§ 2.21 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government, whether they have any information to give regarding any negotiations on postwar civil aviation in which the Lord Privy Seal may have been engaged during his recent visit to the U.S.A.; and what changes in the post-war civil air-transport policy of His Majesty's Government may be expected therefrom, in regard to the Ministerial direction of that policy, the "chosen instrument," or the provision of civil air-transport machines; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, as you are aware, this Motion has been postponed from its original date, and we are indebted to the noble Viscount who leads the House with distinction that we are able to have the debate to-day rather than on another date, as suggested, later on. This is the seventh occasion on which I have raised this subject in your Lordships' House in practically identical terms. Whilst I would always apologize for trespassing upon your Lordships' indulgence, I feel that, in view of the fact that this debate has come on no fewer than seven times, we are owed an apology from some other quarter, and I hope we shall get it. The responsibility for this rests, as your Lordships know, with the Government owing to what I can only say is to me their entirely incomprehensible attitude.
§ I have deemed it right, with I think your Lordships' support, to raise this question on these seven occasions, and your Lordships would perhaps agree that the time has arrived for a little plain speaking. In previous debates I have, as usual, approached the subject in a tenta- 505 five and deferential manner. I have suggested that the Government might be good enough to give us some indication of the policy they were proposing to pursue. We have had two speeches from my noble friend Lord Sherwood—very eloquent speeches indeed—but at the end of them we went away as ignorant of the plans of the Government as when we entered your Lordships' House. Perhaps ill-advisedly, I altered the terms of my Motion slightly, and Lord Cherwell then arrived on the scene. Although I was pressing the main point of eliciting from the Government some indication of the policy they proposed to pursue, Lord Cherwell, your Lordships will remember, gave us a most interesting and intricate disquisition on technical matters which I do not think your Lordships wanted to hear al all, and certainly I did not want to hear. Then the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, entered the lists and, as usual, made a very eloquent speech, but again we foregathered in the Lobby with nothing that we could get hold of at all.
§ I then changed my tactics a little. My tentative manner and deferential phrases were replaced by a little plain speaking about the War Cabinet, whom I accused of having no air-mindedness whatsoever and of not taking any interest whatsoever in this vital question. That was at once rewarded. The Prime Minister took notice, and he appointed my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook. I was not under the impression that my labours were over, but with such an able ally, and in view of the work he had already performed in the Government, knowing also his dynamic energy, I felt that we could go forward and get our policy adopted or pursued in some way by the Government. I even heard from the highest authority who can tell as of these matters that I ought to be satisfied because Lord Beaverbrook had been appointed Lord Privy Seal, which is one of the highest places in the Government, to deal with this matter. What have we found? Lord Beaverbrook addressed your Lordships' House on two occasions, and again we went away crestfallen, not having learnt very much. We understood that he had had conferences with the Dominions of a very satisfactory character, and that he had discussed these matters with an American repre- 506 sentative, Mr. Berle, but as to the nature of these conferences or what was discussed we were no wiser. The noble Lord then went to America, ostensibly for another reason, but we sincerely hoped he would take the opportunity of entering into discussion with the United States on this very important matter. We still know nothing of what happened. The whole situation, as far as I could read it, was so contrary to the character I have always attributed to the noble Lord that I felt something must be wrong.
§ I then had to make up my mind that the noble Lord had been given responsibility but no power whatsoever, and was merely an additional spokesman for assisting the Government to face us in these debates. He was "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined" in such a way that nothing could be done. We understand now that the noble Lord is laying down the nebulous position he has occupied up to now, and that to-day will be his swan-song in this connexion. I might well use the language which the great Clive is reported to have used on another occasion, and say to the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, "By God, Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation." Thanks to the intelligent anticipation of the Press—I have had no communication with the Air Ministry or with any member of the Government—we have heard that Lord Swinton is leaving his post in West Africa—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
—and is coming to your Lordships' House, I gather, as a full-fledged Minister. I would congratulate the noble Viscount very much indeed on occupying so high and important a post if I did not think there were certain difficulties surrounding the position which we understand he is going to take up. In another place Mr. Attlee has given an answer in phraseology which rather rivals the evasive phraseology that we have received from the Front Bench in your Lordships' House. There are two particular questions that I would like to address to the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal and I am quite prepared to hear him say, "I hope you will wait until the Minister in charge comes back because he will be in a much better position to answer these questions that you are putting." But time is press- 507 ing and we have already wasted the best part of a year and a half tacking round on this subject of civil aviation. I hope therefore that the noble Lord may be able to tell us something in relation to these two particular questions.
The first is in regard to the Air Ministry. We have pressed all along that civil aviation should be separated from the Air Ministry and should be controlled either by the Board of Trade, as we thought at one time, or the Ministry of Transport, but I am quite sure, after having heard the opinions of many whose opinions I value and having considered the matter very carefully, that it is a vital necessity to have a Civil Aviation Ministry or whatever title is the proper one to give to it. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us whether Lord Swinton, when he becomes the Minister for Civil Aviation (which term I use until a better one is coined), will be on a level with the Secretary of State for Air. That is one thing the noble Lord can tell us. The next is, will he have the power to order machines direct from the Ministry of Aircraft Production? The other is, will the Ministry of Civil Aviation, apart from such questions as research, pilots, reserve of officers and similar incidental matters, be separated from the Air Ministry? There is an old proverb that if two men ride one horse one has to ride in front. If the Air Ministry is going to be the horse, it means that the Secretary of State for Air will ride in front and the Secretary of State for Civil Aviation will ride behind. We are not going to accept that proposition. When I say that I know that I have the approbation and support not only of your Lordships but of a much wider public than was in being when we first brought this question before your Lordships' House. It has been said to me that Lord Swinton is coming in with no powers whatsoever and will take his orders from the Secretary of State, and that he is a Minister Designate in some future Government.
Other questions that I would like to put to the noble Lord are in my Motion. We have disposed of what I would call the first question to which I hope the noble Lord will be able to give us a satisfactory answer. The next question is on the much vexed subject of the chosen instrument. As yet we have had no indica- 508 tion as to what the Government mean by a chosen instrument. Perhaps the noble Lord can tell us the Government's plan in relation to the British Overseas Airways Corporation, which has done remarkable service, and the Air Transport Command to which we owe a debt of gratitude. Perhaps he will also tell us what attitude the Government are pursuing in relation to what is called private enterprise. I have occupied a strange position for the last year and a half. I have been approached by every sort of interest, railways, shipping, private lines, county councils, municipal corporations. They have all come to me as if I had all the information at my disposal. I have had to tell them in the bleakest terms that I have been worrying the Government for months but have had no answer and am surprised that they have had no answer whatsoever.
I had the opportunity the other day of meeting Mr. Instone, of the great firm of Instone Brothers. Your Lordships will remember that Mr. Instone was one of the great pioneers twenty years ago of civil aviation and it is a remarkable thing that in all its activities his firm did not have one single fatal accident. Mr. Instone has written to Civil Aviation and has shown me their answer, a very civil answer indeed, that his representations and the plans he wanted to develop were read with great interest and the hope was entertained that at some time in the future he would receive an answer to his letter. Then there is the great firm of Elder Dempster who are doing and have done for four generations a tremendous work in the Mercantile Marine. They are ready and anxious to start air lines.
I have also had a declaration that has been made by the Shipowners' Association stating:As soon as the national and international arrangements of His Majesty's Government are such that private enterprise can operate commercially in air transport, those shipping companies which have expressed their interest in this form of transport are prepared to develop air services to the British Commonwealth and foreign countries. The plans will naturally vary in different areas.It is appreciated that Government has a vital interest in the development of British air transport and we believe it should not be impossible to devise means to secure cooperation between Government interests and private enterprise.Those who have made that declaration are in exactly the same position of un- 509 certainty regarding the future as they were in when it was first made.
As to the "chosen instrument," this particular phrase and others which are so often used gain interpretations that should not always be attached to them. What I want to find out is whether our air activities throughout the world and even in this country are to be dominated by the Government. By that I mean, are we to expect nationalization of the air just as there have been suggestions about the nationalization of a great many other activities in this country? As to private enterprise, from the speeches that I have had the opportunity of reading in the Press one would have thought that to adopt a policy of private enterprise was almost to commit a crime. To be told you are in favour of private enterprise is the same as having an opprobrious epithet applied to you. I do not know whether I am capable of intelligent anticipation or not, but it seams to me from the silence in this direction that there may be what. I may call some disturbance among those counsels which we have to depend upon for the government of this country. We may hear something more about that.
After all, what is private enterprise? Private enterprise is the spirit of our race. Our great traditions and our history are based on the enterprise of private individuals, and I should hope that no steps will be taken that will have the effect of stifling or thwarting to any large extent those great pioneering instincts and those courageous lines of action which have been taken for generations by this country and which have paced us in the position in the world that we occupy at the present moment. I know quite well that those who are opposed to private enterprise have certain arguments which they press forward with strength and power. One is the danger from monopoly. It is said that private enterprise may so combine as to create a monopoly. You may get shipping interests in the form of a monopoly, you may get railway interests in the form of a monopoly, which means that those activities combined under one monopoly have struggles with each other in which one or the other may gain supremacy.
In the modern outlook on life, in the organization which we have developed in every form of activity in this country, we 510 all recognize that private enterprise has got to be regulated and controlled. I would have no objection whatever, nor would my friends, if, in those great organizations which are bound to develop, there was a Government representative in the form of a director. When I say that I do not expect that those comfortable positions with salaries and expenses will be handed over to some elderly statesmen or somebody to whom the Government may owe a debt of gratitude. I expect an enlightened Government to put on all these boards someone who can help not only in putting the Government's point of view but in developing and increasing the power of those organizations. I think that that should put an end to the veiled campaign which is going on now against private enterprise. We have been engaged in a war for five years and when we have succeeded, as no doubt we shall at a not very distant date, we do not expect all our activities to be handed over to the Government with private enterprise hamstrung, checked and thwarted in every direction.
In this country, I am sorry to say, air-mindedness hardly exists at all. Whereas other countries, especially America, have become air-minded there is lack of air-mindedness in this country. I put that down to the fact that all those eminent people who have served our cause so well during those five years and are in positions of responsibility, hardly ever in their speeches—the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, made an exception recently but a very half-hearted one—make mention of the air. The Minister of Education in his speeches makes no suggestion that the young people of this country should be taught geography from the point of view of the new development in the air. Vast numbers of people in this country, while fully recognizing the great achievements of the Royal Air Force to which we owe so deep a debt, never think that they themselves can be associated with the air, or that in an incredibly short space of time they will be able to choose, when they go on holiday, whether they will travel by train, by road, or by air. When we look at statistics from America—statistics are non-existent in this country—we can realize that the vast majority of the travelling public, when they travel by air, cover short distances. There is a fallacy prevalent in this country that this country is not adapted to air travel and that consequently we must con- 511 sider air travel from the point of view of the Empire. I am quite sure that in the activities of the railway companies, which I look forward to with great interest, we shall find that a choice will be put before the travelling public when they want to go to different parts of the United Kingdom or to Ireland, whether they shall travel by road, or by train, or by the air.
On November 1, there is going to be a conference in America—at Washington, I think it is—at which 52 nations will be represented. Can the noble Lord in his reply tell us who will be our representative? I presume it will be the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. Will the noble Lord be able at the same time to tell us whether the Air Ministry have made their plans as to what policy we shall pursue? I understand that there will also be a conference in Canada. I do not know whether the noble Lord can tell us whether the Empire representatives at that conference will speak with one voice. There are a few words I would venture to say about our great Ally America. We find very often that apart from a few eulogistic phrases our great Ally is spoken of with bated breath. There is no reason for me to speak with bated breath on this subject because I am glad to think that I occupy an entirely independent position As your Lordships are aware, air activities in America are progressing on a prodigious scale. The country is air-minded and the population are thinking of what is going to happen in the air. That is exactly what one would expect from a great progressive country like America, and I honour them for the manner in which they recognize the vital interests of playing a leading part in the air.
We achieved our position in the world by the power of the British Navy and Mercantile Marine. It is entirely due to that hereditary instinct of ours that we became the great Empire which we are at the present moment. At one time, it is surprising to think, America possessed a larger Mercantile Marine that we did, but because we were quick with the introduction of steam we out-distanced the American Mercantile Marine in a very short space of time and before the war we occupied the position we wanted to occupy on the seas. It is of vital interest that we should maintain our position in the air, and I hope the Government will 512 address themselves to making this country more air-minded. We read every day in the newspapers of plans of reconstruction and we hear of them in your Lordships' House. There has been a grandiose scheme of social insurance, a remarkable scheme. When we are told that it is necessary to increase our export trade by half as much again, that postulates that we occupy in the world after the war, as we did before the war, the position of one of the leading countries. I am quite certain that unless we take our place in the air, and the foremost place in the air, we shall find that all these schemes are not worth the paper they are written on. Instead of being a great world Power we shall sink to a much lower position.
