§ 2.38 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will make a full statement of their policy and platy; with regard to civil aviation; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, my noble friend the 358 Marquess of Londonderry, who has taken such an active part in all discussions on the matter of my Motion, has asked me to tell your Lordships that he greatly regrets he is unable to be here to-day. As your Lordships know, he is Chancellor of Belfast University. There was a very important degree function there yesterday, which he of course had to attend, and he could not get over in time for this sitting of your Lordships' House.
§ I make no apology for pressing the Government for the earliest possible statement, and the fullest possible statement, of their policy on civil aviation. When the Coalition Government produced their considered policy in the White Paper last March, speakers both in this House and another place, on all sides, pressed the great urgency of the situation, the urgency of having a plan, and above all the urgency of getting on with the plan and putting it into action. If the situation was urgent then, it is much more urgent today. The happy end of the Japanese war has created an entirely new situation. American transport aircraft that were engaged in the Pacific, are now available for civil purposes. The great airlines of the United States, with which we shall be friendly competitors, are ready to operate all over the world, and, as I see from the newspapers, are about to operate to this, country. Many other countries have started or are about to start—Switzerland, I understand, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, I think, and France are all ready—countries which wish to fly here and to all of which we shall wish our lines to fly.
§ An agreement will have to be made with all those countries. I am sure the Minister will agree with this. When you are negotiating air agreements it is of the utmost importance to have your airline operators with you. If I may give an example, I had the pleasure of explaining fully to your Lordships' House all that took place at the great air conference which Field-Marshal Smuts summoned in South Africa and at the meeting of the Commonwealth Air Council in London, where we fashioned and indeed completed in much detail the plan for a great Imperial partnership with the Dominions. Those negotiations—negotiations, as they were, between His Majesty's Government here and the Dominion Governments and the Government of India—were Govern- 359 mental negotiations; yet we and they found it absolutely essential to have with us all the time, working with us and working parallel to us, our respective operators. I am perfectly certain the Minister will find that he will need, in these foreign negotiations, to have by his side whoever are to be the operators. Well, who are to be the operators? Then the operators themselves have to be equipped, not only with aircraft but with staff and organization. Unless they know who they are to be, what their spheres are to be and what powers they are to have, they cannot engage staff and they cannot make their working arrangements.
§ The urgency is indeed very great. But though the urgency is much greater, the Government are in a better position. After all, a great deal was done while we were all together. In the first place, we had this complete agreement on policy and this complete operating partnership established with and throughout the greater part of the Commonwealth and Empire. That, I feel, will go on in its entirety. They have another advantage also. The Government factories, which so long as the war continued had to concentrate primarily upon bombers and fighters, must be almost embarrassed to find work now that the war is over. The factories, therefore, can all concentrate primarily and intensively upon the production of civil aircraft. There was not only the White Paper policy, but very far-reaching arrangements were made while we were still together with the proposed operating corporations—how they should be constituted, who the participants should be, and in what shares they should participate. Even the boards were ready to function if the Minister, who had to approve them, approved. Their spheres of activity were assigned. There was—and I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging this—the closest co-operation with the. Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force, with the Member for Personnel and also with the Fifth Sea Lord at the Admiralty, for the recruitment and the secondment of personnel—that link which there should be between the Fighting Services and those who are going to carry on civil aviation. There was also a very happy and close working co-operation with the Commander-in-Chief of Transport Command. That I am very glad to acknowledge.360
§ Therefore not only did my noble friend, if I may call him so, inherit the White Paper policy upon which we all worked together, but he also inherited a great deal of detailed application of that policy on which—I do not think I commit any indiscretion in saying so—we were all equally agreed. I am glad to say that in that matter we were never unduly embarrassed by political considerations in the narrow sense. What we were all out for, in this tremendous new adventure of civil aviation, was to find ways and means by which we could best give this country and the Commonwealth their place in the airways of peace in the world, and the opportunity to which our war record and indeed our position entitled us. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will, so far as he can to-day, and in so far as he may not be able to do so to-day then at the earliest possible date, state whether this policy is to be implemented or, if it is to be varied, in what respect.
§ I would ask him most specifically, can the operators go forward on the job-which they have got to undertake? Operators all over the world know who they are to be, and are going forward with their plans and with their planes. We really ought not to be left behind where we have so much leeway to make up. In particular I would put to him the following matters. First of all, there is international and Commonwealth policy. I feel sure the answer to what I am going to ask is "Yes" Do the Government stand broadly by that policy of order in the air upon which we were indeed unanimous and which commands so much support within the Commonwealth and outside—that policy which means broadly a reasonable equilibrium in transport between supply and demand; the air free for all, if you please, but fair for all; a fair share and a fair chance for all the countries of the world, and an international authority to arbitrate in the case of dispute or difficulty?
§ That is a line of policy which has, I think, obtained increasing support. Some of the wisest Americans, speaking indeed in their personal capacity, like Mr. Ted Wright, the head of Civil Aeronautics Administration, who, I suppose, is as great an expert as the world can produce and a great internationalist as well, bear the most eloquent testimony to the final 361 British plan, with a modification here and there, which I think gives it improvement. I understand that others have similarly expressed themselves. These may, of course, be personal views. These should be the broad lines liberally interpreted and elastically applied, with plenty of give and take. Broad and large, the choice is between order in the air, complementary comradeship in the air, and chaos in the air, and that chaotic competition which breeds subsidies and ill will, which really would be, in the long run, as disastrous as anything could be, not chiefly, perhaps, to ourselves—I dare say we could stand the racket—but to international relations. We want the air to unite the peoples, and not to divide them.
§ That is the policy to be achieved by complete international agreement, if possible, but, if not, we can, at any rate, take the lead. We shall be backed by the Empire in doing so in any agreements which we may make. On the Commonwealth side, that policy finds a ready echo. It is indeed that policy which has animated all those agreements we have made, for this Empire partnership in the air is an exemplar of what we have striven for in the wider field. What we were to do together in the Empire is not exclusive. That partnership which we have sc happily achieved with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India will go forward, and I think it was Field-Marshal Smuts who said that those agreements might well be a prototype for international co-operation in a wider field. So much, my Lords, for the broad policy.
§ I come now to the method of operation. The House well knows we had agreed those routes which were to be run as soon as the conditions of war permitted and the aircraft were available Happily, the conditions do now, permit and I trust the aircraft will shortly be available. We can now convert that into saying that those routes which we want to run at once should be assigned to three corporations. The Commonwealth, the Empire and the North Atlantic would be one sector, going, as the House well remembers, to B.O.A.C., with the appropriate shipping lines coming in as junior partners. The United Kingdom and Europe would form another entity, another zone operated by another corporation, and South America the third. Your Lordships will remember that we 362 adopted the proposal of three corporations as one which we thought was economically the soundest, both in the size of the operating undertakings, and also in the sphere which each of those corporations should cover. They do not want to be too large, but neither do they want to be too small. We felt, also, that that gave the necessary versatility and variation in management, technique and operating practice.
§ It is very interesting to note that the three selected corporations, with special zones assigned to them, are the system and method which the United States Government have adopted for the whole of their overseas activities. The Aeronautics Board has held all its hearings, its recommendations have gone up to the President and been endorsed and promulgated. Incidentally, there was no dog-fight about this, no free-for-all, which is rather interesting. There are to be three corporations to do the external operations of the United States airlines, and each of those corporations has been assigned a special zone of operation. I cannot resist saying that some people criticized the plan which I was authorized by the late Government to put forward. I put it forward enthusiastically because it was my own plan, but I was told by a few people that it was a rotten plan. They said: "Look at the United States. You will not see that sort of thing coming out of the United States." It is rather interesting to see that when the United States—those great pioneers and the greatest exponents of civil aviation in the whole world—come to run the United States airlines of the world, they take exactly the British plan, and have three selected corporations. I hope we shall get away from those awful words "chosen instrument" which sound like a cross between a phallic emblem and an ancient sacrifice. Indeed, what the United States have done is exactly on all fours with what we have proposed.
