HC Deb 06 March 1951 vol 485 cc326-95

7.53 p.m.

Mr. J. N. Browne (Glasgow, Govan)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, recognising the increasing complexity of Air Force equipment and the need for exceptional measures to achieve a high standard of operational efficiency, urges His Majesty's Government to give special attention to morale, technical ability and career prospects of officers and other ranks in the Royal Air Force. Those in the R.A.F. responsible for technical training realise perhaps better than most people the need, first of all, for a basic training in citizenship. They realise that war conditions, which none of us could help, and the evacuation of children affected the standard of the youth of this country. The concept of right and wrong has, for many of these young men, been replaced by a concept of expediency. For that reason, character training is becoming more than ever before the first essential. I want to deal with only one aspect. Unit activities alone build esprit de corps.A unit is an entity, and the only way in which a unit can express itself is by a parade. Units in the R.A.F. today are deprived, under present regulations, from expressing one necessary feeling, and that is the community of the spirit.

I am referring to the cancellation of compulsory church parades. At present church parades are confined to apprentices and boy entrants—except on special occasions, and Sunday is not a special occasion. I have read with great interest the debate which took place on 29th March, 1946, when the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg), speaking on the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill, introduced an Amendment on this question. There was then, as there will be today, a sincere and honest conflict between the belief in the value of corporate attendance and the importance of freedom of personal religion and choice. The then Secretary of State did not accept the Amendment, but he caused a modification to be made in King's Regulations. That was five years ago.

I think that many command A.O.C.s would like compulsory church attendance to be reintroduced. I should like to have it brought back, with due regard to weekend leave. I draw the attention of the Minister to an admirable article by the Bishop of Croydon in the "Church Times" of 16th February, in which he said: Ninety-six per cent. of senior officers would like to see a return of compulsory Church attendance, shorn of its ceremonial parade. Padres are divided on this subject. Numbers at worship may be small today, but those who go are genuine and keen. I ask the Minister to examine this question. We have had five years under the present regulations and I should like him to consider whether those regulations met the needs of the hour—the need for a basic training in citizenship.

I turn now to the new trade structure. Clearly, the new idea of pay for technical efficiency with, running parallel to it, pay for disciplinary authority is on the right lines. I have investigated this matter and I do not think that this structure is sufficiently well understood to give the greatest incentive to promotion. That remark applies particularly to new Regular entrants who sign for three years' service. For example, there is a very serious shortage of Regulars in important radio groups—ground radio signals, radio operator and especially radio engineer. There is a danger here. We are relying too much for safety, in all trades, on the National Service Act entry.

That entry is of a higher standard than the Regular entry. That is understandable. Therefore, it is understandable that the National Service man should take advantage of this excellent new trade structure. But the National Service entrant is in the Service for only two years, and that is the danger. I ask the Minister to take more energetic measures to explain the details and advantages of this new avenue of trade promotion to those who join the Service as Regulars, so that they can take the full benefit of it and give the country full advantage of this new trade structure.

I come to the subject of officers. It is clear that this new trade structure has caused difficulties among technical officers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) raised this matter, and I wish to emphasise it. We are not achieving the required standard of officer. We in the Royal Air Force are falling behind the Army and the Royal Navy. We are not getting the right material. At present we are drawing, in the main, upon ex-aircrew and ex-apprentices who, in broad terms, are not the right material for the highly skilled technical officers that we require. Where are we to get them? There are few direct entrants from the universities, and it is as well to remember that.

Will the Minister examine the field of recruitment, to see whether he is satisfied that he is learning from the experience of commerce and other Services? I would like him to examine all the sources from which these highly skilled officers can be drawn. For example, there are direct entrants from the universities, schools and technical colleges and from the General Duties and lower grade technical branches. I would like the Minister, if he thinks it is right, to lower the physical standard and not to allow it, or the fact that a man may not be able to afford to complete his education at the university or technical college, to stand in the way. Unless we get the right type of highly skilled technical officer in the R.A.F., the thoughts, plans and ideas of industry and science cannot be interpreted to the R.A.F., and, in the same way, the thoughts ideas and experience of the R.A.F. cannot be interpreted to industry and science.

Two types of officer are needed—a lower grade, with practical and specialist experience, who is drawn from the ranks after 10 or 15 years' service; and the high grade qualified engineer theorist, who is commissioned early in life and who has had instruction in these matters enabling him to qualify for technical posts in civil life, and who would qualify for membership of or recognition by professional institutes, so that, when he comes out of the Service, he will be sure to get a job and recognition for his training.

I want to deal specifically and in a little more detail with the lower grade officer. Many hon. Members both on this side of the House and the other, when they knew that I was to move this Amendment, spoke to me about the difficulty of getting officers fully qualified to control all the men under them. I have taken a great deal of trouble to examine this question. There are approximately 52 R.A.F. technical trades, and it is hard for any officer to be fully conversant with the work of the men in these 52 trades. Again, although the need for specialists is very essential, there is another and equally essential need for a career, as I am sure the Minister will agree, and specialisation is against that, because as the rank rises so the scope must widen.

The present situation, however, is not unsatisfactory. There are three sections —Armament, Signals and Engineering. The Armament grade includes a photographic officer, whether senior or junior, who has to control three other ranks with different trades, and has one senior n.c.o. If he happens to have charge of photography, then he has three other ranks whose work he is expected to understand.

The Signals section is divided into two branches—radio ground and radio air. Radio ground has eight other rank trades, with four senior n.c.os. and three warrant officers. Radio air has four other rank trades, with three senior n.c.os. and three warrant officers, that is not unsatisfactory. Engineering Aircraft has seven other rank trades, four senior n.c.os. and four warrant officers. This branch includes Fabric with six other rank trades and one warrant officer which, I know, is satisfactory for this special trade. Engineering (Electrical and Instruments), has four other rank trades, with six senior n.c.os. and one warrant officer.

When one comes to the junior officer in the Engineer general trade, he has to know the trades of 11 workshop other ranks, six M.T. other ranks and six Marine other ranks. Therefore, he has to know the details of 23 trades. It is quite likely, of course, that not all these trades will be on the same station at the same time, but the officer would have to know the work in case they were. I would ask the Minister to examine whether there should not be some further specialisation in the engineering general type officer. I would suggest that the trade could be divided into two, and the junior officer should always be "workshops" but that he should be a specialist either for M.T. or Marine.

Now, about the higher grade officer? He is a man who must be able to hold any position at all as an engineer officer. He needs to be a qualified engineer and to be capable of filling any post at all, and, to my mind, he needs to know as much as do the experts in industry about general principles, though not necessarily specific items of detail. His training should not be on the same basis as that of airmen and lower grade officers, but, if a division has to be made—and these qualified engineering officers are most necessary—I suggest that it should be, in accordance with the pattern of the human mind, Electrical and Mechanical, and not Armaments, Signals and Engineering.

There is another point about technical training. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) raised a very interesting point. I think he thought he was speaking to the Amendment at the time. I would like to make two points. Equipment has become so complicated, and it changes so rapidly, that we have to ask ourselves whether we can possibly train men on all the types of equipment available. I ask the Minister to consider these matters. First, I know that standardisation is difficult, but we need the greatest possible standardisation. We should make the greatest use of jack in components—the least possible use of those that screw in. There should be the greatest possible use of sealed components, which can be easily replaced and on which it is decided that no training need be given.

I come now to my last point, which concerns the W.R.A.F. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington and the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth (Squadron Leader Kinghorn) both raised this question. The proportion of women in the Royal Air Force is astonishingly and alarmingly small. According to my figures, it is in the proportion of one in 20, whereas in 1944 we had one in five of the ground staff and in industry one in three. In these islands, as we discovered during the war, the problem of manpower is an acute one, and I am therefore very glad to know that the Air Ministry have adopted a one-for-one substitution and that they are not going back to the war proportion of three women for two men. Today, a woman is just as valuable in the defence of the country as a man, provided that she is used in the right job. I think the Minister has failed here. We should build up our Regular women's service to a much greater degree.

The Minister said that a proportion of women were employed in the reporting system, at which women are better than men, but he did not say how many. I would like the Minister to re-examine entirely the methods of recruitment of women to the Royal Air Force. I would like to deal with the suitability of women in the Services from my own experience. They possess a degree of loyalty which is just as great as that of any other Royal Air Force personnel. They have an ability to do routine jobs, in my experience, better than the men, but in placing women in the Services one must also take into consideration what is against them.

To begin with, anyone who has taught women a complicated operation knows that they learn quickly, but that they tend to learned like parrots and tend to forget almost equally quickly. That was the experience of the war. Secondly, they are mainly suitable for sedentary jobs. In jobs in which they have to move about, they are not so good as men. Thirdly, they are not good at technical work requiring emergency skill. They cannot deal with anything that goes wrong on the spur of the moment. Fourthly, they do not possess what one might term the quality of captaincy. A crew of women could, for example, sail a boat just as well as men but if a squall arose and there was no man on board, the whole crew would go to pieces. That was the ex- perience of balloon command during the war.

Therefore, in talking about the use of women in the Royal Air Force, one has to be realistic and base one's policy on their capacity. They are certainly better than men at plotting, and radar reporting, as clerks, G.D., telephonists, and medical and dental duties. It should be the duty of the Minister to see that women are established in those trades to as great a degree as possible. Women are good as men as M.T. drivers, and as Safety Equipment workers, no man can fold a parachute as well as a woman. They also make good as batmen, and at certain equipment jobs, and as cooks. In the jobs in which they are better than men, their strength should be raised to the limit after filling, as far as practicable, the trades in which they are better than men. Women are not so good as men in the trades requiring ingenuity, such as general mechanic, radar mechanic, radio mechanic, air frame mechanic, M.T. mechanic.

In those trades in which it is decided that they are not as good as men, I would ask the Minister to make no establishment provision at all for women. There are plenty of jobs for which men are better than women. I am not saying that some women are not as good M.T. mechanics as men, but the percentage is so small that it does not justify their being trained or an establishment being provided for them.

Lastly, the problem of women in the Forces is, as hon. Members on both sides have said, not one of morals, but of accommodation and lavatories. I would ask the Minister to revise his policy. I know that he must have regard to the home Royal Air Force Reserve and to the needs of mobilisation, but, having had regard to those two points, I would ask him to take steps to enrol every available woman into the Royal Air Force to the limit of the Women's Royal Air Force accommodation already available.

8.14 p.m.

Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)

I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so, I wish to rectify what I think is a misapprehension, or, perhaps an impression which might have been given to the House. I do not think my hon. Friend wished to suggest that women were not good at improvising. I think he wished to submit that they were not so good in the highly technical trades. Those of us who during the last six years have seen our womenfolk improvise in the matter of food, fuel and "make-do-and-mend" would, I am sure, bear out the fact that in improvisation they are second to none.

Before I turn to the question of technical manpower, I should like to deal shortly with the background with which such manpower will have to cope. In the last war, our fighter defences, which had almost a year of operational practice before they were put to the test, never succeeded in destroying more than 10 per cent. of an enemy attack. On any future occasion, that percentage will be totally unacceptable. The power of bombs has gready increased, and we shall have to intercept and destroy some 50 per cent. of the attacking aircraft before they reach our shores.

That being the case, how are we to achieve it? I do not believe that we have paid nearly sufficient attention since the Brussels Pact was signed nearly three years ago to the co-ordination of our Air Forces and the control systems in Western Europe. I know there are many economic and other reasons why that co-ordination should be brought about. But today this House is discussing not that, but the question of getting defensive value for the large sums of money which are to be spent; and to get defensive value, cooperation and co-ordination are essential. I have absolutely no faith in the modern edition of the Little Englander who believes in "back behind the Channel and the Pyrenees." It may come to that; it may be necessary, but if we are forced into that position, our task of defending this island will be 20 or 30 times more difficult.

In the foreseeable future, the efficiency of our air defence will fall with the number of attackers. I will illustrate that point. In the last war, both the American bomber forces and our own attempted to concentrate over the target as many as 1,000 aircraft in a period of 20 minutes. That was done for a very valid reason. It was done because a smaller number of aircraft could be intercepted with a fairly high percentage of planes destroyed, but when the defences were saturated, the percentage destroyed was very much smaller.

Our first task is to keep a potential enemy as far away as possible. In this particular instance we have a very good reason for doing that because the Russian Air Force, as we have heard today from hon. Members on both sides of the House, has 10 times as many tactical bombers as it has strategic bombers. Therefore, if we can keep them at arm's length, we are tactically reducing the scale of attack in the ratio of 10–1, and that is very worth while. Not only shall we thus reduce the scale of attack, but, with a co-ordinated defence in Western Europe, we can harry them over 600 miles in place of 10, 20, or, perhaps, 100 miles which might separate us if they were allowed to proceed to Western France. Therefore, the scale of attack can be reduced to 10–1 and we can harry and attack them, which we should need to do owing to the extra speeds, over 600 instead of 100 miles, so that the problem of air defence is perhaps simplified in the ratio of 50–1.

Regarding the money we are to spend, there is one point which has been overlooked by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and that is, what are we doing about the armament of our fighter defences? What armaments are these fighters going to carry? We have heard and read recently of German experts who say that at one time during the war the Germans were losing one Focke-Wulf 190 for every strategic bomber they shot down. We cannot afford that in the future. If we have 1,000 front line fighters and the Russians have 1,000 bombers in the first instance, we cannot afford to lose one for one, because at the end of that period we should be wide open for anything that might be brought against us. Therefore, I hope we are going to give the highest priority to the development of air-to-air weapons.

