§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY rose to ask His Majesty's Government what progress they have made with their policy for post-war aviation; and to move for Papers. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I do not know whether it is actually necessary on this occasion, though I think it is always proper to apologize to your Lordships for again bringing before you a subject which one has already had the honour to raise on more than one occasion in the recent past. I have been fortified and encouraged by the reception which your Lordships gave to that subject, and I hope you will afford me the same support on this occasion as you have been good enough to give before. I am glad to see on the Front Bench to-day the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, who is particularly commissioned to take charge of this subject. There was one moment, if I read my newspaper aright, When I thought per-haps he might not be with us, but I am 438 glad to welcome him back from his travels and to feel that he will return to his task with renewed vigour. I trust he will be able to give us some small encouragement—or indeed much encouragement—on the subject in which we are particularly interested to-day.
§ Though I cannot say that I have had any actual demonstration of the fact, I am still hoping that the Government really recognize the vital importance of the question of post-war aviation and of civil aviation. And I most sincerely hope that to-day we shall hear something about policy, because that is the main point which I have sought to develop on the many occasions now on which I have brought the matter before your Lordships. I am quite convinced that should we go on without enunciating a policy, we may meet many disasters. I think your Lordships know well the disaster which usually follows delay. We are anxious to receive an answer on certain particular points and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, will be able to give us some satisfactory answer. Those points are the international regulation of civil aviation; the supply of adequate civil transport now; the principles governing British air-line operations within the Empire and to foreign countries; the policy of the "chosen instrument"; and, finally, the question of the separation of civil aviation from the Air Ministry, and that of course includes the question of air transport which at the present moment, as your Lordships are aware, comes under the jurisdiction of the Air Ministry.
§ I hardly think it is necessary to preface my remarks by saying that I certainly have no intention of saying anything or suggesting any proposal which might interfere with our war effort; nor should I like it to be thought that I am actuated by feelings of complacency and wishful thinking as regards the date when the war may come to an end. Your Lordships will agree, I think, that there is a tendency in all parts of the country to take it for granted that the war is coming to an end, and that in some cases people are not putting forward the full effort which will be necessary in all fields of endeavour until the war actually does come to an end. But we do recognize that aviation is most important at this stage, and there are a number of people available for developing plans in many directions. 439 After all, the Government have wisely appointed a Minister of Reconstruction, with various Ministers to assist him, so it is highly important in this vital field of aviation that we should lose no time in shaping our plans.
§ My Motion to-day is in the form of an inquiry. Perhaps in the past I may have made certain remarks which the Government—who are, possibly, unduly sensitive—may have considered an attack upon themselves. I can assure them that there is no idea in my mind at the present moment of making any attack. My desire is now, as it has always been, to assist the Government; to do everything I can to help them in the great task which they have in front of them. I did press at one time, as your Lordships know, that a Minister who had direct charge of aviation should be appointed to the War Cabinet, because I felt that that is the level upon which these discussions should be conducted, but I think we can say—if we like to talk in polemical phrases— that our line has been advanced by the appointment of my noble friend who sits on the Front Bench, and to whom, as he knows, I look for great things in the not too far distant future. I must reiterate one complaint which I have always made. That is that when I read the speeches of members of the War Cabinet and of other eminent people—perhaps they are the only speeches that are reported—I note no reference whatever in them to the air, to the development of post-war aviation or to the great part which aviation must play not only now but in our post-war policy. That same indictment— if that is the proper word to use—rests on the Minister of Education, who is doing remarkable work, and, I think, receiving support from all sides. I have heard of nothing that he has said which suggests that by reason of the development of aviation the curriculum of school instruction must be considered from that angle amongst the many others.
§ I have ventured to enumerate the specific questions upon which I would respectfully ask the Minister if he is in a position to give us some information. The first one relates to the international regulation of civil aviation. That brings us to the question of the freedom of the air, the freedom of innocent passage from different countries, which is a very im- 440 portant point. I think I am right in saying that the attitude of mind which we are adopting in this country is one which approximates very closely to the opinion which I believe—after such investigation as I have been able to make—is herd by the Americans. That opinion regarding the freedom of the air and the freedom of innocent passage, carries with it certain proposals of which your Lordships are no doubt aware, and it is an opinion which is shared also by the Dutch. We are fully determined to safeguard what I would call the sovereign rights of the air above our territory which used to be spoken of as usque ad cœslum. We hope, naturally, that there will be international standardized rules in relation to freedom of passage, and that there will be licences for airworthiness and many other details with which I need not worry your Lordships.
§ Your Lordships are well aware that there was a Conference in Paris in 1919 and another in Havana in 1928 to discuss all these matters. I had the honour of taking part in the one at Paris in 1919, and I think that my noble friend Lord Mottistone was present on many occasions. I am sure your Lordships will realize that we met in totally different circumstances from those which will attend any similar conference that may meet in the future. There was an element of suspicion which influenced everybody there, because security was in all our minds, and, by reason of lack of experience of the potentialities of aircraft, it was very difficult to lay down rules and regulations, because we did not know exactly how far aircraft were in a position to endanger security. The whole situation has now been changed by reason of what I would call the developed potentialities of aircraft. We know to a certain extent what aircraft can do in these matters. I do not think, however, that there is any reason for us to anticipate failure in an international conference, and we may hope that arrangements will emerge for the benefit of all the nations concerned. I believe that I am right in saying that America and Britain do desire the same things. We have experienced collaboration throughout this war, which has been carried on in a spirit of unity and good will, and I for one am not going to anticipate difficulties which might arise from lack of that co-operation which I am very hopeful will continue when the war is over. 441 But on this matter it would be helpful if the noble Lord who is to reply would give us some indication of the policy which the Government propose to pursue.
§ I now come to the question of the supply of adequate transport. My knowledge of the subject is very slender, and I do not feel that I can or want to enter into details. I am satisfied to a very large extent as to the capacity for providing types of aircraft which can fulfill the necessary conditions. The noble Lord knows a great deal more about this than I do, and I hope that he will be able to tell us something about it I think that we have aircraft which can satisfy the war conditions of transport and which can do more than that, which can, indeed, fill up the gap for, say, three years, in developing transocean communications and transport, until such time as the designs which I hope are being considered now will be in operation. I should not like to name any length for the transition period, but I do not think it will be less than three years. Although we have had it fixed in our minds that to go from blue-print to mass production requires a very long period of time, I believe that in view of our present experiences that time can be considerably shortened. In relation to transport machines, I should like to think that the smaller countries who will want to play their part in post-war transport will be able to feel that it is possible for them to call upon us to help them with aircraft. That is another matter upon which I hope that the noble Lord will give us information.