§ If that principle of three corporations is accepted, do the Government also accept that those interests, which by experience and organization have proved their worth—as I said before, and I stand by it now; I have never maintained that anybody should have a vested interest in this business—should be considered? The point is, who can contribute to the giving of good service in the air? Do 363 they stand by the principle that those interests which by their experience and organization can make a material contribution should be brought in—the shipping lines, the railways, the pre-war operators? Incidentally the railways and the shipping lines were the biggest of these interests, and the travel agents should make a material contribution. In this transport business—and it is, first and last, a transport business, although conducted in the air—we cannot possibly afford to forgo the world-wide, long experience, the worldwide organization, and the invaluable connexions all over the world which these great organizations have created. It would be waste and folly to duplicate them. I ask, what is the policy in that respect? I ask, also, what routes are to be assigned?
§ Then, my Lords, I would ask about the tribunal. I need not go over all that because it is familiar ground to your Lordships. It is a question whether we are going to carry out what we agreed, or how far we shall vary it, or alter it altogether. We had proposed that there should be a single tribunal with a dual function, the function of hearing any complaints about services, facilities, rates, and so on, and also that it should be the licensing authority which would be able to assign, and, indeed, have the duty of assigning, any routes which were not included in the original plan of immediate operation in the first instance. I think it is very important that if there is to be a tribunal of this kind there should be one tribunal and not two. If I may venture to give the Minister a word of advice, I believe that it is infinitely better to entrust these matters to a completly independent and expert judicial tribunal than to have them referred to the Minister. I think that the precedent of land transport, where a tribunal of this kind has operated, shows that it has given great satisfaction both to those who operate transport and to those who use it, and it has relieved the Minister of Transport of all those appeals which at the best are so very tiresome and which are sometimes undesirable. I believe that the tribunal is the wise thing. We proposed that there should be a judicial chairman—if not a High Court Judge, at any rate a lawyer of great standing and repute. I think that three members should 364 be enough. There should be a member with the fullest possible knowledge of air transportation, and a member who might indeed with advantage have a knowledge of the air but who would be chosen for his broad, general, practical experience. I hope that the noble Lord will tell us where we stand with regard to the tribunal.
§ Coming to aircraft, I take it we shall stand by the policy that British airlines shall fly British. I am not going to say much about this, because I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, is going to intervene in the debate. As an old Minister, I should like to say—and I think that Lord Winster would echo this—that it is not a little due to the energy, the foresight and drive of Lord Brabazon and his Committee that civil aircraft were laid down at all and are now coming so satisfactorily—I hope—off the stocks. I should like to ask this question, which I have no doubt will be elaborated. When are these aircraft—the Tudor, the Viking and others—going to come into service? I have heard it said that the Viking is the answer to a Minister's prayer. I am glad to think that it has turned out so well. I certainly prayed about it, and I did a good deal besides pray. I believe that it is going to be a good machine. There is also the Wayfarer, and the machine which I should particularly like to know about—I do not know whether it has a name—is the 14-seater which is being made by Miles. That is very important. The Wayfarer and the Viking will be excellent machines for the sort of routes on which the Dakota runs; but we need the 14-seater for the type of route which wants fairly frequent services but will not stand a 28-seater, and yet needs something more than a 6-seater, which is not a very economic substitute. The 14-seater, therefore, is very important, and I should like to know how that is coming along.
§ I should like to say a word about pressurization. It is a horrible word; I wish that we could find happier terms for some of these things. It means the maintenance at great altitudes of the pressure inside the cabin which prevails at 6,000 or 7,000 feet. It is about the most vital thing to be dealt with by research to-day. I am confident that in a few years' time, when the next lot of machines come forward in civil aviation, the gas turbine will 365 dominate the situation. Our engine-makers have done wonderful things, and we shall he right in the forefront of that development. Indeed, I would not mind betting that we lead the field so far as the engines themselves are concerned. In order to make effective use of the gas turbine, however, you must have you r aircraft pressurized. We have had a great deal to do during the war and haw been a little behindhand in this. Now, that the pressure of war is over, however, I think the most vital piece of research in relation to civil aircraft production is research into this matter; and by "research" I do not mean research in the laboratory, but big-scale research. I want to see the Tudors and other machines flying with this device. The Government and the industry must work on this together. People will say that money is being wasted on it. There are often accusations that money is being wasted, and I dare say that the Ministry of Aircraft Production does waste money sometimes, but here is something on which no expense should be spared. It is the most important element in the whole of the future of research for civil aviation. I am certain that we are not doing enough at present. Good people are dealing with it, but it must be dealt with on a much bigger scale.
§ Now I should like to say a word about flying boats, and here I give purely my own opinion. The fashion to-day is away from them, but it may be that the flying boat will come into its own again. I believe that the Minister will have general support if he goes on, as I hope he will, with flying boats, so that both in manufacture and in operational technique we keep alive. We cannot tell an operator to run a route with flying boats when it car be done better with land planes, but this should be treated as a special semi-commercial service and subject for experiment. I should be very sorry to see the flying boat go out altogether. We have had a great deal to do with it in the past, and if it comes into its own again we do not want to have lost in manufacture, design and operational technique an experience which would be of value to us.
Next I come to airfields. You cannot fly without aircraft, and you cannot fly without airfields. There has been a tendency to say that it is necessary to have everywhere airfields of the most colossal
size. I always felt that it was something of a nightmare when I was told that it was necessary to have 10,000 yards everywhere. I think it is generally agreed now that the advances in radio and radar and engine and aircraft design will reduce these outsize speculations as to the dimensions of airfields, but eyen so these airfields are going to be very costly in construction, equipment and maintenance. Therefore I think we shall have to be sure of two things: first of all, that we have the airfields in the right place; secondly, that we make the best use of our existing resources. Broadly, I think that the traffic will dictate where the airfields are to be. In air transportation, as in other forms of transport, the operator is the courtier where the traveller is the king. You have to take the traveller where he wants to go. You remember the old rhyme:
…What shall I do?
I wanted to go to Birmingham,
And you've taken me on to Crewe.
You must take the traveller where he wants to go. I hope that my noble friend is still going to designate Prestwick as one of the airports to be used, but the bulk of the long-distance traffic and a great deal of the Continental traffic will no-doubt centre on London. I think that even the most northerly-minded of us appreciate that the majority of people—quite wrongly—will want to come to London, and the traffic must go where the people want to go. I hope and expect, however, that a number of Continental services will develop from our other great centres of population, whether north or south of the Tweed.
§ I venture to suggest that in peace-time civil aviation should have the first claim on the airfields which can best serve the great travel centres. In time of war or emergency the Royal Air Force can, as they did in the last war, take over at once every civil airfield in the country, whether it is national or municipal or whatever it may be; but in peace-time civil aviation in the great centres of population should have the first claim. That leads me to make one or two suggestions about London.
§ It is frightfully difficult to get the right airport or airports in these vast spreading places. The Air Ministry and the R.A.F. desiring, and quite rightly desiring, for their transport in war, to have an airport 367 of dimensions which would take the very largest of Civil aircraft—those of exactly similar type to the ones which will be used over the next ten years—and to have that field sited in the best possible place from the point of view of giving access to the heart of London, for convenience of situation generally and from meteorological considerations, selected Heathrow. I believe that they made a perfectly good selection. I have seen the results of investigations which have been carried out with regard to the meteorological and other considerations and I have no doubt that this was a very right decision. The very considerations which actuated these authorities in so wisely making this selection, are to be borne in mind, I suggest, in choosing an ideal civil airport for London. Therefore, without any question, that has got to be Heathrow.
