§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are in a position to make a statement 673 relating to the policy they propose to adopt for the development of British civil air transport upon the following matters of importance:
- (1) Ministerial responsibility for civil air transport in His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom;
- (2) The international regulation of civil air transport;
- (3) Internal, Inter-Commonwealth and Empire air lines;
- (4) Chosen instruments and subsidies;
- (5) Types of aircraft;
- (6) The scope and powers of air line operating companies;
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I am sure you will agree that the time has arrived when we are entitled to receive some information on a matter which has been the subject of several debates in your Lordships' House. We are all most desirous to hear some statement of policy from the noble Lord who is charged with civil aviation and post-war aviation. I think we can claim to have made a certain amount of progress. In the first place the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has been appointed as Minister in charge and has devoted his attention for some time now to this very important subject. Hitherto we have felt that the Government as a whole h we been very reticent on this matter. I need hardly say that when the choice fell on my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook I was very glad indeed because I felt that his energy and driving power would ensure the fulfilment of the objects we all have in our minds. We can all look back and remember the noble Lord's achievements some years ago now, and we have all felt since then that a great deal was achieved thanks to his courage and determination. I for one feel that he has never received the proper recognition to which he is justly entitled. The noble Lord has a great task in front of him now, and I can assure him, speaking for myself and for a great many of my friends, that he will receive all the assistance we are able to give him. I am sure he will have learnt from the lessons of the past that unless a policy is established, and unless that policy is affirmed with determination, we shall fail now as we have failed on many occasions in the past, especially in those gloomy 674 twenty years before the outbreak of the present war.
§ We know quite well that we are on the threshold of very great events, but nothing will be raised in this debate which can possibly interfere with what we will call the main war effort. We feel that air transport is a vital war measure. It is unfortunate that it has not been looked upon as such in the past, for had it been perhaps we should have been now in a better position. I have placed a Motion on the Paper, and by the questions I am asking I have allowed myself a somewhat wide range. Your Lordships will remember that on a previous occasion when I put down a short question, and the whole subject was raised, I received the information that the Minister was not prepared to answer those questions which seemed naturally to arise from the debate. I am sure we shall receive no such answer from the noble Lord who is to reply on this occasion.
§ There are two points to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention first of all—I expect most of your Lordships are aware of them. There was a conference called recently by the North-Eastern Airways. At that conference there were many foreign nations, and many resolutions were adopted which your Lordships should study because they have a full bearing on this matter. This conference unfortunately did not receive the full support I should like to have seen, and it seems to have been ignored in official quarters. This conference—and I expect there will be many more, many conversations and what I may call comings and goings—betokens the growing interest throughout this country, interest bordering on anxiety that the full importance of this matter is not recognized in the way it should be recognized. We are not an air-minded country yet. I do feel that if those in high places would mention the air in some of their numerous speeches, the country as a whole would realize that the Government are interested in this vital subject of aviation. The Dominion Prime Ministers arrived here the other day. Mr. Mackenzie King left Canada one evening, arrived in this country the next morning, and attended conferences on that day. I found no reference in any speech to that remarkable event—and it is remarkable compared to what we have been accustomed to in the past. It seems to me 675 that it is a portent and I am not yet convinced the Government are realizing what that great portent means in regard to the future.
§ The other event to which I should like to draw attention is the pamphlet issued under the ægis of the Labour Party entitled Wings for Peace. I am sure we can say that we fully agree with a great deal that is contained in that pamphlet. It is full of truisms—I would not like to say platitudes, because that is an invidious term. The statements it makes are statements with which we all can fully agree. But your Lordships will recognize that the basis of that pamphlet is internationalism, and the question of internationalism or nationalism is naturally a very highly controversial one and I should not consider myself entitled to enter upon a discussion of that subject now. Many thousands and even millions of people have lost their lives fighting for their nationalities and nationalism and it seems to me a strong order at this moment to embark on a system which cuts across many of the sentiments of people all over the world. Moreover, I think that the matter does not lie between nationalism and internationalism. We all realize that many territories will have to be controlled by international authority, and I hope that when there are so many questions to be settled in a proper and efficient way that highly controversial question of nationalism or internationalism will be left in the background for some time to come.
§ It is my intention to-day to ask certain questions of the noble Lord who is to reply. He has been good enough to have some conversations with me and I have tried to indicate to him the matters that I want to raise. The first question I should like to ask is in regard to the conference that took place with the United States of America when Mr. Berle was in this country. There have been a great many confusing reports and naturally many rumours have arisen, so I do feel that the more information the noble Lord can give us the better it will be for arresting those unfortunate remarks which may do a great deal of harm in many quarters. We read in the newspapers of certain concessions having been made. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us the nature of those concessions.
§ I would like to ask him also about the progress in Dominion consultations. With 676 the Prime Ministers of the Empire in this country at the present time I know that many conversations will be taking place, and I most sincerely hope that in all the matters which will have to be dealt with in the future, we shall be able to speak with one Empire voice so as to be able to propound the policy that we propose to pursue. There is undoubtedly a necessity for the holding of an international conference and we feel that it is very important that the conference should take place at an early date. This was very well ventilated in a leading article in The Times yesterday, and that relieves me from the necessity of going into all those details of which your Lordships are fully aware at the present time, I hope the noble Lord will be able to give us perhaps the approximate date of such a conference. I hope also that he will be able to tell us who will represent the United Kingdom, and, moreover, that he will be able to tell us that we are in full agreement with the Dominions.
§ I now come to the chosen instrument, a term with which your Lordships are very familiar. I would ask the noble Lord whether the Government have reached any definite conclusions. I would ask him also what are the powers of the Royal Air Force Transport Command and also of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. I should also like on my own behalf to pay a tribute to both those organizations. They have done a remarkable service, but although they have flown many millions of miles their performances are something which are almost unknown to the public. I think that this system, notwithstanding all it has done and the efficiency it has displayed, can have certain very grave dangers. The existence of these corporations without a full explanation is creating an uncertainty in the minds of enterprising people here and is exercising what I would call a deadening influence on enterprise. I am not satisfied that the Government are fully aware of the anxiety which is in the minds of all those who hope to play a big part in post-war aviation and are only too anxious to lay their plans with that object in view. The noble Lord will remember that when I mentioned this on a previous occasion he explained in his reply when a monopoly was not a monopoly. I am sorry to say I went away from your Lordships' House very unsatisfied, not fully understanding what the noble Lord meant. 677 I hope he will be able to explain to us to-day when a monopoly is a monopoly or is not a monopoly.
§ I now come to air lines, both continental and internal. I hope the noble Lord will be able to present to us a picture of the world in relation to the air lines that will exist in the future. This is a matter to which increasing attention is being paid, not only in this country but all over the world. Tie war may perhaps come to an end suddenly. We all hope that that is the climax which is to be reached at no very distant date. At the present time, however, no one knows exactly what is the Government's policy. I would repeat with all the emphasis I can that it is of the highest importance that Government policy should be made known as soon as possible. I am continually being asked by enterprising people, who probably attach mere importance to what I say and do than I am entitled to claim, when they are going to hear of the Government policy and what is in the mind of the Government. Are the Government interested in aviation or are they not? My noble friend Lord Essendon, who is present to-day, is typical of many enterprising people in this country and I have no doubt your Lordships read in yesterday's Times the report which he presented of the Royal Mail line. I should like to congratulate him on the very farseeing speech that he made. His statement shows very conclusively how his great company are prepared to play a full part in post-war aviation but, like other operators, they are handicapped by the Government refusing so far to announce their policy. I believe that a number of shipping companies are only too anxious to receive a lead from the Government in order to mature all their plans and be ready to develop their enterprise in a very short time.
§ I now come to the question of aerodromes. I have been approached by several municipalities anxious to know the policy of the Government in relation to aerodromes in this country, whether those aerodromes have to deal with internal traffic or with the tremendous responsibilities of air lines operating over the Continent and throughout the world. Those municipalities in most cases of which I have any knowledge are prepared to acquire land for aerodromes, but again they are handicapped by the fact that they do not know what policy the Government 678 are likely to pursue. There is a difficulty in this matter which I should like to put before your Lordships. The municipalities cannot always speak with one voice. The municipalities as a whole will not come in a deputation to the noble Lord and present their case, because many great cities already have well-equipped, efficient aerodromes which have been provided for them at the expense of the country. That presents a difficulty as to the relationship of all those enterprising municipalities which want to provide aerodromes of their own but want to know what facilities they will get, to those great air ports which, at the present moment, have the best aerodromes but have spent no money on them.
§ Next there is a question which excites a great deal of interest but is one on which I should not like to see any acute controversy. That is the control of civil aviation. There are, as we know, various ideas as to how that control should be exercised. Some will say that in the best interests of civil aviation it should be controlled by a separate Civil Air Ministry. I can hardly think that any of your Lordships are anxious to multiply Ministers in this country with attendant staffs and a great body of people who could probably be well occupied elsewhere. There is also the suggestion that civil aviation should be controlled by the post-war Ministry of Transport, and there is a great deal that can be said for that. After all, aviation is a form of transport, it is the most modern and up-to-date mode of transport, and it may be said that it should come under the control of the Ministry of Transport. Then there is that Department which we are accustomed to call the "maid of all work," the Board of Trade, which controls all sorts of activities. Those are three suggestions, and I would venture to put forward another. It is the establishment of a Department of Civil Aviation, an autonomous Department, in the Air Ministry with direct access to the Air Minister who would reply to all questions in the House of Commons. It will be necessary, I think, to claim that all expenditure on civil aviation should be controlled by the Department itself with direct access to the Air Minister.
