Air Council, although, as my right hon. and learned Friend has said, it was improved in 1936. The Director-General of Civil Aviation was never a member of the Air Council, and could never bring his own responsibilities to bear upon the Council. He had to move through the Under-Secretary of State who was, to use the phrase, "charged with responsibility for civil aviation." But as everybody knows, the Under-Secretary has for a very long time had his hands over-full with Service matters. Thus we have gone from bad to worse. In the late '20's this country led the world as regards air transport. The Americans had not yet developed the machines which are now well known throughout the world. They were, for example, flying with Fokker monoplanes originally purchased from Holland, and manufactured in America, Ford transports and so on. We had our opportunity then of doing in the world of air transport exactly what America had 1903 done in the world of road transport, of producing civil air liners which would have sold throughout the whole world. We lost that opportunity, and America has taken advantage of our folly. Therefore I think that every hon. Member would agree with me that the time has come when, if we are to try to recover something of what we have lost to America, we should start anew as regards the constitutional control of civil air transport in this country.
I feel that the Air Ministry might well surrender its control of civil air transport with good grace. But when I suggest that, I would like to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air that he would do well to remember that this House is not removing from his control the whole of air transport, because one of the follies of the Air Council in the '30's was that not only did it not appreciate the importance of civil air transport, but it did not even appreciate the importance of military air transport.
The history of this war shows abundantly that whether you are operating on a front not so many hundreds of miles from your base or on fronts thousands of miles from your base air transport is equally essential. My hon. Friends opposite raised the question of military air transport last evening, and I do not want to trespass on that ground again; but it is important, seeing that the Air Ministry have been so unwilling to develop air transport from a civil and military point of view, that we should remind the Secretary of State for Air that, when responsibility for civil air transport is taken from him in future, it behoves him to put double effort into the development of the military side.
§ Mr. Montague
I do not think that that ex-parte statement ought to be allowed to pass. I myself was present at quite a number of discussions at the Air Ministry upon the subject of a Transport Command or something like it. The question of military transport was certainly under consideration in 1930.
§ Sir O. Simmonds
Of course, I know that the Air Ministry went on talking about this, week in and week out; what we complain of is that the Air Ministry never did anything. I am surprised that my hon. Friend, of all people, should claim some righteousness for what he did 1904 at the Air Ministry. We wanted results at the Air Ministry. I am amazed that he has the audacity to make that claim. So much for the position of the Air Ministry when we relieve it of this responsibility. I think it is fair to say this. The Air Ministry, in its control of civil aviation, did one brilliant thing. That was the establishment under the joint aegis of the Post Office, under our late lamented friend Sir Kingsley Wood, and the Air Ministry, of the Empire air mails scheme. That was a stroke of genius. If we had had half a dozen more such strokes British civil aviation would not have been where it is to-day. Let us give honour where honour is due, and say that that was the sort of spirit we hoped to see permeating the whole of British air transport. I come to the conclusion that this change, if we can set up a sane and wise constitution for the new Ministry of Civil Aviation, would be in the national interest.
What is the more positive step? I do not want to go into the Bill Clause by Clause. It manifests what will be the general outlook of the new Ministry, at any rate in its early years. In the Debate a week or two ago on the White Paper—without a formal Resolution, as the hon. Gentleman has said—hon. Members from all sides protested against the Minister intruding himself in too many places into the day-to-day operation of civil air transport. Therefore, it is with some alarm that I read, in Clause 1, that the Minister ischarged with the general duty of organising, carrying out and encouraging measures for the development of civil aviation.I hoped that the Minister was going to avoid trying to carry out these measures, and would invite other organisations under his control and sponsorship to develop civil aviation in accordance with the policy of the Government of the day. I hope that the Minister will again consider the point made from all sides in the recent Debate, that he should trust those whom he appoints, or to whose appointment he agrees, and not interfere with the day-to-day operation of civil aviation.
Now we come to the political issue. Is this a Conservative Measure or is it a Socialist Measure, or is it a fair and reasonable compromise? The other day I expressed the hope that it might be regarded possibly as some compromise which both the major parties would honour, and which for a reasonable period 1905 they would not try to disturb. But each of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who spoke, as far as I can recall, was at pains to say that in his opinion this was a Conservative Measure to which he took every exception.
§ Sir O. Simmonds
No; they were speaking broadly about the White Paper. But not one of them indicated that he would support this as a middle course, which would take civil air transport out of party politics—which I believe is the most vital step that needs to be taken. I have reconsidered my point of view in the light of what hon. Gentlemen opposite said. When I took the view that it was a middle course, I was not thinking too quantitatively, as to whether it was 80 per cent. in one direction or 20 per cent. in the other. I was hoping that, as the Minister had been able to strike a compromise with his colleagues in the Cabinet of all parties, this House might feel it prudent to accept the compromise, and decide honourably to give it a chance.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I want to ask a question, which I asked in the discussion on the White Paper. If the hon. Member claims that this is a middle course, is he, or is any of his colleagues, prepared, as a Conservative, to advocate that civil aviation should be completely in the hands of private owners, with no kind of control whatever by the Government?
§ Sir O. Simmonds
If my hon. Friend will listen a little longer he will see exactly where I place the course that is recommended by the Government. The first question that any hon. Member would review is, To what extent are the Corporation suggested by the Government going to be privately-owned or State-owned? Any hon. Member who examines this question fairly will see that B.O.A.C., 100 per cent. State-owned, at any rate so far as the early future is concerned, is going to run something like 80 per cent. of the British air lines of the world. The line to Latin America, manifestly, is relatively light, in traffic and mileage, compared with the great organisation that B.O.A.C. will have; likewise, all the lines of the European corporations will be short in relation to those of the B.O.A.C. Therefore, I feel entitled to say, as a Conservative, that the Minister's proposals would substantially, if we allowed this 1906 Ministry to be set up, nationalise 90 per cent. of the air transport of this country. We are entitled to inquire whether this is a reasonable compromise, or whether it is not becoming essentially a Socialist Measure for the nationalisation of British air transport.
§ Sir S. Cripps
This Bill has nothing on earth to do with any such matter. It is merely to set up a Ministry. What the Ministry does is a matter for subsequent debate. This is merely a machinery Bill.
§ Mr. Tree (Harborough)
May I ask your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? I understood that this was a short enabling Bill, for setting up a Minister and a Ministry of Civil Aviation. Are we to be allowed to debate very widely the whole subject of the White Paper?
