HL Deb 16 January 1945 vol 134 cc556-603

2.8 p.m.

THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can make a statement on the recent International Conference on civil air transport at Chicago and the subsequent Commonwealth conversations; and to move for Papers. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I have ventured to widen the scope of the Motion which I had placed on the Paper so as to include the work which my noble friend Lord Swinton has been doing in his subsequent conversations with the nations of the Commonwealth and with the Empire. I think I owe your Lordships an apology for not having inserted these words originally. I hope your Lordships will excuse me for my inadvertence or carelessness, but in these days we are all strained to the utmost with various duties. I think your Lordships will understand that it is not that I place the Empire in an inferior position, but I feel that perhaps the point of major importance in this Motion is concerned with what the noble Viscount has to tell us in relation to the discussions he has had with the Dominions.

I am glad to feel that we have present on this occasion, and are expecting an answer from, a Minister of Civil Aviation. We have struggled for something like two years to attain this as one of our objects, and we are glad to think that now we can have a direct reply, instead of what one might describe as a vicarious reply. The difficulty which we faced on former occasions was that it was quite impossible to receive a direct reply to our questions as to what was the policy of the Air Ministry on those points which my noble friends and myself were continually bringing up. We were told that the Government did not wish to impinge on the war effort, but we tried, in every speech made in your Lordships' House on these matters, to point out that the question of post-war transport had a direct bearing on the war effort. When we think of the airborne troops, when we think of the very meritorious efforts of Transport Command, and of B.O.A.C., whose Chairman I am glad to see here to-day, we can feel that when we made those efforts in the direction of transport aircraft we were trying to carry out an idea which had a direct bearing on the war effort.

On many occasions I have accused the War Cabinet of lack of interest, and I am sorry to say that I feel that that lack of interest still exists. I read a great many speeches which are made by the members of the War Cabinet and I never notice that one reference is ever made to the air, although we feel that the whole stability of this Empire and of this country depends on the position which we are going to occupy in the air as the years go by. Your Lordships will remember that we felt gratified and pleased when Lord Beaverbrook was appointed. I am sorry he is not with us to-day. Perhaps I was guilty of attaching too much importance to the fact of Lord Beaverbrook being appointed to look after our interests in connexion with the air. He was appointed to the high office of Lord Privy Seal. So far as I can gather, Lord Beaverbrook was made Chairman of a Committee, but I do not know whether that Committee made a report—at least I have heard nothing about a report—and I do not know whether the Committee is still alive. Perhaps the noble Viscount who replies will be able to tell us.

One of our main objects (and we only undertook it after very considerable thought), was to separate what is called civil aviation from the Air Ministry. One feels, however, that that expression, "civil aviation." at this time is somewhat out of place; I would rather say "post-war aviation and post-war transport and communication." I need not go into the reasons we put forward on numerous occasions, but I think we have convinced everybody—especially seeing that my noble friend has been appointed—that just as the Mercantile Marine does not come under the Navy, except in wartime, so it is absolutely necessary for the development of civil aviation that it should be put under the influence and control of a separate Minister. I have learnt in the many debates which we have had in your Lordships' House that it is just as well not to take too much for granted, and I am hoping that the noble Viscount, in his reply, will be able to give us some indication of the position which he occupies, as to the measure of independence he may enjoy, and also what actually are the powers which have been given to him.

I have read my newspapers and it was rather news to me to find that there is a War Cabinet but there is no other Cabinet. There is a War Cabinet which one had hoped in the early days of these discussions was manned by Ministers with no great departmental responsibilities. We understand that there is a War Cabinet, but I have always said it is taking very little interest in post-war aviation, and all we do know is that these other Ministers, of which there is a large number—and I am glad to see my noble friend's name in the list as Minister for Civil Aviation—have what is called "access" to the War Cabinet. Knowing my noble friend as I do, I expect he will make his presence felt and that access will mean something of value to civil aviation. That is all I want to say about these desperate controversies which we have had in your Lordships' House on many occasions during the last two years. I am only sorry that what has been achieved now was not achieved some months ago, because I think we have lost somewhat by the delay which has occurred. May I congratulate my noble friend on his appointment and say how deeply we sympathized with him when it was necessary for him to hurry off from West Africa to come to this country for a very short time before going off to Chicago, after he had been conducting other affairs not very closely connected with aviation, and to face an audience of, I believe, on most occasions, something like a thousand, to uphold the prestige, the record and the traditions of Great Britain and the Empire? Although one's information is not from absolutely the highest sources, because that is not available to people like myself, I can only tell him that from all the reports I have heard no one could have done more than he did and no one could have upheld the name of the great country and the Empire to which we belong better than the noble Viscount.

The noble Viscount has this opportunity of giving us an account of what he has done at Chicago and I am quite sure that your Lordships will be very glad to hear what he has to say. It has been a strange incident, if one might call it such, to see in some of our newspapers the defeatist attitude which has been taken up in telling us that the Chicago Conference has been a failure and that nothing has been achieved. I am quite sure that none of those defeatist suggestions in the newspapers has had any influence on your Lordships, because I am quite sure that they are absolutely untrue. There was one emanation which I should like to mention in relation to what happened at Chicago. At that time there were many airline operators who were in Chicago and it is gratifying to feel that they took the opportunity, not only of meeting at Chicago, but also of meeting at Washington, and from that meeting has arisen the idea of an organization called the International Air Transport Association, from which we expect all those benefits of cooperation and co-ordination and the development of the idea which we have in our minds of getting a real international understanding on all these matters which are so important to the whole world.

It is gratifying to me—and I know your Lordships will feel the same as I do—that on the very first day of the resumption of the Session we are embarking on a discussion (I do not call this a debate) in which the noble Viscount will have an opportunity of telling us what he has done. The issue is naturally a very limited one and I have widened it by bringing in the discussions which the noble Lord has had with the Commonwealth Nations. There is a latitude in your Lordships' House, which has induced some of us—and I think I perhaps have been more guilty than most—to bring into the discussions issues which were not on the Paper; but I am not proposing to do that to-day. I do hope, however, that the noble Lord will be able to clarify some of those points on which we want instructing, and on which we are in doubt at the present moment. Your Lordships are aware that the difficulty which we have laboured under all this time is that we have never been able to obtain from the Air Ministry a declaration of policy, notwithstanding our repeated demands; and the noble Viscount is quite aware that after we have listened to his speech today we shall not rest on that but shall be continually approaching him in relation to all those questions which we have brought before your Lordships on various occasions regarding the whole position of the British Empire as to the air, transport communications, information about external services, Empire service"s, internal services, aerodromes and the "chosen instrument." Up to now the noble Viscount has had to concentrate on one subject; he has not been fully aware of what has been going on; it would have been very difficult for him to have been so. But I would venture to say that we have never received anything but the most evasive replies.

There is one point I would particularly like to mention. In your Lordships' House you have recently had more than one debate in relation to the Foreign Office. Those debates as one read them in Hansard were remarkably interesting debates but they have not created much interest outside this House. Those debates were directed towards the structure of the Foreign Office. I am sorry to say that owing to special reasons I was not able to be present in your Lordships' House on the occasion of the last debate, but I think the whole meaning of the debates on the structure of the Foreign Office showed the vital necessity for the closest co-operation between the noble Viscount who is Minister of Civil Aviation and the Foreign Secretary. The position of Great Britain in the air is so closely allied with the foreign policy of this country that those two Departments cannot be separated. One feels that in the past, for reasons which I cannot go into now, the Foreign Office has not occupied that position in the administration of this country which it was vitally important the Foreign Minister should occupy, and which he did occupy for the last one hundred years with value and benefit to this country.

In the days of Queen Elizabeth it might have been necessary to keep the nations of the world guessing as to British policy but these days are very different from those medieval days. We have now realized that plain speaking is of vital importance. No one can feel that in the last decade or more any statesman of this country has ever spoken in plain or direct language. The result has been that the whole world was kept guessing as to the position which Britain wanted to occupy and would in the end occupy. But we have waited and the only statesman who has spoken in the words and the tones which this country and the Empire expect to hear is our present Prime Minister. He is the only person in the last ten years or so who has directly spoken of what Great Britain and the Empire are determined to do. That I feel is a point that we should keep in our minds, and that is why I was very glad indeed that when my noble friend went to Chicago he did establish the position that Great Britain is determined to occupy in the air. He made his points with great eloquence and there is now no mistaking the position which the Empire is determined to occupy in the world.

All who read the newspapers which come from the United States will regret, as I certainly read with regret, the debate that took place there yesterday. But I am not proposing to make any reference to it here. All I would say is that the Americans have the capacity of speaking in very direct and very plain language and I think we can say that the United States are much superior to us in what I would call propaganda and showmanship. Reading our newspapers no one would think we had accomplished anything whatever. Yet we have been ahead in all inventions in the air; in engines we are far ahead and in jet propulsion we came out first. One would imagine from the propaganda issued in this country that Great Britain and the Empire were doing very little in the war. The fact is that for some time the burden was borne on our own shoulders alone, and it would now seem that other people have done all the winning of the war which we hope to see at no very distant date.

