HL Deb 06 November 1945 vol 137 cc651-727

2.34 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Thursday last by Earl Fortesque on behalf of Viscount Cranborne—namely, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the policy and plans of His Majesty's Government with regard to civil aviation.


My Lords, last Thursday the noble Lord, Lord Winster, unfolded to your Lordships the broad outlines of the Government's plans for civil aviation. I must say that over the week-end the consideration given by the country, as reflected by opinions stated in and out of the Press, has not, with the passage of time, made that scheme any more attractive than it looked at its inception: The noble Lord has undertaken to produce a White Paper which will give the details of His Majesty's Government's policy, but from what the noble Lord has said we already know enough to summarize the Government's policy by saying that they have gone for one hundred per cent. Socialist monopoly in regular airlines.

I do not think we can justifiably complain that the harvest of a Socialist administration is a series of Socialist measures, but what we can deplore, and what I believe the majority of your Lordships' House and the majority of the country, on consideration, will deplore, is that the Government have selected for experiment in socialization probably the most unsuit- able industry and national activity of which they could have thought. The Government have not taken in this case 1945. an established industry, Goodness knows, we who do not believe in Socialism would deplore it if they took even an established industry; but they have selected an industry at its very beginning, in which the qualities of tenacity and of adventure, which certainly cannot be found in the pigeon-holes and behind the desks of Whitehall, are essential for the national well-being. Surely with the possibilities of free enterprise willing to pioneer or even go along the lines of the proposals put forward by my noble friend Viscount Swinton, and agreed to by Socialist Ministers in the last Coalition Government, there might have been something better than the sacrifice of the national interest for what is in effect a doctrinaire principle. The Government have ignored the interests of Britain as regards possessing a premier place in the new age of air travel.

The Government have ignored the need of having within our own national boundaries a system of internal airlines and of taking advantage of the great experience of other surface interests in the direction of running transportation. They also seem to be ignoring the services of those who have worked on the problem and are still willing to risk and adventure for the chance of final success. And all this is for what? It is for the fulfilment of a political theory to be accomplished at all costs, including the cost of national well-being. I think the proof of this can be found in the words in Hansard of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, when he said that they—that is, the Government— have decided that public ownership shall be the overruling principle in air transport… Your Lordships will note that it is not efficiency, it is not economy of operation, it is not safety in operation, and it is not the achievement of best results which is to be the determining factor in the Government's policy; but the fulfilment of a political theory is shown and admitted to be at all costs the ruling motive.

Nothing has been alleged by the Government against the past pioneers in air transport. Nothing has been alleged against the plan of my noble friend Viscount Swinton. Indeed, as my noble friend pointed out in the debate of last week, that plan had the commendation of Ministers who now carry Cabinet responsibility. There is nothing alleged against the surface interests. All there is, is this peculiar craving for nationalization. It seems to me that this plan must inevitably mean Whitehall control right through British civil aviation. I would describe it as bureaucracy run wild.

Here, I think, is the proof. The Minister for Civil Aviation said he was going to form three corporations. All those three corporations are to be Government directed as to policy; they are to have on their boards Government nominees appointed (and if he does not like them, subsequently removed) by the noble Lord—or he can remove them if they do not fit into his exact Socialist pattern—and they are to be Government financed. That, broadly, is the set-up which is proposed. I certainly do not envy the gentlemen who accept seats on the boards of those corporations; they will be, I think, what are known in impolite circles in the City of London as "dummy directors." These will be nothing more nor less than "phoney" boards, because they will not be masters in their own houses.

The Minister himself has said that he is going to govern policy, to remove those he does not like and appoint those he does like. These boards are, therefore, going to be both directed and financed from outside by the owners of the corporations—namely, the Government, acting on behalf of the taxpayer. Therefore Parliament may rightly call upon the Government of the day to give an account of its stewardship at any time. That is essentially Parliament's right. I am sure the noble Lord would not take any exception to that contention. The Minister has said that unless exceptional cause is shown he will not consider it his duty to interfere with day-to-day administration. Let not the Minister think he call decide whether or not he will interfere with day-to-day administration; the Minister is the servant of Parliament and Parliament will call upon the Minister, when it wishes, for an account of his stewardship on matters great or small We have already seen this in British Overseas Airways Corporation matters when, in another place—and if my memory serves me aright, in your Lordships' House as well—the Minister was called to task upon matters affecting individual employees of that Corporation. Therefore the Minister will have to answer to Parliament upon all matters of administration should Parliament insist. I maintain that there is no substance at all in the contention of the Minister that he will make a selection and decide whether or not he will interfere on matters affecting the day-to-day administration of these corporations.

On matters of finance, it is quite clear that Whitehall will control. I am sure you would agree that the Minister need not wait for the White Paper to be issued but should give us some details today of the principles upon which the finance of these corporations is to be established. I want to ask the Minister whether the corporations will work on a grant basis or whether they are going to draw upon the Treasury according to their requirements. I want to ask the Minister whether it is he or the corporations who are going to fix fares and decide whether fares should be on such a low level as to entail a subsidy from the taxpayer or whether, in cases of difficult operations, the fares are going to be so high as to make the operation economic but the cost virtually prohibitive. That is a perfectly reasonable question which I am sure the Minister will he glad to answer. Then I want to know whether the Minister can tell me if the tribunal which was envisaged in my noble friend Lord Swinton's proposal is dead? Does the Minister propose to insert between the socialized body controlling civil aviation and the public a tribunal which will keep a balance between the various interests of the consumer and the operator, or has that been thrown overboard and is Whitehall going to be the sole arbiter of what the public is to be charged?

If these corporations work on a grant basis, Parliament will, quite rightly, inquire how much the grant is to be and will demand from the Minister a justification for the sum it is asked to vote. Indeed the Government of the day will have to justify in detail the amount of the grant and how it has been spent. On the other hand, if the corporations are not to work upon a grant system but upon a system of drawing upon the Treasury for such deficiencies in operation as may be entailed, the Minister will have to explain to Parliament why he requires that particular deficiency payment.

Therefore, my Lords, my contention is that in every way the Minister is answerable to Parliament. If the Minister is answerable to Parliament, then he carries the responsibility, and if he carries the responsibility, it is only right that he should be in a position to control policy in order that he may control that for which he is answerable. In matters both big and small there can be no dividing line between where the Minister's responsibility starts and where it ends. I see the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, nodding assent. The noble Lord must agree that there is no substance in the words of the Minister when he says "I will judge that and I will answer for this, according to my dictum." The Minister is answerable to Parliament and Parliament will call upon him to answer in respect of all matters, great and small. That proves that this is essentially a bureaucratic set-up and that the future of British civil aviation, with which much of the prosperity of this country is bound up, will be controlled almost from beginning to end by Whitehall.

In his speech last Thursday the noble Lord, dealing with the expansion of civil aviation, said: It may well be found that additional corporations, or subsidiaries of these three, are desirable, and I shall form these at my discretion. The Minister is taking on quite a lot for himself; he is going to decide not only current policy but also whether British interests demand any expansion. I submit that Whitehall is the least suitable body to judge when British commerce needs expansion and development. It is for those who have to earn their living in commerce and adventure and pioneering to judge whether something is needed for the commercial interests of this country. The Minister has promised to give us full information. He said that on all points, great and small, he would give us all for which we asked in the way of facts. There are one or two points on which I should like to ask for some further information, and the first concerns the single field of commercial air operation which the Government are apparently leaving open for private enterprise, the field of charter aircraft. On the one hand, the Government seem to say "We will allow free enterprise to have the same play in the field of charter work as ourselves;" and on the other hand, they take away what they are giving and make it virtually impossible for any commercial enterprise to go forward with charter work.

What is the reason for this attitude? Under the Act of 1939, the British Overseas Airways Corporation were specifically prohibited from competing in this field, and the argument at the time of the passing of that Act was that it would be unfair to expose those engaged in charter work to the blast of competition from a chosen instrument subsidized by the Government. That is a point of view with which I entirely agree. Now, however, the Minister says that although the field of charter work shall be left open to private enterprise, British Overseas Airways Corporation shall also be allowed to engage in that field. What is the hidden purpose behind the Minister's statement that he will let this remnant of private enterprise face the threat of those who at a political whim can run any charter service under private enterprise right out of the air by competition aided by Government subsidy, and by a Government-owned enterprise? I suppose the real reason why the Minister has done that is that he fears that a charter service may become too efficient. Such services may commit the sin of being so anti-social as to be successful in business enterprise, and therefore must at once get a knock on the head from the Socialist Government, who say that anybody who is so wicked as to succeed in life must at once conform to the Socialist pattern, and if he will not do it voluntarily he must be made to do it by law. That is all I can think of. It is a perfectly reasonable explanation to all except Whitehall, who feel they are supreme in every direction in which their hand wields power.

If a charter service looks like taking traffic away from a regular line, becoming too efficient, or becoming too popular, the person who will judge as to whether that charter service should be virtually extinguished by the competition of the Government-owned instrument will be the Minister. In fact, any individual who now goes into the charter field must face the fact that the Minister is the prosecutor, the Minister is the judge, and finally the Minister is the executioner, as regards any endeavours which anybody puts forward to make a success of an enterprise.

This is indeed a monopoly for the Government-owned instrument! The Government have the monopoly of an endless purse against all those who enter this last field left for private effort.

The second point about which I should like to ask the Minister for information is whit is going to be the position of the railways and shipping interests. I understand that they are excluded from sharn4 in operation and the Government have rejected the idea of a complete partnership of surface railway and marine interests with those of the air. Apparently, the Minister is in the process now of inventing some formula regarding which understand talks are now taking place with surface interests. The Minister in his speech said that the railways and other surface interests are to be integrated, they are to be co-ordinated—that blessed word "co-ordination," which the Minister used so freely but was careful not to define!—but they are not to participate in the actual responsibility for operation. It seems to me the railways and the surface interests generally, who can contribute much to this problem, having years or experience of transportation matters, are to be, as it were, the willing handmaidens of Whitehall. The Minister, in effect, said "Let them be hewers of wood, and drawers of water." That is to be the role cast upon those who have pioneered in other forms of transport and are now willing to pioneer in this form of transportation were they allowed to do so by Whitehall.

I was particularly interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, on the last occasion, when he spoke on behalf of noble Lords belonging to the Liberal Party.


No, no.


I withdraw that at once. It is sometimes hard to know who does speak for the Liberal Party.


The split atom!


The split atom, as Lord Strabolgi says. I was his view that surface interests should be allowed to participate. I admit that that was rather contrary to the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, who seemed to think that surface interests should not be allowed to participate. I look forward to hearing from the noble Lord, when he comes to speak later, whether he does so on behalf of his Party or independently. Certainly there is an educated body of opinion in this country, of all political Parties, which holds that the Government should not go forward with any scheme of air transportation which does not give an opportunity to surface interests not only to be coordinated and integrated but to have an actual share of responsibility. I suppose it is a little hard for those concerned with our railways to have to face a situation in which they are asked to be junior partners without any responsibility and without any participation—except, no doubt, in blame if things go wrong—when they know that the Government's programme puts their heads on the block about two from now. I believe that the nationalization of the railways comes about two from now in the Government programme. I think that they must be having an unpleasant time trying to negotiate on that basis.

In my view the least accurate and, if I may say so, the most deplorable part of the noble Lord's speech on the last occasion was when he virtually sneered at the railways and the Mercantile Marine in order to create political prejudice. The noble Lord shakes his head, but let us look at what he said. He said this The railways were developed the world over amidst a frenzy of wild speculation which has handicapped them ever since. I wonder from what handicap British railways are suffering today so far as that "frenzy of wild speculation" is concerned. I cannot recall any history of wild speculation or of frenzied scramble in connexion with our railways; the complaint has rather been that in the nineteenth century the old Tory squires were so backward and conservative that they would not allow the railways to come near their property. I have never heard these stories of a wild scramble, and at any rate the handicap from which the railways are suffering today is not sufficient to prevent the trade unions from investing a large amount of their reserve funds in railway securities! I do hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will be able to enlarge on this handicap from which he claims the railways are suffering today. It is generally admitted in your Lordships' House and in another place, and indeed throughout the country, that the railways have played a magnificent part in this war.


Hear, hear.


Indeed, but for the railways we should not have been able to move our troops and our supplies to the Continent of Europe for D-Day. Impartial experts say that, broadly speaking, our railway system is the finest in the world, and I think it ill befits the noble Lord, Lord Winster, to say to us that our railways have developed under a wild scramble and have suffered from that handicap ever since, in order to achieve some political prejudice and help his particularly weak case.

The Minister went on to deal with the Mercantile Marine and said that it had been built up amidst a scramble for profits. Before this war we were proud of saying in this country that we had the greatest mercantile fleet in the world. It has been built up by co-operation, by hard work, by sacrifice, by a willingness to take risks, and by the adventurous spirit of our forebears; and I do not think it is appropriate for the noble Lord to throw a smoke-screen of political prejudice and verbiage, as it were, over our railways and Mercantile Marine, in order to bolster up a weak case.

Finally, the Minister went on with this barrage of misrepresentation to say that the air crews would do their job better if they knew that they were working for Socialism, for a Government-operated set-up. I do not believe that air crews really are politically minded or that they will care twopence whether they are working for a Socialist Government or for a private and free enterprise, provided that they are given the best possible equipment and the best possible circumstances of employment in order to fulfil their tasks. I do not believe that a pilot trying to make a landing with an aircraft carrying twenty passengers on a foggy night at some airport here or overseas will think to himself with any feeling of satisfaction: "I can really do my job better because I am working for a Socialist Government enterprise." The captain of an aircraft wants the best possible aircraft, the best possible engine and the best possible radio aids. I would hazard a guess that many a British pilot in a few years' time, if this policy goes forward, will be thinking enviously of his American counterpart who may be trying to make a similar landing under similar difficulties but will have all the latest and best aircraft equipment and aids developed under a system of competition and free enterprise; and the British pilot will look regretfully at his own instrument board full of Whitehall sealed instruments, because he has to fly with those and cannot get any others.

The Government are creating with this policy two new classes in the community. They are creating the "untouchables"—those who are allowed within the magic circle of commercial aviation and the pariahs, those people connected with the railways, with shipping and the ordinary world of commerce, who are so anti-social as to wish to participate in and contribute to the essential air supremacy of this country. The 1939 Act gave a monopoly of subsidy to the British Overseas Airways Corporation, but it did not give a monopoly of operation. That is one of the essential differences between the present scheme and the 1939 Act. Under the present proposals the Government are to give a monopoly of the air for commercial operation to a chosen few, and anyone who flies without the Socialist Government ticket will, of course, be punished. There are many noble Lords who wish to speak, and I will conclude by saying this: I believe that the Government have done the worst service they can to Britain by introducing this policy, and that they are condemning to uselessness the experience, the talents and the enthusiasm which, as a nation, we cannot possibly afford to neglect at the present time in the development of our air transport, and which, in the years to come, we shall regret bitterly that a Socialist Government in 1945 threw away and refused to utilize in the national interests.