§ Sir O. Simmonds
May I suggest that this is not solely for that purpose? It is a question of whether civil aviation should be taken out of the hands of one Ministry and put into the hands of another Ministry, when the policy which the second Ministry will adopt has been precisely stated by His Majesty's Government in the White Paper. It is not correct to regard this as being purely a transfer from one Ministry to another. We have been told specifically what the new Ministry will do.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
In reply to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Tree), I may say that this is clearly a machinery Bill, and it will not be in Order, on the Motion that the Bill be read a Second time, to go into detail on the policy that will follow. The Amendment raises rather a wider question than the Motion, and this matter might then be raised.
§ Sir O. Simmonds
If it is the intention to call the Amendment, and if it is your view that these matters can be better raised on the Amendment, I certainly will be very happy to follow that course.
§ Mr. Montague
Does your Ruling, Sir, prejudice a full and formal Debate on the White Paper at some future period?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Not at all; that is a separate matter, which will be dealt with when the occasion arises.
§ Sir O. Simmonds
If we are to be able to deal with some of these essential matters when my hon. Friend moves his Amendment, I am quite content to leave the points that I wished to make. But I would like to emphasise that sometimes when we set up a new Ministry we have to vote on a blank cheque. That, fortunately, is not the case to-day. We know fairly well what the Ministry proposes to do. Although I have some misgiving, as I have already indicated, with regard to the policy that is to be followed, I feel on balance that we should be wise if we agreed to the transfer of these powers from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, but always insisting that there are in the White Paper certain proposals which need ameliorating from the Conservative point of view before they would be sufficiently acceptable on this side of the House.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this Rouse declines to proceed with the Second Reading of a Bill which, whilst establishing a National Minister of Civil Aviation in this country, fails to provide for the future organisation, ownership and control of civil aviation upon the widest possible basis, namely, a world basis, in order to ensure that this service should be removed once and for all from the sphere of private and national rivalry and competition.I put this Amendment on the Order Paper because I am determined on every possible occasion to advocate what I regard as the only possible solution to this question of the future of civil aviation. I have spoken on this subject over and over again, but I do not apologise for doing so again to-night. All through the last two or three years, as the war has drawn slowly to its close, it has been obvious that there have been interests—vested or would-be vested—who are anxious to get hold of their share of the future development of civil aviation. The problem has always been approached from the point of view of the operator and not from the point of view of the user. We in the House of Commons, as far as lies in our power, have to provide the very best possible service to the user, and there- 1908 fore instead of approaching this matter from the point of view of the operator I approach it from that of the user. It will very soon be possible to fly from any one place to any other place in the world in 2½ days. It is possible to do it in three days now. One hundred years ago it took three days to go from London to York. I mention that because it shows the great rapidity with which the world is contracting from the point of view of travel. Surely, when we have what obviously must be a world service, and when the world can be flown round in five days or less, it is foolish to try and organise this matter on anything less than a world basis. I have read many speeches in another place, and I have heard many speeches in this House, in which the interests of the shipping and railway companies and others have been pressed and, as it seems to me from the White Paper, pressed successfully. The White Paper now visualises the handing over of certain spheres of civil aviation to the shipping and railway companies.
We also hear from time to time in speeches in this House and in another place statements similar to the closing words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Aircraft Production, that we must maintain and ensure our supremacy. The other day I was reading a report of a Debate in the United States of America, in which Senator after Senator was getting up and making the same kind of demand, that the United States should be top in aviation. I have read about various Noble Lords getting up one after another in another place and demanding that this country should be supreme in the air as it was on the seas. It is obvious that it is a mathematical impossibility for every country to be top. Therefore, we have from the beginning—we had it at the Chicago Conference, in fact—a struggle even between Allies during a war to determine which kind of organisation and political policy should be applied to this matter which, as I have emphasised, is one to be solved on a world basis only. The Americans adopt the attitude that they should be able to have complete mastery so far as lies within their power to snatch it. According to the Minister, we are anxious to do exactly the same. I suppose other countries, if not at once, then as soon as they feel they are strong 1909 enough to do so, will also enter the competition. There is a nice set-up which springs from either private or national greed but which has no regard whatever to the general welfare of the ordinary person in the street or the ordinary person who wants to use the aircraft either for his own travel or for the purpose of conveying goods from one part of the world to the other.
I have advocated, as I have said before, that this organisation must be carried out on a world basis, and I do not believe there is anything really like the difficulty which is alleged to exist in securing agreement on this point among the ordinary people in this country, in America or in other parts of the world. The only opposition to the Labour Party's policy which I am now advocating comes from operators or from people who want to operate. It does not come from the ordinary person, who is quite as interested in this matter, from the point of view of organisation and the preservation of peace, as anybody in this House.
What we have to do—and I press that this must be done as soon as possible before interests become vested, because it is always more difficult to divest them than to prevent them becoming vested—is to arrange the setting up of a corporation which I might call World Airways Incorporated, or Limited—I do not mind—and that body should be responsible for running all air services throughout the world. I do not apologise for going into some detail in this case, because its advocacy should never be allowed to die. There should be appointed a board of directors consisting of persons selected because of their ability to provide the best possible service, because of their international outlook, and there should be no pressure or wire-pulling to influence any of their decisions except those which they feel are made in the best interests of this service of civil aviation. In order to ensure that the best possible people are appointed, we cannot trust Governments either in this country or the United States or any other country where vested interests are strong, because we have seen how even this Government seems to kowtow to the pressure which has been brought to bear by private interests. The directors of this board or corporation should be appointed by the Governments of the smaller nations such as Denmark, 1910 Sweden, Switzerland and so on, and not necessarily their own nationals. They should be persons chosen by those Governments, who would choose the very best people from all over the world. I am certain from my experience before the war at Geneva that it is possible to find men of sufficient good will, ability and international mindedness who would put the interests of the service which they are to perform above any other consideration whatsoever, either political or national.
Then we would have to arrange about the finance. I do not think there would be any difficulty at all in making an appeal to any person or company in the world for the subscription of the necessary capital, because the interest could be fixed at an attractive rate. I would make it trustee stock and I would guarantee that it would pay. Then I would rely upon the directors to appoint the very best pilots and buy the very best machines in the world, and not necessarily those that come from any particular country because it happens to be strong but because it happens to be able to produce the best aircraft. Then I would arrange that this service should be run to some extent by delegation; as I have put it once before, the corporation should be the head office, but I see no objection to zones of the world being run under what I might call branch offices.