§ Next I come to the principles governing British air-line operation within the Empire and with foreign countries. I have ventured to emphasize on every occasion that in my opinion the whole wellbeing and future of the British Empire as a great world-wide organization with a paramount mission to fulfil depends upon the recognition which we give in the immediate future to the importance of civil aviation. I hope that the Government share that view. The noble Lord has already told us that he attended a Conference in this country with the Commonwealth representatives, and that they arrived at a unanimous decision. We do not know, of course, what subjects were on the agenda, but I know that the noble Lord would not have made that statement unless he was satisfied that great progress had been 442 made. I hope that he will be able now to give us some information on that point.
§ I turn now to the policy of the "chosen instrument.". I approach this subject with great diffidence, because I know the difficulties which surround it, and I know also the opinions of a great many of your Lordships who have considered this question. Your Lordships will remember that the relevant Act was passed in August, 1939, and the debate took place in your Lordships' House before the war broke out. I have carefully re-read that debate, and it is certainly a very interesting debate to examine. Lord Cadman made a most valuable contribution, and he had every right to do so, because he had presided over a Committee which expressed certain very definite opinions, and he did modify those opinions when he addressed your Lordships in the course of that debate. The circumstances were somewhat different on that occasion, because at that time there was a very dangerous element which was obvious to us then, in that what I would call power politics were governing the development of aviation. Whereas I hope that in the future, by an international arrangement which will be reached, power politics will be kept out of this essentially peace-time question, at that time we had it in our minds that power politics were in operation, and that whatever fleets there were, whether civil or military, were being dominated and controlled by the Governments of the various countries. I took part in the debate myself at that time, and I welcomed what the Government were doing, because I felt that it showed a developing interest in civil aviation which up to that time had been lacking in the Air Ministry. I can certainly admit that much more should have been done in relation to civil aviation, and perhaps your Lordships may look upon me as one of the culprits.
§ In relation to the British Overseas Airways Corporation, I think that we should bear full testimony to the remarkable work which they have accomplished. I do not expect that as an instrument on their own they would be doing exactly what they are doing now, but I think that we owe them a deep debt of gratitude for what they have done. The noble Lord may give us some details of what they have done, because it is information 443 which the country should certainly have so far as it is possible to give it. I feel, however, that the usefulness of this monopoly instrument, which is the chosen instrument, is coming to an end, and I feel that if we adopt the policy of one chosen instrument we are placing a restrictive influence on all private enterprise. As your Lordships are aware, there are different opinions held in America. It may be difficult for us to diagnose which is the prevailing opinion, but so far as I am able to judge I believe that the consensus of opinion in America is in favour of relying on what I would call controlled private enterprise, which naturally precludes, I hope, cut-throat competition. If we believe in controlled private enterprise and want to encourage it in this country, it will be necessary to repeal the Act of 1939. To repeal it in the immediate future is, I should say, quite impossible, but I should like to know that it is the policy of the Government not to rely on one chosen instrument or even two chosen instruments, but to allow our controlled private enterprise to operate and to give it such assistance as it will be possible for the Government to give it.
§ American history is very illuminating. Before Pearl Harbour there was one big air company in the overseas field in America. There were six commercial planes designed for ocean flying. Now we find there are many lines, flying all over the world. If we in this country set ourselves to do a certain work—and we certainly improvise better than any other nation—and if we make up our minds now, we can get our post-war aviation and our transport aviation going in a much shorter time than a great many people might suppose. The whole idea of world air travel is far too big to be entrusted to one chosen instrument, and a repeal of this Act or an announcement by the Government that they propose to repeal it would enable other companies to prepare. At the present moment they can do nothing. They feel that their future is so unsure that they cannot risk taking the necessary steps for that planning which is vitally important. I am thinking not only of air companies, I am thinking of the shipping companies. I have already told your Lordships about the future which I feel faces shipping. They are all progressive people. They 444 have rendered remarkable services in the past in establishing British connexions all over the world by their shipping services, and now what they want is the best vehicle to enable them to carry on their activities in the future as they have carried them on in the past. It is quite obvious that a large number of these activities—and it is impossible to specify them now—must be assisted and carried out by aviation. I am only too anxious to pay my tribute of praise to this remarkable organization of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, but I do feel that the fact that it is there, and that it stands on an Act of Parliament means that everything else is really at a standstill. I would urge upon the Government to give us some very definite statement of policy with regard to what they propose to do in the future.
§ I have already spoken of British air lines within the Empire and to foreign countries, but that, of course, is a matter that I am always pressing on the Government. There is just one word I should like to say about subsidies. I do not know whether the Government are prepared at this time to tell us their policy on subsidies. Personally I am opposed to subsidies qua subsidies; I feel that the Government should pay for services as they are rendered. But apart from services, there are many things that the Government can do to assist civil aviation in relation to airports. There is, for example, the ground staff, which I should like the Government to provide; there are radio facilities, and a number of other subsidiary matters. I sincerely hope there will be some international agreement relating to subsidies, so that there will be a standardization of all such things as fares, cost of freight, and other minor details; and if subsidies are given by any Government the reasons for those subsidies should be very clearly stated.
§ My last point is the separation of civil aviation from the Air Ministry. In view of my long connexion with the Air Ministry and my regard for those engaged there I know that that Ministry will not think that I have any desire to decry the work they have done in the past or to say that they are not competent to manage whatever duties are allocated to them. But I am quite sure that the development of civil aviation will be retarded if it is kept under what I would 445 call the sterilizing influence of Service aviation. It is quite true that a good deal of co-operation will be necessary and a great deal of research can be carried on unitedly, but I should like to see civil aviation entirely separated from the Air Ministry. It is quite inconceivable that the Admiralty should control the Mercantile Marine; they would be the last people to want to do it, and I am quite sure that our Mercantile Marine would not have developed in the way it has developed if the Admiralty had had the control of its activities. What the proper arrangement for the control of civil aviation should be is not for me to say. As one who does not welcome further additions to the number of our Ministries it is not for me to suggest that there should be a Minister for Civil Aviation; but there is the Board of Trade, which carries out innumerable duties, some of them seemingly of a contradictory character, and there is the Ministry of War Transport. It is for the Government, if they can, to say whether they accept the idea I have put forward that civil aviation should be separated from the Air Ministry. I thank your Lordships for allowing me to trespass on your indulgence, and I hope we shall hear an illuminating answer from the noble Lord who replies. I beg to move.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I am afraid I may be a voice crying in the wilderness, but I would like to give one word of warning on the present position as I see it. The present proposals—both our own and those of other Governments concerned—are that the air should be split up between various countries, each running some form of national monopoly or some group of companies, which would presumably in many ways act together. There are various views on competition held in this House, and this is not the time to go into them. But surely in this case there can be little dispute about the fact that complete out-and-out competition in the air is a bad thing. Competition can take place at various levels. It can take place between individuals, between small shopkeepers and firms, between large rival combines competing with each other, and of course various advantages are to be had from it on the lower level; but the form of competition envisaged here is one such as, I think, we have never seen before. So far as I can see, it is going 446 to be competition between the commercial air fleets of various nations. One can see what is going to happen. There are going to be two alternatives before the Governments concerned. They must either support the various semi-monopolies or groups, in the various ways so well explained by the noble Marquess, or else they will have to abandon their children to the mercies of pure competition, and be willing to acquiesce if their children suffer in the process. I cannot see any Government in the world being willing to abandon its merchant air fleet to any such free competition. I cannot imagine any side of this House or any other democratic assembly keeping silent if its merchant air fleet got the worst of the resultant competition.