What is being done about defence against guided missiles? It may be that we shall have to defend ourselves not against aircraft but against guided missiles. In that case there is nothing more important than to keep the potential launching platforms as far away from this country as is conceivably possible. Not only is accuracy going to decrease if we keep the platforms at arm's length but also the size of the V.2 or whatever the weapon may be will grow to enormous proportions. In the last war there was a 70 tons weapon with a one ton war-head; and a 70 tons weapon is not difficult for our intelligence force to discover. That is where I come to the point so ably made from the back benches on this side today on the need to attack potential launching areas. It may be that it is not economical to attack the platforms themselves, but we shall have to pick out the railway bridges and lines of communication from the storage units to the potential launching sites.

If we are to get value for money in our Defence Forces ought we not to proceed with greater haste with the co-ordination of the Western Europe defensive system? Three years have elapsed and we do not see very much evidence of progress. It might be said with reason that there is no specific reason why an attacking force should approach across Western Europe. That is a logical argument, but if we make it more difficult and make them approach from the north or from the north-west or even the west, we make the weight of the attack in bombs and aircraft against this country infinitely less. We should shut the front door first and perhaps then look to other defences in other areas.

This Amendment seeks to draw attention to the vital importance of technical personnel in our defence scheme. Many of my hon. Friends have drawn attention to anti-submarine warfare. In each of these spheres, in bombing, fighting, photographic reconnaissance, the antisubmarine role and in home defence, the job of the technical personnel is absolutely vital. The performance and reliability of the engines of the aircraft which our pilots will fly depend upon the crews having confidence that the engineering personnel have done their job well. The performance and reliability of the radio when the aircraft is being guided to its target or brought back to its base again depends on the Signals personnel. The performance and reliability of radar which enables the fighter not only to be guided to its target but to find it and attack it when it is in the zone depends upon the squadron and ground radar personnel. The performance and reliability of the armaments when the fighter has found its target depends upon the armaments personnel. So, in every sphere we are absolutely dependent upon the technical personnel being of the highest quality.

My hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Browne) has so well covered the main matters that I shall only dot the i's and pick out a few salient points. After the war, the Royal Air Force realised the importance of this subject. The personnel was divided into a technical branch and a G.D. branch, and the technical officers specialised in signals, armaments and engineering. Unfortunately, we read in the Memorandum that accompanies these Estimates that the Royal Air Force has not succeeded in attracting the highest grade of technical personnel from the universities. I am sure all hon. Members would agree that in every sphere we want high ability and first-class leadership and so we want to bring these people to the Service.

Mr. Tomney

While it is desirable that we should get recruitment of technical personnel from the universities, is it not much better in this specialised field of technical warfare that men should go to the factories and then to the universities?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I feel that is a little aside from the main argument. The universities particularly encourage practical work in the factories during the long vacations. I feel that strengthens my point.

Mr. Tomney

We have had experience of this in industry. When these people come from the universities with theoretical knowledge which they have to apply in the workshops, they almost have to start all over again. That is why I think it' would be better to go to the workshop first, then to the university and then to the Royal Air Force.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

That is a course which I followed myself, and I think it stands one in good stead; but I do not think the Royal Air Force have the time to allow men to serve an apprenticeship in industry and then come back to the Royal Air Force for their training. It is desirable of course that they should gain experience.

I wonder whether the Royal Air Force has drifted too far in separating the G.D. sheep from the technical goats. The G.D. officers used to take a long technical course which we found in the last war made them eminently suitable for the higher staff duties and work in specialised spheres. Paragraph 26 of the Memorandum to the Air Estimates says: Membership of university air squadrons, hitherto confined to candidates for pilot training, is being extended in some cases to include training as navigators and in certain other duties. Surely, what we want to do is to encourage our technicians and high-grade engineers to fly. We should not only allow them to fly but encourage them to do so. One of the great weaknesses is the fact that those people responsible for technical decisions may not have experience of flying themselves. There would be nothing that would strengthen that experience more than to encourage them to fly during university training. They might even join an operational squadron for a year before proceeding back to their specialised rÔle. If I might mention one name—we have heard many names mentioned during the debate—surely the great strength of Group Captain John Cunningham was that he had not only outstanding flying ability but also the trained brain and the inquiring mind behind it which made every lesson well learnt and well thought out.

It is essential that technical officers of the R.A.F. should have close contact with industry. Speaking from the industrial side, I know that we would understand the problems much better if R.A.F. officers coming to us to order highly specialised equipment knew exactly what they wanted and how to make it, and also knew the flying side and the problem as applied in the operational sphere. As a secondary point, it would also be of great interest to those technical officers to get experience and knowledge of industry, because at the end of their period with the R.A.F. they may want to find jobs in industry.

I am afraid that scientific staff officers will always be scarce, and I believe that at present they may be spread over too many Ministries and in too many jobs. As an instance, I take the Signals branch of the Air Ministry. There is a policy staff as part of the Air Staff who raise the operational requirement. It is then passed to the technical staff at another portion of the Air Ministry. It goes from the technical staff, is fashioned into shape and sent to the Ministry of Supply. The Ministry of Supply technicians, who are all too scarce, go to industry to ask whether industry can develop the idea or not. In industry we come back with queries, saying, "We cannot develop what you want. May we make the operational requirement a little differently?" There is a long chain of command from the policy staff to the technical staff to the Ministry of Supply and then in reverse, with the result that industry finds it very difficult to know exactly what the R.A.F. wants in its operational squadrons, and also the urgency with which the various things are required. The procedure of placing a contract with industry from the moment it is raised as an operational requirement in the Air Ministry to the time it reaches a firm may take six months, so that not only is there a waste of technical personnel and technical man-hours, but also this awful waste of time.

In this country we must use technical personnel as economically as possible. I have mentioned this before, but I should like to underline it now since visiting the United States. I do not believe we shall ever attract the highest possible grade of technicians with industrial experience into the Air Force except in the smallest numbers. I therefore wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not again consider recruiting technicians in uniform but without rank insignia to do attachments to the Service of perhaps one or two years. This practice has been widely followed in the United States Air Force. One company is supplying no fewer than 440 technicians, incidentally at an annual cost of five million dollars.

This might be said to be expensive, but it achieves not only good liaison between industry and the operational units but also a very high degree of performance from the equipment, which is well maintained. It uses those civilian technicians to train the station personnel. At the end of their period of service those technicians go back to industry with experience of the operational conditions and those portions of equipment which break down, and they build their experience into the future marks of equipment designed for the Service. I think that on four scores that is a sound plan. I know it is expensive, but I believe it is worth while if we are to get industry to understand the Service and the Service to understand industry.

Lastly, I want to dwell for a few moments on storage. Vote 4 G shows that there were 31,700 civilian employees, and on page 125 of the second Report of the Select Committee on Estimates we see that the Air Ministry informed the Committee that there were 11,000 further Service personnel working on maintenance and stores. Vote 7 of the present Estimates shows that on materials and packaging we are to spend £2.1 million this year. Vote 8 shows that we are to spend another £1.8 million on storage services. This is a very large expenditure of money, men and materials, and it seems strange that the Air Ministry have not made use of the more modern methods developed in the States for protecting modern equipment. I refer particularly to the plastic protective coating, or cocoons as they are sometimes called. This method was developed in the States soon after 1944, and Air Ministry have had it under trial ever since.

It is seven years since this was used operationally in the United States. All the big aircraft firms—Rolls Royce, Bristol, De Havillands, when carrying out civilian contracts or export contracts—use this method of packing. Why has the Air Ministry turned its face against it? The Admiralty use it. Why, therefore, have the Air Ministry and the War Office set their face against it? I notice incidentally that the Air Ministry, in rejecting this form of plastic covering, are using enormous steel containers for their jet engines, measuring 10 feet by six feet, and the weight of the steel container is almost equal to the weight of the engine. Surely that is a very important point when we may have to fly these engines to any part of the world to replace breakdowns. I ask the Air Ministry to look at this question again.

On page 16 of the Select Committee's Report, an Air Ministry expert witness states that it take 1,400 technical man hours to overhaul a fighter plane after it has been in storage before it is sent to an operational squadron. Fourteen hundred man hours of technical time is an enormous expense to the country. At that rate, it takes three men working on a fighter plane 45 hours a week, 2½months. Are we sure that we shall have 2½ months before we need reinforcements for our operational squadrons? How does this compare with the Norwegian Air Force which has accepted this method? They had a Spitfire stored for two years. At the end of that period, they uncovered it in less than one hour, and in less than two weeks that aircraft was flying, and all its technical equipment was found to be in excellent order.

We are told that the Royal Air Force has now placed large orders. We see it in every Vote in the Estimates. There is always a chance that the defence which we are now building up may not be needed immediately and that we may have to keep this equipment. I hope that on this occasion we shall not see it sold in junk shops all over London and allow it to be squandered away in that manner, because every time it is renewed it seems to cost more. We see it wasted and sold at uneconomic prices in the shops; and although we are assured that it is not in good condition it would appear to many of us to be in quite excellent condition. So will the Air Ministry look into this question of storage?

I come to my last argument on this issue. Can we afford to divert the building effort—bricks and manpower—to building expensive and permanent storage? Have we the fuel to provide permanent heating for these storage units? With this modern protective covering, it is possible to leave aircraft out in the open for five years, and, therefore, by its use we would not have to divert effort from vital defence projects or from the almost equally vital needs of those waiting for houses.

Therefore, for the following reasons, I would ask the Air Ministry to re-examine these methods: it saves engineering manpower on overhauls and reconditioning; it keeps equipment in good condition and it may need to be kept for several years before we use it; it saves the need for expensive permanent buildings; it allows aircraft to be taken from storage units into squadrons in a matter of days instead of months, and it may be that the last is the most vital need in the defence of this country in the future. In the immediate future we cannot quickly increase our technical manpower, and it is, therefore, of the greatest importance that we should devise organisational methods by which we can make the optimum use of the technical manpower that at present exists in this country.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. A. Henderson

Both hon. Members who spoke in support of the Amendment have made extremely interesting speeches, and have shown how many problems arise in connection with a technical force like the Royal Air Force. I listened with very great interest to what the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) had to say about the mothball system, or "cocooning" as we call it. He is quite right. It has been found very difficult by the Royal Air Force to come to a final decision whether or not it is worth it.

I have personally visited stations where maintenance units have been experimenting with different methods of cocooning, and there seems to be a difference of opinion among the experts whether it is the right way to deal with the storage of aeroplanes. I am bound to say that I am not prepared at this moment to express a final opinion as to which school is correct. The hon. Member has made his point, as well as other points, as has the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Browne), and they will be carefully considered by my advisers.

Perhaps it may be better for me to deal with the criticisms that have been made at this stage and not with the more constructive proposals, although I am not suggesting that what I am now dealing with is not constructive. The first point of the hon. Member for Govan was in regard to the trade structure. He argued that we did not seem to be putting it over so far as the Regulars are concerned, and he thought that emphasis was being placed on the appeal to the National Service men.

Mr. Browne

My point was that the Regular does not seem fully to understand the new trade structure.

Mr. Henderson

Having studied it carefully myself, I am not sure that I do. I can assure the hon. Member that there is no need to be quite so pessimistic. After all, this scheme has only been in operation since 1st January, and everything possible has been attempted by the Royal Air Force authorities by way of booklets and lectures at every station. The hon. Member, like myself, has served, and he will know perfectly well that it is not always easy to put something over to all the men in a particular unit. I am not going to say that it is a tremendously large number, but 6,000 Regulars have applied to re-engage in the three months as a result of their appreciation of the advantages contained in the trade structure. While there is a long way to go before we are satisfied, that is not a bad beginning in three months.

The hon. Member then referred to the question of technical officers. He suggested that we should examine all the sources of recruitment to see whether we could not improve the present position. I can tell him that the views and the misgivings he has expressed, as well as the suggestions he has made, are very much in tune with current thought in the Air Ministry, very largely as a result of the experience that the Royal Air Force officers concerned with this problem have had since the war.

The basic problem of the technical branch is to improve the intake of fully qualified officers, and at the same time to provide an outlet to commissioned rank for the Regular airman tradesman. This is a problem to be considered not only in relation to the intake of possible technical officers of the future from the universities. I think experience has shown that some of the best technical officers the R.A.F. ever possessed came from men who started out as apprentices from Halton. The post-war scheme contemplated for university graduates with a full career as technical officers was that they should be university graduates with an honours degree in a technical subject. That is how they started off, but as has been said, that does not always deliver the goods, and consequently it is now accepted that that is not absolutely essential, and that the higher national certificate plus practical experience, such as is regarded by industry as an accepted standard for technicians, is also accepted for Royal Air Force purposes.

Consequently we introduced last year a short service scheme for candidates from civil life with the qualifications to which I have referred, and these candidates were appointed to short service commissions for three, four or five years at their option, with a proportion of them able eventually to qualify for permanent commissions. The results of this new scheme so far have been most encouraging. Although the scheme has only been open for two or three months we have already accepted 25 candidates, and I am advised that there is every reason to sup- pose it will prove a valuable course of recruitment for permanent officers.

I said we wanted to provide an outlet to commissioned ranks for the best of our Regular tradesmen, technical airmen. The policy since the war has been to select such airmen for permanent commissions at the average age of 28 after they have served their apprenticeship and had some years' experience as tradesman. Then they were sent for a junior specialist course. That is the policy, with modifications, that we are adopting so as to secure a large a number of the best skilled and experienced men for careers as technical officers, and we draw a large number from the apprentices who go through our schools, many of whom have certainly proved their worth when given an opportunity.

The hon. Member was concerned with the employment of more women in the Service. I listened very carefully to what he had to say, and he is entitled to his views and to place the responsibility on me. I notice, however, that in the many suggestions which he put forward there was none as to how we should get them.

Air Commodore Harvey

Increase their pay.