To my mind, this is a most important proposal, and although it may sound idealist I can assure the House that sometimes the ideal solution is the only real and practical one. In any other direction, if one departs once from these first principles, one gets into the kind of mess that was so obvious to the world at Chicago. If one tries to depart from providing a world service organised by a world corporation one will find that one is compromising, and as soon as one compromises one finds very soon that one's whole standing and status will have disappeared. I believe that the setting up of this Ministry on a national basis, as proposed in this Bill, is a step in the wrong direction, because it is just as bad to have Ministers struggling for their national chosen instruments in world congresses or in the world of competition, as it is to have sheer private enterprise.
I submit to my right hon. Friend and to the Government that the only possible way in which this service can be properly 1911 organised in order to ensure that it will not become a menace to mankind but a boon, is to organise it as a service and not as something out of which certain people can get their share. I find that people who hear this idea are interested in it. I am told that it might be difficult to get agreement from the United States of America. I do not see any reason why, because it is difficult, one should not go on pressing for the idea and fighting for its adoption. Almost every idea that is good starts in a minority, and perpetual propaganda, argument and pressing are generally necessary before it is adopted by the majority. This idea is not so unacceptable to world opinion as may be thought. The Governments of Australia and New Zealand agreed, at Canberra at the beginning of last year, to internationalisation of all trunk routes. That is the policy also of the Party on this side of the House. It is also the policy this Party will itself pursue when it gets into power after the next General Election. We hope that this matter will be put into operation when a Labour Government comes into office. I warn anybody who thinks that now is the time to get in.
It is true that a certain amount of legislation may be necessary to repeal the B.O.A.C. Act before any shipping or railway companies can operate abroad. Other legislation may be necessary—I do not know. I would not be at all surprised if the shipping companies have not already prepared. I know that many of them have been to the Chancery Court and got their objects changed, so that they may have the right and power to run civil aviation. The railway companies may have to have special legislation to enable them to do so, but I have not looked closely into the legal position. Let us take the case of the shipping company. I doubt very much whether repeal of the B.O.A.C. Act is not all that would be necessary to enable them to start with their traffic and service at once. People who are bold enough to think that the policy outlined in the White Paper by the Government is the policy to be followed in the next few years, and who act accordingly by way of investments and so on, are, I believe, taking a risk against which I am warning them at this moment, because we, on this side of the House, regard this matter with the very greatest concern.
1912 We know that civil aviation can be a great boon to mankind, but we know that it can also be something terribly bad, if not organised properly. It can be the cause of the next world war. All the time we see struggles going on, even in war time, between Allies as to what share they shall have. I beg the House to appreciate that, however conservative-minded people may be, however much a new idea may be anathema to them, sometimes, in the interests of themselves and their children and the general welfare of mankind, they need to sink some of their prejudices and approach a matter of this kind with an open mind. I know that certain people have very definite ideas on general principles, and that my proposal to-day offends them as being counter to those principles. But how far are their principles the result of their desires, of their personal interests, or of the interests of the people whom they try to serve, and how far have they come to this conclusion by the honest consideration of the real merits of the proposal?
I know that certain hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House argue that competition is a good thing. Well, we do not really have much competition in traffic. I remember talking to a gentleman, who must be nameless, but who happens to be chairman of a company which has an air service, I think, round Australia. He had been talking about the benefits of competition; he had also got the Australian Government's consent to run his service. I said to him, "What would be your view if the Government gave another air line the right to compete with you? Would you like that?" He said that, of course, he would not. The so-called merit of competition is an argument used in the 20th century, to try to back up ideas which flourished best in the 19th century. Competition is a thing which, by its very nature, comes to an end, on the principle of "Dog does not eat dog." No railway or shipping companies are going to compete with one another for very long. Sooner or later, they are going to say to one another, "Is this not very short-sighted; cannot we get together and reduce the number of trains or ships, instead of both sending our trains or ships half-full? Why should we not pool our receipts and buy up the rights of any other operators in competition with us?" That has been the history of industrial development in this 1913 country and other places in the last 100 years. The competition argument is used over and over again, but the people who use it are those who do not believe in competition at all. They imagine that, by using an argument of that kind, they can easily—
§ Mr. Speaker
We are discussing the Bill, and the hon. Member must not go into an academic discussion.
§ Mr. Bowles
I am sorry, Sir, but the case I was trying to advocate was that of the ownership and control of civil aviation by a complete world monopoly. The argument used against me in this House before has been based on the merits of competition, but I will not go further into it, in view of your Ruling. In conclusion, I would appeal to hon. Members, if there is any possible chance of converting them, to think of this matter as a world service, and to ask themselves, even if they do not accept my view, what chance have the railway companies of this country to compete with Pan-American Airways? In any case, competition will not last very long. If it is not possible to convert hon. Members here, it is possible to convert people who have not any particular interest except that of seeing the best thing done. I am sure that the public, if they knew the danger involved in the case of those opposed to me, and the merits and benefits that may arise from the case I am trying to advocate, if it is adopted by the world, would agree with me, and not with the policy which the Government seem likely to pursue. If it is not possible to convert this House, I appeal above the heads of the House and above the heads of the Government, to people outside, in the hope that some of my words will get through and will be borne in mind when the next General Election comes along.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. McGhee (Penistone)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I want to congratulate my hon. Friend on his advocacy of something which now seems very far off—a world organisation to remove civil aviation from the sphere of private and national rivalry and competition. I think he is travelling a little fast, but I hope people outside will pay some attention to the reasons which he has given for advocating this policy. We, in the Labour Party, are not opposed to 1914 the setting up of a national Ministry, because we desire a national Ministry, not to control civil aviation, but to bring civil aviation under direct public ownership. I second this Amendment because I believe that it is the first step towards securing civil aviation on a world basis. Actually, Mr. Speaker, when you called my hon. Friend to Order, I thought he was attempting to show that there was no such thing as free competition in the control of civil aviation in this country now, and that no such free competition will be allowed after the proposals of the White Paper have been put into operation and this Ministry has been created. Free competition would mean that anybody could enter into the industry, but, actually, the setting up of this Ministry and the terms of the White Paper itself specifically exclude free competition.
