§ LORD ADDISON rose to call attention to the defective administration of the Ministry of Air as revealed in the recent Report of the Cadman Committee and in the serious arrears of supply for the Services notwithstanding great expenditure of public money; to ask what action the Government propose to take; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is certainly appropriate that the matter referred to in the Motion that stands in my name should be discussed in your Lordships' House, seeing that the Secretary of State for Air is a member of this House. I will endeavour to avoid anything polemical or of a Party political character in putting this Motion before your Lordships. The times are too grave for that. But I think that if the Government seek the support of organised labour in facilitating the provision of armaments in an increased measure, they may fairly be asked to define somewhat more clearly than is now defined the purposes for which they are to be provided. In addition to that, I am sure it is in the interests of all of us that the methods of that provision should be efficient and should be economical.
§ This Department is entrusted with the expenditure of a vast sum of money, and it has, in another respect recently been the subject of an inquiry. The reflections which arise from the findings of the Cadman Committee prompt me to submit this Motion to your Lordships. May I, in a word, recall what preceded the appointment of that Committee? It was alleged that certain matters were not as they should be with regard to civil aviation, and at first: the Government did not accept the necessity for a special inquiry. After considerable pressure it was proposed that a Committee, consisting of civil servants in the main, should make the inquiry, but as a result of renewed pressure in the House of Commons we finally had the Cadman Committee appointed. I think your Lordships will agree that we must look a long way back to find a Committee whose conclusions have been so rapidly arrived at, 194 and which are so desolating in their character so far as their criticism goes of the conduct of the Department of State concerned. We shall be told, I dare say, that in asking, as I shall ask, for a further inquiry into the workings of the Department of Air with regard to its provision for the military Air Services, the time is not opportune for an inquiry. The Prime Minister, indeed, said so in the House of Commons. Well, I suggest that that will not bear very close examination. If the Department is entirely efficient, there is nothing to fear from an inquiry, and if it is otherwise, it is never too late to remedy a deficiency. I remember, as do we all, that in the first year of the last Great War we had to reform completely our methods of providing munitions and to institute, in the middle of all the turmoil and difficulty of war, a new system. It had to be done for safety's sake. Therefore, if there is a good presumption—and I think I shall be able to establish it—that an inquiry is called for in this case, then it can do nothing but good if things are put upon a better basis.
§ I would first remind your Lordships of two or three of the important findings of the Cadman Committee. They said that they viewed the position as revealed by their inquiry with "extreme disquiet"; that little progress had been made since the Maybury Committee had reported: that certain things wanted doing much better; and, in fact, that the picture was virtually "as black as they then painted it"—I am using their words. And the important conclusion of this matter was that, with regard to the Ministry for Air, there had been no planning by the Ministry during this period; there had been no decision by the Air Ministry on matters of policy; and the Ministry was relying practically entirely upon one great civil firm, which was presumably operating in the public interest, with regard to the provision of civil aviation. I do not propose to go into the record of Imperial Airways; it stands before us in the Committee's Report. It is a discreditable record—very. I confess that it does not fill me with any special enthusiasm for that method of providing for public supplies. I shall come back to that in a minute or two. But the Cadman Report goes on to point out on page 9, paragraph 18, that "the Secretary of State for Air is directly responsible for the development of both military and civil aviation," 195 and that they cannot be separated. It goes on to point out that the Department is too taken up with trivial matters—too departmentalised—to have any complete review of the work which is before it, to have any central control, any real, understanding, organised drive. The Committee say that more virility is required in the initiation of policy and forward planning, and that "the higher control of the Department must be strengthened."
I want your Lordships to give particular attention to two recommendations of the Cadman Committee, because the Government have not seen fit to adopt them. On page 10, in paragraph 23, the Report says:
It devolves upon the Secretary of State to stimulate the development of research and design … to encourage suitable organisation of the aircraft industry. … This responsibility seems to have been neglected in many respects; although shortage of funds may have contributed to this result, we regard the defects in the Air Ministry organisation as the primary cause.
In the two succeeding paragraphs the Committee make very important recommendations as to the improvements which they believe are fundamentally necessary in the organisation of the Air Ministry. Paragraph 24 refers to research and development in aviation, and goes on to say that the custom of the Department is that officers should temporarily occupy the post, and be there a short time, and so on. It concludes:
There can, of course, be neither the continuity nor the experience required for an efficient policy of aviation development and research under such a system.
That would appear to me to be self-evident. If you have a man, however eminent he may be, in a Department of this vital key character only for a short time and then replaced by somebody else, it is clear that he cannot conceivably obtain that body of experience and knowledge which is necessary to develop a considered scheme of design and other matters which affect aviation development.
The next paragraph of the Committee's Report makes another recommendation relating to the methods for obtaining supplies, which the Government also have not seen their way to adopt. I must, I am afraid, read something of it to your Lordships rather than epitomise it:
Likewise in the case of production, the member of Council responsible under the existing organisation is a military officer also appointed for a short period. Here again, however distinguished an individual officer may be "—
I am quoting—
the problems of aircraft production on a large scale are, with modern processes, so specialised that it is contrary to all sense to expect a military officer without previous knowledge and experience of such matters, and holding office for a limited term, to deal effectively with the situation.
It seems also that that must be self-evident.
In regard to these two very important recommendations, so far as I can understand it the Government do not see their way to adopt them. They have adopted some of the recommendations of the Committee. They have appointed a Permanent Under-Secretary, who presumably—again I quote the book—is to secure
the full and constant correlation of the policies of civil and military aviation.
I suggest to your Lordships that it is impossible for any man, however capable, to secure that effective correlation, if the two vital departments affected are to be controlled, in the way they are controlled, by men coming and going. At all events the Government says on this, at page v, paragraph 22:
The chief function of the Department's research and experimental organisation is to provide the industry with fundamental data upon which the design of aircraft and equipment can be based.
I shall have to return to that. I think it is absolutely wrong. It is bound to lead to failure, but at all events, so far as this particular recommendation for securing continuity of occupancy in these vital departments is concerned, the Government have not seen their way to adopt the recommendation of the Cadman Committee. Then, turning to the next page, in paragraph 25 the Government decline to take the view that the proposed transfer to the Permanent Under-Secretary of that part of the Department of the Air Member for Supply and Organisation which deals with the production of aircraft is likely to produce a more efficient organisation. They go on, at the top of page vii, in regard to this general matter, to say that they
do not propose to accept the Committee's proposal concerning the duties of Service Members of the Air Council"—
that is, the officers who hold these high positions for a short time, and then go away and make room for somebody else.
§ I want to concentrate what I have to say mainly upon what are the obvious, and I think the inevitable, consequences of these defects. May I refer the noble Viscount to a debate which he and I had in another place on July 22, 1935. I had there been pleading, by a series of questions, for a different method of procuring supplies of munitions of war. I am not going now to inflict upon your Lordships a discourse upon the method which I think ought to be adopted, but at that time the noble Viscount explained that the Government proposed to adopt a system whereby they would rely upon fourteen or fifteen main firms in the British Aircraft Constructors' Association, and that they would deal with design in the first place and arrange for supply subject to the requirements of the Minister. He, not without some scorn, threw cold water upon the suggestion that there might be a better method by the institution of national factories. I hope he will not re-adopt that method to-day. I am sure he has not good warrant for it in the results.
§ Might I ask him to remember that he referred to an aircraft factory which had begun to be provided in 1917, and which gave a trivial yield of aircraft at the end of the War. That is entirely beside the mark. The shadow factories which he himself has created are not yet in the full producing stage, and are not likely to be for some months. Anyone who knows anything about this sort of business knows that if you open a factory and get it producing within two years, you are doing pretty well. I would not blame him because his shadow factories are not yet turning out full supplies. It was not to be expected within this time. The consequence, anyhow, with this excessive departmentalism in the Air Ministry itself, without continuity of control or supervision in the two vital departments of design and production is that we are now confronted with this result. We were to have, as we were told in 1935, a certain supply of first-line squadrons by March 31, 1937. They were to be the latest and best types, fully equipped with instruments, and so on.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
I am sorry 198 to interrupt the noble Lord, but I am sure he has no wish to make a mis-statement. This matter was fully dealt with in another place. The statement was that by March 31, 1937, there would be 1,500 first-line aeroplanes, but it was never said they would be all of modern types in process of development. On the contrary, it was made perfectly plain that the squadrons to be formed would be armed by types which were then in production, and re-equipped aftenvards. That is exactly the policy that is being carried out.
§ LORD ADDISON
I have no wish to mis-state, but I certainly understood, and I think Parliament understood, that the squadrons which were to be ready by March 31, 1937, whilst of course obviously many of them would have to be of types which were then the standard types, would be fully equipped with apparatus and so on. If I overstated it, I am sorry, but the date by which they were to be supplied was March, 1937, and we are now in March, 1938, and according to the White Paper which has just been issued, although the noble Viscount will tell us what it really means, we are told that rearmament will be substantially completed during the current financial year, meaning 1939. This may refer to something more, and something beyond, but it is undeniable, even if we are not to include the latest ancillary apparatus, and so on, that there is a grievous delay, so far as that programme is concerned. I am putting it at a year, but I see that in another place Mr. Churchill put it at two years. Whether or not that is a misrepresentation, at any rate we are greatly in arrear.
I suggest that two vital defects in the way of obtaining supplies are responsible for the present position. The Ministry, so far as design and design experience are concerned rely upon the supplying firms. The Department apparently deals with the firms in almost water-tight compartments. That means inevitably that you have a multiplicity of designs. It must be so. It can only result in there being a needless multiplication of types, and that is what has resulted. I think I am right in saying that of the sixty-eight bomber squadrons here referred to a considerable number of them—I will not make any statement which it would be improper to make—more than half of them, anyhow, are equipped with machines which are not 199 of the best type. I question whether the noble Viscount himself will tell the House that they are. And the squadrons certainly consist of five different types. Does he claim that the Harrow, the Whitley and the Wellesley are good types? Does he claim that the Hinds and the Ansons are good types? I will not go further into that matter. There is clearly a multiplicity of types. It is an increasing multiplicity of types, which makes it increasingly difficult for the Service to work with them, and it must make it increasingly difficult to supply spare parts and to have repairs effected.
