§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY rose to move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is of vital necessity to secure for this country a due share in the development of air transport, and that this subject demands immediate and earnest attention. The noble Marquess 584 said: My Lords, your Lordships will remember that I raised this question in this House some four weeks ago. On that occasion the noble Viscount who leads the House was unfortunately unable to be present and we received from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Air, Lord Sherwood, what I would call a Departmental reply. I did not feel that the reply was satisfactory and I gave notice-then that I would raise the question again. I am proposing, with your Lordships' permission, to do so to-day. Since this Motion has been on the Paper the noble Lord, Lord Davies, has put down an Amendment. I know very well how keen the noble Lord has always been on the particular subject of internationalization, and I think the matter which the noble Lord desires to raise is so important that he should have a day for its consideration. But it really has very little or nothing to do either with the subject which I am raising or with the particular point which I and my friends are most anxious to impress upon the Government. The noble Lord's Amendment is purely theoretical, and when I recall the various international efforts, Collective Security, the League of Nations, the Kellogg Pact and all the other catch phrases, as I would call them, I feel that in these days the closer we can keep to practical matters the better.
§ The object with which I have brought this Motion forward is to urge the Government to propound an air transport policy, an Empire Commonwealth policy, because it is our desire that the whole of the Empire should be linked up by air. I should like to see that policy emanate from and comprise the whole of those vast territories which constitute the British Empire. I am most anxious that this branch of aviation should be separate from the Air Ministry. My noble friend Lord Brabazon has reminded me that I have in the past taken a different view on this point and I am ready to plead guilty. I feel that circumstances have changed to such a very great extent that, while he took the right view some years ago, I think I certainly took a wrong one. The next point I wish to make is that no monopoly should be given to any company. We do not want to see a monopoly carrying out all the duties which appertain to an aviation company. We would like to see all those air lines and all those shipping companies which are interested in this matter enabled, by the announce 585 ment of a Government policy, to make their plans to ask for designs and to take steps to have aircraft for this purpose in production.
§ On the last occasion I claimed the cooperation of all those great countries which are mainly interested in aviation. I suggested that for the aircraft required we could co-operate with America on the Lease-Lend basis and also that we, on our part, should do more than we are doing now to manufacture transport aircraft in this country. My main point—and I did my best to impress it on the Government four weeks ago—was that all these matters have to be considered now, the plans have to be made now, all the people concerned have to be encouraged now, and there is a grave danger in anything which savours of delay or procrastination. I will go further and say that it is highly important for countries like the United States to be fully aware of our plans and of the position which we as an Empire are determined to occupy in relation to the air, because the time is corning, and we hope at no distant date, when the war will end and the various countries will sit round the peace table. I should not like there to be any misunderstanding as to what our ideas are about the place in the world in relation to the air that we are prepared to occupy. During the last four weeks we have read a great many speeches in the newspapers, as far as their limited space allows them to report speeches, from many distinguished men. I have not been able to find one single reference in those speeches to this particular question of the air. I have read many of them. One came from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I should have thought that the whole of our Colonial policy was bound up with the communications between one Colony and another. But so far as the Government are concerned there has been what I call a conspiracy of silence.
§ I now desire to say something about America. We have all of us read reports of a great number of irresponsible speeches. I attach very little importance to these speeches, and I should be sorry if they stimulated anything like acute discussion in this country. That is the last thing we want. But I have been impressed by the speech delivered by Mr. Wallace. Mr. Wallace has told us that he is anxious for co-operation. He fully 586 recognizes the part all countries are bound to play, and believes that if we do not come to some definite and beneficial arrangement for the world as a whole we shall find ourselves faced with what he calls the Third World War. There is a great deal of truth in the remarks he made; so I would hope that the co-operation for which I pressed on the last occasion will be developed, and quickly developed, as time goes on.
§ Let us make no mistake about it. Immense progress in relation to what we call civil aviation is going on in America at the present time. I am anxious and willing to pay them a tribute because their system is a very remarkable and a very efficient one. They are controlling various services in different parts of the world on what one would call a military basis. It stands to reason that if nothing is done here on a different basis, if no indication is given as to our plans and what we propose to do, America will have a great grievance in time to come when we begin to strike out a claim and say that America should have recognized what we were going to do, although the Government and official circles here may never have stated what their plan was. I am quite sure that the world as a whole is looking to this country for a lead. I have had evidence of that from some of those in European countries who, before the war, were operating remarkably efficient services. They know exactly what would happen if the misfortune should occur of Germany winning the war. - They would be told exactly what they had to do or not to do. That is a system to which they are opposed on principle throughout, but they feel, and they know, that where Great Britain has taken the lead in the world, as she has done in the past, it has been on a basis of co-operation with, and assistance to, those smaller countries, which has enabled them to lead their own lives and to co-operate and assist where they could do so.
§ I should like to say a few words in reference to the War Cabinet. Your Lordships will remember that some two years ago there were many discussions in this House in relation to the War Cabinet, and we stated in no doubtful terms what we meant by a War Cabinet. We wanted to see a small body of men, who should be untrammelled by the burdens of office, carrying all those responsibilities, not only 587 relating to the war, but also to those manifold duties which have to go on inside the country and the Empire. It may be said, of course, that everything really affects the war. Our position improved, and we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Prime Minister for his remarkable efforts and for all he has done. But I have never altered my opinion that the position would have improved still more if we had had a War Cabinet. I am certain that, in relation to many matters in this country, the way would have been much easier, and much would have been clone in probably a better way, if we had had individuals untrammelled by office to whom were allocated these great questions. It seems to me to be a very important omission that there is no Minister in your Lordships' House who sits in the War Cabinet. We hear on all sides that the country pays as much attention, and more, to the debates that take place in your Lordships' House as it does to the debates that arise in another place; yet we find that we have no direct representative in the War Cabinet. I am sure that the noble Viscount who leads the House has what is called "access" to the War Cabinet, and I have no doubt that owing to his own personal qualities and abilities he probably gets more "across" to the War Cabinet than other people might do; but still it is not the same thing.
§ There is no one I can think of in the War Cabinet who can directly say: "This question of civil aviation and all it means in air transport comes under my supervision, and I will deal with the matter." I have no direct means of knowing what has been going on behind the scenes. I am like the rest of your Lordships. We read the newspapers. Some of us may think we have opportunities of knowing what is going on. As a matter of fact, I have no idea except the indications I have read in the Press of what has been done and what the noble Viscount will tell us at the end of the debate. I understand that there is to be what is called an Air Transport Command, which I presume is another body with no direct access to the Cabinet because it would come under the Secretary of State for Air who also is not a member of the War Cabinet. After all the time we have been led to believe the Government have been spending on this very important matter, I do not feel at all satisfied with what I 588 have read in the Press. I should have liked to see a separate organization dissociated from the three Services and serving those three Services under Government direction. One reason which I think may appeal to your Lordships is that if this does come under the Air Ministry we shall find, as regards transport aircraft, that those discussions which we have had in relation to the Fleet Air Arm are as nothing compared with the claims the Navy will make for transport aircraft. That, however, is a side issue.
§ I am disturbed in my mind as to the production of transport planes, because that really is the basis on which future development really must rest. I think we could produce in this country a great many more transport planes than we do now. We shall hear from the noble Viscount who leads this House the position as to that, if he is entitled to tell us, but I am bound to say, on my own behalf, from the little knowledge of the manufacture of aircraft that I possess, that I am not satisfied with the production of transport planes in this country. I deprecate very strongly the timorous approach which the Government on so many occasions are inclined to make in respect of this great policy which I had hoped would have been enunciated four weeks ago. I would, as a matter of fact, have liked to hear that done long previously. Though we have had nothing so far, we may have something to-day. I hope we shall. It has been left to Wing-Commander Runciman tentatively to mention the situation as regards America. It seems to me that it is the duty of an important member of the Government to pronounce on these matters instead of leaving it to persons like Wing-Commander Runciman, eminent though he is. I am not satisfied that those who have responsibility for these matters in the War Cabinet are what I would call air-minded. They never have been in the past, and I do not feel that, as regards consideration of this matter, they are likely to take a correct view. I may be wrong, and I sincerely hope I am wrong, but I should like to have seen some one, some forceful personality, at the head of this air transport plan after the Government have pronounced their policy, with direct access to the War Cabinet. I have sought to urge the Government to propound a policy. I hope we shall hear it to-day. I hope we shall hear in unmistakable terms the position which they are determined 589 this country and this Empire shall occupy in the air when the war has come to an end. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is of vital necessity to secure for this country a due share in the development of air transport, and that this subject demands immediate and earnest attention.—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ LORD DAVIES had given Notice of an Amendment to the Motion—namely, to leave out all the words after "necessity" and insert "that the future devolopment of civil and military aviation should be considered from the standpoint of the general interest; that in order to secure the freedom of the air, the United Nations should constitute themselves into an international authority charged with the duty of drafting a code of regulations governing the employment of aircraft and controlling an Air Police Force to ensure that this code is respected and upheld."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name, and in doing so I can assure my noble friend Lord Londonderry that I have no intention of trying to raise a side issue in connexion with his Motion. Perhaps I ought to apologize to him for not having consulted him before putting down my Amendment, but I felt that it was a subject which did have a bearing upon the Motion that he has just moved, as I understand, perhaps quite wrongly, the object of his Motion is to try to induce the Government to switch over to the manufacture of transport planes, and that, I gather, was the view which was expressed in many speeches during our last debate on this subject. What does that mean? I cannot help feeling that at any rate it means the dislocation of the plans for production of different types of aeroplanes which have been arrived at and agreed upon by the Allied Governments, and especially between us and the Government of the United States. I suppose there must be a programme, and that programme is based upon the capacity of the Allies to manufacture the different kinds of planes which are needed in accordance with the resources which each of the Allies possesses, in order to turn out whatever planes they are best suited to manufacture and to utilize in that way all their resources to the best advantage for the purpose of winning the war. Therefore it seems to me quite 590 irrelevant to drag in what is to happen after the war with regard to air transport. That will have to take a back seat if in any way it interferes with, or is going to interfere with, the output of aeroplanes needed for the prosecution of the war.
§ Another point I would like to suggest to your Lordships is that the future of air transport depends primarily upon what arrangements will eventually be made in connexion with military aviation after the war. It seems to me that that is the crux of the whole business. In the past, at any rate, air transport has been regarded as an adjunct, as an accessory of military aviation. That is the reason why almost every Government subsidizes civil aviation. They do so because they regard it as part and parcel of military aviation in the event of war. The noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, put it in a very few words in our last debate when he said that civil aviation in peace-time is not a peace-time luxury but a war-time necessity. I think he is quite right. We have, of course, the example of Germany, which was precluded, or was supposed to be precluded, from manufacturing military planes and concentrated on civil aviation. In the end Germany produced a tremendous and very powerful machine which could be switched over for military activities.