What it really means is that the gigantic combines that will enter into this matter, for a time competing between themselves in this country, and for a time competing with their rivals overseas, will, in the long run, under the private ownership of the industry, eventually form themselves into some kind of cartel to fleece the public in, all countries. What my hon. Friend is seeking to do is to establish. the industry, first, under the Ministry, and then to provide that that Ministry should go to other Ministries all over the world, and come to an international agreement for the control of the air. That is the policy that we are seeking to pursue.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Captain Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
I have been listening with great interest to the speeches of the mover and seconder of this Amendment. What amazes me, in the attitude of the Labour Party in this House towards the question of civil aviation, is the large number of voices with which they speak. The mover of the Amendment objected to the appointment of the Ministry, because it did not mean the international organisation of civil aviation. He objected to a Ministry that did not accept that principle. The seconder of the Amendment, however, thinks a Ministry necessary, but seems to object to it because it is confined to private enterprise. I accept this Bill and the White Paper for the reason that this White Paper was a Cabinet document, supported by the War Cabinet.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member will not overlook the fact that the discussion on the White Paper was a general discussion in the House, when no Motion was put and the House expressed no opinion whatever about it.
§ Captain Macdonald
The White Paper was put before the House as a White Paper, by the War Cabinet, as a basis for future legislation on civil aviation, and, therefore, it must have been acceptable to the representatives of the Labour Party in the War Cabinet. Otherwise, I cannot see how it ever came before this House. I rise to support this Bill because I think that a new Ministry is a necessary step in the right direction. I have advocated for some time the divorce of civil aviation from the Air Ministry because I thought, and have thought for many years, that the Air Ministry and the Air Council in their outlook and their general experience are not qualified to deal with civil aviation or civil air transport. I would be the last in this House or in the country to cast any reflection whatever on the Air Council for carrying out all their rightful functions. We have every reason to be proud and thankful for what they have done, but when it comes to the transportation of passengers, and mail and goods, consider that to be an entirely different function from that of the Air Council.
I have envisaged on more than one occasion in this House what I consider to be the proper set-up for the Ministry of Civil Aviation in the future. We have far too many Ministries at present and I would like to see at least half a dozen of them removed from the landscape at the earliest possible moment. I do not think that this is the time to establish new ones, except temporarily. I envisage the proper set-up to be a Ministry of Transportation which embodies, as the Ministry of War Transport does to-day, road and rail transport and shipping and also air transport, with one Minister in this House and Under-Secretaries to cover the other services. The question of transportation is one question and air transport is only one aspect of it, and they must be very closely related. It is certainly more easy 1916 to run a Ministry embodying all these services working together than to have them probably fighting each other, as has been the case in the past.
Therefore, I hope that in accepting this Bill it does not mean that we are to be saddled with another complete Department in the future, except in the direction I have indicated. I also welcome the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins). Though I very much miss his rugged personality on this side of the House, I sincerely hope that his acceptance of his new post does not mean that he has accepted wholeheartedly the White Paper which came before the House the other day. I object to that White Paper for quite different reasons from those put forward by hon. Members above the Gangway on this side of the House, but I do not consider this to be the proper time to discuss the White Paper. The Minister has a good deal of work to do to develop the Ministry and to get research and development of civil aircraft going at the earliest possible moment. There is one point in the Bill which says that certain functions still remain with the Secretary of State for Air and that he has to do with the question of the ordering of civil aviation aircraft.
§ Captain Macdonald
I consider it important that although the Ministry of Civil Aviation is divorced from the Air Ministry, they should work very closely in that connection. I will tell the House why. If we are ever to compete, for instance, with America in the development of transport aircraft, we must develop it in a big way as they do, and we must order machines in very large quantities and produce them as economically as possible. There is no use in ordering aircraft in driblets and expecting to produce them economically. Therefore, on the question of transport, whether it be the Transport Command transporting troops or military, or the transporting of civilians, it requires very much the same type of aircraft and there is no reason why they should not be standardised. In that way you can order mass produced aircraft and have them produced faster and cheaper, and better perhaps, than if you take them piecemeal. If we are going to get into this civil aviation business, it is of vital importance that we should place our orders now, settle on a type or 1917 two and get them into production at the earliest possible moment on as large a scale as possible. We can only do that by ordering large quantities. Therefore, you will require far more planes in order to get your mass production than civil aviation is going to require, certainly for a time, unless you are able to sell the aircraft abroad. The Air Ministry are certain to require a great many transport planes and can give large orders for mass production to get them on an even flow at an economical price. That is one point I wanted to mention.
There is no other reason why we should object to the Bill at this stage, as long as the Minister, or the Under-Secretary, does not consider that the House accepts the White Paper placed before it last week as being the final word on the future of civil aviation. As an hon. Member said at the outset, we on this side of the House accepted it at first because we thought it was a reasonable compromise, and as such we were prepared to accept it. Now we are told by our friends above the Gangway that it is not a compromise at all and that we got the best side of the bargain. That is not the view that we take. We think that we have been "sold out," because it is not acceptable to the Labour Party and it is certainly not beneficial to anybody who is a party to it to-day. I cannot see how shipping companies and rail companies are ever going to oppose nationalisation if they accept the principle of monopoly that is laid down in the White Paper. Although I was one of the first to advocate that they should be brought into civil aviation because of certain things that they could contribute towards it, I never for one moment thought they would be expected to be tied up to monopolies on a nationalised basis. That is something we will discuss at a later stage when the Bill comes before the House. All I wish to do to-night is to welcome this Bill as a step in the right direction and I hope it will get through its final stages at the earliest possible moment in order that the Ministry can get on with its work.