In order to protect their various aerial merchant navies, the nations will, of course, start offering subsidies or facilities which must, of course, be offered to their own aerial merchant navies alone, and the result is going to be considerable bickering which has, I believe, already started, especially in regard to air bases. The result is going to be an enormous amount of international ill-feeling on various matters which will end either in what one may call commercial aerial warfare or, in fact, in an international air treaty to put an end to the trouble. Obviously, an international air peace treaty is what will in fact occur. Must we go through all the first process in order finally to arrive at this international co-operation in the air? Cannot we start off by an international agreement now when we have in our fighting Services complete combination of forces? I suggested when last this subject came up in the House that it should be run by an international company in which all the various countries would be shareholders. Many noble Lords opposite know very much more than I do about how these things should be organized, and no doubt they have better ideas, but I would beg of them to make certain that whatever they do is done internationally and not by individual nations fighting each other.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I shall not follow my noble friend who has just sat down in his plea that we should endeavour to arrive at a solution of this matter by international agreement—that we should agree to take certain steps now or at the conclusion of the war—nor shall 447 I follow him into a discussion of private enterprise, for, as he spoke, I seemed to be transported back in imagination to the mid-19th century when Karl Marx on the one hand and, a little later, Herbert Spencer on the other, were inveighing against one another. As I see the position now—and it falls to be said on an occasion like this—all these doctrinaire questions are fading away in the face of stern realities. Probably Lord Woolton is quite right when he says that the question of whether a matter shall be dealt with by the State or by private enterprise is one to be decided by the convenience of the moment and of how best you can get the thing done. I am quite sure that nine out of ten people accept that view. Such a thing as making a Ford car or a Morris car is far better done by Mr. Ford or Mr. Morris than it could be done by any Government enterprise, controlled as it must be by Treasury regulations. That is common ground, but I like to think there are still some remnants of the past, with beards which should be white, if I may respectfully say so, and not black—
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
I did keep off the thorny subject of enterprise on all other levels, especially between Morris and Ford, and merely restricted it to competition between nations acting as limited companies.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
He holds these views vehemently, and has frequently stated them to this House on the subject of private enterprise ever since he got here.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
I am only concerned for a few moments to support my noble friend Lord Londonderry in asking the Government if they could state their intentions, and it is only right in these circumstances that one should indicate what he thinks the Government ought to say. We welcome back here, from his broodings on the south side of the Atlas Mountains, Lord Beaverbrook. We welcomed 448 him before when he was dealing with aviation, but he promptly went away and did something else. Now we ask him to stick to this job and tell us what is to be done. I respectfully ask the House to say that we must have a separation between civil aviation and the Air Ministry—not at this moment, of course. I am sure it would be a great mistake to try to set up any kind of separate Ministry during war-time—that would complicate matters enormously. I would not suggest that for a moment, but in making plans for the future, as we have been making all kinds of plans for reconstruction, I would respectfully urge that we must have another Ministry than the Air Ministry. One may ask why. I reply, in the interests of the Air Minister himself. It really is impossible to ask him to take on the whole-time job, as undoubtedly control of the Royal Air Force will be for a long time after hostilities cease, along with the difficult business of recruiting personnel for the civil air force and, above all, of providing aerodromes, machines, and the whole gamut of equipment for that force.
Be it observed, my Lords, that, whatever form it takes, we must have a civil air force if we are to survive as an Empire. It is going to be very difficult for this Empire to pay its way and go ahead with all the schemes for betterment on which our hearts are set. Much must depend on our foreign trade. The way to promote foreign trade is to have swift communications, and the way to have swift communications can only be by air. Though the air has great drawbacks in some respects, for swift communication in the matter of foreign trade it is vital. As the British Empire is so far more wide-flung than any other organization in the world, including even the great United States of America, it is more vital to our interests to have a first-class civil air force than it is for any other nation in the world. I hope your Lordships will agree that that is so. Are we, then, going to burden the Air Minister with this grave trouble? See how difficult it would be, for example, in the matter of personnel. The problem of recruiting for a Royal Air Force is totally different from that of recruiting for a civil air force. I will not dwell upon that because if anyone thinks of it he will see how different it will be.
In regard to machines the divergence between the military and the civil type has 449 kept on growing since the days of which the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, has reminded me when we were together in Paris, I as representing the Air Ministry for the time being. Since that day the divergence has become even more complete. The Royal Air Force in those days found it necessary for some of its types to have a runway of about half a mile, whereas for some of the modern types of aeroplane you want runways of from two to three miles. We then thought that the ideal was to have comfort to be sought by comparatively low flying. Now the machine which fights in this war frequently goes to heights undreamt of then, heights of 30,000 to 40,000 feet, relying on sealed chambers, oxygen and every kind of contraption. As I say, the difference becomes more and more pronounced as time goes on. I would urge therefore that no one man can properly be set the task of providing this country, as I think it must be provided in the interests of security, with an Air Force at any rate comparable with that of our great neighbour and at the same time provide us with the totally different kind of machine required for the future work of civil aviation. I see in his place Lord Rothermere who has just started an adventure, for such we must call it, of publishing simultaneously, by means of the aeroplane, his newspaper in England and New York. It is a most surprising adventure which one would have thought a most impossible of accomplishment, but which has been made possible by the various new schemes now available. He, I am sure, will agree with me that we cannot rely for civil aviation on anything like the military machine which is destined to fight desperate battles in the air. We cannot reply on such a type of machine as that in order to carry on the private enterprise with which he himself has had so much to do and which he is now using for the purposes of journalism.