Then if we want, as I assume most of us do, to divorce civil and military aviation, it will not be possible to do that in the future as it has not been possible in the past. It will not be possible to do that so long as the control of military aviation is vested in each of the national Governments. If that is to be the system after the war, then there will have to be subsidies from each of these Governments to support its air transport and we should finish, I suppose, with another cut-throat competition which, I understand, the noble Marquess wishes to avoid. He has just told us what Mr. Wallace said a few days ago. Mr. Wallace's main object was to castigate those of his fellow-countrymen who have been advocating an imperialistic air policy in the United States after the war. He said:
It is urged that, after the war, American aviators ought to be permitted to fly everywhere in the world but that not a single foreign plane should over fly over any part of the United States. This visions an imperialistic fight for air supremacy between at least three great nations, a fight which can end finally only in World War No. 3, or American
domination of a type which will eventually make the United States worse hated in the world that the Nazis ever have been. We do not want imperialistic American supremacy in the air from which we shall get insecurity and war at a tremendous outlay of taxpayers' money and our children's blood.
That is obviously intended as a warning to his fellow-countrymen that they must not pursue an imperialistic policy after the war; and I suggest that we should be very careful indeed not to provide any powder and shot for these people who are urging Congress and urging the American Government to take steps which will give them this tremendous power in the air after the war. On the other hand, it seems to me that if the national Air Forces are pooled or merged in some kind of international force after the war, then the whole future of air transport assumes an entirely different character and an entirely different complexion. It would be no longer, in the words of the noble Duke, a war-time necessity. So I cannot help feeling that co-operation, which the noble Marquess has just accepted, would be very much simpler and very much easier to bring about in civil aviation once this question, what is to happen to the military forces, has been satisfactorily settled. That is one reason why I have ventured to put down this Amendment on the Paper.
§ We have heard a great deal about the freedom of the air, and I think the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said in the last debate that until the question Of the freedom of the air had been settled it would be premature to discuss the future of air transport. One hopes that some arrangement will be made in order to secure what is called the freedom of the air, but I would venture to point out that in regard to freedom of the seas, there is the three-mile limit, and the question arises whether there should not be some limit in the space over each country above which aeroplanes will be allowed to fly freely. What that limit ought to be it is not, of course, for me to suggest, but if there is to be freedom of the air I think we shall all agree there must be a code of rules and regulations governing the whole employment of the air. That code will have to be administered by a United Nations authority in order to ensure that abuses do not creep in and that certain companies or countries carry out their obligations. The sanction for any code of 592 rules of that kind obviously could be provided by an International Police Force. Then I think we should have fair play for everyone and that competition to which the noble Marquess alluded—he did not want monopolies—could be carried on without injuring any legitimate interest.
§ Now may I venture to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that aviation after all is a very modern invention, something that has come about in our lifetime? I suppose we shall all agree that it can be the greatest blessing or the greatest curse that has ever come to this world. I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, who said some years ago that if he had a casting vote he would abolish the air. I think that all depends on the way in which this new instrument is going to be employed. Obviously it can have at least two functions. One is to increase and develop the means of communication, of travel and of transport, in order to increase the prosperity and the welfare of mankind. But there is another function for which it could be employed, perhaps a more important one—namely, to prevent aggression and to compel the settlement of all disputes by peaceful procedure and so ensure the security of nations and promote peace. We have learnt at any rate since this war that control of the air means also the control of the land and the sea, and I cannot help feeling that if the policing function becomes the dominant function of the air, it will then become an unmitigated blessing. If, on the other hand, it is to be used for purposes of international duelling, it remains a curse and I think the noble Viscount would be quite right in trying to abolish it. That, I suggest, is the choice which we have to make.
At the end of the last war statements were made in this country by people who realized the vital importance of the air. In his book The Aftermath, which I turned up the other day, the Prime Minister gave an imaginary account of a conversation between President Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau on the eve of the Peace Conference. This is what he wrote:
At the moment when science had produced weapons destructive of the safety and even the life of whole cities and populations, weapons whose action was restricted by no frontiers and could be warded off neither by Fleets nor Armies, a new instrument of human government would be created to wield them.
Conversely, just as this new instrument was coming into being, the new weapons which it required were ready to its hand.
I suggest that if that programme had been carried out things might have happened very differently during the last twenty-five years. We had an opportunity then but it was allowed to slip by. Another opportunity will arise at the conclusion of this war. In the general interest, in the interest of all countries which in the long run is the national interest, I would appeal to the Government to lose no time in exploring tills particular problem, to discuss it with our Allies and, if possible, to evolve a plan which will ensure that the conquest of the air will, in future, become one of the greatest blessings which has been conferred upon mankind. I beg to move.
Amendment moved —
Leave out all the words after ("necessity") and insert ("that the future development of civil and military aviation should be considered from the standpoint of the general interest; that in order to secure the freedom of the air, the United Nations should constitute themselves into an international authority charged with the duty of drafting a code of regulations governing the employment of aircraft and controlling an Air Police Force to ensure that this code is respected and upheld"').—(Lord Davies).
My Lords, the problem of air transport is one that is vital both in war and peace, and I want to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that it has only been in the last few weeks that the importance of this issue has been fully realized by your Lordships' House. I do not think that that is any reflection upon your Lordships because a year ago there were other more important matters which had to be considered. One of the most important was that this country was lighting for its life, and the matter of air transport either in peace or in war could not, therefore, be considered. We have had an announcement in another place to-day that an Air Marshal is to be appointed in command of air transport for the Army. The name of the officer who is to be put in charge has not yet been given. But that is a very important announcement. It is important for the war, and of course, it must have consequences for the peace.
The Germans have shown throughout the war that they fully realize the importance of air transport for their Army. They showed it in Crete, and they showed it in Tunisia. I think it would have been completely impossible for them to have 594 invaded and secured Tunis and Bizerta without a large fleet of air transport planes. They have shown it in Russia, where, in the retreat from Stalingrad and the Caucasus, transport planes were used on a very great scale. And there is no doubt at all that when the British Army moves into the offensive it will be quite out of the question for it to do so on the Continent of Europe without a large fleet of air transport planes. They will have to be used for taking equipment and food to the Armies. They will have to be used in order to bring the wounded and the sick back home. And now I would draw your Lordships' attention to the statement which was made by the Prime Minister on February 11 in another place. He said:The ingenious use of aircraft to solve the intricate tactical problems by the transfer of reinforcements, supplies, and munitions, including field guns, is a prominent feature of MacArthur's generalship, and should be carefully studied in detail by all concerned in the technical conduct of the war.I should not have thought that it was necessary to wait in order to be shown this by General MacArthur, because the Germans had been showing it long before our Allies came into the war.
Surely it was a subject which should have been studied and thought out, and plans should have been made to put it into operation. I understand, of course, that the aircraft factories have been far too busy with fighters and bombers and other machines, which are so completely necessary for the war effort, to be able to set them aside for the manufacture of transport planes. But I also understand that a considerable percentage of American production has been set aside for the production of these planes. I do not think it matters whether the planes are produced here or in the United States. Any attitude on that question which would suggest that any nation is going to take advantage over any other nation at the end of the war because of the united war effort, is one which is not only without foundation but should not be stated. These transport planes which are being manufactured in the United States will be coining over here, and some are being manufactured here at the present time. They are going to be formed into a Command. The Air Minister very rightly stated that it would not have been any use to have announced the Command before there were any transport planes 595 and that they had to wait until there were either transport planes or the prospect of a considerable number of them before it was worth while to build up an organization to control them. That, I think, is perfectly self-evident. I hope that the Government will to-day give some indication of how much they appreciate the importance of air transport in warfare and on what scale they are going in for it. Air transport planes should be manufactured on the four-figure scale, and not on the three-figure scale. I think that before any invasion of the Continent takes place there ought to be a reserve in the four-figure category of transport planes. I would urge the Government most seriously to consider this in advance.
Another service which air transport will be called upon to perform at the close of the war is that it will have to feed most of the occupied areas of Europe. Naturally the bulk of the foodstuffs will go by sea, but in the case of distressed parts of Europe which are far from the sea they will have to be taken by air transport. There should, accordingly, be a swift transition from war to peace in this matter, there should be a swift transition from the service being used in the military sense to its being used in the civil sense. At the end of the war there will be plenty of work for the air transport planes not only in Europe, but also for the war with the Japanese, which, if anything, is a war which will need more transport planes than the war with Germany.
Now we come to the question, which is agitating everybody, as to what form civil aviation or air transport is to take after the war. So far we have had no kind of statement by the Government telling us what their policy is, but I have no doubt that that will be changed to-day. We do not know to what organization it is going to be handed over. It may be that the Air Ministry has the idea that it would like to conduct civil air transport after the war. It may be that it will hand it over to British Overseas Airways. It may be, on the other hand, that it will hand it over to private enterprise. No statement about that has yet been made. In America it is in the hands of private enterprise, and personally I have no doubt that it will remain in the hands of private enterprise. The Government should consider the meaning of that very seriously, 596 because it is a very well-run service, and is second to none in the world. It was infinitely better than our service before the war, and it will be a very serious matter if it were far better than our service when peace comes again. The Americans give something which it might be difficult for any Government-controlled or semi-controlled organization to give. They had not only the best aeroplanes for civil aviation before the war, but the best service, and they gave convenience and comfort and courtesy which were unequalled in any other service in the world. That is something which must be seriously considered by those who are going to run the British service, because I agree entirely with the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, when he said the other day that people are not going to travel British; they are going to travel best.
We have had a speech which has dealt with the delicate question of the international aspect of air transport, and with the freedom of the air. There is not such a thing, and will not be such a thing, as the freedom of the air. When the nations get together, the first thing that they will do is to restrict the freedom of the air. In fact the phrase, like so many others of the same kind, means nothing at all. The air is free, and mankind immediately tries to shackle it, and in many respects is bound to do so. It is not possible to have the freedom of the aeroplane, which is what is really meant. It is not possible to have over every country every imaginable aircraft belonging to anybody flying in any direction and doing exactly what it pleases. It is necessary to have regulation and restriction, and therefore it is not possible to have freedom of the air.
It is possible to have the freedom of the air only if there are no restrictions and no regulations. The main aim which we should have, in order to make the situation entirely different from that which existed before the war, is that the restrictions and regulations should be international, or the same in the air over every country; but to suggest, as I have seen it suggested, that there should be an International Police Force in order to keep everybody in order is ridiculous. You want a national police force belonging to each country, which will interpret the international regulations, if it is considered necessary to have a police force at all. I 597 hope your Lordships will not feel—indeed, I am sure that you will not—that anything is to be gained by too much emphasis on any kind of international service. If there were to be, as some people imagine, an international air transport system in the world, I think that all those who have anything to do with the shipping companies would be very pleased, because everybody would travel by ship.