§ Lastly, I come to the question of design. I cannot feel altogether satisfied that this matter is receiving the full attention which it should receive. Your 679 Lordships know well that from design to blue prints, prototypes and the eventual presentation of the machine, there is a very long interval, but on the correct design at the beginning depends much which will remove many difficulties in later stages. I am not sure that design staffs in this country are receiving the full encouragement which they should receive. I suggest that many people who could be very capable members of design staffs are discharging duties wholly alien to that. One sees in all directions, in the case of people who are called up, many round pegs in square holes and vice versa. I think that with a very little careful discrimination many people now in different parts of this country and of the world could be used for increasing design staffs which are so vitally necessary at this moment. I hope the noble Lord may be able to make inquiries along that line. On the last occasion when this matter was debated the noble Lord spoke of five different types. He gave us great encouragement. I am wondering whether he can now give any further information about those five types, about the work that is in progress, and whether we can look to the time when the work will be accomplished. Perhaps the noble Lord—to use modern phraseology—can tell us the targets which he has in view and the dates when these five different types which are so vital to civil aviation can be expected to fly.
§ To sum up, I would venture to suggest half a dozen headings on which people are anxious to have information. The first relates to the Conference with the United States of America; the second to progress in consultations with the Dominions; the third, and one of the most important, is an international conference; the fourth is the chosen instrument; the fifth is continental and internal air lines, and the last is the question of design. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the policy which His Majesty's Government propose to adopt for the development of British civil air transport upon the following matters of importance:
- (1) Ministerial responsibility for civil air transport in His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom;
- (2) The international regulation of civil air transport;
- (3) Internal, Inter-Commonwealth and Empire air lines;
- (4) Chosen instruments and subsidies;
- (5) Types of aircraft;
- (6) The scope and powers of air line operating companies.—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, finding myself faced with a Motion of such wide scope, I think I had better follow the example of the noble Marquess and take the Motion in the sections into which it is divided. On the first section, Ministerial responsibility, surely the time has come for the appointment of a full-time Civil Air Minister. It may be said that the volume of air traffic does not at present justify such an appointment, but even if there is not sufficient justification now there will be very soon and we must be ready. It is just as absurd to have control of civil aviation vested in the existing Air Ministry as it would be to vest control of the Mercantile Marine in the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is an official with his hands full of other business and who cannot give his whole time to looking after the civilian side.
The second section of the Motion deals with the international regulation of civil air transport. Obviously regulation must be international. The air has no frontiers and any attempt to create such frontiers must end in disaster. We cannot have nations setting up separately barriers to aircraft, preventing them crossing the air over the various countries or landing on, or taking off from, airports in the countries concerned. Airports ought to be the same as seaports. Any craft which is passing by them should have the right to go in, subject, of course to the normal rights of the authorities in charge of such ports. There is no clear reason why there should be a difference. The third section of the Motion is, of course, largely a matter for the Dominions to express their opinion upon, and this is just the time for them to do so. I do not think that I can say anything which would be any useful addition to what they can say.
On the matter of the chosen instruments—the fourth section of the Motion—on the other hand, I have said much on previous occasions, so I shall now only 681 give warning of the dangers of these chosen instruments which look mighty like an uncontrolled monopoly. Also, perhaps, I might say some words on the dangers of leaving large companies to operate in this field. In a previous debate, I was, I believe, asked by a noble Lord, who probably knew the answer already, how a private company was controlled. The answer is, of course, that a private company is controlled by its directors, that any public good that arises out of its operations occurs either by accident or by the good conscience of such directors, and there is no other control over it. The only control the Government have over such a company is to tie its hands with red tape and give it a double set of overheads by making one organization to run the company and then producing a second public organization to see that the first organization is running the company.
Surely the best way of doing such a thing is to produce a publicly-owned company which will have just the one organization, an organization which will not only run the company but also say how the company is to be run, and which will be publicly controlled. Since the air is an international business such a company should, in fact, be internationally controlled. The last time I spoke in this House on this subject I suggested that it should be done by some such international company as exists for the control of the Suez Canal, which is a company owned by shareholders. The shareholders may be either Governments or similar organizations, and the directors are the representatives of such Governments and similar organizations. I cannot see why the existing organizations concerned with the air should not be amalgamated to form such a company. That, my Lords, is my suggestion for running the airways of the world.
My Lords, I feel that so much has already been said on this subject that there is very little I can usefully contribute to the debate except possibly from a modicum of personal experience, which, if your Lordships will excuse me, I will justify by saying that in the last three and a half years since I returned to this country I happen to have flown a very great deal, about 200,000 miles in all, in every known form of air transport that is available for the use of individuals like 682 myself in time of war. By that I mean flying in British aircraft and Service machines both British and American, Union Airways, Belgian companies and so on. Out of that experience, for what it was worth, I have come to one conclusion, and if I speak somewhat forcibly I hope I may be excused. It is one of my convictions that a system of civil aviation which is under the direct control of our Air Ministry will never take us anywhere.
The good will of civil aviation, as I see it, is being made now, during these years of war. The realization of how much good will is being built up is very present in the minds of all that part of the American air organization which at the present time is engaged in transporting people and things all over the world. Those who, for Government reasons, in the course of their duty, both in uniform and out of uniform, are being transported about the world now are the people who are providing the good will of the organizations that are carrying them, and that good will I regret to say is, in my experience, being earned and deservedly earned, by the American transport organization rather than by ours with one outstanding exception—British Airways. In spite of having for years, at the beginning of this war, been starved of equipment for reasons which are obvious and could not be remedied, British Airways nevertheless kept up a prestige and good will for British aviation unequalled, in my opinion, by any other organization at present in existence. In the early days after the dark months of 1940 I had the privilege of being flown about some of the more obscure parts of Africa by British Airways in machines which ought not to have been put in the air at all, but which nevertheless have been made fit for air transport work through the efficiency of the ground organization of the British Airways. Those foreign officers and civilians who had to fly a lot and who were flown by that organization will, I know, join with me in paying tribute to what British Airways did.
In more recent months I understand—I was out of England at the time, and I do not know the terms—that Corporation has in a sense been amalgamated and put more directly under the control of the Air Transport Command of the Air Ministry. That I think is an unfair fate for that Corporation to suffer after what it has done 683 to keep British civil aviation in the forefront of African and Eastern air transport. I say that advisedly, and it may seem to your Lordships to be, perhaps, ultra-critical, but it is a fact that, whereas the American air transport organization has earned the praise and good will of the many people it has carried in the various ferry services it runs, I cannot say the same from my own experience and of the experience of other officers who have used it, of the British Air Transport Command of the Air Ministry. It is therefore that I view with apprehension the control by the Air Ministry of British civil aviation. It has not appeared to me—and in saying this I speak for many who have been closely associated with me—that the ferry services, transporting passengers and freight, run by the Air Transport Command have a full realization of their present responsibilities in maintaining the good will of British civil aviation. It is the passengers whom they are transporting to-day who are going to be the passengers of the future, and it is they who will elect of their own free will after the war whether they will fly in British Government-controlled or Government-run air lines or under American auspices. At present I do not doubt that the majority of people would prefer to use the American air lines rather than those to which I have referred.
I am not speaking of the eminent services which the Air Transport Command has performed in carrying troops, in supplying front line units with food, and in what may be called directly operational services; I am referring to those ferry services which now criss-cross Africa, the Mediterranean and the oceans of the world. The impression left on my mind of the services run by that Command is that they are grudgingly done by people who would sooner be doing almost anything else. I could quote countless examples of that sort of thing, but I will confine myself to one, and tell you what happens when an airfield is taken over and ferry services start, very often simultaneously, under British and American control. Those fields may be recently taken over from purely operational service in Africa or in the Mediterranean. The American Air Transport Corps is staffed by people who fully realize that they are the pioneers of future civil air lines, sent out to create a service and to provide a means of getting 684 from one place to another which, within the measure of what is possible in time of war, will prove pleasant, safe and suitable for those who fly. If your Lordships had had the opportunity which I have had of seeing these fields come into existence, you would see these small parties of people, American and British, arrive. The Americans will set up an office which within a fortnight will be clean and tidy and nicely organized, with directions to intending passengers—official passengers, of course—where to go, how to register themselves, when to get on board their planes and so on, and with full information always available about which aeroplane is going in which direction and when, and with transport provided to take the passengers to and from the airfield.
In contrast with that, the units of the British Air Transport Command—which rejoice in the somewhat unimaginative name of A.R.D.U.'s, which I understand stands for Air Reception and Dispatch Units—find themselves relegated, or relegate themselves, to an obscure corner of the field where they can with difficulty be found. A fortnight later, so far from having improved their accommodation and that of the people who are going to travel by the aircraft under their control, they have generally gone down hill. To illustrate what I mean, if an intending passenger arrives at one of these airfields and asks where the British Air Transport Command unit is, he will probably be told "When I last heard, it was round behind the cookhouse on the way to the salvage dump, but it may have moved since then"—and it always has. The next twenty minutes are spent in trying to find the place, and when it is found somebody will tell you to embark on a plane which is usually at the other end of the field.