§ 7.54 P.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I do not like this Bill and I do not like the Amendment. The Minister is wrong when he says that it is a machinery Bill and a machinery Bill only. It is not only a machinery Bill; it is a deliberately limiting 1918 Bill. The first Clause tells you that a Minister shall be appointed:who shall be charged with the general duty of organising, carrying out and encouraging measures for the development of civil aviation.Who is going to get the benefit of this work to be carried out by the Minister? The nation? No, not the nation.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The railway companies and the shipping companies. Those who are in control of civil aviation in accordance with the White Paper will get all the advantages of the work which is carried out by the Minister. The Bill carefully limits the Minister to assisting the companies running civil aviation. There is nothing in the Clause that entitles or enables the Minister to run civil aviation on behalf of the nation, and it is said it is a machinery Bill. That will not do. The Minister knows better than that. It is very carefully drawn in order to put the brake on anything in the nature of an advance for the people themselves, through the Government, to get control of their own affairs. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Macdonald) says that they had accepted it as a compromise. That Clause is not a compromise but Conservative policy. There is not a Conservative who would get up in this House or anywhere in the country and propose that civil aviation should be in the hands of private enterprise with no control or assistance of any kind from the Ministry. The Conservative policy is for as much private interest as possible in civil aviation and as much assistance as possible from the Minister, as is the case in this Clause. That is Conservative policy; the policy on this side of the House is the nationalisation of civil aviation. This is not a compromise at all; it is Conservative policy.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend put an Amendment down in such a form and I am sorry that he said some of the things he did say. Let it be understood here that I am a member of the Labour Party and pay my dues regularly to the Labour Party, but I do not have any rights within the Labour Party except the rights which I take. But I have had a long experience of the Labour Party and labour policy and if the Labour Party is returned to power, as I believe it will be, it will not put it 1919 in the forefront of its programme of world organisation. If a Labour Government is elected and carries out a Labour policy, it will give greater opportunities in the development and advance of civil aviation than ever could come from the Conservative side. Even as it develops civil aviation, it will discuss with other nations and make agreements, all developing towards an international understanding, but it is impossible to conceive of or to discuss international organisation apart from the development of national aviation. Twenty years ago nobody would have thought of discussing world aviation. It is because of the development which has taken place in national aviation that the question of international aviation comes up. To take the question of world aviation in this form is not helpful. A lot of people think Marx said, "Workers of the world, unite." Marx never said anything so foolish. There is no such thing as "workers of the world." There are workers of different lands who understand the need of unity and agreement. It is the same with regard to this question of aviation.
If this Amendment were accepted, we would throw out this Bill. We keep on talking and pleading for world organisation, but how would that happen if we had very poor civil aviation in the country, very bad planes, very poor organisation, very inexperienced pilots? If we were very backward in civil aviation how could we possibly forward the cause of international understanding or international organisation? It is true that, wherever there is progress and development in the building up of a national organisation there is always danger of conflicts arising between one country and another? The business of political leaders and statesmen is to try to bring about common understanding and desirable agreements, working all the time towards what everyone desires, namely, international organisation. So we must concern ourselves in this country with the building up of civil aviation, getting the finest planes and the finest pilots and crews possible, and, in order to ensure this, getting the best control and direction.
The only effective control and direction would be if this first Clause, instead of limiting the Minister to measures that assist outside companies and monopolies, paved the way for the Ministry at the earliest possible moment to take over 1920 these monopolies for the nation. The Government are supposed to represent and speak for the people, not for a particular group in the country, not for the railway companies, not for the shipping companies, not for a few people here and there. The Government are supposed to speak for and represent the people as a whole, and there should be something in this first Clause that would prepare the way for the Government, speaking for and representing the people, to take over all the resources of civil aviation and develop them in such a way that they would be used to the fullest possible advantage for the masses of the people. If we could get that course developed in this country, if we saw it developing in other countries, then we would have taken a very big step towards what the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) desires, and what all of us desire, an international understanding and an international organisation running the main traffic routes throughout the world.
I want to try to make this clear, because I understand what the hon. Member for Nuneaton has been working for and advocating throughout the country, and I would like him to understand that he should always associate this question of international understanding with national development of this particular service. If he does that, he will help the development of civil aviation in this country and help very greatly towards developing an international organisation that will assist us very much to secure the future for peace, and progress for the people of this country and the people of the world.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Major-General Sir Frederick Sykes (Nottingham, Central)
May I say how much I agreed with the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) when he said that our whole focus should be to try to meet the demands of the user? I think in all these matters that should be the primary concern. I am afraid, however, that I cannot follow him when he seeks to internationalise aviation at the present moment. I quite see that it is an ideal towards which we should all work, but I do not think it is practicable at present. We have to do the best we can in the immediate present, but with that primary consideration for the user which he has so well brought out.
As I said when I spoke on this subject recently on the White Paper, whilst con- 1921 gratulating the Government on setting up the Ministry for Civil Aviation, I think that is really as far as I can go with reference to either the White Paper or this Bill. If this Bill is purely in order to set up a Ministry, I am entirely with it, but if it is a question of policy I am afraid that we really ought to have another opportunity of discussing policy and that another White Paper and another Bill should be brought in. If that is definitely the case, I have really little more to say. If, as I understood, it was desirable to speak on the general question of policy on this Amendment, then I should have liked to say a good deal—if there was to be no chance to speak upon that subject at a later date.
However, if I can have the assurance from the Minister of Aircraft Production or the Parliamentary Secretary that that is not the case, that I am wrong, and I hope I am wrong—because this Bill really is quite inadequate and is unsatisfactory from almost every point of view except that it sets up a Ministry—I shall hope to speak later when another White Paper comes up on the policy of this Ministry, and then we can see whether it ought again to be postponed. Possibly it might be better to postpone the actual policy until after the Election. It may be that nationalisation will follow, as the hon. Member said; it might even be international organisation or free enterprise, but we should have a straight course to work upon. At present I think it is really an unsatisfactory position and, if I can have that assurance, I will not detain the House longer.
§ Sir S. Cripps
As I understand the position, the Government do not consider that the Debate upon the White Paper had any binding force upon the House at all. It was one of the discussions which have often been initiated in recent times, a general discussion to allow people to express their opinion. Part of the White Paper, however, will require implementation by legislation. Whether it is more convenient to have the Debate on the introduction of that legislation on the general principle or whether the House would like some other occasion—in which case I am sure my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be very glad to 1922 consider through the usual channels any such request for a Debate on general matters of civil aviation—
§ Mr. Montague
The right hon. and learned Gentleman forgets the fact that we have not had a discussion on the White Paper at all and, unless we have such a discussion, it cannot be determined that the policy of that Paper is the wish of the British House of Commons.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I said, perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear me, that the Government did not assume that the White Paper had the assent of the House. There was a discussion on the White Papers—I took part in it myself—but it was not in a form to bind the House to conclusions one way or the other.