We have a splendid Empire. We have our Dominions ranged round us all over the world, full of sentiment and always coming to our rescue when we are in trouble. The Dominions are as progressive as I hope we are, and as Americans certainly are, and when this war comes to an end, if we have to say we have no aeroplanes, that we started late in developing civil aviation, that our country was not adapted for it, we shall find the Dominions will speak to us in terms we must understand. I do feel that your Lordships should recognize quite clearly that, apart from sentiment, we are a practical people in this country and in the Dominions, and that they will turn their faces to those countries who show progress and determination to face the future. Unless we can do it, as we have done in the past, we shall find the position which we occupy in the world very different from the one which we occupy now. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD BEAVERBROOK)
My Lords, it may please the House if I now make a short statement of Government policy meeting two or three of the issues that are sure to be raised in the debate—and which can easily be disposed of—and then, with your permission, speak again in reply to questions that are asked during the debate. If that is your pleasure, if I am to be permitted to speak again, I will not attempt to answer my noble friend in full now but will seek only to deal with those questions which will be covered in the statement which I now propose to present to you. The dominating question in this debate 513 will be, I am sure: Have the Government created a Ministerial machinery likely to give satisfactory results in civil aviation? The answer is, of course, "Yes." They have appointed a Minister whose record in aviation is unsurpassed. They have invested him with Cabinet rank. They have decided that he shall be given supervision of a Ministry of Civil Aviation independent of the Air Ministry.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
I will go on with my statement, and will not attempt to answer questions until I come to deal with them, with your permission, at the end of the discussion. I do not assert that this independent Minister of Civil Aviation and the Secretary of State for Air will exist in separate worlds. I do not make any such contention, nor do I contend that between one Ministry and the other there will not be conflict or even clash. You will not be surprised to know that I hold the belief that disputation between Ministers is not a bad thing for efficiency. But it would be wrong to assume that difficulties will arise. The Air Ministry has subscribed to this policy. Lord Swinton's whole-time duty will be to carry forward at once the work of planning in the field of civil aviation. In due course, and when Parliament decides, he will have sole responsibility for civil aviation with an independent Ministry to help him in the task. It is the first time that we have recognized the need for a separate organization. The Minister's powers will be adequate. He will have the right of direct access to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and on the same footing as the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty. This, as you will see, is a fundamental innovation—direct access to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Should difference of opinion arise between the Civil and Military Air Ministers it will be determined either by the Minister of Defence or by the War Cabinet. That is to say the decision will be taken, as it should be taken, on the highest and broadest grounds—grounds of national and Imperial policy.
Those who have felt that civil aviation issues have been unduly subordinated to the military view should now be satisfied by this statement. They can no longer allege that the Air Ministry, where the military outlook is naturally and properly 514 strong, is a judge in its own cause. The precise method by which the functions of the two Ministries will be separated will not be easy. It will be difficult. Certainly it will not be easy in peace-time, and it will not be easy at any time. In addition to the divergent interests of the two, there is also a common field of aviation which has to be taken into account. There is a common field of interest to both. In war-time, when the operational responsibility of the Air Ministry is necessarily supreme, the task of separation is difficult. Nor is it possible to fix the precise moment at which the operational control of the B.O.A.C.—the British Overseas Airways Corporation—will pass from one Ministry to the other. But the omelette can be unscrambled, and it will be. The job will take time, however. It will involve negotiations and agreements and also legislation by Parliament. There must be legislation by Parliament.
Now the Government can claim that they have passed the first test. They have provided the basis of a promising and workable organization. But let us not deceive ourselves. The future of civil aviation will be determined not in Whitehall but in the factories and on the air routes of the world. It must be confessed that in the factories and on the air routes of the world at the present time our future does not appear very bright. It is in fact unsatisfactory. We have not been able to divert from war aviation to civil aviation as much effort as we would have liked to have diverted. In truth we have been able to divert very little effort. There is no difference of opinion among us on that point. We have all been in favour of the pursuit of military aviation, but we have complete faith in the genius of our aircraft and engine industries to win for Britain her proper place in civil aviation. The main purpose of the new Aviation Minister will be to provide conditions affording the greatest amount of employment in civil aviation and the aircraft factories. What the factories did for military aviation gives us the right to suppose that they can do the like for civil aviation. If they do, then we have nothing too much to worry about.
It is often suggested that the scale of production in civil aviation will be very limited. Many express doubts—but not any among those in the Government who have been dealing with the situation. 515 Some people assert that the transatlantic traffic can be carried by a handful of air lines, but in our view civil aviation has an immense future, a future as great as that of the motor car industry in 1910. In 1910 there were in Great Britain 100,000 licences for motor cars. In 1938 there were 1,798,000 such licences—a multiple of eighteen. That is an immense increase. Aviation is a far more revolutionary development than the motor car. It would be folly to set the same limits to civil aviation. It would be folly to argue that the future of air traffic is limited by the extent of pre-war traffic upon sea and upon land. New transport creates new traffic; this is not a hope but an historical fact, which we have seen demonstrated over and over again. It is beyond doubt that the railways, motor transport, and, young as it is, air transport, all show immense development of traffic as facilities are provided.
In appointing a Minister of the highest qualifications and the highest rank, and in deciding to create a separate Ministry, the Government have given the clearest possible indication of their view of the future of air transport; and it is a big one. The immediate duty and the opportunity before our aviation industry is dramatically revealed by the fact that 55 nations are meeting in conference at Chicago, and of these 55 nations only four are engaged in the manufacture of aircraft and engines, so that it will be seen that four nations must supply the civil aviation requirements of the other 51. We must take our share in that industry; We must have our share of that manufacturing output. We must see to it that our design is good enough and our production big enough to ensure for Britain what we were denied in the motor car industry—a fair share of the world market. We shall work under the stimulus of American rivalry. That country is making an immense effort in civil aviation, an effort which must be paralleled here. The Brabazon Committee have done splendid work—I recognize the labours of Lord Brabazon—but advances have been made elsewhere, and in consequence Lord Brabazon is revising his work, too.
With this statement of Government policy the labours of the C.A.T. Committee have been fulfilled. We have 516 completed our task of formulating the Government's policy. Sir Archibald Sinclair must be given high credit, for he sees the problems before him clearly and deals with them successfully. I have worked very intimately on this Committee with Captain Balfour. All through the deliberations of the Civil Air Transport Committee he has been at my side. He has shown a complete grasp of civil aviation and a broad understanding of its problems. At every meeting he has contributed clear and definite counsels of the highest value to the State.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
I will certainly do so. Broadly stated, their terms of reference were to co-ordinate Government policy in relation to civil aviation. I hope that my noble friend does not complain of that reference.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
It is indeed a wide one, and the decisions are wide, and I hope satisfactory. With that statement of policy I will resume my seat, if I may ask leave later to intervene again in the debate.
§ 3.4 p.m.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, on behalf of the noble Lords on these Benches I should like to welcome the appointment of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, as the new Minister, and the fact that he is to have Cabinet rank. We shall welcome him even more when we discover what his powers amount to, and how far he is in fact free from the clutches of the Secretary of State for Air. In this matter I must agree very strongly with all that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said about these powers. I hope that he is not too embarrassed by support from these Benches in this matter.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
It seems very clear that the Minister's present Departmental duties will not be very large; yet civil aviation in all its forms will some day be a truly monumental subject, and one which will keep a Government Department very busy. But, whatever 517 the future may bring, there is a very large issue facing us now. The problem of the running of the services on the great air routes is a very large problem indeed, but it has yet another claim to serious consideration. It is, as it were, -.he big toe of the colossus of international co-operation. Yesterday we were debating world security, and, although the machinery of security was praised, the real doubt concerned the good will of the nations in working it. This is perhaps the real importance of the civil aviation problem which faces us at this moment. If international co-operation can be shown, to be real on this problem, then we may have greater hopes of the rest of the colossus.
There are a great many snags and hindrances in the way of co-operation amongst the different countries in the air. One of the troubles is that there is a large number of observant, clear-sighted and enterprising gentlemen, not all of one nationality by any means, who can see very clearly the demand for good air routes and who are quite rightly (in their own view) forming companies to carry on the business of flying those routes. No doubt they will fly those routes very well. For the most part they are gentlemen who have succeeded very well in the various fields in which they have so far worked. But they fail to see the difference between competition inside a country, in which the Government do not and in fact must not take discriminatory action in favour of one company against another, and competition across frontiers between companies which are not directly responsible to their Governments for their actions, but which nevertheless carry the flag of their country and are regarded by foreigners as part of their country and as responsible to their country. No Government will allow their air lines to be driven from the air by foreign competition, and if private companies are allowed to fly all these post-war routes as the main operators of these routes we are rapidly going to have a crescendo of subsidies, either direct or disguised as possible air mail contracts, or other similar facilities to the air lines.
We must at all costs avoid this cutthroat race between nations, which will create enmity, and which will endanger co-operation in other fields. By all means let the air be free to all who wish 518 to navigate it, be they individuals or companies. Let them run whatever routes they like, but let us make clear to the other nations which we shall be meeting at Chicago that we do not intend to indulge in any heavily subsidized private companies, which would bleed the nation's pocket and cause international ill-will.
§ 3.11 p.m.
My Lords, I do not believe that your Lordships can be very satisfied with what the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has said of the functions of the Minister of Civil Aviation. In point of fact, with the exception of the one point that he made of direct access to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, it would appear that the new Minister of Civil Aviation is not substantially different from the noble Lord himself, who has been planning, as he said on the last occasion, who has negotiated, and who has made contacts with other countries on the future of civil aviation. What more will the Minister of Civil Aviation, vested with these powers which the noble Lord has discharged, have which Lord Beaverbrook has not possessed? He has no executive authority and apparently he has no administrative authority. The administration of civil aviation, including that one chosen instrument which we have, will remain entirely in the hands of the Air Ministry for an indeterminate period.
It is that administrative authority which, in my view, is what principally matters to-day. I have seen it stated that it will be difficult at this stage to separate the administration of commercial aviation from the Air Transport Command or from the Air Ministry. The Americans have found no difficulty in making this separation. They also are as much engaged in this war on the air side as we are, and they have found it possible not only to allow and encourage civil air lines for commercial aviation but, if the announcement made in the papers is right, have now proposed a commercial air line open to paying passengers through British territories to Cairo and Calcutta. We have nothing to correspond, except the chosen British Overseas Airways Corporation, which certainly has done its best to keep the somewhat tattered flag of British civil aviation flying, fettered on all sides by R.A.F. 519 control, and entirely at the mercy of an attitude which puts passenger-carrying and commercial freight so much last as to be almost nowhere.
On a previous occasion when I spoke of this I gave certain examples of that attitude of mind which relegates passengers to airfields with the cast-off and disused huts of Service aerodromes. Those of your Lordships who have themselves flown must know the attitude which has been taken about passengers generally, even those who have had to fly on official duties. They are regarded apparently by the Air Ministry, I regret to say, and by the R.A.F., as an unmitigated nuisance, to be given what is left over, instead of being treated as the people who will create and make the good will of our civil aviation after the war. The attitude of mind of the Americans and the American Air Transport Corps is diametrically the opposite to that, and that is why they are to-day getting the good will which it will take us years to recover. It is precisely on the administrative side that it is of the utmost importance now to transfer the control of the chosen instrument which we have, and such other instruments as I hope will be created or allowed to operate.
Much has been said about the form of the chosen instruments, and there are as many views as there are political Parties upon how they should operate. But I think that there is a certain common opinion which, without satisfying everybody, would go far to satisfy many, and that favours licensing corporations in various fields—the British Airways on the Imperial routes, and other corporations in other fields, either sponsored by private initiative or sponsored by the railway companies or the shipping companies, and licensed to operate in those certain fields under such public control as is necessary when they enjoy exceptional monopoly facilities. I hope that when the noble Lord answers and closes this debate he will not only have something to tell us about these chosen instruments, but will also be able to tell us that the necessary legislation to allow them to operate is contemplated, and will be one of the early duties of the Minister of Civil Aviation; and furthermore, that that legislation which he spoke of as necessary to transfer control of civil aviation from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Civil 520 Aviation, will also be drafted and presented to Parliament at the earliest possible date.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, I am sure we were delighted, at least I was, that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, did not apologize too much for bringing up this subject again. I think I have attended all these meetings, and I agree with him that if an apology were needed it should be an apology from the Government, not from him. I have listened to all those debates, and I was wondering what really came back to my memory from the point of view of replies from the Government. I remember well the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, which the noble Marquess referred to, but all I can remember about it was that there was a very acrimonious discussion between the noble Lord and Lord Beaverbrook as to the question of being called an anarchist. Then we have had those delightful speeches by the Leader of the House, who is always so genial—unlike me, who am always being accused of being a buccaneer; we enjoyed them very much, but they did not really say much.
Then we have had speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. His last speech dealt very extensively with the question of cabotage, and if any of your Lordships had any clear idea of it when they arrived in the House they certainly had no clear idea when they left. What was interesting about his speeches was that when he really wanted to say anything important he produced a piece of paper out of his pocket, on which obviously was written what he was allowed to say, and not what he wanted to say. And there is my noble friend Lord Sherwood who has nobly delivered some of the poorest briefs ever given to an Under-Secretary. That is, so far, the result of the combined efforts of "The Four Just Men."
Now, through the continual drip of these debates upon the stony hard Government, there emerges Lord Swinton. That is fine. Lord Swinton is an ex-Secretary of State for Air. I do not know whether Lord Beaverbrook's description of him as "unsurpassed" will go with a swing among some of his fellow Ministers, but still Lord Swinton has a good 521 many very good acts to his credit in the past as Secretary of State. He was responsible, and very early, for the development of the shadow factories. That is immensely to his credit. It is true that he alienated the aircraft industry by telling them that the motor car industry was going to make aeroplanes, and not them, but he got over that, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his foresight and imagination in building up the great industry that we have now. If he has a fault it is that he is a "Mister Know-All"—now a "Lord Know-All." It is very difficult to imagine where and how he is going to get knowledge of all the difficult questions which are going to corns rushing at him from every quarter. It is quite obvious he is not going to get it from the four Ministers who have replied to us. They never told us anything, so there is no reason why they should [...]ell him anything. There is little hope I should say of his getting a sort of confession of sins of omission from the Secretary of State. Yet these questions are rushing at him from every quarter, and he will have to deal with the situation very quickly.