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I have not occupied much of your time during recent years, and it is two and a half years since I spoke on this subject; but I ask for your attention to-day not just because I was the first Chairman of the British Overseas Airways Corporation—and more than another responsible for its establishment—but also because I really know something about these public corporations and have had experience of them. I noticed that Lord Sherwood the other d delivered himself of this observation: It is slightly quaint, to me, that they should now suddenly ask the present Government the solution of the problem which they so obviously failed to solve themselves. "They" presumably were the three preceding speakers, Viscount Swinton, Lord Brabazon and Lord Balfour of Inchrye. Do they merit such a stricture?




In the opinion of one noble Lord apparently they do. But may I say that I would rather have interruptions from in front than from behind. It is awkward when they come from behind. Now, did Lord Brabazon merit that stricture? Listen to what he says: It is not for me to tell the whole story of the delays and the procrastination and the general disappointment which I and ray talented Committee felt about the progress. It would made you weep if I were to t you the full story. Did Viscount Swinton merit it? He had only been in office five months and to some of us it appears that he moved fast. I observed, however, that The Times the other day remarked that perhaps had he moved faster he would not have found it necessary to make the speech which he did make the other clay. I think there is no doubt in your Lordships' minds that Viscount Swinton during his five months of office did move fast. Did Lord Balfour of Inchrye merit that stricture—Lord Balfour, who was Lord Sherwood's colleague in the Air Ministry for years? If so, that is more than "slightly quaint." And Lord Sherwood himself, as your Lordships will recollect, represented the Air Ministry in your Lordships' House for many years, and rather distinguished himself by the inconsequence of his replies on the many occasions when the subject of civil aviation was raised.

I listened with curiosity and some anxiety to hear what the Minster might produce a week ago. I thought that he might perhaps announce a decision that all operations in all theatres were to be entrusted to the British Overseas Airways Corporation over which Lord Knollys presides with distinction and efficiency. He rejected that for reasons which probably commended themselves to your Lordships generally, but I, for one, would not have questioned such a decision. I believe that Lord Knollys might have handled these additional responsibilities. However, I do not dispute the decision. Or Lord Winster might have adopted Viscount Swinton's White Paper more or less as it stood. Or he might have produced a scheme of his own, which is what Viscount Swinton and others consider him to have done.

I do not quite understand the vehemence of Viscount Swinton's dismay and disgust last week. He made a great point of the three corporations and he prided himself—as he was entitled to do—on this: that despite the fact that the three corporations received a certain amount of criticism and some gibes in this country as to what the Americans would think, in fact the Americans produced three corporations themselves. Viscount Swinton was entitled to feel pleased about that. Now Lord Winster still has three corporations.

The interplay between Viscount Swinton's three bodies, the holding which the B.O.A.C. was to have in the other two, the unspecified degree of authority which the B.O.A.C. was to exercise over the other two, seemed to me to be a compromise sort of arrangement which might lead to a confusion of responsibility that would be unfortunate. Lord Rothermere was puzzled about that and he likened it, if I remember rightly, to the abstrusities of the trinitarian doctrine. I was not quite clear whether the noble Viscount's three corporations were in fact corporations because the terms "corporation" and "company" are used in the White Paper. Were they really public corporations as we understand them to-day? He refers to memorandum and articles of association. Therefore it appears that the other two were not public corporations but companies. Certainly they would have been subject to more control than companies established under the Companies Act would normally have been.

Lord Winster is charged with jettisoning the transportation experience of railways and shipping and travel agencies. Incidentally, there are all sorts of problems in air transport which are not found in surface transport; and we should remember this, that there are twenty-two years' accumulation of experience in Lord Knollys' corporation. Undoubtedly sur- face experience is valuable. Is it only to be given in return for the somewhat doubtful privilege of being permitted to finance air routes in Europe and to South America? Might we await the outcome of the Minister's conversations with these other interests? Might we be permitted to hope that the experience of the railroads, of the shipping lines and of the travel agencies will be available to him, and that the co-operation of which he has announced himself to be in need and anxious to secure is assured? I should think that those other interests would have given it, and that they would have welcomed the opportunity. We may hear from some of their representatives to-day whether that be so or not.

As to Lord Swinton's joint overhaul and joint training arrangement, I do not think Lord Winster mentioned these. I hope it does riot mean that he does not approve of them. It may be, and I hope it is, that the Minister intends to leave that sort of thing to the operators themselves to arrange if they care; and I should have thought that they would consider Lord Swinton's proposals. As to Lord Brabazon's Committee, we know that any Committee of which he is the Chairman would be likely to do excellent work however great the difficulties and we know how great the difficulties have been. I do not think the Minister mentioned that. Perhaps, again, he proposes to put that Committee more directly into touch with the operators because there is something odd in that Committee being advisory to the Minister and not to the noble Lord, Lord Knollys, and his associates.

Apart from all that there are matters in the Minister's decision to which due weight must be given. What he has decided is in line with the political mandate which he and his Government and his Party have. There is no getting away from that and I think you would expect him to decide in line therewith; and when I say "in line therewith," I mean just that and no more. I agree in regretting something of what the Minister said in his peroration; I thought it would be criticized and it has been. But despite what he said I do not believe the Minister was primarily motivated by Party political considerations. If I did think so, I should be talking differently from the way in which I am. There is something much more important. To be motivated by Party politics in this field would be shocking and quite possibly disastrous. This scheme, I submit to you, is quite in accordance with the trend of public opinion generally; and, more important than that, it is in accordance with the hard economic facts of experience in public services.

My conclusion will be this, subject to Lord Winster being able to give me an assurance on two or three points which I will mention very shortly: I feel he has adopted the major points and the best points in the noble Viscount's White Paper and has rationalized the rest where he felt it to be in need of rationalization. Had I been Lord Swinton, by and large I should have felt pleased and more or less satisfied. Lord Knollys expressed himself to be quite happy about the noble Viscount's White Paper when it was issued. Perhaps he saw more clearly than some of us how the trinitarian arrangement was to work. I do hope we shall hear from him to-day, and that he will feel able to say exactly what he does feel. If he speaks he can confirm or contradict my own feeling which would be this: that he is satisfied, and relieved more than anything else, as to the changes which the Minister has made, and that he now knows more clearly than he did before what is expected of him.

On this question of public corporations, I must make a comment or two about Lord Rennell's speech. He spoke with an obvious sincerity but he is under, or appears to be under, some misapprehensions which are still common in the field of public corporations. He said that Lord Winster's corporations would be in difficulty in negotiating with foreign concerns; the participants would be of different and unequal standing. I cannot understand it. If so, it would apply also to Lord Swinton's corporations. In fact public corporations are at no disadvantage in dealing with operating concerns, whatever they may be, in the same field in other countries. I speak, my Lords, from what I know. I just do not understand the point. Then he asked about priority of traffic, sea or air, if there is not enough for both. Who would decide the means of travel? He seemed to think it might be the Minister. Surely the passengers would decide this and be under no pressure whatever except their own inclination. Finally, he said that being servants of the State, pilots aid other employees would be awkwardly placed compared with the Royal Air Force. May I make this clear, that in the public corporation field employees are no more employees of the State than if they were employees of a private company. Is it suggested that a variety producer in the B.B.C. is a servant of the State? I do not blame him if, in fact, he lilies to feel he is working for the State. Go id luck to him. He is in fact as much the servant of the corporation as if he were in the employ of a private company.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye did not, like Lord Sherwood, feel "slightly quaint"; he felt slightly pleased. He said: I feel some slight pleasure to-day because … I, for some years, have been the stalking horse or whipping boy warding off attacks made on the late Government in another place, having to defend the fact that civil aviation had to go to the wall in the greater interests of the war. If the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, will not be offended, I should just like to say what I feel. I do not feel that he was either stalked or whipped sufficiently frequently or sufficiently energetically. Why go to the wall? "Civil aviation had to go to the wall." Go to the wall, my Lords! Second place, yes, a distant second, if you like; and that it was permitted to go to the wall by the noble Lord, or the noble Lord's chief, the then. Secretary of State for Air, is the explanation of the unfortunate position in which this country finds itself to-day.

Did the Americans permit their civil aviation to go to the wall during the war? Far from it. Who, if not the noble Lord or the Secretary of State, was responsible? Pre-war conversations and agreements, in my view, if followed up, would have secured one single corporation for the Empire to-day instead of a multiplicity of joint and parallel workings, and the effects of that would have gone tar beyond the field of its immediate application. It was to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, that the corporation looked for defence and support; there were plenty of others looking after the war. Your Lordships have heard many times the sorry tale of the starved instruments, the resignations of all but one of the board—a subject of much comment here. Perhaps the noble Lord fought harder than we knew, but no fight was obvious at all, and so civil aviation went "to the wall."

I will not take up your Lordships' time today by dealing with the points he made, except in respect of the one about Parliamentary procedure in connexion with these public corporations. The Clerk at the Table in another place will not permit questions to be asked about a public corporation unless they be on policy. Quite a number of questions, to my knowledge, are rejected by the Clerk at the Table because they are not on policy; and of those which are answered, a considerable number, possibly the majority, possibly all, are replied to by the responsible Minister to the effect that these are matters for the corporation, whatever they may be. You cannot, I admit, stop a member raising a point on the adjournment. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, in regard to some observations made the other clay in another place. That cannot be stopped, but the Minister can, surely, deal with them as they are required to be dealt with.

I have now a few points to put to you about these public corporations, because if we are to give dispassionate consideration to this matter of civil aviation, and other things that come before us, we must be clear what they mean—what the corporations are, and what they are not. May I tell your Lordships that with me there is nothing of Party politics in this whatever? May I make that clear by saying that, on the whole, I believe I would prefer private enterprise in any form to nationalization, if by nationalization is meant what used to be meant, conduct of public services by a Government Department, politicians and civil servants? With me, the simple issue is that of securing the most efficient form of management. There was a tribute to railroads. There is a high ideal of public service in many private enterprises, particularly, I feel, in railways. But we cannot get away from the fact that their first and inescapable obligation is to shareholders. There is the crux of the problem—obligations to shareholders on the one hand and to the public on the other, which are increasingly difficult of reconciliation. That is what I mean by hard economic facts. There are some who feel that the first obligation of public service to shareholders is morally indefensible or anyhow undesirable. I am less concerned with this than the economic side. The position of directors and managers is becoming increasingly invidious to-day with, on the one hand, their own ideals of public service and their knowledge of public requirements, and, on the other, the natural, but hungry, expectations of shareholders.

We hear too much about capital and labour and not enough about the third essential element in industry—management. Can you visualize the position of a manager when the distribution of a sum of money at the end of the year is under discussion? He says, rightly, he would like that money put back into the business, but the directors say, also rightly, that it should go to give the shareholders who have had a lean time an extra half per cent. Who is to reconcile them? They are both right. I do not underestimate the power of the profit motive, nor suggest that capital risk should not have a fair chance of reward. I say that profit motive and competition are not the only motives which inspire to efficient management, and that competition is not always beneficial. There are occasions when it is the competitive system itself that plays for safety, and, if no longer answerable to the shareholders, these public corporations are answerable to the public; and public opinion can be voiced in Parliament and elsewhere.

This system is misunderstood, and often deliberately misinterpreted, both from the Left and from the Right: from the Right, in that people will contend that ownership means management, which it does not and must not; from the Left, in periodic attempts to treat the public corporation as if, in fact, it were a Government Department. The chief characteristics of the public corporation system is that it is established and owned by the State, but not—repeat not—managed by the State. State control is over major policy, defined once and for all and clearly in the instrument of establishment, charter or Statute, subject, possibly, to periodic, clearly defined and necessary directives. Parliament approves the instrument which tells the corporation what it has to do and defines safeguards, if necessary. Parliament and the responsible Minister can watch what is happening and if they feel the corporation is not doing what it ought to do, and is established to do, can take the, necessary steps. Otherwise, my Lords, there is freedom of management.

There are three reasons for the establishment of public corporations, and for transferring some industries which were or are to-day under private enterprise to this public ownership. One is where there has- been or is likely soon to be this irreconcilable conflict between the public service motive and the dividend motive. It has nothing whatever to do with politics; it is the simple issue of economic fact. Another is where the members of that industry cannot live and work amicably together. The fault may be on one side, or both, or neither, but there are suspicion and friction which nothing appears able to eliminate, as, for instance, in the mining industry. Thirdly, there is the fear lest worse should happen. Three and a half years ago I said that if I were a railway director, faced with the avowed intention on the part of the Labour Party when it came into power to nationalize—perhaps governmental or departmental management—I should do my best to have steps taken in the railways so that the industry was reorganized by those who understood it, and not by politicians and civil servants.

I have questions to put to the Minister, but let us be clear that ownership is not management, and must not be management; that the employees are not civil servants, and that there is no public interference in management. "And if to starboard red appear," as the Minister will remember, "tis his duty to keep clear." Here are my questions. Having told these corporations, in charter or Statute, what to do, will the same freedom in management be given to them, subject only to the essential periodic direction and reference to which no one could take exception? Will he ensure that in securing, largely by the efforts of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, at long last the release of this vital service from the trammels of the Air Ministry, we have not merely effected the exchange of one hierarchy of civil servants for another? Will he tell them to "stand from under"? Will he allow the corporations to communicate direct with their colleagues all over the world, and with the Royal Air Force? Will he be personally available to the Chairmen of the corporations and not permit them to be "boomed off"? And will lie consider—I only ask, will he consider—establishing at some time some central, co-ordinating, advisory body, representing not only the three corporations bit also those other forms of transportation whose co-operation he is so determined to secure, if in fact they be willing o give it?

I have had no conversation with the noble Lord since he last spoke. I put my points straightly to him, and if Le answers those questions in the affirmative, as I hope and believe he will, I, for one, acquit him of ulterior, invidious, shocking Party motives with which he has been charged. I would credit him with honesty and determination of purpose. I would feel him to be entitled to the commendation, encouragement and support of the House—and, my Lords, such support the Minister and our civil aviation general will surely require.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken will pardon me if I do not follow him in his eloquent speech. I am glad he has put several very important questions to the Minister and I hope the Minister will be able to reply to them fully and adequately. I am sure that, like myself, other noble Lords listened to the statement of the Minister of Civil Aviation with great disappointment and also with great anxiety. There is no need for me to go into the history of the last three years, in which some of my friends here and I waged a battle in which we eventually succeeded. At the outset we were unable to persuade the War Cabinet -that transport aircraft was a vital, war issue. Your Lordships will remember that we had innumerable debates in which members of the Government—Lord Sherwood for one and Lord Cherwell for another—were put up on different occasions to try and beat down the irksome opposition which was rising, perhaps on my initiation but warmly supported by a, treat many of your Lordships in this House.

First of all we were given Lord Beaver brook. Lord Beaver-brook was Chairman of a Committee. I have never been able, exactly to fathom what the Committee was. Anyway it was delaying tactics, and we made no progress whatever. After that, by repeated attacks on the War Cabinet and telling them that they knew nothing about the air and cared less, we were fortunate in having a Minister of Civil Aviation appointed in the person of my noble friend Viscount Swinton, and I feel that we achieved a great object when he was appointed. There had been a very long delay. We then came down to this House and watched his efforts with the greatest satisfaction and enthusiasm. As you know quite well, the noble Viscount turned to his task with his accustomed energy. He travelled to America. He was at Chicago and at Montreal, and he also went to South Africa. In an incredibly short space of time the noble Viscount produced a White Paper. He covered the ground very adequately when he made his speech last Thursday.