That is the Command under which British Airways, who have done so much to protect and preserve the prestige of civil aviation, have been put. I speak for all those who have been associated with that line in expressing the feeling, which is shared by a great many of the servants of that Corporation, that they have had a somewhat raw deal. The big difference in the mentality of the two systems to which I have referred is just this, that the American is air-minded and is trying, to use a journalistic expression, to "sell civil aviation." The Air Transport Command 685 is doing nothing of the sort. It is providing a service which it has to give in time of war and it is doing so somewhat grudgingly, leaving in the minds of those who have to travel by it the impression that they are not welcome and that the personnel concerned would very much sooner be doing something else.
If that is the mentality which is to be found now, at a time when good will has to be created for our own civil aviation services and when others are gaining that good will, I submit that the Ministry responsible should not have charge, let alone sole charge, of our civil aviation in the future. What the alternatives are, I must leave it to others better qualified than I am to say; but, loath as any one is to suggest the creation of another Ministry in the form of a Ministry of Civil Aviation, I can say with hardly any exaggeration that almost any control would be better than that of the Air Ministry at the present time—and I am speaking of a time as recent as the end of last year. If there is another Ministry which is available without creating a new one, it is the Ministry of Transport, which will have to survive for many years after the war; and there is probably a good argument for creating a Department of Civil Aviation in the Ministry of Transport. I do not think it is too much to say that the present state of affairs, with the stultifying control which is exercised and the parsimony with which equipment has been given out to our civil aviation, including the transport of passenger and freight for military purposes, is very sad to anyone who has seen as much of it as I have.
In judging the relative merits and competence and enthusiasm of the various organizations which are in existence to deal with civil aviation, one has to travel not as a distinguished traveller but as a rather humble individual and, if in the Services, not of elevated rank. It is the opinion of such people that I have quoted in support of the theme which I have ventured to place before your Lordships. I hope that it will be possible for the noble Lord to say what the policy of His Majesty's Government is in regard to the control of civil aviation. I want to express the hope that at least one of the chosen instruments will be that Corporation which has deserved so well of civil aviation in this country—British Airways. I hope that it will not be the only chosen 686 instrument, because it seems to me that there is room for more than one; but at least that one should be in a position of relative independence to continue the good work which it began so many years before the war and which it has continued during the war.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD BEAVERBROOK)
My Lords, the Conference with the United States of America was most satisfactory, and the Americans are pleased with it, too. I will undertake to deal with that Conference in some detail and with the issues raised by my noble friend. There are a number of questions the Order Paper directed to the Government by my noble friend and these I will attempt to answer also. In the meantime one or two additional questions have been raised. I am asked who will represent the United Kingdom at an international conference. That is a decision that has not been taken because the date of the international conference has not yet been fixed. Are we in agreement with the Dominions? Always in all these matters we have agreement with the Dominions. We sometimes have to make some effort to find a common purpose, but we invariably find it.
I am asked the function of the Royal Air Force Transport Command, and the noble Lord raised some questions respecting the Transport Command too. The Transport Command is intended to serve the military machine. It is not for civil purposes at all, and any operations which may be carried on by the Transport Command in the form of civil services are necessarily subservient to military purposes. It is as reasonable to criticize the Transport Command in relation to civil services as it would be to criticize Carter Paterson and Company if they carried passengers in some of their vans. The parallel is quite good. The Transport Command does undertake a number of irregular transport services, or rather irregular passenger services, but the regular transport operations are in the keeping of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. I was very glad indeed to hear the compliments to the B.O.A.C. from the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, and I am satisfied that the company will continue to function in form and manner as in the past, and with satisfaction to the community.
I now come to the question of the chosen instrument and the monopoly. As 687 my noble friend put it, is it still a monopoly or no monopoly? At any rate, it is still what it was. It is fixed by Statute, and until Parliament decides to repeal the Statute the chosen instrument is just what it used to be. I will endeavour to tell your Lordships how it seems to me, but possibly others might take a different view. One other question was raised in relation to airfields in Great Britain. That necessarily concerns the Air Ministry, and I am not in a position to say what that policy is to-day, but to-morrow, if I get an opportunity, I may be free to deal more fully with the question.
The first question raised by my noble friend is that of Ministerial responsibility for civil air transport in His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The responsibility for civil air transport rests with the Air Ministry. The responsibility for co-ordinating future policy rests with the War Cabinet Committee. The War Cabinet Committee deals with post-war civil air transport, and I am the Chairman of the Committee. It is a Committee of Ministers. It includes all those Ministers who are concerned with policy towards civil aviation. It is called the C.A.T. Committee. It is not an executive body; it has no administrative duties, it only recommends, and its recommendations must be subject to Cabinet sanction. The purpose of the Committee is threefold, and, if I may, I will deal with the purposes in detail. Its first duty is to co-ordinate Government policy on civil aviation. Next, it has to assume responsibility for an International Air Conference. The conference has yet to be held. The Committee's third function is to recommend the departmental organization and Ministerial responsibility for civil aviation. Those are the duties of that Committee. I hope I am answering the questions to the satisfaction of my noble friend.
The next question is that of the international regulation of civil air transport. The international regulation of civil air transport must necessarily await the decision of an international conference. The decision must be taken at an international conference, and it is hoped that that conference will be held this year, but the decision depends upon other nations as well as Great Britain. We must await 688 the decision of the nations of the world joining the conference, and time and place will depend upon them to some extent. The noble Marquess's third question is that of internal, Inter-Commonwealth and Empire air lines. Internal air lines depend on the Air Ministry; the authority and control rests with them. Inter-Commonwealth and Empire lines were dealt with at the Commonwealth conversations six months ago. The findings provide for adequate regulation, including plans for an All-Red route.
The next question is the types of aircraft, and we must admit that the United States has a long lead over us in air transport. But we have a number of excellent designs for new types. I must frankly tell your Lordships that, so far as progress with the construction of these new types goes, we have had disappointments. No blame attaches to anyone for this state of affairs; it is entirely due to our necessary preoccupation with the needs of the war, and it is no use hoping that such progress will result until we have made complete provision for destroying the enemy. Until then there can be nothing but disappointments so far as preparation of types for civil aviation is concerned. However, at present there are several types of aircraft. There are plans but, as I say, progress is slow, and there have been setbacks caused by military priorities.
The York is in production on a small scale, and is giving excellent service with the R.A.F. Transport Command, and also with the B.O.A.C. The York flew the other day 6,857 miles from the United Kingdom to Delhi in 32 hours flying time. That works out at an average ground speed of 214 miles per hour. The York carried a payload of 4 tons. The Shetland Flying Boat is due to make its first flight in a few weeks, but at present it will not be put into production. The Halifax Transport may fly late in 1944, but it will not be in production this year. A small de Havilland feeder-line transport may fly in about a year. That, I think, is an account of the preparation of types for civil aviation, with the exception of the Tudor. The Tudor has been held up because of military work, and cannot be in service for some time. I do not deny that this is disappointing, but the only comfort I can offer is that when military necessities permit progress will be swifter, 689 and perhaps we may be able to make up for lost time.
I am going to deal with the fourth question on the Order Paper—the question relating to chosen instruments and subsidies—when I come to deal with the sixth question relating to the scope and powers of air line operating companies. The present position is that the British Overseas Airways Corporation has a monopoly of subsidy on overseas airways. That is, a monopoly of Treasury grants for the development of air transport service. To that extent the British Overseas Airways Corporation is the chosen instrument of the Government. Before the war Imperial Airways received aggregate contributions of £900,000 a year, the Postal administration taking part in the scheme on the basis that all contract mails would be carried by air on the Empire routes. The B.O.A.C. is in this as in other respects the contractual successor of Imperial Airways. Apart from this, the Postmaster-General has the power to award a mail contract to any transport concern which seems to him to offer the best service on any particular route. That is the briefest and clearest explanation I can male of the statutory position of the B.O.A.C. It is a position which is perhaps not easily grasped—I have some difficulty in grasping it myself—but if you read it in Hansard tomorrow it may seem clearer than the explanation I have given to you.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
The question of the Act of 1939 rests with Parliament. The decision must depend on Parliament. What decision Parliament will take I could not anticipate. But there is the statutory position—monopoly in the sense that it is a monopoly of subsidies and a monopoly of certain payments from the various States concerned with the transportation of mail, but no monopoly in the respect that no lines are forbidden to fly over the seas or that the Postmaster-General is forbidden to make payments for carrying mail even on a similar route. There is no statutory position that could prevent any concern from operating British air lines overseas so long as that concern conforms to airworthiness and other regulations—none. In time of war the flight of civil aircraft 690 inside the limits of the United Kingdom and its territorial waters is controlled by the Air Navigation Order, 1939, and must be subject to any restrictions which may be necessary on operational grounds. That is a war measure. Any concern which wishes to operate, whether a shipping company or any other organization, must have permission to land at its destination, and will need aircraft and trained personnel, both air crews and ground crews. Permits to land at foreign airports may be sought through the Foreign Office. At present there are no suitable transport aircraft available, apart from those in service, nor can skilled and experienced personnel be spared from wartime duties. I am sure that the House will find no fault with that statement.