Let us see for a moment what is on his plate. I must say I am very sorry for Lord Swinton. But when I feel sorry for Lord Swinton I feel like somebody who is upset at the thought of a man-of-war being at the mercy of the waves. I am sure Lord Swinton is able to look after himself. That is a very satisfactory thing. It will answer a good deal of Lord Rennell's remarks as to whether he will be able to fight his own battles. I am perfectly certain that Lord Swinton will be able to do that. We must remember that if Lord Swinton were going to agree with the Secretary of State for Air there would be no point in appointing Lord Swinton. As he is obviously going to disagree with the Secretary of State for Air, we shift all these problems from being Departmental problems to being, so to speak, potential disagreements in the Cabinet. That of course is a very interesting situation for Lord Londonderry and his friends to have manœuvred us into. What is on his plate? He has to rush back here and instruct his officials, who probably know much more about it than he does, what to say at Ottawa. It is at Ottawa that the first official conference with regard to the Empire is to take place. It is difficult to 522 think that we are going to get agreement there. I should not think it is possible to get agreement inside the Empire. That is the first thing. After that is decided we move to Chicago. That will be the first public appearance of the new Minister. I must say I have certain sympathy with him there because of all the curious times to choose to have an international conference the strangest is during the Presidential Election in America. It is going to be a packet of fun. Anyone who says anything will have it altered and distorted and used against him for political purposes at the Election. It is a poor time to have chosen.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
I was told two days ago that it would be the first few days in November and, as your Lordships know, the Presidential Election is the first Tuesday after the first Monday. Besides these difficulties regarding world routes and world agreement there is also something we must not forget, and that is the European situation. That has to tie itself in not only with the Empire situation but with the international situation. Lord Swinton has a tremendous lot to study in a very short time.
Then we come back to that political question of the chosen instrument. I am quite unbiased on this question of the chosen instrument. We must remember that it was introduced by Sir Kingsley Wood, the bluest of Tories, but of course it was nothing else but the running by the State of all civil aviation. It was passed by a Conservative Government. Whether it is a good thing or not, who can tell? It has never functioned. The whole organization was taken over by order during the war, and we are unable to say whether it is good or bad. All I can say is that I congratulate the Air Minister on his choice of personnel. I know the Chairman is a member of this House, but I am perfectly frank in my criticisms of people, and he shows a grasp of the situation, knows exactly what he wants, and has the ability to charm the hind leg off a donkey. These are very great characteristics to be possessed by a chairman. He almost rivals the great Mr. Tripp of Pan-American Airways. Then we have General Critchley. He is another cup of tea. He has restless energy and drive, tremendous imagination, great 523 knowledge of organization, and has also what is so often lacking in Englishmen—that is, a knowledge of salesmanship. After all, what are you doing in running transport but selling transport? Between them, I should say, they ought to do a very fine job, and I do ask the House to give them the chance to run their show. It may well be that there are going to be other interests running aviation in other directions. I sincerely hope that this organization will be given a chance, and that the plums will be given to them as well as the difficult routes. It is no use giving private enterprise the London-Paris route. I do not think the taxpayer would like that very much. If the State is going to run civil aviation, he must get the lucrative routes as well as the thin ones. I am not pretending for a moment that there are not many routes where private enterprise can well try its hand but, as in America so here, we do not want Parallel competition. We must be regulated by the State saying where people should run and how.
I was particularly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, said with regard to the new Minister and M.A.P. He will have access to M.A.P. in the same way as the Admiralty and the Air Ministry. That is good, but I do not quite know how far it will go because we must remember there are a lot of Air Marshals in M.A.P. and their spiritual home is the R.A.F. and Air Ministry, and it is very difficult to push into M.A.P. any other policy but what comes from the Air Ministry. The noble Lord will know that as well as I do. The noble Lord fought very gallantly, I know, but on the whole they got what they wanted. While I would not allow anybody to outstrip me in my admiration for the R.A.F. as such, on this question of the manufacture of transport machines there is very little to be said for them. We have committed a very grave error from the point of view of our home industry. I should think nobody who looks at the war to-day will deny that transport machines are as much a part of air warfare as anything else. When you get quick movement then you must have the support of great machines moving troops, moving supplies, moving paratroops. It is part of the war and it is no good pretending that transport is not something intimately connected with our war effort. It is. But it so hap- 524 pens that just at present we are making none of those machines. They are all made in America. It is just as if the Admiralty had said: "We will make everything else except destroyers; we will let America make them." That would never be tolerated in the Admiralty and it should never be tolerated in this country.
The other day I made a speech at one of the other forums of this country, the Dorchester Hotel, and Captain Balfour answered me from the same forum. Later on he said in answer to me—I quote from The Times:We were at a disadvantage at present and would have to make up leeway lost to us because of the working of the agreed policy of the Allies that we should concentrate our resources on combat types, leaving to others the supply of transport for our joint use.Later he asked:Could we have switched our industrial capacity sooner to transport types with an eye to post-war?That is what America did, and I do not think they had an eye to post-war. They had an eye very much towards the war because they realized, as we did not, that transport machines were part of the war effort. That is where we went wrong from the beginning. They had a better appreciation of the advantages of transport machines.
What Lord Beaverbrook said is so very true. I jotted down one of the things he said—the future is going to be determined in the factories. Yes, in the factories, and it is in the factories to-day that you are failing, you are not giving them a chance. That is what is going wrong. If you would only give the factories a chance they would get along and deliver machines as good as and better than anywhere in the world. Because I had shown that we were badly off in transport machines Captain Balfour said that I was crying stinking fish. It is not true. I know as much about British industry as most other people. I even know the difference between a prototype and a mock-up, which some Ministers apparently do not. What I complain of is that you never get a boost from the Air Ministry about our own machines. Let me give an example. There was a picture the other day in the public Press of a jet machine built here and flown here at astonishing speeds in 1941. It is now 1944. Three years were allowed to pass 525 before we could realize it. By the side of it there was a picture of a jet machine built by Bell of America and only just flown. That is the sort of publicity you get here. There has been no mention about our jet machines that have been in action. Is there any talk about our jet machines that could fly round a Bell? It may be true but for security reasons we cannot say so. Then there comes a time when you can say something.
Let us go through some of the things that British industry has made and produced. Have we ever been told of the catapult launching of Hurricanes from merchant ships, a remarkable thing indeed, and rocket projectiles which have a fire power almost equivalent to that of a light cruiser? No, very little is said about that. Do we draw attention to the fact that there is only one machine on the Western Front, a British bomber, that can carry 12,000 pounds? There is only one machine that can carry that weight and it is a British machine. For all we are allowed to know you might think anybody could carry that weight. It is a remarkable performance that British industry has put up. Take the matter of the Mosquito alone. It takes 4,000 pounds of bombs to Berlin and it looks after itself by virtue of its speed alone. The much vaunted Flying Fortress cannot carry any more. We have some very remarkable things to our credit. Far from crying stinking fish, it is not for me to boast about English goods, but there they are if only somebody will draw attention to them. Then we have on the scientific side the remarkable developments of wireless and radar. There we started the whole thing. We won our Battle of Britain on it, and since then it has been used all up and down the world. Yet most people in this country, and certainly most people in America, understand that that was an American invention. We hide our light under a bushel, but I sincerely hope that the Air Ministry, and Captain Balfour in particular, will not draw attention to the mote in my eye until they have extracted the beam from their own.
It is indeed curious and I cannot talk too much about it as on the purely manufacturing side there is a lot of information which is confidential to me; but it is a remarkable fact that far from the aircraft industry being too big at the present moment it is too small on the designing 526 side. It is quite true that the other side will be much too big but on the purely designing side we are short to-day. That leads to the great difficulties about the delivery of the new transport machines that we are hoping to get. The noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, with that kindness and generosity which is certainly a basic part of him, the other day without my knowledge and I think without anybody's knowledge christened the great machine which is contemplated for the cross-Atlantic work, the Brabazon I. Well, due to the shortage of design staff it looks to me as if I am going to be born out of date. That is a mighty tiresome thing and I hope it is not characteristic of me. The new Ministry will have to gear the machine up because whatever you plan now even if it is ahead of America, unless you can get along at the speed at which America is going you will be out of date in every machine built or building.
What I have said shows clearly that in this war there is going to be a second Battle of the Marshals and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton., will have to take the Marshals on. There are other things, too, in which he will have to intervene. Take, as a side-line, the question of post-war aerodromes. At the present time His Majesty's Government are making a vast aerodrome quite near London entirely suitable for a civil port. What a curious Ministry you must think it when I tell your Lordships that the civil side and the military side have not even shown each other their plans. When the new Minister comes into office I hope he will rub some heads together. There is plenty of work for him to do along these lines. Generally speaking, I must say that what Lord Beaverbrook has told us to-day is cheering, though it is impossible to say at first exactly how Viscount Swinton fits in. He will have to build up, by virtue of strength of character, control of these things, and he will have to fight his battle in the Cabinet. I am very pleased to know he has been chosen because he can do that. We pledge him our support. He comes back after great service in West Africa but I should like to assure him that he is going to find plenty of niggers here.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, I want to occupy your time for a little while from the point of view of the interests of 527 the private individual in the development of civil aviation and particularly from the point of view of the shipping companies whose cause has been espoused in your Lordships' House by the late Lord Essendon. I must now try to fill his place, although of course I speak with less authority. It is interesting to remember that to-day, October 12, is a great anniversary in the story of free enterprise, for it was 248 years ago to-day that Christopher Columbus discovered America—a great example of free enterprise supported by the State as all bold and adventurous enterprise by the citizens of a country should be supported. But the shipping companies who have made their claim to be allowed to help in the development of civil aviation had a very discourteous and cavalier treatment. It was in January, 1943, that they first put forward a strong claim to participate in this matter by the issue of a memorandum by the General Council of British Shipping, entitled Air and Sea Transport. This elicited from His Majesty's Government a statement, which has been frequently repeated, that the operation of oversea airlines without subsidy did not under any existing legislation require the sanction of His Majesty's Government and that it was only in respect of subsidized services that the British Overseas Airways Corporation enjoyed a monopoly. This would lead one to expect there was nothing to prevent shipping companies, who so desired, from going ahead and completing their plans for inaugurating air services as soon as conditions permitted, provided they were prepared to do so, not as the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, implied, with heavy State subsidies, but without subsidies at all.
Those who attempted to proceed on that assumption, however, were speedily disillusioned and they found themselves confronted by obstacles. To take the specific case which has been already mentioned, that of the projected service to South America, the late Lord Essendon told your Lordships on May 10 that efforts had been made to obtain Government sanction for the establishment of this route by a group of five shipping companies operating together. The offer was a definite one to inaugurate the service as soon as conditions permitted without any Government subsidy. Nevertheless, it met with a completely negative response from the Air Ministry. The 528 noble Lord also called your Lordships' attention in the last debate to the necessity for immediate progress in planning and negotiating the acquisition of landing rights abroad. The ground, he said, was slipping under our feet. The Lord Privy Seal stated:It is perfectly open to the shipping companies to go to the Foreign Office now.But this was subsequently qualified by the proviso thatthe Foreign Office will be glad to consider applications in consultation with the other interested Departments of His Majesty's Government, but that no useful purpose would be served by that so long as applicants cannot provide the requisite aircraft and personnel.Nevertheless, the Chairman of the British Latin American Air Line Company at once addressed a letter to the Foreign Office asking for support in approaching the foreign Governments concerned.
It was pointed out that some time was bound to elapse before it was possible to negotiate landing rights, and in any case it would not be practicable to set up the necessary organization until the war in the West was over or had reached such a stage as to justify attention and efforts being directed to post-war developments; but the company claimed that by the time aircraft were required there was no doubt they would become available in the absence of any prohibition on the part of His Majesty's Government. The same applied to personnel. They made many statements as to how they could provide personnel and aircraft, and these were put before His Majesty's Government.
The argument that it would be useless for the shipping companies to apply to the Foreign Office unless they could show where they could produce their aircraft and personnel was sufficiently disposed of, but once again the response was in the negative. Lord Essendon then made an offer on behalf of the interests concerned that they were prepared, whether or not they were ultimately to be permitted to join in operating the Service, to offer active co-operation and place their services and the influence and experience they had acquired in transport at the disposal of the Government to enable preliminary negotiations to be entered into immediately and to prepare for the inauguration and planning of the service. He stated that the company 529 would participate in exploring the ground and would bear their share of the initial expense. I inquired what was the result of this offer and I find that to all intents and purposes it has been entirely ignored.
Now let me turn to the other side of the picture. It appears that as soon as the shipping companies declared their willingness to start their service eventually without subsidy, the Government's so-called chosen instrument, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, presumably thinking this interference with their monopoly would never do, began to turn attention themselves to the South American routes. Announcements have been made that such a service is contemplated, arid tie Chairman and the Director-General have made, and are making visits abroad—notably to Africa—with this purpose in view. Has it then been decided to give the monopoly to the B.O.A.C. on these routes? I understand that the attitude of the Air Ministry is that the B.O.A.C. is, at present, the only concern officially authorized to develop British oversees air services, and, consequently, they cannot withhold support from any measures taken with that object in view. Well, that could all be explained if it is to be understood and recognized that the Government are already committed to the policy of the single chosen instrument. But if it is true that the fundamental question of policy has not ye: been decided—as I understand is the case—are not the protagonists of private enterprise justly entitled to be treated on equal terms with the Government Corporation? By what right does the Air Ministry favour the B.O.A.C. with their authority to go ahead and develop air services while, at the sane time, they deny to shipping companies any consideration whatever?
We have arrived at the position, my Lords, when the shipping companies are willing and anxious to undertake the necessary preliminary steps towards establishing a service, and they have stated categorically that they are prepared to do this without any subsidy. In spite of the fact that there is no legal ground for preventing them from carrying out their intentions, they have, in fact, been prevented from doing so by the attitude adopted towards them by the Air Ministry and the Foreign Office. On the other hand, the Government Corporation, 530 whose expenses are borne by the Exchequer, are permitted, if not encouraged, to proceed with this work. That is to say a task which private enterprise is quite ready to undertake and pay for is only to be performed, apparently, at the expense of the British taxpayer. What we want at this stage, in reality, is some small degree of encouragement and support from the Government which would justify the shipping companies in going ahead with their plans, and enable a start to be made with the necessary negotiations with Governments abroad, negotiations which will, no doubt, be delicate and difficult enough even with the sympathy and support of the Foreign Office, and are bound to become more and more difficult with every month's delay.
