§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY rose to call attention to the vital necessity of securing for this country a due share in the development of air transport, so vital to the maintenance of communications throughout the King's Dominions at home and overseas: to ask His Majesty's Government for an assurance that this subject is receiving immediate and earnest attention as being one of the most urgent of post-war problems; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I have been anxious to raise this subject in your Lordships' House, because I regret that, so far as I am aware, it does not seem to have received from the Government the official notice due to it. It would be difficult to exaggerate the vital necessity of a definite policy being established in relation to air transport, and of 984 translating that policy into action as soon as possible, as we are determined to maintain in the future the position which we have achieved in history. A debate on this subject took place, as your Lordships are aware, in another place a short time ago, initiated by the Member for Stroud, but I regret to say that the reply then made by the Government was neither convincing nor satisfactory. I am sorry that the noble Viscount who leads this House is unable to be here to-day to reply to this question, as I had hoped he would be able to do. Your Lordships will, I know, join with me in extending to him our sympathy in that his absence is due to reasons of health. We trust that he will speedily recover and come and lead us in the successful manner in which he has done now for some considerable time. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, who is to give the official answer to this Motion, will not take what I have said amiss, because he is well aware that I should not take any other course than one which would assist the Ministry with which, over a long period of years and in various capacities, I have been so closely associated. My noble friend, who so ably represents the Air Ministry in this House and who is specially qualified to do so by his own practical knowledge of flying, will realize that there is nothing I would not do to support those Ministers and officials who at last may be said to have come into their own after years of frustration and disappointment. But I have long felt that what is spoken of as civil aviation—I prefer the term "air transport" should undoubtedly come under the jurisdiction either of a Ministry of its own or, better still I believe, under a reconstructed Ministry of Transport. Transfer to the Board of Trade would, I am sure, be a mistake, and after the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade that there are already thirty-four Assistant-Secretaries at the Board, I hardly think that a subject of this importance can be relegated to yet another Assistant-Secretary. However, I do not propose to embark on that subject to-day.
§ I am earnestly hoping that as this Motion has been on the Paper for some time, and as the Press has taken considerable interest in it, and has also in its columns expressed the widespread anxiety that exists, the noble Lord, on behalf of the Government, will be in a position to give 985 us an encouraging reply, and one which will show very clearly that the Government are fully alive to the vital importance of this branch of our Empire activities. And when I use the word "Empire," I know that I shall receive the support of my noble friend who sits behind me (Lord Bennett), who is so great an ornament of your Lordships' House and who will, I hope, take part in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, is well aware that there is no hostile motive underlying my Motion. We are all only too anxious to support the Government and give them every assistance in our power in their very arduous task. I am convinced, however, that our whole existence as a great Empire Commonwealth depends on the position which we shall occupy in relation to the air in the post-war world.
§ My object, and the object of all those who have been anxious about what I would call the strange apathy which has existed in this country in regard to aviation, is to urge the Government, and to press them if necessary, to realize that among all the great problems which confront Ministers at this time air transport in all its hearings, both now during the war and after the war, ranks as one of the most important. This is no exaggeration, and I should indeed be sorry if the quarters which have been so persistently against aviation in the past and still to some extent exist, were allowed to continue their obstruction. We all know that the Government are seeking, in conjunction with our gallant Allies, to win the war in the shortest possible time, and it is our prime duty to give them all the assistance in our power. But we have to remember that the revolution which has taken place in aviation, in what I would call the exploitation of the third dimension, is taking an unduly long time to be appreciated, and we are conscious that even now full appreciation of the potentialities of aircraft in many and varied capacities is still lacking. In any part of the world where war is being waged, whether on land or on sea, it is being increasingly demonstrated that the air must play the major part. The news we receive shows very clearly that the Army can do little without the air. The Navy cannot carry out its immense and manifold tasks without air support in ever-increasing quantity, and the U-boat menace can be mitigated, and I believe removed altogether, if a proper under- 986 standing is come to as to the part which the air can play.
There is the feeling everywhere that amongst some of those who occupy high positions there is a reluctance to recognize the great change in world conditions which the air has brought about. If I read the signs aright, there is a tendency to relegate air transport to post-war reconstruction, and frequently we hear of Ministers being charged with this very important duty. They occupy high positions in the Government; they come in under new titles, and I have no doubt are forming committees and taking evidence, but are waiting until the end of the war to launch some of those projects which are being discussed in Parliament and also in the Press. The question which I am venturing to raise in your Lordships' House cannot wait for post-war development, and must not be passed on to hard-working officials who very probably have very little practical knowledge of the air. Moreover, it is not a local question, it affects the whole of our Empire, and the position which that Empire will occupy in the future. There is an ever-increasing public throughout our Empire Commonwealth which very properly attaches enormous importance to this issue. It should certainly be recognized as one of our most important war requirements, as it is linked up with the transport of troop-carrying aircraft, and I would beg the Government to realize the urgency of it.
§ It is no use blinking the facts. Our fighter aircraft have placed the Allied Nations in a position to win the war, and in doing so, single-handed at first, they saved the world from disaster. Our bombing aircraft have served, and are serving, a very useful purpose. Our coastal aircraft in co-operation with the Navy have defended, and are defending, our convoys to a numerous and increasing number of destinations. I would emphasize that on the development of cooperation the failure or the success of the U-boat menace depends. Now that we are actively reinforced and supported by our Allies, co-operation and co-ordination of effort have placed us in a favourable position. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, who spoke yesterday, and who is fearful of complacency, that there is no doubt that by what has been done we are in a favourable position, but that is no reason why any of us should 987 relax our efforts in any direction. I want that co-operation and co-ordination to continue now and also hereafter, because on that co-operation depends final victory and also successful post-war reconstruction in many spheres of activity.
§ Now I come to the proposals I desire to make which concern transport machines and troop-carrying aircraft. These types of aircraft, owing to the stress of the war and the conditions prevailing as a consequence of the war, have been produced mainly in America, and it is no secret that commercial aviation is also developing in the States with phenomenal rapidity. I have no fault whatever to find with this development; it is what I expected. The Americans fully recognize the part aviation must play in future. They are looking ahead; and it is our duty to do likewise. The story of British civil aviation, as it is called, is not a very attractive one. There were great pioneers, friends of mine some twenty years ago, Handley Page, Instone, and many others whom I should also like to name. We had first-class pioneers and our constructors were as good as, and better than, most others, but civil aviation in this country did not prosper, and the reason in my judgment was that the Government did not look upon it as an economic proposition. The result was that some enterprising pioneers had to close down the lines which they had established. Its political significance throughout the war was only vaguely apprehended. These islands, owing to the comparatively short journeys, are not ideal for air travel, as mail and passenger services can be served equally well by trains and with greater certainty and greater comfort. Empire air travel, unfortunately, was also neglected, although our Empire presented an equally good field for opportunity as did the conditions which existed in America. Moreover, the public was not interested. Empire communications only properly came into the picture in 1935. America, on the other hand, realized the vast possibilities by reason of the long distances across that continent and began to run these services in the year 1926. The cost was very heavy. Many people said at that time that the money was wasted, but I think that your Lordships will agree that that cost has been fully justified.988
§ I am not thinking for one moment of challenging America and suggesting a cutthroat competition all over the world. My Motion emphasizes the fact that we are seeking to secure for this country "a due share in the development of air transport, so vital to the maintenance of communications throughout the King's Dominions at home and overseas"; but I feel that if we were to engage in cutthroat competition all the terrible losses and sufferings which we are enduring now would have been incurred in vain. One hopes to see the world after the war pursuing a different course. I am certainly in favour of rivalry in efficiency and execution, and there is a tremendous opportunity which the British Empire, America, Russia, Holland and other countries can embrace of continuing that co-operation and understanding which the war has forced upon us in the atmosphere of the peace which will follow hostilities. No one can envisage the manifold requirements of the suffering world. Their volume and variety will be incalculable and I am quite sure America is as aware of this as we are, both in the interests of our own nationals and also in the interests of the world. They will be best served by the close co-operation of those in the best position to serve those requirements.
§ We hear the word "internationalism" spoken and there is always a danger that when hostilities come to an end the world will fall back on words which it does not understand. I think that was really the great difficulty in years gone by when the world did not understand what was meant either by the League of Nations or collective security, and instead of studying these great questions went ahead and came to grief in doing so. So let us consider what "internationalization" means, study it closely and see if it is a policy which we can and should pursue. I am quite sure that the aggressor nations should be kept outside that category for some considerable time. We know that, while all the Allied Nations will try to pursue their activities for the benefit of the world as a whole, those we call the aggressors will pursue their policies for their own end and for the purpose of carrying out far different interests than those in our minds at the present moment. I have always felt that the main task of statesmanship was the establishment of security, which so far has failed to 989 Materialize on any permanent basis. I am quite sure that in the forefront we must place rapid and constant communication throughout the world as vitally important, and no country can or should seek to monopolize these services.
§ To-day we are contesting the German claim to world dominion. That claim in any form or from any quarter will always meet with violent and determined opposition. The alternative and the progressive course to pursue is friendly co-operation and understanding on the firm basis of international security which it is the aim of our united effort to achieve. That is where leadership comes in and where it is vitally necessary to have a policy. Rivalry and competition will always continue so long as the world exists, but wise leadership should guide them into channels through which can be attained the legitimate aspirations of enterprising people. We all know that transport aircraft and troop carriers are badly needed. We have seen how the Allied Nations have had to concentrate on certain types for certain purposes. No doubt the end of the war will find a superabundance of one type of aircraft in one country and scarcity in others, and that will apply in all countries which are doing their best to supply material for winning the war.
§ Our own British Airways, under the able leadership of Mr. Leslie Runciman, are flying a prodigious number of miles in a multitude of aircraft of varying design, but so far as I am aware the Government have no definite policy. I am hoping that the noble Lord who replies for the Government will be able to tell me that I am completely wrong in thinking that. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction. I believe a Committee was set up some eighteen months ago, but I am unaware of the nature of the report which the Committee has produced and in fact I do not know whether it has produced a report at all. There may be a Committee in existence now about which I have no cognizance. The element of secrecy, so necessary on many occasions, does not seem to me to be so altogether necessary in this connexion. No doubt there is a great deal going on behind the scenes among all those great interests which can play so important a part in the future and are anxious to know what is the policy of the Government. I sincerely hope that to-day we shall hear an announcement which will 990 give new heart to all those people who are only too ready for a lead to put a great many ideas into operation.
§ I hope also that we shall hear to-day from my noble friend several statements on behalf of the Government so as to allay the large amount of anxiety which is existing at this time throughout our Empire Commonwealth. First of all, I should like to hear it stated that air transport is an Empire Commonwealth policy in which each independent part is called upon to advise and contribute, and I hope certainly that an Empire Air Council is already in being. Secondly, I want the Government—and in this matter, again, they must take the lead—to call on the shipping companies, which hitherto have furnished our means of world transport for generations and have done so with signal success. I want them to take the lead in the air as a new method for expanding their activities. I am sure these enterprising organizations will always exploit and utilize the most modern and up-to-date vehicles of transport. I am referring especially to those companies which deal mainly with passenger and mail services. From these beginnings, and no delay should be permitted, the Government, in consultation with the shipping interests and those familiar with air transport—and there are many of the old pioneers, I am glad to say, alive at the present time; notably the society of British Aircraft Constructors whose report of 1934, which I called for myself when I was Secretary of State, is a very illuminating document—should decide which lines we should operate and should forthwith set in motion the plans required for as many of these services as is possible.
§ I should not be satisfied if the noble Lord who is going to reply on behalf of the Government were to tell me that a new Minister was to be created and a new Ministry to be set up immediately at his back. We have not got time for that sort of thing, and I should like to see someone with the dynamic influence of my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook, who is in your Lordships' House to-day, take this matter in charge and see that a policy is laid down and forthwith put into operation. My Lords, there are aerodromes and flying-boat bases to be planned and established. There is the co-operation required of the countries to be traversed and the countries which are to be linked up. 991 There are authorities to be set up at the various termini and intermediate stations. When I listened to the illuminating speech made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Trenchard yesterday I noted that he emphasized particularly the value and importance of communications between our Dependencies in our great Colonial Empire. Those people who live in the great family of nations over which the British Empire presides, will look for services from their own people to satisfy their requirements. Then there is the question of aircraft. Of course we lack this vital requirement of transport aircraft for the reasons which I have given. I hope, and I have certain reason to believe, that it may be possible for the Government to implement the Lease-Lend arrangement with America and by that means obtain the aircraft which are immediately required for what I would call our short-term policy. I have no doubt that the noble Lord who is to reply can give us some useful information on that point.