When the noble Lord's White Paper appeared, I was naturally most anxious to congratulate him on having been so prompt in what I might call "delivering the goods." I am not going to say that I fully agreed with every provision in that White Paper, because I thought it erred on the side of giving too much control to the Government; but it certainly would have been churlish on my part if I had placed any obstacle in the way of his going forward on the road on which he had set out. I was under the impression that the White Paper was a compromise between the different elements in the Coalition Government, but I know that was not the case. The White Paper was agreed by the Cabinet of the day and was considered, in the phraseology of Sir Stafford Cripps, to be the best plan that could possibly be put into operation at that time. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, quoted Sir Stafford Cripps in his speech last Thursday. But to my mind, the great virtue of the plans which were forecast in the noble Lord's White Paper was that he brought in the great organizations of transport in this country: he brought in the railways and he brought in the shipping interests. Those, as we know, have been for years past the experts in transport and it was highly important that those two organizations should have a full interest in the development of this tender plant of civil aviation.

The noble Lord who has just sat down spoke of the profit motive. Of course we know perfectly well that in all industries throughout the centuries the profit motive has had to come in; otherwise it would have been impossible to carry on. In these days there is a tendency to think that all those people who embarked on and made such a success of free enterprise throughout this country, and indeed throughout the world, were solely actuated by the profit motive. I have had enough experience of aviation and of other business to know that whereas the profit motive has got to come into the picture, nevertheless the enthusiasm and the whole-hearted co-operation and support which we have always received from everybody in the industry (with a very few exceptions) has been the mainspring of the success on which this country has depended. I ask people to realize that it is only by giving those interests an opportunity of participating that you will get that full service which, I am quite certain, you will never get with the strangle-hold of Government organization and Government control.

My noble friend made a beginning, and a very good beginning. We came down to your Lordships' House last Thursday and found that the whole of the noble Lord's White Paper had been thrown overboard. I think it could not have had a better or stronger commendation than that which was given by Sir Stafford Cripps in the speech from which my noble friend quoted. We understood that we were to have three organizations and that the noble Lord would tell us how far they were to be controlled, what their responsibilities were t6 be and how far the whole of their activities would be directed by the Minister of Civil Aviation. In his statement the noble Lord said one or two things on those matters and I was not able fully to understand exactly what he meant.

I venture to suggest that the noble Lord should set up, as soon as possible, a Civil Air Council so as to be able to get the best advice from those people who are fully trained in these matters, from those people who are not in business for the profit motive alone but because of their love of aviation and because they believe that the future of this country is dependent upon the successful development of aviation here. I hope that later on, after he has set up the Civil Air Council, we shall find a Civil Aeronautics Authority (comparable with the Civil Aeronautics Authority in America) which will have jurisdiction over all these matters instead of their being handled and administered by a Government Department. I can assure your Lordships that I have no criticism to make of civil servants; we all owe a great debt of gratitude to the civil servants of this country; but I say at once that they are not the people to handle business in this country or in this Empire. I was glad to see that of those who have shown a deep interest in these matters, the noble Lord is retaining the services of Lord Brabazon of Tara. I am glad to think that the noble Lord will have somebody associated with the Committee over which he presides who is able to explain exactly what he means (sometimes in forcible language) and who will be able, we hope, to guide the noble Lord along the road he has chosen to follow.

There is one particular question which I should like to address to the noble Lord, and that is in relation to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The Ministry of Aircraft Production has done great work in this war, but latterly, in view of the lack of policy on the part of the Government, those of us who have had to have dealings with, it have found that as no decisions are being taken we can get no answers to our questions. I should like to know from the noble Lord the position of the Ministry of Aircraft Production in the future. Will the Ministry of Aircraft Production give orders on their own behalf or on behalf of the Minister? Are they the agents or the principals? What are their relations to all the manufacturers? The noble Lord is, I think, well aware that the bleak statement to which we listened the other day is a matter of the greatest concern in the minds of all manufacturers and I do not think he thought it would have an exhilarating effect on them. They know quite well that if you have a restriction of authority in relation to the handling of all these numerous matters by the Government we shall probably come down to one or two types of machine, and there will be very little encouragement for that spirit of enterprise in developing other machines to fly in competition—and I am not speaking of cut-throat competition—with other operators. That is one of the difficulties which I expect the noble Lord will understand. I think he will agree that this hide-bound system of Government control will damp down that spirit of enterprise which has been the mainspring of everything in this country and from which our successes in flat past have been derived.

The noble Lord in a recent speech, in which he did not even adumbrate the sad tale he was going to narrate to us last Thursday, was kind enough to pay compliments to myself and to my friends who supported me during all those. three, troublesome years through which we have passed. He gave me the title of tin "only begetter" of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. I am very happy to share that title with some of my friends here who gave me every assistance. We worked in co-operation. I did, however, hope for something very different when the noble Lord came to make his statement. He told us, on that occasion, that he had had a second sight—or a foresight—which prevented him from making any contribution to those debates which we had in relation to civil aviation. I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord is correct in saying that because I have a recollection of his taking part in the debates. I venture to say that after all the able and eloquent speeches which the noble Lord has delivered in this House during the last few years I had no idea that he would be standing at that box expressing convictions which, I should have thought, were entirely contrary to everything which had been in his mind when he made them.

In the past the noble Lord was a very excellent critic, and a very fair critic, of the Government of the day who, as w e know, were in a very difficult position. After all, they had on their shoulders de burden of winning the war and we can pay them the tribute of saying that they were successful in their efforts. It was natural that certain matters such as civil aviation should take a secondary place, although not the place of complete obliteration which was imposed upon them. Since then we have had an Election in this country. To all of us considered these matters, it was quire obvious that there was likely to be what is called a swing to the Left. My noble friend Lord Reith, however, speaks of a mandate. I deny that at once. I am quite sure that if you could canvass the voters who voted for the Socialist Party you would not find one or even a half per cent. of them telling you that they expected that when the Government was returned to power civil aviation would be nationalized. That verdict was a remonstrance against Government controls; those votes were given by people standing in queues, by people who were objecting to all the restrictions which were put on them during those war years. That was really what that verdict meant. I deny at once that the Government have any right to say that because they have a majority of 190 or so votes in another place they have, therefore, a direct mandate for the nationalization of this budding industry, this tender plant called civil aviation.


If the noble Marquess will forgive me, surely it was his Party which advocated the abolition of controls. My Party advocated their continuance.


I was speaking in rather a discursive manner—which I think is wrong in your Lordships' House. It was a change from one Government to another that was wanted. The majority of voters thought that if another Government was in charge those restrictions and those irksome conditions under which they had lived would be removed by that Government. What I am contending is that the Government have no mandate whatever from the people of this country for the policy which they are putting into practice at the moment.

I hope that the noble Lord will be able to tell us some of his plans. We should like him to tell us what is going on at the present moment. We are well aware that a number of bilateral arrangements are being made between America and countries in Europe other than our own. I think the noble Lord will be able to tell us that some of these agreements have been signed, and others are at present in process of being signed. What is Great Britain doing? I know quite well that if we delay very much longer we may find that many of these airlines will bypass Great Britain altogether. There is a terminal at Rineanna, and, with the arrangements which are in being now and with these bilateral agreements, we may find ourselves in great difficulty unless we move as quickly as we can. We have, I believe, day-to-day agreements under which numbers of aircraft land at Croydon, though that is perhaps not a very suitable airport. I need hardly say that I regard with admiration, and have done so for a great many years, the activities of America in regard to the air. The Americans have understood the air question a great deal better than many people in this country, and they fully agree with what we call free enterprise. I think we can learn a lesson from the manner in which civil aviation is being administered in America, with great advantage to ourselves.

We understand that the Prime Minister is going to America in the near future, and that he is going to discuss the atomic bomb. At the same time, there are conferences taking place on financial matters in America. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Winster, could persuade the Prime Minister to take him to America? He might be accompanied by Sir William Hildred, and also by Mr. Farey Jones, whose name will be familiar to the noble Lord because he has been at all these conferences on- civil aviation in connexion with international air transport should like the noble Lord to go to America at this time and come to some definite agreement with America about all these matters. I think that I should be right in saying that America is most anxious that these matters should be the subject of a definite agreement between our two countries.

I do not feel disposed to go into the question of aircraft at this time. We know quite well that we are dependent on American aircraft for some considerable time, but I do not think that it should delay us in establishing our organizations all over the world, and especially throughout the Dominions and the Colonies. American aircraft can be used so long as it is necessary. I understand that Transport Command are using 98 per cent. of American aircraft at the present time, and B.O.A.C. are dependent very largely on Dakotas. That should not delay us in getting our organizations throughout the world, so that when the time does come for the switch-over to British aircraft, which I hope will not be delayed though somewhat discouraged by this new statement of the Minister, in a shorter time than perhaps we anticipate we shall have these machines flying throughout the world in friendly competition—I am not looking to any cut-throat competition—for the benefit of the human race and the de- velopment of air-mindedness in this country. My noble friend Lord Balfour objects to the use of the term "air-mindedness," and I agree with him, but I do not know a better word. I want the noble Lord, Lord Winster, to spread air-mindedness throughout this country.

There is one matter which, in a discussion of this kind, may not be regarded as of first-class importance but which is, nevertheless, of great importance, that of education. It is not really a minor matter. If the noble Lord goes with Mr. Attlee to America, I should like him to visit some of the schools there. He will find that every American child is being brought up to-clay on a different curriculum from that which used to prevail, and in history and in geography the importance of the air is emphasized. Indeed, children are even being taught aerodynamics. What is being done in this country? I have made various representations on this point. I do not know whether Miss Ellen Wilkinson is going round the schools and saying that we must be air-minded or we shall lose our place as a great nation! I hope that the noble Lord will be able to answer some of these questions. The situation is very serious, and if there is delay it will be more serious still.

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we have all enjoyed the three speeches to which we have just listened, because they have all expressed rather different points of view. I hope that my own will not be an exception. I particularly enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Reith, who, as he told us, has not spoken for a long time—much too long—in this House. I agreed with nearly everything he said except for the phrase "starboard red," which seemed to me a slip.


My Lords: If to starboard red appear Tis your duty to keep clear.


If the noble Lord had quoted the whole poem, we should have understood him a little better. I want also, like other speakers, to draw attention to the speech of the Minister at the beginning of this debate. We Conservatives are now getting accustomed to two types of attack. One of them is represented by articles such as are written by Mr. Foot, in which everybody who does not agree with him is designated a Nazi, a traitor and a scoundrel. The inspiration of most of them is founded on "envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness." If your Lordships read one of them you might be rather surprised, but you get used to them after a time, and if you read others you will probably find them arousing. I am sure that the Daily Herald, which has a great journalistic flair, prints them as rival pieces to those of Mr. Beachcomber. We can put up with hard-hitting political articles, and nobody is going to quarrel with them; the sort of speech to which I object, and to which I am sure that everybody else will come to object, is the sort of speech which the Minister delivered to us, in which he ended up with a sort of Sermon on the Mount. I must say that the pharisaic: priggishness which is put over I find quite intolerable. We listened to the noble Lord's peroration about the service of the pilots. I hope that the service principle will be inculcated into the dockers and the miners by the noble Lord himself before he stretches it to the pilots. It may well be true that that sort of moral uplift is wanted in the Lower House, but I cannot help drawing attention to the fact that there should be two rows of professional Prelates her It is their business to give us that moral uplift, and it shows the topsy-turvy world that we are in when we get moral lessons from the Government and speeches on finance from the Bishops.

Like my noble friend Lord Reith, I refute to make this question of civil aviation a Party affair. I differ from my noble friend Lord Swinton when he says that it has become a Party issue. If we look back into the past, we discover that it was a Conservative Government who set up the State-owned B.O.A.C. It may have been right or it may have been wrong. Then Lord Swinton, with great imagination, and I think probably quite rightly, introduced the other agencies which he thought—and I agree with him—might be useful. Those have been thrown overboard, and of course for him and for many people that is regrettable. But I cannot help drawing attention to the fact that in America, where no ideological considerations come into the question, and where these matters are dealt with on a purely commercial basis, it has been definitely laid down that no form of surface transport is to have anything to do with the air. They may be right, or Lord Swinton may be right; all that I say is that there are those two opinions, and it cannot be said that because the Government take a certain view on this matter they are following a purely Party shibboleth. It is purely a matter of opinion.

Now as to these corporations. It seems to me that the Minister has, so to speak, copied Viscount Swinton's plan in a rather half-baked way. There is no real reason for three corporations. There is some reason for dividing traffic into four separate groups. There is the American situation, the European and internal routes, West Africa and South America and the East and South Africa—these are the natural groups into which the business falls. Why I object to the corporations is that some of them will be financially successful—the one to Europe, for example, carrying, as it will, big load factors, ought to be very successful—whilst others will not do so well. The consequence will be that you will get between the corporations a very unhealthy feeling; one saying, as it were, to the other: "We are a successful line but you cannot pay your way." That will be very tiresome. I should have thought that it would be desirable to have an overriding organization which would have the separate groups subordinate to it, so that there would be only the one organization with which the Minister would have to speak. You must remember that there is going to be a lot of common services. The services for training, welfare, stores, publicity and the accounting side, for example, must be common to the lot.

I would ask my noble friend the Minister if, when he comes to reply, he will tell me a little more about the tribunal—the C.A.A. Is that going to be independent of the Government, to fix fares and to say who is going to run here and who is going to run there? There are going to be great difficulties in the way of fixing fares, especially as against the people who are going to run in competition with us. I do not suppose that anybody in this House would say that I have ever been an enemy of the Air Ministry or the Air Force. I have fought their battles over and over again and have taken on all the Admirals of the Fleet in England in this House on their behalf. No one could accuse me of not being a sincere friend of the Royal Air Force, but I must say that, as you look back over the past, you will see that the Air Ministry has not been helpful to civil aviation. I do not blame them for they have had to build up the R.A.F. and to defend the country; but the fact remains.

The trouble at the present moment is that, the war being over, the Air Force have gone transport mad. They have now one quarter of their whole organization in Transport Command. They did not take any trouble to get transport machines. We are all behind-hand in that, and no great effort has been made in that respect since the war. They have not got the machines, and of course their record from the point of view of safety, compared with that of B.O.A.C. is very poor. But both concerns are run by the taxpayer—both the R.A.F. and B.O.A.C. Is it not high time that Transport Command was reduced in size to, so to speak, an adequate but skeleton peacetime level, and that B.O.A.C. took over from them the work which they were intended to do, and carried the passengers who now go by Transport Command. The R.A.F. was not horn to carry passengers, and it must be remembered that Transport Command have very great advantages of which they can and do make use. They have military priorities and they can get what they like in the way of equipment. They can stick to any aerodrome that they fancy in any part of the country. If we are really thinking of getting on with civil aviation then we should give Government assistance to civil aviation instead of giving it to Transport Command.

My noble friend the Minister in his introductory speech was good enough to say that he meant to continue my Committee. Well, whether my Committee continues or not is a matter for me and for nobody else to decide. But still it is a very kind gesture on Lord Winster's part, and anything that my Committee can do to help him we always will do. But he must remember that the time has come, or it is very imminent, when the operating company, the B.O.A.C. should know what they want. It is not for me to tell them what they want or for the Government to do so. It is for the operators themselves to say, and, if they have not the technical strength available to enable them to determine what they need, then they must be given more technical help. Shipping interests always know exactly what they want in the way of ships and so forth, and airline operators, such as the B.O.A.C. must be able soon to go direct to the manufacturer and say what they want. When that time comes—I hope that it will not be long before it does—the reason for the existence of the Brabazon Committee will soon disappear.