It reminds me of what actually happened in December, 1916. We can all remember the lively controversy which had gone on for several months between what was then called the Air Board and various Service Departments, and while the controversy raged the men at the front were not supplied with a sufficient number of aeroplanes. Then in January, 1917, the Ministry of Munitions was instructed to undertake the duty of providing them, and I well remember what was the result of the first inquiry that was made. We found as a result of an inquiry by some of the men who are now helping the noble Viscount that at that time there were on order seventy-six different kinds of aeroplanes and fifty-seven different kinds of aeroplane engines. I do not know what the number is now. I should not wonder if it approaches those figures. The result was that the manufacture of these things in different parts all over the place was complete chaos, and we were not getting production. The first thing, therefore, was to centralise the control of design, with the assistance and co-operation of the skilled men in the service of the different firms, for the military officers concerned to say what they wanted, and for the designers to produce it. The result was that within a few weeks there was an immense reduction in the number of types ordered. Instead of orders being scattered all over the place by subcontracting, the factories were made single purpose factories, and thus in a few months' time the Army was adequately supplied with aeroplanes. But the first obstacle had been that multiplicity of types, which had inevitably arisen through the absence of any 200 centralised direction in the provision of design, apart from control of orders.
Now I come to the next section of the criticisms that I have to make, that is, the lack of centralised control over design. The Government still persist in the short-term system for supply, as for design. That must mean that you cannot obtain the sustained oversight by people who have continually growing knowledge in the Department of what is going on in the different firms. Firms are left, I understand, to do their own sub-contracting. What does that mean? With this multiplicity of types, and with the different firms working on their own to supply their different types of engines, their sub-contracting work is put all over the place, wherever they can get it done. Two things inevitably arise in consequence, and are clearly arising. First, you have an inflation of cost, because of the scramble to obtain sub-contractors, and, secondly, you have delays in supply, for the self-same reason. That is clearly what is happening now, and it is the only possible explanation of the serious arrears of supply with which we are now confronted. There is an aloofness of the Ministry so far as its powers are concerned—I am not saying a lack of interest, of course, but it has no power to see that there is adequate priority for the firms supplying it in terms of materials. I have no doubt at all there is the same scramble going on for materials, but worse still for machines.
§ LORD ADDISON
Machine tools and machines. It means that there is the inevitable delay which attaches, and must attach, to the provision of new machines and suitable jigs and gauges and so on in an undertaking of this magnitude so long as you rely upon individual firms getting their own work done to a great extent by a sub-contracting process; it must mean delay, and it certainly means that the Ministry itself has no sufficient cognisance of what is going on. You must have overlapping of orders and you must therefore have increased costs. I must say I was horrified to read in the paper yesterday what was said by Mr. Austin Hopkinson in the House of Commons, who is a stalwart supporter of the Government and an experienced engineer. He said that our aeroplanes were good 201 but the prices we were paying for them were such as to make one's hair stand on end or one's mouth water, as the case may be. The prices, he said, were really preposterous. That is what I should have expected under a system of that kind.
The Ministry clearly has no efficient concentrated control either over design or supply or over the necessary processes which go to make supply possible. That is why we are in our present difficulty and I suggest that this deficiency of the Ministry, commented upon by the Cadman Committee, applies not only to the major parts—the provisions of machines and planes—it must apply even more so to the provision of the necessary scientific instruments and apparatus which are necessary for the Services. I believe that is the case. I believe it is true to say—and I wish the noble Viscount will inquire into this in the Department—that quite recently the personnel branch in various parts of the Service were basing their establishment requirements on eighteen aircraft per squadron, whilst at the very same moment the equipment branch were basing their estimate of supplies required on twelve machines per squadron. I believe that is true. Things like that could only happen if you had not the right organisation at the top. It also means that you are sure to be behind-hand in the supply of your ancillary apparatus. I would ask the noble Viscount to inquire what is the actual state of affairs with regard to the provision of apparatus connected with blind flying—not on paper, but what it really is, where the machines come from, where the apparatus comes from. I will be satisfied if he will give me an assurance—
§ LORD ADDISON
I can tell the noble Viscount that some of them come from "America and from Germany and that they are not being produced in this country in an efficient measure. The state of affairs in the Service and the arrears of supply make it certain that the piece-meal, over-departmentalised system which the Ministry is adopting is inimical to the simplification of and control over design and the speeding-up of supplies. The Cadman Committee's recommendations 202 should be adopted completely by the Ministry in these two important matters. You should have a central and continuous control over design, which will work with the designers of the firms but will be an agency by which the Service can say what it wants. I remember we were confronted with this same situation in the War, and it was not until a concentrated Department of Munitions, under efficient officers, was established, with complete knowledge and control over the whole business, working in a friendly way with the firms, that we made rapid headway with the simplification of design and production.
What applies to designs applies to the allocation of orders. I should like to say that if you want to get the job done you should have what we used to call in those days "control establishments." The noble Viscount will say that any system of centralised control for which I am pleading will interfere with civil work. I suggest it will not. I suggest it will interfere much less with civil work than the present disordered system does, because firms do not know where they are. At all events, I suggest to your Lordships that the findings of the Cadman Committee relate to defects in the system pursued by the Ministry, and relate not only to the provision of civil aircraft but to military aircraft. The existing state of affairs is very sure evidence that the findings of the Committee in these two central matters are right, and the Government are not serving the public interest properly by refusing to give effective application to these two important recommendations. I wish that the Government would have an independent and competent inquiry into these matters by the kind of people you had on the civil side. I do not want the inquiry to be public, not even the findings, if you like, but I am quite sure that the findings of the Cadman Committee, coupled with the existing deficiencies in supply and the multiplicity of type, and the confusion, indicate that a reorganisation of the Department on the lines recommended is urgently required in the public interest. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I do not rise to take part in this debate with any intention of associating myself in any degree whatever with the attack which has just been delivered by the noble Lord 203 who has moved this Motion. Closely as I listened to his speech, I found it exceedingly difficult to follow at any given moment whether he was in fact dealing with civil aviation or with military aviation; and though it is incontestable that the one has an essential bearing on the other, nevertheless the two are separate, and arguments derived from one do not necessarily apply to the other. The noble Lord has delivered an attack of a very general character. In some respects it seemed to me extremely inconclusive and, if I may say so with all respect, in some matters it seemed to me to be imperfectly informed. It is not part of my intention to reply to the attack which the noble Lord has delivered, but I think I ought to say categorically that, perhaps not all, but the vast majority of those associated with aviation, either civil or military, do not associate themselves with the attack, the series of attacks which have been delivered both by the noble Lord just now and—
§ LORD ADDISON
May I say I have never made any attack before? I have never said a word about it before in public anywhere since 1935.
I was referring to the speech the noble Lord has just delivered. I was saying that those who have spent years in the study of these problems do not associate themselves with the various attacks which have been made, and are being made, upon the administration of the Air Ministry at the moment, and still less with the attacks made upon the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Air. He is in no need of any personal or individual recommendation, but it is as well to state—and I can do so with some knowledge of these matters—that those concerned with aviation consider that in the great task which has been laid upon him he has unquestionably deserved well of his country. He and the Ministry under him have had an exceedingly great task. It is not to be pretended there have not been difficulties, but those difficulties have been and are being overcome. Delays there have been, but delays, as far as my judgment can go, quite inseparable from the starting of a very great enterprise. It is much more essential to be sure that the foundations are 204 sound than that a hasty start should be made on foundations which are not well established.
There have been suggestions that at the present juncture of affairs the Air Ministry would be better represented by someone else. I would like to say, and it is desirable to say it categorically, that any change of that kind would be viewed as a disaster by the aircraft industry. It would seem to me to proceed very largely upon the criticism that the noble Viscount happens to be a member of your Lordships' House. As long as the present Constitution exists, it would be a most unfortunate thing if, whenever a Department rose to matters of great moment, there should be a successful cry that the leader of that Department should be removed from your Lordships' House. It would lead to a lack of balance in the Constitution much to be deplored. The noble Lord anticipated the argument that this was not an opportune time to press a line of attack upon a great Service Department. I could not quite follow why that argument was treated as having no weight. It seems to me that at this juncture of public and international affairs no more inopportune time could be taken to arraign a Service Department than this moment.
I do not propose to follow the noble Lord further in what he said. I understood that the main purpose of his raising his Motion was to discuss the findings of the Cadman Committee's Report, but he travelled far beyond many of their observations, and, if I may say so with all respect, did not seem to me, except in one or two particulars to which I shall revert, to deal with any of the really important matters with which that Committee have dealt. I should like to bring back your Lordships' House, if I may, to what I conceive to be the realities of the situation, just saying before I come to certain specific points, that I am certain from all the information that comes to me from many sources—I have, after all, been associated with aviation, both civil and military, for a great number of years—that this is not the time to follow up the Cadman Committee's Report with another inquiry into very vague and unspecified charges, some of which relate to what has already been a subject of investigation by this Committee. I am very glad indeed that the Prime Minister 205 in another place categorically said he was unable to grant the demand for such an inquiry. The noble Lord who moved the Motion asked should there not be inquiry—if things are efficient it would do no harm. It could do this amount of harm, however efficient things might be, that it might take away people from vital tasks to answer a number of questions which ought not to be put. I hope His Majesty's Government will stand firm upon that point.
But there are various points which arise out of the recommendations of the Cadman Committee to which I think your Lordships' attention might usefully be directed, and as to some of which I hope the noble Viscount tie Secretary of State for Air will be able to give your Lordships some information and clarify some points on which confusion rests. First of all, I myself take issue with the very first words printed in the Report. They run:It is desirable that the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Civil Aviation should be accompanied by the observations of His Majesty's Government on the recommendations contained in the Report, and their decisions on these recommendations.I do not agree that it is desirable. Some years ago I had the honour to be in charge of a Committee appointed by the Air Ministry into the control of private flying, not in the time of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Air, but in that of my noble friend Lord Londonderry. There was a full inquiry, and we made our Report, and after a length of time that Report was issued to the public accompanied by the recommendations and observations of His Majesty's Government. I make no personal complaint whatever about that, because His Majesty's Government were good enough not only to accept but later to implement practically all the recommendations of that Committee. But I cannot help thinking that the precedent then set up, which is now being followed, is a dangerous one.
It means that after a Committee has reported the Report is delayed, that it is then issued to the public and to Parliament together with observations from His Majesty's Government and decisions taken upon those observations. As a result the public and Parliament are put into the position of agreeing with the decisions taken, which is in some measure contradictory to the purpose of representative government, or else, as opinion crystallizes 206 and many concerned express their views, other considerations come into play. It is found that there is not that volume of support for the decisions which was expected, and pressure is put upon the Government to change a decision which they have announced. That is not good for the prestige of Government. Therefore I venture to hope that this shall not become a recognised usage of our Parliamentary procedure; that the public and Parliament shall be allowed to judge of the recommendations; that they shall be considered by the Government Department concerned and the decisions announced in due course. There may have been, as I quite understand, special considerations in this case, as to which no doubt the noble Viscount will tell us, but in general I cannot help thinking that this is not a practice which should be universally followed.