Mr. Henderson

The hon. and gallant Member says that we should increase their pay, but if we are going to do it for the women we will have to do it for the men. The policy in the R.A.F. is to employ women in peace-time in those duties and responsibilities which they would be required to do in time of war. Almost all the technical trade groups under the new trade system are open to airwomen. I think it was the hon. Member for Govan who suggested that certain trades should be closed to women. I am sure that we cannot get away with that in the 20th Century. We have made a basis of equal service for airmen and airwomen in the R.A.F., and the airwoman today is as much a member of the R.A.F. as the airman. It would be a very doubtful proposition to put to an airwoman.

I should like to know what trades there are for which a woman is not fitted. I remember during the days of the Berlin Air Lift, when I was visiting stations in Germany, coming across members of the W.R.A.F. as fitters and mechanics, and doing every conceivable job that one had thought were almost the monopoly of men. It would be very difficult, and I should not like to accept responsibility for it, to select this trade and that trade and say that this was suitable for women and that was not. We do not feel at this moment that we could consider barring any particular trade from women.

Perhaps it is only right to add that there are certain activities requiring heavy manual labour which obviously, even today and under our rules, we would not ask women to undertake. It may be that the hon. Member was seeking to extend that idea rather than to do it on a basis of skill or lack of it.

Mr. J. N. Browne

I should like the Minister to look at this point again. I still believe that there are certain trades in which it is wasteful to use women, and that it is to greater advantage to use women only in the trades for which they are best fitted.

Mr. Henderson

There might be substance in that point. In so far as there is a shortage of women in the W.R.A.F. it is in the interests of the Royal Air Force to make the best use of them. It may be desirable to put them into certain trades where we are short of them rather than to spread them out more thinly over all the trades of the Royal Air Force.

The other point to which the hon. Gentleman referred was the much more thorny subject of compulsory church parades and the need for improving the morale of the Royal Air Force by restoring them. The decision to abolish compulsory church parades was taken at the beginning of the last Parliament. It was not a party issue. Hon. and gallant Members on both sides—I think there were 200 of them—tabled an Amendment calling for the removal of compulsory attendance at church parade or religious service. The hon. Member has reminded us that the then Secretary of State for War promised that both the Army and the Royal Air Force would amend their regulations so as to accord with what was thought to be the view of the majority of the House of Commons.

This was not a decision which was lightly taken. It has been reviewed by Ministers and Service authorities from time to time. I know that there is a difference of opinion even among the Service authorities but, despite the many powerful arguments which might be adduced in favour of compulsory attendance at divine worship, I feel that the right course is to allow the individual, whether he be civilian or Service man. to worship in his own way and, as far as possible, in his own time. Certainly, I could not hold out any hope of a real likelihood at the moment of a reversal of the present policy.

I promise the hon. Members for Govan and Hendon, North, that the other points in their speeches with which I have not dealt will receive the consideration for which they have asked.

Mr. Browne

In view of the assurances given by the Secretary of State, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. George Ward (Worcester)

To return to the Motion before the House, I want briefly to make two points on personnel matters which I believe to be important. This is the first Air Estimates debate since 1945 when it has not been necessary for the Opposition to make two of the main points which they have hammered at the Government year after year since the war. The first one was the need to attract more Regulars into the Service by increasing their pay, including flying pay, and the second was the need for a new trade structure in the Royal Air Force to improve the chances of promotion in certain trades. Both those things have been done.

I am particularly pleased to see the improvement in recruiting which is already apparent and I am quite sure that after the new trade structure has been operating for a little while the balance of the Royal Air Force will be considerably better than it has been in the past. The Government are to be congratulated upon taking the advice of the Opposition and at last putting these matters right.

There are still one or two matters which continue to give rise to a certain amount of anxiety. I believe that they even give rise to anxiety on the part of the Secretary of State for Air. In his speech he mentioned that he was still anxious about deficiencies in skilled trades such as radar and wireless fitters, armourers, instrument repairers, and so on. I hope that the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will give us a little better idea of the actual position in those trades, and I hope that the Government will not hesitate to take any further steps which they may think necessary, in addition to the extra pay and the new trade structure, to attract people of the right type into these vitally important trades. Aircraft can be grounded, even though the whole over-all position is quite healthy, by lack of a few men in these trades. Although I understand from the Secretary of State that he is remustering certain people from overmanned trades to the undermanned ones, that does not meet the case unless he is certain of getting the right type of men in these highly skilled trades. It is no good remustering anybody; he must be the right type.

These highly technical trades were, before the war, generally filled from ex-Halton apprentices, and a fine type of man they were. The Secretary of State has already paid a tribute to them. Paragraph 20 of the Memorandum states that the number of apprentices entering the Service is improving slightly, but the intake still falls far short of the large numbers needed. I find that worrying, too. It needs careful watching and the Government must make every effort not only to build up Halton to what it was before the war as regards quantity, but also in regard to quality, in order to try to restore to Halton apprentices the great prestige and reputation which they enjoyed in those days.

I find it a matter for anxiety that the number of university graduates needed are not coming forward as officers. That, also, has been touched on by other speakers. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciates that the quality of the officers in the Royal Air Force can affect the quality of the entire Force. It is vital, therefore, to get the best type of officer. Before the war some of the best were provided by the universities. I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us later what steps the Government are taking, in conjunction with the university authorities to try to encourage some of these young men to make the Royal Air Force their career when they leave the university.

Paragraph 25 of the Memorandum says that: The strength of the Royal Air Force reserves will increase rapidly with the influx of National Service officers and men who have completed their full-time service. I understand that will begin to make itself felt about next month. That is good, but it would be interesting to know exactly how many of these National Service men have volunteered to stay in in the Regular Air Force. It seems to me that the best way of attracting the right type of Regular officer and Service man is by giving him a taste of life in the Service and then, if he finds it good, letting him stay on voluntarily because he likes the life. But he has to find the life good, otherwise he will come out and will do the Service untold harm by what he tells his friends about the conditions he found there while he was doing his National Service.

I think the Government would admit that there are far too many National Service men at the moment finding life in the Service unpleasant for reasons which could so easily be avoided. I want to read the House two short paragraphs from a letter from a Birmingham man whose son has started doing his National Service in the Royal Air Force. He says: The flight, in which my son was included, were asked to state a number of trades which they desired to enter. They were also interviewed by an officer. Just before leaving Innesworth these 100 boys were informed of the "trades" they were being placed in and this resulted as follows: 20 messing orderlies (these are rough figures), 40 administrative orderlies (my son in this category) and the remainder in other trades. A party of seven, which included my son, from this flight were posted to R.A.F. Abingdon where the accommodation is so limited that it is almost impossible for a new comer to find room in any billet. These boys (administrative orderlies) are now being employed in the following manner: two as stokers (on shift work), two working in the sergeants' mess, two road sweeping, and my son gardening with a civilian at squadron headquarters. This kind of treatment is disgraceful and I should like to ask the Air Minister what incentive there is for young recruits to show enthusiasm for their National Service, and if he thinks it is likely that anyone would volunteer for further service no matter what inducements are offered in the way of pay. The Government are asking the House this evening to vote a very large sum of money indeed to strengthen our air defences. In spite of the great sacrifices which this will entail for every man, woman and child in the country, I have no doubt whatever that the House will willingly vote this money if, and only if, it is satisfied that not one penny of it is to be wasted.

Moreover, these young men are being asked to give up two years of their life at a time when every moment is precious, because they want to train themselves for their careers in civilian life. They will only give up these years willingly if they are certain that their time will not be wasted. But examples like that which I have just read to the House make the taxpayer wonder whether the money which he is being asked to find for strengthening our defences will not be wasted and whether it is all worth while in view of the time which the son of this correspondent, for instance, is wasting in kicking his heels about in the Service.

I do not say that all the necessary chores which have to be done in every service should all be done by the Regulars and none by the National Service men. All I am saying—and the Government really must take action on this—is that the necessary chores should be fairly shared by the National Service man and the Regular alike. More important still, the National Service man should feel quite sure that he is doing no more than his fair share.

Before leaving the question of personnel, I want to touch for a moment on the Air Training Corps, which has not had much comment this afternoon but which is extremely important. I find myself quite unable to share the optimism and even the complacency, of paragraph 28 of the Memorandum. Nor is it shared on page 35 of the Estimates, where it states: The estimated average strength of the Air Training Corps in 1951–52 is 39,000, of whom 30,000 will probably be qualified cadets. Last year, however, the estimated average strength for 1950–51 was 45,000, of which 37,000 were to be qualified cadets.

Why does paragraph 28 of the Memorandum say how wonderfully well the Air Cadet Corps are doing? The fact is that there has been a considerable falling off in the strength of the A.T.C. That is worrying, because so much depends on getting these boys air-minded and keen on the idea of the Air Force before they start their National Service. I am told that the reason for this falling off in the strength of the A.T.C. is that they simply do not see enough of aeroplanes and of flying. Boys of that age join the A.T.C. because they want to have a look at aeroplanes and to fly in them. They get very disheartened if, year in and year out, they seldom, if ever, see an aeroplane.' The gliding which some of them do is not enough to keep them keen.

The Memorandum speaks of 200 air scholarships. That is very good, but what about the rest of the 39,000 cadets? The most they can hope for is an occasional "flip" in the back of an Anson, of which, I understand, there are only 12 or 15 to cover the whole country. That is my information and I hope the Under-Secretary will correct me if I am wrong. My information is that there are about 12 or 15 Ansons and a few Moths. There is nothing more boring in the world than sitting in the back of an Anson. Not only is it very boring, but what can possibly be learned about the technique of flying in the back of an Anson.

What is needed to keep them keen and make them join is, I submit, practical demonstrations of flying in conjunction with the syllabus of the principles of flight so that boys can be given the chance of seeing the effect of the controls being worked by the pilot in the air at the same time as they are learning the effects of those controls in the theory of flight. I believe that would do a tremendous amount of good from the point of view of teaching them about flying, and it would also keep them keen.

I believe it is the experience of most flying instructors that boys who have had a good grounding in the principles of flight and have had demonstrated to them the workings of the controls can be taught in about half the time when it comes actually to teaching them to fly. In building up our air defences full use should be made of the A.T.C, and I ask the Government to turn their attention to this and to stop this decrease in the numbers which has taken place in the last 12 months.

Turning from personnel to equipment, I will not say very much because so much has been said on it by previous speakers, but I would like to put on record my view that the key to the whole question is production. The emphasis must be on production. The time has come when we must get the aircraft ordered and coming out of the factory and we have to make sure that the vital raw materials are provided. That is a headache from which the Government are already suffering, but it is essential that the raw materials should be there, and that the machine tools should be there, even if they cost us precious dollars to provide them. We must sweep aside administrative difficulties and restrictions and get the aircraft built and into the squadrons as quickly as possible. Speed is essential in this matter, because time must be against us.

For much too long, in my view, we have been telling ourselves, our friends and the people of the country that the Royal Air Force is the finest in the world and that British aeroplanes are better than those of anyone else. That is true and I do not deny it, but when people go to Farnborough, to the Royal Air Force Display, or the S.B.A.C. display, and see a wonderful aeroplane performing miracles of flying skill, they do not realise that the aeroplane they are looking at is the only one of its type in existence. It is high time that while we say in one breath that the Air Force is really wonderful because it flies better than anyone else, and our designers are better than anyone else, we should realise that we have only one of a particular type of aircraft and that we must do something about it.

I share the confidence in the aircraft industry which the Secretary of State and everyone in the House has, but let us face one unpleasant fact—it will not do us any harm. We were told after the war that the reason we had to buy air liners from the United States and Canada at the cost of precious dollars was because we had put all our skill and resources into the building of fighters and bombers during the war, to the neglect of our transport aircraft industry. That was very understandable, and I supported the Government in their purchase of Canadian aircraft.

But what is the position today? Not only are our airlines equipped with American aeroplanes, but we are also having to use American bombers and now American fighters as well, and that is not a very creditable thing. Surely it is time we stopped relying on the Americans to give us transport planes and bombers and fighters and started to produce one or the other ourselves. The British aircraft industry is quite capable of making aeroplanes, but they simply have not had the orders from the Government.

Anyone who listened this afternoon to the admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas) must have had brought home to him the realities of the situation and a sense of urgency and the fact that there cannot be any doubt as to the danger facing this country. But it is not the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick who ought to be doing that. It is the Secretary of State for Air who should be instilling into us that sense of urgency, emphasising the dangers which confront us and telling us what he is going to do about it.

What happened? The right hon. Gentleman produced, to go with the Estimates, a Memorandum which is a mass of complacency, a mass of vague phrases which tell us nothing. References are made to "increases," and to "more substantial increases" and" in due course "and" substantial increases." They mean absolutely nothing. It leads one to think "Everything is perfectly all right. There is really nothing to worry about. It is very silly to ask us to pay this money to strengthen our defences when we do not need it at all, because everything is quite all right." That is very misleading indeed.

The Government must make up their minds now to tell the public the truth in this matter. It is their duty to bring home to the public the dangers which confront them as it has been brought home to us from our back benches this afternoon. It is our experience that if we tell the people the truth they will take it quite cheerfully, but they do not like to be deceived by woolly phrases such as those contained in this Memorandum. If we tell them the truth they will react as they did in the war and it is time the Government did that. The sooner that is done the better it will be, not only for the Royal Air Force but for the country as a whole.

9.18 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I agree with the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Ward) when he says that what the country wants is the truth. I also agree with his tribute to the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas). The hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick drew an alarming picture of a huge efficient Soviet air force with wonderful jet bombers, wonderful fighters which are ever so much faster and ever so much superior to those produced in capitalist Britain under private enterprise. I wondered how all these wonderful aeroplanes were produced and if the production in Communist countries the other side of the Iron Curtain is not more efficient than production in Britain. I submit that if the picture drawn by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick is in any way correct, we ought to revise our opinions and the best thing to do would be to nationalise our aircraft factories immediately without compensation.