In conclusion I wish to point out that although we may squabble on questions concerning the organization which is going to be set up, the difficulty which the Minister is in to-day is not that he has opposition from us, whatever we talk about, but that he has got opposition from two Government Departments. The Air Ministry is inimical to him; he has rivalry to meet from Transport Command, and as I have said, M.A.P. is simply a delaying Post Office. If he, with the energy which he possesses, will get on and, with the Government behind him, sweep away these two obstacles and get something going, then, never mind how we may disagree about questions of theoretical organization, we will help him all we can.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the speech to which we have just listened has contributed very greatly to dispelling the atmosphere of gloom and despondency which seemed to overshadow this' debate from the time of the speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I was greatly cheered by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and indeed I may say that I knew perfectly well before he got up that he would contribute some helpful suggestions. May I say—though, of course, this is not my particular Departmental business—that I know that my noble friend Lord Winster and those who are taking a close interest in the activities of his Department will certainly display energy in pushing forward several of the things which the noble. Lord, Lord Brabazon, says are so essential and with which I agree entirely?

I was a good deal perplexed by the speech of Lord Swinton because it was such a strange and difficult-to-explain mixture, as I will show in a minute or two. I could riot understand why, at the beginning of his observations, he introduced me. I was charged—I think this expression is right—with "characteristic levity". I am not quite clear what I did do, but, however, if the noble Lord obtains some inward satisfaction from dragging me into it I am very glad.


My Lords, I thought the noble Viscount was showing amusement at some observations of mine, but if it was a joke of his own then I am sorry for what said about it.


Very well, we will wipe it out. But on this question of the gloominess of the noble Viscount's forecast, in which he was vigorously sup-ported to-day by Lord Balfour of Inchrye, may I say that what puzzles me rather is the way the world outside receives these Socialistic suggestions as compared with, say, a speech like that delivered by the noble Viscount. On the same day that the noble Lord, Lord Winster, introduced this discussion and announced the Government's decision, another Government decision was announced. It is true that it was rather obscured in this House by the interest which was aroused by this debate but nevertheless it was a very, very important decision. I refer to the decision as to the Commonwealth system of telecommunications, as a result, partly, of a recommendation of the Committee over which my noble friend Lord Reith presided with such distinction, and I would state in passing, that the Commonwealth Governments without exception have established Governmental organizations. I was interested in a little piece which I abstracted from a tape machine and I should like to read it. This the sequel to this dreadful announcement of another piece of Socialism. It is headed "The Stock Exchange, 10.37 a.m." and says: An outstanding feature of the House h the advance of about ten points in Cable and Wireless Preferential Stock following the news concerning State control. I may be a mere child in these matters bus I am somewhat perplexed to know why, if it is so dreadful, the Stock Exchange should be so buoyant and should welcome it by jumping up Cable and Wireless.


It has gone down since.


I should not think it has gone down far, but the point I am making is the psychological effect of this news. It did not have anything like the same effect on the Stock Exchange as it did on the noble Lord. I should like to join with those who paid tribute to the activity the noble Lord displayed and the services he has certainly rendered to civil aviation under exceedingly difficult conditions. I should like to say that without qualification. But the noble Lord went on, in expressing rather pained surprise, to say that the circumstances to-day are no different from the circumstances of a few months ago. With the greatest possible respect I cannot agree with that observation. I feel that the circumstances are very different. There has been a General Election. It is a fact, and the country has returned a Government which does not take the same view as to how these things should be done. This is not a new thing on our part. This kind of thing has been advocated for years and years and years. Even this particular proposal was approved at a conference some considerable time ago. The fact is, strange as it may appear, saddening as it is, that we really do believe that this is the best way of doing this kind of thing. That is the difference. I know it is very painful, but there it is. That is true. We certainly have got to face up to it and we have certainly never hidden it from the country. I think that the decision of the country was right, and of course it is a different decision—I am not complaining—from what the noble Lord would have had. I have spent many years in the political wilderness myself but still we were not depressed. We kept struggling along and now it seems that the country quite emphatically believes that this is the sort of way to deal with these problems.

Let me give one or two reasons which occur to me. Take, first of all, the overwhelming necessity for safety on a service of this kind. To have the confidence of the public the service must, above all, be a safe service. I think that is much more important than a few minutes here and there as to the time taken. Are you more likely to get the development of a thoroughly reliable and safe service by having the continual oversight of an organization which is subject to Parliamentary control? Or would it be better if you left it to a miscellaneous assortment of private companies who would like to develop the service on their own? To my mind there is no question of what the answer is. I am not saying that you would have petty interference with the direction and management of the business. We have got to develop the kind of method which Lord Reith was talking about. As to safety and confidence, I feel they would be much more likely to be achieved by this method than in any other way.

To take another point, safety depends on the high standard, among many other things, of training of the pilots, the ground crews and all the rest. The Royal Air Force has developed a system of training ground crews and has achieved a standard of accuracy which is second to none in the world. That has been done in the service of the State. I think myself that the way to secure the mobilization of all that is best in education and training is for a powerful organization of this kind, responsible to the State, to have general charge of the direction of the scheme.

Another point was raised by the noble Lord as to the welfare of the pilots. He spoke in one place of a suggestion that the pilots could be looked after if they become servants of the State. He knows quite well that an essential and integral part of the Services is that everyone should maintain the highest conditions for the pilots. The noble Lord himself—I do not think he was Minister—and those with whom he was associated were responsible for doing away with the two private companies. There were two great private corporations. It was true that they were receiving State subsidies but they were amalgamated. I see that one of them in the House of Commons, on November 17, 1937, was sadly criticized because it cut the salaries of its pilots, but it was a fact that this same company, the same year, increased its dividend from 8 to 9 per cent. That does not satisfy us; we happen really to be Socialists. We do not think that that is the right way of doing things. The well-being of the pilots is much more important than 1 per cent. in the dividend and I am quite sure that the noble Lord will entirely agree. The point, however, is this: that if you want an increasingly good standard of safety in regard to the welfare of the pilots, I think you will be much more likely to obtain it this way than if you leave it to a number of private corporations.

Then again, I am perplexed at the condemnations of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and to some extent of those of the noble Viscount who first spoke. Anyone might think that this proposal was some strange departure in principle from what has happened before. As a matter of fact, it is not. These two private companies, as we all know, were amalgamated into one public corporation with national money by the political friends of the noble Lord. If that was right then, why is it wrong now? That is the proper question to ask.


But you are not going to have three corporations.


I am coming to that but I understand that the criticism is whether we accept B.O.A.C. We are partly responsible for it—it is a dual responsibility. I understand that the B.O.A.C. will be accepted. Even if there were only two—according to the noble Lord's proposal he is limiting it to two—if the principle for which the noble Lord is contending is right, why not twenty? Why two? The reason for two is that the noble Lord recognizes—and everybody recognizes—that a new, great developing service of this kind must be subject to a great measure of central direction for all kinds of reasons. For those reasons, I think, the noble Lord suggested two separate corporations. Of course, as he says quite truly, his ideas have been debated here, except that they have a different basis. I have a good deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, has said. He did not see why there should not be one corporation. I think there is a good deal to be said for that, and it would not be a rough surmise to imagine that that question was the subject of considerable discussion. Anyhow, there is no reason at all why, as the service develops, there should not be amalgamation in the future if it was thought to be desirable. At any rate, there will be no private interests against it, if it is found to be desirable.

There is this to be said for it, too. This method of approach to this great new service will make it easier to secure the kind of co-operation we want with our Dominions than would otherwise be the case. The Dominions have started their own corporations, as we know, and I believe it will be much easier this way to establish a coherent Empire service than it would have been if there were number of separate and competing private companies. Two noble Lords on the Front Bench, who have spoken, deplored the sacrifice of the travel agencies.


If die noble Viscount will forgive Inc for interrupting him, is it not a fact that before I went out of office a complete working partner ship had been established with every one of the Dominions, and is that going to be carried on?


Certainly, but, of course, the noble Lord must remember that, at that time, the British and European service had not been established, not had the South American service, which he, himself, suggested. There was excellent co-operation between the Dominions during his time, but there is scope, possibly, for a gradually increasing co-operation, and we think that is more likely to be obtained this way. I think there is no doubt about it. As to the travel agencies, do the noble Lords really seriously contend that it would not he possible for my noble friend, the Minister, to make satisfactory—in fact, excellent—arrangements with all those experienced agencies, to secure their co-operation and good will, by any other means except by their having a few shares in the enterprise? I cannot imagine that anything of that kind is possible. Let me ask the noble Lords this. The conduct of the war has certainly been on a socialistic basis. There is no doubt about that—


I should have said—


Order, order.


The noble Viscount did ask me—


Quite right, go on.


As the noble Viscount has asked me, I should have said the success of the war was due to a partnership which evoked the best out of u s all.


Very good, that suits me admirably, and that, I think, will arise out of this. I do not think you are going to get the best out of us all simply because a selected number of individuals have a few shares in the enter prise. I have not the slightest doubt that we shall get the co-operation of the scientists and the designers in our aircraft industry. The designers of the Spitfire were not actuated by motives of profit; they loved their task; they were full of zeal and enterprise, and full of ideas. I have not the slightest doubt that these corporations, with the Ministry associated with them, will get much better work out of the few scientists we have got—and we have far too few—and a much better co-ordinated effort out of the designers, inventors, and scientists than would happen if there were a number of separate companies, each struggling to get their own share of these scarce men. Surely, that is the best way of making use of our very scanty resources of scientists, chemists, metallurgists, and all the rest.

I would pray your Lordships—and I do not want any better text than the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon—to try and approach this matter, if you can, free from political prejudice. We are accused of introducing political considerations into this. Let me say that, for twenty years, we have advocated this kind of thing on economical grounds, because we say it is the best way of doing it, and that is why we believe in it. So, as I said, I would pray your Lordships, at all events those who entertain these political suspicions, to put them out of your minds, and let us look at this matter on its merits, and see what is the best way, in the interests of the community, of developing this service It is impossible, now, to foresee how great it will become, but I am sure that, by coordinating national inspiration, you are more likely to get development on the right lines than you are by leaving it to a number of scattered agencies, each struggling on its own account. That is our view, and that is the reason for the Government's decision, which, I believe, is the right decision.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not keep you more than fourteen minutes. Several aspects of civil aviation have been discussed during this debate, but I propose to confine myself to Scottish interests. The electorate have given the Government a mandate for nationalization, and, whatever the cost may be to the country, that mandate will, no doubt, be tried. I wish, however, that it had stopped short of civil aviation because, although the electors south of the Border have given this mandate, the Scottish people have given it with a reservation. They may be ready to have public ownership of mines, but they do not wish to have nationalization of Scottish aviation on the English model and run from Whitehall. Civil aviation is a new thing on which the Scottish people pin their hopes. Air transport, properly run, will give direct employment to thousands of people, and, indirectly, to hundreds of thousands. We have, in Prestwick, an international airport, the operators of which have had six years' experience of running it, and we wish to utilize the experience they have gained for the advancement of the interests of the Scottish people. It is not desirable that our chances of prosperity should be lessened for the sake of exact uniformity with England. Those politicians who believe in nationalization, and those who believe in free enterprise, have left out of account those who are interested only in developing the optimum efficiency of air transport.

Scottish opposition to the policy proposed for air transport is already considerable, and it will grow truly formidable unless assurances can be given on one fundamental point—the measure of control of Scottish interests and Scottish enterprise which are to remain in Scotland. In the case of Prestwick airport, which is the most important single asset of the northern end of the Kingdom, the proposal was made by the founders and owners that ownership should pass to a Scottish public utility corporation. That proposal has received the approval of the Secretary of State and of the local county council and planning agencies, and it has also had a recommendation from the Scottish Council of Industry, but nothing more, so far as I know, has been heard of it. One more word about the Prestwick international airport. There would have been no airport at all if it had been left to the Government. The Government would not have put an airport there at all. They have opposed it from the very beginning and have thrown obstacles in its way over a period of years, and if it had not been for the perseverance and careful planning of the Scottish Aviation Company there would have been no airport there to-day. I would like to inform the noble Lords opposite—there are only three of them, I see—that the Scottish Aviation Company is not primarily out for profits. Their attitude has always been, as everybody in Scotland knows, directed towards the development of employment opportunity in commercial aviation.

In the case of airline operation—and airline operation is obviously the most important of all branches of commercial aviation—there are factors which make it much more difficult to guarantee efficiency under a system of common ownership than under free enterprise which is subject to the pressure of competition. But in both cases the attitude of the people of Scotland may be summed up by saying that ownership, public or private, is a matter of expediency rather than of principle. Noble Lords opposite are probably sceptical about that, but let me remind them that a member of their own Party declared, in another place, that "Scottish members have removed Prestwick airport from the realm of Party politics. We stand united on this question." The one principle from which there is no retreat and it has been enunciated frequently and eloquently in both Houses of Parliament—is that Scotland must have, as a matter of right, reasonable opportunity to work out its destiny in air commerce according to its own peculiar needs and its own capacity. It is precisely for that reason that Scottish opinion has been shocked and bewildered by the nature of the Government's proposal.

It may be that the noble Lord contemplates a wider distribution of power than his statement of policy would suggest. There are two points in particular which require to be clarified. The first concerns the nature of the air services which would be operated via Prestwick; the second is the Minister's assurance that Scotland will be able to play its full part in aviation with regard to both service and airport, by the opportunities provided for internal services between Prestwick and the rest of the United Kingdom, and for direct services between Prestwick and overseas countries. Are we to understand from the latter statement that Scottish operators are to be allowed to operate such services?

I am sorry the noble Lord is not here at the moment, because I particularly want this question answered. Or are we to understand that the critical and highly complex task of creating air commerce for Scotland is to be left to the three monopoly corporations the noble Lord has envisaged, each and all controlled from Whitehall and subject at every turn to the supervision of the Treasury in addition to the Minister of Civil Aviation? These are the two questions which I hope the noble Lord will answer. I gave him notice of them.

The effect of the noble Lord's announcement has been to throw into the melting pot once again the central plan to which all Scotland has been working—a plan based on the possession and development of Prestwick airport by a Scottish authority, but applying to every corner of Scotland and to Scottish trade as wet as Scottish industry. If at this date the essential combination of airlines, international airports and aircraft manufacture are to be taken out of Scottish hands and entrusted to alien boards and departments then the noble Lord should show greater cause for such action. It is true to say that the drafting of a commercial air policy for this country is just about the most difficult of all decisions which this Government can take. One cannot blame Ministers for feeling their way towards a Formula which will reflect enlightened public opinion, for in this country there is little real knowledge of the present scale and future possibilities of air transport

Many of us believed that Viscount Swinton's policy of a few months ago would have eventually resulted in an independent tribunal to license aeroplane operators, which would have permitted orderly development of air interests in every part of the country, and that such a tribunal would be rather on the same lines as the American system of State regulation of airlines. It is rather surprising that a Labour Government, looking for some means of State regulation should not take advantage of the experience of America, which has already produced in a Civil Aeronautics Board an ideal form of State regulation which has proved itself efficient in practice. The American system of State regulation of competition between airline operations and other forms of transport has proved that it bring cheap, efficient air service to the people, can meet every progressive need of an airfaring nation; and, surprisingly enough, it has enabled their airlines to bring revenue into the national Exchequer, thus laying no burden whatever on the American taxpayer. So it is very difficult to know why this example should not be followed here in this country to a certain extent.