What is essential is that politically the Government should have conversations with other nations in order to arrange the programme for after the war. I do not see why there should be any kind of irritation between one country and another. Reference has been made to a speech by (I think) the Managing Director of British Overseas Airways. I deprecate that speech; I do not think that it was a wise speech, and I do not think that speeches of that kind are at all wise at the present time. I do not think that they are necessary. I think that it will be perfectly easy after the war to get a fair deal from the United States of America. I do not see why we should compete, except in one or two services. America is mainly concerned with lines radiating from her east and west coasts. We are mainly concerned with lines radiating from Britain round the British Empire. Here and there they will cross each other, but they will do so in very few places. The Americans do not want to run a line between Australia and London, nor, I take it, do we want to run a line between the United States and the Philippines.
I cannot see why there should be any question of undue competition, if good sense is shown and if the nations do not endeavour to run what before the war were described as prestige services—that is to say, to run lines in every direction to keep up the prestige of the country. We want to run utility lines, lines for which there is a really sound basis; and it is clear that, so far as this country is concerned, the soundest routes which can be mapped out are those to and from parts of the British Empire. They do not in any way interfere with America. We shall run a line between this country and Canada; that is not going to interfere with the United States. We shall run a line to South Africa, and that will not interfere with the United States either. There 598 is no reason why there should be interference, if good sense is shown.
So far as routes throughout the British Empire are concerned, I feel that before talking about international matters we should think a little of British Empire matters. Before we can get near to any kind of international service, with which perhaps one day the world will be blessed, when it has advanced a little further than it has yet gone, we have to see whether we can work out a service throughout the British Empire, because that has not been done yet. By that I do not mean a Great Britain service, but a service in which Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and so on are partners, taking part in it, and not only operating part of it but also providing the personnel. I think that in our conversations with the British Dominions on this subject we should be extremely generous. After all, in the R.A.F. there are magnificent Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and other Dominion pilots, and I think they have every right to a proper share of the civil aviation throughout the British Empire after the war.
The local lines, as perhaps I may describe the lines in Europe, come into an entirely different category, and that is a rather more complicated issue, as the aircraft will be travelling over a number of small countries all of which will have rights, or endeavour to say that they have rights, and all of which will want to run some kind of service. There I think that the Government will have considerable difficulty, and will not be able to do anything until the Peace Conference; but the question of British Empire routes could be discussed at any time. After all, it will not have to be discussed by Ministers who are overworked with the war effort, but, I presume, by the Secretary of State for the Dominions and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and they surely have some spare time.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
The noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, knows more about it than I do! I feel that your Lordships owe it to the pilots and to the whole personnel of the Royal Air Force to see that something is done after the war. A great number of the personnel will not be able to settle into ordinary 599 civilian occupations after the life which they have led in the R.A.F., and I think that they could be provided with congenial occupations in a civil transport air service. Again, the aircraft industry in this country must be kept up. After the last war it was allowed to languish and practically to disappear. After this war the best aircraft factories must be kept in first-class working order, not only from the point of view of employment, which is extremely important, but also from the point of view of what I believe will one day be one of the greatest industries in the world. I hope that to-day we shall have a reply from the Leader of the House which will satisfy us upon this question and give us some information, instead of the usual reply, which we had on the last occasion, telling us nothing.
§ LORD ESSENDON
My Lords, the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, deserves our thanks for raising this question to-day. He has put forward the case for a declaration of policy in regard to air matters in a post-war world, and I should like, if I may, to put forward the case from the shipping point of view. I intended to do so a month ago when the noble Marquess first introduced this question, but I was prevented by illness. However, I read a number of very interesting speeches that were made on that occasion. There were some references to shipping, and before I get to the main question I should like to mention one shipping reference which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who used these words:… if we want commercial flying to flourish in this country and in the Empire … keep clear of the shipowners.I am sure the noble Lord did not intend it, but there is there an underlying implication that shipowners are either incompetent or untrustworthy—I do not know which.
I should not like the shipping companies, and above all the noble Lord, to have that impression. What I meant—and I was speaking for my Party—is that the same thing might happen as happened with road transport, and in the hands of the shipping companies air transport might be strangled.
§ LORD ESSENDON
I am sure the noble Lord did not intend the implication 600 which is contained in the words I have quoted, but it is on the record that he used the words "Keep clear of the shipowners," and I should like to have some reply to that on the record also, because history shows something entirely different. Between the two wars neither the Press nor the public nor the Government have taken any interest in shipping matters; yet, in spite of that, can anyone deny that the British Mercantile Marine was just as ready for the war as the Fighting Services, notwithstanding the fact that the Fighting Services were under Government control and were backed by the public purse? Twice in a quarter of a century the enterprise of British shipowners has supplied us with a volume of tonnage which in quantity and quality has not only met our material needs during the transition from peace to war, but has provided the Royal Navy with a vast fleet of auxiliaries. British shipping, with the exception of a small subsidy to the tramp section for a short period, was, almost alone, unsubsidized, and notwithstanding the acute depression and the intense subsidized competition of other countries, the tonnage of British shipping at the outbreak of this war was very little less than in the year 1914.
But, leaving that consideration aside, I am going to suggest that these air services might very well and very properly be run over sea routes by the Mercantile Marine. A Committee of the Council of British Shipping has been appointed to examine this question, and its report has just been published. There are large fields for the development of air which do not impinge on the main sea routes. With these, of course, shipowners have no concern. But when the plans for air services affecting sea routes are under consideration the Committee strongly emphasizes that it is in the national interest that shipping should play its part. If we are to establish in the air a commercial position in any way comparable to that which we have achieved at sea, it is hard to believe that this can ever be done through the medium of a single national corporation. A far wider and more varied employment of experience and individual enterprise would appear to be required, and British shipowners in technique and experience, and with their long-established knowledge of international transport, should be able to make—certainly not an exclusive, but a substantial contribution to the sum total 601 of British air commerce. Ships and aeroplanes are by no means mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they should be operated in a sense complementary to each other, on account of the similarity of sea and air services. The country will want bath ships and planes.
It may be asserted by critics that if shipowners were permitted to operate air services they might endeavour to retard their development in order to compel people to travel by sea. There is no justification for any such fears. A shipowner who owns slow and fast ships does not attempt to force anyone to travel by one type in preference to the other. What he does is to make people travel-minded by providing a choice of transport, so that they can select the method of transport that is most suited to their varied needs. In any event, international competition will ensure the development and maintenance of a high standard of air transport by this country. Shipowners ask for no monopoly, and obviously any commonsense company would go into a business to develop, and not to retard it. The development of air transport would increase the volume of passenger movement, and if the cost of travel is not too high it will transfer certain types of traffic from sea to air. So far as I am aware, no effort has yet been made to appraise this side of the question.
Air has at least three facets—prestige, strategy and commerce. The first two may safety be left to the Government, but I make this suggestion with regard to the commercial side. The Government should say to the operators of both sea and air transport: "Sit down together, and with the knowledge you possess give your country the best estimate you can of the commercial future of air and its effect on the routing of passengers by air and sea." In the long run air is nothing more nor less than a problem of commercial transport, and it is light that the experts of both forms should be asked to examine and report upon it, for without knowledge you cannot make any future plans. The answer will give an indication—it cannot be a precise answer—of the likely trend of traffic movement. This would be invaluable to the Government, to the operators of both forms of transport, and, last but by no means least to the managements of aircraft construction factories and the shipyards, for it is of importance to the 602 aircraft factories to know in any particular year whether they will be required to build a hundred or a thousand planes for British air operation, and for the shipyards to know whether they will have any passenger ships to build at all.
In my view it is not only fair to shipowners but it is in the national interest that they should be encouraged to run air services on the routes where they have developed sea traffic. Co-operation between sea and air is essential. The excessive stimulus of air by subsidy would mean that passenger ships would cease to be constructed, and the value and necessity of this type of ship in time of war I will refer to in a moment or two. Apart from similarity in character, the operation of air services by shipping lines offers very substantial economies. Shipping companies, with their hundred years or so of experience in a specified trade, will need no additions to their directorates to deal with the purely commercial aspect of air transport between the same countries. Through their freight and passenger managements and those concerned with routing and dispatching, with victualling and publicity, with statistics and accounts, shipowners will all be performing identical functions, whether the vehicle be a plane or a ship. Only in the technical sphere of operations will any new overhead charges be incurred. Long-established branch offices, with experienced management, and a network of experienced agencies will perform as efficiently for air-borne traffic the tasks that are daily performed by sea-borne traffic. This point was well expressed by the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, in the early part of the debate. To secure the best operating organization it may well mean a pooling of resources by shipping lines in geographical partnership, instead of each passenger line engaged in a particular service operating its own air service.
There were two important recommendations made in the report of the Committee to which I have referred. The first was that a joint body promoted by all the operating companies would be desirable for technical research and possibly for the joint purchase of flying equipment. The second was that, in regard to personnel, on the shipping side, the existence of the National Maritime Board dealing with all questions of sea-going conditions and pay has acquired confidence and authority and 603 has developed a happy combination of mutual respect and common sense. If British shipowners enter the sphere of air transport one of their first steps would be to establish a similar body for regulating the conditions of air personnel. Apart altogether from the question of operation and development of air services, shipowners consider that a policy should be decided and that they should know exactly where they are. We believe it is necessary for the trade and prosperity of Great Britain that after the war we should possess a commercial air fleet comparable to the Mercantile Marine, which has been an equal necessity in the past. British trade will in future require a balanced fleet of ships and aircraft. For Great Britain the co-ordination of air-borne and sea-borne transport will present problems to be faced and opportunities to be grasped greater than those confronting any other great Power.
The time has arrived for a review of the whole policy of subsidized aviation. The issue is one which affects British shipowners in their capacity of ship operators as profoundly as in their potential capacity of air-line operators. Shipowners facing the problems of replacing those fast and specialized passenger ships that have been lost, and those that are approaching the equivalent of their three score years and ten, are entitled to ask whether aviation is to be stimulated at the taxpayers' expense to the point of competing uneconomically with British shipping, and, if so, with what object and for whose benefit. If, however, air is supported by direct or indirect subsidies, then unnatural competition is created between sea and air which, unless limited, might well lead to the absorption by air of such a proportion of first-class traffic as would tend to cause the disappearance of the first-class passenger liners which, as armed merchant cruisers, troopships, and hospital ships, are so valuable in time of war for national defence. Your Lordships know full well that the recent North African campaign could not have been carried out unless we had had at our disposal a huge fleet of passenger vessels. If air competition is to be carried out on an uneconomic basis so that passenger ships cannot pay, these ships will have to be broken up and they will cease to be built; or, alternatively, certain types of 604 ships will have to be subsidized to keep them in existence—obviously an absurdity in the circumstances. For these reasons alone it would appear to be necessary that there should be some co-operation between sea and air.