In this particular case it has had, I cannot help thinking, a slightly unfortunate result. The Cadman Committee was set up as the result of a debate in another place, and, it is perhaps not too strong a word to use, it had in consequence two co-defendants, the Air Ministry and Imperial Airways. They were both subject to charges, and as a result of the Report being issued with the recommendations of His Majesty's Government we have seen the answer to these specific charges printed and published made by one of the co-defendants, but so far we have not had an answer from the other. Now I was not in any way behind the scenes; I do not know whether one's observations are correct; but it seems, studying the Report, that Imperial Airways have not been put in quite the position that one would expect a co-defendant to occupy. I hold no brief of any kind for them, I am totally dissociated from them in every way, but it would seem that they came to give evidence upon the terms of reference. The terms of reference were not very specific. They are set out on page 3 of the Report, and it is said there that the debate which took place in another place "affords the most convenient terms of reference." Speaking with some little experience of these matters, I should have thought that a debate was a very inconvenient term of reference for any Chairman to interpret. A debate naturally ranges over many subjects. In this particular case it was directed very 207 largely to, and arose very largely out of, grievances of pilots, but in order to obviate the difficulty that any Chairman must have felt there is an addition to the fact of the debate itself being the terms of reference, and the Committee are invited to deal with questions not specifically raised in the debate; in other words they were given freedom to range over the whole field of civil aviation.
As I understand the matter, gaining my information solely from a study of the Report, what must have happened was that the representatives of one of the co-defendants, Imperial Airways, came to the Committee with such answers as they had to the specific points which had been raised in the debate, and no doubt answered, from their knowledge, any other questions that they were asked; but, after they had come and gone, it would appear that many other witnesses were called dealing with many other matters as to which they had not been questioned. I should like to know whether they were recalled to deal with this particular point, or whether they have had any opportunity comparable to that afforded to the Air Ministry, the other co-defendant, of dealing with the charges which have been made against them. For some of the charges, as the noble Lord who moved the Motion said, are extremely trenchant. I cannot recall any Parliamentary Committee's Report which deals more drastically in its language with the facts with which it has to deal. In a way the trenchancy of the language is in inverse ratio to the rapidity with which the decisions were reached. There is undoubtedly in air circles the feeling that in this matter Imperial Airways have not had quite the justice meted out to them that they are entitled to receive.
Let us take, for example, the reference to the Managing Director. He is arraigned, in no mild terms, for having taken a commercial view of his responsibilities that was too narrow, but in saying that the Committee say "presumably with the acquiescence of his directors." "Presumably," in that connection, is a very odd word to have used. One would have thought the Committee would have satisfied themselves whether it was with the acquiescence of the directors or not. If it was, the charge is not specifically confined to the Managing Director but applies to the directors 208 as a whole. If it was not, then it should have been so stated. It becomes a very curious arraignment of the Managing Director who, after all, was put in precisely to deal with the commercial view of his responsibilities—to bridge, as I understand it, the gap between the subsidies and the profit-earning capacities of his company. One would like to know what answer has been made or may be forthcoming as to this indictment. It has had the inevitable effect, whenever a scathing remark is used which the British public take to be an over-statement, of producing a contrary result. I have noticed that the employees of Imperial Airways have immediately expressed their confidence in the Managing Director so arraigned.
Then the Committee go on to another matter in connection with the organisation of Imperial Airways which I confess I have read with some surprise, all the more because it has been accepted by His Majesty's Government. They have recommended that Imperial Airways in the future, and British Airways also, should have a whole-time Chairman and one or more whole-time directors, and have stated that they think the Chairman should personally control the management of the company. A recommendation of that kind reads rather oddly. In the first place, it is contrary to the general practice of most of the great businesses of this country. It is made over the signature of Lord Cadman, who is himself a very distinguished representative of the contrary system. I cannot believe myself that to have a whole-time Chairman of a big industry, which must necessarily be concerned with other industries, is really going to be beneficial, for two reasons. First of all, it severely limits the choice of persons to take up whole-time work of this character; and, secondly, I should have thought it was essential that for a business of this particular character the Chairman should be in touch closely and personally with many other forms of industry. Anybody delegated to such a task would naturally give to it the time required. If he is going to be a whole-time Chairman, and have no other interests at all, he becomes in fact the Managing Director, and in place of having a Managing Director who can go to a Chairman for advice as to the broader issues, you are going to have one man helped by others concentrated solely upon 209 this job. I do not think that is going to lead to a broadening of view so far as civil aviation is concerned.
Then we have a recommendation, made quite categorically after a very short survey, that there should be one line and not two lines to Paris. It may be that the economic difficulties have enforced that view, but surely it is a recommendation to be advanced with regret and acknowledgment of the difficulties, and not one to be put forward as if it was in itself an enlargement of civil aviation. His Majesty's Government have accepted that recommendation and I shall be interested to hear any observations that we may have upon it from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Air.
Then we come to the question of reorganisation of certain parts of the Ministry itself. His Majesty's Government have accepted the recommendation that there should be a Permanent Under-Secretary for Air. I should like further information, if His Majesty's Government are able to supply it, as to what exactly is meant by this. We have already been told that a very distinguished and very able civil servant is to take up that position. In the Report it is recommended that this new office should be one which is to exercise "general administrative direction" over civil aviation. That was confirmed in another place the other day by the Prime Minister. What exactly is meant by that? He is to have the assistance of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, and these changes are recommended and have been accepted by His Majesty's Government presumably for the purpose of strengthening the management of civil aviation. Without more information than is before us it would seem almost as though the contrary effect would be achieved.
The Committee over which I had the honour to preside recommended that the time has not yet come, and is very far distant indeed, when civil aviation can be separated from the Air Ministry or treated at all as on all-fours with the Mercantile Marine and the Navy, but we did recommend that the Department should be made as self-contained and powerful as possible. At that time, there was not even a Director-General but only a Director of Civil Aviation, and we were glad to see afterwards the office elevated to a Director-Generalship, and that the Director-General was to have direct access 210 to the Secretary of State for Air. Now I am not quite clear what is the position. It would almost seem to be a reversion, though with a difference, to an earlier state of affairs. When I was Under-Secretary of State for Air, in 1921–22, I found that I was supposed to have responsibility for civil aviation, of course under the Secretary of State, and the Director of Civil Aviation reported to me. It almost seems, with some difference, as if that state of things were being restored.
Has the Director-General of Civil Aviation of the future, under this new organisation, still the same right, as we understand he has enjoyed of late, of direct access to the Secretary of State? If he has, it is not quite apparent what are to be the functions of this new officer, the Permanent Under-Secretary. If he has not, then the Permanent Under-Secretary is interposed between him and the Secretary of State for Air. I do not raise these points critically, but I think one would like to know more exactly what is contemplated. I think the signatories to the Cadman Report, the noble Lord who moved the Motion, His Majesty's Government, and everybody would wish to see the Department of Civil Aviation strengthened. But what we should like to know is, how far that is going to be achieved under what has been recommended and what has been accepted. It would seem, though it may only be an assumption, to be a duality where there has not been a duality up to the moment.
Then, similarly, it would almost appear as if there were a duality of an even more important kind in the supreme direction of the Air Ministry. We have not, as far as I am aware, received any very clear or definite information as to what are to be the respective duties of the two Cabinet Ministers who are now to be associated with the Air Ministry. I have always taken the view that there should be one head of this great Ministry, and I should deprecate very strongly any suggestion that, because now there was another Cabinet Minister answering in another place, there was any delegation of authority from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State. I cannot conceive, however important it may be that Questions in another place should be answered with authority, that there should be any 211 delegation from the authority of the Secretary of State.
Next we come to one of the points on which the noble Lord who moved the Motion laid particular stress: the inability of the Government to accept the recommendation about what the signatories to the Cadman Report call the "transitory members" of the Air Council. I do not for one moment associate myself with anything that he said. I am entirely relieved that His Majesty's Government have declined to accept that recommendation. It is a very unusual and strange recommendation to find in a Report of this character. I do not know what evidence was taken upon it, but it would appear from the list of witnesses printed at the end of the Report that we are without the evidence of some of the chief officials of the Royal Air Force. It is certainly a recommendation that could not be adopted with the support of anybody who has been closely concerned with aviation. It seems to me that the answer of His Majesty's Government, that it would seriously affect military aviation and not improve production in civil aviation, is quite unanswerable.
No reference was made by the noble Lord to one paragraph in His Majesty's Government's Memorandum which seems to me—and in this I know that I speak for the whole aircraft industry—to be the most important factor in the whole of this document: that is to say, the words which begin paragraph 25 of His Majesty's Government's Memorandum. They say there:… the production of aircraft is primarily the function of industry, the Ministry's part being to place the necessary orders and facilitate their execution.I take it that that, published as part of His Majesty's Government's Memorandum, is a declaration of policy, clear and categorical, and I should be very glad to have an assurance to that effect from the Secretary of State for Air. It is, from the point of view of aircraft constructors, of supreme importance. We have heard random charges of muddle and chaos which only deserve the word used by the Prime Minister in another place: "fantastic." What we do desire to see is the aircraft industry being allowed to develop on its own lines. I am quite sure that the tendency—the natural human tendency—of all Govern- 212 ment Departments, whatever they may be, is to step down from high principle and immerse themselves in detail. I take it that these words are a declaration that, as long as the present direction of the Air Ministry continues, that tendency be opposed.
We are not dealing now with an aircraft industry in infancy. It is a big, well-organised industry. It has lately had the wisdom, as most of us think, to appoint a Chairman of eminence from outside, Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, who can represent the views of aircraft manufacturers as a whole with authority and force. We welcome, therefore, from the point of view of the aircraft construction, this extremely important paragraph. In a word, my Lords, what we want to see is continuity. I think all those who have no Party feeling in this matter, all those who have been closely concerned with aviation, recognise that in spite of obvious shortcomings there has been a great task accomplished. I can only end upon a note of felicitation to the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Air, and hope that at this time there will not be a continuance of ill-informed attacks but a general desire throughout the country to help in a great national problem.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I propose to detain your Lordships only for a few minutes this afternoon in order to ask the Secretary of State for Air if he could give rather a fuller explanation for the reason which is given in the Government's observations on the Cadman Committee's Report for rejecting what, at any rate from the point of view of the ordinary man reading it, looks like one of their most important recommendations. I do not think there is any dispute that there is some disquiet about the rate at which the rearmament of this country in the air is taking place. That disquiet has naturally been somewhat increased in recent weeks by events which have happened across the Channel, and by the consideration that what matters most is not whether we are doing rather well or otherwise according to our original plans, but whether in point of fact we are holding our ground. The late Prime Minister, I think, promised that this country would obtain and retain air parity with Germany. I venture to express the doubt whether the Secretary of State for Air will to-day affirm that, as 213 we are going to-day, we shall accomplish anything like that result. And it is that fact which causes the anxiety, and which makes people examine Reports like this with great care, not in any hostile spirit but with the hope that, possibly through some criticism, steps may be taken by the Government which will in point of fact have the effect of producing the results in sufficient measure which are necessary if we are to play our part in the world—the new world that has emerged in the last few weeks.