Air Commodore Harvey

Surely, the hon. Gentleman would admit that his own Government sold 52 British jet engines to Soviet Russia?

Mr. Hughes

I admit that the Government have not done as many wise things as they would have done if they had taken my advice on many occasions. If Soviet industry has succeeded in producing this wonderful air fleet it must have reached a very high level of technique, efficiency and production. If on the other side of the Iron Curtain there has been this amazing piece of industrial initiative and incentive, we may yet have a lot to learn from the Soviet Union which has been so much maligned and regarded as inefficient and hopeless from the point of view of industrial production. I know that hon. Gentlemen have said that German brains were responsible. Even if we admit that the Germans taught the Russians the technique of aircraft production, it is still obvious that an immense amount of industrial production has been carried out in State-owned factories.

Tonight we are asked to provide a sum of £328,750,000, which is £105,750,000 more than last year. I agree that we are entitled to demand that this money should be wisely spent. If we spend over £328 million we are justified in demanding a clear statement that we shall have a greater measure of national security. I believe that, as these Air Estimates go by, we are getting less security than ever before. I am fortified in that contention by the argument put forward in this House by the Leader of the Opposition in the Defence debate.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) expressed great satisfaction at the fact that the Americans were over here to protect us. I feel no satisfaction at all about that. I believe that the more we make this country an air base for the operation of American atom bombers, which are presumably to leave this country to destroy the industrial production of Russia, the more dangerous we make this country. That was the argument of the Leader of the Opposition who said in the Defence debate: We must not forget that by creating the American atomic base in East Anglia we have made ourselves a target, and perhaps the bull's eye, of a Soviet attack."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 632.] That is what this country has become as the result of being the base for American operations. What a fate for this great country of Great Britain to be regarded as a bull's eye. That is precisely the danger. The Leader of the Opposition recognised this in a speech last year when he said: If, for instance, the United States had a stock-pile of 1,000 atomic bombs—I use the figure as an illustration merely; I have no knowledge of any sort or kind of what they have—and Russia had 50, and we got those 50, fearful experiences, far beyond anything we have ever endured, would be our lot."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 201.] I believe that that is the realist estimate of the position. As a result of our becoming a base for possible American operations in war against Russia, the Russians will regard us as a target that must be destroyed, and that was the danger which the Leader of the Opposition outlined to us in the defence debate.

I submit that today we have heard nothing relevant to the grave danger inherent in that situation, for which the Leader of the Opposition had no remedy either. He went on to argue that we needed atomic bomb plants in this country, which I assume means more targets, more bulls' eyes, more potential threats to Russia, and would be regarded by the Russians as a greater incentive for them to attack us. I presume that, if we knew where the atomic bomb bases of the U.S.S.R. were, if we knew the location of the production plants behind the Iron Curtain for producing aeroplanes and atomic bombs, it would be our strategy for the Royal Air Force in this country and American aeroplanes as well to bomb those bases and those production plants.

I submit that the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely correct in seeing this frightful peril to the people of this country, because we are not a huge country like the United States or the U.S.S.R., with their centres of production scattered over thousands of square miles. We are a highly concentrated industrial area, and if we have 50 Hiroshimas or Nagasakis in this country, I presume that all the present ideas of strategy would simply be wiped out.

Spokesmen for the Opposition have quoted Lord Trenchard, and have argued that he is one of our great authorities on modern air warfare. It was Lord Trenchard who was asked two years ago how many millions of a nation's men would have to be destroyed before peace could be assured, and he replied: Is there any doubt in any man's mind-that the atomic bomb today could probably destroy over 10 million and up to 20 million people in a month?

Mr. Speaker

We are discussing the Royal Air Force, and not the atomic bomb. The hon. Gentleman must come back to the Estimates.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I submit that it was argued in this debate that the purpose of the Royal Air Force is to defend us from attacks from other countries, and I submit that we are justified in believing that aeroplanes from other countries would presumably drop atom bombs on us. I submit that the atom bomb will be brought by enemy aircraft, and so I argue that we are entitled to take this into consideration. The very fact that Lord Trenchard used this argument in another place seems to me to make it relevant to this debate. In another place, at another time, Lord Trenchard said: I am not over-estimating; nor am I try ing to be unnecessarily brutal, I say that a nation which lost that amount of manpower in such a short period could not exist, and would have to submit. The point was cleared up by one of our great military writers, Captain Liddell Hart, who, in his book "The Defence of the West," outlined the kind of war that will have to be faced and the possible effects of combat between the air forces of the world. Captain Liddell Hart takes up what Lord Trenchard said, and, in his chapter dealing with aerial warfare, says: Lord Trenchard's estimate of the probable casualties was reasonable. His conclusion as to the effect in compelling a country's submission is questionable as applied to Russia. Even 20 million dead would be a small fraction of her population. Moreover, that figure might not be attained as Russia's cities are relatively few and widely scattered. On the other hand, his conclusion applies only too clearly to the congested cities of Western Europe. A scale of 20 million killed would wipe out half the population of England or France, and the whole population of Belgium and Holland combined. That is the estimate, not of an anti-war writer, but of a gentleman who is recognised as being one of our greatest military authorities.

He also poses this question: In these awkward circumstances, it seems a trifle muddle-headed, to put it mildly, for anyone to advocate that we should start the throwing of atom bombs, if war began in a more old-fashioned way. It would be the most madly up-to-date version of the proverb that 'Those who live in glass-houses should not throw stones.'

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is discussing the use of the atom bomb. That is not the subject under discussion now. We are discussing the Royal Air Force, and not the use of the atom bomb.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I always assumed that the atom bomb would be delivered by an aeroplane. I will leave it at that. All I will say is that when Lord Trenchard was speaking in this way, he was arguing in a debate on the Royal Air Force in another place, but I presume that this House is more realistic than that.

The following is what Captain Liddell-Hart says about the dropping of bombs from possible Russian aircraft: If American leaders wish to start chucking stones about, ours would be wiser to restrain them, and if any of our leaders favour it, they would appear qualified for being put under restraint in a padded cell. That is a very commonsense indictment of the present policy of spending £380 million this year on the Royal Air Force, because nobody has yet replied to the question I once put to an hon. and gallant Member opposite asking what aeroplanes can stop what are called guided missiles. In what way is there any protection at all from rockets? We have not had that subject discussed in this debate today, and, therefore, I believe that a great deal of the debate has been unrealistic.

I challenge the whole assumption that £380 million spent in this way is going to give protection to the industrial populations of Liverpool, the Midlands, the North or the industrial areas of Glasgow. We have had no real information in the speech made by the Secretary of State for Air today. I asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman to enlighten me about the cost of one of these Canberra bombers. He looked at me in a pained way, almost as though I had asked him an indecent question. Are we not entitled to know the cost of some of these machines? The Under-Secretary of State for Air knows the cost, because, before he went into office, he told us that one of these modern bombers cost £230,000 at that time. What would it cost today?

We have seen these Estimates mount up to astronomical figures and if another war comes I believe that as a result of this expenditure the people of this country and of London will be less safe than the people of Ireland who have no air force at all. Our ways of thinking will have to be changed. We are not getting protection, we are not getting security for the people of this country by this gigantic expenditure, and this point of view should be stressed, and stressed by hon. Members' in this House.

9.35 p.m.

Mr. Perkins (Stroud and Thornbury)

I hope that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his interesting discourse on air tactics, on which he is obviously a great expert. I want to have a row with the Secretary of State for Air, but before that I should like to thank the Secretary of State for meeting me more than half way last year by withdrawing his opposition to the safety lines for civil aircraft in the air. I much appreciate the way he has withdrawn opposition to this scheme and has allowed it to go forward.

I want to raise the whole question of the training of Royal Air Force reservists. I accuse the Ministry of attempting to train these reservists with cheap labour. I am a vice-president of a trade union, the British Airline Pilots' Association. It is an odd trade union. It is affiliated to the T.U.C. and it has as its president the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon. I started this trade union many years ago and my information comes from it.

I am informed that instructors employed at Reserve flying schools, for which the Secretary of State must take responsibility as he does the paying, were paid a salary of approximately £600 a year, plus flying pay, plus bonuses, before the war. On the average an instructor would probably earn between £750 and £1,000 at that time. It is impossible to give exact figures, because they vary from school to school, but I am told that today these men earn less than that. In fact, they are earning only about £600 a year. They have a very low insurance and there is no bonus scheme.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

Then what is the good of a trade union?

Mr. Perkins

That is the point. I am glad the hon. Member has brought that up, because it is the point to which I was coming. I am not accusing the Secretary of State of employing sweated labour, but I am accusing him of trying to get training done on the cheap. He will say, "Ah, but we always insist on a fair wages clause." That is quite true. Every Air Ministry contract has a fair wages clause in it, but unless there is an agreed rate for the job that fair wages clause is absolutely meaningless. That is what is happening today. These men are getting far less than they were getting before the war and they are very unhappy.

When he issues contracts the Secretary of State has the power to lay down a minimum standard of life for these pilots. If he would give contracts only on that understanding the pilots would be happy. They would get the kind of wages they had before the war and there would be contentment and happiness in this industry. I appeal to the Secretary of State to see whether he cannot use that power and settle this dispute.

If he cannot settle the dispute it will have to go to an industrial court. Some time ago my Association took the B.O.A.C. and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, who are responsible for the Corporation, into an industrial court to have another matter settled. We shall not hesitate to take the Secretary of State for Air, with his chosen instrument, to the industrial court to obtain a settlement, but I believe that this matter can be settled round the table without the fuss and paraphernalia of going into an industrial court. If only he will take the initiative and ask the pilots' trade union to meet him at a round table conference this matter would be settled in half an hour. I appeal to him to see what he can do, and to ask us to meet him so that we can get a settlement.

My second point is, I am afraid, highly controversial and raises the whole question of Coastal Command. The importance of Coastal Command is not, I believe, realised by the people of this country. I am certain that it is not realised by the Air Ministry, who regard it as a sideline, as a kind of unwanted child. On 10th June, 1945, the Admiralty issued a statement giving the total number of U-boats sunk during the war. Out of a total of 781 U-boats sunk, 284 were sunk by warships or mines, 413 were sunk by bombing or aircraft attack, or aircraft attack working with warships, and 83 were sunk from other causes. In other words, over 400 were sunk by aircraft or warships working in conjunction with aircraft, and it must be obvious to anyone that the aircraft is a far greater danger to the submarine than the battleship.

What is the position of Coastal Command today? Is it any better than it was in 1939? In 1939 I was called away from this House as a humble sergeant pilot to fly Tiger Moths to look for submarines in the approaches to the Clyde. We were unarmed; we had nothing but Verey pistols; we had these obsolete aircraft because Coastal Command had nothing else, and we could but go 90 miles out to sea and 90 miles back again. What is the position today? Is it any better than that? I believe that it is far worse than it was then. How many operational aircraft are there today in Coastal Command?

I know the answer, but I cannot tell the House, nor can the Under-Secretary. Is it 50? Is it 20? The hon. Gentleman will say, "We are going to double it. We are increasing it by 100 per cent." But twice "nowt" is "nowt." These percentage increases are valueless unless we know the basis upon which they are calculated. I believe that the Air Ministry are guilty of gross neglect on the whole question of Coastal Command. The position of Coastal Command today is, I believe, extremely grim, and the only thing to do is to take it away from the Air Ministry and to give it to the Admiralty, together with the three flying-boats which were handed to them yesterday.

Thirdly, I refer to the whole question of the defence of England. On the Air Estimates of 15 or 16 years ago the late Lord Baldwin, speaking from that Box when he was Prime Minister, stated that the bomber will aways get through. That statement was true then, but it is ten thousand times truer today, with the high speed of bombers and the development of modern rockets. There are only three ways in which we can protect our country from hostile attack. The first two, the fighter aircraft and the anti-aircraft defences, are both defensive and are both becoming obsolete. I believe that they are obsolete today, and that that is the reason why the Air Ministry have not ordered a single swept-wing fighter. I agree that these defensive arrangements of the fighter aircraft and the anti-aircraft defences will destroy a lot of enemy aircraft coming over this country, but they will never stop them coming.

I think that a fair analogy is that of a wasps nest in one's garden. All the jam pots in the kitchen put together and full of water, with honey round the rims, will kill an immense number of wasps, but they will never stop the wasps from coming. The only way to stop them from coming is to burn out the nest. I believe that fighters and anti-aircraft defence are becoming obsolescent, and I believe that there are only two ways in which we can ensure the safety of our country. I believe that we must attack the bombers in their nests, in their breeding grounds—in their factories and on their launching bases. The only hope of preventing the wholesale bombing of this country is to blow them up before they can get through. That being so, I welcome the statement made on behalf of the Government a fortnight ago that we are to have a four-engined jet long-range bomber. I welcome that; that is grand. But can the Secretary of State tell us when we are going to get it, how many we are to get and when they will be in the squadrons?

Lastly, the third method of defending our country was touched on by an hon. Member opposite. It is a dangerous subject to talk about—one of the things which we must not mention—the whole question of rockets and rocket defence. I observed in the "Illustrated London News" of a fortnight ago that the Government are hard at work producing a defensive type of rocket that will seek out and destroy at long range and great altitudes enemy bombers coming to this country. I am not going to ask the hon. Gentleman for detailed information, but I think that we can fairly ask him this: Is he satisfied with the present progress of rocket defence? If he says, "Yes," then, so far as I am concerned, I am satisfied, but I ask him that question.

I think that the House is entitled to a broad statement as to whether the Government are satisfied with these rockets which are to search out and destroy the enemy. I believe, that the only hope of defending our country lies not in fighters, not in anti-aircraft defence, but in a combination of the long-range bomber to destroy the enemy nests and breeding grounds, and ultimately the rockets which will pick up the odd machine which escapes the bombers.