§ I would also like to urge the claims of a place nearer to London, and that is Northolt. There would be an advantage in having two airports which are very close together. Northolt would never be big enough to take the great transatlantic planes. On the other hand, I imagine that it would provide an admirable ground for smaller machines travelling to and from the Continent and for machines operating on our internal air services. It would be of great advantage if the port for the Continental and internal services which could not be provided with the requisite landing ground facilities at Heathrow, could be accommodated at a spot such as Northolt, which is very close to it and also near to London. This would be a great convenience to passengers and would facilitate interchange. Therefore I would make a plea that, if possible, both Heathrow and Northolt should be given to civil aviation.
§ Then there is the point about common user of airfields. With the R.A.F. and the Fleet Air Arm operating in war naturally the Services took over everything. We, of course, agreed to this because it was essential. But I suggest that now it would be fantastic if we had to go to the expense of building in South Wales or the West Riding of Yorkshire, for example, at a cost of may be millions of pounds, some new airport when there is already a Service airport which could serve for civil air lines near to these great centres, the combined user of both. I hope that that policy will be maintained.368
§ Lastly, on the subject of airfields, I would ask my noble friend the Minister to say a word about municipal airports and municipalities. These municipalities have been very proud of their airfields and they have done great work. Take Manchester—there is a municipality which has spent over a million pounds on its airport and is prepared to go on and spend still more. Municipalities to-day—and I know my noble friend will bear me out in this—will, I am sure, in a great number of cases, be very ready to combine together in the provision and use of a suitable airfield. It would probably be found possible to have one to serve, say, one half of the West Riding, and another one to serve the other half. The same I am sure would be true with regard to Wales. I think it would be a great pity if anything were done to discourage this manifestation of local enterprise on the part of municipalities whose areas will be important stations for the civil airlines. These airfields, moreover, will be very suitable for private and club flying, which we all want to see start again. I think that in this respect the function of the State is mainly concerned with the provision of flying facilities, meteorological facilities, radar and so on, and operational control. Finally, I would ask my noble friend if he stands by the proposals with regard to welfare. I will not elaborate them; they are all set out in the White Paper, but I think that they are very important.
§ Now I have put a number of questions but I do not put them at all in a cavilling spirit. I am only too anxious to help. I hope that we can keep this business out of politics. We are going to have all the competition we want from outside, and I hope that we shall work together in this as a team: I hope so very much. But continuity is essential, continuity of policy to plan ahead, continuity in this great Empire partnership, continuity in the international agreements which we shall have to make all over the world. I am not at all pessimistic; I believe that our prospects are good if we get on with the job. But we have got a lot of leeway to make up. We gave up civil flying during the war. We gave up making transport planes because we could best serve the common cause by making those fighters and bombers which proved themselves second to none. We 369 gave up a great deal of our practice of air transportation. But we have tremendous assets. We have the finest pilots and navigators in the world. We have scientists second to none. The work that has been done in connexion with radar in its application to flying and in connexion with other of the latest inventions in their application to flying has been wonderful. In the future, I am sure we shall be as well served in these matters as any country can be. We have a brilliant team of producers in the manufacturing industry. Our machines are brilliant in design and most thorough in workmanship. We have had flying experience all over the world. We have unique transportation knowledge and experience, and if we efficiently harness and mobilize all these assets we shall have nothing to fear. Last, but not least, we have not only the good will of the Commonwealth and Empire, but also a real and effective working partnership with our Dominions. These are great assets and if we use them all to the full in the right spirit of team work, I have no doubt as to the result. I beg to move for papers.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
; My Lords, it must be a considerable handicap to the noble Viscount who has just spoken, that every time he makes this speech he automatically delivers a Philippic. All I can say is that he worthily upholds his name, and I think that we must congratulate him on the very comprehensive review of the whole situation which he has given us to-day. I have often, on this subject, been a voice crying in the wilderness, and I am very greatly interested today to find what enormous interest there is, not only in your Lordships' House but throughout the country, in this particular question. I am sure that interest arises largely from the fact that people appreciate that from now on every aeroplane of ours that touches down throughout the world is going to be a piece of England, and that we are going to be judged technically and as engineers by what we send to other countries in the shape of aeroplanes.
The noble Viscount in his speech die not make this a Party matter, and I certainly hope that we shall manage to keep it out of that domain. The history relating to this matter is curious. It was 370 a Conservative Government that set up the national company, the B.O.A:C. It was not until the Socialists joined the National Government that private enterprise came in; so we are a little mixed from the point of view of pure politics.
There is nothing to judge this all by. We cannot judge it by America. There is a country closely knit together, with paying routes to their great cities, but their problem is one different from ours. It is true that keen competition was an incentive to them because most of their routes could pay, but ours is a different proposition. The route, for instance, from London to Australia, important as it is can scarcely be looked upon as a moneymaking concern. Anyhow, it is indeed a different situation but we cannot afford to be perfectionists and do nothing because we must do the best. I entreat the Government to make up their mind on their chief set-up and then to get on with it, because I think it is a truism to say that in British civil aviation to-day everything is in the air except the machines. You cannot operate without machines.
I was asked by the late Minister of Aircraft Production and the Secretary of State for Air to preside over a Committee to formulate users' requirements and I want to make it quite clear what we were asked to do. We were asked to put forward what were the users' requirements—where the machines should be made, when they were to be made, by whom they were to be made, and whether they should be made at all was nothing to do with us. It is not for me to tell the whole story of the delays and the procrastination, and the general disappointment which I and my talented Committee felt about the progress. It would make you weep if I were to tell you the full story. I know perfectly well that at one time the Government made up their mind that it was right for America to go on making transport machines, and at one time that was right; but it was not correct policy to go on with that to the end of the war. The situation which is developing is quite regrettable and we stand to-day in a very difficult position thereby.
It is always so amusing to me that the Americans think us clever. Let us laugh that one off. One of our troubles is the set-up of M.A.P. Do let us remember that the set-up of the Ministry of Aircraft Production was a war-time organization.
371 It is controlled, so to speak, by a Controller of Research and Development—the great C.R.D. It was only right in wartime that that post should be held by an Air Force officer. It is not his last position. As a rule he serves two years and then goes on to another Command, but when real difficulties arise between the civil side and the military side, the person who has got to make a decision is placed in an unfair position. He naturally has his spiritual home in the Air Ministry. He is an Air Force officer and I do not think that in future we should put anyone in such an unfair position both from his own point of view and from the point of view of civil aviation.
The industry to-clay is entirely con-tolled; it is a most extraordinary situation. It was quite tolerable in war-time, but today the industry is fettered. It is instructed what it can make and what it cannot make, and what it is not to make. It is entirely controlled by M.A.P. The design staff has no right to turn over to new machines except as directed by M.A.P. To-day these design staffs, of which we are very short, are still fiddling around modifying past machines when they should be getting on with new machines. It is true to say that the Minister of Civil Aviation has access, as it is called, to M.A.P.; but I do not think he would pretend he has the same voice or control in the policy of M.A.P. as does his noble friend, Lord Stansgate, sitting by his side. I do most emphatically say that we cannot go on like this. The customers, the operators, know what they want but M.A.P. is just a hindrance and not a help. I should like to see a breath of fresh air go through this great British industry because it is high time that it got away from these fetters of war. We were always being told during the war, "There is a war on" and I see that in America that was held to be a justifiable reason for an assault! I should like to see a new tract movement started and have pinned up in every office the simple words: "The war is over." Already, in these days of the birth of the atomic bomb, the Air Force,—which I admit is out of date—is planning for a new set of machines. I maintain that it is wasted effort to do that until you really know what you want, which you do not know at present. Only then will you want a new technique.