My desire is to maintain the fullest and most friendly co-operation with America and all those countries which come under the title of Allied Nations. There have been established memories which I do not think will be effaced from the minds of any of us during our lifetime. There is certain to be rivalry and there is certain to be competition. I welcome both because I feel that without this competition and rivalry we should never get to that efficiency which it is necessary we should achieve. When we realize the tasks which will come before the Allied Nations when the war with Germany has ended, when we realize the tasks which face all Allied Nations for the purpose of relieving the sufferings of humanity throughout the world, we feel that it is no use wasting out time in mischief making and petty competition and rivalries. We realize that we have got to work together and to pull together to put the world into the position in which we want to see it. I am not proposing to detain your Lordships any longer. My desire has been (and that is the object of my Motion) to ask the noble Viscount to give is the history as far as he is able to do so of what he has done at Chicago. Finally, I feel that we should all realize that we shall not exist as an Empire unless our position in the air in the future corresponds to the position we have hitherto always occupied on the sea. I beg to move.

2.26 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Marquess for affording me the first possible opportunity to give Parliament some account of the long Conference at Chicago and of the Commonwealth conversations which followed on that Conference both in Montreal and in London. It is perhaps fortunate that owing to the Recess I am able at this the first opportunity to deal with Chicago and the Commonwealth conversations at the same time, because not only did the Commonwealth conversations follow closely but so far as the Commonwealth and Empire are concerned they are all part of the story. I am very grateful to the noble Marquess also for the kind words he has said about me. He has given me much help in every office I have held and I look forward to getting a great deal more from him as long as I shall be fortunate enough to hold any office under the Crown. A contest always excites more interest than a concord. Divorces are still secluously reported while millions of happy marriages that last all our lives pass unnoticed and unsung. So perhaps it is natural that those issues, on which there was disagreement, which we failed to bridge, and which are vitally important absorbed far more attention than the wide range of so called technical subjects, that also are of great importance, on which 52 nations succeeded for the first time in reaching a very large measure of agreement. Indeed without minimizing the differences which still separate us in the field of air transport, I would go as far to say that if at Chicago those achievements in the field of air navigation stood alone, and we had not attempted to deal with air transport, the Conference would have been pronounced a success.

I propose to try to cover the whole of the ground we covered in many weeks at the Conference but in doing so I shall not attempt to put to your Lordships every proposal and project and counterproposal that was produced and canvassed, withdrawn, amended and supplemented. I should exhaust even the generous patience of your Lordships' House if I did that, and I doubt if at the end I should have presented a very clear picture. But I would say this. The very variety of the suggestions which were made from many quarters were evidence of the keen desire there was and the general attempt to reach agreement. They certainly had this result, that at the end of seven weeks of conference every delegation had learnt a very great deal about the problems and their practical as well as their political difficulties, and we all understood one another's point of view a great deal better. That in itself is valuable. There was another advantage of meeting in this Conference, and you would not have got this in any other way: the men who now and in the immediate future are going to deal with civil aviation have got to know one another intimately. That in itself is a great gain.

I shall try therefore to present a broad picture. Where we agreed, as in air navigation and certain other more general subjects, I will show what we achieved and the machinery which we established for continued work, for so many of these subjects are not static but move with the march of time and you must have an organization which moves as fast as the progress itself. Where we failed to agree, as on the commercial side, the air transport side, I will try to show the point of view and the principles of the different schools of thought, and something of the attempts which were made to reconcile those conflicting points of view. Then I would like in some detail to explain to your Lordships the final British plan. I think most of your Lordships are familiar with the terminology which has grown up in the matter of civil aviation—not always I think very felicitous any more than I am greatly enamored of the expression "chosen instrument." The problems of international air transport revolve around the exercise of what have been familiarly called "the Five Freedoms," though they would be more accurately termed, and indeed are called in the documents which were drawn up in Chicago "privileges." If I may, I will in a sentence or two remind your Lordships of them. The first privilege is to fly across the territory of another country. The second privilege is the freedom to land for non-traffic purposes; for instance, to come down and refuel but not to take on passengers. The third privilege is the privilege to set down passengers and mail and freight provided these were embarked in the country of origin of the aircraft. The fourth privilege, which is the converse of that, is the right to take on passengers and freight and mail for the country of origin of the aircraft. The fifth privilege is the right to take on and set down passengers, the right to take up and set down intermediate traffic. The policy of the United Kingdom is clearly set out, though briefly, in the White Paper, which was published last October, and it was more fully expanded in the proposals which I made at Chicago on behalf of His Majesty's Government.

I would say at once to my noble friend that in all the preparations and in the work of the Conference I had the constant co-operation of the Secretary of State and the Foreign Office, and I am deeply indebted to the admirable staff from the Foreign Office who were with me throughout the whole of the Conference. Cooperation, I can assure my noble friend, was absolutely complete, as it should be and must be in a matter which, as he rightly says, covers every foreign field. The United Kingdom proposed a multilateral convention which would cover Freedoms one, two, three and four, provided always that such a convention contained effective provisions to ensure what I may call in a single phrase order in the air. We proposed that the fifth freedom should be the subject of bilateral negotiations between the countries concerned along a route. In the view of the United Kingdom Government any such convention giving general multilateral rights to the four freedoms must contain the following provisions. First of all, we must define the international air routes over which these privileges would be exercised. Then we must do all we can to eliminate economic competition. Reasonable competition is all to the good, but wasteful unlimited competition is a breeding ground of waste and ill will, and the best breeding ground of subsidies you can have.

In order to eliminate wasteful competition it was our view that we must have the following conditions. First, there must be a determination of what are called frequencies. In common language that means the total number of services and the capacity of those services to be run by all the countries operating along a route. Then you must have in our view an equitable distribution of those frequencies or services between the countries concerned, what is often called the national quota to which each country would be entitled. We suggested that the fairest way of dividing them between the countries was on the basis of traffic embarked so that each country's share would depend on the amount of traffic embarked in its own country. Indeed I think that no one has been able to suggest a fairer test than that. Then again we felt there must he a reasonable fixing of rates along the route. Finally, and this in our view was essential, there must be an international authority with power to see that these provisions were fairly observed. I do not think that anyone in this House would differ or dissent from those principles.

As your Lordships will know, the United States policy—held with equal sincerity—differed fundamentally. They agreed that routes should be scheduled, but the contention of the American representatives was that there should be practically unlimited competition, unrestricted competition, on every route. They were prepared to have an international organization provided it was merely of a consultative kind. They made some advance from that, but their main contention, at the beginning at any rate, was that any international organization should be purely consultative, although, as I shall show later, the United States Government themselves have found it both desirable and necessary to have an effective control of the internal services operating in the United States, and an effective authority, a national authority it is true, arbitrating on and allotting these routes. I am not sure that it is universally understood that nobody is at liberty to fly a line where they will in the United States. Before any operator can start an air service anywhere in the United States, he has got to apply to the Civil Aeronautics Board which holds an inquiry and grants or refuses a licence to operate the proposed line. We felt, as I have indicated, that such unlimited competition would be wasteful and unfair, that it would be a constant source of friction, and that it would increase subsidies paid by any country—and there were many such—which was determined to maintain its own services. And, obviously, these difficulties would be greatly increased if, as the United States proposed, there should not only be an unlimited right to the four freedoms, but also to the fifth freedom, a practically unlimited right to pick up and set down traffic all along the routes in other people's countries.

Here I should say a word about security. The feelings entertained with regard to security may have been imponderable, but they were very real, and, in my opinion, entirely rational. Certainly they were instinctively felt by many. It was contended that a security argument was irrelevant because the bomber and the civil aeroplane are not very much alike, and that, with the progress which will surely be made, they will, in time, become more and more different. That is practically true, but it really is not the basis on which countries reason or feel about security. It is not the fear that civil aircraft may become bombers that weighs. A country of resolute people will stand up to any amount of bombing, as we know. It was not the bomber that invaded countries in the early part of this war. It was not the bombing of Rotterdam that defeated the Dutch and gave the Germans control of Holland. It was the airborne troops who were conveyed in the ordinary civil machines—machines of the old Ju.52 type I think they were—and landed in such enormous numbers on the ground of Holland. These machines landed men by parachutes and from gliders towed behind the aeroplanes themselves. Other troops were landed from the machines themselves. These were the machines that conveyed the troops that got control of the country. Conversely, we have all seen what a tremendous part the Airborne Divisions of the Allies have played. Those Divisions were carried in the civil aircraft of to-day. Therefore it is this feeling about the possible use of civil aircraft which I am sure is at the root of what many countries feel—namely, that civil aviation and security are matters which are very intimately bound up together. I would venture to submit that that feeling, whether it is considered rational or not, is so real that you must certainly take great notice of it. I maintain that it is not irrational but that it is based on reason as well as on instinct.

A number of proposals, representing various points of view, were submitted to the Conference. There was, for example, the proposal most eloquently advocated by the Ministers from Australia and New Zealand for an all-embracing international company or corporation which would own and operate all the civil aircraft of the world. That conception, that proposal, was based on a desire, more than anything else, to meet this question of security. There was general sympathy, or perhaps I should say sympathy in many quarters with this object of meeting security, but the Conference did not support the plan. It was not a matter of whether a particular company run by a country should be nationalized or should be free. The Conference took the view that it was entirely a matter for any country itself whether it should run nationally-owned companies or leave the ownership to private enterprise. But the proposal went much further than that. The essence of the plan was that the whole of the civil aircraft of the world should be owned and operated by one enormous international organization. Anxious as people were to meet the security question, it was very plain, and was indeed agreed, that that particular way of meeting it could not find sufficient supporters among the fifty-two countries.