§ Our concentration on fighters and light bombers has certainly obtained for the Allied Nations the mastery of the air, and, in doing so, has enabled America to Produce those heavy aircraft which are intended for transport and for the carrying of troops. These aircraft are vitally necessary now for war purposes, and we hear that they are being produced in vast quantities in the States. It is quite true that other countries have concentrated on the manufacture of transport aircraft in pursuance of a certain policy in which they believe. For reasons which I need not go into now we have riot concentrated on transport aircraft. We are consequently deficient in that particular class of aircraft, which is so vitally necessary at this moment for our war requirements and also for the plan which I am trying to envisage.
§ When I speak of shipping companies, I am quite convinced that the shipping world has fully realized the position which flying must occupy. I am sure that the old-fashioned prejudice against new methods of transport has vanished in what I would call the forcing house of war. Our Mercantile Marine has achieved the impossible and its personnel have upheld the traditions of our race. I think we can say that on two occasions in the last thirty years the Mercantile Marine, 992 of course with the protection of the Navy, has saved this country. Its losses in men and ships have been heavy, and earlier recognition of the part which air could have played, and can play, would have saved many lives and many ships. But in considering plans for replacement, which, obviously the shipping companies are doing now, they know the place which air travel and air transport must take in the future. For many years the great bulk of the passenger traffic, and no doubt all the mails, will be carried in the air, and later on the question of freight will also have to be considered. But I need not go into details now.
§ In the long-term policy which I have adumbrated the question of aircraft is of paramount importance now, and we have designers and constructors fully capable of carrying out these tasks. In the debate, we shall no doubt hear expressions of opinion from those fully qualified to express them. I do not propose to discuss land-planes or boats, or engines, or the speed at which, in three years from now, the public will want to travel. Nor am I concerned with the question of whether the stratosphere holds all the advantages claimed for it, nor jet propulsion and all those manifold suggestions and inventions in a science of which our knowledge is still very limited. Of one thing I am convinced, and that is that the users, whether they be the Government or the shipping companies, the railway companies or other private enterprise, must quickly come to decisions, state their requirements, and call for blue prints from the designers. Your Lordships know quite well that from the blue print to production a period of something like three years must elapse, and the outlay is in the vicinity of something like half a million or more. That the designers should be called upon to offer specifications is obviously putting the cart before the horse, or possibly, I should say, the tail plane in front of the engine.
§ The cost is another important matter, and I say at once that I am opposed to subsidies, as such, and also to granting a monopoly to one company. Both these subterfuges kill enterprise. I believe that the best method of finance would be by loan, if necessary, on the easiest terms, which I believe would ensure that proficiency would be the main object, and not profits. I would expect the Government 993 to take full responsibility for aerodromes, meteorology, wireless, and also the ground staff. Research, of course, must be continuous and liberally maintained, and on this there is much to be said. This touches the whole question of education, with which we are in all parts of the Empire concerned at this moment. We require the full of co-operation of the universities, with aeronautics as a special subject. Then there is the further question of pilots, navigators, radio operators, mechanics and ground staff, which will provide employment for vast numbers in the days to come. These are all matters which come under the heading of post-war development.
§ I am urging to-day that a policy should be propounded by the Government, and the necessary steps taken for the promotion of that policy as far as it can be carried out in present circumstances. The great objection which I shall probably have to meet—and I am prepared for it—is why America should give us the assistance on which we depend for our short-term policy. I have already tried to give some of the reasons, and, since I put this Motion on the Paper, I have read a very illuminating statement by Mr. Wallace, Vice-President of the United States, in which he clearly foreshadows air communications in the post-war world. That statement encourages me to believe that the required co-operation will be forth-coming.
§ We all know that many difficulties will immediately arise when a policy is proclaimed. There will be practical difficulties about which the Government should have full knowledge, but I am sure they will be by no means insuperable. There will also, however, be political difficulties, which enemy propaganda at this time is doing all in its power to exploit. We should be proof against exploitation of that kind, and against that method of carrying on warfare by our enemies. Political difficulties have always existed, and are freely expressed in all democratic countries. I have read all sorts of prophecies made by enterprising Americans, and I am glad to read them, because we shall always want courage and enterprise in facing the problems of peace. The reason why political difficulties gained so much ascendency and reduced the peace-loving countries to bewildered impotence before the war was lack of conviction, lack of understanding, and lack of co-operation and of statesmanship; in a 994 word, we lacked inspired and constructive leadership. We should have learnt our lesson. I am convinced that no world dominion in any shape or form is compatible with real progress. We are determined that true statesmanship shall proceed along the lines of co-operative nationalism. It is the duty of the great Powers, in the first place, to give the lead, and to bring peace and contentment to a distracted world. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I am sure that I speak for all your Lordships in expressing our gratitude to the noble Marquess for initiating a debate on this vitally important subject; and, if I find myself in disagreement with the details he has propounded, or some of them, I should like him to know that, in his search for a policy, my noble friends on these Benches and myself give him our full support. We have been looking for this policy for a long time; in fact, so much so that the noble Marquess and other noble Lords may be interested to know that some eighteen months ago the Party to which I have the honour to belong set up a series of its own committees to explore a number of these problems, including that of civil aviation. Our idea was that we would prepare as far as we could, drawing on what expert knowledge we could, policies for post-war planning, so that when, as we hoped and hope, a Labour Government is in office, its Ministers will be armed with fully-prepared schemes to put into practice. I have had the honour of being a member of some of these committees, and among them was the Civil Aviation Committee. Although our report has to be voted on and approved by the Annual Conference next Whitsuntide, what I am going to say represents the broad trend of the ideas of the Labour Party with regard to civil aviation in the future, and I am not in this matter, therefore, speaking solely for myself.
We agree with every word that the noble Marquess has said about the future importance of this subject, and about the necessity for making preparations in advance. We cannot leave everything until the day when peace breaks out. I hope that I am not offending my noble friend below me, Lord Beaverbrook, too much by saying this, but he will surely agree that this question of world policy with regard to commercial aviation is 995 one of those questions which cannot be left alone; we have to discover and propound a policy in conjunction with our great Allies. When we turn to the policy of the Governments preceding this one, we find that their record is a very discreditable one. I do not even exclude the Government in which the noble Marquess was so prominent and so successful a member as Air Minister. He was kept back, apparently, by retrograde colleagues.
I am speaking of the Governments in which the noble Marquess was Air Minister, and in his own sphere did excellent work; but with regard to civil aviation, the record of the Governments that he adorned was deplorable, as events have only too painfully shown. When this war broke out, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, the monopoly which the noble Marquess so rightly, if I may say so, condemned, possessed about one hundred machines, of all sorts of types, of which about half were obsolete. They were making improvements in certain of the air lines, I agree, but in comparison with the work which was being done by the Americans, the Dutch, and the German Lufthansa, they were hampered by lack of finance, and by lack of courage and encouragement on the part of the Government of the day.
Let us compare their position with that of the Lufthansa. The Lufthansa was really a branch of the German Air Force, and was heavily subsidized. It ran services all over the world, most of which did not pay—it ran a weekly service to Afghanistan, for example. When war broke out, however, it had a great number of machines which were instantly available as transports. I do not know whether noble Lords have the same information as I have on this subject, but I am told that the figure of commercial aircraft at the disposal of the German Government at the beginning of the war was of the order of 2,000. I have heard a 996 lesser figure given, but my information is that it was 2,000. They were not all, of course, very long-range planes, but a great many of them—perhaps 1,000, I am told—were long-distance air transports. They had also hundreds of highly-skilled pilots and navigators, who knew the airways of the world. That was a tremendous asset to the German Air Force. What did British Overseas Airways give us? Some excellent pilots and navigators, and 100 machines, half of which were obsolete. What sort of record is that on the part of the pre-war Governments? I am therefore delighted to find that the noble Marquess, like a brand plucked from the burning, acknowledged his failure to prepare one of our most vital services, which was one of the greatest failures of the Governments which preceded the present one.
Now let me give just a summary of what the Party. I am speaking for think should be done with regard to civil aviation after the war. We believe that it is necessary, in the first place, to buy out the private financial interests in this Monopoly of the British Overseas Airways. These private financial interests are only hampering, and will hamper, the future of commercial aviation. Secondly—and here I have to differ radically from the noble Marquess—we believe that our internal air lines in this country should be free of railway control, and that our oversea lines, the long-distance lines, should be free of shipping control. We believe it would be injurious to commercial aviation to allow the shipowners to take over the monopoly which was so misused by British Overseas Airways and its two predecessors. I am interested to see that in another place to-day my right honourable friend the Minister for Air, answering questions, said that already he had been approached by three shipping companies whose directors had asked to be allowed to run air lines after the war, and by a fourth which claimed to be consulted when civil air policy was being discussed. I am all for consulting them, and I am sure they will give the best advice they can. But if we want commercial flying to flourish in this country and in the Empire, as the noble Marquess also wants, keep clear of the shipowners!
Thirdly, we believe it will be necessary to seek full international collaboration with the other countries principally concerned and more especially with the 997 United States of America and the U.S.S.R. After all, Russia controls vast land territory, stretching right across Asia, and you will not be able to run world air services without Russian co-operation. I noticed that the noble Marquess, I am sure unintentionally, when he referred to the Dutch, the American and to other countries, did not mention Russia.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I do not know whether I am at fault or the noble Lord, but I specially wanted to mention Russia.
I apologize. Of course, the noble Marquess was bound to mention Russia when surveying the future lay-out of the world air lines. But we say this, while we are discussing international policy or international collaboration, we must have something in our hands to bargain with, we must have some assets of our own. There I agree with the noble Marquess: we must have our own plans in partnership with our Dominions, all ready as soon as possible. There is no time to be lost there. Then we can meet the gentlemen in Moscow, Washington and The Hague, when the Dutch get back there, with something to talk about. Therefore we do say that no time is to be lost in, acquiring as soon as possible transport machines of a suitable type.
Fourthly—and here I speak particularly for myself, but I hope I shall carry your Lordships with me—I do not think we can contemplate for one moment permitting the Germans, the Japanese, or the Italians for that matter, to operate commercial aircraft after the war for many years to come. We cannot permit the Germans and the Japanese to run long-range commercial air lines all over the world, which will only be camouflaged Air Forces. I am sure the Australians will not permit it in the Pacific and I am very doubtful if the Canadians—my noble friend Lord Bennett will no doubt speak for them—would welcome the Japanese running a North Pacific air line either. And certainly we cannot have the Germans running long-range European so-called commercial aircraft lines like the Lufthansa before the war. Of course the merchants and traders of those countries on their legitimate business are entitled 998 to the advantages of air transport. You cannot deny them that; it would be contrary to the spirit of the Atlantic Charter. We must encourage them to trade legitimately. Therefore they must be provided with air transport lines serving their countries and their markets. And that can only be done by international co-operation.
Should that be done on a profit basis? You can do it on a profit-making basis and perhaps obtain a little on account of reparations by that means. On the other hand, you might say: "No, this should be a public service, a utility service and not a service out of which profit is made." But you must not charge them, these present enemies, less for freight and passenger rates than you do your own people and Allies. I only just mention these matters because the whole subject is extremely interesting and complicated, and the more it is studied the more one is forced, I believe, to the conclusion that you must have international co-operation and agreement if you are going to make a success of commercial flying after the war. I do not believe we shall be able to maintain—or will be so foolish as to try to maintain—the old-fashioned idea of the sovereignty of the air, of forbidding great areas of the world to the flying machines of the world and attempting to apply a dog-in-the-manger policy over important territories. I believe we shall have to come down to some policy of agreement on the freedom of the air, just as we have the freedom of the seas in peace-time, thanks to hundreds of years of endeavour by the Royal Navy.
The noble Marquess spoke of a short-term policy and I presume he meant by that the need of developing transport and passenger lines now as a direct means of helping the war. This is not only a post-war question. For example, for years before the war—and the noble Marquess knows this because the request must have come to him at Adastral House, or wherever it was that he reigned as Air Minister—the Australians were asking for an alternative air route to Australia. They said the Japanese might cut the Dutch East Indies line and then we should have no alternative. That is just what happened. They said in Australia "It is quite possible to run an air line down Africa to the Cape of Good Hope and then across the Indian Ocean 999 by the islands and connect up with Australia." I understand the objection was made: "Oh, but the Italian Colonies will be on the flank of that route and will be a danger." Anyhow, nothing was done. There was always an alibi found for doing nothing. I suppose it was given to one of Lord Beaverbrook's abhorred Committees and that was the end of the matter. That air line is required now. We require direct air connexion with Australia now for important business people to travel as well as for officials, officers and others and for mails and important goods. That is only just one example which shows the need of transport aviation at the present time for the service of our various theatres of war. And I suppose your Lordships will agree that if we had had enough transport aeroplanes and troop-carrying aeroplanes we should have had Bizerta and Tunis a fortnight or less after we landed at Algiers and Oran. Our paratroops were there on the aerodrome but there was nothing to take supporting troops to them. We had so shamefully neglected air transport machines that neither we nor the Americans had the necessary aeroplanes ready when the Tunisian cities and ports were there for the taking. That is one example. Now we shall have to fight our way into Tunisia, with great loss and all this delay.