§ Mr. Montague
The right hon. and gallant Member for Central Nottingham (Sir F. Sykes) put the point whether we should be able to discuss the whole policy embodied in the White Paper. If the Minister says that can be discussed upon some legislation dealing with part of the proposals in the White Paper, then can we have that assurance?
§ Sir S. Cripps
Certainly. In order to implement the policy of the White Paper, legislation will be required and on that, naturally, there will be a Second Reading discussion. [An HON. MEMBER: "On the whole policy?"] On the whole policy of the wide question. If, on the other hand, the legislation is delayed for some reason or another, and if the House desires to have a further Debate, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will, through the usual channels, do his best to meet the wishes of the House.
§ Mr. Bowles
On the Thursday before the day of rising for the Easter Recess, I asked the Leader of the House whether he thought that the discussion on the White Paper and the Civil Estimates was authority for the Government to go ahead with the White Paper policy, but I understand that he may say "No" to-morrow.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am not quite sure about that, but my right hon. Friend may well have meant that he gathered from the general tenor of the discussion that the House was in favour of it. Clearly, there was no binding decision on the House.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
The Minister of Aircraft Production has had a good deal of experience as Leader of the House and I take it that he has given a general assurance, in so far as he is able to give one in his present position, that if this Bill secures its Second Reading we shall be given an opportunity for a general Debate on the Government's civil aviation policy. If that is so, then it will perhaps enable Members who desire to take part in this Debate to limit their remarks. I must say that I think the House has been unfortunate in the matter of Debates on civil aviation. A number of Members who, over a considerable period, have made civil aviation their subject have repeatedly pressed their proposals on the Government. Then there was pressure for a Debate before the Empire Conference, but we were put off because we were told that there must first be consultation between the Dominion Prime Ministers. Afterwards the Noble Lord who is Minister for Civil Aviation was appointed and the House of Lords was given an opportunity for a full Debate on this matter, while the House of Commons was still denied such an opportunity. Here we are again, to-night, setting up a new Ministry and we are still almost as far away as ever from getting a clear statement of the Government's national and international civil aviation policy. We had Lord Beaverbrook, as Lord Privy Seal, conducting the negotiations with Dr. Adolf Berle, United States representative on this matter, and then we had the phase when the Minister of Aircraft Production took over responsibility—
§ Mr. Granville
Well, the right hon. and learned Gentleman took over responsibility for being the Government's spokesman in this House on civil aviation.
§ Mr. Granville
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is Government spokesman for civil aviation. He was so when we debated Prestwick airport recently and again, to-night, he is so, and is accepting responsibility for Cabinet policy 1924 with regard to this Bill. Personally, I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is to give up some of these functions, because I think he has made a great success of his present job, and the aircraft industry and the people of this country generally think so too. I, for one, with many others, would be perfectly happy if he would continue from that point of view, including his present association with the inventive, scientific and research sides of aviation.
I am quite sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), who is making something of a reputation for himself in this House on questions of air policy, will realise that his Amendment involves objective or long-term policy. Most of us are, I think, in agreement with him on many of these ideals. I do not know who will reply for the Government upon this Amendment, but I am quite sure that the Government spokesman's answer will be a repetition of the previous argument of the Minister of Aircraft Production on a similar occasion that in this Coalition Government he can proceed only so far in policy as he is able to get general agreement. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot get out of this Government agreement on a national or international policy, then he must go as far as he can. That has been his defensive argument. There is one thing on which he can get agreement, and on which I have been extremely disappointed with what has so far taken place. He can get agreement within the British Common-wealth. I had hoped that after the Debates we have had, after the consultations with Dominion Prime Ministers, who are democratically elected and are not the old Imperialists, we should have found, in this Bill, the Minister being given functions of something like a president of a Board of Commonwealth Aviation. I had hoped that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have been able to tell us to-night that some discussion had taken place during the present visit of the Dominion representatives, because there is no future for British aviation unless it is within a democratic unit of the Commonwealth nations. You have not the slightest chance—and you must know it by now—in any world competition with America on world air routes unless you go to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and 1925 Canada and say: "Let us have a democratic policy of co-operation and agreement on this matter."
The right hon. and learned Gentleman must know that this Bill and Government policy so far are simply playing with the problem. I was one of those who saw the struggle of British civil aviation before the war, when air-minded people tried to get it on to its feet and found themselves up against a Government Front Bench which was completely non-airminded. After all the experience of the past, all the trials, the blunders, the mistakes, and all the money we have spent on behalf of the taxpayers on the British Overseas Airways Corporation, all they can produce M 1945 after a mountain of words and labour is this flying mouse. People in this country, and particularly young men in the Services who have read our Debates in the House, and the contributions which air-minded Members have made to those discussions—and I am sorry if this argument appears to bore the right hon. and learned Gentleman—are thinking that the only chance there will be of developing aviation in the world as it should be developed will be with the United States of America, although the lead of New Zealand and Australia has given them a gleam of hope.
We in this House are living in a world of absolute unreality in this matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well that any Minister who stands up at that Box five years from now and says that our aircraft industry must not be decentralised throughout the British Commonwealth will be out of office in five minutes. Singapore taught us that we cannot run aviation from one centre, or run production entirely from this country, which could he "Pearl Harbour-ed." We have to decentralise it throughout the British Commonwealth perhaps with international strategic considerations very much in mind. I say we must be looking ahead on this.
I had hoped we would see a policy of some imagination and vision. I think it would follow that we should pool and centralise our scientific research, with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has some connection. I think that if somebody in Australia has a good idea for making instruments more efficient or more accurate in saving lives, that idea ought to be available to the producers of aircraft here, and vice versa. I had hoped 1926 that as a result of this Bill the Minister would be able to tell us that he would set up in this country a Commonwealth academy of aeronautical science and that apprentices from the Dominions would have the right to fly over here and get at first hand the finest information on aeronautical technology. Instead of all that we have this Bill, which takes us back to 1938 or even before that, the implications of which will put this country in the position of a second rate civil air Power. There is not the slightest chance of British civil aviation getting an opportunity as a unit in a Commonwealth set-up or an international set-up unless we can get a Government which is prepared to take risks and will bring forward a policy that will capture the support of the younger and air-minded people in the world.