What then are we to do? If it be true that these two types of aeroplane are both vital and yet completely divergent in character, I submit, and I believe my friends in this quarter of the House to be with me, that we cannot leave the task of providing for civil aviation to be combined with the functions of the Air Ministry. What then are we to do? I do not know how far I shall have the support of members of this House when I plead that there should be a Minister for Civil Aviation concerned with that and that 450 only. I say that for these reasons: first, the vital importance of the matter, which I have endeavoured to show, and secondly because the civil aeroplane must of its nature be so different from the fighting aeroplane.
I think it was the present Prime Minister who quoted a saying which I believe was attributed to the civil head of the Treasury, that if civil aviation wanted to fly it must fly of itself; subsidies were out of the question. But from the day that those words were spoken until to-day I doubt whether it can be said that any aeroplane has ever left the ground without in some shape or form receiving Government assistance. I have consulted those who know most about aviation and they say that in order to operate aircraft at the speeds demanded by modern practice it would be ridiculous to put the old heavy Farman into the air to flap around at 40 miles an hour and that the great machines now used must need Government help for a long time. What form that help should take, whether it should be a direct sub-sidy, whether it should be a postal subsidy, whether it should be contributed to in all kinds of ways like free aerodromes and so forth, I do not know. That is for the Minister of the future to decide, but I believe that no modern aeroplane could fly without Government help. It is not like a good ship which can plough the seas without Government assistance. Certainly the day has not yet arrived for an aeroplane to be flown without Government assistance. Therefore, this Minister would be faced with a novel problem. He would have to provide something that would be of vital service to the State; it would also be of a commercial nature, yet it would be unable to support itself. I apologize for having spoken a little longer than I intended but I hope I have not wearied the House. For the reasons I have given I urge the noble Lord to assure us that he will provide us with a suitable administration for this great object so that when, at the end of the war, the British Empire comes to fill its role, this vital matter of civil aviation will be administered by a Minister specially responsible for that task.
§ THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
My Lords, we are very grateful to the noble Marquess who raised this most important question once more. I shall be very brief because we are all waiting to hear what 451 Lord Beaverbrook has to tell us. What he has to say will, I am sure, be full of interest, and after he has spoken we shall probably be able to form very different conclusions from those which we hold at the present moment. There is one thing quite certain in my mind and it is that His Majesty's Government cannot have a policy until the Empire has come to an agreement with other nations. Obviously we must first await an Empire and international agreement. I think we are all agreed now, from what we have heard from the Dominions and America lately, that no international corporation would win approval. At one time it was thought that a corporation partly American and partly British might be a good thing so as to make sure that there would be no lack of collaboration between that great Ally of ours and ourselves, but I think we are now all agreed that that would not win approval on the other side of the Atlantic.
On the other hand, I think we are agreed that within the general control of some sort of air transport authority or Ministry a great national effort will have to be made in this country and the British Empire. As Lord Londonderry has said, we think that a separate Ministry or separate authority of some kind should run civil aviation and that it should not be tied to the Air Ministry, whose whole time will be taken up after the war in running that very important thing, military aviation, which is going to keep the peace of the world. Each country must take thought for the morrow and the United States is doing that now. We can all see, therefore, that it is our duty to have an apparatus of commercial air transport, and that should be in course of preparation at this moment so that we shall be all ready.
We want to know also what the Empire is doing. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, will be able to tell us more about that when he has had a further conference with the Empire delegates. Great Britain has ordered two prototypes, a land plane and a flying boat. I should very much like to know if it is possible for the noble Lord to tell us whether the Dominions have been promised any Yorks, because they will require planes of that type. Is it possible to promise them any Yorks, and if not, what do the Government expect them to use? The aircraft industry in this country, as your 452 Lordships know, is strictly controlled, and it would not be possible therefore for the industry to supply overseas customers at the present moment. They could not be responsible in any way for supplying those requirements, but the Government, I think, must know the minimum of services which the Empire will require and can therefore estimate aircraft needs. These, I think, should be provided for. In a former debate the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, mentioned 2,000 planes. It is not for us to judge at this moment whether that is the correct number, but no doubt that estimate will be subject to change from time to time. The industry should be freed sufficiently to enable it to accept provisional orders for delivery within a certain period after the cessation of hostilities. That seems to me a very important point, and I cannot see why that should not be done.
Again, why should we not press on with some of the detailed preparations while the bigger issues are under consideration? That is something which I feel might be possible. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a speech recently delivered by Colonel Drew, the Prime Minister of Ontario, because it struck me at the time as an extraordinarily sensible speech from a very responsible and important statesman in the British Empire. Some of your Lordships may have read the report of his speech, but it seemed to me that he hit the nail so completely on the head that I should like to quote from it. He said:Post-war commercial aviation is not a subject about which there need be any secrecy at all. Of that I am certain from my contacts on both sides of the Atlantic. On the contrary, the details should be right out in the open for all to read and understand. Otherwise there may be serious misunderstandings between those who must work very close together.Colonel Drew was a hundred per cent. right. There must be no misunderstandings. The whole future of the world depends on the most friendly and cordial co-operation between the United States and ourselves in the years to come. But we in the British Empire believe that we must have a square deal and I think we all look to the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, as the ideal person to see that we do have a square deal and that the Empire is put in a position to fill its right place after the war both as regards civil aviation and military aviation.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
My Lords, I made a very long speech last month on this subject and therefore I do not intend to keep your Lordships many minutes on this occasion. I should like to welcome back the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, to express my pleasure in seeing him looking so well, and to extend to him every good wish and encouragement now that he is once again taking the reins of civil aviation. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, made one statement with which I cannot entirely agree. He said he was quite satisfied that in the years immediately after the war the aircraft which would be available for civil aviation would be quite adequate. I know perfectly well that at such a time as this when we are preparing for the Second Front and when naturally all production is concentrated upon things necessary for the war, it would be extremely difficult for the Government to put aside any facilities for producing the right kind of aircraft for civil aviation. That is an excuse, and it may be a very good one, but it does not mean, that the aircraft which will be available after the war are going to be the right ones. It may be that we shall hear something in this debate which will cause us to alter our opinion, but nothing I have heard so far leads me to believe that any aircraft in view at the present moment will be in the least adequate for competition such as we shall have to meet from other countries. Let us be quite frank about the position. Do not let us imagine it is otherwise. Your Lordships must realize the real situation that we shall have to face at the end of the war, so that, even if there are circumstances which cannot at the present moment be overcome, we shall understand exactly what we have to look forward to.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, referred to the B.O.A.C. and to a statement by the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, and I entirely agree with the point of view he put forward. I do not want to enter into controversy now as to whether private enterprise or public enterprise should manage airways after the war. That should be decided entirely on a consideration of which will be the more efficient. I hope that questions of ideology are not going to decide whether any service is to be a public service or a private service. The only question should be which is the best. Other points made by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, were extremely 454 interesting and I was glad to hear his speech.