May I interrupt for a moment? Did the proposal to which the Minister has just referred, include internal aircraft, aircraft operating within a country's own confines?


No, it referred I think to anything operating on an international air route, that is to say, anything which crosses the borders of a country. You would be able to keep the services inside a country—I think that I am right in saying that. It applied to aircraft on trunk routes which crossed the borders of another country. There was no such measure of agreement, however, as made that likely to be possible, and thereupon these delegations, with their able leaders, devoted themselves to other plans which seemed more likely to gain more general acceptance, and they made throughout the Conference a most valuable contribution to our common discussions.

Then there was the Canadian Draft Convention, with a great part of which we and all the Commonwealth countries agreed. This was intended to provide for the grant of the first four freedoms, and covered many of the points to which I have referred and which we regarded as being essential in any general Convention. The United States of America tabled their counter-proposals, giving effect to their general policy, the lines of which I have also indicated, and included in it a general grant of the fifth freedom. The fifth freedom was introduced not merely as incidental to the services which would be run in any case, or which it was reasonable and necessary to run in order to carry the traffic coming from the country of origin along the route which was being operated, but went further and included a general right to pick up fifth-freedom intermediate traffic in any country along the route.

A great deal of discussion ranged round the character and extent of the fifth freedom. Various attempts were made to devise mathematical formulae which would enable a through service to pick up and set down on a route either a fixed or a varying amount of intermediate traffic. But the more these formulae were discussed the clearer it became that it really was quite impossible to devise any mathematical formula which would meet the infinite variety of cases. Let me give your Lordships two examples to make plain what I mean. Take an air line operating from the United States to Chile or the Argentine, with no competition at all and no alternative through line in existence, and perhaps no short-range line running between one South American State and another. It might be that at quite an early stage on the route an aircraft on that line might deposit 50 to 75 per cent. of its passengers who had embarked in New York or Chicago or where-ever it might be in the United Stales, and there would be passengers along the route anxious to travel to a more southerly destination. Obviously it would be most right and proper that that aircraft should fill itself up, and that if necessary additional aircraft should be run to carry the whole of the traffic, and even an 8o per cent. allowance of fifth-freedom traffic might have been inadequate on such a non-competitive route. Compare that with the case of Europe, with the great trunk services which will be flying to Europe and across Europe to Asia, Africa and Oceania. There you have the great trunk lines of many countries crossing. You will also have a vast network, after peace comes, of internal services—services within the different countries and short-range services connecting one adjacent country with another. It is impossible to find a mathematical formula which will meet the first case and have the faintest bearing on the second.

We therefore put forward, in our final proposal, quite a different method. We maintained the principle of relating the number of services to the amount of traffic which was likely to offer, so as to get a fair equilibrium. We provided that there should be a rapid increase in the number of services if the traffic had been underestimated. These things must be elastic and work quickly, but that was provided for. We provided also for the principle of a fair division of the services between the countries on the basis of traffic embarked. We also adopted a proposal which had been made, which seemed to us a good and workable one, that we should divide these very long routes into divisions which would be convenient from an operational point of view. Let me give a practical example. Suppose you have a service running from New York to Australia, through Europe. You might divide that into four divisions: America to England, England to Egypt, Egypt to India, and India to Australia. We then proposed that the international authority, in consultation with the operators, should fix the capacity of the services which each State should be entitled to operate in each division.

In making that decision we laid down four working rules for the authority to follow. First of all, the capacity which a State would be entitled to have in order to carry its share of through traffic from the country of origin. A certain amount of through traffic is coming out of America for the places along the route: what should be the frequencies in order to deal with that traffic? Then we wanted to meet the rest of the trade, and so the second test was what were the needs of the division for air transport judged in relation to public convenience and necessity. Those words are very like those which are to be found in the United States rules. How many people and things are there going to be offering along the route? As the obvious corollary of that, there is the third test: what regional and local air transport is there in these different countries? You must obviously take into account local services inside a country which exist or are likely to exist, and what they can cope with, and what short-range services there are between one country and another. The fourth test to be applied was what we called the economy of through air line operation. That means this. In order to carry traffic along the route you cannot always be changing the size of the aircraft at different stopping places. You want an aircraft, to make it economical, always to be carrying a reasonably constant load—say a 60 per cent. load factor. If it has set down some passengers half way along the route and cannot take up any more, it will be operating uneconomically to its next point. It is fair to take into consideration how much extra traffic you should allow it to make that liner an economically sound proposition and not a losing proposition, but obviously you must consider that not in isolation, but taking into account what traffic there is which needs to be picked up along the route and what the individual country and the services between adjacent countries along the route are capable of doing.

We proposed that those four tests should be applied together. They are very close to the tests which the Civil Aeronautics Board of the United States applies in deciding whether or not an additional air-line operator should be entitled to run on one of the internal services of the United States. We spoke very plainly to each other, and it was a very good thing that we should do so. Speaking plainly does not mean speaking offensively, and nothing is gained by trying to muffle up points in polite formulae. Americans do not much like these formulae which may mean several different things, and they are inclined to think that you are trying to "put a fast one over" on them if you use them. It is much better between friends to be perfectly frank.

I said frankly there, and I say here, that I do not think that if in the United States it is necessary or desirable to have this kind of control of their own internal services, which only the United States can run—nobody can "muscle in", (I beg pardon for the expression), nobody can enter and compete in their internal services—if they have control of their internal routes, surely it is not unreasonable to have it on the much more competitive routes of the Eastern hemisphere. It was said, "if you have this kind of control the aeroplane will not fly"; my friend Mr. LaGuardia said they will all stay in their hangars. That really was not very good sense. He boasted, quite rightly, that they had had to build airfields which would take one aeroplane every three minutes and the air liners of the United States are indeed the admiration of the world; and I told him that if those air lines are able to run in those numbers under such a system of control, then it really cannot be contended with any reason that a similar system of control applied internationally in Europe or Asia will stop aeroplanes flying.

The British plan also contained, as previous proposals have done, what was called an Escalator Clause. And I should like to put the whole of this plan to your Lordships if you will bear with me, because I really think it was, as so many countries felt, such a reasonable and practicable proposition, and probably there were some Americans who thought so too. That Escalator Clause meant that a successful operator could have a chance of increasing his services. That was, I must not say putting the carrot in front of the donkey's nose, but a reasonable incentive to efficiency. We proposed that if for a period of twelve months—you must have a reasonable period for making your test; you must not take success over a selected period but the rough with the smooth—if for a period of twelve months an operator had increased his load factor, which I think was 60 or 65 per cent., an agreed factor, then he would be entitled to increase the number of his services. But that carried the corollary with it that unless—again over a fair period—he was able to maintain this increase in his services, he would have to come down again to where he started from.

Then there was a final provision to which I must refer, which was a proposal we had made at an earlier stage called the United Nations Clause. That meant that those countries, the Allies who had suffered and given everything for the war and thereby been prevented, as we have been here and as our Allies on the Continent of Europe have been, from maintaining or promoting our civil aviation because of our war effort, should have a three years period of grace, and that during that three years period of grace, if other countries had come in on the routes, they should be able to call upon those countries to reduce their national quotas below what they had been entitled to during the period of grace. That proposal was accepted in principle, though the details were never agreed. We proposed that that period of grace in Europe should be three years from the end of hostilities with Germany, and for the Allied countries in Asia and in Oceania it should be three years from the end of hostilities with Japan.

The United States were unable to accept this proposal of ours, and they drew up and tabled a counter proposal for a general and unconditional grant of the Five Freedoms. This forms the subject of a collateral document entitled "An International Air Transport Agreement." It was open for signature at the end of the Conference and it remains open for signature. In addition to the United States, so far as I am aware, the countries which have signed this agreement up to the present are I think ten Latin American States (not including Brazil), Sweden, China, Afghanistan, Liberia, Lebanon ad referendum, and Turkey with some considerable reservations.

Freedoms 3, 4 and 5 are essentially commercial privileges. Freedoms 1 and 2–the right of innocent passage and the right of non-traffic stop are of quite a different character. Having failed to reach a multilateral agreement on the Five Freedoms the United States then—but this only arose at the end of the Conference, because we had been trying so hard to get a multilateral convention—raised the question of treating Freedoms 1 and 2 separately. I at once made it plain on behalf of the United Kingdom Government that so far as we were concerned we should be prepared unconditionally to grant Freedoms 1 and 2 if other countries would do the same. This resulted in the International Air Services Transit Agreement which was signed at Chicago by a large number of countries—I think twenty-eight—and which remains open for signature.


Did the United Slates sign that?


Yes. And of course each agreement operates between the signatories to that particular agreement. These two collateral Agreements are contemporaneous in time and place to the Convention and Interim Agreement but are absolutely separate documents and they are not to be read into either the one or the other.

I ought to add a word about a reservation I made on behalf of Newfoundland, which gave rise to some misunderstanding. At Chicago the British delegation technically represented Newfoundland and as part of the delegation there were two members of the Commission of Government from Newfoundland; but, consistently with the policy we have always maintained in dealing with the Commission of Government during the interim period, the Commission of Government had the full right to take its own decisions. As the separate treatment of Freedoms 1 and 2 was only raised right at the end the two Newfoundland members of my delegation quite rightly felt that they could not take a decision without full consultation with their Commission of Government and they therefore asked, and the Commission of Government asked, that there should be a formal reservation, a temporary reservation, made until they had had time to consider it, and accordingly I reserved the position of Newfoundland. They have since had full time to consider Freedoms 1 and 2 and their bearing upon Newfoundland, and the Newfoundland Commission of Government have decided that they desire to adhere to the two freedoms, and have published a statement I understand in the last day or two to that effect and have asked His Majesty's Government here to withdraw the reservation which was made.