The Cadman Committee has, I think, been applauded by the Government, who have expressed generous sentiments about its work and on the civil side have pretty well carried out its recommendations. The Cadman Committee contained within it a very large proportion of business experience, and from that point of view one may pay some attention to its business recommendations. Now the very essence, as I understand it, of the Cadman Committee's Report, not so much in dealing with civil aviation, though it has a bearing on it, but with this larger aspect which I have already mentioned, which is whether or not we are keeping abreast of our rivals in the production of completed aircraft, lies in this sentence:We are convinced that far-reaching changes in organisation and outlook are required if the Minister's extremely heavy task is to be effectively discharged, and we recommend reorganisation an the lines described below.Their recommendations as to reorganisation have been followed so far as civil aviation is concerned. They have not been adopted so far as the far more important aspect of military aviation is concerned.
The Cadman Committee has commented, in the way which the noble Lord who introduced this Motion has brought out very vividly, on the fact that the head of the Research and Development Department and the head of the Supply and Organisation Department are in the hands of two eminent officers who are essentially transitory in character. The noble Lord who has just spoken dismissed that criticism with a blunt negative. He may be right; I am not in a position to express any judgment upon it, and I am quite certain that neither the Cadman Committee nor anybody else wishes to pass any reflection whatever on the eminent 214 individuals who hold those positions. What is in question is not individuals but the system, and it certainly must strike an ordinary man who has had some experience of business that a system which involves the change of the head of each of these sections every three years at any rate is quite likely not to be the most efficient way of getting results.
But there is another aspect of it. I am not certain that the noble Lord who introduced this Motion dealt with it because I was not here at the very beginning of his speech. But what the Cadman Committee goes on to say, after commenting on the transitory character of these officers, is this:Such a system is quite unsuited to the rapidly developing technique of the problems of aeronautics, which is still in its infancy. It may, indeed, account for many of the difficulties in meeting the present demands for equipment for the Royal Air Force. … There must be continuity in directing the policy of aircraft research, development and production. This continuity can only be achieved by transferring the task from transitory military Members of Council to a permanent officer of the Air Ministry, of Council rank, not necessarily a technician, but possessing high ability, energy and proved capacity for organisation. Such a change is essential for the efficiency of both military and civil production.As I understand that recommendation, what it says is that one of the roots of our difficulty to-day is that research and development on the one side and supply and organisation on the other, which are really from the business point of view—and I imagine equally from the military point of view—one business, are under dual control. Half the delays and frictions which arise come from that cause. There are friction and delay between two departments, and the correct remedy for that is single control. There should be one person with two subordinates of the highest capacity, who can take quick decisions instead of having continually to go backwards and forwards between two co-ordinate sections. I think that any business man would agree that that at any rate seems a valid criticism, and, if it is true, it explains, as the Cadman Committee Report says, many of the disquieting facts which seem to be in circulation and which one obtains from those who are fairly closely connected with the aircraft industry and with the Services.
In this matter I agree with the last speaker that I do not think that the 215 method of public inquiry is the right way of dealing with this. You have had a public inquiry by a very competent Committee, whose recommendations have been accepted in so far as civil aviation is concerned, and who in the course of their investigation have come to the conclusion that this is the core of the difficulty, that you have dual control instead of single control in this vital respect. They say quite specifically that they think that in that matter lies the root of the difficulty, both for military production and civil production. The answer which the Government give has been already read by one noble Lord. It says:Having regard to the importance of not interrupting the rearmament programme at the stage which it has now reached, and in view of the Government's conclusion that it is not necessary, in the interests either of military or civil aviation, to run any risk, the Government do not propose to accept the Committee's proposal concerning the duties of Service Members of the Air Council.In the next paragraph, paragraph 28, they go on to give an argument of a professional kind, a very good argument, saying that those people who are responsible for design and so on must be in the closest possible touch with serving officers. That, as it seems to me, is quite irrelevant. The very essence of the Cadman Committee's Report is not that you want a vast reorganisation, but that you should introduce into this specific matter what would be the commonplace of every business—namely, that where you have got dual control you had better have single control, and that, so far from that interrupting production, it will enormously expedite it. The answer which the Government give in paragraphs 27 and z8 is no answer at all. I do not know whether the Secretary of State is in a position to give any definite answer to-day.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
I would ask him to give a full explanation of that. But in any case I would press what seems to be the formidable argument of the Cadman Committee on that specific point and ask for a fuller explanation than has yet been given as to why that rather obvious recommendation, as it seems to me, should not have been carried into effect.
§ EARL AMHERST
My Lords, I rise to draw attention to the position of civil aviation in this country affecting the 216 operation of internal air lines, as in view of the Cadman Committee's Report there appears to have been a certain amount of—shall we say fog? as to what is going to be done. I think perhaps I should make my own position clear to the House at the outset as I am directly concerned with the management of one of these internal operating companies and, further, I am the acting Chairman of the British Airline Pilots' Association. As such, possibly it can be claimed that I am an interested party. The position, as I see it, seems to be very much overshadowed by that vast interest, the railway companies. Your Lordships have all known what happened to the roads and what happened to the canals. Is it the intention that this shall also happen to civil aviation at the hands of the railways? By virtue of their vast organisation, their financial powers, and their influence over road transport, the railway companies are in a position to tie up egress and ingress to and from air ports in this country to a very great degree if they want to do so. They are also in a position to offer inter-availability of tickets on such services as they may approve, and on railway trains and steamboats over which they have control. That presents a very formidable picture.
It has been stated in the Cadman Report that the position with regard to the railway ban has been satisfactorily settled with the exception of one company. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that there are still four companies under this ban. If the Secretary of State for Air invites me to supply him with the names of these companies, I shall be glad to do so. The fact remains that there are four companies operating regular air lines in this country which are under the ban of the Railway Clearing House or their agencies, which means that the public who wish to travel on these lines cannot go to an independent agent and buy their tickets. There was one company which, shortly after the inquiry, was granted facilities under the Railway Clearing House ban. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that these facilities were somewhat grudgingly given, and on terms. Conditions were laid down for the granting of them, but after discussion the terms were modified and the ban has now been lifted.
217 There is still another company which was referred to last night by the Under-Secretary of State for Air in another place, which I take to be the company operating the service between London and Dublin. He stated that undoubtedly this is an outstanding instance, but said there are rather particular factors to be considered. Can we not be told what these factors are? Is it a deep secret which cannot meet the light of day? Presumably this service is providing a public utility. It is connecting the Capital of this country and the Capital of the Irish Free State. Surely there must be some consideration for the public, so that they may be able to go to their travel agencies and buy tickets for this service whether the railway companies like it or not. What are these particular circumstances which demand special consideration?
I would return to the question of the structure of the company set up by the railway companies to undertake flying. It is known as Railway Air Services, and it is owned jointly by all the railway companies. It owns its own machines, but the interesting point arises that it employs not one member of the flying staff. It employs no pilots, no radio operators, and no ground engineers. They are all supplied by Imperial Airways under a contract agreed, and they remain Imperial Airways' pilots, engineers, and wireless operators. It has been implied—and this is a question on which I would like assurance, if I may be afforded an assurance by the Secretary of State for Air—that Imperial Airways regard Railway Air Services as a training ground for their more junior pilots. If this is so, surely it is a strange position when we find one of the major companies operating internally in this country being run and operated by the junior pilots of Imperial Airways. Is that treating the public fairly? There is a considerable public travelling by Messrs. Railway Air Services, and they have the right to demand the most senior pilots that this organisation can get. Other independent operators provide as good, efficient, and experienced pilots as it is possible for them to get. Should not Messrs. Railway Air Services be in that position too? I would like an assurance on that. Another point that seems to present a somewhat curious picture in this connection is that Imperial Airways enjoy a Government subsidy. I do not know 218 that it is specifically laid down that the subsidy shall be paid against specific charges, but by supplying pilots and staff to Messrs. Railway Air Services, are not Messrs. Railway Air Services indirectly obtaining a benefit from the Government? It will be seen, if that is so, that Messrs. Railway Air Services are indirectly receiving Government help to obtain mastery of the air lines in operation in this country. It is a question that I suggest your Lordships should look into when discussing this matter.
To continue on this question of subsidy, the Cadman Report has recommended subsidies for companies operating outside this country, and has named specific companies to carry out this operation. Are we to assume from that that other British companies operating outside this country are either to be taken over by these specific companies or that they are to be left to fight their own battles without Government aid? I make special reference to the service that is in operation between Scotland and Norway. This company is now carrying out an agreement with Norway of five years' duration, which presumably implies that Norway has faith in this company to carry out the job. Is this company to fight its battles alone without any help, or are we to assume that Norway is not so important as the remainder of Europe? Another question arises on the same issue in connection with the service between London and Dublin. There is an English company running from Croydon to Dublin, as I have already informed your Lordships. It runs in conjunction with an Irish company, it is true, but apart from the pooling of receipts on the route it is entirely separate from the Irish company. The Irish company is owned by the Irish Government, and has the support which a Government can give. The English company, presumably, should be enabled to maintain its prestige alongside the Irish company. Surely it is a little too much to expect a private company to maintain its prestige vis-a-vis a company which enjoys Government support, and in those circumstances the question of a subsidy for an external route should again be looked into.
Next I want to go into another subject, and that is the subject of the pilots themselves. The Under-Secretary of State last night, on this question, stated that he 219 thought it would be better to allow some time, anyhow, to elapse for the Imperial Airways and the Government to formulate some kind of machinery. The situation seems to be a little broader than that. The Imperial Airways are continually mentioned in regard to staff troubles, but they are not the only employers of pilots. The question affects not only the Imperial Airways but a number of other companies who employ pilots. The Cadman Committee suggested that a Whitley Council might be the way of ironing out the difficulties which have arisen in the past. I would like to ask the Secretary of State for Air if it is the Government's intention to proceed to set up such a Whitley Council, and if so when, and also whether the Government can be sure that the British Air Lines Pilots' Association, which by its membership represents over eighty per cent. of those engaged in the profession of air pilots in this country, can be adequately represented on such a council. Also, can the Government see to it, through the Government directors on the Board of the Imperial Airways, that such a council, if it be formed, should be the proper body to deal with questions affecting the pilots and staffs of the Imperial Airways and other companies.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, it is my intention to make a very few observations only this afternoon, by reason of the fact that time is going on and I know that your Lordships are anxious to hear from the Secretary of State his answers to the many questions put to him. My noble friend who sits behind me (Lord Gorell), in his very able address, has covered a great deal of ground and has given the Secretary of State an opportunity of furnishing many of those answers which he will be able to give us in a few moments. The Cadman Committee, I am sure your Lordships will agree, have rendered a very valuable service. They have drawn the attention of the public to civil aviation, which it was most necessary should be done, and it is very understandable that all those who, like the last speaker, have been so deeply interested in civil aviation, and have played so great a part in it, should feel that the time has arrived when it is necessary for them to put forward their views, so that they can be considered by the Air Ministry in the light 220 of the awakening interest of this country with regard to civil aviation.