I should like to suggest that the first task of any International Air Congress should be a declaration to put an end to the tradition of uncontrolled national subsidies. If, owing to special circumstances, a particular air service cannot be self-supporting, then subsidies should be conceived solely for the promotion of international intercourse and calculated solely to upset the handicaps imposed by these factors. There is one other point I would like strongly to emphasize, and that is that no subsidy, either direct or indirect, should be granted other than through the medium of a formula which should be incapable of equivocal interpretation. I can best illustrate what I mean in this way. In the year 1928 the United States Government decided to grant subsidies for the carriage of mails. They did this in different parts of the world, and in the South American service the American company operating that got a subsidy for carrying the mails equivalent to £10,000 a voyage for a fortnightly service, A shipping company of which I am chairman ran a service between North and South America in alternate weeks. They also carried mails. They carried a similar quantity of mails as the American ships, but we were paid on a poundage basis which averaged about £300 a voyage as compared with £10,000 for the American ships. Thus the subsidy for carrying mails was obviously another way of heavily subsidizing a steamship service, and that is why I say, in air matters, no subvention should be granted for the conveyance of mails, which should be on a poundage basis. That is what I mean when I say there should be no equivocal interpretation of a subsidy.
There were other questions dealt with in the earlier part of the debate, and a good deal was said as to the Department of State from which air control should be worked. I am inclined to think that when the post-war period arrives it would be wrong to have a Ministry of Transport that did not include the air. Obviously it will be much easier to have collaboration between air and sea if they come under the same Ministry rather than having civil 605 aviation as part of a fighting Service and sea as part of a peace Ministry. I have purposely not unduly elaborated all the various points to which I have referred. I think the facts speak for themselves without any oratorical details. I am one of those who believe that, generally speaking, with certain exceptions—for instance, the Budget Speech—anyone ought to be able to compress his remarks within fifteen to thirty minutes. At any rate, I hope on this occasion that the absence of elaboration will assist instead of obscure the situation, and will lead to consideration of a matter to which I personally attach the utmost importance.
My Lords, I rise as one who has been closely connected with attempts to induce the Air Ministry to deal adequately with air transport matters in the past. I believe I was a considerable thorn in the flesh of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, when he was Air Minister. It is very encouraging that such wide interest is now being taken in this great subject. Those interested are deeply indebted to the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, for raising the matter and for the able and constructive speeches he has made. Even so, I do not think the public yet realize the immense importance air transport will have after the war and that it is even likely to rival and surpass every other form of transport. In the first place it must be considered that all the railways in Germany and Russia will, for a long lime, suffer from disorganization owing to the destruction of rolling stock by bombing, the destruction of stations, and the general neglect of everything to do with the railways. Sea transport will also have many difficulties, such as the destruction of ports, floating mines, wrecks, and other dangers. At the same time, as Lord Rothermere pointed out, there will arise vital demands for the transport of food, clothing, medical stores, and other necessities to all parts of the European theatre of war. From this summary it can easily be seen that there will be an enormous demand for air transport, for only by air can the requirements of a stricken continent be fulfilled in time.
Another reason for an increase in the demand for air services is that the neutral attitude of the public towards flying before the war is, I venture to think, likely to be very different after the 606 war. The public is now used to reading of long night flights all over the world, over both sea and land, without any trouble or difficulty except from enemy action. Thousands of persons who could not be induced to climb into an aeroplane have been transported across the Atlantic with safety and comfort. All those people are potential users of air services and they were not there in peace-time. This surely must lead to a second stage of post-war air transportation when air traffic will vastly exceed the most sanguine expectations of the pre-war period. It cannot be supposed that we shall be able to take advantage of the opportunities then offered without preliminary organization in time of war. From this brief summary of the probable transport situation after the war it can easily be seen that the demands for air services will be greater than anything that could have been foreseen in 1939. Yet from the reply of Lord Sherwood in the debate on February 10 it seems that the Government at present have no policy whatever to deal with this question.
I may be wrong about that because I understand the Air Minister has to-day announced some sort of policy to deal with it. But, even so, it is my object to urge that, in ray opinion and in the opinion of many others who have closely studied the subject, a Ministry of Air Transport should be formed at once and all plans should be made by it for controlling air transport both during and after the war. As I understand it, the Air Transport Command is either going to be formed or is being considered at the present time. I do not believe that such a Command will serve the right purpose. Civil air transport must not be put under Royal Air Force control. Air transport will be required to serve, not only the Royal Air Force, but the Army and the Navy, and to provide transport for civil officials. It should, therefore, be an organization entirely independent of any one Service, and, I suggest, should receive instructions as to what duties it should perform directly from the Cabinet through its own Minister, the Cabinet being the only medium able rightly to assess priority of need among the various Services.
The Air Ministry has shown clearly for many years that it is not the right medium for the control of air transport. It is a 607 Service Department which obviously and necessarily is concerned first and foremost with Service matters, and has neither the time nor the interest nor the personnel to deal with the vast and difficult problems of civil air transportation. Those of us who were trying to develop air transport before the war in what we hoped was the national interest invariably met with objections, discouragement or complete apathy from the Air Ministry. This must not be allowed to continue in the future. The acceptance of my proposal to establish a Ministry of Air Transport would provide, as I have already pointed out, the means of organizing air transport most efficiently for war purposes, at the same time laying the foundations for development after the war on civil lines.
The formation of an Air Transport Command is not enough. If one is formed it will infallibly mean that it will come under the Royal Air Force and the Air Ministry, and therefore be subject to the rivalries and jealousies besetting a new Command. Furthermore, it is likely to be merely a camouflage for the old directorate of civil aviation which has only too often in the past proved its incapacity to deal adequately with air transport services. If this Command is formed it means that a vast organization will be built up on Royal Air Force lines, not on air transport lines. It would not be comparable to the U.S. Army Transport Command, because the latter has been built up on proper air transport lines under the direct control of air transport experts, not by the United States Army Air Force. British civil air transport would only be given that work which it has to be given—namely, the air services to neutral countries, Portugal and Sweden. It must therefore languish. United States Air Transport Command, on the other hand, is forging ahead at a terrific pace, and has already established itself over most important air routes.
In this connexion it may be of interest to quote to your Lordships a technical journal's account of the United States Army Air Transport which came out a few days ago. It says that thisis stated to be a delivery service for every Army aeroplane made in American factories, and a cargo passenger and mail air line 'bigger than all the commercial lines of the world put together' It literally covers the world; one route is 17,000 miles long. Services operated go to Africa, India, Egypt, South America, Australia, Alaska, Iceland, Hawaii, 608 Greenland, England, Russia, Labrador, Iran, Panama, China, Canada, New Zealand, Liberia, Nigeria, Siberia—with anything from one to a hundred or so aeroplanes along each route. General George, in command, expects that the Air Transport organization will soon be ten or more times the size of all the world's peace-time air lines.I am quoting that in no critical spirit of what the United States is doing but merely to show what a huge organization has been built up and what is the sort of organization that is necessary for this country. If at the end of the war Air Transport Command should be transferred to Civil Air Transport, the operatives would have to unlearn a great deal of the Royal Air Force methods that they had absorbed in their Transport Command as it is agreed that the Royal Air Force and civil methods, for obvious reasons, are entirely different. Meanwhile, the new United States Army Air Transport Command, being operative, will switch over as one man at once to civil operations. The result for British air transport will be obvious.
The formation of an Air Transport Command seems to be an endeavour to pull wool over the eyes of the critics in Parliament of our treatment of air transport and a proof that the Air Ministry has entirely failed to see what the Americans are doing. In my view it is not enough to form an Air Transport Command. Nothing less than the creation of a Ministry of Air Transport will ensure that civil air services will obtain the treatment and long-sighted planning required. There is ample precedent for this suggestion, for you do not expect the War Office to run road and rail transport, nor do you expect the Admiralty to run shipping services. There are Ministries of Transport and Shipping for these services. Why, therefore, should the Air Ministry be considered the right medium for the control of air services? If a Ministry of Air Transport were formed it would be able to call on the services of a numerous and expert body of people who have been closely associated with air transport in the past and without whom it would be impossible to set up such an organization as is required. The Americans use all civil air experts. Why should not we do the same instead of confining the matter only to the Royal Air Force personnel?
A Ministry of Air Transport, if formed at once, should have as its first task the 609 formation of an organization to act as carriers for the Services and for Government Departments and, so far as possible, to cater for other needs. Many problems relating to air transport matters would have to come up to the Cabinet for decision and the Department of Air Transport would be able to supply adequate data such as would enable those decisions to be made taking into consideration the combination of future development with current needs. Unless this is done we shall drift back into the position we were in before the war—that of a fourth- or fifth-rate Power in air transport.
Problems of post-war development which will have to be decided are bristling with difficulty and a proper solution can only be arrived at after deep thought and after consultation with the best available opinion. I refer particularly to such matters as the freedom of the air. On that I do not entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Rothermere. He said there would be a mass of restrictions, but I take it that freedom of the air would mean freedom for one country's aeroplanes to fly over another country. I believe that Imperial Airways were stopped at one time from flying across Persia. Freedom of the air would prevent anything like that happening in the future. This question will have to be discussed and settled with the Governments of other countries, and the present moment seems most opportune when so many representatives of foreign countries are here, domiciled in this country and available for consultation. When the war is over and they are dispersed to their own countries, and absorbed in their national problems, the opportunity will have been missed. Britain should take the lead in this matter, if possible in cooperation with the United States of America and Russia.
Another difficult question is the supply of suitable aircraft. It will be exceedingly difficult to catch up with past negligence in this matter and therefore the sooner a policy is decided on the more hope there will be for the future. I was very much struck by an article in that excellent new publication Air Transport, which calculated that, on the basis of the American production figure of 60,000 aircraft for 194.3, it was not extravagant to guess that some 30,000 aircraft have been produced in this country during the three years of war. If only one per cent, of these had been transport machines we 610 should now have had a useful fleet of 300 and should be able to compete on terms approaching parity with the Americans. As it is, there are practically none and when the war finishes we shall have to go cap in hand to the Americans for a supply of aircraft, so that we can run services. I know it is said that production has had 1o be confined to war machines—meaning, I suppose, bombers and fighters—though transport machines at the present time seem to be every bit as necessary to the war effort as the others. Those interested in air lines have always emphasized that transport machines would be wanted in war, and it is not necessary for me to point out that had we had them the outcome of several campaigns might have been very different. Even the few machines of small capacity employed by the air-line companies before the war were taken over by the Air Ministry at the beginning of the war and proved of considerable use.