Next I come to the immediate need of transport planes, which was touched on by the noble Marquess. My information—and I believe it is quite accurate—is that the American target figure for aircraft construction this year will be reached. That target figure is 120,000 aircraft, an over-all average of 10,000 aircraft a month. That is the target which will be reached this year. The figure sounds astronomical but I believe it to be true. Of course, of those a very great number are training planes and light combat planes and so on. But I also understand that 20 per cent. of this vast programme will consist of transport planes; that is, 24,000 transport planes. You can fly a very large Army with all its equipment in 24,000 transport planes. And I hope that we are getting our quota. We are concentrating here on combat planes. I hope we are getting our share of transport planes from the United States. I understand a statement was made by the Ministry of Supply or the 1000 Ministry of Aircraft Production. I really get confused with the vast hierarchy of Ministers; apart from my noble friend Lord Snell I am never quite sure which statesman holds which office. But the Minister of Production who came back recently from the United States, I think, told the faithful Commons we were going to get our quota. I hope we shall hear a little more about that from my noble friend Lord Sherwood, who is to reply to this debate.
To get our quota will, of course, be the sensible thing to do—to get it for our own purposes and our own theatres of war from the United States—and the transport machines can be used to great advantage in prosecuting the present war and afterwards in peace. But of course it requires an agreement, a collaboration of planning in advance, with the Americans, and, as the noble Marquess said, an agreed policy; otherwise you will get some Isolationist Senator saying in the Congress in Washington that "the British are trying to get transport planes from us under Lease-Lend and will enter into cut-throat competition with our American lines after the war." You will get that sort of attack unless you have an agreed policy beforehand. I therefore support the noble Marquess in his request for such a policy.
With regard to the question of transport planes, may I just make this observation? There is a shortage of certain raw materials and finished materials needed for the construction of combat planes. That is bound to be the case with the enormous programme of construction in this country, in the United States, in Canada, and in Australia, and now that India has joined in making aeroplanes. There is bound, therefore, to be a shortage of material, but you can make your commercial aircraft, your transport planes, of materials not required for the combat planes. You can make them, for example, of low carbon steel, of which there is a great plenitude both here and on the other side of the Atlantic, and you can make them of wood. If you can make Mosquitoes and gliders of wood, you can also make your transport planes of wood which, properly used, is an excellent material. Therefore you would not compete for materials directly with the manufacturers turning out combat planes. I can see no real limit to the development of transport planes for war purposes to-day, which is what I under 1001 stand the noble Marquess means by a short-term policy. If that is what he means I most respectfully support him. I believe the future of tactics in war is with the flying Army. Your flying Army going 200 miles an hour in three dimensions can very easily defeat your enemy's Panzer Army moving at 30 miles an hour on the ground. I think that is self-evident, and with the immense number of transport planes new being made in the United States that is now a practical military policy. With enough transport planes you can carry an Army with all its equipment and weapons wherever you want it to go, and defeat all the machinations of our enemies.
§ VISCOUNT BENNETT
My Lords, I have no apology to offer for participating in this debate. I have long been interested in air transport, and being but a recent resident of this country I have endeavoured to ascertain just what the position was in respect to the air in Great Britain and throughout the Empire generally. I have made inquiries in the various parts I have visited and I thought possibly, as there were a considerable number of new members in the House, I might place on record the result of my somewhat careful investigations. I think it is befitting that this Motion should be made by the noble Marquess, for I find that twenty years ago the Londonderry Committee, so-called, made a Report with respect to air transport. The air transport question engaged the attention of the people of this Kingdom as early as 1919, but in 1921 it was discontinued for the simple reason that, receiving no support from the Government, and its competitors and rivals receiving very handsome support, it was driven into liquidation. Then there came into being the Londonderry Committee which reported in 1922, and their Report was adopted in part by the, Government, but it lasted only from April to September. In October, 1922, they began to make new provisions for air transport, and in 1923 there was appointed the Hambling Committee with which I doubt not some of your Lordships are familiar. That Committee made a report in March, 1924, advocating and recommending a single British air transport company and the monopoly of subsidy for a term of years.
In 1924 there came into being the Imperial Airways which was the concrete 1002 expression of the recommendations of the Report of the previous year. It was offered a subsidy of £1,000,000 payable during ten years. I shall have something to say later with respect to what it did, until it was absorbed by the new Corporation created in 1939. In 1935 the Warren Fisher Committee was appointed to deal with international air communications as distinguished from services. In 1936 we took a sudden spurt and we decided that Imperial Airways should be provided with twenty-eight four-engined flying boats and twelve land planes, and in 1938 we paid a subsidy for mail carriage of £1,650,000. The scheme of the Imperial Airways which had come into being for a period of years was then in force, and in the year 1938 the Airways handled as much as 2,000 tons of mail, but, as the noble Marquess has pointed out and as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said, unfortunately the planes were not up-to-date. They were regarded as obsolete. In my researches I came across letters written to the Press from those who were travelling in various parts of the world and found it necessary to utilize Dutch planes and German planes rather than British planes because the British planes were obsolete and slow. That was the fact in 1938.
I should say that in 1937 there was a very considerable attack against the whole air policy of this country. The result was the appointment of the Cadman Committee. I have read the Reports of many Commissions and Committees in my time, but no Report that I have ever read offered such scathing criticism of a Government and such censure of a company as that Cadman Committee Report. It is a very, very strange document to be issued by a Committee appointed by a Government which is supposed to be friendly at least with that Government. In 1938 the criticism in this country with respect to air policy became so very great that in 1939, in consequence of the Government Report, which, as I say, censured greatly the Government as well as the Corporation, this country took a forward step and decided that it would own its own aeroplanes and conduct its own policy.
I was rather surprised when I heard my noble friend Lord Strabolgi speak on policy. This country settled its policy in 1939 by Statute by which it declared that 1003 the aeroplane business, or air transport, as I prefer to call it, should be carried on by the Government of this country through a Corporation called the British Overseas Air Corporation. You will find details of it in the Statute of 1939. It is no good dealing with the past except to the extent that it may be able to give us guidance for the future and warn us of the evils we may escape. In 1939, I repeat, for reasons good to this Parliament, you established a Corporation which has practically a monopoly of the air transport business. That Corporation came into being in April, 1940, and they bought out Imperial Airways and they bought out British Airways. The Statute sets out the agreement executed on behalf of the Corporation, of which my noble friend Lord Reith was then Chairman. They bought Imperial Airways at 32s. 6d. per share; a total of £2,659,085, and British Airways received £301,000 for their shareholders' money, and for development £212,500. That Statute is worthy of the most careful attention and consideration. I wondered when I read it carefully at the extent to which this country had committed itself on a question of policy.
The Corporation was authorized to issue securities in the extent of £10,000,000, with an immediate issue of £7,000,000. It was provided that half might be utilized for the purpose of paying off the purchase price and that the Treasury should guarantee — might guarantee at least—the securities. But it did more than that. It provided that all the aircraft that were to be utilized by this Corporation should be produced in this country. Engines, bodies, fuselage, everything that went to make aircraft, should be produced in this country. It provided also that grants might be made, if necessary, for the purpose of enabling it to function properly in addition to carrying the mails for which it would be paid. The net result was found in one section of that Statute—that as long as the Corporation was indebted to the Crown either for moneys advanced by way of assistance or by grants, the control of it should rest with the Secretary of State for Air. New routes could not be created without his consent and routes established could only be carried on subject to certain conditions to be named by 1004 him. The result therefore of the Statute of 1939 was to create a publicly-owned corporation. This country was in the same position as Canada was in with respect to the Canadian National Railway Air Service. This country owned this Corporation, and it is proper that its activities should not be extended except with the consent of the Secretary of State.
But it did more than that. As might be expected, it provided that if there were war, the Secretary of State might take over the enterprise. As a matter of fact, he did that immediately on the outbreak of war. I am told—my figures are slightly different from those of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi—that the Corporation had about seventy planes when war came, and that they had thirteen different types with twelve different kinds of engine. That, of course, was partly done for experimental purposes, but it greatly increased the cost of operation, and of course made greater difficulties in administration. That was the position as indicated by journals that deal with these matters. The position at the present time is that this Corporation, owned by the people of this country, bought by them, is functioning through directors named by the Secretary of State for Air. His duty under the Statute is to name them, and that he has done.
Let us just see what was that policy. They were content at that moment not to engage in world-wide activity except to the extent that it might be necessary to do so for the purpose of carrying out what was the primary policy—namely, an Imperial airways system. The position of the service at that time is indicated as follows: Great Britain had concentrated on the Imperial route to Canada, South Africa, India, the Far East and Australasia. She was poorly represented in Europe and had not entered South America or the West Indies. The round-the-world All-Red Route could not bridge the Pacific owing to the prohibition by the United States, for security reasons, of landing by foreign aircraft at Hawaii. The Trans-Atlantic route to Canada was to have been operated under a working arrangement between British Overseas Airways and Pan-American Airways. A West Indian service was established after the outbreak of war, but plans for a South American service had to remain unfulfilled.
1005 I believe that to be an accurate statement of the position at the outbreak of war, but when the Minister, under Section 32 of the Statute, took over the enterprise for military and war purposes, he had to discontinue some of those services, among the services discontinued being that which went to Cairo arid that part of the East. He did not discontinue it entirely, but agreed that it might be carried on by our American friends, and it was provided that the arrangement should continue only until the end of the war, so that at the moment part of the service heretofore carried on by Imperial Airways is now being carried on by the Pan-American or some other American corporation on condition that they have no right to continue after the war. You will observe from what I have just said that they established a West Indian service, but a few weeks ago I discovered that when they endeavoured to carry on a family ferry service between the Islands, they were met by a protest from Pan-American that they were invading their territory. That at once raises an issue of very far-reaching importance, the issue of the extent to which we may be able after the war to carry on these services which I have indicated we were carrying on when war broke out. When I say "we," I mean this country as distinguished from other parts of the world, because we are dealing for the moment only with the air services of this Kingdom over which this Parliament has jurisdiction. When the United States entered the war the American privately-owned and operated services passed into the hands of the American military authorities, and side by side with a civil transport service that they rendered, they carried on their military operations, with the result that to-day they have an admirable, a very first-class passenger fleet—which we have not—which has been carried on side by side with their military operations under military direction. That is the position at the moment with respect to that air service, and in addition to that they are carrying on part of the service which we had been carrying on when war broke out in 1939 here. That is the present position.
Naturally, in dealing with a situation of that character it has to be considered from the domestic, the international and the Empire standpoints. With the domestic standpoint I am not for the moment con- 1006 Cerned—that is a matter of flying between London and Edinburgh, flying between various parts of this country, that need not enter at length into the discussion. With respect to the international situation it divides itself into two branches. One has to do with the world policy in connexion with air, for before the outbreak of war we had two World Conventions with respect to air. One was held in Havana and the other was held in a European capital. The result was that we determined and agreed—I very well remember Canada doing it—that the air was the property of the State above which it occurred. To use the language used in a relevant document:At the outbreak of war there were two international Air Conventions in force for the regulation of international aviation—the Paris Convention of 1919 and the Pan-American Havana Convention of 1928. In both Conventions private flying was left free but the establishment of regular international air transport services was subject to the consent of the States flown over. Over most of the world these services have come into operation as the result of hard bargaining.…One of the issues that confront us, as a people, is whether or not that provision shall continue.
The noble Lord who preceded me did not deal with it in detail but he suggested it by implication. Shall that continue or not? That is the question. We have to decide whether the air above a State shall continue to be the property of the State and enable it to forbid others to invade that air or not. That is something that must be settled. We know what some nations feel about it for they have already indicated their views. I have, however, seen nothing that indicates the view of the Government of this country upon that point. But at the threshold of their decisions they are met with that decision, for in 1941—to bring the matter up to a period after the outbreak of war—an Inter-Departmental Committee was appointed, and it made an interim report twelve or thirteen months ago. I have not seen that report but, speaking subject to correction, from what I have heard I believe I am right in saying that the report necessitates the Government of this country arriving at definite decisions with respect to policies of the most far-reaching consequences, and until those decisions have been made the Inter-Departmental Committee, of course, cannot make any adequate representations or recommendations.