This debate, if I may be allowed to say so, does not seem to me to have had quite the energy infused into it that we have had in some previous debates. Perhaps that is because we are not going to have the benefit of a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, in reply. We have been spared that by the short amount of time. Perhaps also it is because your Lordships are so eager to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has to say, that there has been a desire to press the debate forward quickly. It it quite useless for us to repeat ourselves in succeeding debates, but we have had so little from the Government at the end of those debates that I am afraid we do tend to a great deal of repetition. It would have been better, I think, if we could have heard the Government's case and then have debated that case instead of having to put forward our point of view before hearing what the Government have to say. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, will have a great deal to say. There are many aspects of the question which we should like to hear dealt with, including those raised by the noble Marquess concerning the international point of view, the freedom of the air, the way in which the air services of individual nations are going to compete with the civil aviation of all other individual nations, and the question of preventing cut-throat competition. We had hoped that there would be some conference to elucidate these questions. It may be that the march of events in the war has interrupted preparations for any conference which might have taken place, and we would like to hear from Lord Beaverbrook whether there is any prospect of one coming to pass in the near future.
Even if it is to be delayed I do hope that that does not mean that we have to wait before we make any plans at all for the other nations to come into a conference. I think we should stand a very much better chance at such a conference if we had our plans ready beforehand or, at any rate, if we had progressed in some respects with those plans. I think if, as we are told, it is true that other countries are making their plans and they are able to go into a conference with their plans far more developed than ours, we should not be able, perhaps, to make the contribution 455 in the conference which is necessary having regard to our position in the world of civil aviation. May I say that I have such a belief in that world that I cannot agree with Lord Mottistone's view that no air line would be able to put machines into the air unless it had a subsidy? I think that is completely wrong. It might be that an air line would not be lucrative unless it carried air mail. I do not know whether Lord Mottistone meant to include internal air lines in America in what he said. Many of them, without having any State subsidy, manage to make a substantial profit.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Will the noble Lord forgive me if I interrupt him for a moment? I said what I said very deliberately. I am told that the air mail subsidy in America does cover a very large proportion of the cost of air lines. It is a very substantial payment, and it is a Government subsidy just the same.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
The noble Lord also compared aeroplanes with ships. May I point out that ships also carry mail.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
Most of the well-known lines do—the Cunard, the P. & O. and the Orient all carry mail. I do not say that the profits of shipping companies are dependent on their mail carrying, but if you are going to think of the finances of air lines you must, to some extent, allow for them having the same advantages as ships. Where, I think, the difficulty arises so far as the plane is concerned, is in respect of initial capital expenditure. I believe that if an air service started with a large number of aeroplanes it could probably be made to pay. But a vast initial capital expenditure is required, and that makes it extremely difficult for the air line to become self-supporting. I have no doubt that, even allowing for this, within a very few years the air line would become self-supporting. In view of the economies in fuel and running costs and so forth which we may look for in the future, I consider that air lines will undoubtedly become paying propositions.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer to-day. There will, I hope, be other occasions on which we shall be able 456 to carry on this debate if we do not get satisfaction now. I would like, however, to say that although I am not satisfied—like the noble Marquess who initiated this debate—I would not wish it to be thought that I am completely dissatisfied with the progress which has been made. Great progress had been made since we initiated these debates in this House. It was, I think, eighteen months ago that the noble Marquess first put on the Order Paper a Motion relating to this matter, and from that day the Government have really been making great progress. I think we should recognize that. It is that progress which encourages me and encourages others here to continue to press for further advancement.
My Lords, unlike other noble Lords who have spoken, I did not venture to intervene on the occasion of the last debate so, perhaps, I may be forgiven if I offer a few remarks to-day. I may say that I am emboldened to do this because the speeches which have been made have all been too short, and there will be plenty of time for Lord Beaver-brook to spread himself as much as he likes when he replies on behalf of the Government. May I further take the opportunity of congratulating the Government on recovering the services of Lord Beaver-brook? Whether I can congratulate him personally is a matter which I leave to the future. I will say, however, that I miss him very much from this side of the House for, on one or two very great questions, he has been, perhaps, my only supporter. I hope that he will be with me in spirit if I have occasion again to draw attention to grave strategical defects in the policy of the Government. I am quite sure that Lord Beaverbrook will not only devote his whole attention to the future of civil aviation. Undoubtedly civil aviation has a vast future, but it has no present. I cannot imagine a greater waste of talent than for Lord Beaverbrook's activities to be confined to the future of civil aviation, for a great deal of that future, as Lord Londonderry, I think, suggested, cannot yet be determined. In fact, I am sure that it is not the case, and that Lord Beaverbrook's great energies and wide vision will be at the disposal of the Government in many other far more urgent, it not more important, matters.
457 The fact is, I suggest, that the Government cannot now lay down a hard and fast policy. That, I am sure, is not what the noble Duke of Sutherland was asking for. We cannot expect them to lay down a hard and fast policy because so much depends upon how we come out of the two wars in which we are engaged. I say the two wars because we are engaged in wars in two hemispheres. A great deal depends on the attitude of the other Governments which survive those two wars, and on whether it will be possible for us to get their collaboration and support. We cannot look for a statement of what the Government expect to do without first knowing something of these things, but it will help, I think, those who will have to make plans for civil aviation in the future to decide such points as whether draughtsmen can be spared from war work and so on, if the Government could tell us something of the policy in which they hope to persuade our friends and Allies to collaborate with us.