The creation of a Ministry of Air Transport would make a positive contribution to the solution of the problem of war transport. It would also provide a medium by which adequate data can be presented to the Cabinet for the purpose of the many decisions which must be made. In this connexion it will be remembered that before the war when there was at times considerable criticism of civil aviation generally, the Government set up the Maybury and Cadman Committees, both of whom made excellent Reports. The Cadman Committee particularly made many recommendations which could be studied with advantage even now, and might easily be made the base for the institution of air services on sound lines. If the Air Ministry is left to deal with air transport, either by means of a civil department or by means of an R.A.F. Air Transport Command, it is probable that nothing constructive will be done. Any such changes will prove to be purely superficial and temporary. Apparent changes have been made in the past after the various inquiries and debates that have taken place, but all have led us back to precisely the same position, or even to a worse one. The only satisfactory solution is to take away air transport from a Service Ministry.
This debate will inevitably bring to mind many debates on this subject before the war. The present-day replies made by the Government are on exactly the 611 same lines as those made before—namely, that they are too busy building Service machines and dealing with Service matters to deal with this question, and that they cannot be expected to switch anyone from the vital business of prosecuting the war. It is our duty to persuade the Government that in their neglect of air transport they are ignoring both a vital contribution to victory and an element of the reconstruction which will consolidate that victory. In conclusion, I beg the Government to treat this question with the importance it deserves; otherwise we shall find ourselves back in the humble and despised position we were in before the war, when our air services were laughed at by other countries and even a small country like Holland was ahead of us. If we do not move quickly in the matter it will mean that we are handing over on a platter to the Americans all important air lines in the world, and that after the war our magnificent aircraft industry will be in a very powerless state, and thousands of the finest pilots in the world will be without employment. Surely, even if there were no other reasons, we owe it as a tribute and a token of gratitude to our airmen who have saved us from inconceivable horrors, that our air transport should be placed on a firm, prosperous and world-wide basis after the war.
My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords who have participated in this debate in congratulating the noble Marquess on returning to this issue which he raised in your Lordships' House on a previous occasion. As Secretary of State for Air he did much that was valuable for military aviation and all that was possible, in view of the money then available, for air transport. Since that period he has maintained the keenest and most active interest in the development of this vital field of air transport on which he has addressed your Lordships to-day. The greatest air transport operating organizations before the war, as your Lordships know, were to be found in the United States, Holland and Germany, and the names of Tripp, Plesman and Milch come to mind as leading figures in those organizations. Sweden, with a population of some 2,000,000 less than greater London, has pioneered in this field in a very striking 612 manner and the name of Florman merits special attention.
There are several others speakers whom your Lordships will wish to hear in this vital debate, and so I will put my suggestions before you as briefly as possible. Your Lordships will, I feel sure, agree from all that has been said on this matter, and from your previous knowledge, that Britain has never played a part worthy of her position and responsibilities, and of her contribution to aeronautical science and engineering, in the field of air transport, despite the valiant efforts of pioneers, several of whom have addressed your Lordships on these matters. Britain has shown, by her fundamental contributions to aeronautical science and engineering—those contributions of Cayley, Stringfellow and Lanchester—of what she is capable in the field of science and aeronautical engineering, but in the field of air transport one name alone commands attention, that of Brancker. The late General Sir Sefton Brancker, your Lordships will remember, lost his life in the stranding of H.M.A. 101 on the Beauvais Ridge. In the design of air transport machines of all types the names, firstly, of de Havilland with Walker stand predominant, followed by Handley Page with Volkert and Short with Gouge. In engines Fedden and Halford.
But to-day, as has been emphasized in these debates, we are without air transports other than a limited number of American types and of the Avro York which, your Lordships will remember, is a transport version of the Avro Lancaster. On the last occasion on which I had the privilege of addressing your Lordships on these matters I suggested that two courses might be followed in parallel. The first course was that air transport fuselages should be designed for heavy bombers. Such a policy would produce air transports in a year. Secondly, I suggested that firms with special experience of the design of air transport machines, most of whom are producing heavy bombers, should devote a section of their design capacity, not required to develop the types being made, to the design of one or two types of transport aircraft. These would obviously be superior to the transport fuselaged heavy bombers, and with very efficient organization could be in production in four years. This suggestion was made to your Lordships as it appears 613 clear that the next family of heavy bombers for the United Nations' programme must corns from the United States of America. Perhaps when the noble Viscount comes to express the views of His Majesty's Government he may see fit to give some indication as to what it is possible to do to follow out these two suggestions.
The need for these transports is so vital that a special procedure is needed so that we may get them. If this matter is to be left to ordinary Departmental routine the inevitable delays that occur in the period of gestation will be serious. Senior officials come, and senior officials go, during that period, and changes of technical policy and delays are the inevitable result. All this could be avoided were the Ministry of Aircraft Production to be instructed, until such time as an Air Transport Ministry has been established—as I hope it will be established—to set up a Department to deal alone with this matter. Such a Department would outline the broad specification of these air transports, and would assist and guide firms working out designs and making them. There are not many men with the right type of experience and of the right age and ability to head such a Department, as it requires very special experience. But there is one man in the Ministry of Aircraft Production, Dr. Roxbee Cox, who would be particularly suited to head such a Department: as it is suggested should be established for this purpose. In parallel with this, I suggest that Sir Roy Fedden, whose name was much before your Lordships a month or two ago and who is due to return shortly from the United States of America, should have his unique experience directed to the designing of a suitable engine for air transport purposes.
In addition, there is available in this country an untapped source of well-proved design experience. My noble friend Lord Brabazon and I have been intimately connected for years with the Royal Aeronautical Society—the premier body devoting itself to the development of the aeronautical science and aeronautical engineering in the world, and now in its 77th year. One who is a leading Fellow of this Society came over from Germany immediately following the last war, and, in parallel with Sir Frederick Handley Page, has devoted his skill to the advancement of aeronautics in this country. Your Lordships will be well aware by name of 614 the Handley Page slotted wing—one of the greatest developments, of world renown, leading to safety in flight—which was a parallel invention of these two men of genius. Some of your Lordships will also be aware of the fact that the co-inventor with Sir Frederick Handley Page has been responsible for the design of some of the aircraft produced by the great company of Handley Page. One of these aircraft which he has designed has given, and today is giving, most useful service in the Royal Air Force, while its designer languishes in the Isle of Man. Surely it is wrong that we should not employ all who wish to aid the United Nations' effort, irrespective of their nationality, and for that reason—and I feel that my noble friend Lord Brabazon will support me in this—as a past President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and as one who is closely in touch with these matters, I plead the case of Dr. Lachmann, the designer of the machine which we are using with such good effect to-day, and suggest that the Minister of Aircraft Production should find means to establish him, with whatever security safeguards may be required, in such a way that he can make another contribution to the British field of aeronautical development by designing a transport aircraft which his great experience renders him particularly qualified to do.
In connexion with this vital question of air transport the question arises how all these matters are to be kept before the Government of this day or of any other day so that the experience of science, and of engineering, the experience available in some cases to people within your Lordships' House, and in other cases to people in another place or to people outside, should be made available. I suggest for your Lordships' consideration that a Royal Commission should be established on which the best brains of the United Kingdom should be made available to press forward at all times with the vital development of air transport. Not being certain—for I am inexperienced in these matters—whether a Royal Commission would be more appropriate than a Select Committee, I have had the good fortune to be able to consult my noble friend Lord Maugham on this matter. He told me that he thought that a Royal Commission would be appropriate, and, as your Lordships are to have the advantage of hearing my noble friend 615 later on in this debate, perhaps you will hear something from him with regard to that point.
The suggestion in the newspapers this morning, already referred to in your Lordships' House, with regard to the setting up of an Air Transport Command, is good news. This may well be able to provide the experienced personnel that the British Empire commercial air transport system in the post-war world will require. We shall require to keep well in mind, as has been emphasized by the noble Lord who preceded me, Lord Grimthorpe, what the purpose is. At present we are very short indeed of air transport, and also, of course, of operating experience. The bulk of this experience, as your Lordships will be well aware, lies in the United States of America, and I suggest, therefore, that the Air Transport Command to be established should be made a joint United Nations Command in which the United States of America and Great Britain would play the principal parts. This, I suggest, would help to lay the foundation of that measure of co-operation in the field of commercial air transport which must exist between the two English-speaking peoples, and which would and could serve as an example to the world at large. Such collaboration would have the effect of making it possible for post-war air transport to be started with a minimum of delay, and would also enable zoning of operating arrangements to be worked out for air transport; and, without that zoning, much unnecessary competition would result, not only without benefit to anyone but possibly with serious results of the wrong kind.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I think that we shall all agree with my noble friend who moved this Motion as to the importance of linking up every part of the British Empire by an adequate and entirely modern system of air transport. When I turn to the terms of his Motion, however, I wonder with whom he proposes that this should be shared. I was glad to find, in the former debate on this subject, that at any rate a large number of your Lordships were quite determined that it should not be shared with Germany, and I trust that it will not be shared with any other country. But then I turn to the Motion again, and I ask 616 myself what is meant by the words "air transport." Do we mean transport of persons and goods within the territory of a State, or only transport outside that State into other countries? I want to take it on the broadest possible lines, and I frankly say that I entirely agree with every word which fell from my noble friend Lord Rothermere, in his admirable speech, when he said that he thought that, so far as we were in competition with the United States, good sense and friendship ought to be able to solve our difficulties. I take the view—this would be a surprise, perhaps, to my noble friend Lord Trenchard, if he were in the House, because he may think that, as a former First Lord of the Admiralty, I have no views as to the importance of the air; but in fact I have, and always have had—that supremacy in the air is so vital to the future security of the world that it is essential that the Government should take adequate steps in the future to safeguard it.