1007 I leave that issue; I am not able to express any opinion about it that is of any value but it is something we must face, whether we like it or not. This nation must face it and this people must decide. But remember that the people of this Kingdom themselves own air transport services that are governed by the overseas company. You then proceed to ask yourselves a question. No doubt on hearing me say that there flashes through the minds of your Lordships the story of how a man said: "I ask myself the question," and was immediately told "You will be sure to get a very foolish answer." But at any rate the next question that arises is one that in my opinion is of very immediate concern. Air transport divides itself again into two branches. One is communications, which is Governmental—the carriage of mails from our country to other parts of the world. We either do it or somebody else will do it for us, because the commercial interests of this country demand that we should be able to communicate with various parts of the world in the quickest possible manner and the shortest possible time.
The second branch has to do with transport pure and simple: the carriage of (a) passengers, and (b) freight. In Canada the mining industry has been developed largely through the carriage of freight by air. In the far North, in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba carriage of freight by planes has made possible the development of vast mineral fields. I do not know to what extent freight may be carried over long distances, whether it may be taken over the Atlantic or not in any large quantities. I know that what is known in America among the transport companies as "package freight" can be carried across the Atlantic Ocean—in fact I have seen it being carried—by planes. The result of that is this. This Kingdom has suffered because in many of its manufactures it has not been able to supply parts when something broke clown. But to-day what is the position? You seize the telephone standing on your desk and phone to the manufacturer in the Midlands. You tell him that part y z or whatever it is, has been broken and that your machine must have a new part. You instruct him to send it along by plane to-morrow morning. And he does so. Further, a new part can be sent 1008 across the Atlantic within a matter of twenty-four to thirty hours and be made use of in a factory, in Canada, within a few days. That has not been the position before, and the result has been that our American neighbours have been able to carry on this business. They have been in the position of being able to telephone for parts which they want and get them sent on the same night. Now that has militated against the trading expansion of this country. A great air transport service would enable much of that to be overcome, and as the volume of freight that could be handled increased in weight, depending upon the engines of the machines, to that extent trade would be improved in this country to the benefit of the exporters. That naturally will be very much to the benefit of this country which requires all the export trade it can possibly get.
The question is what is to be done with respect to that matter at this moment. Well, I hold the view that if we are not to sink to the level of a second-class Power we have got to have an air transport service now. By "now" I mean just that—now. I do not mean that we should make a start next year or the year after. I read that there has been an allocation by the Ministry of Air to the B.O.A.C. of a substantial number of machines to be delivered in 1943 and 1944, but not one of them is a passenger transport machine that is comparable to the machines that are put across the oceans by the Pan-American concern. That is true of other companies also, because I think that there are some five American companies that have flown machines across the Atlantic. The other day I saw, lying at anchor at Foynes, an American Exports machine and a Clipper machine while Britain, owning all these facilities as she does, had a seaplane bought from Boeings at twice the price that they used to ask, and with a condition imposed that it should not be used for passengers. Your Lordships will know what is involved in that, and I am sure that when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary replies he will deal with that phase of the matter.
I say that we must act now for this reason: I am told, on what I regard as unquestioned authority, that it would be impossible for us to provide passenger machines for crossing the Atlantic Ocean comparable to these of the Pan-American 1009 and other lines under at least two years. We may say that the question of design has been to some extent settled. There is the question of development. I was asked the other day what is meant by "development," to which my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook frequently referred a. few days ago. It merely means that you take your engine, for example, and improve it step by step until from, say, 600 h.p., it goes up to 1,000. It merely means the improvement which comes about from trial and experience, until at last you decide that you are as near perfection as you are likely to get. So far as design is concerned, is there any suggestion that there are better designers anywhere than are to be found in this Kingdom? On the question of power, it is provided in the Statute to which I have referred that the production must be British, but the basis of the best engines in the world is, as Lord Beaver-brook said the other clay, to be found here in this Kingdom.
What is the relation of the engine to this problem? The problem is merely the extent to which power can be developed for the purpose of lifting a given load and propelling it through the air against the power of gravity. There are other intricate matters which need not be discussed. Now we have 2,500 h.p., which will drive a machine through the air with great rapidity. The question of range depends on the engine, and I need not repeat that we have here the facilities for producing the engines. Then comes the question of personnel. When this war is over, and even before, there will be surplus personnel in every part of the King's Dominions who will be anxious to find themselves occupied in this work.
All these matters must be considered and, until they are considered and brought together, we are going to be placed at a b disadvantage because, despite patriotism and all its claims, men travelling will travel in the best machines. They may, and they do, desire to travel in British machines, but if they find that the British machines are uncomfortable, and to some extent hazardous, because of their lack of comfort for passengers and their lack of range, the British machines will not get the traffic. On the question of freight, to which I have already referred, I think it may be said with certainty that we can utilize some of the machines which we now have for the 1010 carriage of freight, but we certainly cannot use them for passengers and compete with our competitors, and we may as well face that fact. That being so, why should not we insist that at this time we make provision for what we cannot do in less than two years, and provide machines of ample capacity to handle our passenger traffic?
We have already chosen certain routes, and the routes of the future may differ from those of the past; but I know that the Government of Canada have been anxious to co-operate in a truly Empire or family system of air transport. The Government which succeeded that of which I was the head provided air transport linked up with the Canadian National Railways, which have the longest mileage of any publicly-owned railways in the world with the possible exception of those of Russia. That arrangement has worked satisfactorily, and it has developed parts of Canada which would otherwise be undeveloped from the mineral standpoint. It has carried safely, with one exception, very large numbers of passengers across the American continent, and it is operating every day. The Canadian air lines were desirous of being closely associated with the activities of the British line, and arrangements to that end were made. But what are we going to do? It is not a matter for this House to decide, and it is not a matter for the directors who are named by the Government to decide, because the Government have provided that they alone are in control, and, as I have said, they have already taken complete possession of the undertaking as a whole.
As I have already said, unless we make immediate provision for our needs, two years must elapse before we can provide the facilities which will be comparable to those now in being in the United States of America for the transport of passengers. Is it consistent with the dignity and prestige of this country, which owns these facilities, that it should be placed in that position? This Airways Corporation is now a publicly-owned organization; it is not a question of private enterprise. Shall the people of this island find themselves in a subordinate position because it is said that they are unable, at the moment, to make the necessary decisions? I think that this country can without question provide for the construction of a few air transport machines comparable to those which will 1011 compete with them. It must not be forgotten than when these facilities were taken over, and when we did carry out extensions even in the West Indies, we were alone; to-day, two great nations have had war declared against them, and they must win that war or sink to the level of a third-class Power. So far as we are concerned, therefore, there is no reason why we should not utilize part of our energy, part of our men and part of our material in taking care of our position after the war, because if we lose our position I do not know how we shall ever be able to get it back. There is not a member of your Lordships' House who is not familiar with the lesson of history in this regard; once you establish channels of trade and provide facilities and give very good service, it is very difficult to bring a new service up from a subordinate position and "pep it up" to the level of its competitor. There is not one of your Lordships who does riot know the difficulties of doing that. For that reason I urge that, as our great Allies are keeping their passenger facilities going, we should do the same. I think that probably, as the noble Marquess has said, we should speak of it as air transport, because those are the words used in the Statute which brought the Corporation into being, and it is air transport in a proper sense.
I have endeavoured to approach this problem as one who is seeking information, and who is merely looking at the matter as a British citizen concerned about the position which his country will be in if we do not take immediate action. If we do not take action now, I think it is inevitable that the results to which I have referred must follow. I suggest, first of all, that the Corporation, as it now stands, should be reorganized without delay. I know nothing of the gentlemen who comprise the directorate, but I do know that one of them at least is a director of a shipping company, and another is a director of a rail way company; and there is in the Statute itself a provision which I regard as of some importance.
It was provided in the Statute that the directors should not have any "likely" interest in any other enterprise. The words used are that a director is disqualified "if he holds any other office in which his duty or interests are reason- 1012 ably likely to conflict with his duties towards the interests of the Corporation." Well, surely none of us is so unreasonable as not to realize that the conflict is between shipping and the air. Who thinks for one moment that the great ships will carry passengers in the same number across the Atlantic Ocean as they did in days gone by? Who does not realize that package freight, which is highly profitable, will pass into the hands of the aeroplane companies? Therefore you must have a Corporation of which, I think it will be agreed, the shares should be owned in the right of the Crown; you must have a Corporation whose directors have no interest, nor are reasonably likely to have any interest, in any other enterprise. Is it finance?—it should be excluded. Is it shipping?—that should be excluded. Is it railways?—they should be excluded. Is it any other interest they may have that is inimical to the interests of the Corporation that has in its hands the life of this country from the standpoint of air transport? The saying is as old as the world itself, "You cannot serve two masters"; and if my interest conflicts with my duty, all too often interest succeeds and duty fails.
That is the position that confronts us. Let us deal with that, and having dealt with that it seems to me that the rest of it is a very simple matter. All the Government have to do is to declare what their policy is with respect to it, and to see to it that we start at once on the question of providing air transport facilities comparable to those that will be available to others—that are now available to others.
Lord Strabolgi referred to international agreements. Of course, there must be international agreements—international agreements in the true sense that I mentioned. But I put this to your Lordships. If at an international conference there is an allocation of routes to various countries, and we are allocated the routes we say we should have by reason of our great position in the world, what happens if we are not able to supply the machines to serve those routes? Who gets them then? And where are we? This is not an imaginary thing, this is a real thing. And when we should have a couple of hundred machines at least of the type mentioned—I am not talking now from the military standpoint, but the purely civilian—perhaps we cannot get them all, but if we had 40 or 50 we could maintain our posi- 1013 tion as the centre of this family, this Commonwealth of Nations.
If ever a country needed export trade, this country will need it after the war. And if ever a country needed it on the basis of being able to supply the demands of its potential customers, this country is that country. It must be done. Therefore your Lordships should see to it that we have our Corporation reorganized, that we appoint as general manager or managing director the best executive organizer that money will buy in this country; and that the sub-divisions—North Atlantic, South Atlantic and so on—should be in the hands of regional managers, and those managers should be accountable to this managing director. Then you would have an organized effective business, that would utilize the great powers that by the Statute are conferred upon it for the purpose of ensuring that we meet post-war conditions on an equality with our competitors.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I venture to address your Lordships in support of this Motion because I was responsible for the first Air Convention, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, referred. Lord Bennett did not mention perhaps the most cogent personal reason why he ran support the proposals he makes, and which I support and propose to elaborate and carry on further. Indeed, I have sent proposals to the Under-Secretary of State for Air, and I hope he will not turn them down. Lord Bennett has been rendering great service to this country since the war began. It was necessary that he should cross the Atlantic. Had he been a United States citizen, there would have been no difficulty at all in his doing the journey both ways in a proper passenger plane, but, owing to the fact that we allowed our civil aviation almost to disappear, he had to do part of his service in a bomber, and he suffered extremely, as everybody does. I submit that it is extraordinarily foolish to allow people who have to cross the Atlantic to go in war machines, in which they suffer a great deal of inconvenience.
§ VISCOUNT BENNETT
I am sure my noble friend will permit me to correct him. I did not travel in a bomber. I travelled in a Bristol aeroplane when I went over, and when I came back she had been stripped inside so as to be able to carry 1014 a few more pounds weight, and it was very unpleasant.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
What I said was a war machine. In fact, had the noble Viscount been in a bomber, he would not have been quite so miserable as he was in this smaller war machine. But that only shows that when you have an ex-Prime Minister whom you want to send abroad, it is really, to quote Lord Beaverbrook, "a moonbeam from the larger lunacy" for you to be compelled to send him in a war machine. Now we must put this right. When it was proposed to abandon the separate Air Ministry and the proposal to maintain civil aviation by an adequate subsidy, Lord Londonderry resigned. He was right. At that time I prophesied all that has happened since—even a politician must be right once in his life—and so did Lord Londonderry. Had Lord Londonderry's plea then, 22 years ago, been listened to, Lord Bennett would never have had to travel in tins miserable machine which nearly ended his life. Incidentally, I appealed to my noble friend Lord Samuel to mobilize the Liberal Party in support of the action I then took, and that Lord Londonderry then took, and they entertained me to luncheon and said I was right. Of course now I am a non-Party man owing to my connexion with National Savings, but I do hope, as the event has proved that we were right, that we shall start this policy. We cannot go on this way. We have made a terrible error, and we are suffering for it. Lord Bennett has suffered; everybody else suffers and will suffer still more. The other people have caught and passed us.