While this is the present position, it is clear to all of us that we are entering an era of change and experiments. There are many uncertainties, and we must be ready to adapt our policy to the conditions as we find them and not to hold on to the position which at present exists. We must be swift to seize on all the opportunities presented to us and, be sure, that is the purpose of the Air Ministry and also of the Committee over which I preside. Now some good judges think that air transport will rapidly attain to a self-supporting basis. Many Americans go so far as to say that air transport over the North Atlantic will be a self-sustaining venture, and that in a few years air transport over the North Atlantic may reach not only economic operation but profitable conditions. There are others, less optimistic, who say that a few aircraft will supply all the services we require. The Committee are not prepared to base their policy on these predictions either way. We are committed to the pursuit of an efficient and enterprising civil aviation, and we are committed to the furthest expansion of British air transport that conditions in this country and the Empire will permit. We are looking for our proper share in the world traffic. We have set our faces against the wasteful and improvident subsidy race. That, I think, answers the questions that my noble friend has raised on the Order Paper.
I shall go on to the discussion of our relations with the Americans and the recent conference with the deputation from the United States. We first of all agreed with the Americans that the principle 691 of international regulation of subsidies was a necessity, and we look forward with hope—I may say with confidence—to the day when subsidies will prevail no longer. That is the hope and purpose of the Government. The methods by which we shall seek to dispense with subsidies are many, but rest assured we shall go as far and as swiftly as possible. The negotiations with the United States were entirely satisfactory. We have, in fact, taken another considerable step forward. We have had a conference with Mr. Berle and his colleagues representing the Government of the United States. It was a most excellent meeting. The deliberations have taken us very far along the road to agreement between the two Governments, but here I must make one thing clear. We should not move in the direction of making plans without taking into account our resources in aeroplanes. The mistake of making plans without resources is an error that has often been perpetrated in the past. There have been occasions when it has been a case of all plans and no planes. That is something I mean to do my best to guard against.
I told you about our resources in aircraft. I told you about our difficulties and troubles. I have not painted a very optimistic picture. On the contrary, I have given you a full and faithful account of the necessity of military operations and the extent to which we mean to devote our resources to the purpose of destroying the enemy. There is, of course, another source of supply of planes. That is the United States of America. Mr. Edgar Granville has asked a question in another place. He asked whether a supply of American civil aircraft will be available for British air-routes after the war. I am able to answer that question. Mr. Berle has assured us most generously as to the supply of transport aircraft in the period immediately following the end of the war. As your Lordships know, a pooling arrangement in manufacture was made early in the war whereby the United States agreed to construct long-range heavy aeroplanes while the United Kingdom was encouraged to build fighters. This was a most admirable and sensible division of responsibilities for war purposes, but it plainly conferred on the United States advantages in relation to post-war manufacture for the civil aviation 692 market. You can understand, therefore, with what pleasure I heard from Mr. Berle that the United States was prepared to make transport aircraft available to Britain on a non-discriminatory basis in the interim period before British production of these types gets going.
This is an assurance which I give the House with Mr. Berle's authority. I received his authority to make this statement here to-day. Of course we are not satisfied to rely on a supply of aircraft from the United States, grateful as we are to Mr. Berle and the United States Government for the promises which have been made. We are not at all disposed to rely on aircraft from the United States. We shall do all we can to promote our own supplies of aircraft for civil aviation, for our purpose must be to provide opportunities for the aircraft industries in Britain. That is a phase of the issues relating to civil aviation which I never forget and never overlook.
The interest of the air industry in Britain I never forget. But the production of new aircraft is not the whole story on the industrial side of civil aviation. There is also the continuing need to provide spares and equipment for airfields. These are very big items and are most important. Once the equipment, the maintenance workshops, the overhaul procedure and the provision of spares are established for a particular route, then any change in equipment is tiresome and expensive. Therefore it is essential that we should establish systems of British aircraft, of British engines, of British supplies, of British ground equipment at the earliest possible date.
Again there are radio aids to air navigation. The transport aircraft of the future is built round the radio apparatus. The radio apparatus is most important. It enables flights to be made more swiftly and regularly than would have been possible a year or two ago. We must therefore have adequate radio apparatus and radio apparatus offers an immense field for manufacturing enterprise, a field that is very big indeed, a field that did not exist before the war. Installations in aircraft and on the ground open up real prospects for a big new industry. This radio development is, of course, the most important of all the developments that have taken place during the war. It is more important even than the development of 693 aircraft. The most sensational development that we have seen in this war has been the development of radio in its many manifestations. As a consequence the whole system of communications will be transformed after the war is over. Not only will there be the apparatus which is already in operation, but there will be much more put into use the moment the conflict is at an end. In this new system of communications we must take a very big part. It is certainly as important as the manufacture of aircraft and engines, perhaps even more important, that we should have a full share in the development of communications.
Then again we must sustain our position in the production of engines. The production of engines is the backbone of the aircraft industry. It is immensely important. It is no use having an industry without the manufacture of engines for it would simply be a carriage-building business. As the House knows, there are two types of engine, the air-cooled engines and the liquid-cooled engines. Before the war Britain had the monopoly of the manufacture of liquid-cooled engines. The manufacture of liquid-cooled engines was practically confined to Great Britain. Here, too, the best air-cooled engines were produced for military purposes but the United States of America had provided air-cooled engines for civil aviation purposes which appeared to be an improvement on any other types. But that engine was necessarily limited when it was put to military uses. The British engines, in other words, were more effective for military uses but the air-cooled engines of the United States of America appeared to be highly satisfactory for the purposes of civil aviation. When the war is over and civil aviation is resumed the liquid-cooled engine is going to take a very big place. The liquid-cooled engine has come to the front for civil aviation purposes. The liquid-cooled engine may take a place alongside or even in advance of the air-cooled engine and here in Britain we are admirably equipped with our liquid-cooled engine. Here is the home of the liquid-cooled engine, here is built the engine that may be the favourite engine for civil aviation after the war is over. That is not only a possibility but a real probability; in fact I would say a certainty. Already the Canadians are equipping some of their air transport planes with liquid-cooled engines and I 694 am in a position to tell your Lordships that the Canadians prefer liquid-cooled engines.
In answering an inquiry made in another place by Mr. Granville I have made a digression from the conference with the United States of America, so I come back to it. I referred to the story of negotiations last month. The United States delegation at the conference proposed that we should go forward to an international conference on certain lines and I will quote those lines. They were that there should be an international authority to lay down standards for technical requirements and for rates of air carriage and to interchange information. According to the American plan the proposed authority would start on a non-executive basis with no power or means of enforcing its regulations, at least during an interim period. I hope I have made quite clear the position taken up by the United States of America. It proposed an international authority on a non-executive basis with no power or means of enforcing its regulations at least during the interim period. The United Kingdom delegation presented for consideration what is known as the Canadian Draft Convention, which has been laid on the table of the Canadian Parliament. This Draft Convention lays down a detailed plan for an international regulatory authority with powers of enforcement. Its provisions include the allocation of frequencies of air services and national quotas for international air traffic. I hope I have made clear the distinction between the two proposals.
The Canadian proposal was considered by the Americans to be too rigid as a basis for talks at the proposed international conference. After discussion it was agreed, therefore, that we should go forward to the conference on the basis of proposals for international handling of civil aviation agreed at the Commonwealth conversations some six months ago. These proposals are in some respects open to varying interpretations and were considered by the Americans to be flexible enough to provide a more satisfactory basis for an international conference. The broad purpose would be to draw up an international convention on air navigation to be implemented by an International Transport Organization which would evolve standards, seek to eliminate 695 uneconomic competition, work out for each nation an equitable participation in world air transport and maintain broad equilibrium between air transport capacity and traffic on offer. On these general principles the United States and Great Britain are in agreement. The powers of enforcement of the provisions will be open to further discussion. There you have the progress towards international co-operation in civil aviation.
I repeat the principles: the elimination of uneconomic competition, the setting up of national quotas in international air transport, equilibrium between the transport capacity and the traffic offering on any international air route. These must be the foundations of any enlightened approach to this subject in the future. But make no mistake. We did not give up the Canadian Draft Convention without reluctance. We would have preferred it. Mr. Howe, the Canadian Minister, has produced an admirable document building up his structure for the regulating authority on the principles agreed at the Commonwealth conversations. We gave it up with reluctance but we had to abandon it, and now we must build up a new structure on the same proposals of the Commonwealth conversations. It may be it will not be everything we could desire. You may ask what we can do to build a new structure. That remains to be seen.
I refer once more to the statement I have just made. We have reached agreement on principles with the United States, but the powers of enforcement of those principles are open to further discussion. International regulation is what we seek. International regulation would subject civil aviation to the control of an international authority which lays down standards and regulates frequencies, but there is something called international operation which is quite different from international regulation. International operation is the actual operation of the air lines by international authority. That project is sought by Australia and New Zealand. It would mean that civil aviation would be actually operated by a world-wide transport organization. That is what Australia and New Zealand would like to establish. But just as we made concessions to American feeling so Australia and New Zealand have made it clear to us in their agreement of January 21 last, that they will be prepared 696 to make concessions to opinion here. So you see the helpful situation we are building up. On every issue we are consulting with the Dominions. I am glad to have the opportunity of making this very intricate speech. In Hansard the various ramifications of the claims of the American, Canadian and British authorities will seem clearer. You may find much to favour in the statement—I hope so—but at all events we are always in agreement with the Dominions.