372 The suggestion I put forward in all seriousness is that for the next two years the industry should be allowed to concentrate 100 per cent. on civil aviation to get it really going. Afterwards they can turn to the consideration of arming or of action on the air side. It is not that we cannot make these machines; the fact is that the whole apparatus of M.A.P. is rusty and that it was not an organization to fit in with the existing circumstances. It was an organization which nobly did its work in war. We are indeed honoured that the Minister of Civil Aviation is a member of your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, sits amicably by the side of his friend the Secretary of State for Air, but he will have to fight some very serious fights with-him because he will have to remember that he is going to fight against a great vested interest, the great Air Force. When you fight the great bureaucracies of this country you will have a very strenuous fight indeed.
The position to-day is intolerable. I always thought that the Admiralty was the most bureaucratic Department, but no one pretends that they are in control of every shipyard up and down the country. The Admiralty do not tell shipbuilders whether their boats will float or sink; they are allowed to make ships which are to be sailed. The situation in the aircraft industry to-day is intolerable and the sooner it is changed the better. What sort of set-up is to be introduced is, indeed, important, but it is not so important as it is to get the machines. If you have bad machines coming in you have bad service, whatever the set-up. I hope that the new Minister will carry on the fight, which is a very difficult one, with the knowledge that people like myself, who are so to speak political opponents, will help him with enthusiasm and in every way we can.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I must confess that I feel some slight pleasure to-day because the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, says he has been a voice crying in the wilderness for some years past, while 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. Now the position is reversed and I am able to press Ministers to give 373 some declaration of policy. It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said, that we want to keep civil aviation out of politics. There is no Party division in out determination that Great Britain shall lead the world in civil aviation, but we car not keep the means of achievement of that objective out of Party politics. Indeed it is the duty of the Opposition to press upon the Government that they should fulfil their responsibilities by declaring their policy, and to-day we are having a debate in order to ask His Majesty's Government what is their policy.
I must say it seems to me curious that we must have this debate to-clay when I look back on the Election addresses and the Party declaration of the Govern-me at and remember that they promised us a policy for civil aviation which was complete, which was ready, which was bound and sealed all ready for delivery to the electors, provided the people would only give them a mandate to bring that policy into force. I cannot help wondering what has happened to that policy now. They have also an alternative. There was the policy which was agreed to by the Coalition Government initiated by my noble friend Lord Swinton and agreed to by Ministers now serving in the present administration. The President of the Board of Trade, whose purity of political conscience is unassailable, de-elated before the Election that the policy was no compromise. Sir Stafford Cripps said that the policy was a fine, good forward policy which he supported wholeheartedly. If that is so, I cannot help wondering why to-day they have thrown that policy over, or apparently are riot prepared to accept the White Paper or alternatively will not give effect to the polity declared in Labour and the Nation. I think we are entitled to ask the reason for this delay. Three months have gone by and civil aviation is now grounded for lack of decision by the Government, while the rest of the world is spreading its wings with ever increasing breadth daily all over the face of the globe.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
There is no reason why policy should not be declared. Even though aircraft are not immediately available you can 374 declare to the expectant electors that this policy is ready, that it is about to be introduced and as soon as aircraft are available will be in full activity. Every day we lose ground. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said, the war is over and war priority has lapsed, but I hope that the war-time tempo is going to be replaced by an equally urgent peace-time tempo as regard civil aviation. To-day we do not see particular signs of that. There are very urgent questions on which I think your Lordships' House is entitled to ask the Minister for information when he comes to make a statement—we hope a full statement—either to-day or at a later date. Some of these questions were touched on by my noble friend Viscount Swinton. I would like to ask my first question as regards the London terminal airport. As Viscount Swinton said, Heathrow is not going to be enough. I would like to know which other alternative airports in the London area are going to be used primarily for civil aviation and controlled by the Civil Aviation Department.
My second question is about the control of aircraft movement in the London area. Are British and Empire aircraft and the civil aircraft of other countries going to be controlled by a military organization in peace-time, or is civil aircraft movement to be controlled by a civil organization? My third question is whether the Minister can give us a declaration that our British line in South America will use a British airport in West Africa as an intermediate stopping point and not have to depend upon a foreign airport either at Dakar or in Cape Verde Island. I think it is most important that the British link with Latin America should depend upon a British intermediate stopping point. I do not want to weary your Lordships with details of the controversy of which Viscount Swinton and I and Lord Winster have full knowledge as to which airport should be selected for British aircraft in West Africa, but it is high time a decision was come to as to which would give a satisfactory base in British territory. There is a school of thought which says: "Let us take the easy way and let us depend upon a foreign base, which is already made, which will welcome a British line and will not cost the British taxpayer any con- 375 siderable sum of money." On that I would ask that we may have a clear declaration.
My next question has reference to what are termed the Brabazon types of aircraft. We are all confident that British aircraft are going to excel in quality over all other civil aircraft of the world, but we know that it takes some four years from the time an aircraft is designed until it is brought into production. We are going to require civil aircraft, firstly, for our own use, and secondly, for export purposes. We need to give big orders because if we do not build now these machines are going to be out of date. If we wait until customers come forward having seen the prototype flown, then it may be six or seven years before the aircraft is in the hands of users and by that time it will be out of date. I want to know how many of each type are being ordered by His Majesty's Government for British use and how many for export purposes. Unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to undertake the big financial commitment—and indeed it is a very big commitment which is involved in ordering large numbers of each type—we shall not be able to secure the position of British civil aviation four years from now. I would ask the Minister for a White Paper showing each type of aircraft, when it is expected to come into production and how many of each type have been ordered. I think that is information which your Lordships' House and another place and indeed the country are entitled to ask for, and I only hope that it will show a victory for the noble Lord, Lord Winster, over the conservatism of the Treasury.
My next and last question but one concerns private flying. When is the Air Ministry going to lift the ban on private flying and let it cease to be a criminal offence for a man to fly in his own aeroplane at his own expense in his own country now the war is over? The noble Lord cannot say that it is shortage of petrol, because only recently I read of a declaration by an official of the Petroleum Department telling motorists they could not have any more petrol because all the large stocks were suitable for aircraft. So I hope he will not try that one on us, but will give us a clear date as to when private flying may start. In the United States to- 376 day there are approximately 10,000 private owners of small aircraft and there is a flourishing industry employing many thousands of men making small aircraft. It is unthinkable that we, with our geographical position, should be able to compete in such numbers as those, but if we could make an industry in this country employing 5,000 or 10,000 skilled men, it would be an effort well worth while, and the longer the noble Lord delays in lifting the ban the less chance we have of making that successful British industry.
Finally, I want to ask him when he will be able to make a declaration about gliding clubs and flying clubs. I think it will be difficult, with taxation at its present level, to justify any support for flying clubs out of public funds on the same lines as was given before the war. Nevertheless, there is some justification for Government support of the flying club movement, if you can allocate to that movement a portion of the primary training for the reserves of the Royal Air Force. I know that those in charge of the Royal Air Force, quite rightly, say they would like to have the pupil in their own hands from the very beginning of his training right up to the end. Nevertheless, I hope my noble friend will be able to persuade the Secretary of State for Air that, in the greater interest of keeping the nation "air-minded"—to use a terrible word—giving young men an opportunity of flying, and reviving the club movement, he should allow the clubs in the after-war period to fulfil a function of primary training for the Royal Air Force.
As regards gliding, I believe there is an enormous opportunity for the youth of this country, if we look at it in a big way—gliding camps for the A.T.C., Military Cadets and the ordinary civilian youth movement. Let the noble Lord be the protagonist of a wide gliding movement, with big gliding club centres and with semi-permanent camps which boys would visit for a week or a fortnight at a time throughout the summer. Let him work on that basis. He will find plenty of enthusiastic support for any such proposal from outside, and I know that the reward which will be obtained in the training of British youth will be well worth any efforts which he puts forward. I have put various questions to the noble Lord, some of which he may be able to 377 answer to-day, but it lie cannot answer them to-day, I trust your Lordships agree that those are questions which rightly and properly should be answered on the next occasion.