What private enterprise wants is a decision. Pending this, is private enterprise to be ruled out altogether and deprived of all opportunity of preparing to operate services in the future? If so, for what reason? What are the obstacles to making a decision now? It is nothing to do with the new Minister, who has only just been appointed. It is a Government decision, a Cabinet decision. Why cannot we have that decision? It seems to me that air development is one of the most vital of the problems of post-war reconstruction. When we consider the effect which the growth of transport facilities has had in the past upon world economy and national prosperity we can hardly fail to realize that if civil aviation develops only half as rapidly it will profoundly affect the welfare of this country. The new Minister ought to call together all these private interests into consultation and explore what immediate steps can be taken towards formulating definite plans for a service to South America. The shipping companies, with their established organizations and vast experience of transport problems, in that sphere, should be afforded an opportunity of making a contribution to the establishment of such an air service. And that should apply to all air services of a similar nature.
To reinforce this plea for an immediate decision I would draw your Lordships' attention to the announcement which appeared in the Press last week that Pan-American Airways had inaugurated a commercial service from Brazil through Natal to the Belgian Congo. This service establishes a connexion at Natal with the 531 network of Pan-American Air Services all over South America. But, apart from the fact that this extension of American overseas services has been undertaken at a time when any expansion of British commercial services is rigidly restricted, this development would appear on the face of it to be innocuous. But it takes on a somewhat different complexion when it is realized that a service has also just been started by a Belgian air operating concern between the Belgian Congo and this country. Thus, it would appear that, profiting by our hopeless indecision, our American friends have already quietly established a connexion by air between South America and this country.
My Lords, there is a reserve of pent-up public energy ready to undertake this task as soon as the Government touch the spring which will release it. This can be done merely by saying that free enterprise will be given full scope, and will not be debarred from playing its part in the development of aviation. What is preventing this from being done now? I can understand a desire on the part of some to nationalize civil aviation before it gets cumbered up with what are called vested interests. But after all what have you got in the B.O.A.C. but a vested interest? It would be a most unsuitable organization, it seems to me, to run the whole of British civil aviation. Air services all over the world cannot be opened up without great cost. Are the Treasury and the Government prepared to allow the whole of this cost to be borne by the State and by the taxpayer, instead of part of it, at least, being undertaken by private enterprise from their own resources? If the answer to that question were "Yes," the result would certainly be that expansion would be delayed and curtailed while the Treasury was examining the costs and the prospects of this project or that.
I welcome, to some extent, the appointment of a Minister of Civil Aviation with the limited authority which he is apparently going to have for a very long time, unless as the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, has suggested, Lord Beaverbrook can get legislation introduced at a very early date to free him from the Air Ministry. But what one wants to know is how, when he is free, he is going to work. Is he going 532 to act as a kind of regulating authority such as the Board of Trade is for shipping, or is he going to work as if it was the Admiralty conducting the Mercantile Marine? Which is the administrative system we are going to have? State control, to my mind, is totally unsuited for developing a private enterprise of this nature. It is much too stereotyped. Whitehall is much too stately, the Minister in charge is too subject to political changes to compete with the sharp international brains which will be conducting civil aviation in other countries. Treasury control is absolutely unsuited to a pioneering adventure of this nature. I can give an example of the ideas of the Treasury on financial control in a business matter. When I was Fourth Sea Lord, not so very long ago, I was in charge of the building up of the oil reserves for the Navy. Oil was very expensive in those days, being £3 10s. a ton. I found that if I made an immediate contract for a very large amount of oil which we wanted the following year I could get it for 10s. a ton less, for £3, and so I went to the Treasury and told them this. I said: "Give me my next year's oil now, and I can save the country many tens of thousands of pounds." The Treasury, however, would not agree. They said that they would rather pay £3 10s. for the oil next year than pay £3 for it to-day, to avoid upsetting the Budget. How is it possible to run the finance of a great concern in a spirit of that kind, which is the spirit in which it would be eventually conducted?
As has been said, it is the courageous spirit of enterprise which is inherent in our people which has made this country great. Private profit and the profit motive are not matters on which I have any strong views, any more than I have about State control. I sit on the Cross-Benches on that matter. It must be remembered, however, that the profit motive does work. It is simple, direct and rapid. It accepts risks which would otherwise have to be borne by the public Exchequer. To succeed, its projects must be economically and efficiently conducted. There are many obvious advantages in the coordination of sea and air transport, rather than having them cutting each other's throats, in trying to get something in the national interest and to improve our prospects of competing against other countries. The shipping companies have 533 great experience of transport, extending over a hundred years or more, and they have a great knowledge of the varying conditions on all the different world routes. They have established organizations, taking the form of a network of offices and agencies, covering the whole field. They have always had to move with the times and to provide up-to-date facilities as regards speed, comfort and so on to maintain the welfare of their business. In spite of all the adverse conditions from which they suffered before the war for a long period of years, they were able on the outbreak of war to provide the shipping services necessary to sustain the life of the nation.
They have lost many ships, and will he confronted with the necessity of building others to meet their requirements for the next twenty years—the life of a ship. The development of air services will be one of many factors which have to be taken into account in the design of these ships. It is natural and just that the shipping companies should turn their attention to air services, which from one standpoint can he regarded merely as an improvement in the transport facilities of the past. They claim that they are entitled to enter this field as a natural extension of the great services which they have rendered to the country in the past. It is almost impossible to form a sound judgment on future policy for shipping without co-ordination with the air services; yet a healthy Mercantile Marine for this country is an absolute necessity. If the shipping companies are compelled to stand by and sec their business depleted by the competition of air transport, especially if it is subsidized, instead of their working together, and if they are not allowed to participate in its development, British shipping will inevitably decline to an extent which in my opinion will constitute a very grave danger to the country in time of war.
It is conceivable that in the course of time air services may develop to such an enormous extent that they will diminish the need for ships in time of war, but that will not be in our day. It is not likely to happen for a long time, and during the intervening period the maintenance of British shipping will be essential to the life of the nation. I feel, therefore, that the shipping companies deserve to receive reasonable consideration from the Gov- 534 ernment, which at present they do not get. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, to tell us what is going to be the Government's decision as regards private enterprise and civil aviation, and also whether in this new Ministry which the Government are setting up we are going to have the State trying to run business of a most intricate and delicate nature, or whether they are merely going to use their authority to give Government support to the development of air transport in the way in which we have so successfully as a nation dealt with our sea transport.
§ 4.7 P.m.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, in the debate on my noble friend's Motion five months ago my noble friend Lord Kennet told your Lordships, on behalf of the railway companies of this country, that if they were allowed to do so they were prepared to run a network of air services inside this country and to the Continent of Europe. In the regretted absence of my noble friend Lord Kennet to-day, due to indisposition, it falls to me to tell your Lordships what has become of that project, which we pursued after that debate as a result of the encouragement which we received to do so from the Lord Privy Seal. The present position is that that scheme has now come to birth on paper, and a fully-worked-out comprehensive scheme is now in the hands of the Government, whereby the four main line railways of this country, acting together, show how it will be possible to run a completely comprehensive network of services covering the whole of the United Kingdom, including the islands within the United Kingdom, Eire and the Continent of Europe. I propose to give your Lordships, as briefly as I can, some particulars of that scheme, and to explain why we think that it is in the national interest that we should be given the opportunity to develop it. This great scheme is our contribution to what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will find "on his plate" (to use Lord Brabazon's phrase) when he returns from Africa.
Before going into the details of the scheme, I should like to explain the background of the whole proposal. The background is the desire, which I believe is shared in every part of this House, to avoid subsidies, if that can be done. I am encouraged to hope that I may find 535 unanimity on that point by seeing what was said in your Lordships' House five months ago. At that time the Lord Privy Seal, in the course of some remarks about his discussions with our friends on the other side of the Atlantic, said:… 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.From other quarters of the House similar sentiments were expressed. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Winster, went rather closely into that, and said some things which seemed to me to go to the heart of the matter. Lord Winster quoted Mr. Berle as having spoken very wisely before he left this country when he said, "Subsidies should never be used to knock somebody else out of the air." The noble Lord went on—and I think this is a profound truth—Broadly speaking, international trade has to be carried on at a profit, and until air services can do that, until air services can carry on without subsidy and at a profit, I do not see how they are going to contribute to the national wealth.That is the essence of the matter. What we want to do is to contribute to the national wealth, and we feel that if we can establish services which will stand on their own legs, that is a very real contribution to the future prosperity of this country. In the debate to-day the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, expressed his apprehension of what he called a crescendo of subsidies. I take it, therefore, that I may enroll him in support of this thesis that we all want to avoid subsidies.
I turn to the plan itself. This is a document which has been submitted to His Majesty's Government and, as I personally had no share in the authorship of it, perhaps I may be allowed to say that it really is a fascinating production. It has some maps and diagrams which give one a glimpse into the future. It spreads before one's eyes a sort of magic carpet which, if it can be realized, will really bring to fruition what one would have thought only existed in the imagination of Mr. H. G. Wells. Let me take first the internal routes. There are set out here no fewer than thirty-four internal routes for the air service of this country. It would take too long to read the whole lot, but the sort of thing which is representative is this: Twice daily, Prestwick to London, London to Prestwick—that is, 536 on the assumption that Prestwick will continue to be an Atlantic base; twice daily, Belfast to London via Liverpool, the same, Glasgow to London via Manchester; once a day, Dublin to London via Birmingham; Aberdeen to London via Edinburgh, Newcastle and Hull; Swansea to London via Cardiff, and so on; no less than five services to the Channel Islands; and this one in particular I should like to mention because it appeals to me—Glasgow to Stornoway via Tiree—S. Uist—Benbecula—N. Uist—Stornoway. I think that is enough to show that the railways are not proposing to pick out the plums by having a service only from London to Paris. If we are prepared to serve Benbecula that shows we are prepared to take the rough with the smooth.
Then, to pass to the Continental services, there are eighteen Continental routes which are listed, including every European capital and, so far as Paris is concerned, four services daily to Paris, which would be terminal services, and, counting other services such as London—Paris—Rome, London—Paris—Marseilles, and so on, there will be six or seven services daily between London and Paris. There are services to Scandinavia, there are services to Central Europe, and it seems to me to be just about as complete as anybody could desire. There is a list of centres to be served, a tremendous list of names which goes right through the alphabet, beginning with Aberdeen and ending with Zürich. And the times of the services are also there: Paris is one hour; Brussels, one hour; Basle, two-and-a-half hours; Rome, less than five hours; Moscow, nine hours; and, so far as internal services are concerned, Scotland in under two hours. I could give more details, but what I have said is enough to show that it really is a genuine attempt to make a comprehensive magic carpet available for the travelling public of this country.
Now how is this great project to be carried out? The proposal is that the four main line companies should form a new separate company to operate these services and undertake charter business. I mention that because at one stage it was proposed to have a separate company for the charter business, but it has now been found possible to limit the proposal to one new company. In that new company it is proposed to include the whole of the existing air interests of the railways, and I 537 may mention in passing that those air interests of the railways ran no less than 80 per cent, of the route-miles of all the internal services which were operating before the war. It is the intention—in fact, it has already been done—to offer partnership in that undertaking to those air operators who did in fact provide regular service; in this country before the war. These matters are now under discussion with the interests in question. It has also been decided, and has in fact been done, to invite the co-operation of those shipping lines who operated in the areas concerned regular pre-war services which carried the traffic for which air transport will in future be needed. Of course, the three main classes would be passengers, perishable goods, and mail.
Finally, the proposal is that that company shall operate without subsidy on the one condition that no other services are subsidised in competition. All we ask is a faix field and no favour. We say that that scheme can be worked economically and, in the long run, with profit. In saying that, the railways are taking the long view. The calculations on which this great scheme has been based have been careful, and have been made in the light of the very extensive experience which we possess and with the very best advice which we have been able to obtain. But, of course, there are many unknown factors. I name only three: we cannot foresee what fares we shall be able to charge; we cannot foresee what rates of exchange will be with the countries with which we shall operate; and—very important indeed—we cannot foresee what will be the cost of petrol. Those are three very large unknown factors which are hound to introduce a good deal of uncertainty into the plan. One thing we have no doubt about—and here I entirely agree with what fell from the Lord Privy Seal—we have no doubt about the demand. We believe the demand for air travel is a certainty, and that is what helps us to feel that in taking the long view we are taking the view which will prove in the end to be right.
The company, we know, will have to face a difficult period. The railways feel that they have resources sufficient to face a loss for the first period. We have divided our anticipations into three periods. We anticipate quite clearly that at the beginning we shall have to face a loss; we hope that the period will not be too long. Then we think there will be a 538 period of years in which we might break even, and then, finally, in the long run we feel that we shall reap a profit, which we think we shall deserve. Some of these uncertainties may be removed by international agreement. We should hope to see working carried on in a spirit of international co-operation. We can compete so far as efficiency is concerned, but we should hope to see international arrangements made for such things as frequency of services, capacity of aircraft, and of course fares and rates.
All that is in the future, but we feel that in undertaking this great venture we should indeed be taking the long view. In addition to the long view, we feel we are taking the transport view. The railways for a long time now have not just been railways. The great railways of this country own docks and hotels and they co-ordinate the services of road, rail and sea. I can only say that we strive to serve the maximum public convenience, and we want to add the air in order to establish complete inter-availability of service. We feel that if a passenger has the misfortune to be seasick on his way to the Continent in the morning he might well be allowed the opportunity of seeing if he could avoid being airsick on his way back! We should like to have the opportunity of allowing him to make that interesting experiment. We feel that the long-term interests of our shareholders, who might perhaps be alarmed at this prospect of making immediate losses, are in fact identical with the long-term interests of the travelling public.
In addition to the transport view, we take what I might call the Continental traffic view. The railways have been running Continental traffic for many years. We own ships, and we feel that this Continental traffic belongs to us. We have catered for it for many years. We have great experience in running Continental traffic, and what Lord Chatfield said about the shipping companies is true of the railways. As I have told your Lordships, we are seeking to co-operate with the shipping companies and, like them, we have great facilities, great overseas organizations, and now of course we own the business of Thomas Cook and Son with its great ramifications and facilities of all kinds. We have trained staffs, and while we seek to make the services inter-available I would like to make it clear that we desire to continue 539 to foster competition between one form of service and another. Our proposal does not mean that we merely want to provide in the air for traffic we think we are going to lose. We believe, like the noble Lord, the Lord Privy Seal, that transport begets transport, and we seek to provide the most efficient service whether in the air or on the sea or whatever it may be. I might mention in support of that claim that at least one of the railways is already building ships or, if not building ships, doing its best to get new ships built to cater for the post-war short sea traffic.