Finally, although I have said something about Scottish interests I am not a Scottish nationalist and I do not want the Government policy to have the effect of manufacturing more of those gentlemen. I would remind your Lordships that we are a small country with a small population, but the whole matter of civil aviation is of the deepest interest to Scottish people; and since they feel that their future welfare is bound up with it, they wish to have the right to run it in their own way with their own experienced operators and with the minimum of supervision from London.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, I would like to thank Lord Winster for very kindly mentioning me in his speech on October 18 as one of the small band of noble Lords who pressed the Government in the last Parliament to appoint a Minister of Civil Aviation. It is interesting to notice that not one of the names in the list that he gave belonged to a member of his own Party. I think it can be said that had it not been for our activities there would not have been a Minister of Civil Aviation and, in short, Lord Winster would not be sitting upon that Bench to-day. I think we can say also that there would not have been a Brabazon Committee, nor would there have been any civil transport aeroplanes in any form of production to-day.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, congratulated himself on his foresight or second sight in not taking part in the debates—a tribute paid, I imagine, if not to his knowledge of the subject, certainly to his perspicacity. There was, however, one tiny slip in that straight and narrow path. On May 11, 1944, Lord Winster rose from his seat on the Bench he used at that time and intervened in the debate. He said in the course of his opening remarks that he wished chiefly to reinforce the very remarkable speech made by Lord Essendon in regard to civil aviation and the shipping industry. I would like to say in passing that it is greatly to be regretted that Lord Essendon is no longer with us. He made a very remarkable speech and nobody could talk with greater authority upon the subject of shipping.

I know it is very unfair to quote speeches some time after they have been made, but this was only eighteen months ago. I would, therefore, ask this House to bear with me whilst I quote some of the speech which the noble Lord made on that occasion. He said: Coming to the question of air transport in connexion with our shipping industry, I have said that it may be necessary in certain cases to subidize air services in order to get them started; but it seems to me we are on very dangerous ground when that has to be carried to the length of subsidizing one branch of the same industry—namely; transport—against another, and that is going to be the situation if you have to subsidize air services which are running in competition with sea services. It certainly is bad enough to have to rob Peter to pay Paul, but if you are going to kill Peter in order that Paul may live that seems to be going too far altogether. I am sure that shipowners do not want to find themselves working in competition with Government subsidized airlines. As regards the position which the shipping industry is taking up in this matter I see that, speaking in another place, a member gave as his opinion that shipowners were seeking to control post-war aviation in order to make up for possible losses on passenger ships. So far as I am able to judge …that is not at all the attitude which is taken up by the shipowners in regard to post-war civil aviation…It is not merely a matter of the shipowners; it is a matter of the whole shipping industry… and so on. He made a very strong plea on behalf of the shipping industry on that occasion and I remember that I whole-heartedly endorsed that plea.

At that time the noble Lord was of the opinion that it would certainly be wrong to run air services operated by the Government in competition with shipping lines operating in that particular area. I think, therefore, that upon this question we should have some explanation of why in the South American Service the noble Lord proposes to take away the interest of the shipping companies. No doubt we shall have his reply on that point. I would like to ask him whether he has changed his opinion or whether, when he made his statement the other night, he was giving voice as a sort of spokesman for his Party. Perhaps he might also tell the House when this great vision struck him and converted him to an entirely different belief. I cannot believe that office is a price high enough to pay for one's own opinion, and I am perfectly certain that the noble Lord would not have sacrificed those opinions which he held then purely for the sake of occupying an important position.

British shipping is going to be thrown on its own resources not only to compete with rival foreign shipping lines but also to compete with the British Government. In his statement the noble Lord made rather a curious remark; he said that shipping would be integrated with the airlines. I did not understand what he meant by that because shortly afterwards he used the word "co-operation." The use of the word "integration" would suggest a kind of blackmailing of shipping companies—if they do not co-operate they will be forcibly integrated. Obviously the co-operation which the shipping companies are expected to give to the new airlines is co-operation which cannot in any circumstances be to their advantage. It cannot in any way help the shipping companies which are operating the lines to give co-operation which, as far as one can see, must be entirely in one direction. If they lose passengers by reason of the Government subsidized services—and they must be subsidized, apparently, if they are Government services, however much the noble Lord may try to hide that fact when he eventually produces his estimates —that must have a bad effect upon them.

If I heard Lord Brabazon aright, he said that some of the remarks of Lord Winster were extremely priggish. In that case some of the remarks of Lord Addison were pure humbug. Lord Addison suggested that everybody here should cooperate (he said that was for the good of the country) towards making a success of a national venture in civil airlines. He said it was for the good of the country and that everybody knew it was for the good of the country. So far as I am concerned, I state quite emphatically that I do not think it is for the good of the country at all. I do not propose to be converted like the noble Lord opposite and to agree that the nationalization of civil aviation is for the good of the country. On the contrary, I take the view that it is extremely bad and that it will not be successful, however much it may be covered up in the financial estimates which will be presented to Par- liament from time to time. I would state, furthermore, that I disagree entirely and absolutely with the view put forward from the Benches opposite, (not to-day but from time to time either here or in another place), that concentration of resources in the hands of a Government such as this will be is a powerful force for peace. That is not borne out by any kind of experience or by history. On the contrary, powerful concentrations in the hands of Governments lead far more towards war.

I would draw the noble Lord's attention to a paragraph, with which I entirely agree, written by Professor Einstein, in which he said: As to Socialism, unless it is international to the extent of producing world government which controls all military power, it might mere easily lead to wars than does Capitalism, because it represents a still greater concentration of powers. It seems to me to be beyond all question that the tremendous concentration which is going on at the present moment of all the resources of power in this country in the hands of the Government will inevitably lead to a highly dangerous state of affairs, especially in view of the fact that sooner or later the noble Lord will have to try and make a success of this experiment.

As showing what is likely to happen in the future, I should like to refer to the debate which took place in another place on October 12. If you read that debate you will find that one after another honourable gentleman rose and said that there should be an international aerodrome in his own constituency. That kind of thing is not possible under the capitalist system. Five members made speeches of that kind. This is the sort of thing which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will have to face in future if he nationalizes air transport. He has no idea of the political pressure that is going to be put upon him, both in the other House and in this. That is what we are going to get under nationalization, and I think it is very bad.

I should like to congratulate the noble Lord on his speech of October 18, which was very amusing. In the course of that speech, as showing that people are against inventiveness and new things, he quoted an offer in Punch of prizes of £10,000 for flying to Mars, for going to the centre of the earth, and so on. I think that in don g that he might have remembered to what that referred. A week before, the late Lord Northcliffe, in his newspapers, had offered a prize of £10,000 for the first man who flew from London to Manchester. Punch was ridiculing that offer. It was an offer made by private enterprise. If you study the history of civil aviation in this country, you will find that it has never been pushed forward by arty Government in any circumstances, but always by enterprising individuals, both inside and outside the industry. This country owes much to the work of such men in the early days.

One of them was my noble friend Lord Brabazon, who figured as the winner of one of the prizes offered, I think, in 1908. He seems to have fallen since those days. He was full of initiative when he was a young man, but I suppose that age brings the desire to recline and let other people get on with the business. From the speech which he made I did not see any reason why he should not, besides presiding over the excellent Committee of which he is Chairman, move on to the Labour Front Bench; because I think that both he and Lord Reith would make excellent representatives of the Labour Party. No doubt we shall see them there in due course, if the Labour Party are there long enough.

In the course of his speech the noble Lord made what I may describe as an ideological statement. He said: "We do not want competition which indulges in greed at other people's expense." What did he mean by that? Was it an attempt at apology in advance for failure, so that the Government could come to the House on some future occasion and say "It is true that we have not very much business, but we were not very greedy; we let other people have a chance "? Is this a new version of turning the other cheek? That doctrine, wholly admirable in itself, fails to take account of the lamentably slow progress that has been made in human nature. I suggest that even if speculation and greed are not in the plan, there is no incentive of any sort that can be found in it either. It may be that people will be fond of their jobs and will work at them, but I think you will find that there will not he that incentive and that energy which we should have had under free enterprise.

I do not know whether the noble Lord thinks that our share of the shipping in- dustry is too great. I believe that before 1914 we had two-thirds of the world's shipping, and that before the last war we had 40 per cent. Is it to be said that that is terrible, that it is much too great, that it is very greedy, and that we, as a small island, should not do that kind of thing? Is it to be said that about 5 per cent. is what we ought to have, according to our population and the size of our country? Why does not the noble Lord give the 35 per cent, away to some other country? That would only be acting on the kind of sentiment which he expressed in his speech. Is that the idea behind the principles which he is enunciating? If it is, we have a very unpleasant future to which to look forward. When I think of the miseries that we shall all have to share if this Government stay in office indefinitely I am dismayed.

There is not the slightest sign that I can see of any effort to restore our export trade. I dislike going back to the noble Lord's speech, to which I referred earlier, but he was very keen on the export trade in that speech. He said: I have said before, and I repeat, that if we are to have regard to the post-war period the most important task with which we shall be confronted will be the building of our export trade. Unless our export trade can be rebuilt, developed and expanded, then a great many of these utopian dreams of which we hear so much in the perorations of members of the Government will fade away and come to naught. Those are Lord Winster's words, not mine. I thoroughly endorse every single word that he said. After all, the export industry is of immense importance, and we have to face the fact that we cannot expect our exports in any circumstances to equal our imports, unless we reduce the population of these islands. So long as we have a population of over 40,000,000 our imports will exceed our exports, and we shall be able to make up the difference only as we did before the war, by what are called our invisible exports. The noble Lord knows what I mean by that, because he talked about it in his speech. He knows that the principal item in our invisible exports, apart from our foreign investments, of which we cannot hope in the future to have more than a shadow, is our international transportation service, what we are going to get by our services to the world in shipping and in civil aviation. Those are our invisible exports, and on those two things will depend the standard of life of our people in the future.

The noble Lord is taking a tremendous responsibility. He may become the most hated and execrated of men if he does not deliver the goods. I suggest that under his scheme your Lordships are taking a very considerable amount of responsibility, because you are going to be the shareholders' meeting. Lord Reith talked about shareholders' meetings and the desire for dividends which shareholders generally have. Are not your Lordships going to desire any dividends—not individually, of course, but as representing the nation? Are there to be no dividends whatever from civil aviation? Are we to go into a dividendless world in these nationalization projects? If so, I do not know how the noble Lord expects that he is going to balance the Budget.

I say quite frankly that I will have no part and parcel in this plan, and I shall continue to urge, even when it is passed, that it be repealed. I say that it is a purely Party plan and nothing else. I most sincerely hope that I shall hear from the Front Opposition Bench that the Party on this side of the House will not be tied to it at all, but will seek the first possible opportunity of destroying it and presenting a new plan. I believe most earnestly in continuity, but not in continuity purely on the principles of the Socialist Party. That is not a continuity which is going to be obtained from your Lordships' House. You can get a compromise, if you like, but not that sort of compromise. If you are going to produce for civil aviation a purely ideological plan, I say that when the time comes that there is a change of Government the Government that succeeds should not be tied to continuing the policy which has been put forward. I hope that when the Bill has been presented to this House we shall find it is greatly modified. If not, I will have no part in it. I shall protest from now on, and I hope that other noble Lords who feel as I do will seize the first opportunity, when circumstances permit, of taking steps to secure its repeal.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is right that I should say at once that in the remarks which I make to the House this afternoon I shall not necessarily be expressing the views of any particular Party or business interest. I speak entirely as an individual. While the policy outlined by the Minister may not have received unqualified approval from all sides, at least we now have a policy. But, whatever the policy, then, are certain points to which I should like to draw the attention of the House, and which I submit require immediate action aril brook of no delay. In the debate on the 18th October the Minister stated that he had no intention of deviating from the agreed policy of working for order in tin air. I respectfully submit to him that on of the first steps he should take to achieve this order is the establishment of an overall Civil Air Navigational Control. At the present moment, I believe there are several control systems in use in this and in other European countries, by the R.A.F., to say nothing of that used by Americans. In fact, at the moment, if one has the temerity to fly in a cloud one does so at considerable risk of bumping into someone else who is not flying on the same system as yourself, and has as little knowledge of your whereabouts as you have of his.

I need not elaborate on the ultimate possibilities if such a situation is allowed to continue. As your Lordships know, an adequate and efficient control system necessitates the employment of a very large and highly skilled ground staff. There are many highly skilled technical control officers in the Royal Air Force, and I presume that it will be from the ranks of these that the Minister will first seek to set up our civil control staff. The Minister has said that the members of this stiff will be the employees of his Ministry, and so I would ask him if he is satisfied that the salaries now being offered are sufficient to attract the most highly skilled and desirable of those officers who are now leaving the R.A.F. or who may shortly be leaving it. As your Lordships know, control requires a system. I think it is inarguable that there is a distinct likelihood that the skies over this country and Europe generally will become crowded; and therefore I suggest that it is desirable, if disaster and disorder are to be avoided, that there should be but one single method of control.

The Minister recently told us that a study was now being made of the radar technique of navigation in so far as it night apply to civil aviation, and that especially refers to those areas of high traffic density and to meeting the needs of regularity and of safety. I think it would be of great interest if the Minister could tell us if those studies have now reached a stage when he can say what is the system which has been decided upon, because this has direct reference to the equipment that must be installed in machines now being built as well as to the navigational training of the crews. I think it would be fair to argue that Europe and this country probably constitute one of the areas of high traffic density to which the Minister referred, and, the climate being what it is, I do hope that we shall hear, when the decision is announced, that it is in favour of the radar navigational system known as "GEE", probably used in conjunction with a localizer for approaches and landings in conditions of bad visibility or fog.

My reasons for hoping that "GEE" will be used are that, in so far as my information goes, it is the only system that is immediately available and that embraces all the following advantages and possibilities. In the first place, it provides a nearly indefinite number of beams upon which aircraft can fly. Secondly, it ensures virtually instantaneous and completely accurate self-positioning by the aircraft anywhere within the area covered by the lattice. I think it is right to say that a reasonably skilled operator can comfortably get an accurate position in something like thirty seconds or less. In the third place, an indefinite number of aircraft can use this system simultaneously. It provides a choice of either beam flying or navigation by positioning, or both. It will greatly simplify the job of the ground control officers in congested areas, as it will, or should, obviate the old tiresome business of stacking and orbiting over congested and busy areas in conditions of bad visibility. It can be used by both civil and service flying, thereby affording an economy and at the same time avoiding duplication of systems.

The invention and manufacture is British, therefore there should be no question of difficulties in obtaining foreign exchange. The ground chains set up by the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom and Europe are still available, and the necessary equipment to be carried in the aircraft is immediately available in this country. Short of complete break- down, the positions obtainable on this system are dead accurate. Lastly, I understand that in European aviation circles—at least so far as the nearer European countries are concerned—it is looked upon with considerable favour and that those countries would like to use it. This should make it easy to negotiate an agreement for one single control and also might have the advantage that, in due course, it would provide us with a useful and valuable item of export.