9.48 p.m.

Mr. Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

I would ask the House to concentrate its attention for a few minutes on a subject which has already been mentioned, but which has not been dealt with quite completely. It is the subject of the Air Training Corps, on which, I am glad to say, I know there is complete agreement in principle between hon. Members on both sides of the House.

It may be said that simply in terms of money the expenditure on the A.T.C. represents only a tiny fraction of the huge total of the Estimates, and so, indeed, it does—less than £300,000 out of a total of £300 million—but I think that the A.T.C. has a value both strategic and moral out of all proportion to the actual cost. I believe that view is shared by hon. Members in all parts of the House, particularly those who had, as I had, the honour of serving in the Royal Air Force during the war, and seeing the results there of the Air Training Corps.

We all know what the A.T.C. did during the war in providing 50,000 air crew and collecting over 500 decorations of all kinds, including the Victoria Cross. But the important point, in my opinion, is that the A.T.C. did not spring fully-armed out of the head of the Secretary of State in February, 1941. It was based on the foundation of no fewer than 200 squadrons of the Air Defence Cadet Corps which started before Munich as a voluntary and entirely private enterprise organisation.

The moral of that is surely this: We must start in plenty of time. We must start years ahead. It was the work done in 1938 and 1939 by the Air Defence Cadet Corps that was responsible for our ability to develop so quickly during the war, when there was built up very soon a body of 200,000 cadets and no fewer than 30,000 officers and instructors. I suggest that the same thing holds good today, if we are to have the necessary potential strength to deal with the real possibility of war in the years immediately ahead.

That is the background against which we must regard the Estimates and we do so in the light of the Memorandum, which tells us two things. It tells us, in the first place, that the Estimates as a whole are to be increased by no less than £100 million, based on the £3,600 million programme, which is only the first instalment. In the second place, we are told that the build-up and support of this expanded force requires a big increase in the supporting training organisation, and, in paragraph 16, that there is a real shortage of pilots today. Therefore, one turns to the Estimates to see how the A.T.C, again and again described during past years by successive Secretaries of State as an essential ingredient in the training organisation, is to be expanded. What do we find? We find to our astonishment, that there is to be a net increase of £2,000 only in the provision for the A.T.C. and the R.A.F. component of the Combined Cadet Force—from £265,000 to £267,000.

The first question I should like to put, and I do so in no spirit of hostility but with real sincerity and anxiety, is whether the right hon. Gentleman can seriously contend that this will enable the A.T.C. to meet the needs of 1953 and 1954, assuming, as we are bound to assume, that we may be in the middle of a war by then. When we find that there is relatively no increase contemplated in the activities of the A.T.C. we cannot help wondering if the Air Ministry has really adjusted its horizon to the realities of today, remembering that last year all the emphasis was on economy and that the Estimates for the A.T.C. must have been cut to the bone.

Can the Secretary of State really assure the House that he has given proper scope to the function that the A.T.C. ought to perform? No doubt, a year ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the man with the big stick and it was necessary to treat him with very great respect. He may well be entitled to be treated with respect today, but I suggest that perhaps a rather firmer attitude with him might be possible. Can the House be assured that the provision for the A.T.C. is adequate, and if not will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider the matter?

My second question is more specific, although to the same purpose. It relates to the measures already taken and to be taken to improve the quality of the Corps, and to attract the best material which, as the Memorandum says, is so desirable. After the war, we know that the A.T.C. fell off badly. Its numbers went down very much, and I am afraid that we must admit that its quality went off also. I am sure that all those concerned with A.T.C. would wish to acknowledge that in the beginning of 1950 the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary took energetic and successful steps to improve morale by paying a number of personal visits to squadrons and conferences with the local A.T.C. committees. I should like to acknowledge that this had a good effect.

I think it was evident to them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward) has pointed out, that the most effective factor in the encouragement of the young is that they should be able to see the possibility in the A.T.C. of being able to fly and not merely to be passengers. Every department in the A.T.C. in important—drill, discipline, up to aero-dynamics—but there is nothing at all to compare in effect with the actual experience of learning to fly. For some years past there has been limited opportunity, and complaints have been made that the opportunity was so limited, for young men in the A.T.C. actually to learn to fly aircraft. Last year was introduced this scheme, which is called "the scholarship scheme" and is quite different from anything that has ever been known before. It showed imagination worthy of those who deal with the air. It is referred to in paragraph 28 of the Memorandum. It is there made clear that these young men get serious training. That is done through the civil flying clubs, and I believe that the House will have been delighted, although not surprised, to hear today that the scheme has proved to be an immense success.

I am not going to do more now, and it would not be polite or fair to do more, than refer to the fact that, a year ago, the Under-Secretary of State made a statement in this House to the effect that the training which could be produced under this scheme was not of real practical use to the Royal Air Force. It is in column 1917 of HANSARD for 21st March, 1950. I am sure that that statement was made on information which the Minister had received, and I am certain that he would like to have the opportunity this evening of telling the House that that training has turned out to be extremely useful and successful.

One of the great things about this scheme is that R.A.F. officers of all ranks, not only senior officers but those at squadron level who may be even more important in this matter, acknowledge that the boys who go through this course actually learn something worth while. The boys pass through their training in record time. I am told that there has hardly been a single case where the boys have not been selected by the Air Crew Selection Board to be pilots.

In regard to the air training scheme, many of us have read with nothing short of dismay the reference to this matter in the Memorandum. It states that it is intended in 1951 to train a number similar to that trained in 1950. Considering that in 1950 the scheme did not start operating till July—according to an answer which I had in the House, in June last, at that time the training had not started, but it was hoped to begin it the next month—and the fact that 200 young men had been put into training in six months, to be told, as we have now been told today, that only 250 are to be trained this year, is very saddening.

I hope that we may hear from the Minister that something better will be done. Remembering that the scheme was experimental, that it was undertaken before the Korean crisis, and that it has only operated for six months, how can it be right, if it is such a good thing, that we are only getting the same number as in 1951? It should be double that number, and I would suggest that the target should really be 750.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman should consider this matter with the greatest possible care. There is nothing more encouraging to these young men than the opportunity of flying. It is producing a magnificent esprit de corps.I met one lad the other day at an airfield. He had been through the course already and was proving a tremendous success. There was another boy there and he had been told that he could not have one of these scholarships because there were not enough to go round. That is not what we expect. From all sides of the House we ought to urge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to reconsider the matter and see whether he cannot now expand the A.T.C, when it is so badly needed. We should produce a plan worthy of the corps and of the elder brothers of these boys who are now in the Royal Air Force and worthy of the tremendous possibilities of the situation.

10.2 p.m.

Air Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

We have had a very interesting debate, but it would have been of greater interest if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air had told us a little more about what he intends to do with the expansion of the Royal Air Force. I recognise that in an emergency such as we have at this present time his security officers advise him what he ought to say, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman, after all, is in charge of the Royal Air Force. He is elected to Parliament and he holds his high office by the will of the people, who expect to know something more than they have been told today.

We have had many interesting and forceful speeches from back bench Members. One hon. Member I should like particularly to congratulate is my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas). We served together in the war and I know he led his fighter wing very well. The House will agree with me that he made his speech tonight with the same standard of efficiency. He got straight to the point, and obviously he had taken tremendous trouble in getting the information which the House was pleased to hear, though it was depressing in detail. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who opened the debate, is appreciated by the Royal Air Force, and particularly by No. 500 Squadron of the county of Kent, of which he is hon. Air Commodore. He made many references to the Auxiliary Air Force, about which we shall hear from the Under-Secretary of State when he replies.

This year the Air Estimates debate took a rather different line, because the Minister of Defence the week before last said that the Air Force was to have priority over the other two Services. That is quite right and proper. I am not belittling the efforts of the other two Services, because all of us interested in these matters want to see the three Services so far as is possible become one force. By so doing they will be more effective. Should a third world war be forced upon us we shall have no comfortable margin for error. There may not be even the time to change our plans, as happened in the first nine or ten months of the 1939– but we must have a strategy with our Allies geared to global command of the air. It is generally recognised that today the air is the most efficient medium through which to overcome geography and carry the war directly to the enemy.

Reference has been made to the letters and speeches of Viscount Trenchard and it should be remembered that if it had not been for him and his work 30 years ago we should not have had an Air Force. He fought a battle for an independent Air Force with the generals who intended to combine it with the Army. We should thank him that we have an Air Force at all. There is no doubt at all that the Air Force today is our prime military force. I do not belittle the other Services at all, but the Royal Air Force is our first line of defence. Whatever may happen afterwards, the immediate safety of Britain depends entirely on the efficiency and strength of the Royal Air Force.

Three or four years ago the Secretary of State for Air told us that the morale of the Royal Air Force was not as good as it might be, but today he has told us that the morale is good. We are very pleased indeed to hear it. All of us who have associations with the Royal Air Force are satisfied that something has come back into that Service which disappeared, for a short period at any rate, after the war. But, if the Royal Air Force had to wage war during the next 12 months, I do not believe that it has operational units in sufficient number to carry out that role. If it has not, it is far better for us to realise that we must get busy, have a sense of urgency and scrape the barrel and get together what we can, and not utter all these platitudes and cliches about considerable quantities" and all the things that may happen in two, three or four years' time.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman told us very little, but I noticed that he told us that 44 Vampires had flown to the Far East. We read that in yesterday's newspapers. I was a little surprised how it got into the newspapers. The Chief of Air Staff was congratulating the Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command on ferrying these machines out to the Far East. It has told any potential enemies of ours exactly how many jet fighters we have in the Far East, and yet we are not allowed to know how many we have in the home Command.

Mr. A. Henderson

Perhaps I might explain to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the 44 Vampires were routed through an airport in a foreign country—through Mingaladon in Burma. It is obvious that we cannot keep secret the fact that 44 aeroplanes land at a foreign airport and go on somewhere else.

Air Commodore Harvey

I also recognise that members of the Russian Embassy can drive their cars anywhere in these islands and can count the aircraft on the airfields, and also the radar stations. It makes no sense that this House and the people of Britain, who pay for the Royal Air Force, should know so little about it.

I believe that there must be a change commensurate with the situation. As I see it, there are two considerations, a short-term one and a long-term one. To deal first with the short-term consideration, it is obvious that at the moment there is a shortage of practically all aircraft and almost all equipment. This is the penalty for lack of foresight and, to some extent, neglect in the last three or four years. It is not as if money has not been voted for these things. Money has been voted, and I cannot understand where it has gone in the last 5½years.

A lot of equipment was left over at the end of the war. Spitfires and other aircraft were melted down on the airfields for scrap. Such aircraft would today be most useful for towing targets, training and many other purposes for which we have now to look around for aircraft. I should be glad if the Under-Secretary would tell us if everything is being done to improvise for the immediate future. By that I mean: Are old aircraft being brought out of storage? They may be eight or nine years old, but, no matter how old they are, they are better than nothing at all. We are told that, with the Royal Navy, and Coastal Command has a great problem in conducting antisubmarine warfare. Should we unfortunately have a war, performance is important, but I suggest that in Coastal Command it is perhaps not quite so important as in other commands, and that there are Lancasters and other aircraft which could be overhauled and brought into use, at least for training aircrews in carrying out the role of detecting submarines.

An hon. Gentleman opposite referred to the Shackleton aircraft. I thought he was a little unkind when he said it was a rehash of the Lincoln. Of course, when a follow-on type is produced every aeroplane is an improvement on the previous design. We do not, as a rule, build a new aeroplane out of the blue. It would be unfortunate if this got back to the workers and designers at A. V. Roe that their new Coastal Command aircraft, the Shackleton, was a rehash of the Lincoln. I am told it is much faster and bigger and has a much greater range. I only wish we had more of them, because I think they would do the job well.

The Minister told us that there is to be no expansion in Transport Command. That is the most depressing thing he said this afternoon. About a year ago the contracts with Vickers and Handley Page for Valettas and Hastings were cancelled. I do not know why. Yet we had a pointer in the Berlin airlift that relations with the Russians were unpleasant and the last thing we should have done was to cancel contracts for aircraft. In the last war in my own squadron we borrowed and took out to France two or three Han-nibals from British Airways. There was no transport at all as far as Transport Command was concerned. I should have thought we had learnt our lesson in that respect. But no, the contracts were cancelled a year ago, the production line was thrown completely out of order, and in the autumn the Government had to replace the contracts with these two companies.

My right hon. Friend referred to the Princess flying boat. All the newspapers, in the last two days, have said that Transport Command will get these fine aircraft, but still the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said nothing about them. I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us tonight. After all, we know that one or two senior executives of the nationalised airline B.O.A.C. pretend they are interested in flying boats when they are discussing this matter, but behind the scenes they do everything they can to belittle them. In my humble view, the Princess flying boat is one of the greatest feats of British engineering since the end of the war. When it flies, later this year, all of us will have something of which we can be really proud. It is far better for these boats to go to the Air Ministry, a willing customer, than to the Air Corporation which is not willing. The Corporation may regret its decision, but I have no doubt that the next Government will remedy things in that direction.

Command Paper 8162, the Memorandum for the Air Estimates, said: The formation of further auxiliary transport squadrons is being planned in conjunction with air charter firms. We were delighted to read that. I believe that four are to be formed as transport units. That is liable to give the impression that when they are formed we shall have four complete squadrons, but I am told that it is nothing of the kind, that there will be two aircraft in each squadron with a certain number of officers and men training at week-ends. The right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to review this matter and go much further. He would be far better advised to form auxiliary squadrons with a complete complement of aircraft, and to use those squadrons not commercially but entirely for the Air Ministry and the Air Force and the other air services, so that we have four ready-made squadrons supplied with civilian personnel who would be wearing Auxiliary Air Force uniform.