Finally, we take in this matter what I am going to call the private enterprise view. Like one of the noble Lords who spoke earlier, I am not ashamed of being engaged in private enterprise. This is a great venture, and I should like to remind your Lordships of what the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, said in the debate in your Lordships' House on employment policy. Lord Woolton said this on July 5:Are the merchants of this country prepared once again to become 'merchant venturers,' to resume their Elizabethan quality with the products of modern industry and go out venturing in the world overseas for trade for the benefit of Britain? These are the questions that arise from this White Paper: they are the questions that we put to this House and the country.And what is the prize? It is not the prize of personal profit—that is not enough. The prize is the future stability of our industrial life.…And, in replying to the debate on the next day, he said:But let us encourage the industrialists, and do not let us keep wondering whether British industry is going to be all right after the war. I believe it is. I believe that it will render a great service to the country, and I am quite sure that without a high standard of efficiency in British industry we are not going to be able to live.The railways feel that they can contribute to that efficiency by providing this efficient transport, but to do so we must be efficient ourselves, and that is why there is need for these extended services. This is the heart of the matter. It has been suggested that the railways should run internal services but should not be allowed to exercise the powers which Parliament has given them to run services to the Continent. The vital contribution to efficiency in an airline hinges largely on the number of hours you can keep your air- 540 craft in the air during the year. We hear a great deal about the efficiency of the American lines. I believe that the Americans before the war attained 1,500 to 2,000 aircraft hours per annum. In our internal service in this country I do not think we ever achieved 1,000. In this scheme which we are submitting to the Government we have aimed at 1,500. Without the Continental services, to be run together with the inland, no such figure as that could be attained. Efficiency depends on sufficient aircraft hours. The Government have a choice. They have a choice between this opportunity being given to private enterprise, or running the whole of their services by a Government-owned, Government-managed and, I would say, almost ex hypothesi, Government-subsidized service.
It is no part of my brief to depreciate the B.O.A.C. We have never criticized the B.O.A.C., and I do not do so now, but I am entitled to call attention to its limitations. The B.O.A.C. is an air company. It cannot give the transport facilities that we can give with our inter-availability of service and all the experience we have at our command. Unrepentantly, I am convinced that no Government-owned service can give the same efficiency as progressive and enlightened private enterprise. It is a fair question to ask: Is the B.O.A.C. prepared to run the services I have outlined without a subsidy? I should like to have an answer. One other consideration. There is another circumstance in the unique control of the operations of the railways in the air which is already in the hands of the Secretary of State. In the Parliamentary powers which were given to the railways in 1929 there is an express stipulation that the Secretary of State can cause inquiry to be made, and report to Parliament, if he is not satisfied with the way things are going. That is a tremendous weapon of control, and I submit would give complete and absolute power over the operations of this company.
In the last debate the Lord Privy Seal said this:If the shipping companies and the railway companies make proposals that will supplant the services of the B.O.A.C., and give them without subsidy, then of course the Government would be very glad to listen.We have done just that. There has been five months' work put into this document. I do not think that is too long when you 541 consider the vastness and difficulty of the great commitment which is outlined, and in the last five months the railways have not been wholly unoccupied. D-Day happened very shortly after that date, but in spite of that and in spite of preoccupation with flying bombs the railways have given attention to this matter, and I submit it deserves consideration. This is a sincere scheme which we offer in the full belief that it is in the national interest that it should be adopted, and all we ask is impartial consideration.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
My Lords, I rise to congratulate the Government upon their decision to appoint a Minister of Civil Aviation. I believe that the announcement will give encouragement to all those who believe that we should take our rightful place in the world of civil aviation. I regard it as a great step forward and I think those who, like myself, are regular warriors in these debates on civil aviation, can take great individual satisfaction from that announcement. To-day we have had from the Lord Privy Seal a statement that the powers of the new Minister are going to be greater than those outlined in the various statements that have been made between the announcement and the debate to-day I think that on the whole we can look forward with some satisfaction to the arrival in this country of Lord Swinton to take up this post. I am of opinion that in the circumstances Lord Swinton was a happy choice and that the good offices which he performed as we all know in certain critical years before the war will give him that prestige and also that experience of the Air Ministry which are going to be very necessary if we bear in mind the statement that Lord Beaverbrook has made.
I do not know whether we are going to have Lord Beaverbrook intervening in the the civil if aviation debates in the future, but if we are not and we are going to have Lord Swinton sitting in his place here, then I think a word of thanks should be given to Lord Beaverbrook for the work he has done since he first began to take an interest in civil aviation. At the same time, Lord Beaverbrook having had an experience of nearly twelve months in this work, some of us would have liked to see him continuing to take a personal part in it.
542 Some of those who have spoken in this debate have rather suggested that we have not made any progress at all. But if we remember the position when these debates started eighteen months ago I would suggest that we have made very considerable progress. It is quite true that some of the measures that were advocated have, perhaps, not been carried out quite in the full measure that we hoped for. In the early days I remember that what we were advocating mostly was an Imperial Conference. Well we have had an Imperial Conference. It has never been stated fully what occurred at that Conference, but I have no doubt that out of it there have emerged many constructive proposals. I myself initiated a debate in this House asking for a London air port. I understand that something of that kind has been initiated. We have heard to-day from Lord Brabazon, and I have heard something of the same kind myself, that this London air port is not progressing, not being completed, quite in the manner that those who take a great interest in civil aviation would wish to see. If what Lord Brabazon said is true —and I think an answer should be made to it and no doubt one will be—that the civil side of the Air Ministry never even saw the plans for it, then I think that is a very serious allegation. If it is true it shows what a tremendous fight the new Minister will have to put up against the Secretary of State.
I suggest to the Secretary of State, if the Under-Secretary would convey it to him, that Sir Archibald Sinclair should concede everything he can to the new Minister that is compatible with military security. I suggest that military security should not continually be made the excuse for giving nothing. The Minister knows as well as I do that it is quite easy for planning to be done without really hurting the efficiency of the military machine. I would rather have seen the new Minister called Minister of Air Transport instead of Minister of Civil Aviation. My reason for saying that is that the term Minister of Civil Aviation suggests that his activities will only start when the war is over, whereas they should of course start immediately. If we are to wait until the war is over before any plans are made we are going to be landed in that intermediate period when the aircraft factories are turning over from war production to peace production 543 and we are going to be in the position when nothing but second-rate transport machines can be handed over to civil aviation. I would have liked to see a new Minister come in and take over not only the transport part, which is at present situated in the Air Ministry, but also immediately the responsibility which is at present in the hands of the Secretary of State for the B.O.A.C. and so have command over the whole range and every aspect of air transport. However, that apparently is not to be. It is quite obvious that he is going to be nothing but a planning Minister.
But do not think that I do not appreciate that this is a great advance, because so far we have had nobody whatever who has paid any attention to planning anything in the direction of civil aviation. We are, however, progressing by fits and starts which seem to come with extraordinary regularity after debates in your Lordships' House or just before debates in your Lordships' House. It is only then that any progress is made. Lord Beaverbrook said that civil aviation will be decided in the factories and air routes of the world and went on to say that what factories did for war aviation they can do for civil aviation. I do not believe there is any noble Lord in this House who does not agree with that statement. There is no question whatever that the factories in this country can produce the best civil air transport machines in the world if they are given a chance. Up to date they have not been allowed to have that chance.
I was very pleased indeed to hear the Lord Privy Seal say that the new Minister is going to have the right of access to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. That is the most important announcement he made. Unless the new Minister has access to the Ministry of Aircraft Production obviously no planning of any kind for new aircraft can be done. The other point he made was that the Minister for Civil Aviation is going to have the same importance as the Secretary of State for Air or the First Lord of the Admiralty. That is extremely helpful. The questions which I put to the Lord Privy Seal to-day are only questions which he will have put to him by the new Minister or which will be put by the new Minister when he returns from Africa to whoever he has 544 to apply to in order to find out what has been done. One thing I would like to know is this: Is the new Minister going to sit inside the Air Ministry or is he going to have a separate Department? Is the Civil Department of the Air Ministry to remain inside the present Air Ministry or is it to be moved into a new Ministry of Civil Aviation? If he is to sit in the present Air Ministry he is going to be nothing more than an Under-Secretary for Air, call him what you like. He must have a Department behind him. We had an example of that before the war when Sir Thomas Inskip was made Minister for Co-ordinating Defence. He had no Department behind him but simply sat in a small office and nobody took the slightest notice of him from beginning to end. I hope that will not happen in this cas. That is the danger we have to provide against, that this new Ministry will be strangled at birth. It is perfectly easy for it to be strangled. It is for your Lordships to insist that it shall grow up, become strong, and take its proper place.
There are various other questions which the new Minister will have to decide, and one of the most important is whether, immediately after the war, we are going to run our services with British aircraft or whether we are going to accept the extremely generous offer on behalf of America to let us have American aircraft. It must be realized that if we accept that offer we shall have to purchase accessories and equipment for airfields in order that those aircraft may be run. I suggest that it is most important that we should have British aircraft and that we should not accept that offer, because if we start with American aircraft and use them for three or four years we shall have to re-equip every airfield before we can accept the British aircraft which will be coming along then. What I would like to see is British aircraft produced after the war as good as can be got in America. That, I presume, the new Minister will try to do. There is no reason why a British aircraft as good as the DC9 should not be produced, nor a British aircraft of a larger type as good as the Lockheed Constellation. I am certain that our draughtsmen, if given the task, can provide plans for civil aeroplanes just as good as, if not better than, those. I am also certain that they can be produced in a very short period and that we need not wait until 1950, as suggested.
545 I would like to make a further suggesttion that aircraft designers themselves should be given the opportunity of putting forward their designs and should not have Brabazon Committees—with all respect to Lord Brabazon—and large numbers of people trying to work out designs. I think the matter should be left to them.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
May I be allowed to correct the noble Viscount on that point? I have nothing to do with design. All I put forward was users' requirements.
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
I thought perhaps the noble Lord held a more important position than he does. I thought his Committee was an all-powerful Committee. It is not. Then I withdraw. But I always understood that was what the Committee was doing. Apparently if that is the case very little has been done, because we have been told by Ministers again and again that "We have the Brabazon Committee, it is working."
§ VISCOUNT ROTHERMERE
The Brabazon plane whetted our appetites, but apparently that is already out of date. I do not know if it ever got to the drawing board, but certainly it never got further than the drawing board. I think it is high time some new transport plane not only got to the board but also got into prototype. There is no reason why that should not take place.
I am not going to enter now into discussion about the British Overseas Airways Corporation, because I have done that on previous occasions, but I should like to say in passing that I think there is room for all. I think there is probably room for the British Overseas Airways Corporation, room for the railways if they want to run air services, and room for the shipping companies as well. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, when he said that there should not be licences given for more than one line running to one place, but if we cannot have parallel competition we can have comparable competition. We can have more than one line which will enable us, if we travel; to decide which is the best one. Although they may be going to different places they will inevitably react on each other's efficiency. If you 546 have a complete monopoly, with one governing body, with one line only, you can decide on efficiency only by judging it in relation to a foreign company. By the time you have judged that it will probably be too late to do anything about it. I urge most strongly that both in the foreign and home services there should be licences given for a limited number of different lines that do not compete with each other but which enable the public to decide which is the most efficient. It will be most interesting to decide whether private enterprise running certain lines is going to be superior to the British Overseas Airways Corporation running another line. In suggesting that I hope I shall have the support of all members of the House who would like to see the test made.
Now I would like to say something about conferences. There is to be a Dominions Conference on October 23 and apparently it is to be a conference to which officials will go but not Ministers. I should like the Lord Privy Seal to explain the reason for that. Does it mean that no question of policy is going to be discussed? Is the conference to be technical and what technicalities are going to be discussed as between the various parts of the Empire? Is there a real reason why no Ministers are attending this conference, or is it a preparation for another conference? And why is an international conference to be held which apparently Ministers will attend? I should like the Lord Privy Seal to tell us whether the new Minister for Civil Aviation is going to attend the conference at Chicago and, if he does attend, whom he will take with him. Will he take a proper number of experts with him? I would like to know also what is expected to be discussed at that conference. Is it merely the freedom of the air, or what? I do not think it has ever been stated what the conference has been called for—information about it has been very meagre—or what conclusions are expected to be arrived at, or what is its programme. I think your Lordships should have information about that.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, told us that it is taking place at a peculiar time. There must be a reason for that, and perhaps the Lord Privy Seal can tell us. I think he said fifty-five nations were being asked to attend. Is the Minister for Civil Aviation, when he goes there, to be ready 547 to answer questions? Suppose he is asked by some of the nations whether they can buy some British aircraft, what is the answer going to be? Is he going to say, "No, we have no aeroplanes. We shall not have for five or six years. You will have to go to another market"? Is that going to be his answer? If he is questioned as to where the British lines are likely to run, as to whether they will be running from or to this country or that country, is he going to reply, "Yes," or "No, "or" I don't know"? What information is he going to take to this conference? What policy are the Government going to lay down there? I understand that another great country of the world is not going to be represented there. Russia has received an invitation but she is not going to the conference. That is greatly to be regretted by everybody. It would be a great advantage if she took part in such a conference on civil aviation. Perhaps after the Chicago Conference there will be another one in Moscow.