What is it we asked for, and what do I ask for now? That we should have a special Minister for transport and research as apart from war air activity. Let us do it now, and if we do it at once we shall still be late, but not so late. Just before the war, in my capacity as vice-president of a company, I had to travel much about the world by air. I could hardly ever travel in Imperial Airways machines, but when I did so I found they were always much slower and in all sorts of ways inferior, though admirably managed, to the German, Dutch, Italian and other machines. Surely this is all very wrong. Lord Strabolgi, in his very interesting remarks, referred to the post-war difficulties and the possible 1015 competition of the foreigner and especially of our enemies. I am not one of those who think we should concentrate too much on what is to happen after the war. I plead that we may try and win this one first. But we must think about this subject. It is all very well to say you will tell the Germans and the Japanese that they are not to build military aeroplanes, but you cannot really stop them. You cannot stop them building civil aeroplanes.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Perhaps I may be permitted to finish. You cannot stop them for more than a certain limited period. I was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles and have reason to remember that we then decreed all kinds of things which lasted only for a certain time. By degrees things happened, as it is the way of things to do. Looking into the future it is quite certain that the Germans will be flying about in the air within a certain number of years from now. Let us make sure we have more knowledge, more research, than they. That does not sound so dramatic as to say, "We will have ten planes to their one." But this is the more subtle method, and it is the way to defeat the danger. Let us see that our scientists are always maintained with adequate subsidies from the Ministries concerned so that we may always be able to beat the Germans in this air business which every day and hour becomes more vitally important. If the Germans cannot try things out so well as we can, they will go down the hill in research, for research into this problem is vital.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, referred to freight carrying. The carriage of freight by aeroplane is quite different from the carriage of freight by other means. Remember this one elemental fact: If the problem is to carry more freight and carry it quicker on sea or land you make a heavier ship like the "Queen Mary" or a heavier locomotive. That is because gravity is your friend. But when you are asking the scientist to evolve something to go fast and carry more in the air, gravity is his enemy. Therefore, he must make it lighter and lighter as he does by those wonderful engines like the astonishing Sabre which 1016 we have heard weighs less than a pound per horse-power. The two problems, therefore, are quite different.
That leads me to the practical proposition which I submit to your Lordships' House. I know you have been impressed by the two speeches we have heard from the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, and Viscount Bennett. I suggest that we should here and now appoint a Minister of Transport and Research, independent of the Air Ministry except that the two must be in the closest rapport with each other. The needs of the two are not only different but one is almost divorced from the needs of the kind of civil transport to which Lord Bennett referred. But especially I would urge—and here perhaps I part company with my noble friend Lord Londonderry, though I am not sure because I missed that part of his speech—that this Ministry of Transport and Research should be divorced from the Ministry of Transport for the reason that I have given—namely, that in the one case you are defying gravity while in the other you are making it your friend. The matter is vitally important and I am sure there must be an independent Ministry. When all the other War Ministeries are swept away I hope this one, a special Ministry of Air Transport and Research, will survive. The Minister at the head of this Ministry should devote his whole energies to it and he would, I trust, receive adequate support.
I remember the Prime Minister saying, not expressing his own view but the Treasury view, that civil aviation must fly by itself and it would do so. It may be that some of these companies in America to which Lord Bennett and Lord Strabolgi refer show a profit, but I doubt if that would be found really to be so if you could have a close actuarial investigation into their accounts. I think it is true to say—I have been told it is a fact, and I think it is true—that no aeroplane leaves the ground without a Government subsidy, direct or indirect, so difficult is the problem of air transport. If it is so vital to our future and also to our present, Government support must be given, and in full measure. Therefore I plead that the best man you can find shall be placed in a position of authority as the Minister responsible for air transport and research and thus avoid the 1017 manifold dangers which we have passed through for the moment but which will assail us in the future unless the views of Lord Londonderry and Lord Bennett are accepted by the Government to-day.
THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
My Lords, I am very glad indeed that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, initiated this debate to-day. The noble Marquess speaks of aerial matters from his experience as former Secretary for Air, and I think indeed he has fulfilled a most important duty in raising this question now before your Lordships. I felt it also my duty to-day, as President of the Air League and a past Under-Secretary of State for Air, to put forth the views of that body and of myself in regard to this matter which are identical. The Air League is as a body in favour, as I am, of four broad lines of policy—namely, first, production of specially designed, four-engined transports for use in the concluding stages of the war and ready for the first days of peace; secondly, plans for the conversion of these to civil use after the war; thirdly, the operation of air lines by shipping companies instead of by a monopoly air transport company; fourthly, the transfer of air transport control to the Board of Trade. In 1918, towards the close of the last war, your Lordships may remember that the Government of the day appointed a Committee to consider post-war aviation. That Committee was no more effectual than most such Committees, as Lord Beaver-brook has told us.
The development of commercial aviation in 1919 was the result of private enterprise rather than of Government planning. To-day circumstances are different, and we must make a greater effort to secure for this country a due share in the development of air transport. It must be remembered that the further we move in this present warfare from our bases and sources of supply the more transport we need, and war transport must include a large proportion of air transport. Air transport for war is virtually the same as air transport for peace, and we can consider the two problems as one. Air transport has become in this war as important as air bombing and air fighting. Air transport gave Hitler Norway and Crete and enabled him to hold out at Stalingrad and other strong points during the Russian advance both 1018 this year and last. Lack of air transport contributed to our reverses in North Africa last year. In speaking of those reverses, your Lordships may remember, the Prime Minister pointed out that, though it might be comparatively easy to fly out squadrons of aircraft to the Middle East, it was quite a different matter to transport the hundreds of men and the thousands of tons of equipment required for the maintenance of those squadrons. Air transport might have made a big difference there and in other theatres of war.
Air transport has been our greatest weakness in this war, a weakness we have hardly begun to rectify. Our air transport is weak in war because it was weak in peace. We have a Fighter Command which saved the Empire, a Bomber Command which grows daily in the strength and effectiveness of its blows and we have a Coastal Command which, from the very outbreak of war, has been of immeasurable assistance to the Navy in combating the submarine campaign. But we have had no Air Transport Command, and when we wanted to carry men and equipment to Norway or evacuate them from France and Belgium, we have had to scrape together a few old bombers, an assorted collection of second-rate air liners, and a few sporting or privately owned types. If we had had a large Air Transport system in peace time we should have had the air transport we needed for war to-day. America has an Air Transport Command, which we unfortunately lack, and to-day the great air-line companies of the United States are all at its disposal with their up-to-date aircraft, ground services and organizing experience.
To maintain large air transportation command in peace-time would be unnecessarily extravagant, but we should have air transport which can be used either for war or peace. The military authorities in peace-time have always insisted on certain railroads being maintained for possible war use, and the Navy always takes account of the Merchant Service in measuring its effective war strength. But before the war the value of civil aviation as an adjunct to our Army and Navy, as well as to the Royal Air Force, was completely overlooked. We had a few desultory air services managed by the railway companies which flew to Glasgow via Belfast and also a grandiloquently 1019 entitled Imperial Airways whose total strength in October, 1938, according to its official report, amounted to two dozen large modern aircraft and two dozen obsolescent aircraft—four dozen in all. Our German enemies, on the other hand, had a network of busy air-lines all over their territory and to places overseas. At the outbreak of war these services were mobilized for the military machine. Fortunately for us our friends across the Atlantic had also been as enterprising as the Germans and were able to supply us with some of their modified civil air-liners such as the Hudson which has done so much to protect our shipping.
To-day our American friends are finding their Douglas air-liners and other such aircraft a most valuable aid to their Fighting Services and fortunately they are still able to spare a few for us, because even after three years of war we have failed to provide ourselves with any large numbers of efficient air transports but are content to make do largely with obsolete bombers. The obsolete bomber can never be an efficient transport. You cannot turn a bomber into a good transport by taking away the armament, the turrets and so on. The efficient air transport aircraft, either for peace or war, must have large doors which give easy access, an unobstructed interior for the accommodation of troops or equipment, and a good streamlined shape which will enable it to have the highest possible cruising speed. The obsolete bomber, on the other hand, is usually slower than modern Service aircraft. Taking out its turret does not improve its streamline shape and therefore taking out the turrets will give no extra speed. The interior of the bomber is usually obstructed by bomb bays or other military equipment and its entrances are often cramped and inconveniently placed. Even in war-time it might be better to scrap obsolete bombers rather than waste further money and lives by trying to use them for work for which they are not fitted and which requires differently designed aircraft.
The Germans had a good war transport in their Ju. 52 troop transport which first appeared on the civil air-lines over twelve years ago and in the peace years was used by the Germans extensively all over the world for passenger and freight carrying. Ten years ago these aircraft were used to carry heavy mining equipment to other- 1020 wise inaccessible gold mines in New Guinea, and all the world now knows what they have done in Norway, Crete and Russia. In the Douglas air-liners the Americans have transport aircraft just as useful and even faster than the Germans, and what is more important is that they have them in large quantities, not because of any military plans, but simply because that nation had had the enterprise to develop an efficient system of air transport to meet civil peace-time needs. To-day those transport aircraft are serving the American Army and Navy, and one can often see some of them flying over this country performing the vital work of maintaining communications and supplies for the Armed Services. A further important effect of peace-time air transport is that it maintains a manufacturing industry which can, at short notice, turn from peace production to war production. Many of our military aircraft—the Hudsons of Coastal Command, the Mustangs of Army Co-operation Command, the Havocs of Fighter Command, which have done so much to beat night raiders—are the offspring of American civil aviation.
I think I have said enough to prove that civil aviation in peace-time is not a peacetime luxury but a war-time necessity. In peace-time we can develop our civil air transport and be sure that it will be useful in war. In war-time we can build still larger numbers of transport aircraft and be equally certain that they can be usefully and economically employed in peace. Up to date we have failed to do either. We have neglected air transport both in peace and even in war, when its neglect has become, as now, a great national danger. No new transport aircraft have appeared in this country since the war except that just the other day we heard, I believe for the first time, that two types had appeared, in very small numbers I understand. Our paratroop-carrying aircraft, our supply transports and communication aircraft consist of obsolete Whitley, Harrow and other bombers, whose top speed is so low that modern aircraft would have to fly dangerously slow in order to keep pace with them. It is still not too late to do something. We have factories producing large high-speed four-engined bombers. Some of these factories could be turned over to the production of four-engined transports on much the same constructional lines but 1021 designed ab initio for air transport work. We shall need these aircraft to finish the war. We have not won the war yet—not even against Italy—and we shall not do so until we are able to transport our troops and equipment into the enemy countries. Air transport is only one way of doing this but it is a very important way. I do not think any offensive action can succeed unless large quantities of fast transport aircraft are ready to carry supplies and reinforcements to the advancing troops.
With very little modification these transport aircraft can be put into service immediately after the war to maintain Empire communications and renew commercial development. Air transport can never entirely replace heavy sea transport but it will inevitably, and very shortly, take passengers and light freights away from the shipping companies. It is already doing so across the Atlantic and doing it with ease. Let me quote as an example of the ease of its operation a short passage from a book recently written by a young Royal Air Force bomber pilot, Squadron Leader Cheshire, who for a time was employed on Atlantic ferry duties. He said:We were two boys straight out of training school with no experience of flying behind us and 24 months ago did not even know how to take off.He goes on:I don't think I could ever take flying the Atlantic seriously. Just keep a straight compass course, and provided the engines don't fail you have got to hit land somewhere.… We flew on and on.The book further says:Nothing happened, and nothing went awry. The weather grew gradually worse, but the navigator and the wireless operator, young as they were, did their job perfectly, and ten and a half hours after take-off we hit the English coast three miles south of track.This brings us to the point that the technical operation of aircraft is not a mystery reserved for a specialized and limited number of people. Thousands of men are now doing it, and doing it superbly well, who knew nothing about it a year or two ago, some of them boys almost straight from school, as mentioned in the passage from the book which I have quoted.