There are two other subjects I must mention before I sit down—bases and cabotage.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Bases and cabotage. I am sorry if I cannot be heard, but last time I read in the newspapers that I spoke too loudly. It is the fault of those newspapers again. Our 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. The President has 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. I am 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 now wish to dispose of the issue of cabotage. It is a doctrine that is not always clearly understood, so perhaps your Lordships will allow me to provide a definition. Cabotage means the reservation to a nation of all traffic within its territory. The question at once arises, does the reservation apply to traffic between the United States and Hawaii, and 697 the United States and Porto Rico? Yes, it does. Does it apply to traffic between the United Kingdom and our Crown Colonies? Yes, it applies to traffic between the United Kingdom and our Crown Colonies. It is a right which we clearly concede to other Colonial Powers. There is no intention in any direction, so far as I can see, to resist it. It is generally accepted. In the Dominions there is no opposition to our claim. Of course the Dominions and India will set up a similar system.
§ LORD ADDISON
I am sorry to interrupt, but this is of enormous importance. I did not quite catch the noble Lord's explanation of the meaning of the word. I am sorry to be so ignorant, but it is quite a new word to me and I should like a little more illumination.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Cabotage is the right of a nation to carry its own traffic within its own territory.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
No, it relates to the territory of the country concerned. It is the right to carry traffic from New York to Chicago, from Chicago to San Francisco, the exclusive right of the United States to carry that traffic. Therefore the question at once arises, does cabotage involve traffic between Great Britain and the Colonies? And the answer is, Yes it does.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
The noble Viscount will know if an aeroplane goes straight or not. It is the right to carry traffic from Great Britain to the Colonies and from the Colonies to Great Britain. That is the claim by Great Britain and the claim by the United States of America. The United States have put forward their claim to carry traffic from the United States of America to Honolulu and to Porto Rico.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
I cannot say whether it is a straight line. It is cabotage. I do not think that question arises. Flying over the territory of another nation will necessarily involve the authority of such nation for such a flight. The foreign country would have to give permission for such a flight, but there is a way round. We have not had to fly over France for our journeys to the Mediterranean of late. We can always find a way round. I have explained what is the meaning of cabotage, and cabotage is conceded. I am not quite sure that I understand my noble friend Viscount Trenchard.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, may I make myself clear? Supposing you want to fly from here to Nigeria, we will say, and you fly the shortest way. Is this going to mean that you can fly over France, Spain, Portugal and over French territory in other parts of the globe?
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Cabotage would mean a flight from Great Britain to Gibraltar, but I cannot suppose that an aeroplane would fly over France and Spain without the consent of France and Spain. That seems to me quite obvious. Unless we have the right of innocent passage—
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, I do not like to interrupt, but may I take it that what the noble Lord said previously about the right of innocent passage would mean that a machine on one of these flights would have the right to go from one place to another whatever country it flew over?
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
The right of innocent passage depends upon the decisions of an international conference. Let us hope that the time will not be long until France comes to an international conference; or even that the representative of France in Algiers may come to the international conference. They will then have presented to them proposals for the international regulation of civil aviation. If France joins in that, France will have conceded innocent passage over French territory. Thus of course the flight over French territory becomes a simple experience. But when I came to deal with cabotage I was most concerned to establish the principle of cabotage within the British Empire. The British Empire is not at all a parallel to the United States of America. I felt that, perhaps, there 699 might be some resistance to the claim I put forward for cabotage within the British Empire, but there has been no resistance.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Does the noble Lord mean the British Empire excluding the Dominions? I understood him to be limiting it to the Crown Colonies.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Yes; the idea is that the other members of the Commonwealth will enter into an international conference under their own power—under their own steam so to speak—and will take decisions on matters concerned with international flying along with us. If at an international conference we reach an agreement then certainly the Dominions would claim cabotage for themselves just as we do.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Australia would come to the conference under her own steam. She would make her own claim for cabotage.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
I specifically mentioned the Dominions included in the Commonwealth. India comes into the Commonwealth and India also would come to the international conference, and would make her claim to cabotage.
My Lords, I have given you an account of the present position. It has been brief and I hope that I have covered the points that have been raised by my noble friend Lord Londonderry. I am sorry that a good deal of what I have said has been so involved and tedious; but it had to be. Occasionally I have been word perfect because I have had to follow my text with care. I have had to speak on matters which concern the United States of America as well as ourselves, and on two occasions I gave you statements on things which I have agreed with Mr. Berle. If you will permit me to speak again tomorrow I will try to answer any question that may arise in relation to the speech I have made to-day, and also to answer any questions which may be addressed to me on subjects which I have so far not had the opportunity of covering.
§ LORD ESSENDON
My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Marquess for having brought forward this question to-day. I am particularly grateful to him because it gives me an opportunity of reasserting the position of the shipping industry in this question of civil aviation. It is fourteen months since I placed before your Lordships the shipping point of view. I do not want to repeat arguments I used on that occasion except to emphasize that if we are to attain in the air a position in any way comparable to that which we have at sea, it is difficult to believe that this can be achieved through the medium of a single national corporation. As I said on the former occasion, ships and aeroplanes are by no means mutually exclusive, and as the country will need both they should be regarded as complementary to each other on account of the similarity of their operations. One of the reasons why a single national corporation appears to me to be ill-equipped to cover the whole field of international air transport is that, as those in shipping well know, every trade route has its own diversity of problems. These problems arise from such causes as differences in national psychology in commercial practices and in commercial conditions, and air transport is scarcely likely to be immune from their influence. The generations of experience in their own particular trade which shipowners possess would be likely to prove invaluable in surmounting obstacles and overcoming difficulties which might well prove to be stumbling blocks to those who lack such experience.
Since the date of the debate fourteen months ago, the shipping industry came to the conclusion that the companies engaged on the various sea routes should co-operate, and that each particular group should prepare a scheme and plan for the operation of air services on its particular route. These preparations have been proceeding steadily but their progress has, naturally, been impeded by the uncertainty which exists concerning the future policy of His Majesty's Government. We have been officially informed that the operation of overseas air lines without subsidy does not under existing legislation require the sanction of His Majesty's Government. An indication to this effect was given by the noble Lord himself in the debate on January 19 last. This declaration naturally encouraged the expectation that it was not intended to 701 debar shipowners from participating in overseas air transport. This seemed a reasonable expectation, as the shipping industry of this country is in an advantageous position to contribute to the development of air services and possesses the necessary resources for that purpose. Where subsidies are unnecessary there can surely be no justification, if we have not yet lost our freedom, for preventing private enterprise from establishing services.
It is not quite sufficient, however, for the Government merely to say that their sanction is not required for the operation of unsubsidized services; a little, though very little, more is needed. To enable any headway to be made an assurance is obviously necessary that any representations which may be made to Governments and other interests abroad will not be repudiated. The South American company with which I am concerned, and to which I am going to refer in a few moments, has already made provisional applications to foreign Governments in South America. It apprised them that it hoped to have the opportunity of running services to their countries, and has been making preliminary inquiries about obtaining landing rights. In correspondence between the company and the Air Ministry, the Air Ministry have made it clear that the company is not likely to get those landing rights granted without the approval of His Majesty's Government. I gather from what the noble Lord has just said that any such applications should be made through the Foreign Office.
§ LORD ESSENDON
I do not know whether that means that the Foreign Office will automatically support, for example, the claim of this South American company. Will the Foreign Office do so automatically? Furthermore, if an application is put in next week, will that claim be put forward, or shall we have to wait until after the war? In the meantime, various neutral counties have intimated their intention to run these services, and, if this has to be postponed, what is to prevent them getting ahead of us and getting the landing rights ahead of British lines? We should like that position to be explored and explained to us. If the British company make an application to the Foreign Office for landing rights, will 702 the Foreign Office automatically support that application?
Uncertainty as to the future policy of His Majesty's Government in this direction has again been aroused by the official pronouncement made in another place on March 14 last, when it was stated:— we cannot decide on our national set-up until the international organization of civil air transport has been settled. We have made it abundantly clear that there, is no immediate intention of obtaining facilities for shipping companies to work on international routes.This seems to imply that the Government may still adhere to the policy of a single chosen instrument and prohibit shipping lines and others from operating air services. If any such restriction is really contemplated I think it ought to be borne in mind that British shipping, by the efficient maintenance of its ships and its services in the face of very adverse conditions, has been privileged to provide the means whereby, for the second time in our generation, signal service has been rendered to the nation at a critical period. I suggest that it would hardly be compatible with British ideas of justice if the Government were to say to British shipowners after the war: "We will now send a Government-owned air line to take away the cream of the traffic which you have built up by your past efforts, and you will not even be allowed to defend your interests by undertaking air services yourselves." I hope that His Majesty's Government will no longer withhold their full sanction and support from prospective operators of overseas air transport services who are prepared to undertake such services without a subsidy.
I am encouraged in this hope by the public announcement which has been made concerning the results of the recent informal discussions of this important subject with delegates from the United States of America, to which the noble Lord has already referred. The leader of that delegation, Mr. Berle, is stated in the Press to have intimated thatno international decision is called for on the issue of a single chosen instrument as against free competition of rival air lines, but that it should be wholly within the discretion of each country to decide by what means it prefers to develop its services.It therefore seems evident that the Government's decision on this issue need no longer await international agreement. In my view prompt action is necessary, and 703 is a matter of outstanding importance to safeguard British interests. By putting off vital decisions, it may be for excellent reasons, the higher authorities are preventing those who are prepared to act from going ahead, with the result that valuable time is lost and important interests may be prejudiced.