The noble Marquess gave us a most interesting speech, if I may be allowed to say so but I thought I detected a slight fallacy in it. I do not see how we can have an All-Empire air service. Look at a globe, and you will see that such a thing is really impossible. You cannot have an independent Empire air service linking together all the scattered Dominions and Colonies of the British Commonwealth, you cannot link together the Empire without the collaboration of other nations. You will have to ask them for the freedom of the air over their territories or ask them to collaborate with you in some other way. When I speak of great nations I do not only mean the United States of America. In this connexion may I say that I detect also a danger in thinking that if we can get agreement with Pan-American Airlines and the authorities in America, the whole problem is solved? It is not solved at all. Many of our Imperial airways in the past were artificially routed. The quickest way to India, for example, is not the way we used to fly, it is across the mainland of Europe, and in order to use such a route you must have the collaboration of the Russians. Later on we must have the collaboration of the Chinese. It is not only the great nations, however, who must be brought into our counsels in these matters. Reference has already been made to the Dutch, and I would add that territories 458 of the French and Belgian Colonial Empires are of vital importance to us as an aviation Power in the future. While, therefore, I am entirely in favour of closer collaboration and agreement with the Dominions, with India and with the Colonial Governments, I venture to suggest that we must also have a working arrangement with these other Powers.
The sort of thing which I hope will never be allowed to occur again is the curious state of affairs before the war which arose with the Persian Government. The noble Marquess has referred to the freedom of the air, and to the need for the right of innocent passage, and I support him there. He knows quite well—because I think that he was Air Minister for part of the material time—that our whole air route to India had to be diverted to the other side of the Persian Gulf, at great expense and trouble, because the Persian Government refused us flying rights. In those days we had a Government in office—I am sure that it was no fault of the noble Marquess, who was an ornament of it—which the smallest and weakest Power could flout with pleasure and impunity. It was appeasement carried to the ultimate degree. The Persians were able to say "You cannot fly to India and Australia across our territory," and so we gave in and shifted our route to the other side of the Persian Gulf. I hope that we are not going to tolerate any nonsense of that kind in the future.
I suggest, there fore, that there must be some wide international instrument, as I am sure that the noble Marquess will agree, laying down a minimum of flying rights for innocent traffic; otherwise we shall only have friction and trouble, and this great instrument of peace and co-operation between the peoples of the world will be hampered and strangled.
There is one other suggestion which I venture to make. I believe that the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, and the noble Viscount, Lord Rothermere, have both given warnings against the idea that we can divert vital material at the present time to the building of civil aircraft for the future. I think that the noble Marquess said that there must be a period of at least three years after the war before 459 the new passenger and freight liners of the future are flying. I am sure that Lord Beaverbrook will support that view. We cannot, of course, divert a single engine or a single machine from war needs—and war needs, of course, include transport. I believe that it is possible, however, to allow the services of draughtsmen and designers to be used; I am informed that that can be done without any detriment at all to the war effort. In the meantime, I am sure your Lordships will fully appreciate—indeed it is almost unnecessary to mention it—that every possible aeroplane, engine and pilot are required for a war in which the victory has yet to be won and in which we may still have a long and hard task ahead of us. To divert strategical materials and labour at this time to civil machines for the future would be a very mistaken policy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I should like to remind the noble Lord that transport aircraft are fully needed at this moment, and one feels that the supply of them is increasing. Those machines can be used in the three-year period.
My Lords, I make no accusation against the noble Marquess, and I am sure that we are in agreement there.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD BEAVERBROOK)
My Lords, I wish to deal first of all with two or three issues raised by noble Lords before attempting to discuss the policy of the Government in relation to civil aviation. My noble friend Lord Londonderry spoke of the "chosen instrument." The chosen instrument, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, is not a monopoly; there is no monopoly at all. It has a monopoly of subsidies for overseas air traffic, but nothing else. So far as overseas air traffic by private companies, shipping companies or other concerns may be carried on without any subsidy, then there can be no objection on account of the statutory rights of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. The same applies to aircraft transportation within Great Britain. Air transportation within Great Britain is already the charge of the railway companies; they have combined, and they have what is called Railway Air Services. There is another line called Allied Airways to 460 Orkney. These receive no subsidies; they are independent lines, and they are not interfered with by any statutory rights of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. That question of the chosen instrument was raised only, I think, by my noble friend Lord Londonderry.
Another question which has run all through the debate is that of the status of civil aviation in relation to the Air Ministry. I think the whole House has agreed that there should not be any plan or proposal for removing civil aviation from the care of the Air Ministry during the war. If that is so, it seems to me quite foolish and futile to discuss the future of civil aviation in relation to the Air Ministry at this time, for the Air Ministry has many issues to dispose of which concern the future of civil aviation which cannot await transfer to another Ministry, and it would be a pity to make the decision now to remove civil aviation from the Air Ministry to another Ministry without placing responsibility on such other Ministry for dealing with the policy relating to civil aviation so far as it concerns the future. My noble friend Lord Rothermere indicated that he at any rate would prefer that I should state the case of the Government in relation to civil aviation before the debate was launched. I should be quite willing to do so at any time if it were the pleasure of the House. A number of other questions raised by noble Lords I propose to deal with in the course of my remarks on policy.
First of all, I am asked what we are doing, what are our plans for civil aviation and what is our immediate province. Since I spoke last, on October 20, we have done a very great deal. In the first place, we have been making progress in providing types of aircraft for civil aviation. These are, of course, types suitable for civil aviation, types which can be used and may be used for military transport during the war, but types which are essential for the purpose of providing civil aviation with the necessary aircraft when the war is over. First of all, there is an airplane which is known as the Brabazon. This is a very big project. The all-up weight is designed to be more than 100 tons, with a speed of 250 miles an hour and a capacity for fifty passengers and 2 tons of mail. The airplane will be scheduled to cross the Atlantic in fifteen hours. The design of 461 the Brabazon has been begun, and the prototypes are actually on order, but do not on that account expect a swift conclusion, because, of course, years must pass before a type so completely new can be brought from the drawing-board to the traffic route. We owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Brabazon and to his colleagues for having laid down the most ambitious aircraft programme so far set in hand in this country.
The Secretary of State for Air and the Ministry of Aircraft Production have taken into account the long time that must elapse before the Brabazon makes its maiden journey, and it is for that reason that a project for another type has been launched. The all-up weight is about 32 tons. You will say that is not much to boast about compared with the Brabazon. But, just the same, it is a very fine plane indeed. This new aircraft will have a cruising speed of 220 miles per hour, will be fitted with de-icing means, and will be constructed in a form suitable for pressurization. The journey over the North Atlantic in winter as well as summer, with twelve passengers and luggage, will be an easy flight. This aeroplane is named the Tudor. Its design is already in hand. The prototypes will be brought out as soon as possible. Preparations for production will be undertaken. If it is ready before the end of the war—and we expect it will be—it will be most suitable for a military transport.