For the development of the post-war air transport we do not need a new arid specialized organization composed entirely 1022 of air experts. What we need is traffic specialists—organizations which have branches in all parts of the world, people who understand passenger psychology and are accustomed to the inter-weaving of timetables and schedules, and accustomed to the intricacies of Customs Duties, the sale of passenger and freight space and the geography of the area over which they operate. These are the people we need. We have such organizations in the shipping companies which have behind them the tradition of hundreds of years of sea navigation. Sea navigation is much the same as air navigation in some ways. Having had the misfortune to combine in myself, at one time, the offices of both President of the Navy League and President of the Air League, I have never been inclined to think of the air as a thing apart from the sea, or to hold the view that a sailor could not be air-minded. Sailors have always been men of the air. Until a hundred years ago the air was their prime motive power, and even in these steamship days the air still governs the mood of the waters. No man can rule the waves unless he understands the forces of the air above them. In the last war the sailors of the Royal Navy built up such a fine air service that they were able to lend large numbers of their aircraft and pilots to the hard-pressed Army. I refer particularly to the Camel fighter, a direct ancestor of the still more famous Hurricane of to-day. In fact the Royal Naval Air Service was so far ahead, that it had finally to be amalgamated with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force. In this war, although suffering from the handicap of a newly-formed Fleet Air Arm and a paucity of up-to-date aircraft, as we have heard in recent debate in this House, the sailors of the Royal Navy have done remarkable work in such aircraft as have been allotted to them. They have also sent their pilots to assist in the Battle of Britain. As your Lordships will probably remember, many airmen went from the Navy to assist in that battle.
We must not forget, too, that although the shipping companies, as a whole, can, perhaps, be reproached with having neglected aviation during the last 20 years, the development of civil aviation in 1919 and the years immediately following was influenced largely by shipping men. For instance, the brothers Instone were shipping people and the late Mr. Holt Thomas 1023 was a shipping man. The progress then made, although it was uneconomic, was far more vigorous, and more in line with the technical development of the day than was the civil aviation era which followed when Imperial Airways were given the monopoly. I admit that Imperial Airways did some good work, but a lot more might have been done under a competitive system operated by experienced traffic operators. When a competitor in the form of British Airways did come to challenge Imperial Airways, Imperial Airways could not stand up to the competition, and finally found itself swallowed up and became part of British Overseas Airways. In America, on the other hand, where regulated competition was allowed, civil aviation flourished. First, the American continent was covered, and then the tentacles of Pan-American Airways swept out across the Pacific, across the Atlantic and to other parts of the world.
I have mentioned lack of progress as one danger of air monopoly. There is still another danger, and that is a political one. Such an organization, controlling a powerful method of transport in times of peace when Fighting Services are reduced to a minimum, might become too powerful. I expect a good many of your Lordships remember the story of Kipling's entitled "With the Night Mail," which he wrote in 1902. In that Kipling envisaged a world governed by The Aerial Board of Control, an organization which, because it controlled the air, could control the world. Kipling envisaged this aerial dictatorship as a benevolent one, but recent history does not encourage us to hope for benevolence as a by-product of dictatorship. So I think we have to be careful about that. Such an aerial dictatorship, whether national or international, might be far too dangerous. We should do better to divide this enormous power up among a number of separate organizations, and no better organizations could be found, in my view, than the present great shipping companies which have a long tradition of honourable and efficient service behind them. They must now be convinced that some of their more lucrative freights will soon be carried by air, and that it is worth their while even to lose money on air transport at first, just as other business men face an initial loss when opening a new department.
1024 I do not advocate unregulated competition. Let the Government form the regulations, allot operational areas, and then leave the rest to the proved capacity and enterprise of these companies. The suggestion that the railways should operate internal air services, while other companies operate external ones is, I think, unsound. We should get rid of this idea of "internal" and "external" in connexion with air transport. We might as well suggest that ships should not be allowed to sail inland up navigable rivers. The inland services should be regarded as extensions of the overseas services; through services should be run as required, for example, from France to Scotland, with such stops on the way as traffic may justify. On the question of whether the administration of air transport should be in the hands of the Air Ministry or the Board of Trade, I suggest that the time has come for the Board of Trade to take this matter over. In the earlier days of aviation when the aircraft industry was more experimental than operational, it was perhaps right that all technical development in aircraft should be the concern of one Ministry. Civil aircraft are now widely different from military aircraft, and the functions they perform in peace-time differ from those of war machines. I think, therefore, that it is only reasonable that civil aviation should be the prime responsibility of the department which deals with other forms of transport. As I have said before, there is no inscrutable mystery in flying to justify the concentration into one set of hands of all its activities. This war has shown clearly that flying is well within the capacity of the average man, and that nothing is needed to make us a nation of airmen except the necessary aircraft. We can master the air as well as we can master the sea, and we should do it in peace as well as in war.
To summarize my suggestions, they are that we should build transport aeroplanes now for use in the concluding stages of the war; that we should make plans for the employment of these transport aircraft for commercial purposes immediately after the war; that the shipping companies should be invited by the Government to co-operate in preparing for this development; and that Government control of civil aviation should be vested in the Board of Trade. In its outline it is a 1025 simple plan, but there will be many complex details to be settled. If this broad plan is followed, however, the complex details will be in the hands of the people best qualified to deal with them, and so the problem will be solved, to the great advantage of our country, of the Empire and of the world. It is not a matter of bringing the nation to the aid of aviation; we must bring aviation to the aid of the Empire. I think we are all agreed that whatever is done in this direction must not be allowed to weaken in any way our great war effort by one jot or one tittle. Finally, I feel sure that everything that is done must be done and will be done with the full approval and co-operation of our great Allies across the sea, both on the other side of the Atlantic and in Europe and Asia. I hope that that international co-operation will be one of the first things that we shall settle before we start to develop cur scheme of civil aviation.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, we have had questions addressed to the noble Lord who is to reply by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett. I am very delighted that I am not in the shoes of the Minister who is to reply, because the answers must be based on long negotiation with foreign Powers and with all our Allies, so that we may know exactly what sort of set-up will be wanted after the war. That question must be explored, and it has certainly not been explored yet. We shall have many speeches and many debates here before we get down to fundamentals on this broad question. I have risen this afternoon because I have heard all round me speeches about what we should do and should not do all over the world, and I thought that it was about time to bring this debate, which is the air, down to earth, and to put one simple question, which is this: What are you going to do it with? You have not any aircraft. It is about time, I think, that we realized that we have been fighting for our life and making aircraft to defend our homes and our country. In doing that, we have made war machines as directed by the Air Staff, and the Air Staff have up to now, very rightly, told us that we want bombers and fighters; and, by virtue of building them, we have saved this country and the world. Let that be appreciated first.
1026 then the United States of America come in, with their great industry, and they take a different view. They say: "These theatres of operations all over the world want air transportation," and very rightly they build air transport machines and are continuing to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has told us that twenty-five per cent. of their industry is concentrated on doing so. What is the corollary? It is that when the war ends, if we go on along present lines, we shall have the best fighting and war machines in the world, which will then be useless, whereas America will have twenty-five per cent. of her industry in full swing making the sort of machines of which my noble friend Lord Bennett dreams. It is a pretty position, and it is a position on which a decision has to be made, not by the Air Staff, but by the War Cabinet. This question transcends the ordinary day-to-day military situation. When my noble friend Lord Bennett says that we cannot produce first-class machines in less than two years, I should like him to get it into his head that it will take five.
LORD BRABAZON or TARA
I have been Chairman of a Committee which has been sitting for six weeks investigating this matter on the technical side, and I know of no one who could do it in two years, or even in four. I am sorry that we did not hear the expert whom Lord Bennett quotes. There is another point to which I wish to draw attention. The great air transport organization of America have attacked this problem in an entirely different way from ourselves. They have put everybody in uniform and used them up and down the country, and all the great American companies are getting valuable information as they fly all over the world 1027 to-day, building up something which will be of immense use to them after the war. Although we have not many machines now, we have some American machines, and I suggest that we build up an internal Air Transport Corps within the Air Force to-day—not outside, but within—because I can assure you that, even if we had the best machines in the world at the time when peace came, we should be unable to operate them in competition with the Americans and others who have great experience. We must build up that experience. To fly transport machines is very different from ordinary war flying. There are questions of reliability and safety and so on which come in and make it a technique apart. I think we can do that now; but the other question, as to the machines we are going to have to do what your Lordships and, I am sure, the whole country want, must be decided not on an Air Ministry plan but by the country as a whole.
My Lords, I am proud indeed to be the second pilot, following my noble friend Lord Brabazon, to congratulate the noble Marquess on raising this very important issue. My noble friend Lord Brabazon has certainly brought matters into a vital focus by his vigorous and well-thought-out contribution to this debate. As he points out, there are no aircraft of the transport variety to carry out these particular programmes which are in view. We have heard before in your Lordships' House, however, that there is one type of machine, the Avro-York, which is a development of the famous Avro-Lancaster which is doing such splendid work in bombing Germany, which has been turned into a transport machine but does not exist in any great numbers. I suggest that it would be appropriate to ask His Majesty's Government whether arrangements could not be made for firms now constructing bombers that are in daily use, and that perform such very good work, to concentrate to an even greater extent than they are now doing on the design of transport-type fuselages for the wings, under-carriages and power units of the bombing machines; because if, as is obviously necessary, we want to have transport machines available as quickly as possible, the only way in which transport machines can be provided in a rapid manner in this country 1028 is by such a process. In other words, I suggest that we should carry out in a much more wide form the policy which has already been started in turning out the Avro-York, which is a development as a transport machine of the famous Lancaster bomber.
That may help to handle the immediate problem in the next year or so, but then there comes the more distant problem of providing very efficient, up-to-date air transport, machines of the type visualized by my noble friend Lord Bennett, whose contribution to this whole matter was extremely interesting and valuable. In that respect I suggest that there is one policy which might be followed. The next family of heavy bombers required for next year for the United Nations programme will surely come from our friends in the United States of America. Cannot, therefore, the design staffs of the present organizations who are turning out bombers concentrate on the design of transport aircraft, so that the War Cabinet, who would have to give the decision, could give orders for the construction at least of the prototypes of those transport machines which are required for war purposes and for peace purposes? It seems to me that something along those lines is worthy of careful consideration, and it is to be hoped that Lord Sherwood, when he comes to reply, may give some indication along those lines.
With regard to air transport, might I suggest that a monopoly arrangement is certainly not a desirable one? There are, we understand, to be chosen instruments — "instruments" in the plural—for the carrying out of such services as His Majesty's Government may consider most desirable. I think it is very important indeed that we should not favour the limitation of the chosen instruments, that there should be not one but many of these chosen instruments suited for this particular purpose. In connexion with the general scheme of organizing world air transport, could not an International Committee be set up which could travel about the different countries and stabilize the rates so that the rates to be charged for the services to be run should be fixed internationally and it should be clearly known whether the firms running these services were receiving a subsidy? That should be known in an open way so that there would be no hidden subsidies. This country has certainly led in the develop- 1029 ment of the science of aeronautics but, as all speakers have emphasized, has not played at all a suitable part in the development of air transport. When we consider the fundamental work the development of the theory of aeronautics contributed to the world at large by Lanchester and the work of other pioneers like Lord Brabazon, who was the first man to make a free-of-control mechanical flight in this country, it is obvious that the British Empire must in the future play a dominant part in this vital question, and I very much hope that the advice given by many speakers in the course of this debate will be taken into consideration by the Government.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, there is only one matter that governs all the points that we have discussed this afternoon, and that is the point of freedom of the air which was referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Bennett and Lord Strabolgi. That governs everything. It governs the type of machine, it governs the form of the machine. The four great Allied Powers should get together and decide whether there is to be freedom of the air as there is freedom of the seas. If you are going to have that freedom of the air it will alter everything. We have not got it yet and that is surely the thing that can be settled first—before the questions of organization, or monopolies, or the machines. That is the one key point.
My Lords, I would like very briefly to support Lord Londonderry in the Motion he has brought before your Lordships. I think we may say that this debate, which began on a rather narrow basis, has now broadened out to cover a great many problems which are of vital concern to the future of the world. Lord Bennett gave a list of the various Committees which have sat, but there were two which he did not mention at all over both of which I had the honour to preside. Both of those Committees were concerned with the future of civil aviation in general. The first was in 1933–34, and the results began to be implemented before the war, and the second was in 1938–39. So far as I know, the results of both these Committees have been stopped of necessity by the outbreak of war, but the time will come when the problems with which they dealt will again have to be considered. We have heard 1030 to-day from many angles, sometimes of great interest, what should be done, but we shall not, until my noble friend speaks on behalf of the Government, hear any reply indicating what is in contemplation and what is in fact being done at the present moment. I think it is obvious that under the stress of the operations of war the whole of the energies of this country have had to be thrown into the fighter plane and the bomber plane. That has not been true to the same extent of some of our great Allies. What has struck me very much in all the references made to-day to the development of the transport plane is that there has been continual reference to the great development in America but there has not been the same emphasis laid upon the very similar development in Russia.