Some of your Lordships may say that we are discussing civil aviation now and not military aviation. Let me tell you a little story. A few years before this war began, a friend of mine was in Germany, and met there the Military Attaché of one of the South American Republics, who told him that his country had recently ordered six ambulance aeroplanes from Germany. He went to inspect them and to take delivery, and was taken up for a trial flight in one of the machines. In the course of it he said: ''You know, my country is rather sorry now that we ordered ambulance planes instead of heavy bombers." Thereupon the German who was with him replied: "If you wish to make the change, you must give the order at once, because the planes are due for delivery to-night, and it is now nearly noon." The Attaché said that if it was possible to make the alteration his country would like to do so, and so the order was given, and at six o'clock that evening six heavy bombers were packed and railed for delivery. I may be told that that could happen before the war, but that now machines are becoming so specialized that a machine designed as a bomber is totally unfitted for civil transport, and vice versa; but who is going to foresee what the development of aircraft is going to be in the next ten years, and still more in the next twenty years? Who is going to say that this sort of thing 617 cannot happen; and how are you going to prevent it? How can you prevent Germany building an aircraft nominally for civil purposes within her boundaries but actually, as everybody knows, far better adapted for use as a heavy bomber? How are you going to prevent Germany building so-called sports aeroplanes which in point of fact will be better adapted for use as fighters than for making speed records?
My noble friend the Leader of the House and I spent a good many hours at Geneva at various times, listening to interminable debates on what were offensive armaments and what were not, as to what weight made a tank offensive and what speed or lift made an aircraft offensive. I am fairly certain that he agrees with me that the whole of those arguments on qualitative disarmament were utterly futile and hopeless, and that the only really sensible remark made in the course of those endless discussions was one made by, I think, the Japanese delegate, who said that offensive armaments appeared to be those that were in front of you, and defensive armaments those that you stood behind or controlled.
What are we going to do about it? Frankly, I agree with my noble friend Lord Davies that there has to be regulation in this matter. He will not be surprised when I tell him that I entirely disagree with his International Police Force. This is not by any means the first time that we have crossed swords on that subject. I have always admired his idealism and his pertinacity, but I have always doubted the practicability of the proposal, and I doubt it even more when I see it applied to an International Air Police. How an aircraft is going to arrest another aircraft in the air I do not know. I had hoped that Lord Davies would tell us, but he has not done so.
What, then, is the solution? I think that we have to take very drastic steps in this matter. I think that we have to have a system of international licensing. I think-that we have to control all aircraft, both civil and military, throughout the whole of Europe. They will have to be controlled by the three Allied Powers—ourselves, the United States of America, and Russia. I omit China, because I do not think that China would wish to take part in a Commission of that kind. There would have to be another Commission for the American 618 continent, on which, possibly, we should not sit but Canada would, and there would be another for the Far East, on which China would take a very leading part. I suggest three nations only of deliberate purpose. After the last war, it was quite well known that, when Germany was forbidden to make arms, she allowed some of her skilled technicians to go to other countries and make arms there, so as to keep their hands in and keep abreast of modern developments. We also know that there are a certain number of countries in Europe which are Germany's satellites. In any case, I think that a body of this kind should be small.
We are all accustomed to motor cars being licensed. We are all accustomed to having an international licence when a motor car is taken abroad. And, after all, the number of motor cars is enormous. I cannot conceive that even in the distant future we are likely to get that number of aircraft. Heaven forbid! There would be no place for the ordinary mortal who is not in the air to sit at peace without something landing on his head. Therefore the number of aircraft to be dealt with will be comparatively small. I think most of us take the view that this war is being fought, above all else, to establish a system of security for all nations, great and small, throughout the world. And therefore I view with equanimity the possibility that a system of licensing may impose a certain amount of delay and difficulty with regard to aircraft in the future, but I feel that we have to accept it in order to obtain the greater benefit of the security for which we are all fighting.
I have raised this point only because I am anxious, like many of us, that there should be no more Fourteen Points before the next terms of peace are drawn up. When we get the complete and absolute surrender of Germany and Japan, as we intend to do—Italy does not count—then there will be no question that Germany will not be allowed to have any sort of aeroplane, civil or military, unless it gets a licence from this international authority, and that should apply not only to Germany but to all other nations, including our own. The reason why I say that is that we are so soft-hearted in this country that it is only a question of time before this or that regulation is taken off a nation such as Germany, which has twice upset the whole freedom and safety of the world. 619 The only way of ensuring that this shall go on in perpetuity is that this proposed system of licensing shall be universal and shall apply to all countries. I think then we shall be able to keep sufficient control to see that aviation is kept for the purposes for which it ought to be kept—the development of better communications throughout the world, of better knowledge and better understanding—and that in no circumstances will it be able to be turned to the purposes for which Germany and her allies have turned it. That is why I have raised this point to-day. I entirely agree with what has been put forward by my noble friend Lord Londonderry, but I hope he will realize that it has to be accepted with limitations and control, as being of vast importance to the future of the world.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, the contribution that I propose to make to the debate is not a very long one. I should like to point out that for my part, though I agree with a great deal that has just fallen from my noble friend Lord Stanhope, I cannot see any objection to the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lord Londonderry. I do not see why there should be criticism of the words ''to secure for this country a due share in the development of air transport" because it seems to me plain that the air transport of the world will have to be divided up among certain nations, and therefore it is only a question of a due share. And when I say "among certain nations" one must not forget that our Dominions will claim a very substantial part in the development of air transport so far as it affects themselves. Accordingly, it seems to me that this Motion should be accepted without any doubt at all.
On the other hand, I confess I am unable to understand the object of the Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Davies. What does he mean by the words "should be considered from the standpoint of the general interest"? The words of the substantive Motion speak of the "vital necessity to secure for this country a due share in the development of air transport." Does Lord Davies want, in effect, by the words of his Amendment to say that, whatever body is set on foot, or whatever steps the Government take for the purpose of obtaining a due share in the development of air transport, the interests of this country 620 are not to be considered? He cannot mean that. Then what is the point of the words of the Amendment, "considered from the standpoint of the general interest," as if you could not consider it from the standpoint of the particular interest of Great Britain and her Dominions? I say nothing about the Air Police Force, which has been faithfully dealt with by my noble friend Lord Stanhope, but I do want to say something about what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, calls the freedom of the air, because it is a matter on which there has been, and is, in certain sections of the Press of this country, very loose thinking indeed.
I do not agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Rothermere, who said that the phrase was useless, or had no meaning, at the present time. The difficulty about the phrase is that it has at least four different meanings. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, speaks on this topic as if it had all of a sudden been raised during this war. On the contrary, the thing has been discussed up hill and down dale for at least twenty-five years. It has been the subject of countless consultations among any number of bodies, it has been the subject not of one convention but of any number of conventions, and all the jurists of Europe have been trying to make up their minds as to what the truth is about freedom of the air, and what the facts are as regards the alleged analogy with freedom of the seas.
I would like to tell your Lordships the four meanings that have been given by jurists in published books in reference to the freedom of the air. Of course the phrase refers to air space over occupied land and waters which are part of that land, such as the three-mile limit, and rivers and ports and harbours. The first view is that over that air space the right of flying is entirely free—and I may add usque ad cælum—to any foreign airship whatsoever. The second is that there is a lower zone of territorial air space which belongs to the country over which it is situated, but the higher zone of free air space is free to all. I may mention that that may become a more important possibility in the course of years because I am told by experts that after this war is over, or very soon afterwards, the probability is that all long distance journeys by air will take place in the stratosphere, in which there 621 are greater advantages in regard to speed. If that takes place it is obvious that you cannot stop the use of the stratosphere because you cannot see the plane, you cannot hear it.
Then there is a view that the air space in question is within the sovereignty of the subjacent State and that it is not entirely free; it is not free at all to foreign nations. And another view is that within the air space above a State there is complete sovereignty except that it is subject to a quasi-easement, or right of passage, for foreign civil aircraft. You will find all those matters discussed on books on International Law. My noble friend Lord Trenchard said with great force and emphasis, on the last occasion when this was being discussed, that there is no use in discussing the future of transport aircraft unless you first make up your mind on the subject of the alleged freedom of the air. Freedom of the air means the free right of foreign airships to fly over other countries.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
Under certain reservations. I should like to point out this, which I intended to point out on the last occasion but had not an opportunity. In regard to this country at the present time there is a Statute which answers my noble friend's question. The Air Navigation Act, 1920, starts with a definite claim by this country to possess the superincumbent air over this country up to the heavens. Though, of course, it may be that this country may change its mind, at present, unless that Act is in some way changed or abolished, the position is that if we meet another country, whether it be the United States or a Dominion or Russia, to discuss the future of the air, we start with the idea, which my noble friend thinks we have to settle, and which protanto we have settled, that we are entitled to retain the super-incumbent air except so far as we choose to deal with it.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
Back in 1919-20, trusting to my memory, all the rations discussed whether the air was national over any one country. A certain number took the view that it was not, but the majority decided against them, and it was accepted that it was national, and that Statute was founded on that decision. 622 That subject is now being discussed all over the world again.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My noble friend is perfectly right. I was going to discuss what led up to the Statute. What led up to it was the Peace Conference and a Convention signed by fifteen Powers on October 13, 1919. It was the subject of a Parliamentary Paper, Cmd. 670, of that year. I would repeat what the noble Viscount said, that some nations did not sign it, and accordingly are not bound by it, but we are bound by our Act at present as to the view that should be taken with regard to this limited meaning of freedom of the air. Now there have been, since that Convention of 1919, a number of others.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
I think there is some misunderstanding. According to my recollection, this country wanted freedom of the air, but the majority wanted to make it national, and it was for that reason that this Act was brought in.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
I think the noble Viscount is right. I was just going to mention that those who are interested in the sort of regulations necessary in regard to the use of air over foreign countries will find in that Convention a number of elaborate provisions. There is a provision conceding, in peace, the right of innocent passage to private aircraft belonging to parties to the Convention provided they comply, as my noble friend said, with the terms of regulations which are made there under. There is a provision for the establishment of international airways which requires the assent of any State whose air is flown over. That has got to be obtained, and aircraft, if allowed to fly over a country, may be required to alight at specified aerodromes. The aerodromes open to national aircraft are to be open to them. That is the nature of the present Convention in so far as it is in force as between the countries who chose to sign it. One thing is quite clear, that the doctrine of the freedom of the air, even where it exists in the countries which have adhered to it, does not enable the aircraft of a foreign State to alight in your own country. The right of landing and departure is perfectly different from the right to fly over a particular country. There, again, that has nothing to do with the view we took as 623 to whether there should be freedom of the air or not at the end of the last war. It is perfectly clear that if we negotiate with another country and discuss with it the form of Convention with regard to freedom of the air, we start with the opinion that, "If you want to land in Britain you have got to make concessions to Britain before we shall make concessions to you and allow you to land or take off here." We have something absolutely definite to go on which does not depend on any elaborate view as to what principle this country has adopted with regard to freedom of the air.