To illustrate the urgency of the matter, I should like to cite the case with which I happen to be most closely acquainted—that of the South American steamship lines. Those lines have formed one of the groups of shipping companies co-operating to prepare plans for air services, and they have formed a separate company called British Latin-American Air Lines, Limited. This company is under the able chairmanship of Mr. John Booth, who has made and is making a close study of aviation matters. The operational, and administrative details have already been very closely considered, and so far as they go they indicate that it should be possible to establish a service to South America on an economic basis without any subsidy. These estimates are necessarily subject to a number of factors, which can be resolved only as plans develop. For instance, they are based on the assumption that airport facilities will not have to be provided by the company, but will be available at a reasonable cost. They are also based on the assumption that meteorological and radio services will be obtainable without the heavy capital outlay which would necessarily be involved if the company had to do the work itself. Applications to the Air Ministry for Government sanction to establish such a service have so far produced a negative result. From the political point of view this may be understandable; from the commercial point of view it is detrimental.
South America is a field in which it is no exaggeration to say that British prestige is at stake. There has never been a British air service to South America. Before the war attempts to establish such a service all failed to materialize, to the great detriment of British interests and the disappointment of British concerns and in fact of everybody with British sympathies connected with South America. At the outbreak of the war the French ran a weekly mail service to Brazil and the River Plate, and the German air 704 service on this route had just been increased to twice weekly. It is true the services were for mails only, because the only passenger service to South America was the airship service operated by the Germans between 1931 and 1937, but that airship service was abandoned after the disaster to the airship "Hindenburg." The air service inaugurated by the Italians shortly after the outbreak of war did, however, carry a certain number of passengers up to the time it was discontinued. For want of an alternative the British Post Office and individuals with leanings towards British institutions were compelled to support these foreign services, and there is no doubt that a bad impression will be created throughout the South American Continent if the expectation that a British service will be inaugurated immediately after the war, if not earlier, fails to materialize.
To lend point to this contention I would like to read to your Lordships a brief quotation from a personal letter which I received from a gentleman who happens to be connected with one of the British Embassies in South America. He took the trouble to write to me on the strength of a somewhat remote acquaintance, and he says:No news from home has encouraged me more than this effort on your part to set up an air line to Latin America.Then he goes on to say:If in the future you wish to operate here, steps ought to be taken officially to secure landing rights, etc.Official opinion in South America, whilst ready to welcome the early establishment of a Transatlantic air line, could hardly be expected to give the same encouragement at a later stage if, in the meantime, the need had been met by the establishment of a service or services of other nationalities. What is urgently needed at this juncture is to be able to open negotiations with foreign interests for landing rights, for permission to extend the established organizations abroad to meet the requirements of air transport, and generally to promote co-operation with local officials and business interests. I would call your Lordships' attention again to the particular fact that persons of other nationalities, neutral countries in particular, have announced their intention of operating air services to South America after the war. They are not, so far as I 705 know, precluded from making the necessary approaches to the South American Governments, and there is a real danger that we may find this British project forestalled and its success thereby prejudiced.
It has often been suggested that British shipping companies might use their position to retard the development of air transport for the purpose of protecting their slipping trades. Such a policy would be suicidal. It is not within the capacity, even if it were the desire, of shipping companies to impede the progress of international aviation, because if they were to attempt to do so they would simply lose their traffic to more enlightened competitors. On the contrary, their interests obviously lie in the direction of providing the best and most up-to-date facilities attainable. Shipowners claim no monopoly, neither do they claim control, or even to monopolize a financial interest. Obviously international air transport is an activity over which the Government must exercise some supervision. They claim, however, that full advantage should be taken of the specialized knowledge of the needs of the travelling public and the network of organization of offices and agencies that shipowners possess throughout the world.
I regard the establishment of a British air service to South America as so important from a national point of view that, even if the Government are still unable to arrive at a decision on the question of general policy, steps should be taken to deal with the situation in this particular sphere. I suggest that the Government should announce their intention that a South American service will be operated, and I am authorized by the South American company concerned to make the following constructive proposal. They are prepared, whether or not they are ultimately to be permitted to operate the service, to offer their active co-operation and to place their services and the information and experience they have acquired at the disposal of the Government to enable preliminary negotiations to be entered into immediately and preparations to be made for the inauguration of the service. In other words, the company would participate in exploring the ground and would bear their share of the initial expenses.
May I summarize the position? Our investigations show that it is possible to 706 establish an economic service to South America without subsidy. The foreign Governments concerned were apprised by the company that plans are being developed in the expectation that it will be possible to establish a British air service within a reasonable period. This was done because we had reason to believe that we might be forestalled by certain foreign interests. We can make no progress without Government approval. The Air Ministry, as I said just now, have admitted in correspondence with the company that applications to foreign countries for landing permits are unlikely to succeed without the approval of His Majesty's Government. I have made this proposal on behalf of the British lines in the hope of avoiding delay, as we are convinced no time should be lost. It is difficult to visualize any reason for delay. It cannot be in order to get the approval of the Dominions, because the Dominions are not concerned, and the comments of Mr. Berle suggest that it cannot be because of the necessity of international discussions; if progress is to await these there may be no service at all. In any case, it is almost inconceivable that the British Government would ever contract themselves out of South America, and surely preliminary investigation can profitably be undertaken.
Before I close I would like to refer in a word or two to the question of other groups of shipowners who have reached various stages of development, but in every case the uncertainty as to whether the Government will permit them to operate air services seriously handicaps the preparation of their plans. I would like to refer particularly to the group engaged in operating services from this country to the Continent. The development of air services in this field will grow into so vast a project and involve so many ramifications that it would not in my opinion be sound to entrust it to any one organization. There is scope in this sphere for so great a diversity of enterprise that anything in the nature of a national monopoly might well have the effect of restricting the growth of British services, while encouraging undue competition from the Continent. I certainly think there is room here for air services operated by both shipping companies and the railways, and I should hope to see a healthy rivalry, tempered perhaps by 707 some method of licensing such as would enable cut-throat competition to be avoided.
In conclusion, I would like to draw attention to the passenger services that British lines have run in the past to every corner of the world—around these shores, to the northern Continent of Europe, to the Mediterranean countries, through the Suez Canal, to India, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, to the great African Continent, to the United States, to Canada, to the West Indies, to Brazil, to the Argentine, to Uruguay, to Peru, to Chile, in fact to every habitable part of the earth. I would ask you to visualize under a chosen instrument how many of these tine troopships, owned and provided by the passenger lines of this country, would have been available for the North African, Sicilian and Italian campaigns and those other campaigns upon which we may so soon have to embark.
I suggest that in this country of freedom, a country which at heart in my opinion still believes in all the blessings of private enterprise, it is unthinkable that the shipping industry should be gradually deprived of what it has created and developed for such a long period of years.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I have had a share for a good many years in the direction of railway companies, and on this occasion I have informed myself of the point of view of the four great railway companies on the future of civil aviation. It is on that matter which I venture to say a few words to the House. We are concerned principally with that aspect of it which is summarized by the phrase "chosen instrument." When I heard the noble Lord, the Lord Privy Seal, dealing with this matter I felt very much in the frame of mind in which Balaam must have stood when the angel was beginning to move his spirit. I was not quite sure whether to curse or to bless. While he referred to the legal powers that were still to maintain the British Airways Corporation in a privileged position I felt that whatever cursings I might find in my heart in spite of his civility and courtesy might have to be expressed, but when he said that we lived in changing times, that Government policy was open to adaptation, and referred to the desirability of 708 getting rid of subsidies, then I felt I might be a true Balaam and bless. Perhaps one might say that it follows from the Lord Privy Seal's observations that we have not yet really heard the Government's substantive policy for the development of civil aviation after the war. It is in the hope that we may hear more about it before the debate comes to an end that I say these few words about the position of the railway companies.
Let me explain in the first place that we are concerned here with a limited sphere of the field only—that is, the inland routes, the routes across the narrow seas to Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, the Continental routes, and the routes possibly to the western side of Europe. I point out therefore that the possibility of the use of these substantial assets for civil aviation are supplementary to those which have been described by my noble friend Lord Essendon and in no way in competition with them. I entirely accept what he has just said about the opening for both the steamships and the railway companies in the development of aviation across the narrower seas. It may be said naturally, "Why the railway companies? What are they doing in this sphere at all? A railway engine can do a great deal, but it cannot fly." The answer is well known to all those to whom transportation questions are familiar because railway companies are no longer railway companies; they are great corporations for the development of all sorts of transportation. They have taken an active part in the development of road traffic as a primary and not secondary means of transport. They have taken an active part in the development of shipping companies and the ferries across the narrow seas. In the two years before the war I am told that on these shipping lines they carried something like 8,500,000 passengers. They are greatly interested in the docks and harbours necessary for our shipping. They are interested in that necessary adjunct, hotels for passengers.