On long-term policy, it is much more difficult to decide what is to be done. There has been a lack of urgency in placing orders. We know, and it is generally known, that recently orders have been telephoned through to manufacturers under an I.T.P.—"We will discuss the price later, but for heaven's sake get on with it." That has happened only since Christmas. The problem in manufacturing aircraft is, and always has been, to decide when to go into production. They make two or three prototypes, quite rightly, to get the best one, but if one allows the scientists and technicians to continue, they will go on for ever adding bits to it, trying to improve it. It needs great wisdom to say, "All right. We are going into production and it is to be made as it is without further alteration."

The Government have waited far too long over the prototypes, which gave great performances at the Farnborough display, so that we have one or two of each instead of having squadrons fully equipped. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us, when he replies, that the aircraft now being ordered, for which orders have recently been placed, will be comparable when we get them in two or three years' time, or whatever the period may be, to aircraft of foreign Powers after a lapse of another three years? Design and technique are being improved all the time and rockets are being added to jet fighters to give them extra performance in interception; improvements are continually being devised. In the 1914–18 war a fighter aircraft was designed and built within three months. Now, with all the modern technique involved, it takes something like three to five years.

The Minister of Defence, speaking in the defence debate, said that we were nearing the complete re-equipment of our fighter squadrons. But he said that the Meteor and Vampire aircraft had been in production for some years and that we could not expect them to carry the main burden much longer. That was the point at issue earlier today, when my right hon. Friend was speaking. By that, I read that the Meteor and the Vampire are virtually out of date, but that we are keeping them on because we must have something to be matched against the enemy's fighters. While their performance is good, it is not as good in combat as that of the Sabre and the MiG-15, and we had better face up to this rather than do otherwise. We are told that the MiG-15 is superior to our existing fighters, has a performance of something like 640 miles an hour, and that because it has a swept-back wing it is very manoeuvrable at high altitudes. Not a single fighter in British squadrons today has the swept-back wing. It is very easy to understand—I am not trying to be unduly technical. The fact remains that we are really behind.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) spoke of what the Russians have achieved in building new aircraft. What they have achieved has been brought about almost entirely with the aid of complete German units and German scientists, who were taken to Russia and made to work in the aircraft factories there. It is a German effort mainly, and not Russian, so I hope we shall hear no more about what the Russians have achieved under nationalised industry.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

But is not the whole organisation of aircraft production enormous? It must be done in Russian factories, and with Russian organisation. The percentage of German people in it is very small indeed.

Air Commodore Harvey

It is not entirely in Russian factories. Do not forget that when the Russians grabbed Czechoslovakia they took over the great Skoda works and many other factories. They have been stolen from the Czechs by the Russians, who are producing modern aircraft of German design at the Skoda works.

Mr. Hughes

Nationalised factories.

Air Commodore Harvey

I do not mind whether it is nationalised or not—it is stolen property.

The Secretary of State for Air referred to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and said that five squadrons out of 20 are to get Vampire Vs. That is really cheerful news, but I should like to know when the other 15 squadrons will get new aircraft. My information is that some of the squadrons are still flying the original Vampires which have been brought home from the Middle East, discarded by Regular units, at the same time as we were sending out new Vampires to the Egyptian Air Force and to South America. Strong arguments were put forward in the House to try to justify that production of machines for other countries. It would have been justified, surely, had those aircraft been ordered, in addition, for the Auxiliary Air Force. As it is, these 15 squadrons, I believe, except one or two units, are flying aircraft which ought to be replaced at the very earliest opportunity.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted today that Royal Air Force Auxiliary fighter squadrons are remaining on a one flight basis. If I understood him rightly, however, two or three weeks ago, when questioned on this point, he said that that was not the case but that they were up to establishment. Of course, one can make establishment anything one likes, but the fact is that one flight is not a complete squadron. When we are constantly told by the Minister of Defence and others that Fighter Command is being doubled, it is nothing of the kind because 20 auxiliary squadrons are in Fighter Command and if they are on a one flight basis we ought not to be told that the whole thing is being doubled. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman understands and knows what I am getting at. He seems to be in some doubt.

Mr, A. Henderson

Perhaps I might remove a doubt which seems to be in the mind of the hon. and gallant Member. I can assure him that I was entirely correct when I said that the Auxiliary squadrons were 90 per cent, of the establishment on air crews and 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. as regards ground crews. When the establishment of the post-war Auxiliary Air Force squadrons was settled it was done on the basis of one operational flight and one training flight. It is quite right to say that they are working on that establishment today. If we are able, as I hope we shall be able one of these days, to have two operational flights, we shall have to readjust the establishment.

Air Commodore Harvey

I was not taken in by that, but I know that many hon. Members on both sides of the House, and many people outside, think of a fighter squadron as consisting of two flights, not one. I hope that after what has been said today every effort will be made to bring them up to a two flight standard.

I should also like to be assured on this. When these squadrons are called up for three months are they to get a reasonable amount of air to air firing? I know that some pilots have only fired their guns from air to air on one occasion. It is not good enough, with expensive equipment costing £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000, if pilots are not taught to fire their guns accurately in air to air practice and I should have thought that extra target camps ought to be laid down.

I would quote Mr. Sopwith, one of the original flyers and now chairman of the Hawker-Siddeley Group, the companies which constructed jet engines: If the situation deteriorates—and it may deteriorate rapidly—are we as a nation and a Commonwealth prepared? Have the R.A.F. and Commonwealth Air Forces the defensive strength they require to preserve the security and freedom of our peoples? We believe that the answer is no. I suggest that hon. Members on both sides of the House should read what was said by Mr. Sopwith, because it was very outspoken and he was right to make the speech. I believe that it was not accepted by the Minister of Supply and some of his colleagues, but only public opinion can bring a sense of urgency and get things speeded up.

Reference has been made to Bomber Command and the picture is anything but reassuring. The Memorandum says: Meanwhile, the medium bomber force will be maintained on Washingtons and Lincolns until the later types come into service "The Prime Minister's statement on defence said: The first order is being placed for a four-engined jet bomber. It does not say "has been placed," but "is being placed."

Mr. A. Henderson

It has been.

Air Commodore Harvey

Perhaps that is since the Prime Minister made his statement: I imagine that it was only in recent weeks that it has been altered. We were told that they would be flying this year and I am delighted that we shall have at least one four-engined jet fighter flying this year. But it will take a long time for it to come through all its teething troubles at Boscombe Down and elsewhere. I think the statement is far too vague and I cannot see the aircraft coming into squadrons for three or four years. I hope they will do so, but I shall be very much surprised. Let us try to do something with our American friends if we are not to have a four-engined jet bomber. We have to cope with a certain band of hon. Members who are always crabbing the Americans, but who would be well advised to inquire a little more into what they have in the way of equipment.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to go to Lakenheath and inspect a ten-engine B.36. I spent the whole day crawling over and in this aeroplane. There was no question about not telling us how much it cost. They told me they cost £1¼ million each. It had a crew of 19. Full details were published and released to the Press. It could carry 80,000 lb. weight of bombs and could fly 10,000 miles non-stop with a smaller load. If I were President Truman I should invite some of the senior Russian executives to go for a ride in this B.36. Having spent the day at Lakenheath I went home that evening far more cheerful than I had been for months, to think that we had Allies and friends who possessed such equipment. I am told that they have already made 60 or 70. Let hon. Members opposite who are constantly criticising our American friends think twice about that in the future, because it is the Americans who will help us if we get into serious trouble.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell us something about the radar chain. I know he cannot go into great detail, but it is useless having an elaborate fighter command unless we have radar with which to pick up the enemy force and with which to direct our own pilots. I am most unhappy about it, and I would like an assurance that everything possible is being done to complete the radar chain round our coasts. As I see it, there is not a moment to lose in this re-armament programme. We may have conferences with these potential enemies and things may appear to be going better. If they do, I believe that that will be the dangerous time.

Let us look upon these Estimates as an insurance policy. We have to pay a bit of extra taxation, but let us do it willingly provided the money is well spent and we are getting value for it. I am not happy that this has been done in the past six years. The present emergency calls for speed. I suggest that we cut out our peace-time administrative mentality and get production under way; otherwise, our sacrifices and efforts may be wasted.

10.28 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Crawley)

The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) has taken a prominent part in these debates on the Air Estimates for the last six years and has always made well-informed speeches. I must not insult him by saying we regard him as an old friend, but at least we do regard him as an old hand on these occasions. The same cannot be said of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). I am not sure whether this was his "solo" in his Parliamentary career in the Air Estimates, but I am sure that it is the first time he has spoken about them since the war. Being not far enough from the "maiden stakes" at this Box myself not to feel nervous, I was looking hopefully for signs of nervousness from him. I must confess I was disappointed.

I was also disappointed in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. While welcoming his interest in these matters, as I am sure all of us who take part in these debates must do, I had hoped he would make a really original contribution. But having confessed that he could not follow the great wealth of information which my right hon. and learned Friend gave to him he then fell back on the hoary annual of security. Every Opposition since time began has asked for more information and every Government has had to consider carefully about how much information to give. The right hon. Gentleman also asked for some specific information and I will try to give it.

Mr. Eden

This is rather important, and the Prime Minister is present. All I really asked was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should give the same information as our Allies. It is fantastic that the Americans can give the price of their machines and the French can do the same but we say we cannot. It is inexplicable that security should make any difference.

Mr. Crawley

I am not sure even that is a sound reason. If our Allies give some information it does not mean that we must follow suit. Therefore, an unknown factor in the total amount of information is a very good thing, even if only a marginal factor: it may be the decisive margin.

The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield made two general criticisms that have been made in these debates since the war, both of which I should like to try to answer. The first was that the expansion of the Air Force now taking place should have taken place sooner. The second was the general argument that we have not been giving value for money. There are many answers to the first criticism and some of them, particularly the economic ones, would take me into fields which would be out of order in this debate. I want to give as direct an answer as I can.

I believe that such an expansion made two or three years ago would have been a mistake. It has been said very often since the war that a country fights a war with the weapons with which it begins the war. That was broadly true of the last war, as the constant development of the Spitfire and other aircraft showed. It is not only true because of the length of time the development of aircraft takes, but because of the character of the whole production process. Once lines of production have been laid down and geared up and are going at full swing, it takes a very long time and is a very laborious process to change over to completely new types.

Remembering that, it is the planning point at which you begin an expansion of the Air Force which is of critical importance. Development constantly goes on, but it does not go on at a constant speed. If an expansion is begun towards the end of a cycle of development of types which were the best in the world when first produced, we should no doubt have a very formidable Air Force but one which would be obsolete when reaching its peak. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield made just this point in the early days after the war about the French Air Force before the war.

On the other hand, if we can begin our expansion—and there is a good deal of luck as well as of judgment in this— just when the new types have completed their trials, we have a much better chance of reaching the peak with some types in the Air Force superior to anything else in the world. If, therefore, we had begun our expansion, as the Opposition say we should have done, in 1947 and 1948, we should have been building an Air Force which even at its peak could have consisted only of aircraft which had been produced just after the war. They would have been much more fully developed types and would have been very formidable, but the expansion needed to produce the full front line now would have meant unduly postponing the introduction of new types. For instance, the Canberra had not even done its flying trials in 1948, and how could we have used our factory space which was being used for the production of types we had already constructed—and there is a limit to the amount we can spend in the production of aircraft —for the introduction of the Canberra and other new types for which production lines are being laid down at this moment?

Squadron Leader Burden

If that argument were true, no motor car firm could produce new cars at the same time as it was producing its current models.

Mr. Crawley

What I am saying is that, while we go on exploring developments, there is a limit at any time to the amount of factory space we can turn over to the production of aircraft and if we are trying to reach peak at a certain point, we must use all that capacity and postpone the introduction of new types for longer than would otherwise be the case. It is always a matter of judgment of the world situation as well as of the development of aircraft. I claim that at the moment it looks as if our judgment had not been far wrong and as if in a sense we were getting the best of two worlds in that, as we are expanding and reaching our peak, we are having very good aircraft which have reached the last stages of their development, as well as brand new aircraft which, as they come forward, will be better than anything in the world.

Therefore, I claim that we have done what the most knowledgeable of hon. Members opposite have pressed us to do for some years past. We have built up, and are continuing to build, a "quality" Air Force which should satisfy the demands which I remember the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Ward) made of our Air Force some time ago. He said that it should be capable of rapid and smooth expansion. Well, the expansion now going on will be rapid and smooth, and in the very near future we shall have an Air Force which I think we shall be able to claim is a greater deterrent to aggression than any other weapon this country has ever possessed.

Another point which I think was raised by the hon. Member, or by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield, was about the reserve of old aircraft. Of course, we have a very large reserve of old aircraft, and those are being refurbished and they could be put into action very quickly should the need arise.

I should like now to say a little about the American aircraft. I was glad that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington in his speech did not take the view—sometimes unfortunately taken —that the fact that we were using some American aircraft, and considering the use of others, was in any sense at all a reflection either on this country or our own aircraft industry. The hon. and gallant Member for Gosport (Surgeon-Lieut.-Commander Bennett) often talks about this, and seems to imply that the fact that we are considering the use of American aircraft is something of a disgrace to us. I cannot imagine any attitude calculated to be more harmful to this country.

Of course, there must be competition between countries in aircraft production and design; it is essential; and we hope that British aircraft will always be the best. But it is unreasonable to expect that at every stage of aircraft development we should be best; and where we are concerned with a friendly Power—an Ally— and that Ally produces an aircraft which is in some respects better than our own, then it is fantastic to suggest that we must not even consider using that aircraft. If we adopted that attitude, how could we expect them to use our aircraft when ours are better than theirs? The whole basis of a common defence policy, such as is inherent in the Atlantic Treaty, is in sharing the effort at all stages, and the more advantage that is taken of that, the better. It may well be that at one moment one partner may be able to fill in some gap.