That of course left these questions of the whole commercial side of the transport issues unresolved except between those countries—and they have not been very many—who signed the Five Freedoms document. It was unanimously resolved—the proposal was made by myself, as head of the British delegation, and seconded by Mr. Berle, as the head of the United States delegation, and unanimously agreed to by the Conference—that all these outstanding matters on which we had failed to agree should be referred to the Interim Council of the International Organization which we set up, for continued study and for report and recommendation to the Governments concerned. They will form the subject of the closest study and I hope our positions will approximate more closely.

I apologize for the length of my speech, but there is such a lot of ground to cover and I think I ought to try and cover it all. I now turn to the subject of air navigation. In the field of applied science and technology, a very great deal was accomplished. The war has brought a wealth of new experience in these matters which must be harnessed to the aviation of peace. Before the Chicago Conference, a great deal of work had been clone on this in collaboration between the experts of the United States, the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth nations, and so the ground was partly prepared. But our oldest and our deepest debt in this matter is to those who framed and administered the old Paris Convention. They were the pioneers. That Convention was at once the, prototype and the solid basis on which we built. At Chicago we set up a co-ordinating committee and a number of sub-committees to deal with the various subjects. It is a tremendously wide field and we made a considerable advance towards common standards and practice. The results are set out in a volume of twelve Technical Annexes which form chapters in a comprehensive code of air navigation. That modest volume, a copy of which I have placed in the library, is the result of their labours, and if anybody says nobody did anything at Chicago I venture to cast this monumental volume in his teeth. I am certainly not going to read it to you—those are not the notes of my speech—but I will try very shortly to summarize what is in that large volume.

First of all, we deal with airways systems. We provide for the standardization of equipment and methods to be used on air routes. The aim of that is to ensure that airports everywhere will be marked in the same way, and that the same system of radio and other aids to navigation will be met with everywhere. It also provides that there shall be universal publication of the details of every airport to be used internationally and of the air navigation facilities in all parts of the world. That will make sure that wherever a pilot may fly on the routes of the world he may know exactly what to expect to help him to arrive safely at his destination. The next chapter lays down the rules of the air which the pilot must himself obey. The old-established maritime rules with which the noble Lord (Lord Strabolgi) is so familiar that he could probably rhyme them to us still, have long been adapted to the use of the air. But of course in the air there is still more in it. There are the conditions under which a pilot may fly in the clouds, on busy air routes and over towns and cities—analogous indeed to the rules of the sea, but especially adapted and applied to the air. These rules also lay down the way in which the pilot must co-operate with the air traffic control organization.

Then, logically and practically, there follows a chapter dealing with air traffic control practices, which lays down the international standards for the operation of air traffic control. The air traffic control officer is the pilot's guide, and the aim that we are after is to see that the way in which the traffic is guided in, brought in and sent off by the traffic control officer will be the same on every airfield in the world. Then there is another chapter which bears the rather terrifying title of "Meteorological Protection of International Aeronautics." That in simple language means that we have standardized the method in which that vital weather information, which every airman must have when he starts and when he is on his route, shall be collected and distributed by all countries.

There is another annex on "Communications, Procedures and Systems," the object of that being that we should have common standards on the operating characteristics of radio communications system. Then there are the maps and the charts which the pilot has to use. Your Lordships are familiar with the infinite variety of maps which you get in one country and another. Not only are they printed in different languages, which I suppose is necessary, but all the signs on them are different. One symbol means a "pub" in one language and a church in another, and that must be very inconvenient for those who want to find one or the other. And there are other examples. The object of this is that eventually we shall get every map that a pilot uses drawn in the same way. He will be able to buy a map anywhere he goes. It will look the same; it will be to the same scale; the symbols on it will mean the same things. We were fortunate in finding a magnificent job of work done by the United States in the great system of charts which they have got and which we have taken as the basis of this international work. Of course, we shall have in addition air navigation charts for long flights, air route charts in strip or book form and local large-scale charts of special areas.

Those are chapters which cover a vast amount of space in this volume but only a few minutes, I am glad to say, in my enumeration. They are things which are designed to help pilots to fly in safety. We also cover the help to be given to the pilot when he is in trouble. There is a chapter dealing with "Search and Rescue and Investigation of Accidents." That will ensure that if a pilot gets into trouble and comes down, an immediate search will he made for him wherever he may be, and in addition to that an investigation of the accident, as to why he crashed, will be conducted by agreement in the same way everywhere. That is very important. The country from which the aircraft came will always have the right to take part in the accident investigation. We shall have the best individual investigation and then, of course, we shall have the pooling of the knowledge which flows from such an investigation. Then there are the standardized measures for ensuring that the aircraft and their crew, both on the ground and in the air, will be themselves safe and efficient. There is an annex on the air worthiness of aircraft. There we are trying to lay down minimum standards which should be adopted throughout the world to ensure that all aircraft engaged in international flight will he safe machines.

But it is not enough to make a code such as this and to enshrine it in a convention and leave it there. I said earlier that these things are not static. They are always on the move. It is necessary to keep abreast of progress and to this end it was recommended at Chicago—and I have no doubt that this will be done—that there should he established as part of an international organization an Air Worthiness Council composed of representatives of the various countries and an International Air Worthiness Bureau of full-time experts. This will enable the code to be kept constantly up to date. It will also, and this is very important, permit those countries which are in the forefront of aeronautical development and construction to depart from that code on their own responsibility when they are satisfied that the new inventions and ideas which are built into aircraft construction justify a departure. But any country doing this must also notify the international authority of the departure it is making and the justification for departing from the standard. That I think will be a happy provision which will keep the regulations abreast of the development of the industry and one in which developments in the industry will themselves have a place.

Then we dealt with the licensing of operating and mechanical personnel. There are set out provisional international standards for the licensing of all pilots, engineers, wireless operators, navigators, air traffic control officers—all the people who are responsible for safe flight. We have dealt also with log-book requirements. We tried to deal with Customs procedures and manifests. It is very important to simplify these as well as to get standardization of Customs procedures. Aircraft lose money on the ground. That is the time when air lines lose their money, not when the aircraft is in the air, and if we can simplify the Customs procedures we shall do something to make flying not only easier but cheaper. Finally, we dealt with aircraft registration and identification marks. That was rather a Tower of Babel and we did not get quite as far with that as we did with the other things.

It was impossible in seven weeks to complete so monumental a work, but the work will be carried on by the interim organization which we have set up and which will have an Air Navigation Committee of experts in all subjects. The headquarters of this will be during the interim period in Canada. The international organization will receive the comments of all countries and their experts upon this document which they have already received and in the drawing up of which they took a great part. They have been asked to send in any comments and suggestions as quickly as possible. These will be worked on and they will be resubmitted in final form to the different nations. Then, if they are agreed, they will find their place in the final annexes to the Convention. It is our aim and intention that that work shall be completed within this year, if possible.

I think I am justified in saying that we did achieve a great deal besides disagreement at Chicago. For the first time we shall have a universal charter or code of air navigation to which all the nations will conform and which is an essential counterpart of world-wide aviation. Then, very briefly, there are a number of other general provisions which we agreed that we would all adopt. We reaffirmed the doctrine of the sovereignty of the air space above national territory. We reaffirmed the right of each country to its own internal traffic, the right of cabotage—that is, traffic both originating and terminating in its national territory. National territory was universally defined and the definition was accepted as including the Colonies and Protectorates and Mandated Territories. Each country reserves its freedom of action in the event of war or a state of national emergency. Then there are other provisions for the prevention of the spread of disease, provisions for the designation of airports on the international routes, and provisions for the fees to be charged at these airports. The fees are to be reasonable and everybody must be charged the same, including the nationals of your own country engaged on international service. All must be treated alike and pay the same fees.

We also adopted the principle of non-discrimination to be observed in all agreements. You must not make an agreement which discriminates. We agreed that fuel, lubricating oil and spare parts for use on aircraft should enjoy national and most-favoured-nation treatment in regard to Customs duties. We also agreed, and of this I am sure your Lordships will approve, that all agreements should be registered with the International Authority so that we shall know what the agreements are that have been entered into. Then we provided for the collection and dissemination of that kind of statistical information which has always been wanted about the air and has never been forthcoming. The Council is to record the volume of international air traffic and the facilities provided and to collect information about subsidies, tariffs and costs of operation and the organization of international services. For the first time, and we have all agreed to provide it, we shall have this information authoritatively collected and given to the countries of the world.

All these matters are covered in the Convention and in the Interim Agreement which as far as practicable comprises the same terms as the Convention and will cover the period until the Convention comes into force. There is provision for the establishment of an International Organization with an Assembly and Council. All States will be members of the Assembly. The Council will consist of twenty-one members and is to be elected on the fairest representational basis we can achieve giving representation to the States who are of chief importance in air transport. There will also be representation given to States who provide landing facilities on a large scale. Then taking into account these two categories, fair geographical representation will be given to all the areas of the world. We wanted to get on with the business and so it was agreed that we would not wait for any meeting of the Assembly but would appoint the first Council at Chicago. We had an election for a Council of twenty-one. The Commonwealth is represented by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and India. The European countries, in addition to the United Kingdom, are France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands and Norway.