We are ready at any moment to enter into an international conference. I cannot tell you when it will take place. But in our view when the time comes our first concern will be to gain general acceptance of certain broad principles whereby civil aviation can be made into a benign influence for welding the nations of the world together into a closer co-operation. These principles must assure to all countries a free and fair share in this new means of transportation. No nation, great or small, except of course the guilty aggressor nations, must be debarred from taking a full and equitable part in the upsurging development of civil aviation that will follow the end of the war. It will be our aim to make civil aviation a guarantee of international solidarity, a mainstay of the world's peace. Of course, there are vital issues on which it will be necessary for the great Powers to reach preliminary agreement. We are ready for such discus- 462 sions at any time. At present we are waiting on the Americans to complete their surveys.
In particular the question of bases has been widely canvassed. We have many bases at our disposal. They are scattered all over the Empire, and in other lands too the needs of war have caused us to construct airfields suitable for peace as well as for war. I do not of course deal to-day with the bases in the Dominions. These are necessarily separately dealt with, but they must and will be a subject for discussion between Great Britain and the Dominions. But as for the oases under our control, let me say at once that the Government have no desire to exclude aircraft of other nations. We demand no prescriptive right to the use of airfields for ourselves. Rather do we mean to use them for the purpose of steadily developing civil aviation throughout the world. Here it must be said that the bases are few in number at which any great volume of traffic can be collected. Just the same, it will be necessary to have international agreement on traffic regulations and arrangements. This is an essential condition of future developments. For my part I find myself on this subject in agreement with Mr. William Burden, of the Department of Commerce in Washington. Mr. Burden, speaking in Washington on the 5th January, said:Complete freedom of the air in the present state of the world might result in commercial anarchy.I share Mr. Burden's view. For our part we are prepared and ready at any time to enter into negotiations with a view to disposing of all traffic problems and arrangements that will arise.
Now the President has recently made certain proposals for the future of international civil aviation. He has declared for the right of innocent passage for all nations throughout the world, and for the right to land anywhere for refuelling and other non-traffic purposes. And I am now authorized by the Prime Minister to say that we join with the President to the fullest extent in subscribing to those principles. I repeat the principles: the right of innocent passage for all nations throughout the world, and the right to land anywhere for refuelling and other non-traffic purposes.
I am asked by some noble Lords to state what is the future policy of the 463 Government, and I will state it here. It is our intention that the Government shall take a full measure of responsibility for the development of civil aviation when the war comes to an end. That will be our right and our duty, and to the performance of the task we shall bring the vast knowledge of the air and of the aeroplane which Great Britain has acquired. For the aeroplane, of course, is the weapon above all in this war for which we have shown the swiftest aptitude. We have exhibited the most remarkable capacity for design and development of new types of aircraft. We have manifested the highest degree of engineering skill in bringing production to a state of efficiency. All that is not saying too much. I was asked by my noble friend Lord Londonderry to make a statement about the operations of the B.O.A.C. I cannot do so; I am not entirely familiar with the operations of the B.O.A.C; but this I can say, that it is under able and competent direction. I have had the opportunity of talking to Lord Knollys, and I am convinced that as much as can be extracted from the wise and able direction of the B.O.A.C. will be got from it under his care. But I can tell your Lordships something of the aircraft industry in Great Britain and what the aircraft industry is capable of doing when it comes to dealing with the necessities of civil aviation.
I will give you one example to make good my claim that we have brought production and development to a high state of efficiency; that is the engine manufacture that we have launched in the United States of America. In the very darkest days of the war, our engine manufacturers launched in the United States of America, for the use of the Royal Air Force, the most famous engine in all the world, the Rolls-Royce Merlin. In July, 1940, we launched that project for building the Merlin engine in the United States. (Here let me say that both the Merlin engine and the Spitfire aircraft were got into design and development during the Ministry of my noble friend Lord Londonderry—it affords me particular pleasure to say so— and my noble friend Lord Dowding was responsible for design and development at that time under Lord Londonderry.) That engine was put into production in the United States. New York funds were provided by the Government for the purpose, and these New York funds were taken from the securities of our rich in- 464 vestors abroad. The securities which were so willingly given up at the beginning of the war provided necessary money for the production of the Rolls-Royce Merlin. In fact, we provided something in the neighbourhood of £12,000,000 to £15,000,000. Within twelve months of having signed the contract for the production of these engines, we had brought them into existence. The Americans have since adopted that type—the Rolls-Royce type—for some of their fighter aircraft. We read a great deal in the newspapers to-day about fighter aircraft, built in America and engined by engines built in America, but these engines are Rolls-Royce engines, the production which we launched in July, 1940.
I need not tell your Lordships, when giving an account of the capacity of the aircraft industry in Great Britain, that we did not always hold the mastery of the air. In fact, at the outbreak of war, the Germans' strength in aeroplanes— first-line strength—was as four to one. The Germans had at that time 4,320 operational aircraft in their first-line strength and in addition reserves. Their strength was, as I say, four to one. Shortly after the war broke out we found that the German enemy was our master in the air. For many years the Germans had been planning and experimenting while we had rested content with prevarications and delays. We had indeed. We gave the Germans a long start. But then came the Churchill Government. At once the whole country was roused, a measure of drive and energy was infused into production everywhere, and there was an immense improvement in the output of planes. I submit to you a chart of aircraft made available for the Royal Air Force in those days. It shows a most dramatic spurt in new production. An immense supply of repaired aircraft was made available also, and aircraft assembled from spare parts as well as aircraft brought into use by the practice that has since come to be known as "cannibalism"—that is, making two or three aeroplanes into one.
What then was the result of the labours of the aircraft industry? In the first four months of 1940, before the National Coalition Government was formed, just over 2,700 operational aircraft were provided for the Royal Air Force. You will say that is a good many, but I have told 465 you that the first-line strength of the Germans was 4,320 aircraft. In the next four months—the critical period in British history—when Churchill was Prime Minister, the number was just over 6,400. That is what the aircraft industry performed in that crisis of our history. All this improvement was brought to pass under the dominating influence of the Prime Minister. He is entitled to the credit. Churchill's inspiration made possible, as nothing else could have done, the conditions under which these results were achieved. He dealt personally with all the issues of aircraft production, not occasionally, not now and then, not ever so often, but day by day and every day with the most exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, examinations.