This leads me to long-range bombing, about which several hon. Members have spoken in relation to American tactics. The Prime Minister has said that we have placed orders for four-engined jet bombers, and the fact that we have had a considerable development in this type of aircraft shows the importance which His Majesty's Government attach to that, and to strategic bombing. It is quite clearly absurd to suggest that we should tackle the problem of strategic bombing without considering the help we can get from the Americans. Largely from their strategic needs in the world, they have put strategic bombing very high, whereas this country has found it necessary to give equally high priority to the building of a fighter force. They have developed heavy bombers, and it is an immense addition to our own strength; bearing in mind the great success of the Canberra, I hope will give our aircraft constructors time to develop something even better. I must say that I deplore what I can only describe as a spirit of narrow nationalism which has recently crept into these debates on defence. This has been one of the great obstacles in building up Western defences, and it is one we have all to make every effort to overcome.

Then there has been the complaint that we are not getting value for money. In a world which is undergoing such rapid development as the world of the air at the moment, I must say it is difficult sometimes to keep one's sense of values. Just for a moment I should like to try to remind the House of the immense developments that have taken place in aircraft in the last decade. Although, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, in 1936–39 the average spent on aircraft was less than now, taking into consideration the change in the value of money the actual amount spent in 1939 itself was probably just about the same as now. Yet if one looks back to the aircraft flying then and at the aircraft now, there really is a colossal development which represents an enormous increase in value.

Think of the Wellington bomber. I know that many hon. Members knew its capabilities at first hand, but it came to me as rather a shock to find that it was never able to reach Berlin from this country, though carrying an infinitesimal load compared with those of today. Today we have the B.36, which is American, and which can get half-way around the world without stopping. But we have the Canberra, which is an interesting comparison because the Wellington was our heavy bomber then. The Canberra today is a light bomber, weighs half as much again, has twice the range, flies three times as high, is faster than the latest Spitfire, and flies at a greater height. That aircraft is coming into squadrons this year, and if it does not represent value for money, I do not know what does.

The comparison of fighters is equally interesting. The Meteor VIII, to take one, is a really remarkable and efficient aircraft and it climbs to 40,000 ft. in half the time the latest Spitfire does, and what is interesting and what surprises me is that it has a slightly greater range at that height at this moment; and a far greater weight of armament due to improved gun-sights and so on.

Regarding the MiG-15, I have no doubt whatever that our fighters—the type we are now using—will give a very adequate account of themselves against the MiG-15 or any other aircraft. I am not going to indulge in a lot of speculation about the performance of the MiG-15. Some of the very interesting figures given by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas) and by others cannot be described as anything more than an estimate and a speculation. Of the MiG-15, on the other hand, we have had a little real experience. It is an aircraft which has been seen and met in action in quite considerable numbers in the Far East. Although we must take this experience with caution, because we do not know who the pilots were and there are certain limitations to their radius of action in that theatre, I would rather base such estimates on that experience rather than on pure speculation.

It is perfectly true to say that on the experience that we have so far, not only have aircraft, exactly or nearly comparable to those we are using fared very well against the MiG-15, but no aircraft that the Americans have put up against them have appeared to be outclassed. That was a very limited experience but it is at least something to go on and it is not such a gloomy or depressing picture as some hon. Members opposite try to suggest.

Another thing in which we are getting better value for money even than before is in the skill of our pilots. Obviously the machines are no good unless the men can live up to the improvements in them. The fact is—and I think it is most remarkable —that the technical skill of our pilots seems to be keeping pace with the technical improvements in the machines. When jet aircraft came into service, their short range presented a good many problems. Their lack of fuel gave the fighter pilots going up in them, if they were to carry out any operations, very limited time to get back to their bases, and if they were to fly in bad as well as fair weather a vastly improved technique had to be developed.

The truth is that new technique really has been developed to a remarkable degree. Even at the end of the war cloud-flying by fighter pilots was not really a common event. Today, it is an everyday order. Whole squadrons take off and fly through 20,000 feet of cloud or more, carrying out their exercises and returning to base, with ground to air control, with an accuracy which is quite astonishing, remembering that for fighter aircraft there is only one man to use the instruments.

I believe that this is the greatest improvement of all—the training of the pilots themselves and the value they are giving. Underneath all this development in the air is the immense development on the ground in technique. One example is the number of items of equipment there used to be in the R.A.F. at the beginning of the last war, which was about a quarter of a million. It is now about three quarters of a million. That, of course, emphasises the vital part that radio and radar and auxiliary equipment plays. But it also means we have to have a much larger technical branch. It is true that there are more people now in the Air Force per aircraft than there were before the war but it is also true that each aircraft is far more efficient and can do many, many times more than the aircraft of those days. I think nothing would be farther from the truth than to suggest that, technically, we are not getting value for money.

Lastly, there is the field of research. This is, in a sense, outside the sphere of the Air Ministry, but it is very hard to resist peeping into the future, and all I would say about this today is that the possibility of the guided missile and other developments is even more revolutionary than the possibilities brought into being by the jet. The speed of development is actually increasing, so that we may find ourselves up against those possibilities rather sooner than many think.

I would like to say one or two words about the questions which the right hon. Gentleman asked about the Auxiliary Air Force. There are to be 20 squadrons and there are also the other units, such as observation units, which will be under other commands, and the transport squadrons, which will be under Transport Command The pilots for the auxiliary squadrons will come, we hope, to a large extent from pre-selected National Service men, and from conversations I have had with the commanding officers of these squadrons, I believe that the system will work. The commanding officers seem to be quite satisfied that they can get the number of men they want, provided they can get the lists of those to be called up in time, and so on.

I would like to pay a tribute myself to the Auxiliary Air Force and say how immensely I admire the spirit in which they have taken their call-up I have been visiting a good many squadrons and I have not found anywhere people jibbing at it or making objections. The only objections I have had are from people who are desperately keen to do it, but are finding it hard, for business or domestic reasons. We are doing all we can to help them.

I was asked whether it was possible for these squadrons to cope with modern fighter flying. Many people have questioned this since the war, but my own view, on what I have heard recently, is that it can be done. It is perfectly true that the flying is very difficult. In the days before the war it used to be done with biplanes and the range of control from the ground was so short that a few minutes away from the aerodrome the pilot was left to his own devices. If things went wrong he could always find a field to get down by himself. But today the whole thing is changed. It is highly technical, and these men are judged by Regular standards. They are judged as Regulars, although they fly in their spare time. They do a full week's work, and yet they are considered, are accounted, and are a part of our front line defence.

In the circumstances, I wonder whether the term "auxiliary" has not become out of date. Indeed, I am told by those responsible for their training that some squadrons are already at a level equal to Regular squadrons, and if it is true of some, it ought to be true of all in time. I think, therefore, that we can answer that question hopefully, and say that in spite of the immense difficulties it is likely that the auxiliary squadrons will be able to keep up to the standard.

Mr. Eden

I would not like anything I said to be taken to indicate that the present squadrons cannot do the job, but there is the problem looming up that with the increased technical difficulties lying ahead it will not be possible to ask these people to do the training. I am sure that they can do the job now.

Mr. Crawley

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's interest in this matter. I think that we shall have to wait and see—if equipment comes on at the present rate, even with the newest types it may be possible for them to continue.

I do not think that many people quite realise how much time these auxiliaries do give to their training. I went into the question of what they were statutorily obliged to do and what, in fact, they were doing. According to a cross-section, both officers and men were doing between three and four times more than they were supposed to do, and I am sure that I can say, on behalf of the House, how much we appreciate their efforts.

I was asked many questions, and one particularly about flying boats. About flying boats, I can only say, in general, that the experts now consider that the demands of Coastal Command and other commands can be better met by land-based aircraft. Land-based aircraft now have a longer range, and are lighter and cheaper to produce and man. At the moment, replacements for flying boats have not got high priority. That does not mean to say that the R.A.F. thinks that they will disappear forever, or that we shall not develop prototypes, but it does mean that in this present expansion—and the Americans agree with us—the work can better be done by land-based aircraft There is no mystery at all about the Princess flying boat, but a final decision has not been taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] We are giving favourable consideration to the possibility of using these boats as a war-time reserve for military transports, and I hope that a decision will be taken very soon.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Have the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force been consulted as to whether they might need flying boats on Coastal Command duties in their waters, where they are a greater factor than here?

Mr. Crawley

We have not consulted them, and I cannot say offhand whether they consulted us, but undoubtedly they would consult us if they wanted these aircraft.

Sir P. Macdonald

Does the hon. Gentleman realise what his statement means to those who have been engaged for years in the building up of these flying boats to be told by one Government Department after another that the boats were to be carried on and completed? Are they, or are they not to be completed; or are they to be abandoned? Something has to be said soon.

Mr. Crawley

I can assure the hon. Member, with whose interest I fully sympathise, that we hope to give a decision very soon. The R.A.F. was not asked to consider this question until very recently.

I was asked a good many questions about both the A.T.C. and photographic reconnaissance. About the A.T.C, I would make this point. Since the war we have concentrated on quality rather than on quantity. I admit that for the last three years there has been a slight decrease in the total numbers, but recently numbers have been going up again and, more important, the number of proficient cadets has also been going up. With regard to flying experience, it is possible for A.T.C. squadrons to get Link trainer and we shall try to help them to do so to a greater extent. In Link trainer, although on the ground, one can get more interesting flying experience than in most other forms of training open to the A.T.C. I welcome the speeches on photographic reconnaissance, and I can assure hon. Members who take an interest in the subject that we do not under-estimate its importance. My right hon. Friend pointed out that the photographic units will soon be getting the Canberra as their aircraft, and one cannot imagine a better aircraft.

Lastly I will turn to Transport Command. I cannot help feeling that people are rather misled by comparison with the war-time Transport Command. One is apt to forget that there is a very big reserve of civil aircraft operating in this country now which could and would be taken over by Transport Command when war broke out. We believe that the actual carrying capacity at this moment is big enough for all the needs we can foresee, at least in the early stages of any possible war.

Air Commodore Harvey

Is the hon. Gentleman quite certain that the Corporations would be taken over at the outbreak of war? Surely our lines of communication would need civil aircraft?

Mr. Crawley

I do not say that the Corporations would, in so many words, be taken over. I said that we have plans for taking over a large part of this civil reserve and, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, we have plans for using as much or as little of the Corporations' capacity as we should think necessary for the war if it came. We have also a very large reserve of civil aircraft and a large reserve of crews who can fly them. Therefore, I cannot view with any sense of depression the fact that Transport Command has been allowed to be run down. It can be expanded very rapidly and the carrying capacity is there. After all, in an expansion such as the present, one must put first things first, and we do not for present purposes need a larger regular Transport Command.

I end by saying that the picture I have tried to paint shows not only that we are expanding our Air Force at the right time in the right way, but that we have, in fact, as hon. Members on all sides have asked for, a very high-quality Air Force which is capable of further expansion and improvement and is a real deterrent now to any aggressor.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Profumo (Stratford)

I hope the House will forgive me for intervening, but before we agree to sanction expenditure of the astronomical figure presented to us today, we are entitled to more discussion, particularly with regard to the speech of the Under-Secretary of State. I have listened to all of the debate, and have been profoundly depressed and upset. We had an opening speech from the Secretary of State, who told us very little, and we expected the Under-Secretary to try to deal with some of the questions raised by hon. Members on this side. I am not at all impressed by the Under-Secretary's argument that the Government have delayed re-armament on purpose, in order to start it when Britain's designs were better than those of any other countries. One can always wait for something better, but if we go on waiting, what is going to happen if we are subjected to attack from a foreign invader?

Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Is the suggestion that we should have used our capacity to produce obsolete aircraft merely because we have not up-to-date designs?

Mr. Profumo

Of course not What we have been told today by the Secretary of State is that the aeroplanes in Fighter Command and Bomber Command are obsolete already. In a world which changes as speedily as this one does, aircraft are going to become obsolete very shortly after they are the latest thing, but one dare not go on waiting for ever and ever. It is a false argument that this has been done on purpose. Of course it has not. We have had speeches from the two political heads of this great Service, but instead of coming here like shining lights telling the House what wonderful things the Service is doing, they have dodged around like tired boxers, defending themselves. It has been the same all through this Government's period of office. It has always been hon. Members on this side who have been urging the Government to take action.

I want to go back to the argument used at the beginning of this debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) about secrecy. It cropped up again in the Under-Secretary's speech. Really we have had enough of this. We have been handicapped in our deliberations in the past by the Government always drawing the blanket of secrecy over our air strength. We shall want to discuss this in greater detail than before because of the re-armament programme, and I hope that we shall not be fobbed off with meaningless comparisons. Other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation do not act as we are acting. They are giving a great deal more information about the strength of their Air Forces and the speed of the build-up of their re-armament programmes.

We should look at it this way. What is our re-armament programme for? It is not because we are contemplating an attack on any country. It is for defence, in order that we may deter any potential aggressor. It seems to me that we ought to tell any potential aggressor more about our fighting strength than we have done so far. It is also important that there should be no room for suspicion among our allies that this country is not pulling its full weight in our concerted rearmament programme. The only way we shall get the maximum results from the people of this country is by being perfectly frank, taking them into the confidence of the Government, and thus re-establishing some of the confidence that existed in the past. I hope we shall stop playing guessing games, and be told in future the frank truth.

The proposed call up under the new defence scheme can amount only to window-dressing unless the greatest possible use is made of the time these men are serving with the forces. The question we have to ask today is—whether there is enough equipment to occupy these men when they are called up? The Estimates tell us that there are 10,000 people being called up for 15 days' service. We have been told by the Secretary of State that under 9,000 are to be called up. Does that reduction of 1,000 means that the Government have decided that there is not enough radar equipment on which these people can train, and therefore that they have to cut down the force? If not, I hope that at some opportunity we shall be reassured about that.