As I have said, I cannot help feeling that the initial emphasis of this debate has rather changed. We are getting rather beyond the actual Motion dealing with the replanning of the future of the air. Lord Trenchard has referred to the freedom of the air. Is it not time that we had some answer as to what is the attitude of the Government to that great question and to the subsidiary questions which have been raised as to whether this is to be a matter for the Board of Trade, or for the Air Ministry, or the Ministry of Transport of the future? What is to be the relation in the development of our transport between private enterprise, the shipping lines, the railways and so forth? We have had no sort of guide at all as to what is to be the line of development. In the international sphere what has struck me is that all the relations internationally before the war were the subject of debate in what was known as Ican— the International Commission of Aeronautical Navigation. To that Commission, to which many countries subscribed, neither the United States nor, I think, the Soviet Republic was a party. Nothing is more certain, if there is to be a proper development in a free way of the future of the air, than that those two great countries must play their part.
What steps are being taken by the Government now to ascertain the views of our two great Allies? We have been forced to build fighter planes and bomber planes. How far are the Government investigating the future working together of the three great partners in the alliance? To my 1031 mind that is a most vital consideration. If we are told that owing to the pressure of the war at the moment no consideration can be given to that, I hardly think that your Lordships who have taken part in this debate will regard this as a satisfactory answer. We know, and everybody who has been concerned from an expert point of view is agreed, that it takes a very long time before development on any large scale can take place in the air. My noble friend Lord Brabazon says five years, Lord Bennett says two years, but whichever it may be, it is going to take a very long time. What I think we all want to be satisfied about is that this is a matter which is really now being considered by the Government. My noble friend Lord Londonderry said that, as far as his information was concerned, a great deal was going on behind the scenes. I hope that is so, but so far as I can gather I have no reason to believe that it is so, and I think we are entitled to be assured.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I do not want to interrupt my noble friend, but I should like to correct him. I have no sort of idea what is going on in the Government, but what I do know is that all the shipping interests and our kith and kin in the Dominions are most anxious to know whether the Government have a policy or not, and I am hoping to get from them to-day a statement of their policy.
I am much obliged to my noble friend because that exactly emphasizes my point. I was under the impression that from some information which had reached my noble friend he was satisfied that a great deal was going on. So far as I can gather that is not so, and what I hope is that we may hear from my noble friend who is to reply for the Government one of two things: either that we are misinformed and that a great deal is now going on, or, if that is not so, that we may have a positive assurance that this matter will now be dealt with. I think every single speaker so far this afternoon has laid emphasis, first, upon the delay that must necessarily ensue even if decisions are taken now before we can have a proper implementation of those decisions; secondly, upon the fact that under the pressure of the war we have not been able to develop the transport planes of the future; and thirdly, upon 1032 the necessity for a friendly co-operation between the three great Allied nations, ourselves, the United States and Russia. I would lay emphasis on Russia, because in this debate there has been too much emphasis, it seems to me, upon the American development, enormously important though that is. I think it is essential that for the future of air transport generally, the three great Air Allies should work together in this respect, and I hope that, in the answer we are about to receive, we may have less emphasis laid upon our shortcomings, some of which were inevitable, and what is needed to be done, and a little more assurance that something actually will be done, because time is short, even though the war lasts a considerable time and none of us can say how long it is going to last.
Decisions must be taken now and steps taken to implement them. I cannot believe myself, in spite of the immense pressure as we know there is upon our aircraft industry, that it would be impossible for a certain percentage of our designing staffs to be set aside to plan out the transport planes of the future. I imagine that our production staffs are most fully and entirely employed, but I am not satisfied that our drawing staffs could not, if proper direction were given, be devoting some of their time to thinking ahead for the future. What has struck me most in the whole of this debate has been the unanimity with which every speaker has laid emphasis upon the need for planning ahead, and as far as we know no steps are being taken. I hope that the Government spokesman will be able to give us some reassurance in that respect.
My Lords, the ground provided by the noble Marquess's Motion has been so admirably covered by previous speakers that I have some hesitation in rising to speak, especially as I am the veriest tyro in matters concerning aviation as a whole, and I should be most reluctant that your Lordships should imagine that the fact that I have the honour to be wearing this uniform means that I can speak with any authority on them. But the importance of the Motion of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, cannot escape anyone who keeps a close eye on the century, and I suppose that in a matter that must intimately concern the British public, a sergeant in the Air Force, 1033 as being in some ways closer to it, may step in where even Air Marshals do not fear to tread. And rightly so, for the matter is not only one of the highest importance, but an extremely delicate one, reopening as it does one of the inevitable and cardinal issues of the after-war period. By that I mean the whole question of the alternative between collaboration and competition. That point has already been referred to by several speakers.
There is a leaflet, which many of your Lordships will probably have received, as I have, which consists of an article reprinted from the Aeroplane by Mr. Fairey Jones, F.R.S.A. It contains a variety of concrete proposals. It contains also an account of our past errors, and it complains that even before the war one had already got used to our Civil Air Force being called the Cinderella of the Services. But, more ominous than all that, it draws attention to the huge expansion of American civil air-line organization, and quotes, for example, from the paper American Aviation a statement that the North-West Airlines Financial Report for 1942 shows that the company had 881 employees ten months before and has now over 3,000, and plans an extension to 8,000 or 10,000. It goes further; it quotes this statement made by "a prominent American whose name is a household word" in 1941:In the great international race for commercial supremacy, both to-day and after the war. America is out in front. Our job is to see that she stays thereAnd for Mr. Fairey Jones the conclusion of the whole matter is the following:Notwithstanding the Atlantic Charter, twenty year post-war agreements and all ideologies produced by the torment of this global war, the post-war world will still be competitive, and Britain and the Empire will still have to compete for their rightful position in world trade and air communication.He suggests that if we are to be ready to cope with that situation we must plan now on a great and imaginative scale and take immediate steps to ensure that there will be units or nuclei organized to meet the many post-war contingencies of air transport.
I confess that I am even more interested in what an authoritative writer like this thinks the inevitable situation concerning civil aviation after the war will be, than in his proposals for dealing with it which I am hardly competent to judge. Is this really so? Have we really to 1034 embark on a vast competitive enterprise—and I have only mentioned the United States, who, I assume, would be the principal competitor—in order to maintain the position worthy of a great country? I confess to being more than a little perturbed at this prospect. Our relations with America are always exceedingly delicate and difficult to regulate and German propaganda has made the most of this unfortunate fact, prophesying throughout this war the most sinister squabbles and the dreariest sort of Imperialist bickering between us and our great Any after the war is over. It is for this reason that, ignorant as I am both of the exact situation and of our capacity for dealing with it, while whole-heartedly supporting the noble Marquess's Motion on general grounds, I should like His Majesty's Government to inform us definitely whether there are any means whereby we may as soon as possible open negotiations, through channels of which I am myself ignorant, with the United States and any other potential rivals, in what looks like being the most dangerous competition and see if we cannot transform it into a useful collaboration.
In a century where, to quote Alexander Seversky, the aeroplane designer, 500 planes of the Douglas B.19 size carrying 50 tons each could keep the British Isles supplied more expeditiously than any ships, and food could, if necessary, be cooked in America in the morning and delivered steaming hot in Europe in the evening—I do not know whether the English would have sufficient appreciation of American cuisine to welcome that prospect—in a century where aviation and its shortening of communications are rapidly making the world as small as an orange, it seems to me that the subject of world collaboration should not become a subject of acrimonious dispute. In a word, my Lords, it seems to me that one's first instinct as an Englishman is to say "The Lion has wings; let him see they are not clipped"; but second thoughts being as usual better, this had better be rectified to "The Lion has wings; so has the Eagle; let them find some means of flying together as equals" And finally, so far as technicalities go, I would like His Majesty's Government to inform us whether it be not possible for some arrangement to be reached whereby the process adopted by the Lufthansa at the outbreak war, as mentioned by the 1035 noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, may be reversed in our case and the Royal Air Force be persuaded to prepare in some manner cadres of transport planes and personnel that may be demilitarized and transferred to civilian air transport lines, for I may add I have good reason to believe that there are many highly-placed Royal Air Force officers who are interested in this or some analagous scheme.
My Lords, I will not detain you more than a few minutes because I know you are anxious to hear the Government reply. At least after the debate this afternoon the Government will not be able to say that they were not warned. The noble Marquess, I think, has done a great duty in bringing this matter forward and, it I may say so, I think the contribution to the debate which was made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, was vital although rather frightening. I hope with the noble Lord, Lord Gorell, that we shall have some sensible and intelligent reply from the Government on this vital subject. The Government had a jolt in another place yesterday and I hope that if no satisfactory answer is forthcoming this afternoon the matter will be raised again by the noble Marquess, or if not by him by some other noble Lord better qualified to speak than myself. The matter is of the most vital importance.
The Times on Saturday published a leading article called "Freedom of the Skies" from which I gather that The Times foresees that after the war we shall have internationalization of air power. That is mere whimsey, my Lords. What will happen will be a bitter struggle, a fight, a race. I hope in that race that at least if we cannot win we shall be in the running and not tailed off or left at the post.The Times Aeronautical Correspondent says that many people in this country feel that the time is ripe to take civil aviation out of the control of the Air Ministry. We are all familiar with The Times genius for understatement. Translated, that means of course that it must be taken out of the hands of the Air Ministry at once. The problem is very grave and pressing and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, for whom I have the greatest regard and esteem, will be able to give some suitable undertaking that something will be done, and done 1036 quickly. The noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, referred to the Cadman Report. That Report used very strong language. It said that the general manager took too narrow and commercial a view of his responsibilities. But how can a man take too narrow and commercial a view of responsibilities when he is running a large commercial undertaking? As the noble Lord, Lord Gorell, says, it ought to be possible even during a war, to take staff engaged on bombers and fighters and put them on the planning of transport machines to be used either in peace or in war. I do beg that something is done and that we shall not, as usual, be put off with some pious expression.
§ THE JOINT-PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD SHERWOOD)
My Lords, it may be for your convenience if I speak now. We have had a full debate which has ranged over a great many points. Some of those I shall not be in a position to answer directly now. I regret that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House is not here to answer the debate because, as has been pointed out, it does not involve one Department only, but deals with a subject calling for the highest War Cabinet decisions. No one in the Government will quarrel with, and I think everyone outside will welcome, the action of the noble Marquess in initiating this debate. Everyone knows the interest he has taken both in office and out of office in this very important question of civil aviation. If it is right that we should concentrate at the present time on war material we can at least give thought to what is going to come after. Of all the subjects to which thought must be given one of the greatest is civil aviation. It would undoubtedly be wrong if we were to allow the position to go by default.
As has been stressed, war is always a forcing house in many spheres and one sphere in which there has been the greatest forcing is aviation. There is no doubt that there has been brought into the art of the air developments which before the war would have seemed visionary. Aircraft designers to-day have knowledge and experience to enable them to plan for machines of a size, performance and standard of comfort far beyond anything that could have been conceived before the war, and radio development has been so vast that it may bring that 1037 security to flying without which it is never going to be the great advantage that it should be. In the past there is no doubt that this country has had a geographical disadvantage in the sphere of aviation. Although it may be true that it is not much further to fly from New York to London than from New York to San Francisco, yet the one journey is over the sea and the other over land routes. Great nations such as America and Russia and Germany had geographical advantages which enabled them to get a start over us. True we had the imperial line of communications on which we rightly concentrated, but here good marine alighting areas were everywhere available, and so it came about that our main services were operated with flying boats. There is no doubt that we have a satisfactory record so far as the flying boats are concerned. By the production of boats such as the Short Empire, the British aircraft industry showed, in those days, that it was able to produce aircraft of a performance and standard of comfort at least as good as those being produced in any other part of the world.
In another respect, too, we have been handicapped in the production of types of civil land planes— and I was glad to hear what Lord Brabazon said when he rather brought us back to earth on some of these things by asking how it comes about that we are still able to sit in this House. He pointed out that if it were not for our military aircraft we should not be here to-day. I am certain that that is so. But the fact is that we have concentrated to an immense extent on the production of military aircraft both in the years immediately before the war and, of course, during the war. No one could deny the success which we have had in that direction. I consider that we do not have to bow to any other nation in regard to our production of aircraft on the military side. We have, for example, produced such machines as the Hurricane, the Spitfire, the Mosquito and the Lancaster, which have not been equalled in their day in any country in the world. Germaay has been concentrating on military aircraft for many years, as we know, but throughout the war the Royal Air Force has enjoyed technical superiority over the Luftwaffe, and there is no reason to believe that the skill and trains which have been put into 1038 the production of these military machines will not be of advantage and of the same power when we turn to the other sphere—that of civil aviation.