I should mention one incident that occurred in regard to that election which was by ballot. When the result of the ballot came out it was seen that India had not secured a seat. It would have been a grave injustice both by reason of her geographical position and the great facilities which India will give for aviation if India had not been given a place on that Council, to which she was certainly entitled. We owe much to Norway and the spirit of Norway, and the Norwegian Ambassador who led the Norwegian delegation, when he knew the result of the ballot, proposed that Norway which had got her place on the Council should give up that place to India. It was a generous gesture which we certainly will never forget and very characteristic of that gallant country. But if Norway had given up her place that would have reduced the European representation from six to five, whereas the Latin American countries had got seven places. The Cuban delegation then sportingly entered the lists and volunteered to give up Cuba's place, leaving Norway on the Council. That meant that Europe and Latin America would each have the same representation. That proposal was most readily accepted as a very fair one, and while the original election had given ground for some disquiet the final event was warmly welcomed and I think is a happy augury for co-operation in the future.

That ends the story of Chicago, and if your Lordships will bear with me a little while longer I want to pass to the Commonwealth conversations and move across the border to Montreal. Your Lordships will remember, and we are most grateful to the Canadian Government for having given us the opportunity, that the Chicago Conference was preceded by a Commonwealth meeting at Montreal on the official level. At Chicago, of course, we had a conference attended by Ministers, and it was felt that it would be a tremendous advantage if those who had worked so closely together at Chicago, each representing his own point of view but finding their points of view on so many matters closely approximating, could have the opportunity of meeting together again for more conversations in the light of what had taken place at Chicago. We therefore most thankfully accepted the invitation extended to us by Mr. Howe, on behalf of the Canadian Government, to meet at Montreal. We made excellent progress at Montreal also, and as some matters required further study and reference to Governments and as all delegations except that of Canada were coming on to London it was decided to continue the conversations here. In the short time available it was only possible to arrange for Canada to be represented by a senior official from the High Commissioner's office, as an observer.

I think it will be convenient therefore if I summarize the results of the Montreal and London conversations as a whole. First of all, we agreed to establish, and we have established, a Commonwealth Air Transport Council of a consultative character to discuss matters affecting civil aviation which are of common concern. That Council will have a permanent secretariat, bit for the time being the Commonwealth countries have asked that the Civil Aviation Department in London should act as the secretariat and we gladly agreed to that. It will have attached to it liaison officers from each of the High Commissioner's offices. It is the intention that the Council shall meet as required in different parts of the Commonwealth. I think that is very important. We do not want all the meetings to be held in London. The first meeting will be held in London within the next few months, but the date is not definitely fixed. We originally intended that the meeting should be in March, but we covered so much ground in Montreal and in London at Christmas that a later date was found to be more convenient. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Southern Rhodesia, Newfoundland and the Colonial Empire will all be represented on the Council.

Among the matters discussed, further work on which the Council and its secretariat will have to undertake, were the various Commonwealth air routes. We made a thorough survey of all these routes and their problems. We covered the route United Kingdom to South Africa via Egypt, East Africa and Rhodesia; the United Kingdom to India route; the United Kingdom route through India to Australia and New Zealand; the United Kingdom Canada route across the Atlantic, and the Pacific route from Australia and New Zealand via Fiji to Canada. We made full plans for the operation of all these routes as soon as opportunity offers. Then there was the question of the application of radio to civil aviation. A great deal of good work has been done by the Commonwealth and Empire Conference on Radio for Civil Aviation which is called shortly C.E.R.C.A. Sir Robert Watson Watt gave the Conference a very full account of the work done and discussed the programme of future work, and on the proposal of the Minister of Aircraft Production who is reponsible for this highly technical work in this country it was agreed that now that we had a Commonwealth and Empire Air Council it would be right to bring the whole of the work of C.E.R.C.A. under the ægis of that Council. Then, we had a great deal of discussion on how to staff the committees of the Council of International Air Organization. Your Lordships will remember that I went through these annexes upon which so much work has still to be done by the International Organization during the next year.

The Interim Council will have to have an adequate staff of its own, but we agreed that we could get the best 'Commonwealth representation on these subjects by sending over to Canada our ablest experts as and when their subjects came up for discussion. That led us to consider how we could best provide these experts, because we arc short staffed and many of these learned men are doing tremendous war work from which they cannot be spared or can only be spared for a short time. Probably every one of them in addition to his civil work is engaged in important war work, and indeed the two things interlock. We agreed on the practical expedient of parcelling out the work between us, and experts drawn from different parts of the Comninnwealth will respectively undertake particular subjects. That seems to me a very practical and valuable form of Empire co-operation, a real sharing in a great scientific field. My noble friend Lord Brabazon was called in to join our discussions and he gave us a very full account of both the interim and final types of aircraft which arc now under construction. These are some of the matters about which we have engaged in conversations and they will be followed up in the work of the Council. I think I have said enough to show your Lordships that not only have we the satisfaction of having established a Commonwealth Air Council but that there will he a great deal of very useful work for it to do.

Such is the story. If we did not convert all our tries, we certainly scored some goals. On the Commonwealth side we can record a number of positive accomplishments and a continuing co-operation of the most practical kind. For that we are largely indebted to the wisdom, experience and breadth of view of the leaders of the Dominion and Indian delegations, who contributed enormously to the work of the Conference, and made a profound impression on their colleagues from all over the world. Over the wide field of air navigation, which covers all forms of civil flying, we can record solid and comprehensive work, vital to civil aviation. And this work will continue in an atmosphere of unprejudiced and practical co-operation. On the transport side, the privileges of innocent passage and non-traffic stop have been freely given and accepted by a large number of countries. On the most difficult transport questions we have failed to agree for the time being, but we have arranged for our continued study of these matters.

Meanwhile, the full and frank discussion of these problems and of our respective points of view has, I believe, been all to the good. Time and experience will teach us more. Chicago is a first chapter. The other chapters will be written. After all, our objectives are not so far apart. We all want the fullest development of civil aviation as soon as the conditions of war permit. But the needs of victory are paramount, and must be paramount. We all want to reduce, and ultimately to get rid of, subsidies. There is, I think, a growing recognition that excessive competition breeds waste, subsidies and will. We all want nations great or small to have a fair chance. We all realize how deep is the feeling for security. For my part I remain more convinced than ever that the fundamental prerequisite of those objectives is order in the air.

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends sitting on these Benches, I would like, in the first place, to follow the noble Marquess who introduced this important Motion, in congratulating the noble Viscount on his appointment. We have long asked for a Minister of Civil Aviation, and we are very gratified that the appointment should have been conferred upon a member of your Lordships' House. This, in part, makes up for the loss of the Minister of Works. Secondly, I would like to say that I believe that all your Lordships think—certainly my noble friends sitting behind me do—that we have to thank the noble Viscount for the very masterly survey and the very full account which he has given us of the most important Conference over which he presided at such short notice. I am sure that whatever the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, may say hereafter, he cannot say that he has had an evasive reply. He has had a very full reply. For my own part I should like to say how glad I was to note the refreshing enrichment there has been in the idiom of the noble Viscount since he made that sojourn in Chicago. His vocabulary has certainly been enlarged, and I do not think that it is at all to the disadvantage of his oratory.

I have consulted my noble friends on this matter and I have not a great deal to say at this stage because, obviously, the most important parts of the future international arrangements are still in the melting pot. The noble Viscount himself admits that, although, as he says, a considerable measure of agreement was achieved at Chicago. Perhaps the most important questions of all had to be left in abeyance. That was bound to be the case owing to the very unfortunate absence of the Russians from the Conference. I did not have the opportunity to give the noble Viscount, notice of this question, but if, when he replies to the debate, he can answer this—and I think he can—I shall be very grateful. This very important navigational code which was so clearly and interestingly described by the noble Viscount in his speech: I presume this is going before the Russians and that they also are going to be asked to adhere to this as well.


The position with regard to Russia is that we most eagerly hope that Russia will feel able to come in. She felt unable to attend the Conference but a place has been left for Russia upon the Council of the international body, so that at any time if Russia signified her adherence to the Interim Agreement or the Draft Convention, she would immediately and automatically become a member of the Council.


I presume that this navigational code, so far as it has gone, and when later it is completed, will be sent through the usual channels to the Russian Government for examination and observation. Obviously they must know what is going on and what is proposed.

The only further observation I desire to make on behalf of my noble friends is this. We think that it is a great pity that a greater effort was not made—and for this the noble Viscount had no responsibility at all for he had not been appointed—during the previous twelve months to get agreed a united Empire or Commonwealth policy. It was, in our opinion, unfortunate that we had one plan put forward by Australia and New Zealand, another by His Majesty's Government here at home and a third by Canada. We think that that is rather a pity. We make no secret of our opinion in this matter. We have published our views as a Party. On the whole we adhere to the proposed Australia-New Zealand solution for the great international trunk lines of the air of the future. With regard to what happens inside countries, that is a domestic matter and no discussion on it need detain us to-day. This point of view has been put forward several times by my noble friend Lord St. Davids, who is unfortunately not able to be present to-day.