I would like to know on what basis the invitations to the conference were sent out. Some States, I note, were invited and some were not invited. I understand that the Argentine has not received an invitation. I would like to know on what grounds no invitation was sent to the Argentine. She certainly has made plenty of grounds for not receiving an invitation. She has completely failed to carry out many of the necessary proceedings—such as getting rid of her German Ambassador —which would give her the right to an invitation. I understand, though, that since the date at which the invitations were sent out, the German Ambassador to the Argentine has been got rid of. However, I do not suppose that the reason the Argentine did not receive an invitation was connected with her attitude towards the German Ambassador—though it would have been a most excellent reason. When I look at the list, I see that the Irish Free State, which has a German Ambassador, and has rejected all threats and requests that have been made with a view to having him removed, has received an invitation and is going to be represented at this conference at Chicago. So I would like to know in what circumstances these invitations were sent out.
It would suggest to me that there is a new international importance attaching to 548 this matter. The first thing that occurs to me is that if you fly over the Argentine, you do not get anywhere except to the sea. There is no place to get to from the Argentine, and therefore there would be nothing really to be got out of the Argentine if she was represented at the conference. In the case of the Irish Free State matters are very different, though her sins are certainly as great as those of the Argentine in respect to collaborating with the enemy. But, geographically, she is in the way. She has got to be flown over, and, very often, aeroplanes will have to descend on her territory. We cannot afford to leave the Irish Free State out. It must be that either invitations are sent out or withheld on moral grounds or on purely practical grounds. I think that the Lord Privy Seal might tell us some reason for this extraordinary state of affairs.
I do not wish to detain the House any longer, but I would just like to echo what the noble Marquess has said when, for the umpteenth time, he has addressed your Lordships on the importance of civil aviation and the future of the air world. His words as to its importance have been echoed on all occasions by the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. The aeroplane is destined to have greater and greater speed, greater comfort, assured safety. There is no doubt whatever that with the new engines that are coming there is going to be reduced fuel consumption, and, therefore, far cheaper travel, We have a most wonderful future in civil aviation to look forward to. I suggest that we should continue to force the Government to recognize it in order that, after this war, if we look back, we shall be able to say that in a field that is going to be greater than any other we have maintained our greatness. The issue of whether we do so or do not will be decided in the very near future. I appeal to the Government to give all the powers that are possible to the new Minister. So far as I am concerned he takes office with my congratulations and my hopes for his success.
§ 4.55 P.m.
§ EARL AMHERST
My Lords, before I address you I think it is proper that I should explain in what way I can be said to be an interested party in civil aviation. For some years before the war I was employed professionally in, and concerned 549 with, civil aviation. At first I was employed on the flying side, and later on the managerial and administrative side. I have lately returned from the Middle East, where for some time I have been serving with the R.A.F., and I hope shortly to rejoin the air organization of the railway companies. I should add that I am still a director of one of the railway-owned companies of which I was formerly general manager. You will have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, of the plans which the railway groups have submitted to the Government. To-day, I wish to limit my remarks to certain aspects of those plans.
In the first instance, why have the railway companies decided to go into the aviation business? I think the answer is this. The problem is one of over-all transportation. In the future, the air side will play an ever-increasing role, but unless it is incorporated in, or perhaps I should say closely co-ordinated with, surface transport, it cannot, by itself, give full facilities to the travelling public. There is, I suggest, no black magic about air transport. Given suitable equipment, suitable crews, suitable machines, the actual flying from point to point is the easier part of the air transport operator's job. With the increased reliability of aircraft, the excellence of air crews and the invention of more aids to air navigation, this part of the problem is comparatively simple. The trouble arises before passengers, freights or mails are loaded and airborne, and, again, after the flight when they are unloaded and have to get to their final destination. That part of the problem is a surface transport problem. In Europe, and in this country especially, where air-hauls are short, this problem seriously arises. And unless there is full co-ordination between the air and ground facilities the valuable time gained in the air will probably be frittered away on the ground. Therefore, it seems that if this is to be avoided there must be close interlocking of all forms of transport within the travel area concerned.
The railway companies came to this conclusion some time ago—and I am sure that they were and are right—that first-class travelling facilities cannot be provided without full co-ordination (in which I include inter-availability) between air and ground. Some ten years ago, therefore, they entered the lists, and 550 they did so with considerable energy. To-day they have provided a plan on a very much larger and more important scale, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, has said, covers not only this country but also much of Europe. The railway group are putting forward this plan in the belief, which I support, that, if Government policy permits, they will be able to provide the travelling public with a first-class facility over this zone.
It has been said in some quarters that the sole purpose of the railways in entering the air business is to restrict the air side in favour of the surface side. I am quite sure that that is not true, and I base my certainty on personal experience. Some years ago I was employed by an independent air company, which at the time was in direct competition with the railway-owned air company. The energy and drive of the railway management made competition hard slogging. The complete tie-up (if I may use such an expression) between the surface facilities and the air, which included inter-availability, made it impossible for the company which I was serving to compete unless considerable sums of money were expended in setting up duplicate surface organizations. It should not be forgotten that such surface organizations include important matters such as advertising and agencies. Both these activities produce much of the traffic, and traffic is, of course, the life-blood of any transport organization. Later, this independent company was amicably taken over by certain railway interests, and I along with the other goods and chattels of the company.
From personal observation of the way in which the railway direction was carried out, not to mention the money expended and the resulting improvement in the services concerned, I say confidently to-day that the aim and idea of the railways in putting forward this very large and comprehensive scheme for Europe and this country is to provide for greater efficiency and expansion, and that their aim is the reverse of restriction. Why have the railway companies offered to supply services covering most of Europe and this country, and, having done so, why have not they gone further? Why have they limited themselves to this zone? (I would emphasize 551 the word "zone"; it may be that the Government may find some virtue in the zoning idea). I think that the answer is twofold. In the first place, this zone represents, broadly speaking, the territorial limits which were granted to the railway group under the Act of 1929. Secondly, this zone represents the area in which a tremendous amount of experience has been gained and a large ground organization has been built up by the railway companies.
The experience and the contacts which have been built up over a period of a hundred years or more represent an enormous asset which I would ask the Government to take seriously into consideration, quite apart from the physical properties, because I am sure that, whatever instrument is used to operate air transport in Europe, unless it is tied up with such an organization on the ground it will not be able to provide a first-class service. On the other hand, to attempt to duplicate the experience, organization and so on of the railways would be a vast and very costly undertaking, even if it were possible to buy that experience. I would ask your Lordships to accept that any attempt to run an air service in these days without proper ground co-ordination is not in the public interest.
This may be the moment for me to refute the charge that the railway companies, in making their plan to cover this zone, have tried to skim the cream of the European services. An examination of the plan will show that many of the services listed have not hitherto been operated by British interests, and further that quite a number of them cannot be held to contain an abundance of cream. By and large, therefore, I would say that this scheme which the railway group has put up is prepared to take the rough with the smooth, with a leavening of the untried, and as such is bold and progressive.
I should now like to turn to the question of speed. There has been a great deal of talk lately, in letters to editors and general commotion on this subject, and speeds of 300, 400 miles an hour have been mentioned as being immediately necessary for post-war civil air transport. It is true that speed is the essence of air transport, but generally speaking on short routes the saving of time by using a 552 cruising speed of say 300 instead of 200 miles an hour is not very great. To quote an instance, the saving of time on the run from London to Paris would be about 20 minutes if a speed of 30o instead of 200 miles an hour was used. Speed can be a good servant, but I am not at all sure that it is equally a good master. To make it a good servant we must consider it intelligently in conjunction with the sort of route on which it is to be used and the operating cost of the power units concerned. Your Lordships may find it of interest to note that according to the present available figures the operating cost of a cruising speed of 260 miles an hour are exactly double those of a cruising speed of 180 miles an hour.
This is a problem, I think, that the long-haul operators must inevitably face, because in the long haul considerable time is saved by high speed; but it is not so true of the short haul, and I doubt very much if the travelling public would gladly face a higher air fare caused by increased operating costs for the sake of the time saved by using really high speeds over short routes. Arguments against this may be raised on the grounds of prestige and competition, but I suggest that both these arguments can be met by the reliability, the regularity, convenience and facility of the services offered. Therefore I suggest that in the railway plan the average zoo-mile-an-hour cruising speed which has been set down as an immediate target is a sensible one in the light of the existing power units available. You may also find it of interest to note that very nearly the same conclusion was reached by totally independent operators, the Swedish Air Lines, who have laid down a cruising speed of 205 miles an hour as being an economical speed at which short-haul air routes can be operated at this juncture. This view, I believe, is also supported by the eminent air transport authority of the United States, Dr. Warner.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that in this scheme which the railways have put up they have not asked for a monopoly; in fact, they are prepared to go into partnership or co-operate with any established air service operator in the zone. They are prepared to do so without subsidy, provided that no subsidized company is to operate against them. They are also prepared to do so 553 provided the zone in which they are allowed to operate is large enough to enable them to spread their maintenance costs over a large fleet, which must be fully occupied. There is nothing so deadly for any transport concern as machinery lying idle, whether it be rolling-stock or aircraft. Therefore it is very important that the zone should be large enough to permit a large air fleet to be continually in the air. Previously I have mentioned the words "railway direction"; from what I know of this plan I am certain that the intention is to employ the best British brains and talent available from all sources, many of which will, it is hoped, come from the Services, and not the least part of them from the Royal Air Force. In no case do the railways intend to run an exclusively railway club or to make this organization into a home for tired railwaymen. Finally, I would ask the Government to consider this plan as a serious and studied contribution to the effort to place British civil aviation on a sound commercial basis (and not a drain on the public purse), which is where I think it should stand.
§ 5.14 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned. I understand that the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, desires to speak, and Lord Gifford is going to speak. I should like to say a few words myself, and then after the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has addressed your Lordships I suppose the noble Marquess will speak again, and more power to him. The time is growing very late, and this is a very important subject. We have heard all that the shipping interests and the railway interests have to say, besides various other vested interests, and I do not think this is a proper hour for a matter of this importance to be either debated or decided. It is for that reason that I suggest for your Lordships' consideration that the whole matter be adjourned to another day. It seems to me very unfortunate that members of your Lordships' House like the noble Viscount, Lord Knollys, who has put in a welcome very rare appearance here as Chairman of the B.O.A.C., should have found himself unable to await the debate's conclusion. He at least would have been able to tell us something about this very important matter. He might have told us whether he is, all that Lord Brabazon said 554 he was or whether, as I suspect, the tail wags the dog. I would rather like to know what has been going on in West Africa, what General Critchley and he had to do with this old-school-tie appointment of Lord Swinton—a most unhappy appointment. I do not suppose for a moment that he enjoys the confidence of the aircraft industry. These matters are very important. They require a great deal of airing and I do not think this is the time to do it.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Morris.)
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
My Lords, the Government must resist the Motion. There is other business that is awaiting the attention of the House. It is impossible to allot a day later on for continuing the debate. We are very full with business for some time ahead.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
There is the Town and Country Planning Bill, which must be pressed forward now. If this debate is to be concluded I must ask the House to continue the sitting now.
Well, feeling appears to be against it, so I had better withdraw. I do not care myself how long we stay.
§ Motion for Adjournment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.17 p.m.
My Lords, I had great pleasure in listening earlier this year to a very frank and interesting talk given to members by the Chairman and Director-General of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. I do not intend today to repeat much of what was said that day, because I realize that it was confidential, but I must say I was very impressed with what I heard. I was impressed because the Chairman and Director-General had gone all over the world to see for themselves what was happening in their organization, and I think that General Critchley put his finger on the weak link when he said that he was not in any way satisfied with the ground organization of the B.O.A.C. It is because I realize that it is vitally necessary 555 to improve that ground organization that I venture to address your Lordships to-day.
I was impressed with the plan of the B.O.A.C., I was impressed with what they intend to do in the post-war years. I gather they had in mind on the training side a kind of miniature air training scheme, and that not only pilots and navigators but also clerks and stewards would receive a course of training. A lot of people talk about bringing pilots out of the R.A.F., but however good a pilot 'may be in the R.A.F., he probably needs a year's training before he is fitted for appointment in civil aviation. Because of what I have heard, I have come to the conclusion that the Government have made the right decision, with certain reservations, in their policy of making the B.O.A.C. their chosen instrument. They have made the right decision from the point of view of training. They have made the right decision from the point of view of the technical development of aircraft and the technical development of the maze of equipment needed for modern air service. They have also made the right decision from the point of view of maintenance, from the point of view of purchase of aircraft, and from the point of view of traffic problems in their broadest sense. But—and this is the crucial point—on the commercial side I am convinced that the chosen instrument will need help, all the help it can get, from private industry, particularly private interests connected with other forms of transport. That mainly means the shipping and railway companies.
As a frequent traveller by Imperial Airways in the past I realize that that company often suffered from second-rate agents. I once met one in the Mediterranean who, I regret to say, did not know on which days Imperial Airways aircraft arrived and left. Imperial Airways suffered that way because shipping companies have the best offices and the best local connexions. There are many other great corporations with world-wide interests—for example, the Shell group and Lever Brothers. How do these great corporations run their businesses? When they open up some new development, do they try and run it entirely from London? No. They form a subsidiary company, bringing in local interests and people with local 556 knowledge. To give one instance, a subsidiary of the Shell company—Burma Shell. I feel that this is the way civil aviation should be conducted after the war. Lord Chatfield spoke for the shipping companies and Lord Balfour and the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, for the railway companies, but each of them visualized a quite separate organization. I do not agree with that. I think B.O.A.C. should be empowered to form subsidiary companies with local interests along with shipping companies and railway companies. As Lord Brabazon said, the thing to be avoided is parallel interests. What we want is co-operative interests. I ask the Government to consider this proposal very seriously and make an announcement that they will welcome participation on this basis by private interests.