I take it that what noble Lords really want to know to-day is what steps the Government are taking now to prepare for that time when the aircraft industry can switch over from the military to the civil side. As I have said, it is the first aim of the Government to win this war. That must be kept clear, absolutely clear, in the minds of everyone. If we divert our eyes from the provision of military aircraft so necessary at the present time, we shall undoubtedly suffer and meet the fate, known to your Lordships, that came to little "Johnny Head-in-Air." Of that I am certain. Of course the Government, while acutely conscious that we cannot direct our attention entirely to the side of civil aviation at the present time, appreciate the vitally important part which civil aviation will play in the postwar world. They are equally conscious of the long interval that must elapse between the time when work on designs for a new type begins and the time when the aircraft is produced in quantity. The Government are giving earnest study to the future of civil aviation and to the types which would be required for the operation of services after the war.
As your Lordships may know, a small Technical Committee has been set up under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, to inquire into the question of the development of types of aircraft for civil aviation. In passing, I may say that I am certain your Lordships will agree with me that no better man could have been chosen as Chairman of that Committee than my noble friend. The Committee have taken evidence from the industry, from the British Overseas Airways Corporation and from distinguished technicians, and they have carefully reviewed all the latest developments. They have had the benefit of advice from senior officers with recent experience of these problems. The Committee have worked at high pressure, and their Report was handed to the Secretary of State for Air and the Minister of Aircraft Production yesterday. Your Lordships will, I am sure, hardly expect me to deal with, or make any comment on, that Report today. And much of it of course, if not very nearly all of it, must be secret. I 1039 would, however, assure your Lordships that it will receive the most careful consideration which it merits, and within the limits of this Committee's terms of reference it will throw a light on the whole picture.
Now in connexion with the needs of civil aviation, as I mentioned before, the question of radio development arises. The application of war-time radio development to the peace-time needs of civil aviation is a vital matter and it is being most carefully gone into. But it must be remembered again that all this radio development is very secret and it is impossible for the Government to publish details concerning it merely because it might be a convenient way of dealing with this question. When you know how very narrow is the margin in some of these matters, you realize how important it is not to give away to the enemy any inkling of some of the advantages which we hold. It has also been brought out that attention is being given to the lay-out side and technical equipment of post-war airfields and to the revision of regulations governing the safety of flight and other subjects of that kind, all of which are important if we are going to step from military aviation into civil aviation with the least possible loss of time when the war ends.
I hope that what I have said will show the House that there is much preparatory work to be done as a necessary preliminary to the formulation of policy. When this is completed it will be for the Government to decide—and the decision will be taken at the earliest possible moment—whether any, and if so what, proportion of the aircraft industry and design staffs may be diverted from military work to the design and production of civil types. As I say, it is a question for the Government to decide. I am certain that the House will appreciate the grave responsibility resting on the Government in taking that decision. The impression, I know, is sometimes given that there are unlimited numbers of experts in aircraft design who can easily be switched from the military to the civil side of this work, but the fact, as anyone who knows the industry will say, is very different. There are all too few first-rate designers, and if they are diverted from their present work they are definitely diverted at the expense of the war effort.
1040 That must be kept clearly in mind. No one wants the bomber offensive to suffer a reduction. No one wants any lessening of the part which air plays in the battle of the Atlantic, or any lessening of the part played by the fighters which guard us now. Moreover, we have also to think of the troops in battle for whom it is necessary that there should always be the fullest possible measure of air support. It is only by the unceasing efforts of the designing staffs that that technical superiority which is essential to victory can be maintained. I know that my noble and gallant friend Lord Trenchard will agree with me when I say that it is on this technical work that the superiority of your aircraft depends, and whether you really hold air supremacy or not. This work is never finished; it is absolutely unending. The Government must take the decision as to what can properly he diverted; the decision cannot rest on the shoulders of anyone else.
The noble Marquess urged the Government to encourage aircraft firms to work out a co-ordinated policy of construction. The advantages of that are, of course, evident, and the closest co-operation does exist. The Government mean to see that this co-operation grows, and they mean to see that the types produced in this country are second to none. They must rely for that, as has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, on the British aircraft industry, because that is where the designs come from. In this industry there are immense numbers of people engaged at the present time, but the position will not be the same after the war, when a great many people will not be needed for war work, and it will be important that many firms now engaged in the war effort should take up work on the peace or civil side as soon as possible. In addition to new designs, close attention is being given to the modification of bomber types to enable them to play a transport role, a matter mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill; but, as he pointed out, the modification amounts very nearly to an entire redesign, certainly of the fuselage. It is not a simple or easy thing to do, but until new types of civil transport aircraft can be designed and produced—and their gestation will take time—these converted bombers will meet the need immediately the war ends for transport aircraft to serve a multitude of different purposes, such as reviving 1041 overseas communications, transporting refugees, and generally assisting in the work of rehabilitation.
Your Lordships no doubt know that the Government are giving earnest thought to the organization of civil air transport after the war. Great interest is taken in this matter in the Press, and a great many views are being put forward. In your Lordships' House to-day, I think that there have been eleven speakers, and I would not say that any two of them held exactly the same view about what the solution should be. In the past there has been no freedom of the air, but continual bargaining for the grant of transit and landing rights, and few people would wish to see the world return to that position if something worth while can be put in its place. The policy of freedom of the air without any corresponding international regulation of civil aviation, however, would mean competition far more fierce than any yet seen in the air. It would inevitably mean a continuation, and indeed an intensification of heavy national subsidies. The time may not yet have come when civil aviation can fly by itself; it will never come if uneconomic services are to be maintained for purely prestige reasons. In the prosecution of the war the Air Forces of the United Nations have flown side by side and in the closest collaboration. It is in the interests of the world that, when peace returns, collaboration on the air routes of the world should be equally close.
There are, of course, many forms which that collaboration can take. There is, for example, the plan recently outlined by the Vice-President of the United States of America, under which air transport services throughout the world would be operated is a peace-time function of an International Air Force. Again, there might be international operation of air services in certain areas or on certain routes, while other routes and other areas were left to national companies; or there might be no international operation, but regulation of the air routes of the world by an international authority. There are merits in all these schemes, but obviously no decision can be taken by any one nation. The various issues are being closely considered by the Government, and they will certainly be discussed, as the noble Marquess suggests, as soon as may be practicable with the Dominions 1042 and with the other members of the United Nations.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked me some questions. One or two of them have been, I think, answered by the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, who went very fully into the question of the B.O.A.C. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said that there was need to buy out the private financial interests in the B.O.A.C. I should like to make it quite clear that there are no private interests in the B.O.A.C. The Corporation, as the noble Lord knows, was formed in 1940 as a public corporation, the capital stock of which carries no voting rights but is guaranteed as to both principal and interest (three per cent.) by the Treasury; but no stock has ever been issued to the public, so that there is no question at all of private financial interests being involved in the B.O.A.C.
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord whether the shareholders have not certain rights to buy back the company from the Government after a certain number of years.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
No, they were bought clean out for a certain sum at the time. There is no private financial interest.
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the question of the B.O.A.C., I should like to ask whether he intends to deal with the allegation of the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, that there are on the Board of the Corporation, I think he said, two directors whose interests might conflict with the interests of the Corporation.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bennett, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has just said, did attack, in the course of his very brilliant speech, I think two of the directors of the B.O.A.C.
§ VISCOUNT BENNETT
No, I did not attack them. I said that the principle was provided for in the Statute itself. I said that I did not know the gentlemen, but that they should not be there, because two are interested in shipping and one is the director of a railway.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
I understood him to say that their interests were conflicting, that according to the Charter they should not be there, and that where their interests and their duty clashed, it would be found that interest often succeeded when duty failed.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
I understood it as it was said, and I do not quite follow why, if the present directors have great knowledge of industry, it is suggested that they should necessarily be incapable of running the Corporation.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred to the position which would arise after the war in the Axis countries. He said that he did not approve of their having air transport themselves, but that their merchants would have to be able to trade. I think that is a question which, quite definitely, should be left till after we have won the war. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, recommended that responsibility for civil aviation should be transferred to the Ministry of War Transport in order that air interests may be more readily co-ordinated with shipping interests. Lord Mottistone wished for a brand new Ministry altogether, and some speakers were very much afraid of the "Board of Trade. It is, of course, clear that air and sea travel are complementary. To subsidize air transport on an extravagant scale, so that it could carry traffic which should properly and rightly go by sea, is not a policy which would commend itself to any sensible man. Nobody can to-day say what developments the next ten years will bring in the field of air transport. The stage has not, however, been reached when air transport can compare in cheapness with sea transport, and speed is not the only consideration which every traveller has in mind. Your Lordships can be assured that the correlation of air and sea transport is a subject to which the Government are giving and will give the closest consideration.
This does not, of course; necessarily mean that responsibility for air transport should be transferred to the Ministry of War Transport. In war-time, when British civil aviation is subserving a military purpose in the transport of urgent official passengers and military freight and 1044 spares to all parts of the world, it is clearly right that a single Ministry should be responsible for military and civil aviation. Moreover, it remains a fact as the Cadman Committee stated in 1938, that military and civil aviation are two sides of a single coin. Whether, later on the gain that would result from withdrawing civil aviation from the Air Ministry would counterbalance the loss, will be a matter for decision by the Government of the day in the circumstances then obtaining.
I have been asked for several assurances. It is clear that you cannot give assurances on something in which at the moment so many other people are involved, but the assurance you can give is that the Government are very alive to the importance of this question. I can see that many of your Lordships have read the excellent article on air transport after the war which appeared in The Times last Saturday. That article in its summary of the situation—though not necessarily in what it suggested—is one with which we all agree. It seemed to me to be a call for collaboration, for far-seeing vision and for boldness in the planning of post-war civil aviation. I am very sure that those are the three qualities which we need, and unless those three qualities are joined you cannot really tackle this very big subject. In conclusion, may I say that with all the difficulties which face us to-day and all the dangers that beset us, the Government are not unmindful of their responsibility and we shall, I hope, achieve success in civil aviation, as we have shown the world we could in military aviation.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords in thanking my noble friend for his most informative speech, I should like to ask his sympathetic consideration for a suggestion which I would presume to make. Nearly all the speakers to-day, and notably Lord Bennett with particular eloquence, have emphasized the importance in the future of the interests of trade and commerce in connexion with civil aviation, and indeed when we have won the war our hope for the future is through trade. There is in existence a Joint Committee of the Association of Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of British Industries and the London Chamber of Commerce presided over by Mr. Oliver Simmonds who is a member of the House of Commons. There 1045 have been a succession of Committees appointed. by the Government, among them that presided over by Lord Gorell, which considered, reported, and passed away. There seems to be needed a Committee which would give assistance to the Government by continued invigorating inspiration to action, particularly in foreign negotiatons. It is for that reason that I presume to suggest that the noble Lord will sympatheticaly consider a recommendation to the War Cabinet for the setting up of a Joint Standing Committee of both Houses to which they would accord some appropriate status so that they may be reinforced in their activities by a Committee so constituted.
Before Lord Londonderry replies may ask the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, whether he can give us the terms of reference for Lord Brabazon's Committee?
§ THE MARQUESS on LONDONDERRY
My Lords, as I have had a certain amount of experience of the difficulties which confront a noble Lord who is appointed in your Lordships' House to answer questions, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, that I have nothing but sympathy for him, but the reply which he has given—an eloquent reply, and, perhaps, to some who did not know the facts that he stated, an interesting reply—is no reply whatever to the Motion on the Paper. I was careful to make my Motion a very narrow one, and the rules of order in your Lordships' House are very wide, and it was natural that a great many of your Lordships would use a Motion of that description for bringing forward many of those interesting subjects which they desire to discuss. But my noble friend, I regret 1046 to say, did not address himself to the Motion at all. I particularly asked him in my speech whether the Government would state their policy, and I referred to the importance of a due share for this country in the development of air transport, so vital for communications throughout the King's Dominions. We had a most illuminating speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, which emphasized the relations between this country and our Dominions, upon which the whole stability of the British Empire depends, and I feel that unless this country can lead in this matter of civil aviation our position as a first-rate Power will rapidly disappear.
My noble friend on the Front Bench was quite unable to tell us whether the Government have a policy or not. I was most anxious to hear whether they have. He mentioned the Dominions in what I would venture to say, if he does not mind my doing so, was a very perfunctory manner. However, the noble Lord is in a very difficult position, as I recognize quite well. I would like to give notice to your Lordships that I shall raise this question again in identically the same words on this day month. I hope that by then the Government will have made up their minds, and will tell us the policy that they have settled upon, thus permitting the noble Lord to make a more encouraging reply than we have received to-day. I beg to withdraw my motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.