§ 3.45 P.m.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
My Lords, your Lordships' House is indeed fortunate. It has had three Front Bench speeches from three noble Lords who have been largely responsible for civil aviation in this country during the past year, and 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. I do wish to congratulate the new Minister on his appointment and to say that I feel that in his appointment there a chance and a hope that we may achieve something in civil aviation. It is just as well that we have this talent in the House. We also have many ex-Lord Chancellors here. Perhaps it is just as well, from the national point of view, that those who have been in charge of civil aviation are not pensionable as Lord Chancellors are.
I wish to point out to the present Minister some of the pitfalls he is hound to meet. One of his big difficulties will be that he has a new Ministry, and, as anyone knows who has held office, a new Minister does not get his fair share of priorities. He does not get recognition by other Ministers at the time and in the proper way that he should. This is very important now. We in the Air Ministry suffered after the last war from being a new Ministry. We suffered because all the old-established Ministries had greater priorities in the great machinery of government. Now we have this new Ministry starting off just when the Geddes Axe, or whatever it may be named, is coming into operation. This new Ministry is one which should be encouraged, but it is one which may suffer very injuriously because it is a new Ministry and the older-established Ministries will get more than their fair share of priorities. I hope that the present Minister will be able to stand up against that, because it is so important at the start of his Ministerial life. After all, it was only for a short time that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, held this office; it is only a short time since the start of the Ministry of Civil Aviation as a separate Ministry. I trust that Lord Winster will he able to stand up against what will be 378 the universal cry of other and stronger Ministries.
I have no doubt that to-day he will not give us his policy. We are not asking him to state a policy, although the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, felt that three months gave sufficient time for him to be able to state it. Personally, I do not want him to be too hurried; the matter is too important and too serious. I am quite content to wait for a time. On other occasions we have had many views put forward regarding civil aviation. I hope that the Minister will go very carefully into the many points which were then more or less decided, and that when he brings forward his policy he will not be too much tied by what was said then. We heard speeches here from the railway companies and the shipping companies, saying that they were going to enter aviation. I hope he will carefully and clearly decide this question on its merits and not as it was put before your Lordships' House then, in the form of a slightly muddle-headed idea that it was a defence of private enterprise. It is not private enterprise, but it was put forward as being a form of private enterprise. This is far too important a matter.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I do not know whether the noble Lord is misinterpreting me. I justified, on behalf of the Coalition Government, the entry of railways and shipping companies. It was not in the least anything to do with private enterprise, but was because the Coalition Government decided it was in the national interest that they should be in, and for no other reason.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
The noble Lord is quite right when he says why he justified it, but those were certainly not the views put forward by the protagonists. The idea was that this was private enterprise coming in against the B.O.A.C., and there was no question about it. I hope Lord Winster will carefully consider the matter, because the railway companies and the shipping companies have a great deal of work to do. If it is going to be handed over to them, I hope he will be careful to see that we are to get real value, and that it will not be done merely because of the claims which were put forward on that occasion.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, spoke about the aerodrome policy. I could not 379 agree with him more—this is a very important matter—about Heathrow, and where your civil airports are going to be. We know that Hendon and Croydon are quite out of date and cannot be used. Heathrow will, undoubtedly, be the London airport, and I am delighted that it should be. But I am not so happy when the question is put forward about Northolt. I feel there is a good deal of propaganda in the papers on this, the kind of idea that Northolt belongs to civil aviation. I would like to see it all joint until Heathrow is ready. I cannot see why there should not be joint aerodromes with the R.A.F. There is an idea that civil aviation must have its own, and cannot be satisfied with R.A.F. aerodromes. There are not many aerodromes suitable for civil aviation, or for Transport Command. Transport Command has got a great burden to carry at the present time—something like one million Service men to bring back before March next year. Do not let us think that the only people who are flying for transport purposes are in civil aviation. Transport Command needs its aerodromes and services, and they must be properly run.
There are other facilities 'which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will need; other aerodromes for services such as training and research. I would like to ask him, on the question of research, how this is going to be divided up, because there is no doubt that research is the most important matter in civil aviation. This covers how you are going to land in fog, and how you are going to get research on radar suitable for civil aviation. Civil aviation must have a very large say in the research going on to-day. I hope the noble Lord will be able to assure me that this is not merely a matter in which he has to play second fiddle to what may be going on in M.A.P.
One other point which came up was on the question of fares. Your Lordships may have seen in The Times yesterday a comparison between Pan-American and B.O.A.C., where it said that Pan-American are now going to fly a line to this country with a single fare of £69 and a return fare of £124. It also said that the single fare for B.O.A.C. was £142. I know there is a good deal to be said for cheapness, but I do hope 380 that the Minister will try to prevent a price-cutting war in the air. It does not lead to efficiency, and may lead to risks being taken which will cause casualties, and casualties will do far more harm to civil aviation than any advantages which come from cheap travel. I hope, in the negotiations, he will try and find some settled fare on which all can be agreed, so that there will be no price-cutting which, one knows so well, only leads to disaster, bitterness and the troubles which can come after in so many industries.
I am not going into policy now. We have all discussed that and the Four Freedoms, and indeed, the Fifth Freedom. The only thing I would say on the Fifth Freedom is that I hope the Minister will stand firm on that, because it is one of the most important at the present time when, as has been pointed out in this House, we are short of machines. Until we get those machines we ought to be careful what we surrender in that matter. The new Minister sets out on a great chance and a great career. I wish him success.
§ 3.55 P.m.
VISCOUNT ST DAVIDS
My Lords, the days are gone when I used to speak from the other side of this House because nobody else in the Party wanted to have a board on this important matter. There are many better speakers on the Front Bench to speak for the Labour Party. I rise to speak on a very minor matter. I am one of, I imagine, the very few glider pilots in this House. I sympathize strongly with the Service Minister who has to rule the air. He has lots of radar stations and organizations which would be sorely troubled by lots of unknown machines floating about. I can imagine, too, that the Board of Trade, or the Ministers of Labour and of Fuel and Power might object to civil aviation in the form of aeroplanes. After all, they need considerable services to keep them in the air. They need men to look after them and service them on the ground. They need fuel, and they need aircraft industries. There can be very few private machines, still in private hands, in good condition. There may be a number of reasons which could be given, with more or less validity, on the subject of aeroplanes, but I cannot imagine that a single one of these reasons applies to gliders. There may, or may not, be petrol, either for cars or aero- 381 planes. But gliders do not use petrol. We rely on the wind, and there is plenty of that.
There is the question of aeroplanes going all over the place. The gliding community is quite willing to restrict itself quite close to its gliding grounds. My friends in the British Gliding Association, with whom I have talked, wanted to put forward a plea that if they were not to be allowed to glide all over the country, which might hinder the air services, they should be allowed to fly within three miles of their parent aerodrome and up to a height of, say, 4,000 feet. They need so little to keep them in the air; they do riot need a large industry to keep them there. No man can build his own aeroplane, but, even now, at this very day, in tool sheds, attics, and over garages, enthusiasts are chipping away with their tools, and making up the necessary glue, and producing their own gliders. In fact, before the war, there were very few gliding clubs which were not capable of turning out their own gliders. Even with the terrible shortage of wood which now exists, it is possible for gliding clubs, with such old wings and other material as they possess, to turn out quite reasonable training machines. I am informed that there are some twenty sail-planes still in prix ate hands. These machines may, or may not, be ready for immediate flight, but the initiative of the various glider pilots and constructors—they are all very keen people because they have to do an incredible amount of work for the time they spend in the air—can easily put these machines right and get them flying.