We are all apprehensive, as indeed the noble Marquess showed himself to be, of some fierce cut-throat rivalry and competition in the future which may breed bad blood. I think that we can all here distinguish between ordinary commercial competition, which is good for trade in the ordinary way, and national rivalry and competition. It is the second that is so dangerous. If civil aviation is to become a kind of symbol of national power and potential, the system of subsidy, so condemned by the noble Viscount, may lead to a lot of ill-feeling and bad blood between the nations.

The suggestion I put forward very tentatively follows on very naturally to the most interesting and I think satisfactory account given by the noble Viscount, of the meeting at Montreal which followed the Chicago Conference and the setting up of a C.E.R.C.A. organization. That seems to me the nucleus of an idea which could be expanded into something which would satisfy the Australasians. I want to suggest that on these lines we should start, not with an international but with an Imperial or Commonwealth scheme, and invite other countries to adhere to this Imperial system and make it multi-national. This would create something like a sterling block in aeronautics. You could begin with the great trunk lines to India, Australia and through Africa, and invite the European countries concerned, and also invite America, to adhere to this limited international system. This would be an International or Inter-Dominion Company in which the Governments would be represented, and the capital would be provided by the States concerned. I believe that it would be of great benefit to all the nations taking part in it.

Running right through, I will not say the defence but the account given by the noble Viscount of the Conference and the reasons for its partial failure was the obvious fear that in the immediate post-war years British civil aviation would be swamped or overshadowed by the tremendous potential of the United States of America. I do not think that that is an unfair presentation of the case which the noble Viscount had to make at Chicago. There is, of course, a good deal in that fear; and the fifth freedom as put forward from the American side, without some other safeguards, would possibly enable an unfair advantage to be taken by the very powerful civil aviation interests in the United States. But what was the proposal which was put forward by the noble Viscount and the British delegation? It was a series of rather complicated systems of controls and quotas and ratios and licences and franchises and all the rest of it. I found myself sympathizing to some extent with Mayor LaGuardia.


Every operator to whom I talked said that it was very practicable and workable.


I am only a politician, like Mr. LaGuardia, and I found myself sympathizing with him and feeling that this most complicated system would lead to more trouble than it was worth, and that it was too artificial altogether. There is another matter which leaves everything in abeyance—I do not say abortive. There is a vacuum which has to be filled in before we have the full picture of civil aviation after the war is over. I refer to the position of Germany and Japan. The noble Viscount did not mention it, and I do not complain of that, because he had an immense field to cover and did so in a remarkably short time. I have ventured to put this point to your Lordships before. I hope that part of the security system against Germany and Japan after the war will be the prohibition of all civil aviation to those two States. In that case there will be a vacuum. You will have to provide commercial aviation for the law-abiding merchants of those two nations in the future. How are you going to do it? I suggest, as I have suggested before, that you will have to do it by some international corporation. I believe that that is the solution which will have to be come to, and that will be the nucleus of the Australian and New Zealand scheme for the internationalization of the great trunk lines of the air.

The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, gave us a very interesting account of the new international maps. I do hope that those who take the decisions, and especially the politicians (when they become old enough we call them statesmen), who are, after all, ultimately responsible—I would remind the noble Viscount that it is they who are ultimately responsible, and not the operators—will be presented with the new air maps. Maps of the world or of continents on Mercator's projection are altogether misleading for purposes of aviation. I am referring to maps on the Polar projection. The great trunk routes of the future between the Old World and the New will be over the Polar regions, I understand, and for that purpose the Polar projection is required. If a Polar projection of the northern hemisphere is on the table, it is impossible to look at it and to study the routes across it between America and Asia, with Europe in an intermediate position, without realizing two things. One is the tremendous and indeed overwhelming importance of Canada in the future of civil aviation. Canada will be far more important for geographical reasons than the United States of America. The other is the tremendous importance of Asiatic Russia. The great trunk routes of the future in the northern hemisphere will not be operated efficiently without the collaboration of both the Canadians and the rulers of Asiatic Russia.

I do not know whether this can he done at the moment, but I would plead for the popularizing in some way of the Polar projection maps. I should like to see them issued by the Ministry of Education to all the schools, for example, and encouragement given to all the private schools to use them in teaching geography. I throw that out as a constructive suggestion, It may sound a small matter, but I believe it would make our people more air-minded than any other single step. If we start with the children we shall get our people to realize the great interest of the Empire in civil aviation and the tremendous interest of this country in it. I should like again on behalf of my noble friends to thank the noble Viscount for the very interesting and full account which he has given us of the most important task which I am sure he carried out to the best of his ability in Chicago.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, I think that I ought to take this opportunity first of all on behalf of all of us of congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on the extraordinarily interesting and lucid speech which he made. The explanations which he gave will take us some time to digest, but what he said was very interesting, and we are most grateful to him for the hard work which he has done since he left West Africa for a much colder climate and for the very interesting way in which he has put the whole position to us to-day. We should also be grateful to the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, for the way he has stuck at this question of civil aviation and kept us up to the mark, because we all agree with him that we want to see this thing carried through.

There is no doubt that Britain's command of the sea throughout the century was based on the clever plan of keeping a small Navy in peace-time and a large Merchant Marine which assisted the Navy in war-lime by releasing to it thousands of men trained to the sea. America undoubtedly, and quite fairly, thinks that she can repeat this plan now in the coming air age. She therefore hopes, quite naturally, to secure a very big proportion of world air traffic, in the belief that if she has a vast Merchant Marine in the air she will have a reserve of pilots and others for expanding her military aviation in war-time, and thus may become mistress of the air. It is an imperial vision, and is the basis of the outlook of Pan-American Airways and other companies of great scope and influence in the United States.

America sees also a great future for commercial aviation, and the possibilities of continued expansion for the next fifty years or more. For the next two decades or so the new inventions of jet propulsion and rocket flight, with an eventual increase in speed up to 500 miles an hour, go I am informed, will keep air travel on the up-grade. That is why the United States, with its strong belief in individual enterprise, was not likely to agree to restrictions on air traffic or quotas or other artificial dodges which act in restraint of the legitimate expansion of trade. The original British proposals at Chicago were based on the fact that at the beginning of the war we accepted an unbalanced aircraft production. We should have known then that air transports were just as vital in war as bombers, because communication and supply, which air transport serves, are as important a part of operations as bombing; yet we allowed ourselves to concentrate on the production of bombers and fighters only, leaving to America the building of all the air transports. America built 12,000 air transports alone in 1944. We built very few— I cannot give the exact figures, but very few. The net result can only be to leave us in a very disadvantageous position, not only for post-war commercial aviation, but also for the vital needs of communications in time of war. This policy was a very short-sighted one, and it suited America because of the outlook towards securing control of the world airways in times of peace.

It may have been said that it was necessary, nay, imperative, to build only fighters and bombers, and especially fighters, in view of the Battle of Britain, its importance and its results. But, in spite of this, there is no doubt in my mind that, in place of a certain number of bombers, transport planes should have been built earlier in the war. As a result of the policy we had pursued we had to go to Chicago with a plan for a restricted American contribution to post-war civil aviation in order to give us an opportunity of getting on our feet. So we find ourselves in consequence suppliants for air transport for vital communications in the war zones, leaving ourselves also as beggars for air transport in times of peace. Therefore, we resort to preparing an artificial plan which had no hope of acceptance at the Chicago Conference in its entirety.

The Conference sought, firstly, to set up some international standard for air navigation arid, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has told us in such an interesting way, it succeeded admirably, and tribute should be paid to one and all who were responsible for the success. It was carried through more by the experts and technical advisers than by the delegates from each country. I shall not enumerate once more the many advantages it will bring about in future, because the noble Viscount has already done that fully. But I think your Lordships will find that the public will see the benefit of all these things in future world air travel if the fifty-four countries, members of the Conference, honour their signature in the letter as well as in the spirit, as I am sure they will. This was good work well done, and also the setting up of an Interim Council which is meeting shortly.

The result of the Chicago Conference should not, in my opinion, and in the opinion, I think, of most members of this House, be considered on any account as a failure, for the following reasons. Either we are going to have men at the head of British commercial aviation who start off with the belief that we are defeated, finished, beggared, and of no account in the future world, and must go cap in hand to others for favours; or we start off with leaders who take a totally different view. These men roust be leaders who think that the land which won the Battle of Britain has nothing to fear and no favours to ask from any land on earth. The one outlook will never build up anything worth while in the new Britain; the other will accept all the handicaps and hardships as a measure of its opportunity. It will take all it has got and get down to the task of placing British commercial aviation in the vanguard. It will mean winning for Britain and the British Empire a large share of post-war commercial air traffic. Men of vision, vigour and determination who believe in their goal and who are determined to go after it, will be needed as never before.

The failure of our plan at Chicago was not in reality a British defeat. Britain can win a lion's share of future world air traffic by ordinary competition. But we must do more than talk if we are to make good our words. We should have ready by the close of the war at least five hundred Tudors and Yorks, and we should advance from 1949 to 1947 the date by which the first Brabazon is ready, and realize that when the war ends America will require her vast fleet of air transport to bring home her millions of men from the war fronts. It has been calculated that this might take her eighteen months. It has also been calculated that to bring them all home by sea would take a very much longer time than America can afford to wait, or than the men would be prepared to wait. So for eighteen months all those air transport's will probably be fully occupied. Our men, on the other hand, will not have so far to travel to come back; that is at least one advantage we can enjoy. Therefore I think we should get ahead with our own plans. Let us seize the opportunities by constructing and freeing air liners for peace-time aviation, make our bilateral agreements, support the fine technical work done at the Conference, and go all out to get our fair share of commercial aviation at a not too distant date.