Civil aviation, I think we can agree, has had a very poor time indeed. In the early days there was no air-mindedness, as it is called, in the population of this country, and I think it was laid down in 1927 that a subsidy of only £500,000 should be granted to civil aviation. At that time the public, not being air-minded, deemed that a large sum to be given to civil aviation, in which so little interest was taken. In 1931 came the financial crisis, and during that time there was very little money for anything, and certainly not for civil aviation beyond the £500,000 already given. Then followed the Maybury Committee, and during the two years that that Committee took to furnish their Report civil aviation was practically at a standstill. Then came the expansion to which all our energies had to be devoted. We found civil aviation backward, and not occupying the position at home or abroad that we wanted it to occupy. Now we feel that owing to this Report of the Cadman Committee we shall be able to see a new field for civil aviation, that many of those questions which have occupied our minds will be able to be thrashed out, and that by the assistance coming from the Government we may see civil aviation thriving in a manner in which it has not done before.
In relation to various paragraphs in the Report there is one in particular to which I should like to refer, and that is the recommendation of the creation of a Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Air. This is not really a great change from what has occurred previously. Your Lordships may remember that when I had the honour of being Secretary of State, a Committee representing the air in another place made very strong representations to me that the Director of Civil Aviation was not occupying a position which a man in such an important post should occupy. He was then made Director-General, and given rank on the Air Council. One must remember that though this was done the great responsibility for finance still rested in the hands of the Secretary, and must continue to do so, and I feel that what the noble Viscount will have to consider is the position of the Director-General of Civil Aviation. I do not think there is any necessity for feeling that his position is 221 rendered insecure, but I think that the real authority must rest with the Secretary, who is the controller of finance.
There is a great deal that I should like to say to your Lordships in relation to air lines in this country, and also in relation to aerodromes. I would suggest in regard to aerodromes that a long line of Secretaries of State, of whom I plead guilty to being one, have done their best to encourage municipal authorities in the country to build aerodromes. They have furnished us with magnificent aerodromes, and while I do not suggest that those authorities are receiving undue persecution from their ratepayers, still there is no doubt the time will arrive when they will wish to see some return on their money. I think it will be found that the losses on aerodromes up and down the country are not so large a figure as might be supposed, but the Maybury Committee refused to give any support to aerodromes, and I am not sure that that is the proper way to deal with this matter. Still it will be for the noble Viscount and the Under-Secretary to consider whether some encouragement cannot be given to these municipal aerodrome owners. I am not speaking of private owners, who are always in a difficult position, and if they like to have aerodromes of their own it is their own lookout.
There is one thing which I rather regret in the phraseology of the Cadman Report, in which it is stated that it seemed to them that nothing has been done, that there has been no planning and no vision in the Air Ministry with regard to civil aviation. I have endeavoured to show your Lordships that the difficulties under which we laboured were difficulties of finance, which restricted and contracted all activities. When we consider the Empire Air Mail scheme, I think we can say that there was no lack of attention to it, and no laxity in carrying out a remarkable project that was initiated during the time when I had the honour of being Secretary of State for Air. I should like particularly to pay a tribute to Sir Christopher Bullock, who was the Secretary of the Air Ministry at that time, and also to Sir Donald Banks, who was the Secretary of the Post Office and is now Secretary at the Air Ministry. I am quite sure that but for the efforts of those two men, and the magnificent groundwork which they did, we should not have found this great scheme in the 222 state in which it is at the present moment. My noble friend who has now left the House, Viscount Runciman, presided over that Committee. I feel that is somewhat of an answer to the Cadman Committee, whose words I value because I believe what they have said will do a great deal of good to civil aviation not only in this country but throughout the Empire. But I think one can say that there was not that somnolence and lack of activity in the Air Ministry which the Cadman Committee seem to have led the public to believe. I do not feel that I should take up your Lordships' time any longer because most of us are anxious to hear what the Secretary of State for Air has to tell us.
My Lords, may I ask your Lordships' indulgence while I address you for a few moments upon this subject? In the Report, page 23, paragraph 82, it is said:We feel that it should have been possible for the Royal Air Force to have taken more advantage of the facilities for elementary training at light aeroplane clubs …It is on the subject of those clubs that I wish to make one or two remarks. Light aeroplane clubs, and the gliding movement that sprang from them, have been and still are, I suggest, a vital factor in the creation of air-mindedness among the general public. Since that movement began it has come to the front and has trained many civilian pilots. I believe that between 1925 and 1937 some 10,500 certificates have been issued, and the majority of those have been obtained by members of light aeroplane clubs. This work has obviously been of national importance, and that it is so recognised by the Air Ministry is shown by the fact that they have given a subsidy to encourage the formation of these clubs. Latterly this subsidy has been slightly increased, but I would suggest that the increase has not been nearly enough. In view of the fact that there has been an enormous increase in operating costs, I am of opinion that before very long you will find that, because of that, many of the clubs will be going through an extremely hard time.
The formation of the reserve schools has taken away many of their younger pupils, who are now learning to fly entirely on public money, and when this training of reserve schools has become more general, as no doubt it will in the 223 course of a year or two, and when the number of pilots has been sufficiently increased, the provision of training grounds for light aeroplane clubs will no longer be available for the training of the ordinary pilot partly at his own expense and partly on subsidy. I would, therefore, like to ask the Secretary of State for Air if anything can be done to raise the amount of subsidy granted to light aeroplane clubs by a figure proportionate to the amount of the increased cost of operation. It is interesting, I think, to note that the Government subsidy for light aeroplane clubs is something in the region of £45,000, with a further £5,000 for the gliding club movement. The French Government, I would point out, think so much of their light aeroplane club movement that they are giving 1500,000 in subsidy to light aeroplane clubs.
There is a further suggestion I would like to make to the Secretary of State for Air, and it is that some support should be given to "A" licence holders to keep their licences up. An "A" licence holder, though he may be slightly over age to enter the Reserves or Auxiliary Air Force, still wants to go on flying but may find that it is too expensive for him to do so. I suggest that, although his age may be thirty-five, he would be a valuable ferry pilot in time of war. There are a number of pilots of that class who would like to continue their courses of learning blind flying and flying by night if some assistance in the way of subsidy were given to "A" licence holders who wished to continue and improve their flying.
My Lords, may I also claim the indulgence of your Lordships as this is the first time I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House? I have only broken silence now because I have been connected with the manufacture and operating side of aviation for some years, and I feel very strongly that I should put before your Lordships that aspect of civil aviation which, perhaps, has not been considered in the way in which in my opinion it deserves to be considered. I will make my remarks as brief as possible as it is getting late. I should like to congratulate Lord Cadman and his colleagues on the Report that they have made. It only took two months to produce this Report, with its very far-reaching recommendations, and that compares very favourably 224 with the Maybury Committee's Report, which took about two years to complete. However, the Cadman Committee's recommendations, though they have been received with great praise and approval from most quarters, have not dealt with the matters upon which I wish to address your Lordships in a very satisfactory way for those like myself who are interested in internal air lines.
The internal air lines in this country are years behind those in America, and many years behind those on the Continent. In my opinion it is high time that they were encouraged and helped to a much greater degree than has been the case up to the present time. The Cadman Committee recommended that the flying operations of air lines operating abroad should be given some help in the form of a subsidy. The reasons they put forward for giving a subsidy to these lines operating abroad are that they could fly our flag and should be able to compete satisfactorily with foreign subsidised companies. The Committee say that these two particular conditions do not apply to internal air lines and, therefore, these lines should not receive any help. This is very discouraging, because I and my colleagues who have run and operated internal air lines consider that if these two particular conditions do not apply, there are others of equal weight which should be considered.
One that I would like to put before your Lordships for your consideration is that all foreign countries, including America, help their internal air lines financially for some years. They have done this with the object of forming a basis for the foundation of their civil aviation, and in the case of Germany and the United States it has brought their civil aviation tremendous success. Another reason for operating civil internal air lines is that internal air lines create a demand for modern air liners. The present position is that no modern air liners are produced in this country and if an internal air line wishes to give a modern and up-to-date service it has to purchase machines abroad, chiefly in America. That, I think, is a very serious aspect of this question. The next reason for supporting internal air lines is that they create reserves of pilots, wireless operators, ground staff and engineers of all kinds. I claim that these pilots who run civil air services are the finest in the world. They are not confined to running 225 only in fine weather. They go through all weathers and all climates and are capable of running their machines and coming safely down in the most appalling conditions which pilots in the Royal Air Force are not asked to face. Therefore these pilots are probably the finest reserve you can find anywhere.
Internal air lines also help to make the nation air-minded and encourage people to travel by air. That in turn results in lines running to Empire and foreign countries getting passengers where they might not otherwise do so. And the last and most important reason for their encouragement is, I think, that they afford the opportunity to try out the latest developments and inventions of aeronautical science I am informed, and I believe that it is correct, that variable-pitch propellers, retractable undercarriages and automatic pilots were all tried out first on civil machines and proved in operation before they were put on to military machines. This is the cheapest and most economical way of trying out new developments and is of tremendous value to the country, because you can try them oat on one or two civil machines at far less cost than it takes to apply them to military machines. If the invention is no good it is scrapped and very little expense is involved, whereas if you put an invention on a hundred military machines there is vast expenditure which may be all wasted. I will not detain your Lordships longer but I would make an appeal to the Secretary of State for Air that he will once more consider the subject of giving some help to internal air lines before it is too late, because I feel strongly that unless they get some support they will go out of operation altogether, or at any rate the main lines will do so, and we shall be left with only a few lines using obsolete second-rate machines operating to the Outer Hebrides and the Orkneys and such places.
My Lords, may I have the privilege on behalf of your Lordships of congratulating the noble Lord on his maiden speech in this House. We all know the practical use he makes of aircraft and his organising capacity in the development and running of commercial air lines. He has spent a long time in practical developments of this nature. The speeches which have been made this afternoon have ranged widely over the dual sphere of military and civil 226 aviation. On the question of military aviation, I would draw attention to the remarks recently made in another place by the Prime Minister in regard to the Air Force, which he described asunequalled in the world, and equipped with machines of a power and fighting force formerly undreamt of.Having culled that remark from a speech in another place by the Prime Minister, I will make no further reference to military aviation, but I should like to be allowed to make a few remarks on the admirable Report of the Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Cadman.