The gliding industry, therefore, needs no factories and no petrol. The maintenance can be done by the clubs themselves. They are willing to do without such club-houses as have been requisitioned; all that they want is permission to fly. They do not feel that this can very well be denied to them, because the A.T.C. are floating about all over the place, and although the A.T.C. are nominally kept within a hundred feet of the ground, yet any glider pilot or instructor will tell you that it is impossible to take even an "A" certificate under a hundred feet, and therefore the A.T.C., in order to take the "A" and "B" certificates, must break their own regulations. I cannot imagine arty reason why a properly-run gliding club, 382 run under the British Gliding Association, should not at least be allowed to operate on the same standard as the A.T.C.
There are a great many things that the Minister of Civil Aviation and the Secretary of State for Air can do to help the gliding movement. The gliding clubs are casting an anxious eye on the long lines of parked balloon barrage winches which are now useless for their former purpose, but which would be enormously useful to the gliding movement. In the early days of gliding, when we first took up the winch as an instrument for launching gliders, it was much pooh-poohed. However, after a. very short time we found that it was the ideal way of launching those who wished to learn gliding. The winch is the one instrument by which an instructor can keep a line on a pupil who is in a single-seater machine. These balloon barrage winches can launch a glider on flat country to heights which it could never attain from even the best of hillsides. I remember that at the Cambridge Gliding Club we used, with a most rudimentary form of winch, to launch gliders to over 2,000 feet; and at that height a glider was capable of hitching on to air currents and of proceeding across country or wandering around in the air over its home field for a considerable length of time. These winches which are in the hands of the Air Ministry would therefore be enormously valuable to the gliding movement.
There is a number of other instruments which we should like to have which are also in the gift of the Ministry, and which will no doubt sooner or later come on the sales list, but we are not asking for these now. We do not wish to complicate our case. All that we want to ask for at this moment is the right to glide; and this, in view of the smallness of our demands and the fact that low down and close to aerodromes we are no hindrance, we feel can scarcely be denied to us. However, if there is a good reason against it—and it is imaginable that there may be one—the gliding movement would be very glad to hear it, because there is a considerable disturbance amongst the clubs at being kept on the ground.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
My Lords, I must ask for the indulgence of your Lordships, because, although I have been 383 a member of your Lordships' House for a considerable number of years, I have never before addressed you. The debate this afternoon is of very great importance not only for this country but also for the Empire, and I should like to put one or two questions to your Lordships. First of all, there is the question of civil flying clubs. In 1939, there were 73 light aeroplane clubs affiliated to the Council of Light Aeroplane Clubs, and these were given a subsidy under a scheme administered by the Air Ministry and were known as the Civil Air Guard. These clubs were, of course, quite properly closed down on the outbreak of war, and in most instances their equipment was taken over by the Government, but in some cases it was left to disintegrate and rot. Later, I think in 1942 and 1943, certain ex gratia payments were made in respect of this flying equipment to these clubs by the then Government.
I dislike quoting statistics to your Lordships, but I ought to say that the ex gratia payment made by the then Government to those flying clubs—who were then left in very severe difficulties, as you can imagine, as the result of the closing down of the scheme—worked out at 12s. in the pound as compared with the whole of the liabilities incurred in the organization and operation of the scheme. This scheme was supposed to run for a period of four years, but it actually operated for one year only. The total number of pilots trained in the scheme in the year for which it was in operation was 3,800. This payment was solely concerned with the Civil Air Guard scheme, and it did not include any compensation for the shareholders of these clubs or in respect of any liabilities incurred apart from the Civil Air Guard scheme.
I should very much like to know whether the present Government will do anything to re-open these clubs and put them on a financial basis which will enable them to carry on again as soon as possible. These clubs have very big possibilities if managed in the right way. I agree that the standard of instruction in these clubs in pre-war days was not the same among all of them, and I suggest that the question of a subsidy should be left over for the moment. The method of granting a subsidy in the old days depended on the obtaining of "A" licences, and it put a premium on solo 384 flying and discouraged any type of dual instruction. I think it would be wrong for me to suggest to your Lordships today that the Government should give a subsidy, but I do want to suggest that the flying clubs should not be subject to the ordinary petrol tax, which should be entirely reserved for the road users of motor vehicles.
I believe that a scheme of that kind could be worked out. It might be possible to arrange for a rebate on the petrol tax to be given on a quarterly or half-yearly or yearly production of log-books. These log-books would have to be certified by those who actually owned the machines or were running the flying club, and I do think that anybody who practised fraud or in any way cheated the Government in this matter should be severely dealt with. Might I suggest that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack might see to it that some dire penalty is provided? To my mind offenders of this kind should not be dealt with in a magistrate's court and merely fined 5s. or something like that. I seriously suggest that offences of this character should be treated as a crime and that the result for the culprits should be dire.
Another point which I should like to suggest for the consideration of your Lordships is that help might be given to these clubs to enable them to restart. There are quantities of aircraft now which, from the point of view of His Majesty's Services, are redundant, and I suggest that they might be handed over to the clubs to enable them to get a grip on things once more and get going again. Next we come to the question of aerodromes. Your Lordships have heard from much more experienced speakers than myself to-day their views on this question of aerodromes. What I wish to emphasize is that it is practically impossible to run an aerodrome and make it pay. But I suggest that when a big aerodrome a airfield is laid down in any part of this country or Scotland, it does greatly affect many local interests and provides possibilities for many businesses. You have got to have large bodies of men all of whom have got to be housed. In many cases these men will have wives and children. If it is impossible to run an aerodrome so as to make it pay, I suggest that it should most definitely receive 385 support either from the State or from the local council.
Now I have certain criticisms that I would like to make. First of all I would say that I rather think that the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been very largely associated, I will not say with squabbles, but with discussions which have hindered it from taking practical steps to assist in the promotion of private civil flying. I would also say that there has been a complete absence of real policy with regard to aerodromes. I had intended to say something on the subject of gliding, but the noble Lord who spoke just before me has said a great deal on that subject. I would, however, like to add a few words on the question of the restriction of private flying or gliding. No doubt the Minister will tell us that one thing which has hindered the restarting of private flying has been shortage of fuel. I submit, however, that this does not apply to gliding as practically no fuel whatever is necessary. It is true that there are winches to be worked, and that retrieving motor cars are sometimes used for bringing in gliders from considerable distances. Apart from this, however, the question of fuel really does not arise. Gliding has been carried on actively in Britain now for more years than many of your Lordships probably realize. I would like to tell you that before the war it was considered sufficiently important in this country for His Majesty's Government to give it a subsidy. Admittedly it was only a very small subsidy—a matter of £5,000—and it had to last for five years. But at any rate it helped in good work, and during the same period the clubs, on their own initiative, raised enough money to enable them to carry on.
I know that some suggestions have been male by the Director of Civil Aviation wit a regard to the possible danger to airliners and other commercial aircraft from gliders. I cannot agree that such danger exists. If an airliner is operating from Heathrow, Northolt or any other airport it takes off in any state of the weather. Now in cloudy conditions gliding will only take place up to an altitude of somewhere about 200 ft., and soaring, which is the ultimate object of any glider pilot, will only take place in the finest of weather. Therefore, I submit, there can be no possibility of danger to airliners and other power-driven aircraft from this source.
386 And now a word on the question of international prestige. In 1939 the United Kingdom came third in the list of nations having recognized glider pilots with high qualifications. The British Glider Association which represents the gliding clubs has, I believe, placed before the Secretary of State and the Minister of Civil Aviation a plea for assistance in the shape of equipment and a small subsidy. I am not prepared to deal with the question of a subsidy, but I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister the fact that these clubs are in need of a large number of heavy winches. I understand that winches which were used for the balloon barrage have, in many cases, been broken up. I believe it is not necessary that they should be destroyed. If they are not going to be used by the Services any longer, I suggest that they might be handed over to the gliding clubs to whom they would be of enormous assistance.