I do not know whether any of your Lordships have read a very interesting article by Sir A. Verdon-Roe, I think in the Daily Mirror. I cut it out because I thought the last part of it was extremely interesting. Sir A. Verdon-Roe was one of our greatest aircraft manufacturers, and still is. He wrote: We can only secure the boons which the development of civil aviation offers us if statesmanship is wise and enlightened enough to curb bureaucracy and reduce the weight of taxation. Civil aviation cannot prosper among an official-ridden people staggering under a colossal load of taxation. Under these conditions most aircraft would be reserved for Government officials, who should be serving, but would be ruling us. Until this matter is put right the outlook for not only civil aviation but civilization will ill be black indeed.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend on his most excellent speech this afternoon. He will not expect us to go into it in detail owing to its length and complications; it must be read most carefully before we can discuss it, apart from its main features. I do not want this afternoon to follow our usual programme, which is to discuss almost everything that is not in the Motion on the Order Paper, but I should like to say in passing that I hope that at some future date, not too far ahead, when the noble Viscount has had time to make up his mind about policy, we shall be able to have a debate which will take into consideration the very vexed question about the "chosen instrument" and as to whether any private interests are going to be allowed to take part in civil aviation, and all other questions of that kind, which we might describe as home questions as apart from the foreign questions with which he has been dealing. There is a further matter, I think, about which he might perhaps be able to enlighten us. How long does he intend to be a Minister without a Department, and is he likely at some future date to have a proper Department of Civil Aviation behind him?

My noble friend has come back from the Chicago Conference. Chicago, I understand, has the reputation of being from time to time a somewhat tough City, and no doubt, this Conference having taken place in Chicago, the ghosts of past scenes may have hovered over the delegates, and they got somewhat tough with each other. I felt at the time when I heard what was going on that we were to be congratulated on the fact that we had appointed a tough Minister of Civil Aviation. Lord Swinton in my opinion carried out an excellent, strong policy at Chicago, and not only we here but everyone throughout the British Commonwealth should be glad of it; but it is my opinion also that in the end America will be glad of it too. I do not believe that public opinion in America was really behind some of the policies that were put forward at Chicago.

I do not believe that America really wishes to take advantage of any of the other countries in the ,world who are, through no fault of their own, perhaps not in the same position to start in civil aviation at the end of the war. No one would wish, even if they could, to take from America the great future which she is bound to have in civil aviation. Strategically and industrially, and by the ingenuity of her citizens, she is bound to have a tremendous future in civil aviation and it is not necessary for her to take any other advantages than will be hers by right. At the same time, it is quite clear that both Russia, which did not attend the Conference, and the British Commonwealth, have also got great futures in civil aviation.

I think a previous speaker was reproaching Lord Swinton with the fact that he did not go into the Conference with a united Imperial delegation. Well, that is quite true, but I understand it was not for the want of trying. I understand that the greatest efforts in the world were made to get a united delegation, and that the delegation was more nearly united when the Conference was over than ever it was before the Conference was started. So the Conference at any rate did one thing if it did no other, and we know that it did a great many good things on the technical side. On the political side it did one good thing, if no other: it brought the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations together as never before, and anybody who studies the map from an aviation point of view will know that the British Commonwealth of Nations, spread as they are over the whole world, hold a strategic position, with the bases which they possess, which must be the envy of any similar collection of States in the world. Next on that map would come no doubt the U.S.S.R. We do not know what their policy is to be; but I think we need not worry so much, provided we have got the first two freedoms, as to what the policy of other nations is to be. We have something which we can get along with by ourselves, and if we can all be agreed, to start with, amongst our own family, then there is a great chance of other countries coining in later on.

That, I think, is the most important thing that came out of the Chicago Conference, and I hope it is being consolidated. I hope Lord Swinton is, working very hard on it and will try to get the British Commonwealth of Nations together with a united policy, so that we can go forward without any fear whatever. As to whether he will be able to extract the aeroplanes with which the British Commonwealth of Nations is going to fly—well, that is a matter about which we have talked at great length in this House on previous occasions. I think, however, that the situation in that respect is better than it was. I think it can still be better and that plans can be made for the future in order to provide the necessary number of aeroplanes for the Imperial routes after the war, and not only for the Imperial routes, but also for the routes which some other countries may desire to run in conjunction with us. But those are matters which we do not want to discuss to-day. I really rose to my feet for only one reason, which was to say, as indeed I expressed last time in your Lordships' House, that we are extremely glad that we have at last got appointed a Minister of Civil Aviation. During the short lime that office has been established with a Minister in charge we have seen that it was a very wise appointment to make. I feel that we have reached a milestone in the history of civil aviation, and if we collaborate with Lord Swinton in this House to see that civil aviation is given its proper place, we can look forward, with optimism, to the future.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, I rise for a few moments to congratulate my noble friend Lord Swinton on what he has accomplished at Chicago. He arrived here from West Africa on the Thursday, so far as I remember, and by the Tuesday, or within a very few days afterwards, he was in an aeroplane going to Chicago, having had very little opportunity indeed to study the very important and difficult issues with which he would have to deal in Chicago. Now, a few weeks afterwards, he has come here to this House and has described to us, in a most interesting and enlightening speech, what he really has achieved in Chicago. I, for one, with some little knowledge of the difficulties of negotiating with Americans on matters of this kind, feel that he and his colleagues have advanced tremendously along the road upon which they set out. I am sure, after listening to-day to his description, that whilst here and there we may find points of criticism, on the whole the country should be very satisfied with what he did and what he achieved in Chicago.

But I should like particularly to congratulate the noble Viscount upon what he achieved in Montreal. My noble friend who has just sat down has referred to the Commonwealth Council which was arranged at that meeting, and it is that which I think, if I may say so, is a very great feather in his cap—not only that there should have been established a Commonwealth Air Council but that, alongside it, we should have a permanent secretariat which will be able to see that a continuous policy is maintained. For a number of years there have been those of us in your Lordships' House and in another place who have been most anxious to see a Council of that kind established. We little dreamt a few weeks ago, when Lord Swinton went to Chicago and Montreal, that he would come back with it; and the effect of that Air Council upon the future of the Empire is incalculable. Air, after all, brings together different points with such rapidity that it is hardly possible to contemplate what this may mean. Trade, emigration and personal contact which is so important will all be speeded up as a result of this Air Council. As that All Red route becomes broader and its lines more numerous one sees that the people of Australia, South Africa, Canada and Newfoundland and other countries will be able to gather round a table within 36 hours after leaving their various homes to discuss questions of importance to their countries. One foresees a big Commonwealth policy growing out of this which may lead to much more than we can possibly realize to-day. I wish to end by congratulating once more the noble Viscount on having been able to achieve a great accomplishment and by hoping that he will now go on and expand and consolidate it to the best of his ability.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, we have heard a most interesting speech from Lord Swinton and I think it is gratifying indeed to know that so much success and such very good work were accomplished at Chicago. I think the Chicago Conference possibly disappointed because it was introduced with so much advertisement and what perhaps I might be allowed to call "bally-hoo." On the whole we have got good results from the Conference although perhaps some of us are disappointed in what was produced. We must, however, be grateful to Lord Swinton for the spirited defence he put up for principles which every air line operating in this country at any rate will support. In connexion with that it might be interesting to your Lordships to know that in the Chicago Conference of the countries that voted for the various freedoms no European country voted for the fifth freedom except one. In that way you can see that Lord Swinton's lead was followed by every country in Europe except one. That showed that there was a general feeling that it was not possible to accede to that freedom.

Further, in reference to the Chicago Conference I would suggest that possibly the Conference was too hastily convened and that if more preliminary examination had been given to the questions at issue it would have been possible to reach agreement on a number of points which proved impossible of solution when it came to open argument between so many countries. I think that if a conference had taken place between representatives of the air lines before the Chicago Conference more practical and useful proposals would have been made which would have had the backing of the practical people who have to carry them out. Air transport experts are of course more concerned with the necessity of running an air line which shows some prospect of an economic return than they are with idealistic desires to show a national flag on a route with no prospect of any adequate return. I think possibly if the air line operators had had their conference before they could have shortened the work of the Chicago Conference in many ways.

I was partly responsible for inaugurating a conference of air line operators in London last May with the idea that if a representative meeting of these on a worldwide basis could take place many questions could be discussed and possibly decided which would be of value both to those operators and to the Governments desirous of learning the views of practical men of the air transport industry. This conference had meetings lasting for three days and was attended by air line operators from fourteen countries. It had a certain measure of success and decided to call itself the Conference of International Air Transport Operators—C.I.A.T.0.—and to appoint various committees such as transport, legal, postal, and others which would make reports for the next meeting of the full conerence to be held during the next year. As to what Lord Strabolgi was saying about ex-enemy countries it may be of interest to know that C.I.A.T.O. has already put forward a report on the internationalization of German and other enemy Air Forces after the war. All speakers at the conference, which included representatives of France, Norway, Czechoslovakia and many other countries, showed the utmost good will towards the scheme and much appreciation of the points of view of other countries. This seemed to show good prospects of friendly co-operation for the future of international aviation and every one left the conference feeling that useful work had been accomplished.