The Minister recently told us about Heathrow and of the progress that had been made, but he said that in the meantime it was intended to make the fullest possible use of Croydon as a supplementary airport. He qualified this statement by saying that he had come to an agreement with the Secretary of State for Air for part use of Northolt. I most respectfully suggest to him that not only will he require Northolt—all of Northolt and not half of it—and that in the very near future, but he will probably require a third supplementary aerodrome as well.

I think he would be ill-advised if he were to regard Croydon as anything but an emergency port in a storm—a hole in a corner and a very bad one at that. It would be interesting to hear from him if this agreement with the Secretary of State for Air is but on a purely temporary basis and based on the argument that Northolt is necessary to Transport Command's present operations. I think there is validity in that argument, but only for so long as Transport Command continues to act as a locum tenens until the civil corporations get on their feet. After that I think it will be difficult to argue that the operations of Transport Command will necessitate the use of an airport in the immediate vicinity of London, considering that the difficulties of finding a site are so great and at the same time bearing in mind that by its use they are depriving the civil corporations, who will after all be carrying the general public, of the use of a part of Northolt. I submit that there is no alternative to Northolt.

My last point is the question of personnel. The Minister has said that legislation will be required to deal with the Government policy. There will possibly be delay in such legislation. I submit that some machinery should be devised now to enable the civil corporations, or possibly B.O.A.C. acting as a caretaker for them, to engage immediately the large amount of staff which will be necessary. There has been considerable talk to the effect that British civil aviation has been held back for lack of aircraft, but I submit to your Lordships that the provision of aircraft, airports, navigational control and even the negotiation of international agreements, will avail you little unless you have the trained personnel to operate the services. It may be of interest to your Lordships to know that on present assessment it has been estimated that it will take some ninety working days to put each flying crew as it is released from the Royal Air Force or the Fleet Air Arm through the necessary conversion and route training courses and, at the same time, to obtain their licences. That is an interesting figure when it is realized that the present plan for the first batch of services between this country and the nearer European countries call for no less than eighty new flying crews. Probably the first half dozen or so aircraft coming off the production line will have to be relegated to training for some time.

Then there are the engineers. They have to be retrained to civil progress and they also will have to be licensed. I take it that the same orders and regulations as we had before the war or something similar to them will still hold good. Then there are the traffic officers. The majority of these will be new to the ordinary commercial practice. I do not intend to reflect in any way on Transport Command when I say that the traffic officers leaving Transport Command to make civil aviation their business, will require training almost anew not only in documentation but also in psychology. The reason for that is that to date they have been to a large extent concerned in handling either personnel from the Services travelling on military orders, V.I.P's—very important persons—or persons travelling on Government business, few of whom travel on their own recognisance or who have paid for their own tickets. An entirely different approach in technique is required for handling the great general travelling public. Anyone who has had any direct dealing with the travelling public will, I am sure, bear me out when I say that.

All of this will take time, and I submit that we have no time to lose in making a start. There are also some valuable personnel who have already left the Royal Air Force or who are shortly going to leave it, who wish to make civil aviation their profession, and they are qualified and should be able to do so. But their financial sands are running out rather fast. They wish to live by the air but they cannot live on air, and unless something is done to offer them immediate employment, or at least a promise of definite employment, they will, perforce, have to seek their livelihood elsewhere and their skill will be lost to the profession. In drawing your Lordships' attention to these points which require immediate action, I do not do so in a spirit of criticism but I hope that I may have beer of some slight assistance to the Minister who with the tremendous job in front of him should receive all and any help any of as can give to him.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, when my noble friend who has just sat down commenced his interesting speech, he remarked that he spoke to your Lordship; as an independent. I repeat that remark from my own point of view and I would add to that, that I strive to approach the problem your Lordships have been debating from the standpoint of ail aeronautical engineer. Personally, I feet that the plan which has been submitted to your Lordships by the Minister of Air Transport is not one which is calculated to advance air transport in the manner in which those of us who have been engaged in it for many years past would feet to be suitable. If we may take a lesson from our friends in the United States of America, is it not useful to consider that from the year 1919 to the year 1931, no progress of any moment was made with air transport in the United States because the development was hampered by officialdom at every turn? Regulations, official instructions, Senatorial investigating committees and whatnot, were in the way. After a period of some ten years in which nothing was done, light came when the Civil Aeronautics Board was set up. The Civil Aeronautics Board had in parallel the Civil Aeronautics Authority, but it was the executive authority which carried out the policy laid down by the board. Maters took a very different turn and air transport in the United States and al over the world by United States operator; developed in a highly successful way, and, as has been said in your Lordships' House to-day, is the example in design and operation which leads the world.

Therefore, I would have hoped that the Minister would have taken some note of the experience in the United States of America and tried to recreate a similar organization over here in parallel to that in the States which has been so successful, instead of repeating at a later date the same style of organization which has been proved in the United States of America over a period of ten to eleven years to be unsuccessful in promoting the vigorous development of air transport. As your Lordships will be aware, the Civil Aeronautics Board exercises the initiative in every possible manner, and sensibly controls enterprise, and we know the successful results of that policy. I would like to suggest that the Minister, in his reply, should let your Lordships know whether he proposes to set up two organizations, similar to those I have referred to, to wit, the policy-forming group, the Civil Aeronautics Board, and the executive authority, the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The latter group carries out the policy of the Board, and has a staff of many thousands scattered over the world. I think, too, that your Lordships would be interested to hear from the Minister when the R.A.F. control of air traffic in these islands and along the Empire routes, which was necessary during the war, is to end, and when such control will be handed over to the Civil Air Transport authorities.

Some reference has been made to transatlantic operations, particularly from the terminal angle over here, and one wonders why it is necessary to subject transatlantic passengers to a slow and tiresome motorbus ride from Hurn, or train journey from some neighbouring station, thus giving a fantastic picture of a traveller from New York to London passing some 25 to 3o per cent. of his elapsed time in a doddering train, or a rickety motor-bus. That seems quite fantastic, and I hope the Minister will be able to indicate that if, for example, Bovington, which is but an hour's motor run from London, cannot be used, Northolt, which is only 30 minutes away, should be used, ac has been suggested by the noble Earl who preceded me in this debate. If that is not possible, perhaps a better plan would be to use the only up-to-date airport that exists in Great Britain, Prestwick, which has a remarkable weather record, and facilities which do not exist anywhere else for the looking after of passengers and the technical servicing of aircraft; and to have from Prestwick to Northolt a shuttle service which would take about two hours to run down here.

Since the noble Lord, Lord Winster, is so keen on State enterprise in air transport, one wonders why he allowed that splendid organization, the Air Transport organization, to be disbanded. There was an organization with a number of pilots, of both sexes, unequalled in their experience of moving aircraft over the islands, with a first-class ground organization, too. That organization has been disbanded, and the people therein scattered to the four winds. In the circumstances, I think it was a great mistake to allow an organization with such a splendid record of achievement at the back of it to be needlessly thrown away in this manner. Might I also ask the noble Lord, Lord Winster, to be a little more explicit in regard to the question of compensation? The noble Lord, in his speech at the commencement of this debate the other day, said that compensation would be arranged, where lines had to be taken over, for the stock in hand, but he was not very specific, although quite sympathetic, in his reference to the question of goodwill and development expenditure. Perhaps he will remember that when, for example, British Airways was taken over by British Overseas Airways, a fair sum was arrived at which covered equipment, expenditure on development, and goodwill.

In March of this year, there was a debate on the White Paper, which was then before your Lordships' House, in which a suggestion was interpreted that Allied Airways, operating in Scotland, which were specifically mentioned, were to be taken over and only compensated for the stock of aircraft in hand. Many remarks were made as to the unsuitability of this proposal, but nothing actually took place, and I hope the noble Lord has no intention of following out the proposal in that document. I would also like to ask the noble Lord, the Minister, whether he would agree that the State corporations should not operate charter services. He has stated that charter services are to be left open, and that is the only avenue left open to private initiative. If, as would be easy, the State corporations are going to indulge in private charter operations, then there would be little, indeed, that the independents could do, and I hope the noble Lord will make that point clear in such a way as to indicate that State corporations will not engage in charter work in any circumstances.

Then, referring to the Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, who spoke a short time ago, might I suggest, in respect to the developments which that Committee has recommended and which, perhaps, the Minister may already have taken action on, and any other development of air craft, that such aircraft, except in the smaller sizes, should be entirely powered with the gas turbine? The gas turbine, as your Lordships know, can be used for driving an aircrew, or for propelling the jet mechanism which is used in the record-breaking machines now waiting at Home Bay for fine weather. We, undoubtedly, lead in the design and development of the gas turbine, and it would be more than appropriate that the Minister should indicate very clearly that the reciprocating engine—it has given excellent service—is a thing of the past, and that the gas turbine is to be the prime mover in all future types of air transport machines.

Those of us interested in what is called, in the United States, "personal flying," or here "the light aircraft movement," were glad to hear that the Minister is to free light aircraft as from 1st January next. At the same time, he must know that there are no aircraft to use, and I wonder whether he has in view the release of a certain number of those small types, like the De Havilland Moth, which the R.A.F. have in large quantities, and which, at certain aerodromes, are rusting and rotting in the wind and rain. Would it not be appropriate that a certain number of those should be made available for the convenience of people who wish to fly about the country? In connexion with the light aeroplane movement, as a whole, perhaps the Minister may have something to say in regard to the continuation and increase of the subsidy which used to be paid, before the war that has just ended, to the light aeroplane clubs. I would ask the Minister to direct his attention to the fact. We in this country undeniably lead in the world of light aircraft. The first types of light aircraft came from this country. They were designed, developed and manufactured here, and they were flown over the North and South Atlantic and over the world, by British and other pilots.

But at the present moment the situation is such that neither of the pioneer organizations, such as the De Haviland Company or the Miles Company, is able or is being encouraged by the Minister of Civil Aviation to do anything whatever in developing this type of machine. It might be that the exports of such aircraft would not be very large; none the less, they could be increased, and nothing, would be better for showing the flag o British enterprise in a technical sense over the world than the development of the light aeroplane of the 1946 model. I hope the Minister will give some attention to that.

When considering the subsidizing of light aeroplane plants, I hope he will con sider, in parallel with it, the subsidizing of the gliding clubs, which also are to be released. It is interesting, in connexion with gliding clubs, to note, as perhaps some of your Lordships may have noted that so great is the enthusiasm of the few who have sail planes in these days that, despite the official ban, they have been flying them over the past few months. Therefore one may, for once, congratulate the bureaucratic machine for adopting the Nelson touch and doing nothing much about it.

In connexion with the many developments that fall to the noble Lord, Lon Winster, to attend to, I think it would be well if he would remember that it the past developments that are now fitted to every type of aircraft which is used—for example, the retractable undercarriage, the variable pitch propeller, wing flap to assist taking off and to slow down landing, and the all-metal machine—were developments coming entirely from these Islands. Very little, however, was done about them from this angle, and they fell to be developed in other quarters. I hope the Minister will see to it that future developments—for example, the gas turbine—are developed in an effective way, and that all air transport now in design or under development are fitted with them.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, this debate started with a Party speech from the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who made it clear he was speaking for his Party against nationalization. The debate then continued and you had later on from Lord Rothermere also a Party speech, in which he said that as soon as his Party got back they were going to tear up what has been now put into operation by the present Government.


I said I hoped so.


The noble Viscount said it was his intention and he hoped he was going to rouse those noble Lords who hold the same views as himself to carry out that idea. Well, I certainly hope he will fail, because I do not think you ought to take this as a purely Party question. We, who have had to deal with them, know the difficulties. The noble Lord, Lord Keith, twitted me for saving that I thought it was slightly quaint to hear criticism of Lord Winster for not having found a solution within three months. Lord Reith had done me the honour to read my speech, but he had not done Lord Balfour of Inchrye the same honour; otherwise he would have seen what it was to which I referred. I do think this is a very big question, and it is not quite fair to expect this Government to find a solution in the short space of three months to what has been a very difficult problem.

We are now faced with the present problem. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, to whom aviation owes a great debt, is rather in the position of the man who has rubbed the ring, produced the genii, and is terrified of what he has produced. It is not what he wanted, but now he has got it. You have got a Ministry of Civil Aviation: what is it going to do? You had the Swinton plan. I myself, as a member of that Government, was, of course, a party to that plan, but I have never hidden the fact that I cannot see that because the railways and the shipping companies are not brought into the present Winster plan it is necessarily going to be a failure. What have they done—these railways and shipping companies—during all these discussions? Let us hear what they have done. We know what they are doing and have got to do, both in shipping and in railways. I have been through the list of directors of these railway and shipping companies, and it does not give me any confidence that they are the people who are going to put civil aviation where England expects it to be. Let us get it perfectly clear in our heads that if civil aviation is going to succeed we have to be completely air-minded about it. Without that we will not achieve anything.

There are going to be a great many difficulties. I have read with care the Minister's speech and what he said about the three corporations which he suggests should be set up. There were one or two figures I would like to have. After all, the B.O.A.C., as we know it by name now, has been going for a considerable time, and I should like to know what it is costing this country. We know it has something like 22,000 employees. We are now to have three corporations and there is going to be a great deal of cost in forming those companies, for aerodromes and machines. I think we should know and are entitled to be told what the one company we have now is costing us. Let us know what our position is going to be. I agree with Lord Brabazon that this idea of three corporations is not a sound one. I would prefer to see it under one head, and the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, did admit that there might be a change in that regard. I cannot see that three corporations are going to make for real benefit in working civil aviation. Let it be under one head, and if necessary have separate divisions; but I do not like the idea of three separate corporations.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, referred to the tribunal to consider facilities, fares and rates of the United Kingdom lines. I would like to know whether this is going to be purely a Departmental or a more independent tribunal, whether it is going to have an independent chairman and what its terms of reference are going to be. I presume, however, that we shall have to wait for the White Paper before that can be explained. Lord Winster said that certain aerodromes would be taken over. With that I entirely agree because if the Government are going to make air a public enterprise they must obviously own the aerodromes, which are very costly. He also said that private charter was to be allowed and that private aerodromes for training would also be allowed. I would like to know what agreement is going to be made to ensure that these aerodromes which are not to be under public control have the same benefits as those which are to be under the Government. In this country you cannot have some flying safe, some fairly safe and some dangerous; the whole of the benefits that science can dispense must be given to all who fly in the air.

As to Prestwick, I am glad the Government have taken the view they have. While it will no doubt bring pleasure to Scotland, the decision must be based purely on the question of whether it is a good aerodrome for transatlantic flights. After all, the customer is always right and it will be of no use for the Minister, or for anyone else, to say where anyone is going to land in this country, because if someone wants to fly to London he will fly to London. It is no good saying that Prestwick is to be the airport if people want to come to London, for they are the people who are going to decide.