I would refer first to paragraph 7, from which it will be seen that the Committee "view with extreme disquiet the position disclosed" by their inquiry. I hope that your Lordships may feel that these particular questions of civil and commercial aviation may be regarded as matters which may ultimately pass to the control of a special Civil Department of State. It is true that that is not mooted in the Report of the Cadman Committee but two members of a previous Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Gorell—Colonel Moore-Brabazon and Mr. Gordon England—adumbrated such a suggestion in every clear terms. A longterm and persistent policy of development is required with the object of making our civil air transport, our civil aircraft design and manufacturing industry preeminent in the world. The fact that in the year 1920 the whole of the civil aircraft of the world carrying passengers for hire or reward flew only a million miles whereas last year they flew very nearly two hundred million miles shows the tremendous importance of this new development in transport.
Reference is made in paragraph 9 of the Report to the fact that British Airways had to obtain American aircraft in order to run a subsidised service carrying mails and passengers to Scandinavia and German. That was certainly unfortunate, and the same situation has developed to some extent, as your Lordships will be aware, in the Dominions and in the Union of South Africa. In paragraph to reference is made to the fact that payment of something like £100,000 was made to foreign services for carrying air mail across the South Atlantic. That presumably will be altered when the plans which the Government have in 227 mind to subsidise British Airways come into force. In paragraph 19 reference is made to a coin. The Committee say:In our view the problem of the air is one—two sides of a single coin—and the military aspect of aviation cannot fundamentally he separated from the civil aspect.I submit to your Lordships that this is a situation that requires very careful review. It cannot be suggested that the very efficient Mercantile Marine which we have could be controlled by any other department than that by which it is now controlled—which, of course, is not the Admiralty. I think your Lordships would be very glad if in his reply to the debate the noble Viscount who controls the affairs of the Air Ministry would make the position referred to in paragraph 20 of the Report, with regard to the Department of Civil Aviation, a little more clear. Paragraph 22 recommends the appointment of a second Under-Secretary of State whose sole concern would be civil aviation. Is it the intention of the Government to do that? If so, it is to be presumed that a Secretary of the Air Ministry would be appointed to relieve the person who is to be appointed Under-Secretary for Air.
In paragraph 43 and following paragraphs reference is made to Imperial Airways and, as has been already said, considerable strictures are made upon their organisation. But I think your Lordships would not wish to blind yourselves to the good results in the bringing together of the Empire that have followed their activities. Undoubtedly important changes are required, and I should like to support the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Gorell, in relation to the suggestion that the Chairman should be a full-time Chairman and not have too many duties put upon him. In paragraph 47 of the Report it is suggested that two or more whole-time directors should be appointed especially to assist the Chairman. With regard now to paragraph 50, reference is made to initiating a long-term programme of development. Perhaps the noble Viscount would say what the programme is that he has authorised to be launched. I think it includes the development of two medium civil types and also a long-range type for the carriage of express mail services. Reference is made in paragraph 51 to the independent Chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Con- 228 structors, and I think it would be very beneficial if your Lordships could be informed more fully as to the functions of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner. The Society of British Aircraft Constructors, which contains 157 firms, is actually controlled by 19 firms, because the other 138 have no vote in the proceedings of the Society. It would be interesting to know more fully about the specific appointment of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner and his duties.
In paragraph 63 reference is made to the necessity of developing aircraft engines specially suitable for commercial and civil aviation, and to the necessity for high power at take-off. The military requirements, as your Lordships will be aware, are very different from civil requirements, and it is not necessary to have that particularly high power in military aviation as it is in civil aviation. Therefore the tendency in British aircraft engine design has not been to provide that very considerable extra power for take-off purposes, and this places our aircraft engines at a disadvantage compared to those designed and made in certain foreign countries, particularly in the United States of America. The engines there are made very largely with the end in view of being used for civil aviation, and have a considerable surplus power for take-off, which is most necessary. Taking, for example, one of the most modern and most efficient of American commercial aeroplanes to-day, the Douglas D.C.3: that machine, if fully loaded and fitted with British-designed engines of equivalent power to the American engines now fitted, could not possibly take off, although, of course, once it was in the air it would carry on perfectly happily and with great reliability, as the reliability of British aircraft engines is known and appreciated throughout the world.
With regard to paragraph 77, might I suggest that your Lordships should urge upon His Majesty's Government a remission of the petrol tax in this country for machines of various sorts used commercially and civilly here? That remission was suggested by the Committee as worthy of re-examination, but in the observations attached by His Majesty's Government it has not been thought possible to go further into this suggestion. But, as your Lordships are well aware, the subsidised air lines, such as Imperial 229 Airways and British Airways, are not only directly subsidised but operate on tax-free petrol. It is a considerable advantage to them, and a disadvantage that air lines in this country should have to pay the petrol tax. I suggest that the matter should be reviewed.
I was very distressed to see in paragraph 87 that the Committee recommended that work should be done on Croydon Airport. I should like to suggest to your Lordships that we should urge the idea of giving up Croydon Airport as an airport not suitable for the great purposes which it has to serve. It would be far preferable to sell it as a building estate and to devote the money so received, and the money which it is now intended to spend on certain improvements, towards the acquisition of a far better site. Croydon can never be made a site worthy of that great service, and the foreign services too, which it is set up to serve. It has undoubtedly one great claim to fame, and only one. That is, that it was at that aerodrome that His Majesty the King, a practical aviator in every sense of the word, took his Royal Automobile Club certificate in solo flight, a great number of years ago now. That fact should naturally be properly marked, but otherwise the development of the aerodrome as a housing estate would be far more desirable.
Then, in paragraph 88, with regard to the Empire base, considerable delays, as your Lordships will be aware, are taking place in regard to the provision of a suitable base for the Empire Flying-boat Service. Does this not rather point to the fact that a broader view of bases for flying boats and of aerodromes should be taken and that a plan should be made more analogous to the plan envisaged for road development? That was at one time an affair for the local authorities and, as they did not function well enough, has now been taken over as a State affair. I submit, and I hope your Lordships will agree, that the development of aerodromes in this country should be similarly considered and treated on a very broad basis.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, this debate has been one of very great interest and has covered, as was inevitable, a great deal of ground. There have been a number of speeches, some of them 230 from noble Lords who address us, perhaps, not frequently enough. There has been one maiden effort of great interest, and some speeches from noble Lords who profess a certain diffidence at speaking in this House, but who certainly need not be diffident at speaking on the subject of aviation for they have been very practical pioneers in that subject. I am sure I speak for all your Lordships when I say that when we come to Air debates in this House, those are just the kind of practical speeches which we want to hear. The debate has ranged over a number of matters both of civil aviation and Service aviation. I am afraid I must take some time, because so many points were raised, and I think I shall deal most conveniently with the matters raised if I take first of all the matters affecting civil aviation and then proceed to deal with the Service side. I shall certainly welcome very much the opportunity of dealing with the point raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian.
As regards the civil aviation questions raised—and they are many and various, so I think I must take them in order—in the first place two questions of considerable importance were raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry. I think, if I may say so, that with characteristic modesty he did rather less than justice to himself. He spoke, and with truth, of some who were responsible, not only for a great Imperial conception, but also for doing a very great deal to carry it out. When I went to the Air Ministry I found that I had only the task, as regards the great Imperial "all-up" mail scheme, of concluding negotiations. All the great work had been done before I got there, and a very great deal of that was not only due to very able permanent officials but was due to Lord Londonderry himself. I think that Imperial schemes will always be associated in the minds of all of us, not only here but throughout the Empire, with him.
He asked me, and one or two other noble Lords I think did the same, if I would clear up the position with regard to the Permanent Under-Secretary of State and the Director-General of Civil Aviation, and he, I think, approved of the action we are taking. I think my noble friend Lord Londonderry put very well the difficulty with which we have all been confronted in the organisation of a Civil Aviation Department. There was, 231 I know, a desire that that Department should be made entirely separate from the Service side of the Air Ministry. The idea behind that was that civil aviation should have full play and that it should not be subordinated to military aviation. With that I have every sympathy, but as my noble friend Lord Londonderry found, so we found, and so the Cadman Committee found, that you could not separate the two matters, nor indeed could you separate the functions of the Director-General of Civil Aviation from the functions of the Secretary of the Ministry. In theory, policy was the business of the Director-General, finance was the business of the Permanent Secretary. But it becomes very obvious that no such clear-cut distinction can be drawn between policy and finance. The big finance in civil aviation is of course subsidies. The extent of your subsidy, the way in which you apply your subsidy, the routes which you select to be supported by that subsidy—all these are essential questions of policy, and are the most important questions of policy with which the Department of Civil Aviation is concerned.
And yet you have, or have had hitherto, this inevitable dyarchy, that you have the Secretary responsible for finance, the Secretary under the Secretary of State negotiating the financial agreements, and yet the Director-General, a separate person, responsible for the mass of detailed work of administration, which is very important but which really is not as important as the great questions of policy, which involves finance. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Londonderry that it was right to bring that dyarchy to an end. It had in fact come to an end, and indeed could not exist in practice if the scheme were to work, because you must have completely harmonious working between the Secretary and the Director-General. In fact now, by making the Permanent Under-Secretary of State the supreme authority in the Ministry under the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary who is particularly charged with civil aviation, you have associated the Permanent Under-Secretary and the Director-General together in a common responsibility, the Director-General retaining his direct right of access to Ministers. In that way I think you do get the most practical way of combining the functions of the 232 Permanent Under-Secretary and the Director-General, and I have very little doubt that, with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary now able to devote himself almost entirely to civil aviation, that system will work.
My noble friend Lord Londonderry spoke also about municipal aeroplanes and he said, I think with truth, that you could not look upon this merely as a matter of profit and loss, and I must say that the municipalities have, I think, taken—and I think wisely taken—a broad view. They have not regarded the provision of a municipal aerodrome as a matter to be shown in a profit and loss account; they have regarded it rather as one of those assets which a great corporation ought to have. You do not actually make a profit on a public park, but your people get great convenience and amenity therefrom. And I am sure in the same way that the great municipalities of this country would find themselves handicapped in years to come if they had not got their aerodromes. Now it has been, and I am afraid it must continue to be, the policy of Governments not to give direct subsidies. Nothing would be more agreeable to any Secretary of State for Air than to be the dispenser of unlimited benefits to municipalities and air lines, and every other recipient who came on the aviation field. But not least in these times, with the colossal defence expenditure, which is certainly not going to get less, there must be a limit to what we can spend on civil aviation.