People talk of freedom of the air, and they insist there is freedom, meaning the right of other people to fly over your country, and they quote the analogy of the freedom of the seas. There could not be a more unhappy analogy for those people who make this claim because freedom of the seas is only a right to navigate freely in the oceans and seas which are spread round the world and which are not part of the national waters of a particular country. Nobody under the doctrine of the freedom of the seas has a right to come up an arm of the sea—say within the three-mile limit—still less can he come and land in a port or harbour. For that he has to get leave of the country in some form or other; it is permissive user. As a matter of fact there is a Convention and Statute of Geneva of December, 1923, under which, in terms of reciprocity, people can use each other's harbours and ports. It is perfectly plain that freedom of the seas does not in the least help the argument that people can come and fly over your land any more than they can sail in your own waters.
These are things which it is rather important to bear in mind because my idea—fully, I believe, in accord with the mover of the Motion—is that the important thing to be done in order to secure for this country a due share in the development of air transport is to come to an agreement as soon as possible with those countries who have the duty, power, materials, and means for using air transport ail over the world or in particular parts of the world. Therefore, we have got to come to amicable agreements not only with our Dominions, which is very important, but also with the United 624 States of America, with Russia, and it may be with some other countries. These things have got to be done and—this is the important part of the Motion of the noble Marquess—they have got to be done, in my belief, without delay. The subject demands immediate and earnest attention. It takes time to get other nations to agree with you on a matter of this vast importance and great interest and effect with regard to their own public advantages.
Therefore no time should be lost—for all I know it has not been lost—in trying to come to an agreement with all the important countries who are concerned with this matter. Accordingly I fully support the Motion before the House. I say nothing further about its importance, because that was dealt with on the last occasion, and by no one, perhaps, with greater vigour than my noble friend Lord Bennett in the speech he made to the House, in which he proved without any doubt whatever that the future of this Empire largely depends upon our taking time by the forelock and doing what is necessary to secure for us a fair share of the air transport of the world.
My Lords, as the noble Marquess said in the speech with which he opened this debate, it is now a month since the question of civil aviation was last discussed in your Lordships' House. It was on the 10th of February that the noble Marquess introduced his Motion on the subject. Then, as your Lordships will recall, it was asked merely that His Majesty's Government should give an assurance that this subject should receive "immediate and earnest attention as being one of the most urgent of post-war problems." I think there has been a suggestion in various quarters this afternoon that the attitude of the Government in that debate a month ago was an entirely negative one. I do not think, with all deference to the noble Lord, that that is quite fair. I would have thought, bearing in mind the terms of the Motion which the noble Marquess put down, that the assurances he received from my noble friend Lord Sherwood should have gone far to satisfy him.
My noble friend said—I will recall his words:Of course the Government, while acutely conscious that we cannot direct our attention entirely to the side of civil aviation at the 625 present time, appreciate the vitally important part which civil aviation will play in the postwar world.That is really a paraphrase of the words of the Motion which the noble Marquess put on the Paper. My noble friend went on to say: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.Then he proceeded to give the House, as you will remember, some account of the practical steps which the Government had already taken to ensure that the Government should not be caught unprepared.
He referred to the appointment of the Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, whose long experience and stimulating mind rendered him particularly fitted for the Chairmanship of a Committee of that kind, to inquire into the development of a type of aircraft required for civil aviation. He said also, if I read him correctly, that careful consideration was being given to the latest developments in the sphere of radio for the purpose of securing the safety of civil aviation after the war. That is a small point, but it is additional to the other step that I have mentioned. He indicated that His Majesty's Government could not concentrate merely upon post-war policy and that our main and immediate objective must be to win the war. That of course is a thing on which I should imagine there is universal agreement in this House and elsewhere. Unless we win the war we shall certainly not have the decision on any policy, whether on civil aviation or any other subject either. Surely, therefore, after the noble Lord's speech, although he did not go into details, no one ought to have been left in doubt that the question of civil aviation, to use again the words of the Motion was receiving the "immediate and earnest attention" of the Government. Yet it seems the noble Marquess was not satisfied, and perhaps other noble Lords were not satisfied.
But I suggest that the honest truth is not that the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, refused to do what the Motion asked, but that the noble Marquess in his first speech, and even more in his final speech, went far beyond his own Motion. 626 He started in his Motion by asking the Government to give assurances that they were going to give immediate and full attention to the development of post-war air transport. Within a short time he was stressing that this was not a purely postwar problem. There I think he was absolutely right. I do not disagree with him at all on that. There can be no definite line between the war period and the post-war period; for if you are to be ready for the post-war period you must make preparations during the war period. Therefore I would have no objection to anything that he said in that part of his speech. But he then took a further enormous bound forward and in his last speech ended by demanding that His Majesty's Government should make an immediate declaration of the policy on which they had decided. His request for assurances was clearly both legitimate and desirable. The future of civil aviation, as has been said here this afternoon in various quarters—in fact I think every noble Lord who has spoken has said so—is a subject of the very first importance on which the British people quite properly want to know that the Government are fixing their full attention. Nor do I think that there are any difficulties in the Government making a general statement of policy.
Indeed, I think that policy is admirably defined in the Motion of the noble Marquess himself this afternoon which is under discussion. I will quote it:it is of vital necessity to secure for this country a due share in the development of air transport, and that this subject demands immediate and earnest attention.That is not only the policy of the noble Marquess, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government too. But if the noble Marquess asks me this afternoon to go further and explain in detail exactly how that policy is going to be implemented, then I must confess, if I may say so, that that is a very different pair of shoes indeed. It is doubtful if it would be possible for me to do that; it is even more doubtful if it would be desirable.
I say it is doubtful that it would be possible, because this clearly is not a question on which a unilateral statement by one country alone, as I think Lord Rothermere indicated, can be made. The penetrating analysis which we had from the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, showed how frightfully thorny and complex this 627 question is. Anyone who has had experience of Geneva, as he has had and I have had and the noble Marquess himself has had, would recognize that this question raises thousands of international problems of the greatest difficulty. It is—and indeed I think Lord Stanhope said so himself—even extremely difficult to differentiate entirely between civil aircraft and military aircraft. That is only one point; and there are other complexities, which have been dealt with just now by the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, who spoke of the difficulties connected with the freedom of the air. The noble Viscount gave, I thought, an extraordinarily interesting exposition of the position on that subject. I have no doubt it has already filled, and will fill, many more tomes of international discussion, although I have been told since I came into the House this afternoon that at the first International Conference on the freedom of the air it was a considerable time before the members evolved any conclusions, and even then they only achieved this: L'air est libre; and after that they could get no further at all. We have got a good deal further since then, although, of course, there remain extraordinary difficulties connected with the subject.
Civil aviation is in fact essentially an international problem; and a detailed declaration of policy by His Majesty's Government given unilaterally in your Lordships' House this afternoon by me, however great satisfaction it might afford to the noble Marquess and to your Lordships generally, would really have no value at all unless it was agreed with other nations. Even if His Majesty's Government ignored this fact and went ahead, they would not be wise to do so. As many noble Lords know—certainly those who have been connected with the Foreign Office—diplomacy is a very difficult and delicate art and the solution of thorny problems is not furthered if one negotiator takes up a rigid attitude in public before the negotiations begin. Your Lordships will be aware that there have been certain unofficial statements in the United States and elsewhere on the question of civil aviation, but, so far as I am aware, there have been no official statements by the United States Government, nor by the Russian Government, nor by any other Governments concerned; and no doubt they are absolutely right.
628 Some noble Lords may be attracted by the idea of open diplomacy; and certainly it has superficial charms. But it also, in my experience, immensely increases the difficulties of those who have to conduct our international affairs. Nor is that my own idea alone. I would recommend noble Lords to read Chapter I of a book called Britain—A Study of Foreign Policy, by Professor E. H. Carr. I do not say everybody would be in complete agreement with the conclusions arrived at by Professor Carr in the course of that book, but at any rate Chapter I is an admirable exposition of the difficulties which face those who engage in international negotiations under the spotlight of Parliamentary discussion. I would have liked to have read it at length to your Lordships this afternoon. I am told, however, there is already a certain amount of protest against the length of speeches in your Lordships' House, and I certainly do not wish to become the chief criminal.
I would like, however, to quote to your Lordships two sentences out of Professor Carr's book:Democracy must remain in ultimate control of foreign policy. But some means must be devised by which British interests in vital and delicate negotiations shall not he imperilled by a fire of public exhortation and comment directed at the negotiators.I am certain that the noble Marquess, himself a statesman of long experience who has often represented his country at Geneva and elsewhere, will not dissent from that view. He knows very well the embarrassment which is caused by untimely demands for publicity, and he knows also that the fact that His Majesty's Government do not make a public declaration of their policy at any given moment does not necessarily mean, as sometimes it is thought to mean, that they have no policy at all. I think that is an error into which the noble Lord, Lord Grimthorpe, fell this afternoon.
What I have said in connexion with the demand of the noble Marquess for a detailed statement to-day applies also to the Amendment which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Davies. I was a little surprised that the noble Marquess gave Lord Davies so very severe a trouncing, because it seemed to me that in effect both the Motion and Amendment make exactly the same request to the Government. They both ask for a statement of policy, and I had the impression, 629 if the noble Marquess will forgive my saving so, that a statement of policy by His Majesty's Government was the plain duty of the Government if it was the policy he himself favoured, but that if it was a different policy it was downright wicked. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, ranged rather wide in the speech he made in support of his own Amendment, but that part of the speech which was exclusively devoted to civil aviation—so far as that is possible—was of considerable interest and I did not rate it myself so low as some other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. I should have thought that no doubt some international code of regulation will be necessary for the guidance of civil aviation after the war.
As the noble Lord himself knows, and as others know, that is in fact not a new idea. It should not be forgotten that before the outbreak of the present war there was much inter-Governmental collaboration in matters affecting air transport. Thus, the International Convention on Air Navigation—the first of its kind—was signed as far back as 1919. This contained provisions regulating the nationality of aircraft, the recognition of foreign certificates of air worthiness for aircraft and of competency for pilots, and laying down the rules to be observed in international air navigation. Annexes regulated such matters as the markings of aircraft, certificates of air worthiness, log books, lights, signals, qualifications for pilots and navigators, aeronautical maps and ground markings, meteorological information and customs. An International Commission for Air Navigation, consisting of representatives of all the parties to the Convention, was set up. The Commission had wide powers including the power of amending any of the Annexes to the Convention, except that on Customs, settling disagreements, examining amendments to the Convention, and collecting and disseminating all kinds of information relating to air navigation. At January 1, 1940, two years age, thirty-two States were parties to the Convention which on the whole I believe had produced valuable results. No doubt this important question must be a matter of further consideration in connexion with any international agreement regarding the future of civil aviation when the time for negotiation of that Agreement comes.