In regard to the R.A.F.V.R. and R.A.F. Reserve personnel to be called up for three months, it is again a question of the right sort of equipment. These people are by and large trained at reserve schools operated by civilian companies and up to now these reserve schools have had only very out-of-date aircraft. In the Air Estimates last year the Secretary of State told the House that it was not possible to allocate modern type trainers, except to Regular schools. Can we have an assurance that there will be up-to-date modern training types of aircraft for these schools and that civilian instructors will be better treated than in the past? I believe that any man who spends his three months' training in this way on elementary aircraft when he has already served in the Air Force will be wasting his time and it will be the worst possible advertisement for this training scheme.

There are two other things which arise out of this call-up. It is clear that there can only be rough justice, but I find there is a lot of dissatisfaction among people who are unhappy that the burden of service is not being fairly shared. We have not been told what are the reserved occupations, but we have been told there is a schedule of reserved occupations. I ask the Government to consider those men who were in reserved occupations during the last war and who are no longer in reserved occupations and to call them up under the National Service scheme each year, although they might be over the ages of those in the call-up. If the country felt that this was being fairly shared, we should get a better response.

On the question of pay, I think that particularly in the R.A.F. those men who are being called up for 18 months service will be liable to suffer. In many cases they are earning very high salaries in private life and for 18 months they will receive much lower remuneration. I cannot see why the Government do not arrange with the firms who are now employing these men that they should make up the pay. I believe one reason is that the nationalised industries do not wish to do so. I think this should be a statutory charge on the Treasury.

We have heard mention tonight of Air Observation Post squadrons, and as far as I can calculate from the Auxiliary Reserve figures we have been given, there are two such squadrons. Are they manned by Auster aeroplanes as they were during the war, or are they to have helicopters, or something more modern? Is the Air Force to be responsible for the aeroplanes flown, or are they to be manned from the artillery, as during the war? Two squadrons is far too small a number. We must see that there is more adequate provision of Air Observation Post squadrons than at present appears from the Estimates.

Finally, may I emphasise what I think is the most important of all air problems? I refer to the production of large numbers of aircraft. We have heard a great deal about the situation in Fighter Command and in Bomber Command, and no statement from the Government Front Bench has changed the opinion formed by my hon. Friends that this situation is far from satisfactory. Our present fighter aircraft certainly do not come up to those which they may have to engage in any potential enemy Air Force. We have been told that a four-jet-engine long-range bomber is on order, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman told us that it will soon be flying. Presumably he meant the prototype which has not yet flown. One question was repeatedly asked by my hon. Friends—when can we expect to have this four-jet-engine long-range bomber in service with the squadrons? We have had no answer and I do not believe that the Minister knows. Until we get an answer to that question, we shall not be satisfied.

I believe that the Government have wasted a great deal of time by procrastination and by building political castles in the air, when we might have had aeroplanes in the air. How are we to put that right? First, the aircraft industry must be given proper instructions. We have been told that the industry still does not know what is expected of it. Secondly, nothing must be allowed to clog the wheels of production. The very highest priority must be given for raw materials and manpower required by this vital industry.

I am not sure that the present Government are capable of such a scheme, but if they are, I suggest that the Ministry of Supply must have a more highly developed aircraft section capable of deciding on the proportion of bombers to fighters. It must be capable of knocking peoples' heads together and seeing that production lines are maintained at top pitch. Industry must be given its instructions, and we must get the aircraft, both bombers and fighters, to the squadrons as soon as possible, so that we do not have to rely on the Americans to lend or sell us aeroplanes for ever. It will be very dangerous if we do not maintain our old tradition of having a balanced and independent Air Force. Only by making this project one of the very highest national urgency can we hope to complete what one might call "Operation Airworthy."

11.14 p.m.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton (Inverness)

The Under-Secretary of State must have had an agreement with his right hon. and learned Friend because he gave us no more information than his right hon. and learned Friend had given us. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo), I am not very impressed with the reason given for not having started the expansion sooner. The Government have been living in a kind of fool's paradise. They have shown excessive trust. Why else did they sell our latest type jet engines to Russia? They have been living on phrases like, "Left understands Left." They have been believing that there never is to be any more war. The other day the Minister of Labour said he was a student of Karl Marx. Probably he has also read a certain amount of Lenin and perhaps this particular paragraph from Lenin's "War Programme of the Proletarian Revolution." In certain cases, writes Lenin, war on the part of Soviet Russia: Would be a just war, would be a war for Socialism, for the liberation of other nations from the bourgeoisie."

Mr. Porter (Leeds. Central)

Everyone says that.

Lord Douglas-Hamilton

I can assure the House that for all practical purposes the Russians would consider hon. Members sitting opposite just as much bourgeoisas we are, and their intentions towards them would be exactly the same. The Government have been living in a fool's paradise and that is the real reason we have not had enough done.

We have always the problem of when aircraft should go into production. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) pointed that out. That is a difficulty which has to be solved; but the real difficulty is that we did not get down to the realisation of the danger until too late. The Under-Secretary said that we have a quality Air Force and that a rapid expansion is to take place; but we know that we are not going to get a heavy bomber of our own for three or four years. We have to depend on the Americans for this. I have no objection to depending on the Americans. They are our allies, and we have to use the best aircraft available. But we must not lose the "know-how" of making these bombers.

This type of aircraft with a radius of action of 5,000 miles, has revolutionised military history, and with this type of bomber we can command the air to a great extent over enemy territory. The problem in a country like Russia will be the vast distances, and finding targets by day and night. There will be one snag in this. The Russians have no doubt foreseen this and probably already have a number of targets underground. The great principle in bombing is to hit war material before it leaves the factories. The next best place to hit it is when it is on its way to the front, to hit the transport; and the worst place is when it is at the front.

There is this immediate problem. The first danger we would have to face in war is attack by air and submarine. Therefore, I regret that we have not the best fighters in the world in service. In regard to the MiG-15, the Under-Secretary of State said that it was doubtful how this aircraft performed. I have here an account written by General Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, in which he compares the MiG-58 with the American Sabre, and we have to admit that an aircraft like the Sabre is something we have not got in the R.A.F. today. General Vandenberg says: There's very little to choose between the Russian MiG-15 and our own F-86 Sabre. The F-86 has a slight edge in speed, range and diving ability. Our F-84 trades some of the speed of these two planes for much greater range and load capacity, but even so its record against MiG's is highly favourable. … The fact that the margin of superiority can be slim sometimes, or temporarily cease to exist, is a strong argument for achieving as close a parity in operational strength as possible. I think that posing of the problem by a man whose Air Force has been in action against this type of aircraft is sound. The hon. Gentleman said that we on this side had claimed that we were not getting value for money, and there is a good deal of validity in that. In the debate on defence, the Minister of Labour said something which I think is misleading the country. He said: I am not frightened by the situation."— {OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 735.] He based that statement on the fact that Russia has a narrower technological front than we have. I think that is a remark calculated to allay fears in this country at a time when the truth should be told and the country should be aware of the danger we are in. I congratulate the Secretary of State on being the first Front Bench speaker to speak on defence who has used the word "urgent" in talking about defence needs. What are we going to do if the emergency comes in a few months or within the next two years? Have we got any kind of 'plane ready to cope with it? Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any knowledge of the airborne divisions of Soviet Russia? I have heard it indicated that Russia can, on mobilisation, get together 100 airborne divisions. Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any information on that point?

Several hon. Members have spoken about the run-down of Coastal Command. One hon. Member produced evidence of the number of U-boats which Coastal Command sank during the last war. None of us would deny that Coastal Command is one of the most effective ways of sinking U-boats; but I would disagree with the hon. Member for Stroud and Thornbury (Mr. Perkins) in his suggestion that Coastal Command should be under the Royal Navy. No one admires the Royal Navy more than I do, but I think Coastal Command should remain in the R.A.F. Coastal Command is vitally important for our protection against U-boats, but we should have today, if we are to be secure, something like six operational aircraft for every possible enemy U-boat. I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he thinks we have one operational aircraft for every 10 enemy U-boats—for that is the most likely figure.

There is another factor in discussing rearmament. I believe that with the help of the Americans—and make no mistake about it, the Americans have realised the danger sooner than we have—we are likely to be in a position sooner than we might have been to give a reasonable account of ourselves. We are arming for the purpose of maintaining peace. That is absolutely clear, and while we are doing that we must make sure that we are scrupulously fair in our dealings in every way with other nations. I do not think this should in any way mean that we should kotow to aggressors in any shape or form. There were one or two hon. Members in the defence debate who said they would rather label the Chinese as aggressors, and not brand them as such. I think our feelings on this side of the House are summed up very well, although we support these Estimates, in the words Tennyson wrote rather more than 100 years ago. Those words were: Not ours the fault if we have feeble hosts— If easy patrons of their kin, Have left the last free race with naked coasts, They knew the precious things they had to guard, For us, we will not spare the tyrant one hard word.

11.23 p.m.

Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke first this afternoon, some of us on this side of the House who were interested in the problem of photographic reconnaissance thought that we were to get some more detailed consideration for this very important arm of the R.A.F., and when the right hon. and learned Gentleman was fortified by support from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Squadron Leader Kinghorn) and a very cogent argument from the hon. and gallant Member for Gillingham (Squadron Leader Burden), we thought that the Under-Secretary of State would give us some positive response. But what have we had? We have had the simple statement that the hon. Gentleman cannot imagine a better aircraft than the Canberra. That is all the response that the Air Ministry are able to give the House on this vital question of photographic reconnaissance —"they cannot imagine a better aircraft than the Canberra."

It seems to me that photographic reconnaissance is still regarded as the Cinderella of the R.A.F. There cannot be a more vital arm of our Defence Forces at this time. I am bound to say that my right hon. and hon. Friends are profoundly disturbed at the unprepared-ness of the photographic reconnaissance units at this time. It is not sufficient to say that one cannot imagine a better aircraft than the Canberra. I should like to point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman—I am sure he knows this, but perhaps hon. Members behind him may not know it—that photographic reconnaissance planes are forced to fly deep into the enemy territory by day unarmed, and it is essential that we have in the sky the fastest aeroplanes at all times with very considerable endurance.

It really is throwing lives away to suppose at this time that we can put aircraft in the sky—such as light bombers like the Canberra—to be opposed by aeroplanes such as the Russian MiGs. It really is not good enough to ask men of the Royal Air Force to be subjected to such risks as that. At every stage of aircraft development of this country, the first priority, and I have no hesitation in saying, should always be the photographic reconnaissance units. They should always have, year by year, the finest and fastest aircraft available.

This particular arm of the Royal Air Force grew up in the last war partly by accident, but towards the end it achieved a great importance. When it was necessary for the Government to economise in military forces a year or two back, one of the first things they did was to disband the organisation which had proved so valuable in war. If another war were unfortunately to break out, the first thing the Government would probably have to do would be to reinstate the photographic reconnaissance squadrons on exactly the same basis as during 1939–45. It seems to be the height of folly that we should do away with an organisation that proved so effective in the last war.

The hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth and the hon. and gallant Member for Gillingham, with considerable argument, made a case for the creation within the Air Ministry of a director of reconnaissance, and I add my own words to theirs. It is important, indeed it is vital, that this particular branch of the Service should be taken out of one particular command—in this case Bomber Command. It is not an adjunct of Bomber Command, or any one command. It is a service which has developed for all the Services, whether Royal Air Force, Army, Navy, or Ministry of Economic Warfare, as in the last war.

This must be a service which is dealt with at Air Ministry level under its own command, and it is not sufficient to have it relegated to some particular part of Bomber Command where its problems will be related to the problems of Bomber Command and to those of no one else. I must say that we are exceedingly disappointed and depressed that the Under-Secretary, in his reply, should have treated the argument put forward from both sides of the House, with so little consideration. I hope sincerely that something more will be done in this field.

I want next to deal for a few moments with the question of the photographic equipment. I am advised—and I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman can contradict me—that the equipment we are using for this vital service is inferior to that used by the Americans and by any other country. We are today still using equipment, both in the air and on the ground, which was not the best even in 1939–45. We were not at all impressed by an Air Ministry "hand-out" a few days ago when the right hon. and learned Gentleman took a delegation from, I think it was Yugoslavia, to an air station. This Air Ministry official "hand-out" was about our photographic reconnaissance units and their equipment, and the statement in "The Times" was that the aircraft which we used were the best obtainable, and that the same could be said of the photographic equipment.

The Russians, against whom we are presumably defending ourselves, must know that, when one talks of Meteor 10's as being our short-range planes, and says that one day we shall have Canberras, our readiness in photographic reconnaissance is about nil. That "hand-out" can only have created the worst possible impression overseas, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman should make a very close examination of the standard of equipment being used today.

Then I should like to ask what is being done in the field of radar photography. Something has been done in all countries over the past few years, but are we, as a nation, making sufficient effort in this field? During the war considerable effort was made with night photography, but for one reason or another it did not get very far. In radar photography considerable strides were being made both at the end of the war, and just afterwards, but in the last few years little has been done. It may well be that not much more effort is required to get us up to considerable efficiency in this field, and I hope that at any rate attention will be paid to it.

I should like to say a few words on the question of the recall of "G" reservists. The photographic interpreters are specialists, and the work which they did was the result of much experience and cannot be gained overnight. It was the result of many months of training and effort, and these particular men and women who had such specialised knowledge should be considered at the present time and, if necessary, given refresher training. I urge the Air Ministry not to consider photographic reconnaissance any longer as the Cinderella of the Service; I urge them to give it the highest possible priority, but we shall not be able to get all we want unless and until a Director of Reconnaissance is appointed either in the Air Ministry or in the Ministry of Defence.

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

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Colonel Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]