I do not know what the Minister meant when he referred to the responsibilities for design, production and research, which, I gather, will be left with his own Ministry. Does this mean that the same guidance is to be given from the Ministry of Aircraft Production as was given by the Air Ministry before the war to the designers and producers of civil aircraft in this country? Does it mean the absolute monopoly of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors all over again and the refusal to give new men, inventors, designers and men with progressive schemes, an opportunity to put their ideas into new aircraft? Does it mean that the Ministry of Aircraft Production is going to repeat that pre-war policy which, after we had spent the vast sums of money which we did spend on a programme for aircraft rearmament in this country, left us with less than 50 aircraft in the reserve in the Battle of Britain? That is what happened with the monopoly before the war when small men were kept out or given no opportunities by monopolies. Does it mean that under this Bill all that will happen again and that there is to be a system of priority control, operating against the enterprise of small firms?
This is a disappointing and indeed a somewhat hopeless Bill. After all the Debates that have taken place in the House, and which have reflected what is wanted by the new minds in the Services and in the Dominions all we have been given is this Bill. I hope that the Government will take the advice they have been given and withdraw the Measure, and that there will be in the House a Debate 1927 on policy, national and Commonwealth and international, and that then the Government will give us some really bold and constructive proposals in the future.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague (Islington, West)
It would be out of place to make an exhaustive speech on general policy at this time of night and on this Bill. At the same time, the Amendment we have been discussing and which we are still discussing, I believe, is one that was perfectly justified in the circumstances, because it is possible to deal with the Government's broad policy on civil aviation on a Bill setting up a Ministry the purpose of which is to implement whatever policy the Government may have in the future. I do not want to say very much on this occasion, but one expression used by the Minister of Aircraft Production has caused me very much concern. He spoke of supremacy. I do not know whether that was a slip of the tongue or not. If he really meant that we as a nation are out for supremacy in civil aircraft, then I fear very much for the future of world peace and world amity. I do not think the point could have been better put than it was by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville).
Sir S. Gripps
I was talking about technical supremacy and not supremacy in the sense to which the hon. Gentleman is referring.
§ Mr. Montague
I will accept that interpretation, but even if the right hon. and learned Gentleman was talking about technical supremacy, I think it was a most unwise word to use. We want technical efficiency, we want to get the best technique we can, but that has no reference to the question of national supremacy one way or the other. If there is to be a competition in technique, I do not think it will be possible to expect that we shall be able to become supreme vis-à-vis America, because of America's vast resources and her technical efficiency. I think we ought to get right away from the idea of competitive supremacy one way or the other. The hon. Member for Eye put the matter very properly when he said that if, in the matter of technical efficiency or competitive supremacy, we are to put ourselves up against America, then let us do it as an Empire and not as 1928 a single country. If we are going to do it as an Empire, it seems to me to be very unwise for us as a Government and a nation to turn down two-thirds of the British Empire in the matter of civil aviation policy. I want to remind the Minister of Aircraft Production that two out of the three Dominions of Australia, New Zealand and Canada have agreed upon a policy of internationalisation, and failing an international policy, an Imperial public ownership policy in respect not only of manufacture but of operation. That is the only way in which we can face America, whether we call it supremacy or technical efficiency. That is one of the reasons why the Labour Party have adopted the policy they have done, a policy that has been described more than once to the House.
With regard to internationalisation, it is appropriate, I think, to point to the fact—and it is a fact—that we cannot control the air policy of the United States. As long as the United States and Canada, under the same influence, are opposed to internationalisation, we cannot expect improvement, even if we have all the will in the world; but after all, it is a long-term question and in the future there ought to be an opportunity of altering even the policy of the United States if we have influence enough to do it, especially in the light of some amount of experience in present conditions. We are perfectly justified in keeping to the fore the policy of internationalisation. After all, Great Britain stands for something. The Minister of Aircraft Production talked about supremacy, whatever interpretation he may give to that word. I do not know how long it is since the British bulldog lost its bark. Surely, there is something in the influence of Britain, in the matter of civil aviation, throughout the world sufficient to justify us in keeping alive this spark of internationalism in spite of what has been done at Chicago and elsewhere to damp it down. That is all I have to say. On behalf of the Labour Party I accept the Bill for its purpose—that is to say, a machinery Bill setting up a new Ministry. It does not really go beyond that, and it agrees with the policy of the Labour Party, expressed not only in speeches in the House but also in propagandist literature, of taking the control of civil administration away from the Air Ministry and vesting it in a special Ministry of its own, 1929 a conception on the part of the House and the country of the great importance of civil aviation in the light of what has happened throughout the war in the development of civil aircraft.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)
Some earlier speakers hinted that they thought it inappropriate to demand a discussion of this nature on a limited machinery Bill, but I think the House is indebted to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) for having put down an Amendment which sums up very well what are the main problems in the question of the future of world civil aviation: One hon. Member has also questioned the logic of the mover and seconder, suggesting that they were against the whole idea of a Ministry to deal with civil aviation. I do not read the Amendment in that way at all. It seems to me that, if it were passed, it would dispose of this particular Bill, but surely the logic of the speeches in support of the Amendment is that another Bill should be brought forward setting up a Ministry of Civil Aviation with a mandate to carry out what is expressed in the latter part of the Amendment. So I do not think there is any lack of logic there. It seems to me that the important thing stressed in the Amendment is the ownership and control of civil aviation. I do not think anyone will dispute that aviation must be controlled. I am not dealing now with whether it should be national or world control, but it must be controlled for three reasons. First of all, air power is potential war power and if a community, whether large or small, does not control the development of civil aviation, and therefore potential air warfare, we shall see this thing destroy us instead of serving us. Secondly, civil aviation must be subject to public control because in this century transport always tends towards monopoly, and it is in the very nature of things that aviation will become a monopoly and so it cannot be left to private interests. Thirdly, I think we have a situation in the world in respect to air transport similar to the railway boom that we had in the last century. Unless the public take steps to control it there will be very rapid and chaotic extension, with very large profits for some and great distress to others, and indeed to the public. So I do not think anyone will suggest that there should be absolutely no control at all.
1930 How can one achieve this public control? Can there be, for instance, effective public control while aviation is still privately owned? I am glad that that words "ownership" and "control" appear in the Amendment because I do not think it is possible to have public control, whether of operations or of manufacture or any other process, without at the same time having public ownership. The result of a dual system—of the splitting of ownership and control—must be for those who own the undertaking to propose certain action and for the controlling body to say, yes or no, whether it can take place. In other words, the whole outlook of the public body controlling is negative and one of restriction. In other words, it is bound to lead to bureaucracy. I believe that, if we are to have this effective control, which I believe the whole nation desires, it must be public ownership and any attempt to try to work some sort of public control over private ownership will turn out to be private ownership of the public control.