I am not one of those people who believe that it is only by private enterprise that public work can he successfully carried on. However, a great deal devolves on the Minister. It is up to him to choose people with real initiative to drive forward these corporations and these plans. If he fails in that, then the whole scheme will fall. I do not believe that private enterprise can really come into civil aviation with benefit to the public. At the present moment I do not think there will be the money there. Anyone who knows anything of this subject knows that a modern aerodrome may cost you up to £5,000,000 if it is going to be properly equipped and used for public air transport such as you are going to get in the future. Then there is the cost of machines, the cost of training, the cost of wages, and the cost of compensation and insurance. I do not see any great profit in this, but I am quite certain that it can be made a success in this country in the hands of public enterprise if there is the right feeling throughout.

The Minister also mentioned one other thing which I should like to deal with in closing. He claimed he had now got in the Ministry of Supply the same equality for civil aviation as for the R.A.F. and the Fleet Air Arm. If it were the Ministry of Aircraft Production I would not mind so much, but I myself am not happy about aviation being handed over to the Ministry of Supply. There is one thing which frightens me and that is that if those three bodies, the Royal Air Force, the Fleet Air Arm and Civil Aviation, are going to be divided in dealing with what their necessities are in the Ministry o Supply, you are not going to get the best service for aviation. I do hope that when he gets, as he claims, that right of a representative there, that representative will know that all three bodies, the Royal Air Force, the Fleet Air Arm and Civil Aviation, have one great thing to push forward in the Ministry of Supply— namely, research. I am not happy on the question of where that research now lies. The Minister has a great opportunity. I am not going to condemn him. I agree with the powerful speech of Lord Reith and I agree with Lord Brabazon. I do not agree with Lord Rothermere. I hope the Minister will succeed.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to ally myself with the very statesmanlike speech which we have heard afternoon from Lord Reith with which it very large measure I agree and also with what has fallen from Lord Sherwood It is a little late in the evening for oratory so all I will do, if I may, is to ask one or two questions of the Minister. If he feels that he has been given rather short notice to enable him to deal with them—although they arise out of his own statement when we last met—I shall be quit content to give him all the time he wants to answer them. The first question concerned with air terminals, and the second with the constitution of that hardy annual B.O.A.C., its board and its management.

First of all, with regard to air terminals, let me get this Prestwick question in its proper aspect by saying that I associate myself with what has just fallen from Lord Sherwood. I would put it a shade more strongly than he put it. Let us have no more of Prestwick, if that is possible. We heard this afternoon an appeal from the Earl of Glasgow that this place should be continued. So far as I know, it is an obscure Ayrshire burgh with a four-figure population, situated 400 miles from London, which is about one-fifth of the Atlantic crossing by the short route. As Lord Sherwood just implied, people who go to America will take off from wherever they want to and will come down here wherever they want to. They will make the choice.

To suggest that people living in the heart of the Empire are to go up to Prestwick on their way to America or to land there when they come back, is just Alice in Wonderland. It reduces the whole thing to an absurdity. When I want to go to America I propose to go there and not to go to Scotland first. I do not want to go to Ireland either; to Foynes or Rineanna or any of those other outlandish places. I want to go to America and the shortest route to America is, presumably, from some aerodrome situated conveniently near London, preferably non-stop, and not to go to Scotland or to Ireland first. I am a little afraid that some loyal member of the Principality of Wales will shortly be rising to say that if I want to go to Brazil I must first of all go to Cardiff and take off from there. We must be realistic about this. I appeal to the Minister to concentrate on the urgency—and it is a real urgency—of providing an aerodrome near London.

That brings me to Heathrow. Heathrow has rather worried me Last week the Under-Secretary of State for Air in another place was asked about Heathrow and this was his answer: The land upon which the present Heathrow aerodrome is constructed is divided between thirty-five ownerships. That gives your Lordships some idea of the size of the place— Negotiations for purchase are in progress"— they are just beginning to buy the place! and have, in a small number of cases, been completed. I find that quite horrifying. It is no good blaming this Government for that. It would not, therefore, be in the public interest"— that is an old one; we all recognize that— pending completion of the negotiations, to state what prices, are being paid for the land. They are afraid of a public scandal, I suppose. I regret also that I cannot yet say when the land previously changed ownership or the prices paid per acre. It is only fair to the Minister to say that when I raise that matter, as I may well do in the very near future, I am not going to be fobbed off with any of this public interest stuff. I shall expect the most specific and detailed answers, written if he likes, or given in a White Paper. I do not care how it is done. I

am deeply interested in Heathrow, a fogbound piece of land near Slough which has cost the taxpayers quite a lot of money. I would like the Minister to let us have all the information he possibly can about it.

We are apparently landed with Heathrow at the moment. It is near London. An immense amount of money has been spent on it. Let us try to make the best of it. I am told on very good authority that it has been laid out as a Royal Air Force aerodrome, and you will know what that means. It is equipped for military use. It has a ten-mile periphery, there is a huge track all round it, and the whole place is designed from a military angle. Its chief intention is dispersal of aircraft. The Minister knows all this much better than I do, but it is essential that the public outside should be made to understand all these things. Aircraft must be dispersed on a military aerodrome, but, after all, this is to be a civil aerodrome. There is a strong rumour that the war is over! The whole object of a civil aerodrome is to get aircraft together. Is this to be a civil aerodrome or a military one? If it is to be a military one, when is the Minister going to give orders for the concrete which is now being put down there, and the tracks which are being built up, to be stopped? If it is to be a civil one, when is he going to have steps taken to have Heathrow made into a proper civil aerodrome?

I am told, for example, that at the moment there are no inter-runway taxi strips there at all, that its use as a civil aerodrome is almost impossible, at any rate for a long time to come, and that no foreign airline in its senses would dream of using it, particularly if there are going to be military restrictions attached to its use. I hope that the Minister will look into that with the utmost speed.

One suggestion which I can offer him is that he should look into the suitability of Langston Harbour, near Portsmouth, where he would have at once at his disposal both a land and a marine airport. He could have flying boats as well as aeroplanes there. It is within a short distance of London and would be a vast improvement, pending the completion of Heathrow at any rate, on Hem, which is three hours from London, and Poole, which is about the same distance away. These matters seem to me to be of great urgency and importance, because it is no use going on with civil aviation unless we can have close to London complete facilities for civil aviation, both land and marine.

I come now—I am afraid rather belatedly—to the second and undoubtedly the more important point about which I want to ask the Minister. It concerns the personnel of British Overseas Airways Corporation. When the Minister spoke last week, he said that he intended to strengthen the board of the B.O.A.C. I should like him to tell the House this afternoon what he means by the term "strengthen." Perhaps he does not attach the same meaning to the word as I do. I am afraid that my own view is that the board of B.O.A.C. is moribund, and that the time for injections has passed. I suggest to him that the proper thing to do is to scrap the board entirely, and allow Mr. Marchbank to return to his trade union, Sir Harold Howitt to his accountancy, Mr. Simon Marks to his department stores, and Miss Pauline Gower to her husband. I think that we want an entirely new set-up. I think we have now reached the stage when B.O.A.C. must be administered by people in the industry, or who have an intimate knowledge of the industry. The Minister, of course, cannot be blamed for the position; he did not appoint these people. They were appointed, I believe, by Sir Archibald Sinclair, for reasons which have been hinted at in another place but which I do not care to pursue tonight—it is too late. What does matter is that these people are manifestly unsuited for their work. It may be that the country owes them a great debt, and perhaps they are unpaid—I do not know. What I do say is that the time has surely passed—never mind arrived—when they ought to be replaced by whole-time workers who realize the magnitude of the task which they are undertaking, and who will be answerable to the Minister and through him to Parliament.

I would ask the Minister, when he replies, to give the House, and therefore the country, some indication of whether the "strengthening" which he proposes to administer to the board of B.O.A.C. will be extended from the board to the management; and there, I think, instead of "strengthening" one might employ the word "cleansing." I think it altogether time that that Augean stable was cleansed, and I should like to know what the Minister has in mind with regard to that. What, for example, is he going to do with regard to Brigadier-General Critchley, who bestrides the world of civil aviation like a colossus, and has now done so, in my humble view, for quite long enough? I do not want to hear a eulogy of his powers as a "go-getter" and an organizer, because we have had that before; but how much longer is the British taxpayer to pay the salaries of Brigadier-General Critchley and his associates, and when is some effort going to be made by the present Government— they have not had much time, but they can "get cracking" now—to get hack into the service of this country some of the very able technicians—men, since air always asked to be more specific, like Woods-Humphrey, Burch all, Dismore, Walker, Mayo, Burke, Handover and Waugh—all of whom have left or been discharged from the service of this corporation in recent years and replaced by people who, if my information is correct, are totally unfitted for their posts and unable to carry out the work which they are supposed to do? I admit that I may have sprung all these matters on the Minister at rather short notice, but they do arise out of his own statement, an I they are of the greatest importance. If he cannot, reply in the detail which I should expect to-night, I would ask him to do so at no very distant date.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I can address your Lordships again only with the permission of the House, and I am very grateful indeed for that permission. Your Lordships will agree that I have certainly had to listen to a great many speakers in the course of this two days' debate. At one time I felt that there were a great many hens for one rather small Christian, but I certainly have little of which to complain in any of the speeches which have been made. On the whole, it may fairly be said that they have been helpful, that criticism has been constructive, and that points have been brought forward which deserve the fullest consideration. There have been a certain number of wild and whirling words; a tilde thunder has played over my head—but I am not sure that it was not stage thunder—and there was a certain amount of gnashing of teeth, but I got the impression that perhaps they were false teeth.

I shall deal first, if I may, with one or two of the points raised in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I would, of course, always pay the greatest attention to anything that he said on this subject of civil aviation, but I felt that his whole speech was based on the assumption that the existing surface interests will not be asked to contribute their help and experience in this matter. That belief, if indeed it exists, ignores my statement that I am initiating conversations with those very interests; and my personal view is that the surface transport interests will take a larger view of their public responsibilities than Lord Swinton appeared ready to credit them with willingness to do. The noble Viscount asked why the railways should be discarded, but again I would refer him to the terms of my statement. I think the confusion in his mind is exemplified by the fact that he said: "All this is to go by the board. The travel agencies are to go by the board." And, having asserted that they were all to go by the board, he proceeded to ask me a question: "Are those agencies to be discarded or are they not?" I think I am entitled to say that there was a certain amount of confusion in his mind at that time as to my intention, and that he had not fully appreciated the passage in my speech which dealt with the point.

Again, he asked whether this was to be a sealed-pattern management, a sealed-pattern scheme. I had most carefully indicated in my speech that I am opposed to the sealed-pattern scheme, to the sealed monopoly, and that I want to have several methods of approach to civil aviation questions. He then asked me who was going to order the aircraft. I know that that is an important point, but I think that there are some considerations which are more important even than the question of who orders the aircraft. The all-important question, to my mind, is whether the aircraft incorporate the features that the operator wants; and, to enable him to find out what he wants, the operator and manufacturer should be in the very closest touch. That again I made clear in my speech on October 18.

The noble Viscount went on to say that airlines from almost every country in the world were beginning to fly in here, and he asked under what agreements they were operating, whether there was reciprocity, and when we were going to start. We shall start when we have the aircraft. At the moment, comparatively few of these countries are flying in. Those which do are operating under agreements which provide for full reciprocity as soon as the aircraft are available. The noble Viscount said: "I should have thought it is about time we tried to make up for lost time." What is there in my proposals which will delay production of aircraft by one single day? Most certainly, it is in the production of aircraft that there is delay at the present time.

The noble Viscount does not like my plan; one ground on which he objects to it being that the surface transport interests are not allowed any financial participation in it. He prophesies woe on that account. May I ask the noble Viscount why it is he thinks that what he agreed would work in the case of the B.O.A.C. will not work in the case of the European and South American corporations which I am proposing to set up?


My Lords, I can answer that in a sentence. The B.O.A.C. is interested only in the air. The shipping concerns and the railways are interested both in surface transport and in air transport. There is all the difference in the world between inviting those interests to come in as partners, so that they will be equally interested in the success of the airlines, and in making the air organizations their competitors.


The B.O.A.C. is a publicly owned corporation, and the noble Viscount assigned to that corporation the Empire routes, and perhaps the most important route of all, the North Atlantic route, the great prestige route of the future—


With the shipping interests as partners.


The shipping interests are certainly concerned, but the noble Viscount has not brought in shipping interests as partners on these routes.


I am sure we do not wish to have a debate on this point, but perhaps I may be permitted to say, as the noble Lord has appealed to me, that if he will read the White Paper he will realize this, and I am sure that if he asks members of the Departmental staff he will be told the same thing. In every discussion that took place in this House and elsewhere I made it absolutely plain that on the Atlantic route, the route to the Dominions, and the route to West Africa, shipping lines would be brought in as partners, financial partners, of the B.O.A.C.


They would be invited. But the B.O.A.C. has been operating routes without partners, and operating them with complete success. The B.O.A.C. has been operating one of the most difficult air routes in the world. It has done what nobody else has done and has operated a transatlantic service winter and summer, and it is operating the longest and fastest service which is running at the present time to the Far East. If a publicly owned corporation has shown the ability to do that, I cannot understand why other corporations under public ownership should not, similarly, be able to make a complete success of their work.

The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, raised a point of substance with which I would like to deal. I notice that he was aggrieved because the Government did not reveal their plan to him in advance. That, of course, was a very sad omission on the part of the Cabinet. I am sure that the Government feel very sorry about it and will take very great care that such a thing does not happen again. Lord Rennell also raised this point. He said if there is not enough traffic to fill the aircraft on a route and shipping on the same route, who is to decide which of the two is to get what passengers there are or how many of them each shall get? I think that that question displays a considerable amount of simplicity because, of course the passengers, themselves, will decide and the capacities will be adjusted accordingly. We shall find out by means of the traffic statistics how many wish to travel by one method and how many wish to travel by another, and the capacities will be adjusted accordingly. But competition in the air must be met in the air.

Now I come to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I think that your Lordships have benefited from the fact that he decided not to speak on Thursday but has spoken to-day. He has had the advantage of having the weekend in which to prepare his impromptus and to polish his epigrams, and your Lordships are, of course, the gainers as the result. I need only say that I hope that civil aviation will never suffer by reason of any sins of commission on my part what it suffered through sins of omission on the part of the noble Lord. I think that his speech was rather highly coloured. He said that we have decided that public ownership should be the overruling principle in civil aviation. But he went on to use words which I understood —and I apologize in advance if I misunderstood the noble Lord—to mean that we were making that principle of public ownership an overriding principle and regarding safety as secondary to it.


I quoted the words of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, when I said that the Government have decided that public ownership shall be the overruling principle. I say that it seems to me that, according to the noble Lord's words, the ruling motive is to be the fulfilment of the theory of public ownership, and not safety, or efficiency or anything else.


Then my recollection is right. But does the noble Lord's interpretation really mean that he thinks we are making public ownership an overriding consideration and putting safety in a secondary position? No. I am very glad indeed that the noble Lord signifies that he does not. But why were the words used if it was not in an endeavour to give that impression? Then the noble, Lord referred to the fact of Government nominees being put on the board. He spoke as if they might be put on the board one day and removed on the next in the most capricious fashion possible. He also spoke about "phoney" boards. That was a most unworthy remark. Why is the noble Lord trying in advance to prejudice the composition of these boards by talking about them as "phoney"?


Because I think your scheme is rotten.