Could we hold the battle front? That was the question that was ringing through the aircraft factories in Great Britain. Could we hold the battle front, could we recover the chances we had lost? Could we meet the enemy, not on equal terms, but in sufficient strength to save our skin? Only by providing aircraft for every available pilot. We set out on the contest under disastrous conditions—conditions which should be retold. The enemy dominated the English Channel in the air. Their aircraft had driven our seaborne commerce from our southern ports. For the first time in history the Port of London was almost closed, and all the while the enemy's air power gave complete protection to the ports of Northern France from Boulogne to Brest while preparations went forward for the invasion of this island. Our need was for fighting aircraft. We had the pilots, but not the planes. We must build or die. We built and lived, and we are still building. The production of aircraft for military use was, and still is, our main purpose. I must say that that task has been pursued with the most spectacular success. Speed and performance in our aeroplanes has been developed to a most remarkable degree. No Ministry has done better or accomplished more than the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and there need be no complaint about my making this statement because it is nearly three years since I had a place in what has become a triumphant organization—the Ministry of Aircraft Production.
Now what conclusion do I ask you to draw from all this? Just this. That the 466 aircraft industry in Great Britain, which served us so well in the hour of our greatest peril, is capable of performing, when peace comes, a programme of design, development, and production of civil aircraft which will not disappoint the highest hopes of those of us who believe in the dazzling future of civil aviation throughout the Empire. It will not disappoint us, we may trust it. What will be required of us in this peace-time future? We shall need machines, not only for the great trunk routes that will link the Empire, but aircraft of smaller sizes for internal and feeder lines. We shall want to operate from the snows of the North to the heat of the Equator. That is our purpose, that is our intention.
How many aircraft shall we need? The question was raised to-day by my noble friend the Duke of Sutherland. He spoke of my having mentioned a figure of 2,000 aircraft. I cannot suggest any figure. I set down that figure of 2,000 aircraft as a tentative proposal, but I cannot really suggest any figure. But I bring to your notice this fact. The Pan-American Airways in 1943 carried twice as many passengers as in 1941, and four times as much mail. That gives us some idea of the rapid growth and development of transportation by air. I give you also the opinion of the Civil Aeronautics Administration in Washington. That American organization, a Government institution, has made a calculation that American internal airways—that is, lines within the United States of America—will need in 1950 5,000 aircraft. That is more than ten times the number that operated in 1940; in other words ten times more in ten years. Traffic over the North Atlantic is already a common practice. I have seen it stated from New York that at the present time 1,000 aircraft are crossing the North Atlantic in each week—1,000 crossings every week! What will be the volume of Atlantic traffic after the war is over? I would not estimate it, but certainly it must be many aeroplanes every day as you will easily imagine when you consider that now, during the war, 1,000 aircraft are crossing the Atlantic every week.
Assuredly then there are immense possibilities for civil aviation after the war. Assuredly, too, we are equipped with all the necessary genius for design and development. We possess manufacturing 467 plants and personnel unexampled in efficiency, workmanship and experience. But we have something more as well. We have an Empire in every respect suited to the use of this new means of transport. It is most admirably situated to make use of it. It is widely scattered, separated in its parts by vast distances, by mountains, seas and deserts. All our Empire problems can be made to yield to the new science, the science of transportation by air over sea and over land. In truth, where aviation is concerned, the Third British Empire gives high hope and great promise. We failed to make use of our opportunities before the war. We did not develop our Imperial resources or our vast agricultural wealth in the Colonies. Now there is another chance. Now a new age opens, an age of raw materials, an age when the riches of the Empire require development for the benefit of the whole world, an age when the Empire has a new instrument in the shape of the airplane which can help us to link up, to gather, and above all develop to the fullest extent the essential resources in raw materials for the populations here and abroad, for the men and women everywhere who will be awaiting as soon as peace comes the flow that must take the place of the drought of the past five years.
We have an Empire that has mastered the art of war and is determined now to master the art of peace, an Empire of solidarity and single purpose with a strength that may not be challenged, holding a justifiable pride in the deeds of its youth, respected by all the nations that will have been freed from bondage, trusted by the United States and by Russia. Our Third Empire will end the war stronger than ever before, firmly established and confidently determined to expand and develop her latent resources and her hidden treasures. And in all our plans and schemes the youths who fought our battles must be our mainstay. The development of the airways of the Empire must be their instrument. The future of civil aviation will be in their hands, and we may safely leave it there.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I feel gratified to a very large extent by the debate which I had the honour of initiating in your Lordships' House. It has drawn from the noble Lord a very remarkable speech. I am 468 glad it has given him the opportunity of telling us in very picturesque phraseology what the Royal Air Force has done in the last few years and how the energy and drive of our Prime Minister, so amply seconded by my noble friend, has resulted in a tremendous expansion of the Royal Air Force. I do feel, as he does, that we are tremendously grateful to the Royal Air Force, and also, naturally, to those on the political side some of whom have been in the Air Ministry since even before the war and are there now. We appreciate very much how that wonderful staff has been controlled and we are grateful for all that has been done. I am glad the noble Lord has had the opportunity of stating this publicly. There are many facts which he has stated that are not properly known.
Nevertheless I am quite sure the noble Lord, knowing me as well as he does, will not feel that I am going home this evening satisfied by his reply to the questions which I have ventured to put to him. I should have liked to have a clearer enunciation of the policy of the Government regarding what they propose to do. I agree with my noble friend Lord Rothermere that if our Government representatives go to the Conferences which are to come equipped with plans and knowing what they want, we are much more likely to succeed than would be the case otherwise. I do feel, however, knowing the noble Lord as I do, that all these matters are receiving his fullest attention. The noble Lord began his speech by failing to agree with me when I said that the B.O.A.C. was a monopoly. I am not proposing to argue with the noble Lord as to what is a monopoly and what is not a monopoly, but I am quite sure, from the title which it now receives, that it is a chosen instrument and certainly it portrays some of the qualities of a monopoly which I should like to see got rid of. I am quite sure that so long as we have a chosen instrument, whatever good it may perform, nevertheless it will still exercise a hampering influence upon all those great organizations, the air companies, shipping company and others, who are anxious to feel that there is a field open to them in which to develop their enterprise. I think the noble Lord will agree with me that if you have a chosen instrument, whether or not it be a monopoly, there is a restricted field for design.
469 He has told us that a machine has been designed and has received the title of the Brabazon. I cannot imagine a more happy title for a great machine of the future than that it should be associated with one who has performed greater service to aviation than most other people. But the field is restricted. It is quite true our designers are fully occupied at the present time, but our great organization of British aircraft constructors would like to feel that many of their members will be put in a position to say:?The field is open to us; we will go out for designs; we will get designs completed, because we know that we shall have an opportunity of developing those designs." I do not want to say anything further at this stage. The noble Lord in eloquent language has given us a colourful picture of what is going to happen after the war. If the purposes he has outlined are to be fulfilled we do require the same drive and inspiration which have been provided by the Prime Minister while we have been fighting for our lives and to achieve victory. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.