To turn for a moment to an entirely different subject, I should like to plead the case of the helicopter. This fantastic machine, beloved of the cartoonist, and particularly by Heath Robinson, should be treated seriously and not taken as a joke. Due to the distance of airports from the centre of great cities, it is often not worth while making a journey by air of less that one hundred miles. That is one of the reasons why the British public is not air-minded. The airport is far away from the city, people never see the air liners, and therefore they just get into the train as they have always done before. Even before the war, on a journey from London to Paris, the time on the ground was almost as much as the time in the air. We are building new airports, and one hears the remark made, "Oh, how splendid, the Underground Railway will go right to it." I do not know how many noble Lords make frequent journeys by the Underground. It is a magnificent way of going four or five stations, but it is a painful way of going to a distant terminus. My plea is for research for the helicopter and for thought about the helicopter—in town planning, among other things—so that alighting areas can be provided in the middle of great cities, where the helicopter can come to rest and can take passengers from Airways House, or whatever it is called, to the airport in a few minutes.
I should like to cross swords with Lord Beaverbrook about one thing he said. Although all of us who have taken a keen 557 interest in this subject of civil aviation have great hopes of the post-war years, it is a mistake to overestimate the number of aircraft which will be involved. I believe that just before the war the revenue of the internal lines in America was only 2½ per cent. of the revenue of the railways. Before the war there were some eighty-five British transport aircraft. Even taking Lord Beaverbrook's multiple of eighteen, this would only mean fifteen hundred in post-war years, whereas the noble Lord seemed to speak in hundreds of thousands. Fifteen hundred is a smaller number of aircraft than we put over Germany in a single day. What is needed by the aircraft industry is great research so that we may produce the very best. It will not be so much a case of mass production. Before I sit down, let me repeat the view I gave in the earlier part of my speech. The B.O.A.C., the chosen instrument, needs the help of private industry and needs it badly. Private industry needs the help of the B.O.A.C. Let the answer then be cooperation, and not running separate courses.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
My Lords, the noble Marquess who raised this debate has done well in sticking to this all-important question through thick and thin. Year in, year out, he has hammered away at civil aviation, and we ought to congratulate him. I should also like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Government and Lord Beaverbrook on the work he has done while Lord Privy Seal representing the Air, because at last we are; getting quite somewhere. The Air Ministry, with all its mind and strength concentrated on the war, and the war only, has not been able to allow anything but a passing thought to post-war aviation. Its position has been that of the pilot of a great ship steering a dangerous course in a narrow channel with the motto, "Do not talk to the man at the wheel." We have now passed through a very long stretch of that Channel safely, and the time has come when, if we still cannot talk to the man at the wheel, at any rate the captain of the Ship of State must depute someone else to talk to us on this important business. To that man, in this case Lord Swinton, a man of known determination and fixed purpose, we turn with a stew hope. Perhaps after all we shill not be too late.
558 It is true we are now far behind the United States in plans and constructional programmes but, with much leeway to make up, there is still a chance that we may catch up a little if all goes well. But there is one wholly important question we ask ourselves at this critical moment in the history of British Imperial air transport. Has this new man whom we welcome to his great post been given the necessary powers and the necesssary staff and equipment to carry out the great work that has fallen upon him? If he is the Minister of Civil Aviation he must have a Ministry and he must have the full staff of the present Director of Civil Aviation under his control. A Minister without a Ministry is like a crab without a shell; he can do nothing. He must have the power to do what he wants. He must be divorced from the Air Ministry, whose hands are and will be very fully occupied to the end of this war, first with Germany and after that with Japan, and after that again they will be busy, and more than busy, with military aviation. Lord Beaverbrook has told us to-day that much of this will be granted, and for that we are grateful, but we would like to know when those powers will be granted. That is an important matter but I suppose it cannot be answered to-day. It is, however, a matter that your Lordships will watch closely. First we have the German war to finish, then the Japanese war. Lord Swinton, I am sure, is not a man to sit and twiddle his thumbs while we are winning the war.
There is big work to be done for civil aviation. During the next few weeks two conferences of enormous importance will take place, one in Montreal and the other in Chicago. Lord Swinton will go there, I hope, with the strongest following that this country can send to support and advise him. He will have the best wishes of all of us in the great work that lies before him. When he attends these conferences as a representative of Great Britain and as Minister of Civil Aviation he must have the fullest status and powers if he is to pull his weight there. He must be independent of the Air Ministry. Furthermore, he must be in a position to pursue a policy for the provision of civil machines for our great and growing needs after the war and to deal with the part to be played in oversea routes both by private initiative and the chosen instrument of the B.O.A.C. Again there are the great shipping and 559 railway interests which should have a real chance to take part in post-war aviation. All these matters have to be considered by the Ministry of Civil Aviation when he gets back from West Africa and has the opportunity of exploring into the depths of the abstruse questions with his officers. He has to learn the whole thing. Let us wish him well and hope that he will fulfil our great expectation. For this Lord Swinton must have the fullest status, scope and power, and the best possible team with him, and he must have that power as soon as possible.
§ 5.34 P.m.
My Lords, I had abandoned any idea of addressing your Lordships again particularly at this hour, but now that I see Lord Knollys has returned to the House I feel it would be only graceful after the remarks I made about his absence if I said how pleased I was to see him back and I hope we may hear him, if not to-night then on some other occasion, on this subject. If his silence hitherto has been voluntary I deplore it. If it has been involuntary on the other hand then it raises a rather more serious question. I hope there is no suggestion here of there being any sealed lips or any nonsense of that kind so far as the B.O.A.C. is concerned. After all, he is a man who has what might be called inside knowledge of these matters and it is a right and proper thing in an assembly like this that we should hear from him just what is going on. We are only speculating, guessing, talking in the dark, whereas he knows. I trust therefore if there are any impediments to his coming here and telling us just what is going on in his organization they will be speedily removed, because the utmost candour is now called for in this battle of civil aviation.
Every one knows—The Times and the Express both had it this morning—that the Americans are getting ready—and why should they not?—to take first place in this matter. They are manufacturing aircraft that will be ready to do the trip between New York and London very quickly at a cost of about £60, and nothing will make me believe we are in a position to compete with that at the moment. The question we have been discussing this afternoon, as I understand it, is what steps are we taking in this matter of civil aviation. The answer the 560 Government give us is, I am afraid, a lemon. The individual they have appointed to deal with this matter is Lord Swinton. So the music goes on and round and round go the jobs. This place is simply crawling with former Secretaries of State for Air and now another one is being brought back from West Africa, where I can well believe he was doing quite a good job, in order that he shall take over if you please this new Ministry of Civil Aviation.
What qualifications he has for it I do not know. If he has any, they have certainly been concealed from me. I asked some one the other day who he was and what he had done, and he told me that beyond changing his name once or twice he could not tell me what the noble Lord had done. Some one informed me he had for a time been Secretary of State for Air. Then I remembered that in fact he had. If I remember rightly, his tenure of that office was chiefly remarkable for a somewhat undignified brush with my illustrious namesake Lord Nuffield, of which, if my memory serves me, he got very much the worse. This is the gentleman into whose hands this new baby of civil aviation is to be delivered. Lord Brabazon referred to him, I think, as a Mr. Know-All. I should prefer to call him Mr. Know-Nothing. But let us hope I am wrong. At last the noble Marquess, having raised this matter, not for tile first time this afternoon, has got the Government to the pitch when they have had to appoint a separate Minister of Civil Aviation, although, as I say, he is the last person I should have thought any Government of any sense would have appointed to handle this matter. But, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, has said, we are making progress, slow though it be.
I hope that Lord Swinton will soon find it convenient, with the assistance of the B.O.A.C. and Lord Knollys and Air Commodore Critchley, to return to this country and take up his task. There is no time to be lost. I cannot understand why he is not here to-day. I hope the legislation necessary to implement this new task will be put in hand immediately. The noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, pointed out that other work is waiting for the House. There is, for instance, the Town and Country Planning Bill. I myself can conceive nothing more important 561 than this civil aviation matter. Therefore one can only wish that the Government will act with speed and get on with this matter. Let us hope that Lord Swinton will show considerable alacrity, great ingenuity and vastly more ability than I find myself able to credit him with, and if not that he will speedily be replaced by someone who can get on with the job
§ 5.40 p.m.
My Lords, having been the first I think to advocate the appointment of a Minister of Civil Aviation in this House more than a year and a half ago, to which the Leader of the House very courteously replied saying that it was a new idea and would have to be considered, it is very gratifying to know that a Minister for Civil Aviation has now been appointed. We all wish him the very best of luck and I agree with Lord Rothermere in thinking that it will be quite necessary for him to have a separate Ministry and personnel. It would be hopeless to leave him to deal with these manifold problems by himself.
I will not keep your Lordships more than a minute, but I would like to say one thing in support of the noble Lords, Lord Chatfield and Lord Balfour of Burleigh. Lord Chatfield referred to many instances of scant courtesy shown to shipping companies' plans to run air lines and Lord Balfour had very much the same tale to tell. I was in the perhaps unfortunate position of trying to run an air line before the war. I was concerned with a company which started in 1935 and I can assure those noble Lords that their tale of woe is not a new one. We had plans for running air lines abroad. One was, for a line to Switzerland in, I think, 1937. We got the agreement of both the Swiss and French authorities to fly over their territory, but we failed dismally to get any sign of approval from our Air Ministry or any encouragement. That kind of thing is apparently still going on now. In fact, only a few months ago we again tried without success to get permission to run an air line abroad. However, the great weight which can be brought to bear by shipping and railway companies may produce something different.
I was interested in Lord Balfour's very impressive document about the plans of 562 the railways because one of the lines which he said they were going to run was the line we ran before the war. Indeed we had a somewhat acrimonious argument with the then licensing authority against the railway company and we, though an insignificant company, defeated the railway company. I hope that now we are going to have a new Minister for Civil Aviation these questions will receive the consideration and the fair dealing which we are entitled to expect.
§ 5.43 P.m.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
My Lords, I can speak again only with your permission but I am sure you will be satisfied if I speak very briefly. My noble friend who raised this subject need make no apologies. Indeed he ought to rejoice at his achievements. Most of the questions raised by him I answered when I made the statement of Government policy, but there is one thing with which I did not deal and that is the chosen instrument. The chosen instrument is the policy of Parliament. It was decided by both Houses. The conferring of a monopoly of subsidies on British Overseas Airways Corporation was done in 1939 in the life of this Parliament. The Bill was passed by the same members who now sit in the House of Commons and, I am pleased to say, by the same noble Lords who now carry on debates on aviation. Only Parliament can knock that measure down again. If there is a strong feeling that the British Overseas Airways Corporation should cease to enjoy those functions, Parliament must show its disposition and work its will. It is incredible that the chosen instrument could be dealt with lightly when we recall that every Conservative member of the House of Commons in 1939 voted for the chosen instrument, and every Socialist, I think, or most of them, voted against it. The position is now reversed. Every Socialist, I understand, wishes to sustain the British Overseas Airways Corporation as the chosen instrument and many at any rate of the Tories are against it. It has been a wonderful conversion—a double-barreled conversion. There has been nothing like it since the noble Lord, Lord Keynes, was converted to the gold standard.
I am asked whether the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton will go to Chicago. Yes, I think Viscount Swinton will go to 563 Chicago if he returns to London in time. He has many and heavy duties to perform in West Africa. I am not sure that he will get back in time but no doubt, if he returns in time, he will want to go to the conference. I am asked what is our policy at the conference? Our policy is fixed. It was fixed some time ago.
I do not want to interrupt, but I am amazed at the suggestion that Viscount Swinton may go to Chicago if he can get back to London. He ought to have, been here long ago. He should have come back by air. I suggest that the noble Lord is treating the whole subject with contempt, in suggesting that Viscount Swinton can come back when it suits him.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
I am sure your Lordships will understand that it is quite impossible for Viscount Swinton to lay down his duties in West Africa in a moment.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
He must discharge his obligations there. He must clear up and hand over his duties to his successor. It is incredible to think that he could leave his work there unfinished. To go back to the question of British policy, we propose that international regulation should be imposed on civil aviation controlled by an international authority. That authority would lay down technical standards and would regulate air transport en such matters as frequencies and rates of carriage. We seek to eliminate uneconomic competition. By "uneconomic competition" we mean wasteful and improvident subsidy races. We agree with the principle of international regulation of subsidies and we look forward to the day when subsidies will be paid no longer. For this reason it is necessary to have a conference on regulations and arrangements. I think I have answered all the questions raised by the noble Lord. I have not asked him to postpone any of his questions pending the return of Viscount Swinton. I should have thought the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, would be pleased with what I told the House about Viscount Swinton's powers.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
And also with the declaration I made about subsidies, which is entirely along the lines of his speech. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, I would say there is great difference between the position I occupied and that which Viscount Swinton takes up. I was Chairman of a Committee; he is a Minister. I am sure Lord Rennell, with his wide experience, will know the difference between the powers of the Chairman of a Committee and those of a Minister. He will have administrative authority; I had none. It was my duty to co-ordinate Government policy and to arrange for an international conference. I had no executive authority whatever, no administrative authority whatever. I was merely Chairman of a Committee representing Departments. Lord Rennell asked also whether Viscount Swinton would have equal status with the Minister for Air. I said so in the careful statement I made to-day on Government policy. There is equal status in the sight of the House of Lords between Viscount Swinton who has charge of civil aviation and the Secretary of State for Air.
Now as to the chosen instrument. I am not sure that my noble friend Lord Rennell has himself made up his mind on the subject of the chosen instrument. I think that, perhaps, he is doubtful about how the chosen instrument should be disposed of. I always give great attention to anything which he says, and though I will not be sure of this, I have heard that he has expressed some doubt about the possibility of dispensing with the chosen instrument, and has intimated that he has in mind other methods of dealing with the situation. There are many like him, and until people, including noble Lords who are members of this House, do make up their minds there can be very little expectation of dealing with the chosen instrument—if there is any suggesgestion that the statutory position of the B.O.A.C. should be changed.