In fact it seemed that a beginning had been made in the formation of a worldwide body of air transport operators which would make very valuable contributions to the cause of air transport in the postwar world. Unfortunately the full benefits from this conference could not be achieved owing to one fact only and that was the refusal of B.O.A.C. to join C.I.A.T.O. Every effort was made to induce and persuade them to join and even to take the lead in this association, all without result. B.O.A.C.'s refusal to join made it impossible for C.I.A.T.O. to be truly representative because their example was followed by others. For instance, the American companies, though approving of the scheme, felt they could not join as it looked to them as if the British Government did not approve seeing that their "chosen instrument," the B.O.A.C., was not a member. Naturally they were chary of doing anything which might embarrass their State Department in dealing with a foreign Government. For this reason also the Dutch line K.L.M. stood aloof.

As Chairman of C.I.A.T.O. it naturally fell to me to find out if the Air Ministry was hostile to the idea of this association, but I could not discover any dislike or ill feeling towards it, though I must say it was rather damned with faint praise. Anyhow, it appeared that B.O.A.C. had reasons entirely of their own for not joining and were not having any pressure brought upon them not to join. Their reasons for not joining were difficult to find out. In connexion with that I am glad to see the Chairman of that organization here to-day and possibly he may enlighten me as to their reasons, if not this afternoon then later on. At any rate they refused to join and that made C.I.A.T.O. not as representative as we should have wished it to be. I do not wish to labour this point but I do feel it is a pity that a truly representative world body was not formed last summer, because had it been formed the views of air line operators would have been available in time for the Chicago Conference, which might have been extremely useful to that Conference.

However, it may be of interest to your Lordships to know the future further history of C.I.A.T.O. and of the proposed association which it is hoped will take its place in the near future. At the end of the Chicago Conference a meeting was held attended by some forty representatives of air lines at which it was decided to appoint a committee to formulate proposals for a universal association of air line companies. This committee was to hold its meetings at Washington during December last. The committee was duly appointed and consisted of seven members very ably presided over by Mr. Cooper, of Pan-American Airways, and advised by Mr. Farey-Jones, of C.I.A.T.O., Dr. Goedhuis, of I.A.T.A. which was the prewar body of airline companies, and Colonel Gorrell, President of the A.T.A.

This Committee had many meetings and in the end drafted an excellent set of rules for the new association; and a general meeting to consider them and, if approved, to form a new association is to take place in Havana in April next. Thus what we hoped to accomplish in 1944 is likely to take place in 1945 and I feel that no great harm will have been done by the lapse of time in the interval. In fact, it may have been an advantage as the need for such an association is now generally recognized all over the world and I think the outcome of the Chicago Conference has shown its necessity. In the future we hope that the association to be formed, while being in no way political, may by means of its technical and expert knowledge be able to make a handsome contribution towards the successful and efficient operation of international airlines all over the world. If this takes place I feel that a step forward will have been taken towards the goal of international good will and friendly relations which everyone desires after the war.

In conclusion I would add that, though there were no Russian representatives of airlines at the Washington Conference, the door was left wide open for them to join the discussion in Cuba in April. All possible efforts are being made to keep them informed of everything that is going on and to interest them in the project of a universal association of air transport operators. The Russians approach these problems in a very realistic way and need to be convinced of the usefulness of such an association before committing themselves. No doubt if we can persuade their airline executives that this association will in fact carry out useful and necessary work they will send representatives to Cuba. It is the great desire of all connected with it that they should do so. Their great pioneering work over long air routes in the north is not forgotten and it is felt that their knowledge and experience in these matters would make their representatives probably the most valued and appreciated members of the association.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission perhaps I might say two or three things in reply. I followed with interest the speech of my noble friend Lord Grimthorpe. I cannot deal with past history but I am now responsible for policy and I can tell him exactly what is my view about the association of operators. I think such an association all to the good. These operators will not control policy, and I am entirely with the words he spoke. If they confine themselves to practical matters and keep out of politics I think their practical advice will be absolutely essential. I gave every encouragement to that idea at Chicago, when I was asked whether it would be a good thing for operators to get together. Certainly all the Commonwealth members of the Conference agreed that it was undoubtedly the right thing to do. Whether a particular line is nationally owned or run by the State itself or by an individual operator, they certainly ought to get together. Sometimes a conference is assembled rather on a selective basis. I am not suggesting that that is likely to be the case here, but a conference which is to be effective and to be able to work with any international authority must be representative of all those_ operators who arc entitled to operate on the air routes of the world. Provided an association is so constituted, and provided it addresses itself to practical matters and not to political issues, then such an organization can do nothing but good. When it comes to practical detail it may be necessary to have regional councils. Indeed nearly every proposal that came before the Chicago Conference relating to the setting up of an international authority involved regional arrangements. If the proposal is for an association of operators subject to the general rules and superior jurisdiction of the international authority, then I shall not be found objecting to it, but on the contrary I should strongly recommend it.

I hope my noble friend Lord Strabolgi was not speaking on behalf of his Party in all that he said in this debate, because I should be sorry to think that as acting leader of his Party in your Lordships' House he should put himself so diametrically in opposition to the policy of his colleagues in the Cabinet. He said the British plan was a very foolish one and that it would not work. He said it sounded somewhat complicated. But international aviation is a complicated business. He said that he was speaking as a politician and not as a practical man but when I have to consider whether a plan is going to work it seems more important to me to consider it from the practical point of view, at any rate in the first instance, than from the political point of view. Every practical man with whom I have had the good fortune to discuss it—and I was not going to put forward a plan without taking practical advice—said it was entirely practical. The noble Lord also suggested, I think, that it was something opposite to the Commonwealth plan. I can assure him it had very great Commonwealth support.


From Australia and New Zealand?


It had wholehearted support, absolute and complete, from Australia and New Zealand.


That was after their scheme had been turned down.


We are all trying to get something. You cannot be a dictator in a conference of fifty-two people. If you go into a world conference you have to consider, while maintaining essential principles which you think are right and necessary, how to get something to which fifty-one other people will agree. The Australian and New Zealand representatives, finding they could not get all the countries of the world to agree on this internationally owned air transport system, acted with real statesmanship in trying to get the most practical system consistent with principles of fairness and justice. Let us see whether we cannot do that. I have acknowledged already, and I wish again to proclaim, the enormous practical help which I received, when we were all working together, from the delegates of Australia and New Zealand. The noble Lord said that we could start with an Empire trunk line plan, and invite other countries to adhere to it. I am not at all opposed to joint companies, but we must do these things in the way which partners in the Commonwealth think best. As a matter of fact it is the desire of the Commonwealth countries that, at present, these lines should be operated in parallel. That is something which can quite well be done, and we readily agree to that.

Let me assure the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, that the British plan was not at all based on American supremacy, and was not just a plan of expediency. It would be quite wrong to suppose that. The principles of the British plan, which were very carefully considered, embodied what we thought was right and necessary for all countries great or small, and we considered that the plan afforded the only practical way of avoiding that completely unlimited competition which we felt sure was both wrong and inequitable. I can assure my noble friend Viscount Rothermere that I am grateful to him for not entering too widely into certain matters. I can also assure him that when I am in a position to discuss these broad matters of policy, it will be my desire to take the House most fully into my confidence at the earliest possible moment. So far as I am concerned, there is no delay in working on these matters, and as soon as I can usefully make a statement it will be my desire to make one to the House, and to invite the fullest debate, because this House has always been very kind to me, It has been extremely kind to me in connexion with my appointment to this job. There is a great wealth of practical experience in these aviation matters in the House, and I shall certainly take all steps to fortify myself with the advice and the help which I know that I can get from your Lordships.

In conclusion I can give the noble Viscount an assurance that he was, I believe, profoundly right in what he said about how closely the Commonwealth was drawn together in this association day after day and week after week. We are, I am glad to say, very close together. We are close together because we have common objectives, and meeting in that practical way we come nearer and nearer to seeing how we can realize our common objectives by the same policy upon which we can all agree. That is a living reality now, and that spirit will continue in existence. I fully agree with the noble Viscount that that is one of the most valuable outcomes of our meetings. In all that we have done in these Empire matters, it has not been a case of just one of the Commonwealth partners making proposals for others to assent to. It has been a bringing together of minds and intentions and plans, and the result has been to give me one of the most heartening experiences that I have ever had.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I can approach the final stage of this debate in a very different frame of mind to that in which I have had to approach the final stages of debates on previous occasions. I am, therefore, not proposing to put any question to the noble Viscount. Speaking for myself, and, I believe, for your Lordships also, I think I may say that we have been very fortunate in having had made to us as full a statement as could possibly be given, and we have been left with the feeling that the work which the noble Viscount has accomplished at Chicago has been in the best interests of the cause which we are all trying to serve. With regard to the last two years, I think it is right and proper to draw a veil now, for we have succeeded in one of our main objects, which was to separate civil aviation from the R.A.F. and to get a Minister appointed.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, I think, was hardly speaking for his Party, or even for his doctrines, at one period, because he seemed to regret the number of regulations that are likely to be forth-coming. I am sure that in a compli-cated service like this there will be bound to be any number of regulations. I always thought that regulations were the essence of the policy which the noble Lord advocates. I was very glad to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grimthorpe. As Chairman of C.I.A.T.O. he has done a great deal of work in bringing people together, and I am sure that Lord Swinton, in his efforts in the future, will find that Lord Grimthorpe and other members of your Lordships' House will give him all the assistance they have it in their power to give. I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.