The point of these observations is obvious, that it is these great corporations which are in the best position—indeed only they are in a good position—to coordinate the old means of transport with the new. Let me give a little instance of our old services to the Channel Isles. Most of those who went to the Channel Isles wanted to go by railway to the port 709 of embarkation, then by air—to avoid the steward and his basin—and then by other means of transport from the port of arrival on the other side. It is important for the future of transport that you should have, for the convenience of the public, some association or corporation capable of co-ordinating all the various means. This is not only theory; it is practice, because in the past railways have been performing these services. We started upon the provision of air services under the Act of 1929 which gave us power to carry on these air services I have already mentioned, and the new services such as those to Ireland and the Channel Isles, and we made a beginning, if only a modest beginning, with the development of air services to the Continent. We had already a large financial stake of £500,000 invested in that way, and another £300,000 of development money. No less than 80 per cent. of the route mileage which was licensed in those days before the war for air transport over inland routes was run by the railway companies. We did it in those days through the instrumentality of no less than sixteen separate air transport companies whose activities were co-ordinated by a managing committee. We live therefore in this matter, not in the region of paper theories; we live with the experience of actual achievement, the laying of solid foundations for the development of future air services by those associations of capital and skill in the country which are best adapted for the purpose because they are in a position to co-ordinate the new services with the old.
Some noble Lord may ask, "You say you did so much, why did you not do more?" Well, that is, if I may suggest it, a case of "jobbing back." We were not all air-minded then as we are now. There was not the same demand then as there will be after the war. We lived then in an experimental and developing period, and great credit may be claimed for those corporations which ventured into the field and pressed ahead to the best of their ability in laying the foundations in those early days. Were you to ask me whether there was any other reason why we could not go very fast in those days, I would reply "Yes there was. We were subject to the hot competition of subsidized foreign companies." Under such competition as that, anyone familiar with this work will know that it is difficult to 710 make rapid progress, and you may be proud if you make any progress at all. The services did not cease with the war. They have been maintained with vigour during the war period for special purposes which it is unnecessary, and might be improper, to name, but I may say that during the war period the organization for air transport maintained by the railways has flown no fewer than 6,000,000 air miles. There is another record of which we are proud. It is that, in the discharge of these services, we have maintained a standard of 95 per cent. regularity—that is to say, for every 100 services scheduled to start, only five have not started owing to some breakdown in the weather or the organization or the machines All that has been done entirely on the resources of the railway organization. I should like to say, too, that having done that in very close co-operation with the Air Ministry, it will be confirmed that throughout that period during which these services have been rendered to the national effort in the air, the relations between the Air Ministry and this organization of the railway companies have been completely harmonious and have caused no particle of friction.
Now I have sketched the position as regards why the railway corporations should be used, because they are transport corporations, and I have sketched the position as to what has been done by this organization before the war and during the war. Let me summarize in this manner. There are a great many things you can do by sitting down at a desk and making a "blue-print" and handing it over to a prefabricator. One of the things you cannot do by that method is to make a transportation corporation. It is a living organism, it must grow, it must grow into its surroundings, it must grow in many ways which take time to grow. May I mention some of them? In the first place, it is enormously a matter of personal contacts. You have to make your personal contacts when you are dealing with continental services in many countries and in many languages, and the success of your corporation will depend on the maintenance of the good will that is engendered in those conferences which you must have. You must have highly skilled staffs, skilled in most technical matters. Though it may not seem so to anyone who is a master of Bradshaw, the compilation of time-tables and the relation 711 of routes to time-tables is nevertheless a matter requiring lifelong training.
It is the same with railways as with steamship routes. You need the background of relation with those who are experienced both in engineering on the one hand and in labour administration on the other. I do not mean to say that a railway engineer can become an air engineer by taking thought. He cannot. But if you have a kind of centre of gravity in the background of an administration which is used to engineering problems, that is of the utmost value, as airmen assure me, for dealing with transport in the air and giving it a fertile soil in which to grow up. It is the same in the administration of labour problems more individually related to the means of transport. There skill and a knowledge of the customs and practices of continental countries are necessary. This knowledge is not built up in a day but is acquired only by those who have had a lifelong training. The same applies to security and police measures. In that connexion I will mention two matters which you will find ready for you in this transport organization.
One is its knowledge of mail contract business. There again a skill acquired by lifelong experience is required for successful administration. I might venture to ask the Secretary of State for Air, if he is considering this question, to consult his friend and colleague the Postmaster-General. He would breathe a sigh of relief if he was to be assured that the air mail business of the future was to receive the assistance and be under the ultimate superintendence of the skilled staff now associated with the shipping companies and with the railway companies. If he knew that was to be so many of his apprehensions and anxieties would be relieved.
Last but by no means least this is worth remembering, that the staffs of the railway companies and those whom they train have had a long and severe drilling in tile highest standards of safety. Parliament has seen to that. Railways have sometimes complained. It has been said the restrictions were too severe, that the railways have been expected to attain to too high a standard of safety as regards passenger transport. I do not think so; responsible railway men do not think so. But there we have that training and that 712 standard now and their expansion to the administration of airways would be of great importance for the security of the travelling public.
My noble friend Lord Essendon referred to the alarm which is sometimes felt that if you allow corporations such as shipping corporations or airway corporations to have a hand in the nurture of this infant, or young child, for it is no longer an infant, they will turn out to be very unkindly stepmothers, that they may even be strangling the child in the background when nobody has his eyes upon them. That is indeed a most vain imagination. Let me entirely adopt what has been said by my noble friend. I will say on behalf of the railway companies that so far from our having any jealousy or suspicion of the new form of service, we are most ardent believers in it and believers in it not as an auxiliary to railway or road transport but as a primary method of transport for the future. We know that the future interests of transport are bound up with the air. We know that to be successfully administered even on a commercial basis the transport interests must be in relation to the air. We know the air must be developed in the forefront and we can state this with the utmost sincerity, confidence and strength on the present occasion, that there is no intention on the part of anybody who is asking for more powers in this respect for the railways other than to put the air in the forefront of their work of development and to increase that method of transport.
Let me say this as a summary, in the form of a statement of what the railway companies are prepared to do if there is a fair field and no favour, which we so much desire to hear from His Majesty's Government that there will be. We will exercise all the powers which have already been given to us under the Act of 1929. Further than that, we will extend and improve those air services to the utmost extent to fulfil every condition which may be required by the Air Ministry and to meet the whole demand of the public travelling by air, either passenger or mail service. We will co-ordinate, as I have ventured to contend we alone can do, the means of air transport with all the other existing means of transport which are under our control. We will co-operate 713 with the shipping companies as regards the long-distance routes. We will not only co-operate but we have already cooperated with the short sea shipping companies as regards plans for continental traffic. In co-ordinating the means for transport we will give no preference to any one means of transport over the other, but will develop them all together with a single eye to the public benefit, and in particular we will give no preference to our old friend, our first friend, the railway, in comparison with the air. We will make no favourite. We will find the whole capital necessary for the provision of all the services that can be required in the air to which I have referred. We will find all the capital necessary for the purpose, and we will ask for no subsidy at all. We will not only ask for no subsidy, but we will ask for no preference or advantage over any other company. All we ask for is to be allowed in on equal terms, or to start the race at scratch, and then we will use our best endeavours to win the prize that success will bring in providing the air service which the public require.
I believe it will be seen by an informed eye that the foundation of what the nation requires in the area of air service to which I have referred has already been laid, and laid with success, by these efforts of the railway corporations to which I have referred. I believe that they, and they alone, have the means of developing in the most organized and scientific form the future of the air. I know that they have the will and the intention and the means to do so. There is a desire at the present time, which is very natural, a desire borne of the disgust and horror of the present state of the world, to have all things new, to make a fresh start in everything to get rid of every trace of the organization which we had before the war. That may be admirable from one point of view but it is very foolish from another. It is a very admirable thing in so far as it is directed towards getting rid of incompetence, sloth, greed or muddle, but it is extremely foolish if it urges us to waste and destroy what has been well done, what has been done with skill and success. Under these conditions I would urge the Government to leave us no longer in doubt that they welcome all those who in this field can assist.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend upon drawing his Motion in such very wide terms, no doubt with the optimistic hope that many points of information might fall into the net. I did not hear, however, in the speech from the noble Lord who spoke for the Government, one single piece of information. If my noble friend did no doubt he will indicate it at the end of the debate. I must say that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, was a great disappointment. We used to hear speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, which gave cold comfort, but when Lord Beaverbrook took over the interest in civil aviation, he came to your Lordships' House with enthusiasm and optimism and his speeches at first led us to believe that something was going to be done. To-day, however, the mantle of Lord Sherwood, as representative of the Air Ministry, seems to have fallen upon Lord Beaverbrook and we have had a speech in which the information given is absolutely nil. I may be wrong but I thought I detected, in the way Lord Beaverbrook spoke, that he felt some disappointment himself in what he was saying. I thought he would have much preferred to come to your Lordship's House and give a great deal of information, which obviously he has been unable to do. I know that he cannot take the responsibility of giving information without first of all getting the consent of his colleagues and probably also the consent of the Dominion Ministers. Therefore his position is extremely difficult.
The noble Lord told us that B.O.A.C. was, as it always had been, the chosen instrument of the Government, that he could not say whether it would be in the future, that all he could say was that it had been and was still the chosen instrument. In these debates those of us who are interested in civil aviation have tried to bring to the notice of your Lordships and the country all the aspects of civil aviation and the importance and urgency of civil aviation policy. I think perhaps the time has now come when we should discuss the matter in a little more detail and that the time has arrived when the Government must make up their minds exactly what instrument or instruments of civil aviation we are going to have after the war. Mr. Berle is reported to have said that one thing which astonished him in London was the diversity of opinion 715 he had discovered on the question of civil aviation. I think it is a very attractive part of our public life that there is on practically all questions diversity of opinion, but sooner or later some decision has to be made and if that decision takes too long we have a source of weakness. I think the time has now arrived when some decision must be announced by the Government.