Next I come to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. His speech, as usual, held the attention of the House, and we were all made butts for a little bit of his fun—which is as it should be. I would like, if I may, to add a little to what he said concerning the record of Lord Swinton 565 at the Air Ministry. Not only did Lord Swinton lay down the policy of the shadow factories, with great daring and, no doubt, with immense difficulty, persuading his colleagues to support him in public expenditure which at that time was, according to public opinion, quite difficult to justify, but he persuaded his colleagues to put all that public money into the shadow factories. We must not forget the benefit that he conferred on us at that time, for those factories were essential to the provision of our defence in 1040. But he did more than that. He laid down the bomber programme. The bomber programme was his work as Minister. He put through the Halifax, the Stirling and the Manchester (which is now known as the Lancaster). Never can we forget the advantages and the benefits which Lord Swinton conferred on us at a time when people were not prepared to make extensive preparations under threats of war.
With regard to the conferences referred to by Lord Brabazon, the Ottawa Conference is an official conference only, and Ministers do not attend such conferences. The conference at Chicago will be an international conference and no doubt Lcrd Swinton will go there. The Commonwealth Conference on the official level is for the purpose of discussing Empire routes and landing places, types of aircraft required, military routes across the Pacific, the sectionalization of through services and technical standards. That is roughly the basis of the official discussions in Ottawa. I do not mind, in the least, Lord Brabazon's doubts about that conference. He is doubtful as to the results, but I think that there will be agreement upon these issues. That is what we have to look forward to, I believe. Lord Brabazon rightly says that he has suffered a great deal under the speeches of my noble friend and myself. But we have suffered a great deal under some speeches, too. If he is going to appeal for the sympathy of the House, my noble friend and I will appeal for it also having regard to the speeches to which we have had to listen.
Lord Brabazon wanted to know something about the extent of the relations between the new Minister and the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Lord Brabazon and I both know perfectly well that it depends upon the Minister. No obstacle 566 will stand in his way if he is determined to deal face to face with the Minister of Aircraft Production, and that I am sure Lord Swinton will do. I am sure that he will deal face to face with the Minister of Aircraft Production, who, I may say, is very sympathetic towards civil aviation. This is a great new step forward. You will see that when the Minister of Civil Aviation has been introduced to the Minister of Aircraft Production they will be able to talk about the types of aircraft required by civil aviation, and the Minister will be in a position to place an order with the Minister of Aircraft Production for the building of aircraft, providing that he has the sanction of the Treasury. I did not, I think, hear any compliments paid to the Treasury here to-day. Oh yes! I did—there was a good word from Lord Chatfield. The Treasury can sanction, the Minister of Civil Aviation can place, and the Minister of Aircraft Production can accept orders for building civil aircraft without reference to the Air Ministry at all. The same with the Admiralty. Lord Brabazon rightly said that there are difficulties standing in the way of easy arrangement of business of this type, but none the less we will manage it.
One more point which was raised by Lord Brabazon I wish to deal with very briefly. No criticism whatsoever can be directed against the British Government for having failed to provide transport aircraft, and I call Lord Brabazon to witness the truth, honesty and justice of that statement. In 1940 and 1941 when I was Aircraft Minister, and in 1941 and 1942 when Lord Brahazon himself was in office, we had to do everything we possibly could to get fighters and bombers which were urgently required for the defence of Great Britain. Raw materials were difficult, machine tools were terrible, jigs were impossible. Every kind of difficulty confronted us, and if anyone had approached Lord Brabazon or myself and had said: "You must now produce some transport aircraft" he would have been met with an absolute refusal by either one of us. It is to the glory of the country that we did not deal with transport aircraft at that period. It was a magnificent decision on the part of the Government. We were doing all that could be done to put every fighter and bomber that could possibly be built at the disposal of the 567 R.A.F. There was not anything which we did not throw over, there was no trouble that we did not encounter, no sacrifice that we did not make to get fighter and bomber aircraft for the defence of Britain.
Mention has been made of design staff. Design staff was kept occupied to the fullest extent on the problems that confronted us. If we had had any design staff to spare we could have modified more American aircraft, for we were getting a flow of such aircraft which were no use to us for any operational purposes at that time. They had to be modified. Where could we have got design staff at that time for transport aircraft? What would have been the use of talking to a man concerned with the provision of such staff about transferring some to work on civil aircraft?
Now I come to the noble and gallant Admiral, Lord Chatfield. He has spoken about B.O.A.C. and the subsidy. The B.O.A.C. is a monopoly of subsidy only. That statement seems to arouse some antagonism in some quarters from time to time. I do not think I can put it in any other way. I do not think I can express myself in any other language and adequately represent the position. I was delighted to hear the noble and gallant Lord talk about free enterprise. It is a much finer phrase than private enterprise. I hope that the phrase will commend itself to many speakers in this House and elsewhere. With regard to the noble Lord's question as to Lord Swinton's position, as I have said before, Lord Swinton will not be like the Admiralty controlling the Mercantile Marine. Lord Swinton will be in the position, as it were, of the Minister of Transport controlling civil aviation. Lord Chatfield said that he tried to get some money out of the Treasury to buy oil. I know his difficulties. I only wish he had cured the Treasury when he was a Minister. It would have been a great thing if when he became a Minister he had taken hold of the Treasury and said that there must be no more nonsense of that sort; but we cannot blame the Treasury for holding their fortress.
My noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh spoke about the railway plan. I agree that it is a splendid plan, and, as he described it, a glimpse into the future. 568 But it is also in one respect a memory of the past, for the railway companies put forward two types of aircraft which are inferior to the American DC3, which is already an obsolete aircraft. But it is a splendid plan and does give us a glimpse of the future. My noble friend's speech encouraged me, and I was delighted to hear him, on behalf of the railways, taking such an intense and penetrating interest in civil aviation. I hope that the railways will develop their interest in it.
I come now to the speech of my noble friend Lord Rothermere, which, if I may say so, was a very fine Parliamentary performance. He derived satisfaction from the Government's decision, and he has been long in the forefront of the struggle to make the people civil aviation conscious. I am convinced that the Government could not be taking these decisions to-day if the British people were not becoming conscious of the benefits and advantages of civil air transport. The Imperial Conference, to which Lord Rothermere referred, accomplished a great deal; it was at that Conference that the Balfour Sub-Committee Report was accepted, and the Balfour Sub-Committee Report will be the basis of the representations which Britain will make at the conference in Chicago. We had a difficult path to tread in getting the Imperial Conference to take decisions, but the Report of the Balfour Sub-Committee will be a lasting monument to the work of that Conference. A great deal of preparatory work was done when the representatives of the Dominions met together. Lord Rothermere referred to an airport. The answer is that it is a military airport. The British Overseas Airways Corporation, as I have already said, is based on an Act of Parliament. I think that the suggestion for a Ministry of Air Transport should be passed on, and I will certainly make a point of doing that.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
May I interrupt for a moment? I have not made a speech, because the question which I wanted to ask was put by others, but I have not understood the answer, and it is very important. My question concerns the chosen instrument, and whether a subsidy is to be given to that company only or to others as well. That question was asked on behalf of the railways and the shipping interests. The answer seemed to be that Parliament had agreed 569 to the measure in 1939; but it must not be forgotten that the British Overseas Airways Corporation has never functioned, and since then we have had five years of war in which everything has changed. Do the Government keep to the policy which was adopted in 1939?
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
The point which I was making was that the B.O.A C. has a monopoly of subsidy. The only subsidy which is paid for air services over the seas must go through the B.O.A.C.; that is the statutory provision. The B.O.A.C. has a monopoly of subsidy by Act of Parliament.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
No, the B.O.A.C. is operating now as a private and independent entity, subject to the Air Ministry. Subject to the Air Ministry, the B.O.A.C. owns a number of aircraft and operates them. It has a Chairman who sits in this House, and it has a General Manager, and it operates under the authority of the Civil Aviation Department of the Air Ministry.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Naturally the Air Ministry has to have control of the B.O.A.C., on account of military operations, but the B.O.A.C. is a separate entity. The noble Viscount, Lord Rothermere, asked whether there is to be a separate department for Lord Swinton. There is a separate department, and a separate house where civil aviation carries on. There is a Director-General of Civil Aviation. Lord Rothermere made a most important point when he said that we should rely on British aircraft, because we require the servicing of British aircraft to be in the hands of British industry. That necessarily follows. If the development is on sound lines it will rely on British aircraft, and it will rely on British industry to service the aircraft at home and abroad. I have already explained about the official con- 570 ference and its technical nature, and also about the conference in Chicago, and there is no need for me to give any further explanation with regard to those two conferences.
The noble Earl, Lord Amherst, dealt largely with the railway services, and I was impressed by his speech. Lord Gifford dealt with the helicopter, which seems remote from the present discussion, but on one point I think he misunderstood my figures; I do not think he followed that I was giving the figures for motor cars.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
It is a matter of opinion whether civil aviation will become what you think or what I think. I believe that it will expand magnificently; I have the most glorious hopes of Britain in the air.
I shall be very glad if the noble Lord will answer the main question which I put in my speech: whether the Government will consider favourably the formation of subsidiary companies for particular routes which will be in the nature of a combination of the B.O.A.C. with free interests (if he likes the term), whether shipping or railway companies or any other.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
It seems to me that whether any companies act as subsidiaries to the B.O.A.C. must be the business of B.O.A.C., which is, I repeat. an independent company, carrying on under the management of my noble friend Lord Knollys and Brigadier-General Critchley, who was so rightly praised here to-day. I have no doubt that they will gladly welcome discussion on this subject.
My noble friend the Duke of Sutherland gave some comfort to me, for which I am grateful. I do not think that there is anything in the speech of Lord Grimthorpe with which I have not dealt already. I am delighted that civil aviation has passed under the care of my noble friend Lord Swinton. You must be very pleased to have a man of such strength of character, and a man who has accomplished so much in the past, at the head of the Ministry. I look forward to the development of civil aviation with great satisfaction, because it will bring the different parts of the 571 Empire closer and closer together until we reach that economic Empire which I have so long sought, and which I hope one day to find.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I hardly think that the noble Lord really believes that in the speeches he has made he has given me very much satisfaction and that I shall go home happy and contented, feeling that everything is all for the best. I am inclined to think that the noble Lord's exuberant and forceful eloquence resulted from a different cause, because he feels that he is passing on a very thankless job to a successor. That successor, as my noble friend elicited, is in West Africa, and he is to stay in West Africa until such time as the arduous duties which he has to perform there are brought to an end or, more probably, handed over to a successor. I do not know what will happen in the meantime or when he will come back.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Do we wait until Lord Swinton comes home, then, to raise another debate in this House? Because I feel that after my many attempts my task is not yet ended, and I shall have to repeat to his successor the same questions I have asked the noble Lord. There are one or two questions, however, which I should like the noble Lord to answer. I do not want to go into the matter of the chosen instrument, though it really has not been dealt with properly to-day at all, and the question my noble friend asked is the proper one. We have been anxious about the B.O.A.C.—not for the reasons the noble Lord gave in his speech but because we have felt that this element of a subsidized Government organization may have the effect of sterilizing and thwarting all private enterprise. That is what has been in the minds of the enterprising people in this country who want to know whether they are going to get a chance or not.
I can claim that these debates have had one effect: they have brought into being plans, which have been very eloquently put forward by my noble friend behind me (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) and by the 572 shipping interests, whereas at the beginning they were saying, "It is not worth while putting forward any plans, because apparently the Government, controlled by their Socialist colleagues, are thinking that all air transport will be run and maintained by the Government." We have had plans put before us, and my noble friend tells me that he has had contact with the Ministry. I have had contact with a great many interests in this country, aerodromes especially, and shipping interests, and they have told me that they have had no satisfaction whatever from the Government. They have gone with questions, they have never had a single answer, and that is really what is going on now. I feel that this debate is running to form. We began with a few questions and then, to satisfy our clamour, the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, was produced and put into a position which led me to believe that everything was coming right. We have had more debates, and now the Government, in their anxiety and difficulty, say: "We had better fob them off by forming a new Ministry, but we will keep the new Minister in Africa for some time until he is able to come back."
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE) (Lord Cecil)
My Lords, I must say it is not fair to speak as the noble Marquess does. He gives the impression that Lord Swinton is going to complete his term of office. That is not at all what Lord Beaverbrook said. What he said, in explanation to Lord Morris, was, as the noble Marquess himself must know, that if a man is occupying a very important position and, what is more, an administrative position, it is necessary for him to wind up his affairs before he can come home. If the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, himself had been Resident Minister in West Africa and had been appointed Minister of Civil Aviation, he would not have taken the next aeroplane home; he would have had certain duties which, even if he was going to hand over temporarily, he would have had to finish. That is all that is going to happen. As soon as Lord Swinton can get back here he will be returning.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I would not dream of complaining of my noble friend in his indignant reprobation 573 of what I said. But I would suggest to the noble Lord, who has given me a great deal of help on many occasions, that we have been kept waiting for a considerable time on all these matters, and the answers that tae noble Lord has given us now are not very satisfying. We do not know when this legislation for the separation of transport aviation from the Air Ministry is going to be passed. Is nothing going to be done till legislation is passed? We are told that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will have direct access to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. What does that mean? Will he have it before legislation is enacted or not, or from the moment he arrives to take up his duties? Will he be completely independent of the Air Ministry on all those subjects which we have been speaking about in this debate? We do not know anything about that.
I would venture very respectfully to say to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, that, to use a colloquial expression, we have been fobbed off long enough, and we feel very acutely that this vital question has never been properly appreciated by the Government. What have been the internecine struggles in regard to private enterprise, I cannot say, but I am quite sure that unless civil aviation takes its proper place in our industrial organization in this country we shall not keep the historic position we have had in the past. I would like to ask one particular question. I asked the noble Lord about the direct access to the Minister or whoever is carrying on the work of ordering aircraft, or whether we have got to wait until 574 legislation is enacted, which would take a considerable further amount of time. I should be glad if the noble Lord, in his final words, in his swan-song, would answer that question. And after that I shall ask permission to withdraw my Motion.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
Lord Swinton will have immediate access to the Ministry of Aircraft Production when he comes home—at once; there will be no impediment standing in the way of immediate negotiations between the two Ministries.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
I said that he would go to the conference on the 1st November if he is home in time. He may not be home in time. I think he will be home at the end of this month in time to take over, after winding up his administrative duties in West Africa.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.