First we are told that the Government are neglecting safety in favour of the principle of public ownership, next that boards are to be "phoney" boards. I think it is a pity that the attempt should be made to excite these prejudices. The noble Lord said that a question has been raised in Parliament about individual cases of complaint. If he will look at the reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary he will see it was to the effect that if specific cases of complaint are brought to his notice the Minister will feel it his duty to refer them to the chairman and to ask him to investigate them fully. The noble Lord also seemed to be concerned about the Minister having to answer in Parliament. He said that if the Minister is to answer in Parliament he must control policy in all matters. He says there must be no dividing line, and that I would not be able to say that I would answer for this or for that. I should be in exactly the same position as the noble Viscount was in with regard to the B.O.A.C. I have made it perfectly clear that I shall regard it as the duty of the Minister to keep the corporations in line with the national policy of the Government, and to keep the corporations also in step with the general policy of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. I further said I should not regard it as part of the Minister's duty to interfere with the day-to-day administration of the corporation. If the noble Lord would like me to substitute the word "management" for "administration," and to say that I would not regard it as my duty to interfere with the day-to-day "management" of the corporations, I am quite willing to do so.

The noble Lord asked me what is the hidden purpose about what I said about charter flying. He seemed to think that I had some sinister purpose in allowing the corporation to run charter flying. I said specifically that I would allow no monopoly to the corporation, which I think would be a very clear indication that I did not wish to knock private flying on the head. Why did the noble Lord draw a picture of the American pilot flying with better equipment? The noble Lord knows perfectly well that no pains will be spared to see that our pilots have the finest equipment in the world, and he must know that every effort is being made to standardize equipment. He knows that there can be no possible question of the American pilot flying with better equipment. The speech was calculated from the beginning to the end; it was designed to arouse prejudice. I have no objection to a speech which takes objection to my policy, but a speech which aims, by the use of every subtle form of phrase, to arouse prejudice of that sort does very little for the cause of civil aviation.

I have had a number of questions addressed to me and I must try to answer as many of them as I can. The noble Lord, Lord Reith, addressed four questions to me. Before answering them, may I thank him for the many kind references he made to myself? Speaking of the corporations, he asked if the same freedom in management, subject only to essential periodic direction and reference, would be followed. I think I really answered that question in what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. He also asked whether the corporation would be allowed to communicate and do business direct with other concerns. I should regard that as coming under the heading of what I would call the day-to-day management of the business. Therefore the answer in that respect is certainly Yes.

He also asked whether the Minister will be personally available to the Chairmen and again my answer is Yes. It would be my intention, as I have made it my practice with the Chairman of B.O.A.C., to be most fully accessible to the Chairmen of the Corporations. It would be my wish that they should come to see me as freely as possible. The noble Lord also asked if I would consider the creation of some body above the corporations, something in the nature of a Civil Aviation Board to be there between myself and the corporations. Certainly I will take that point into consideration. As a matter of fact, I have had something of that sort under consideration at the moment, but it is only under consideration and must make it clear that I have come to no decision on that point whatever. The point put to me by the noble Lord will be most fully borne in mind. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry—


May I ask the noble Lord to elaborate that point? If he sets up that supreme body above these three corporations, would that supreme body be responsible for policy and direction, in which case the three corporations would become merely subsidiary companies of the supreme authority?


The noble Lord is making an assumption and putting an entirely hypothetical question. I said that the question addressed to me by Lord Reith contained a suggestion which has been put to me from other quarters and it is receiving full consideration. May I tender in person to the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, the congratulations which I tendered in his absence on the successful outcome of his struggles to establish a Ministry of Civil Aviation? He asked how we were going on in concluding bilateral agreements. I said last Thursday that many negotiations are going on with regard to the conclusion of bilateral agreements. As regards America there are interim agreements by which we are allowing the American airlines to come in. I think those arrangements are on a most generous scale. We wish in every way to facilitate this and we are endeavouring, to the best of our ability, to secure the most suitable airports for their reception. In what the noble Marquess said about the use of American aircraft, I think it may be just possible that he may have overlooked the withdrawal of Lease-Lend. That does, of course, affect the position.


I was really speaking of future arrangements.


That will depend upon dollars. I noticed with great interest what the noble Marquess said about the spread of air-mindedness and what has been done in the schools in America. I think all those points were of real importance and I will make it my business personally to bring this to the notice of my right honourable friend the Minister of Education. Lord Brabazon of Tara made a very characteristic speech. I was sorry for him that his opening joke fell so terribly flat but I support the noble Lord, Lord Reith, in what he said on that point; his quotation of the couplet was correct. Lord Brabazon quickly recovered his ground and complained bitterly about my peroration which had evidently stunned him very much. I thought it was an excellent peroration and when I listened to it on the wireless at 10.45 the same night, I realized all over again what an excellent peroration it was. Lord Brabazon compared it with the Sermon on the Mount; I thank him. The noble Lord said that uplift may be wanted in the Lower House, hut is not wanted in your Lordships' House, and generally the noble Lord thanked God that he was not as other men. I know that Lora Brabazon has always been a stern enemy of moral uplift and no doubt he has beet a much happier man on that account, if not a better man.

He did not like me stereotyping the three corporations but he overlooked the fact that I had retained discretion to erect more. He said some corporations would pay and others would not, and those which did not would feel discouraged. I do not despair of finding a system of accountancy which will enable me to explain what is involved to Parliament and to the public in a manner which will put that completely right and which will remove any sense of frustration on the part of such a corporation. He administered a very well deserved snub to me for saying that I proposed to continue the Brabazon Committee instead of saying that I proposed to ask Lord Brabazon to continue the Committee. I apologize now and. I will put it in that way. I hope the noble Lord will continue to give the assistance which has been so very valuable to the cause of civil aviation. I think I have already answered his point that operators must say what they want, and I hope what I have said on that subject will satisfy him.

The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, was kind enough to send two questions to me, which formed the main part of his speech. The first was about the nature of air services to be operated from Prestwick overseas. B.O.A.C. intend to operate a transatlantic air service, via Prestwick, but the number of services operated will depend on the traffic offering. It is not yet possible to forecast what the volume of that traffic will be. Similar remarks apply to other possible British overseas services from Prestwick. As regards foreign operators, the Swedes have asked permission to use Prestwick this winter for a series of experimental flights across the Atlantic, and that permission has been given. The noble Earl's second question was that he would be glad of enlightenment on the statement that Scotland will be able to play its full part in civil aviation, both in regard to services and airports. He asked whether Scottish operators are to be allowed to operate such services, or will they be operated—and here comes in King Charles's Head—by a Whitehall-directed monopoly? The services will, of course, be operated by one of the corporations to be formed, and I can say that full advantage will be taken by that corporation of the experience existing in Scotland. I am sure that Scottish intelligence and labour will be used to the full, but, again, that seems to me to be a matter which would fall within the framework of that day-to-clay management of the corporation, which, as I have said, the Minister should very largely leave alone.

The noble Viscount, Lord Rothermere, fairly took the cane to me, and he came down with a terrific quotation from a speech which I had made in the course of a debate on civil aviation. I listened to it with great pleasure, and I thought it was an admirable speech, or, at any rate, an admirable extract. I hope the rest of the speech was as good. From my recollection of what the noble Viscount was kind enough to read to me, I am not sure that there is anything in it to withdraw, but I will say at once, with native caution, that I must have a look at it in print before I affirm that. He admits that my speech was aimed at eliminating unnecessary competition between two forms of transport. I adhere to that view, and it is for that very reason that I said, last Thursday, that I am initiating conversations with other surface interests in order to see that unnecessary forms of competition may be avoided. But I did not like what the noble Viscount said next. He took the word "integration" out of my speech, and said I was using that as blackmail, as a threat to the shipping companies before I entered on these conversations. The noble Viscount must allow me to say that that was a very unworthy remark, and that it was equally unworthy to try to prejudice these conversations by reading into words used in my speech meanings which do not exist there at all. I strongly resent it being insinuated that I use the word "integration" as blackmail or as a threat to the shipping companies before I enter into conversations with them.

The noble Viscount said he could find no incentive to anybody in this plan. I can agree that there is no incentive of a nature that would appeal to the noble Viscount. I thought his speech was full of similar small debating points, and the noble Viscount has been speaking as the representative of private enterprise, croaking "Woe, woe," in the accents of reaction ever since the Labour Government was returned to power. In reply to his attempt to scare the life out of me by saying that one day I might find myself the most hated and execrated of men because of what I am doing about civil aviation, may I advise the noble Viscount to read the poem about the Jackdaw of Rheims? I, like the jackdaw, do not feel a penny the worse for his terrible curse. I shall await with great interest the appeal of the noble Viscount to his Front Bench to reject this Bill.

The noble Earl, Lord Amherst, made a most valuable and interesting contribution to the debate. I would like to express my regret that he did not send me notice of some of the questions, because I should have liked to have had the opportunity of answering them. I think it would be best if the noble Earl would come to see me at the Ministry about control and the study of radar technique. If he would call, we could have a talk about these things, and he would also have the opportunity of having a word with the technical experts dealing with these things. I think he must know how very actively those matters have been dealt with by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, thanks largely to my predecessor the noble Viscount.

The noble Earl spoke about aerodromes. I am quite conscious that I shall require more than Northolt, and I am out to get more. These matters are being examined at the present moment, but I think it is right for me to say that my noble friend the Secretary of State for Air does recognize my needs in this matter, and is being extremely helpful about them. I would not like the noble Earl to think there is any conflict between my noble friend and myself on this point. He also raised the point about the necessity of taking early steps to get on with the training of crews, and the necessity, for those who have been doing military flying, to do conversion-training courses before taking up civil flying. They are all important points which, I assure him, are not overlooked. If I may say so, I appreciate the spirit in which he spoke and found his speech very interesting.

The noble Lord, Lord Sempill if I got it right—raised the point about the time used in travelling between aerodromes and the destinations to which passengers want to go. That is a very important point. I am happy to tell the noble Lord it has come to the attention of my Ministry, and that they do recognize it is a serious matter. In fact, I think it used to be regarded as a serious matter before the war. I remember flying to Paris twenty or twenty-five years ago, and it was regarded as a serious matter then, but the solution of it is very difficult. The Air Transport organization was disbanded after rendering a splendid service, the war-time ferrying service, and it deserves every testimonial and every praise which could be given to it. It was disbanded because it was felt that the justification for its existence had ceased.

As regards compensation, the statement I have made on that will be elaborated in the White Paper which I shall be issuing, and, after that, the details of it will be embodied in legislation which will be presented, when there will be every possibility of discussing the matter. The noble Lord asked me—in the course of a debate like this it is really a very large order—to give him an assurance that, in future, all the larger Brabazon types of aircraft should be powered by gas turbines, and that I should regard reciprocating engines as things of the past. I cannot imagine that the noble Lord really expects me to give an answer to that in the course of a debate covering such a very wide field, but, as I said in my first statement in this House in October, in reply to the noble Viscount, this question of jet propulsion and of gas turbines is, of course, the subject of daily, hourly, study at the present moment, and the possibilities are being most fully borne in mind. As regards private flying and the release of small types, such as Moths, the answer I have to give is that that forms part of the whole disposal-of-surplus policy which has yet to be decided.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, asked me what B.O.A.C. is costing this country. Again I do not think he expected me to give him an answer offhand to-night, but I appreciate the force of what lies behind the question. As I have already said, we must aim in every possible way at efficient and economical operations, and those matters will be kept most strictly under review by myself. He also raised the point whether airfields not in public ownership would have the same safety regulations as aerodromes in pubic ownership. I cannot say that the provisions will be exactly the same—they might naturally vary between a very big aerodrome and a smaller one—but safety provisions will be insisted upon, whether the aerodrome is in public ownerships or private ownership.

With what he said about research again I am most fully in agreement. It is a matter of the utmost importance, and my view is, as I have already said, that I think research should be centralized. I do not see the necessity or advisability of setting up separate research establishments. I believe in a centralized research establishment, but it is essential that civil aviation should get its share of research, that it should be able to ask for research to be carried out upon a particular subject and also he entitled to demand that nobody should be taken off that particular piece of research in order to be put out some other research which another interest wishes to press.

Lord Morris raised two points, the first of all being the question of Heathrow, and I gather that he thinks Heathrow is a bad choice.


No, not necessarily. It depends what you are going to do about it. I would not have chosen it myself, but I made it quite clear that I did not hold you responsible for choosing it.


Thank you. I appreciated that point. Still, I felt you found objections to Heathrow.


So much public money has been sunk in it that I realize we must get on with it. What I asked was, are, you getting on with it?


Yes, we are pushing, ahead with Heathrow, which, as I have said, will be the main London terminal. We are full of confidence that when Heathrow is completed it will be a really fine airport which will be able to compare favourably with any other main terminal airport in the world. Finally, Lord Morris came back to a second point of which he disapproved—namely, the board of tin B.O.A.C., both as a board and individually. I remember a debate on this matter in your Lordships' House. Well, I will not go into this matter to-night, at the end of this debate. But, the noble Lord used a phrase about cleaning up an Augean stable. I say that I am not going to listen to anything in the shape of general assertions in this matter. My own personal opinion is that to make these vague and general assertions which are in completely vague and general terms and therefore most difficult for those attacked to reply to, is not the right manner to go about ventilating any feelings one may have of a public corporation of the nature of B.O.A.C. I will only say that I will listen to no vague assertions on this matter.

My Lords, I apologize for having spoken at such length—


May I interrupt for one moment? I am most reluctant to do it, because I know how maddening it is to have one's trend of thought broken. It is true that the allegations I made have been vague, but to-day I did give at least half a dozen names of people who have been dismissed from the B.O.A.C. since this new command, shall I call it, took over. I am not the only person with a bee in his bonnet on this particular subject. As the noble Lord is aware, the matter was raised twice in another place only last week. It is very easy to dismiss these things in this way. The noble Lord has dismissed the matter of Heathrow and my attack and questions in a sentence. The noble Lord begs your Lordships not to make this a political issue. It is not a political issue. It is not right to try to make out that I am actuated by Party motives. I do not want to go against the Government, but the Minister must not make it impossible for me to do otherwise. To pretend that all is right, when all has not been right with the Corporation for a long time, is only treating us as children, and you cannot do that—not with me at any rate.


I made no statement of interested motives, but I say that when charges are made against the B.O.A.C. board, and individuals on that board, I am not prepared to proceed on the strength of such general assertions.


I made no charge against the board at all.


I apologize for having addressed your Lordships at very great length and, on this occasion, at what I feel we may fairly describe as "this late hour." I am sure my speech must have been dry and tedious to listen to, but that is inevitable when there have been thirteen or fourteen speakers in one debate and one is trying to answer, as fully and freely as possible, their questions. I know the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, has a grievance against me because I have not replied to the questions he put in the debate earlier, but I must correspond with him; I cannot detain your Lordships any longer. I apologize for having addressed your Lordships for a second time, but this has really been a helpful debate which will give the Minister of Civil Aviation much food for thought and will assist him in his future efforts in this matter.


My Lords, I feel we all agree we have had a very helpful discussion, and we are extremely grateful to the noble Lord. He stated just now that he would be publishing a White Paper shortly. I would like to tell him, here and now, that as soon as it is published we shall be putting down a Motion on the subject. With those few words I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.