I do not know myself what attitude the Government take on this subject in the Imperial Conference, but I know that some of the Dominions have very decided opinions as to what should be the form of the instrument after the war. No doubt America also has opinions on the subject, and Mr. Berle may have expressed those opinions. I should very much like to know, if Lord Beaverbrook can tell us, whether Mr. Berle was in favour of a single chosen instrument for America, or whether he was in favour of private enterprise or of a series of chosen instruments operating over various routes. It would be a good thing if there could be agreement between all countries as to what instrument should be used. If America chose the same kind of instrument which we have here, and if other countries did the same thing, we should, at any rate, arrive at uniformity; but if America is not going to have a chosen instrument, or if the chosen instrument is not going to be a corporation owned by the American Government, or if private air lines are to be given licences to fly over one route or more than one route, I think we have the right to know that before we make up our minds. The kind of instrument used by America and the Dutch after the war will make a great deal of difference to the kind of competition we shall have to meet. Personally I favour private enterprise, but I am perfectly willing to hear the arguments on the other side. I cannot say that I favour a monopoly.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK; Do you favour a chosen instrument?
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
Nat as a monopoly. I would be perfectly prepared for it to be a monopoly if other countries were going to have a similar kind of chosen instrument, also operating as a monopoly. In those circumstances competition might be fair, but if America is going to have private enterprise that will 716 be far too effective and too efficient to be beaten by a single monopolistic chosen instrument, because the moment you get a monopoly, even with the most skilful and most energetic men at the head of it, sooner or later complacency will creep in and a feeling will arise that they are there, that they cannot be replaced, and that it does not matter very much how the service is run. I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, that the Cadman Committee, when it reported upon Imperial Airways, made a recommendation, which was not carried out by Parliament, that there should be two chosen instruments. I am not saying that I agree with that opinion, but I certainly agree that there should be more than one single service operating on all routes. There must be some yardstick by which you can test efficiency.
Unquestionably, one of the troubles of Imperial Airways was that it was a chosen instrument. If Imperial Airways had not been a chosen instrument it would have been more effective. British Airways, which was not a chosen instrument, became a more effective rival for Imperial Airways probably mainly for that very reason. It was looked upon as an interloper and regarded for some time as not really worthy of notice, but it soon brought its methods to the attention not only of Imperial Airways but also of the British Government, and I imagine that the real reason why, after the Cadman Committee had reported, there was only one chosen instrument was to be found in the attitude of the Treasury, who apparently thought that if a great deal of money was going to be spent over many years, it might as well be invested in one concern instead of two.
I suggest that conditions have been greatly altered by reason of the war. I think we can safely say that five years of war have done more for the development of aircraft than, probably, twenty years of peace, and that, at the end of this war, we are going to be within a reasonable time of seeing aircraft of far greater range, and far swifter and more comfortable, than anything that has ever been seen up to date. There is no question that, when that time arrives, civil aviation will not require any subsidies, but will be a service which will be highly profitable. We heard from Lord Essendon—if I heard him rightly—that, in his opinion a service 717 to South America could be started by interests which would not require any subsidies of any sort. I think this is a serious statement. I do not know if it is a challenge to the Government, but I think the Government have got to take it into very serious consideration.
The whole point of having a single chosen instrument is that it is right to have it if you have got large subsidies to pay and it is impossible for any private enterprise to work without a subsidy. Your Lordships, I am sure, do not like private enterprises living at the expense of Government subsidies. That really was the feeling at the time of the Cadman Report—that it was wrong that a company should live at the expense of subsidies. There can be no question, I think, that the subsidies concerned were far too small. The subsidies given to Imperial Airways should have been on a level with the subsidization of Pan-American Airways. Then, no doubt, they would have been able to give greater service than they did. When it comes to the question of subsidizing a private company, in my opinion, that is a thing which your Lordships would probably believe to be wrong. But if a private company is willing to put up the money, to go without a subsidy, and yet to provide a service, I do not see what argument can possibly, in any circumstances, be made against such a company having a chance to do it. I believe most of your Lordships are against monopolies. Even the noble Lord sitting on my right said that he was against the monopoly of the B.O.A.C., because it was a monopoly. Yet it seems to me that all opinion is agreed that to give the right of monopoly from birth—which is what the B.O.A.C. has been given—to a service that does not accomplish that monopoly through destroying its rivals by reason of its great efficiency, is wrong. To give it monopoly privileges absolutely and completely, to have no yardstick of any sort to measure the efficiency of that line, would be a folly which, I am perfectly certain, neither the Government nor Parliament would undertake.
I raise this matter for the very obvious reason that I am trying to crystallize opinion on this subject. This thing must be decided. You cannot go on talking round and round—discussing whether we are going to have this, that or the other. 718 We cannot go into an international conference unless we have made up our minds. I was greatly struck by what Mr. Berle said—although he said it laughingly—that he came here expecting to find unanimity of opinion as to what Great Britain wanted, and could not find anybody who agreed with anybody else as to what was wanted. I think it is high time that we made up our minds on these matters.
There is another matter with which I should like to deal. Lord Beaverbrook said that Mr. Berle had very generously promised that, after the war, American aircraft would be available to us if we were short of transport aircraft ourselves. I cannot comment upon his statement for it was a most generous one. Mr. Berle also said that "it would be very bad business if we did not." Now that was a very frank and open statement, and the reason for it is quite clear. If, after the war, this country—taking this country alone for the moment—has to indulge in the buying of a great amount of American transport aircraft, we shall also have to fit up all the aerodromes they will use with the instruments necessary for those particular aircraft. It would be a most expensive matter to refit all those airfields with British instruments for the British aircraft which may become available later, and, no doubt, there would be a question whether we could afford the new instruments to put on the airfields to enable us to return to the use of British aircraft.
I suggest that this will be a case in which this country will be the more affected because of the situation in which other countries will find themselves placed. We had hoped that the aircraft industry of this country would not only provide aircraft for Great Britain, but that some other countries might look upon our industry as a fine one and order aircraft and airfield equipment from us. We ought to have international business for our aircraft companies. But if the case is to be that not only shall we have no aircraft to sell but that we shall be so short of them that we shall have to buy from America, then we shall lose our aircraft market overnight, never, perhaps, to get it again. Once other countries have fitted up their airfields with the equipment necessary for working with American aircraft then—unless we were to produce an aircraft so revolutionary 719 and so superior to all existing machines that all countries would be compelled to buy it—naturally, whilst the instruments on the airfields were good, those other countries would go on replacing their fleets with American aircraft. Therefore, so far as I can see at the present time, we are not only going to put ourselves in a difficult position by having to fly over British routes with American aircraft—which will certainly look extraordinary to many parts of the Empire—but we shall also have to forego all the export market, a proper share of which should come to this country.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, said that we had had some setbacks, and that the Tudor, which he announced some time ago was going to be put on order for civil aviation, had been held up. He said that that was nobody's fault. If there was no technical fault, it must have been a political decision. I should also like to ask him about the Brabazon, because he announced at the same time that the Brabazon was going to be put on order for civil aviation, but to-day he did not say anything about it. I should very much like to know what has happened to that. I should also like to know whether all the efforts which he announced some time ago to put in hand civil transport planes have been held up, and, if so, for how long they are likely to be held up, and how that is going to change the hoped-for date of delivery.
I should like the noble Lord to make a little clearer what he means by cabotage. I do not think that that was absolutely clear, and when he reads his statement in the Official Report tomorrow he may wish to clarify it. I was not sure, first of all, whether he meant that the air above a country was still to belong to that country, or whether any aeroplane was going to have the right to fly over it, and secondly what the right of cabotage was. Is it just the right to fly between this country and the Colonies? It is apparently not the right to fly between this country and the self-governing Dominions and pick up passengers. Shall we have the right to fly to the West Indies? Are they self-governing Colonies? Where is the line drawn between having the right and not having it? That should be made clear. I had the impression that we could fly to a Crown Colony like 720 Gibraltar, but not to India and pick up passengers, because India is presumably going to be a Dominion; we could not fly to Australia and pick up passengers because that is a Dominion.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
I should also like a little more light on the question of the bases. I welcome very much the international authority which is going to be set up to regulate the rules of the air, like the rules of the road, as I understood it, but I was not clear whether that international authority was going to own the bases. Up to that point I had the impression, from various speeches which had been made, that the bases would naturally revert at the end of the war, whoever may be occupying them now, to the country entitled to them, the country to which the area belongs, but that naturally we shall not deny their use to any country which wishes to use them. We should have the title-deeds to the bases, but not put up a notice that trespassers will be prosecuted. That was the impression I obtained, I think from a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Beaver-brook. To-day I understood, though perhaps wrongly, that this international authority was going to have something to do with the bases, and I should like that made clearer.
Are the bases going to revert to us at the end of the war, no matter in whose hands they are now or who may have built them or contributed towards building them? I do not refer to the bases exchanged for destroyers, which are on a 99-years lease; I am referring entirely to the airfields. Are they going to be put under this international authority which is going to be created? I should like that made perfectly clear, because I feel very strongly that the bases should revert to this country, and that in no circumstances should any other thought enter anybody's head. We should have the title-deeds to all the bases within the British Empire which have been built since the war, and I hope that Lord Beaverbrook in the conferences which he may attend will fight for that. Let anyone use them who wishes to do so, but the title-deeds must remain ours.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjournee—(The Dike of Sutherland).
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.