The next point is that mentioned by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). Who is to do the controlling and owning—the nation or a world authority?
§ Mr. Gallacher
My point was that another Bill should be brought in appointing a Minister of Aviation, with his first job to go about trying to get a world organisation.
§ Mr. Lawson
The hon. Member more or less agrees with my paraphrase. First of all, I believe that public control and public ownership have to start at home, which will incidentally develop the civil aviation of the country both with regard to its internal lines and also the lines operating overseas. Secondly, if we have any influence within the British Commonwealth of Nations, I think we should use it to secure public ownership and control on a Commonwealth basis if it can be achieved, and also on a basis of a European federation if that can be achieved. Surely however the long-term objective to which we must reach out is world control and world ownership because, with the present development of aviation, the world is the unit and you cannot have any less unit. So I am glad to see it stated in plain words that it has to be on a world basis. It has been sug- 1931 gested that this is very nice but impracticable and Utopian. I agree that it may be difficult to achieve control and ownership on a world basis but, unless we do achieve it, within a very short time after the war there is a certainty of rivalry between the large Powers in the field of aviation leading to further war, which will lead probably to destruction such as we have never seen before. I, therefore, welcome the Amendment. I think it sums up the important aspects of the problem and, unless the House and the country are determined to put into practice as large a measure of the idea expressed by the Amendment as possible, there is very little future for a reasonable settlement of this vast problem either from the point of view of this country, of the Commonwealth of Nations or of the world.
§ 8.39 P.m.
§ Mr. Muff (Kingston upon Hull, East)
I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) for proposing the Amendment and bringing us up against the larger issues of this inadequate and disappointing Bill. It might very properly be called a skeleton Measure, and I agree that my hon. Friend has tried to put some flesh on to this mass of bones. I wish I could call on the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) to follow me and repeat the speech that he made, what seems now a very long time ago. It was a very fine speech before the war, in which he foreshadowed what might be done by municipal authorities. I am sorry to bring the parish pump to the House, but a year ago the constituency which I have the honour to represent introduced a Bill for civil aviation, and we were over-persuaded to withdraw it at the behest of the Secretary of State for Air. The Secretary of State, through his permament officials, told us in Yorkshire a year ago that they were going to produce a magnificent scheme. So far we have got nothing but this Bill. I am certain that we are not going to build civil aviation on the nebulous promises we have so far received. I prefer the more robust oratory of the hon. Member for Stroud in his earlier days. Perhaps now that he is going to be reincarnated, he, too, will come along with the usual nebulous promises which mean very little.
Before the war the Government encouraged municipal authorities to create 1932 what, I agree, were somewhat circumscribed services of civil aviation, and the localities spent much money on them. Leeds and Bradford spent a lot of money and Hull rated their over-taxed ratepayers to the tune of 3d. in the £ to create an aerodrome. To their credit, Hull were not influenced by the spirit of the parish pump, for they introduced that European service which my hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. E. Granville) mentioned. We brought K.L.M. to this country, and we tried to do something to create equality—I use that word because my hon. Friend on the Opposition Front Bench does not like the word "supremacy." I rather like that word. We had supremacy in the air on one or two occasions in the war, and I thank God that we had. I want to say to my hon. Friend, who was Under-Secretary for Air in the 1929–31 Government, that my city of Hull are rather proud that we have a chair to secure technological equality, if not supremacy, in aviation. I do not want to look over the wide horizon, which may become a lost horizon, or travel over the illimitable veldt, but I want to get down to realities.
§ Mr. Montague
Suppose every hon. Member spoke in the same way about his own city, what kind of supremacy does my hon. Friend think we should get?
§ Mr. Gallacher
If the hon. Gentleman is not going to travel the illimitable veldt, how is it that he starts off with a world organisation, and gets down to the city of Hull?
§ Mr. Muff
I am sorry to bring in this distinguished city again, but it was one of the pioneers which brought European aviation to this country. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), living in a circumscribed area, has perhaps never heard of it before, and I want to remind him of it. We cannot be satisfied with this Bill. I want to remind the hon. Member for Stroud before he takes up his news office, that a distinct pledge was made on behalf of those who were acting for civil aviation when it was under the Air Ministry to those municipal authorities which have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop civil aviation and to make proper landing grounds. I 1933 would remind the House that there are other places in the country besides Prestwick. We ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production to tell us that he is not going to sell the pass. We have been "sold a pup" in the past, and I want him to acquaint the hon. Member for Stroud that we expect something much better than false hopes.
§ 8.47 P.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
I have no wish to be discourteous to any hon. Member who has taken part in this Debate, but I feel that it would be consistent with the general feeling of the House if I confined my remarks to a very short period. This is, as we have said almost ad nauseam, a machinery Bill, and we welcome the assurance of my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) that in that capacity he accepts it. Among Other purposes, it has the object of giving concrete shape to the present nebulous form of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins), whose arrival on the Front Bench will, I feel sure, be welcomed by his colleagues and the House as a whole. The separation of civil aviation from the Air Ministry and its constitution under a separate Minister has been discussed previously in this House, and as recently as 26th January every speaker save one who took part in the Debate was strongly in favour of it. No vote was taken, so overwhelming was the feeling. This inauguration of.the Ministry of Civil Aviation will be necessary, whatever the domestic set up or Imperial set up or international set up may be in the future. There is no limit on the powers of the Minister at all, and, however ambitious his activities may be, there is full opportunity for him to achieve them within the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that the first Clause permits the Minister to contribute service to civil aviation, but that all that service goes to those organisations whch control civil aviation? Will it be possible to put down an Amendment to that Clause permitting the Minister to take over and nationalise Civil Aviation?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I have little doubt that the hon. Member will discover the rules of Order himself, and we shall no doubt be faced with an Amendment when the Committee stage comes on. We can- 1934 not in this House legislate for Empire or foreign countries, but it is certainly true that we cannot go ahead with vigour with our discussions with Empire or foreign countries without setting up a proper and vigorous Ministry of Civil Aviation. That is all that this Bill does, and I ask the House to give it a unanimous Second Reading.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow —[Mr. Pym.]