The clubs would be saved a great deal of expense—that is, of course, when the clubs are allowed to start their activities again. I believe that I am correct in stating that this is the only country in the world at the present moment, apart of course from some of the Continental countries, that has not started gliding again. I know that it is going on actively in a number of countries. One of the greatest benefits of gliding is that not only does it promote air-mindedness, but it gives young men healthy exercise and stimulates enthusiasm. Moreover, it gives them air sense, which is a great thing. It gives them knowledge of the air and of controlling a flying machine.
Next, if I may, I would touch on the question of charter and taxi-flying, which I do not think has been given, up to the present, the prominence which it deserves in the programme which I trust is being put through. The real criticism to be made in this connexion is based on the fact that it is still not possible for an ordinary private person to book a passage by a British airline unless he is sponsored by a Government Department. Rineanna, on the Shannon, and Foynes are being used for transporting people from America to Great Britain. By flying to Foynes the American airlines avoid the trouble of having to come to some bilateral arrangement with Britain and the B.O.A.C. is now really acting as a glorified taxi service, putting passengers into old aircraft and then flying them to England.
387 At this stage of the operations that should not be the case. I know that the position that Eire has taken up makes all these discussions about bilateral arrangements extraordinarily difficult. It really makes any arrangement between Great Britain and America for the use of airports completely futile. Eire is welcoming the American lines and if they find any difficulty about getting permits to land at Heathrow, and although it may be decided to make a subsidiary aerodrome, they will go on landing in Eire. Eire proposes to make Rineanna a fine airport with landplane and marine aircraft facilities at the same base.
The other day a certain statement was made in answer to a question by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, about Heathrow and I am waiting to hear a further statement on the point. One of the things which worries me very much about Heathrow is this—and I am speaking not only of Heathrow, but the general approach to the greatest city in the world. We do not even know if London is going to be served by a marine airport of any sort. Heathrow may be on a fairly good road, out on the Great West Road, but if it is going to be the main terminal point of the great airlines which are coming to this country, I suggest that that road will not be big enough to cope with the traffic with which it will have to contend. It just cannot do it. I expect your Lordships remember that road before the war. It was a very fine road, laid by the Ministry of Transport, but it is not big enough. I noticed that the noble Viscount who spoke before me suggested an alternative. From the point of view of motor transport and motor traction I think there should be an alternative aerodrome, because the road from Heathrow could not carry all the necessary traffic if that aerodrome were the main terminal airport.
That is really all the criticism I have to offer and all the questions I have to ask, but there is one point I should like to make to the noble Lord who is going to answer for the Government. Civil aviation was really only born after the war of 1918. It was, if I can so describe it, an unwieldly child and sometimes got badly out of hand. There were certain times when its parents very nearly disinherited it and I can certainly say that it suffered also from a great many foster parents. 388 There may have been too many foster parents, but they did their best for it. The child was really getting into its stride when it suffered another setback by the outbreak of the last war. It did not die—civil aviation never does die—but it remained gasping until the end of the war. At the end of the war the Government of that time did their best to resuscitate this dying, or barely alive, creature which was then a half-grown youth. That child was prospering and getting on very well when it was almost strangled again by the General Election. That put it back quite a bit.
I am going to suggest, my Lords, that we have now in power a Government which for the first time in the history of this country has a chance, untrammelled by wars on any side, of putting civil aviation in the place where it should be. I respectfully suggest to the noble Lord who is to answer for the Government that every effort should be made to put this country in the forefront of world civil aviation. It constitutes a challenge to the Government. Many years ago there were great navigators and pilots. We all recall the names of Drake, Frobisher and Hawkins. They sailed out into the world and were pioneers. They went out armed to the teeth to fight against whatever opposition was offered to the Crown. There was opposition then, and nowadays there is also going to be opposition. I do not suggest that we should send out navigators and pilots belonging to B.O.A.C.—who are, I entirely agree, the finest in the world—armed to the teeth with tommy guns and other lethal weapons, but I suggest that you send them out armed with the finest aircraft in the world and that those aircraft should be built in the finest factories in the world, which are the British factories.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I will not detain you for more than two minutes, but I would like to make a reference to one or two points. To my astonishment, London is claiming a second airport without any consideration for airports in the rest of the country. We in the north do not want to claim anything from the London traffic but there are perhaps 25,000,000 people living north of the Trent who do not necessarily wish to come to London but to move in another direction. The Under-Secretary in 389 another place made play with the expression, "to go to Birmingham via Beachy Head." The accuracy of your navigation naturally depends upon where you start from. If you go from London to Newfoundland via Glasgow you are going ninety miles out of the way, but if you go from Glasgow to Newfoundland via London you would go 570 miles out of the way for which presumably you would have to pay and the extra cost presumably would go on Glasgow business.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION (LORD WINSTER)
My Lords, during the last Parliament the proceedings in your Lordships' House were notable for a series of debates on civil aviation initiated by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry. He pressed his point with great resolution and vigour assisted by other noble Lords—among them Lord Rothermere, Lord Brabazon and the Duke of Sutherland, all with great knowledge of the subject. It was a fierce and sustained attack. The Government in its extremity put up one spokesman after another in the successive debates but never succeeded in wearing down the bowling. One after another they were all cleaned bowled after failing to score. Finally, the Government capitulated and a Ministry of Civil Aviation was established. I think that in Shakesperean language Lord Londonderry may fairly be described as the "onlie begetter" of the Ministry. As the second holder of the office I must thank him for his good work and also congratulate-myself on my foresight or second sight in not taking part in the debates—so that there is little to quote against me.
I am called on somewhat early to give an account of my incumbency. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving me the opportunity and I also wish to acknowledge the courtesy and the help he gave me when I took over from him. He did much to assist me on my way and it is only right for me to say that in the papers which have passed across my desk I have had almost daily evidence of his labours to get the new Ministry started on sound and solid lines. I have to tell the noble Viscount that I cannot make a statement on policy to-day. I shall, however, very shortly be in a position to do so, but I find that November 1 is the first clay on which the business of the House will enable me to do this. I there- 390 fore suggest for your Lordships' consideration that it may be convenient if the debate to-day is adjourned until November I, but I must point out that if that is done it will only be with the consent of your Lordships that I may speak twice in the debate that I shall be able to make the statement of policy on the later date.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
May I say that that would be quite convenient to me? I shall have a slight advantage over the noble Lord because, having had the foresight or the second sight to put down a Motion for Papers, I shall be entitled to speak again. But certainly I think your Lordships would be glad to hear the noble Lord speak twice on this subject at the earliest possible date.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
May I ask whether all other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate this afternoon will be able to speak by leave of the House on the next occasion?
I should like to inquire whether on that occasion people who have not been able to speak to-clay will be able to speak before the Minister's statement or afterwards. I take it there can be no objection to that.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I take it there will be a full debate. It would be convenient, I think, if the Minister spoke first and then there was a full debate in which all would be able to take part. Certainly it would be convenient if the Minister spoke first because then we should know his policy.
§ LORD WINSTER
That is what I had in mind, that this debate should be adjourned and that then, with the leave of your Lordships, I should speak first on November 1 Of course it would be a full debate.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
In the case of any noble Lord who has already spoken it would always be open to the House to allow him to speak again. It is merely a matter of the leave of the House.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Might I also suggest that if the Minister spoke first and it should be the desire of those on the Front Opposition Bench that I should follow him, the House might permit me to do that instead of speaking at the end 391 of the debate. I do not know what the rules of the House have to say about that.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
What is the advantage of this suggested procedure instead of what would be the normal procedure in such a case, that the noble Viscount who brought this Motion before the House, which is merely a formal Motion for Papers, should withdraw it at the end of the debate to-day? Then on November z the Minister could move a formal Motion on which a debate on the same subject though on a different occasion could take place. That would enable noble Lords who have already spoken to-day to speak on that occasion without having to ask for special leave of the House to speak a second time.