But I am glad to think that the very fact that we have increased so much in military aviation has brought indirectly some further benefit to the civil aerodrome. The Volunteer Reserve centres, which are doing so extraordinarily well—we expected to get 800 young pilots into the Volunteer Reserve in the present year and we are already well beyond the 1,000 mark—have required accommodation on these civil aerodromes. Proper rent is paid for the accommodation, and in that way, and also with some of the Auxiliary squadrons, we have been able to give an added benefit to these civil aerodromes, and they have been able to contribute very materially to national defence. We are also proceeding, with all the facilities for wireless and so on which the Maybury Report recommended, with the further extension which the Cadman Committee 233 has recommended in that respect. That will take something off their finances, and will also, I hope, attract more traffic to the aerodromes. More than that I am afraid the Government in the present circumstances cannot do.
The noble Lord, Lord Sempill, who spoke last, came back to the petrol tax. Well, I am afraid I must say quite frankly that this has been tried fairly often. He has tried it before. It is no secret that I have tried it before. I expect my noble friend Lord Londonderry did, too. But every Chancellor of the Exchequer has found it impossible to violate the structure of the petrol tax. It is not that you could not do the thing. It would, I have no doubt, be workable, but—and I must put fairly the case of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the petrol tax—once you begin to make inroads upon it, to make exceptions (and there is a terribly good case for every exception: there are many noble Lords here who would make a very good case for exceptions in the interests of agriculture, or of fisheries: I have heard so many, and I could find some more myself)—once you begin to make exceptions of that kind with the purpose of giving some indirect help, some indirect subsidy, to one interest, the number of suppliants on the doorstep is almost without number, and the yield of the tax goes very seriously down. I am afraid we must shut the door on that hope.
Lord Sempill also said—and I agree with him—that it was a misfortune when we began to subsidise another British air line that though they started originally with British machines—and I think that they have some still—there were not suitable British machines available. I agree. But the provision of aircraft must be chiefly the responsibility of the aircraft industry. Nobody would contend that the Government should so subsidise the aircraft industry that it can supply civil aircraft on competitive terms. We can and we do try to help forward by development. That has always been the policy of the Government, and Lord Londonderry said a very wise thing, if I may say so, when he said it is all very well to talk about civil aviation having been neglected—I think it has—but it is entirely a question of money. You cannot plan and get results if you have not got money, and really the activities of the Government have been entirely condi- 234 tioned by the amount of money available for civil aviation. On principle, I have no doubt at all that my predecessors at the Air Ministry were absolutely right, with the limited amount of money at their disposal, in concentrating primarily and chiefly on the Empire routes. With a very limited amount of money at their disposal in Lord Londonderry's time, efforts were made to develop new types and there are new types that have gone into civil aviation. The Albatross which is flying to-day, and which I hope will be a very useful machine and will be used by civil lines, was ordered by the Air Ministry. In the programme we are carrying out now with the aircraft industry, and after consultation with the air line operators, we are developing medium machines of the kind which we hope will be useful to air line companies. Further development of much larger machines is being put in hand.
That sort of work the Government can do and will do, but, when all is said and done, the making and selling of aircraft must be primarily the responsibility of the aircraft industry. That industry has been tremendously occupied with military orders. To some extent that has diverted its attention, it is true, but we were right. We should never have been forgiven if we had not, by every means in our power, gone on as quickly as we could with the armament programme, and we must press on with that. Production is coming with increasing momentum all the time; but, looking forward, if the world ever comes back to sanity, there will come a time when military orders must fall off, and fall off very quickly, and fall off in an expanded industry. Then it is going to be clearly in the interests of the aircraft industry itself to have developed the civil types. Many of these types will be based on military experience, because the whole of the experience in the military side is brought in to the civil side. The Empire flying boats could never have been built but for the flying boats built for the Air Force in the past. I am not going to take up your Lordships' time, but one could quote example after example of aircraft and engines, showing how the civil machine which is brought forward is the direct derivative of, and is based on, the military machine. I am sure that the industry, under the leadership of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner, will take this 235 question very much in hand and plan for the time when military orders will not be so large as they are now and civil opportunities will be much greater.
Lord Waleran asked me whether it would be possible to make use of light aeroplane clubs for elementary training. No, for this reason. It is not that a great deal cannot be done by civil clubs. I am glad to say that in rather stringent financial times I was able to get from a hardhearted—or a soft-hearted—Chancellor of the Exchequer an increase in the amount of money available, and able to increase the subsidy given to these clubs. Though it is not so much as they would like, I am sure they will agree that the new arrangement will be a great deal more helpful to them. As the noble Lord knows, the money is now given in proportion to the actual amount of flying. But it is another matter when you are taking pilots into the Air Force and traning them, with all the responsibilities that the Air Force and the heads of the Air Force must take for these boys. It is true that courses are carried out at civil flying schools, but these training schools are staffed by highly skilled pilots with experience of the Service. I am making no reflection on the flying clubs, but we have our syllabus of training which is carried out under discipline, and we must in fairness to these boys take full responsibility for their training.
Lord Grimthorpe asked for support for the internal air lines. Here, again, it is a question of money. There is not enough to go round. The Cadman Committee recommended increased subsidies for the external lines, and we are finding more money for them. There is not the money to do both, and it would be difficult to press it when this Committee has not recommended it. But I think some help will be given. Help will be given by the provision of wireless and other facilities on the aerodrome. Help will also be given by the licensing system which will limit the number of services on any flying route, and will try to co-ordinate them so as to make that flying a commercial proposition, if that be possible.
Lord Amherst raised the same question. He also raised the question of railway interests in aviation. I have heard expressions of suspicion sometimes that the railways' interest in aviation is rather that 236 of a stepmother, and a bad stepmother; that what they would like to do would be gradually to get aviation into their hands and gently stifle it. I do not think that is the way in which Railway Air Services are approaching the matter. They have always given me the most definite assurance that they are in aviation because they want to make aviation succeed. The licensing system will certainly make sure of that, because when the licensing authority is established—the Order in Council will, I hope, shortly be established for that purpose—no licence will be given by the authority unless the applicant for the licence is prepared to undertake conditions as to the regularity and efficiency of the service. In that way, we may be sure nobody will be able to get a licence for an air service which he is not genuinely intending to carry on. He also put to me a question as to whether any other external company except British Airways and Imperial Airways could obtain a subsidy. The answer to that, I think, must be "No." The recommendation is that there should be these two chosen instruments—and it was I myself who introduced the second chosen instrument. The Cadman Committee recommended that at the present time such subsidies as are available should be distributed between these two companies.
The noble Lord also asked me about Imperial Airways and their staffs. I think I can put the position most clearly in this way. The recommendations in regard to that, as the noble Lord knows, are contained in paragraphs 103 to 105 of the Report. The Government find themselves in complete agreement with the principle enunciated there, and so, I am glad to say, do the companies. It was not the intention of the Cadman Committee, and it is not the business of the Government, to frame schemes for carrying this out. That must be a matter for the companies, and I assume that what the companies will do will be to frame or adjust the present arrangements so as to give full effect to this principle, and then discuss with the pilots and other staff whether what they propose is a convenient and practical way, and an acceptable way, to give effect to this principle. I certainly should regard it as the business of the Government directors of Imperial Airways to see that the company did in fact give effect, as I know they have every intention of giving effect, to this 237 principle, but the details of how it is to be worked out must be a matter for arrangement and discussion, as in the case of every great business undertaking, between the management and the staff themselves.
There are just two other points which have been made, before I turn to Lord Lothian. There were the questions put by my noble friend Lord Gorell. Of course, I am not in a position to answer for how the Cadman Committee conducted its business. It was entirely master of its own proceedings, and I am not able to answer the noble Lord as to whether people were given an opportunity of giving evidence, or of countering any evidence that was given. I note his disapproval that we had followed the bad precedent set by Lord Londonderry on the Gorell Report. I do not think you can lay down a hard-and-fast rule in a case like that. Sometimes it is desirable to publish a Report and then get opinions. When you get a Report which involves great expenditure, as this one does, and proposals of departmental organisation, I think it is right for the Government to express an opinion. I know the position that the Government are always put in. My noble friends have experienced it. If the Government express a view then their critics say: "Why have you gone and rushed your decision on this? You should have waited until you had got all the criticism." lf, on the other hand, the Government say: "We are going to leave this and see how public opinion develops," then immediately its critics say: "Have not the Government got a mind of their own: Do they not know their own intentions?" I think on matters of this sort it is better for the Government to have a mind of their own, to take their decisions, and to recommend them to Parliament. At any rate, the Government have to make their choice in these matters, and we have made our choice in this.
I am sure the noble Lord need not be anxious that because I am now associated in the Air Ministry with a very old friend of mine, the Chancellor of the Duchy, there is going to be an undesirable dyarchy or two kings in Brentford. It is in a sense an experiment, but the position, I think, is quite plain. There can only be one Secretary of State, as he said, and he is the President of the Air Council. I do not look forward to the 238 least difficulty, nor, I know, does my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy. We have worked very closely together before, and I welcome most cordially the fact that a member of the Cabinet will be able to answer for the Air Ministry in the House of Commons. I also welcome not less cordially the strengthening that the Air Ministry will receive from the wise counsel and help which he will be able to give us there.
I now turn, before I come to Lord Addison's remarks, to the point made by Lord Lothian, and I apologise for the length of this reply, but I did not want to leave out any point which had been raised. Lord Lothian said he would like me to deal rather more fully with the very definite and considered decision of the Government to reject the proposal made by the Cadman Committee, that two Service members of the Air Council should be superseded and a civil servant, the Secretary, put in their place, and that the functions of research and development and of supply should be transferred to the Secretary of the Ministry. It is a very carefully considered decision on the part of the Government. My noble friend asked if we would reconsider it. My answer is that we certainly will not, and say that for the reason that the Government have given the fullest possible consideration to it. I am sure members of the Cadman Committee themselves would be the first to admit that this was on their part a rather, what I may call, a priori recommendation. There is, after all, only one test of a system, and that is, does it work? The only real test of a machine is whether it functions, and whether it gives results. I am sure that the Cadman Committee would be the first to admit that they did not inquire into what were the Service requirements, or how things had been planned and how supplies were being delivered. I am not in the least criticising the Committee because of that. It was not their job to inquire, and I am quite sure that they would be the first to say that they were really ignorant, as they were quite properly ignorant, of what were the needs of the Service, of how things had been planned, and how they were being carried out.