I have explained why it is impossible for me to go into any great details of 630 policy this afternoon. His Majesty's Government are, however, anxious, so far as they possibly can, to meet the noble Marquess and those who are interested in this subject. They do, I would assure your Lordships, recognize the legitimate anxiety that is felt on this question, and it is possible for me to say to-day rather more than it was possible for my noble friend Lord Sherwood to say a month ago. This matter has been, both before and since, under consideration by the War Cabinet, and I am empowered to make the following statement, which is also being made on behalf of the Government in another place this afternoon:
"His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the importance of post-war civil air transport, particularly to a country like the United Kingdom with its overseas responsibilities and its dependence on overseas trade. This has been made clear in statements by Government spokesmen in this House and in another place. The present war, like all wars, has acted as a forcing house for technical development and the potentialities of aviation for the future are very great. We must not, as a nation fail to play our full part in the development of civil aviation after the war. This also is fully appreciated by His Majesty's Government.
"Since the outbreak of war the plain fact is that the resources of the British aircraft industry have been concentrated on the production of combat and training types. When we look back on the urgent need of 1940 and 1941 to produce fighters for the defence of this island and the continuing need of aircraft of the highest performance for our bombing offensive, for anti-U-boat work, for the close support of our troops in the field, and so on, no one would question the wisdom of this policy. Nevertheless, the time has now arrived when His Majesty's Government should consider what can be done—always without impairing our war effort—to prepare for the return of peace, be it sooner or later. That is why the Government, as one of several preparatory steps, set up a Committee early this year under Lord Brabazon of Tara to consider broadly the post-war types of civil aircraft likely to be required. The Committee lost no time. Their Report, which is a secret document, was received three weeks ago. They recommended 631 that work should start immediately on the design of civil aircraft of new types, which they defined, in very general terms, and on preparing for the conversion of military aircraft and for the production of such types as are suitable for civil work.
"His Majesty's Government are grateful to Lord Brabazon and his colleagues on the Committee for their careful and practical review. Whatever form of international collaboration may be devised for post-war civil air transport, it will clearly be the duty of this country, both from our own and from an international point of view, to play a prominent part in the production and operation of civil aircraft. The aircraft manufacturing industry is to-day our largest industry. We possess great technical skill and experience in aircraft and aero engine design and construction. The types of aircraft on which we have so far concentrated are unsurpassed for quality and performance. We are confident that we can make a real contribution to the development of civil air transport after the war and it is our intention to do so. The first thing to be done is to take the necessary steps to provide aircraft of the types that will be required for passenger and goods transport after the war. The War Cabinet have, accordingly, taken the decision that the design of a limited number of types of civil aircraft shall proceed with the assistance of the Government as and when it can be arranged without impairing the war effort. The resources of the British aircraft industry in design staff are limited, and it is only by the unceasing efforts of the designers that British technical superiority over the enemy in military types has been, and will in the future be, maintained. However, we shall, in association with the industry, do our utmost to organize design staffs of the high calibre required, so that they may start without delay on the design of some, at least, of the new types recommended and on conversion work.
"The Government are also giving close attention to the organization of civil air transport on the international plane after the war. There are many different possibilities—from world-wide international operation to the 'closed air' system of the pre-war years or even 632 to unregulated 'freedom of the air.' The last would inevitably mean fierce competition and the continuation of high, uneconomic subsidies. In the view of His Majesty's Government, some form of international collaboration will be essential if the air is to be developed in the interests of mankind as a whole, trade served, international understanding fostered, and some measure of international security gained. The problems are of course immense and cannot be solved by one country alone. We, in this country, live in a small island and our internal services can never have anything like the same importance as the internal services operated within a large land area. This is one of the factors which must be taken into account and it is not being overlooked. None of the arrangements we have made during the war with regard to air transport in any part of the world precludes us from working out new plans. Our exploratory work is in fact in hand and we are now in preliminary consultation with the Dominions and India."
I am quite certain that my noble friend Lord Londonderry will be very glad to hear that. The statement goes on:
"Consultation with other members of the United Nations will follow. For though air transport is a young industry and its potentialities have everywhere fired the imagination, its organization in the post-war world cannot be considered in isolation but must be so framed as to be consistent in spirit and in truth with the principles which should govern the international economic policy of the United Nations after the war. To look ahead is a virtue, but not if it means to slacken on the job in hand. We shall not make that mistake. I have said enough, I hope, to show that we have not been inactive. I have disclosed as much as can be disclosed. For the rest, the House must have confidence in us and understand, as I am sure the House will, that it would be a disservice to the national interest and might prejudice the success of negotiations that have not yet started to press us to say more now."
That is the statement which I am empowered to make to your Lordships to-day. If other nations insist upon cut- 633 throat competition, we are quite ready to enter the fray. We have produced the best war planes and we are convinced that we can also produce the best planes for civil flying. But cut-throat competition is inevitably both wasteful and expensive. We should prefer international collaboration, and such international collaboration we are very ready to discus with the other nations concerned.
In the course of what has, I think, been universally regarded as a very interesting and valuable debate, I have been asked a number of other questions of great importance in themselves, but relatively speaking of detail in comparison with the broad questions of policy with which I have just now been dealing. There was for instance the, as I thought, very important contribution by Lord Essendon on the relationship of shipping to civil aviation. The noble Lord of course speaks on this subject with immense weight and experience. I will certainly report what he has said; but I hope that the noble Lord will not press me to deal with this matter to-day, as questions of the kind which he has raised must of course to a considerable extent depend upon the result of the international negotiations which we hope are pending. Supposing an agreement was reached incorporating a very wide measure of international collaboration, clearly the shipping problem would have to be dealt with on a rather different basis than if there were no international agreement at all. And there are innumerable gradations between these two extremes. Clearly the interests of shipping cannot be left out of account in reaching a solution of this question.
Then, my noble friend Lord Rothermere wanted a statement to show that the Government realize and recognize the importance of air transport in war-time. I can certainly assure him of that; and the formation of a Royal Air Force Transport Command which has been referred to should have gone far to reassure the noble Lord. I do not propose to develop that subject now, because this is a debate on civil aviation in the post-war world, and military aviation in war-time therefore does not come exactly within its purview. Then there was an exceedingly interesting and thoughtful contribution by Lord Grimthorpe in which he put forward a 634 proposal for a Ministry of Air Transport. That of course is a new proposal and he will not expect me to comment in great detail on it to-day. Speaking as it were without the book, and giving my own views on the subject, I should have thought it would have been very difficult in war-time to strike an absolute division between military aircraft and civil aircraft and put them under completely different organizations. I should have thought that the correlation between the two branches of air transport was too close in war-time to make that a practicable proposition. Moreover, the sort of solution which he had in mind would hardly satisfy the anxieties expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Essendon, who is looking at the matter from a different angle. The suggestion, however, is a very interesting one. Whether it will prove practicable in future will depend largely on the structure of civil aviation which is eventually built up as the result of international negotiations which we hope are now going to start.
I do not intend to say much either about the future of British Overseas Airways, in the first place because we are to have a debate on that subject in this House in the near future, and secondly because that to a certain extent also must depend on the result of the international negotiations which are now envisaged. There is one thing, however, which I can say, and which I should like to say with the utmost firmness that I can command. His Majesty's Government are determined that British civil aviation shall play a full part in the post-war world. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, suggested that the War Cabinet had not had time to consider this question at all. I am sure that he spoke in absolute good faith, but I hope that what I have said this afternoon will show how far the noble Marquess's picture was from the actual facts. He also took the opportunity to make what I may call a full-dress attack on the whole system of the War Cabinet. I certainly do not mean to deal with that at this late hour. There is however one point about which I should say something. He said that I had access to the War Cabinet, but he did not seem to think very much of that. In fact, however, it does mean that, not as Lord Privy Seal but as Leader of your Lordships' House, I go to all the meetings of the War Cabinet, and I have perfect liberty 635 at any moment to represent your Lordships' view to the War Cabinet. It is only fair that that should be said.
My Lords, in conclusion, may I once more give the House the assurance that His Majesty's Government realize to the full how vital a part civil aviation is likely to play in the post-war world. It is likely to play, perhaps, a greater part than any of us, even the most progressive, yet realize. We also recognize to the full how important civil aviation must prove to us, both from the Imperial and from the international points of view. We are determined that, in the development of civil aviation, British aircraft, British pilots and British industry shall play their full part. That is the policy which is outlined in the Motion of the noble Marquess, and that is the policy which, as I hope I have shown, His Majesty's Government are already proceeding to put into effect. I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for that goes into details with regard to matters which are likely to be the subject of future international negotiation; but, though I cannot be taken as agreeing with everything that was said by the noble Marquess in the speech which he addressed to your Lordships, I am ready and glad on behalf of His Majesty's Government to accept the Motion standing in his name.
§ LORD DAVIES
My Lords, after the speech of my noble friend to which we have just listened, in which he has expounded to us the policy of His Majesty's Government, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I am sure that you would convict me of something worse than a lack of courtesy if I did not thank the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, for the speech which he has just delivered to us. I am sure we all appreciated not only the facts of which he told us but also the manner in which he dealt with all the subjects which were raised, giving us replies when he felt that he could conscientiously do so, and not evading any of the issues, except when he told us that he was not in a position to deal with them. I am sure that the noble Viscount will accept my gratitude for the way in which he has dealt with 636 this Motion. It was typical of him to extend the kindly protection which he did to our common noble friend, Lord Sherwood, but, as the noble Viscount knows, I made no attack on the noble Lord whatever. I knew of the difficulty in which he was placed, and I had only hoped that four weeks ago we could be assured that the Government had a policy, because there are many people in this country who thought that the Government had no policy at all in relation to these matters. In view of what the noble Viscount has now told us, I am sure that they will reconsider their opinion, and probably alter the view which they held. The noble Viscount mentioned the form in which my Motion was drawn, and I understand that, if I am to impress the noble Viscount, I must put any Motion down in the most polemical form.
I only said that the noble Marquess had framed his Motion in certain terms, and had obtained the assurances for which he asked in his Motion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
We usually frame our Motions in certain terms and then try—very haltingly in some cases, and certainly in my own—to develop the Motion and to wield our rapiers in such a way as sometimes to inflict wounds, but usually to assist the Government in their task. I should have liked to hear more as to the lines of the Government's policy on this subject, though I feel that what the noble Viscount has told us will go far to reassure people in many parts of this country, and also in our Dominions. The noble Viscount has deferred until later the question of the monopoly.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
There is to be a debate on it, but I had been hoping that something would be said to encourage our designers and aircraft manufacturers, who want a very definite answer. I should like to say to the noble Viscount that I should be overstating my gratitude to him if I said that I was entirely satisfied, but I will go so far as to thank him very much for what he has said, and to congratulate him on the very able manner in which he has dealt with a very difficult question.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.