Let me say why the Government were definitely of opinion that this would be a very wrong thing to do. There are two separate questions. My noble friend put it in this way. He said: "Here you have 239 two Departments, one of research and development and the other of supply. It appears to be a very businesslike suggestion to say that they ought to be amalgamated into one. Why do you not do it?" My noble friend will observe that that is only one half of the suggestion. It does not touch the question which I am going to deal with later on, whether, be this Department one or two, it should be headed by a Service officer or by a civilian. I say frankly that in theory I should say the amalgamation of the Departments of Supply and Research was a sound thing as an ordinary piece of business organisation. If I was going to start an Air Ministry organisation afresh I think I would amalgamate the two. I have had not a little business experience, and my mind goes in that direction. I do not mind saying that I considered it when I first vent to the Air Ministry. I discussed it very fully with Lord Weir, who, after all, has a unique experience. But there had been good reasons why my predecessors acted as they did. I do not think it was my noble friend the Marquess of Londonderry; I think it was before his time.
There was originally only one Department. No doubt there were good reasons for dividing. I felt that this was an organisation which everybody had got used to, and to change a machine, unless you are quite certain you are going to get better results when that machine is working at high pressure, is always a mistake, and I decided that I would see how this worked. A picture was given—I do not think my noble friend painted so fantastic a picture; I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Addison—of how these gentlemen never saw one another, that they wrote minutes to one another, that they never came into contact. That, of course, is quite fantastic. What I did do when I went to the Air Ministry was to establish an inner executive, exactly as I had always worked on the executive of a great business. The members of Council with the Deputy Secretary for Finance meet regularly at least once a week. All the important decisions under the programme are taken; all the programme is followed up week after week by those meetings, with the result, I think, that the system has worked extraordinarily well. I know every member of Council has valued it enormously, and 240 would not change it for anything. The result of that is that you save the most tremendous amount of paper and time, and, if I may use what I think is a maxim in Infantry Training or Field Service Regulations—I forget which exactly—everybody has a sufficient knowledge of the general idea to carry out his particular function.
The result of that is that you never get water-tight compartmenting on the big questions of policy. Executive action follows upon the combined policy which is laid down and to which everybody is a party. Also I found by experience that these two men were working in complete harmony. Lord Weir and I were in complete agreement on this—I bring him in because we could look at the thing, I will not say impartially for we both started with a prejudice for doing what my noble friend has suggested—that it would be a great mistake to make that change because it was working extremely well. I think my noble friend Lord Gorell will bear me out when I say that the industry is finding it work extremely satisfactorily, and, therefore, I think we were right not to make this unison which, I agree, in theory would appear to be a rather sound and obvious thing to do.
That is only one section. Now I come to the far more important thing, because, whether you have two members of Council or one, the real proposal here was the fundamental one of sweeping away the Service members and vesting their functions in the Permanent Secretary, exactly as if you were to sweep away the Controller, the Third Sea Lord at the Admiralty—because it is exactly the same—to sweep away the Controller and vest his function in, I suppose, the Secretary of the Admiralty. I know—and here I speak with the full concurrence of the aircraft industry, because I have discussed it with them—that they would regard it as a most fatal error to do this; the value of the Service member at the head of this Department is simply tremendous. I am not saying that if you could not get a good Service member to hold, these posts you might not have to look outside, but you would lose tremendously if you had to look outside. This Service experience is of very great importance.
It is said there can be no continuity. That really is the greatest nonsense. It 241 misconceives the whole structure of the research and development organisation. It is not merely a question of serving of fast the last Member of Research and Development served for more than five years. Having become acquainted with all the latest scientific developments in aircraft, with the very secret but extraordinarily valuable work which the scientists are doing with the general staff, he then passed from his membership of Council to take up the supreme Fighter Command in Great Britain, a most felicitous progression. And after all, who are we to say that continuity at the top is everything? Our whole Parliamentary system goes against it, so if the directing from the top must always be in a single hand there would be an end of the Parliamentary system, and my noble friend would never have the chance of occupying my position. But below there is great continuity. The Director of Scientific Research, himself a very distinguished scientist, is a civilian, and is permanent. The great research establishments of the Ministry, Farnborough and so on, are manned almost entirely by permanent civilian scientists and technicians, and so the element of permanency, a strong element of permanency, is there. But I suggest that after all, the test is, does it work? The noble Lord is charging muddle, incompetence—all the things he would like to believe are true.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Well, I can really set his mind at rest. I assure him, not in any spirit of complacency, because the better one gets the thing, the better it gets, the better the results, the more keen one is to get them better still. Do not let the noble Lord think, because I am now going to justify by results, that I do it in any spirit of complacency. The suggestion is this: no planning, nothing thought out ahead, programme out of balance, failure to get results, a lack of forward-looking in research. I am sure you would not find that the aircraft industry would agree with that. The Cadman Committee themselves say that in military aircraft and in engines this country is equal to, if it is not better than any other. I am perfectly certain—Lord Gorell will correct me if I am wrong—that the aircraft designers in the air- 242 craft industry and the would be the first to engine industry owed to, and how say how much they worked with the enormously they had research establishment of the Ministry.
No inventions thought of ! Why there is a mass of the most secret inventions—some of the most valuable I cannot speak of—designed at Farnborough and in the other research establishments. There is the wireless target—the Queen Bee—which everybody has heard about, really one of the wonders of the age. That is entirely the production of Farnborough. I could go on, but I will not trouble your Lordships with a great list. But I carry it further than that. Whereas of course the primary job is basic research for all aircraft and aerodynamics, when inventions are made their production is placed as quickly as possible with firms. I will take one typical example. We required a wireless set of extreme lightness and great efficiency. The design for that was made in the research establishment and as soon as we got it right we went to the best production firm we could find for the purpose. I am now relating what has actually happened in the case of the standard set which is coming out in large quantities. That firm was given instructions to productionise this invention and the firm was given the freest possible hand to make a good production job of it. The only condition laid down was that its essential efficiency and weight were not to be varied. This is an instance of the partnership between research and industry.
I was interested in going over the particular works where it is being made. I asked whether it was a good production job and the manager said, "Very good, as good as anything we have got." I did not know whether he was paying an empty compliment to an Air Minister who no doubt was going to pay a fantastic price, so I asked whether he minded my talking to some of the workpeople. I went to a girl who was working on something that goes into the apparatus we listen to in the evening. I said to her, "This is a better job than that awful Air Ministry thing you have to make." She turned on me and said, "You don't know anything about it"—which was true—"this is a far more more tiresome job than the Air Ministry job. I get far more piece money out of the Air Ministry 243 I thought that did not [...]ob than this." so unpractical as the [...]were quite I am noble Lord suggested. Of course, I am not going to say that everything has gone right. There have been disappointments. We have over-estimated and we have been too hopeful, but I would rather be too hopeful than hopeless. Firms have underestimated. They had only had tiny orders before and they had to broaden out to take orders in hundreds where they had tens before. They had to make entirely new types of machines. They had little or no experience, for instance, in low-wing skin-stressed monoplanes. I am not surprised that there were delays. I am not surprised that what we said we would do in March, 1937, we were not able to perform until June or July.
Let me just put two or three examples to your Lordships to show that we were not altogether wrong in our planning. Take aircraft first. We have had to expand our programme. The first was announced in 1935—I think in July—and then came a further expansion in 1936. We immediately set to work to get firms to expand their works. We introduced the capital clause under which the Exchequer should not have to pay out anything unless in the long run there was a residue of loss on capital expenditure on Government account. Orders were given on a very large scale. The noble Lord said we had got a hopeless multiplicity of types, but we have to have a certain number of types, because there are different things which different machines have to do. In the Fleet Air Arm alone you have to have different types, but now we have three large factories manufacturing one type of machine. Orders can be given by hundreds for one type. We are moving forward to get these types fewer still. But remember that when you are ordering off the drawing board you cannot take the gamble of ordering one single type. It might have turned out wrong, and we should have been done. When you are ordering off the drawing board you cannot have the same drawing for another firm to work on. Each firm has to put its own machine into production—first-class machines like the Wellington and the Blenheim—but to-day we can get them in other factories. Not only is a factory working on the manufacture of a single machine but you 244 have to-day several factories making only one type of machine.
Then there [...]shadow [...]. It would have been much easier to go on and increase the factories of the aircraft firms. It would have been much simpler. We deliberately decided that we would take the motor firms, which were the great war potential, and convert them into actuality, thereby giving us not only tremendous re-insurance for war but reinforcement now. Was that lack of foresight? Was that unbusiness-like? Was that not worth while? The noble Lord challenged us on blind flying instruments, and said we had to get them abroad. Of course we had. I went abroad for something which could not be produced here. In every single case arrangements have been made for manufacture here, but an interim order had to be placed abroad until that came forward. I was challenged about guns. Of course we bought the Browning gun in America to start with. It was an American invention, but we have arranged for full production here, and they are coming out extraordinarily well at present. I should have been worthy of censure if we had not placed foreign orders to carry on. The noble Lord said that no arrangement was made for getting machine tools.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
That is wrong. The noble Lord seems to think you cannot have efficiency unless you have a complete system of control. Right at the beginning we arranged to get priority. The same thing applies to material. We have a standing arrangement with the steel industry by which they receive notice of what we require. And so I could go on through the whole range of the programme.
The noble Lord asks, "Will the Government have an inquiry?" No, the Government will not have an inquiry; and this I state, not as Air Minister but as the spokesman of the Government, that we will not have an inquiry for two reasons. It is the job of the Government to inquire. They have been inquiring the whole time. When we set out with the rearmament programme, the Committee for Imperial Defence sifted, considered, all the plans of all the Services. They review them from time to time, month 245 by month; they follow up the progress of production, of expansion in each Service. That is the only inquiry in regard to defence matters that a Government can submit to. That is the inquiry which the Government conduct month by month, and the Government will stand by the result of that inquiry and will accept it. They cannot share that responsibility with anyone else.
If I have justified the Ministry, and justified it by works, I am bound to do so because I have been challenged, and I think your Lordships would wish that I should answer fully in this way. As I have said, if I accept that challenge it is not with complacency or satisfaction; we only ask to go on and improve. It may well be, not that our plans are wrong, but that our plans require acceleration. With that I am in full accord. But the machine by which those plans have been created and by which they are being carried out—that. I say on the facts which I have disclosed to the House, stands the test and ought not to be changed. I only add this. I do not at ail resent the censure of the noble Lord opposite. I am here to be shot at in that way. That is quite right. But I think that he—I will not say "even he"—and everyone in this House, while criticising Ministers if they will, would pay tribute to a great number of men, serving officers and civilians, who are to-day working at a pressure and with a devotion which I have not seen exceeded in war, trying to make this country safe.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, I will express my appreciation that the noble Viscount withdrew the "even," because I am quite sure that he knows that I should be the last to withhold any credit from that splendid body of men, who do their very best. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.