§ LORD WINSTER
I gather that the procedure I have suggested was commended by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House who has been in consultation with the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne.
It was my view that it would be rather a pity that there should be as it were an abortive debate, and that was why it was suggested that the debate should be adjourned, but I must say that I see now that formidable problems may arise. If the noble Lord opposite made his statement first, then no doubt the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, would wish to speak early and that might be rather difficult. It would entail a good deal of extension of the indulgence of the House. Perhaps it would be better if my noble friend withdrew his Motion to-day and a new Motion were put on the Paper for November 1.
§ LORD WINSTER
I shall be delighted to fall in with whatever suggestion meets the wishes of your Lordships' House. Many questions have been put to me to-clay by noble Lords who have spoken. I will answer some of them at once, others I think will be answered in the course of my speech and any which are left unanswered in that way will be fully dealt with in my statement of policy. The noble Viscount stressed the necessity for the operators being in step with the Minister while agreements are being negotiated. I most fully agree and I do make a practice of keeping my noble friend informed in 392 these matters and making sure we are in step. Then I was asked regarding the relations between the Secretary of State for Air and the Admiralty about employment of personnel. These relations and these arrangements continue and the relations with the Commander-in-Chief of Transport Command also remain.
I was asked whether this Government stands broadly by the policy of order in the air. The answer to that is Yes, most firmly; there is no intention of deviating from that declared policy of working for order in the air. Then there was an expression of dislike for the term "chosen instrument." May I inform my noble friend that in America it is referred to as the "sacred cow "? As regards flying boats I can say that I am not at all convinced that there is no place for them in the future of civil aviation. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, made a speech in which I think he dealt more with the Ministry of Aircraft Production than the Ministry of Civil Aviation, but I am sure that the Minister of Supply will take note of what was said and that I shall find myself having more conversations with the Minister on the subject of Lord Brabazon's remarks. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, I think will find his questions answered in the manner to which I referred. I am particularly interested in his suggestion about laying a White Paper regarding the progress of British aircraft and orders, and to that I will give full consideration.
I have to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, for his very generous words about myself and also for his appreciation of the difficulties which beset a new and the latest Ministry. As regards the railways and shipping companies, that matter has received the most careful consideration, and I assure the noble Lord that anything decided in that respect will be decided with a sole eye for the advantage of civil aviation. As to research and how it will be divided up, I am not in favour of decentralization; I am in favour of keeping research centralized, provided that I am quite sure of my fair share and that my requirements are attended to. I will heed his good advice, and I assure him I have no intention of playing second fiddle in that matter.
As regards the announcement about fares made by Pan-America yesterday, I will only say this to-day: that I hope 393 there will be no price-cutting war in fares, bringing in subsidies and all the evils which will flow therefrom. To avoid that, most certainly, is the firm policy of the Government, equally with what I said about order in the air. As regards the Filth Freedom, I will only say this: that in the views we have put forward on that matter we in this country are not fighting our own battle only; we are fighting a battle for other countries who are entitled to develop their own air services.
My noble friend Viscount St. Davids spoke about gliding. I am most anxious to encourage gliding in every way open to me. Discussions are at present proceeding between my Department and the British Gliding Association on the possibility of a limited resumption of gliding in advance of the lifting of the ban on civil flying The British Gliding Association have put forward specific proposals which are at present being considered by my Department and the Air Ministry, and I will give most sympathetic consideration to the views which have been put forward.
May I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, upon his maiden speech: He had points of real importance to put forward, and he put them forward with great lucidity and cogency. I am sure that all who heard him hope that he will speak again, now that he has summoned up courage and taken his first glide in your Lordships' House. The points which he put will be fully considered and I hope he will find most of them answered, either to-day or in the speech which I Snarl make at a subsequent date.
I see statements made that because a policy has not been announced, civil aviation is in a state of suspended animation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The daily work goes on and is pursued with energy, and much progress is being made in very many directions. Let me give your Lordships as much information as I can on the matters most in the public eye at the present moment as regards civil aviation. I will take first things first. The responsibilities laid upon the Ministry cannot be fulfilled without aircraft. I am in active consultation with the Minister of Supply, who realizes the needs of civil aviation and affords me full co-operation. Delays in getting what is wanted cannot be immediately obviated, although I believe that as the dust of war settles the delays can be, and will be, reduced.
394 The war-time decision of the Allies to employ their production resources to the best common advantage resulted in. America proceeding during the war with the construction of transport aircraft. She therefore certainly starts off with an advantage over us in civil aviation, but we must not complain about this, and I hope that the continual references in the Press to this advantage will riot lead anyone to imagine that America has "pulled a fast one on us" in this matter. She only did what we agreed she should do in this connexion, and what inures to our disadvantage in peace inured to our very great advantage in war. We have no cause for complaint on this particular issue. Nevertheless the disadvantage is there and, having stated it, the thing to do is not to go on bewailing it but to get to work to remedy it, and that we shall do. Why should anyone doubt that the men who designed and the workmen who built the aircraft with which we won the war—and, let me add, the heads and the managers of the firms concerned—should do anything else but an equally good job when they can concentrate on the production of civil aircraft? There is too much carping of that nature, and the men who are already getting on with the work are too busy to answer their critics.
Already we have some good aircraft coming along—not so soon and not in such numbers as I should like, and I hope that production can be speeded up. But the start has been made. The Viking, a medium-range airliner, has completed its test flights successfully and will soon be in production. This aircraft promises to be quite a useful type for some time to come. We shall also be getting the Tudor I.
§ LORD WINSTER
I am coming to that. We shall also be getting the Tudor I a long-range airliner which, although connected with the Lancaster family, has been designed from the start as a civil aircraft. It will be in production in a very short time and will provide us with a suitable machine for the North Atlantic services. Coming along after it will be the Tudor II, which should be a most useful aircraft for our Commonwealth routes. The prototype of the Dove has 395 flown and will, I believe, be a useful aircraft for local and feeder services in this country and abroad. The Bristol Freighter and its passenger counterpart, the Wayfarer, are due to fly soon and to come into production early next year. The Miles Marathon, to which special reference was made this afternoon, a short-range aircraft, is also due to fly next spring.
I would remind your Lordships that we must not think of these and other civil planes in terms only of getting them into service on our air routes. The matter goes beyond that. Our own civil aviation requirements will not suffice to maintain a prosperous civil section of the industry. We have got to get into the export trade with aircraft. I have had the pleasure of arranging for several foreign visitors to visit the factories to see what we have coming along. The carping critics to whom I have referred have created such a false impression that several of these visitors seemed genuinely surprised to find that we were building anything at all. What they have seen has delighted them, and orders have been given. If we had plenty of aircraft to sell we could certainly sell plenty of them. I regard it as a most urgent part of my duty to foster the export trade in aircraft in any way I can, and I warmly commend the action of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors in having sent a representative to South America with this end in view.
One last word about aircraft. What you have to think about all the time is not so much what you have or are about to get. The moment you decide to go in for a type you must begin to think at once about the replacement for it. You have to think a long way ahead, not only about the current type you feel so proud of, but about its son and its grandson. The replacement must never be forgotten. In that respect, before I pass from this section of my remarks I should be very ungrateful if I failed to remind your Lordships of the important work done, in planning to meet the future needs of the operators, by the noble Lord who presides over the Brabazon Committee, and who seeks the ideal in a mood of divine discontent, which results, not in the perfection 396 which he dreams of, but in something which is not too bad.
After aircraft—air services. What routes are we operating, and what with? Well, we operate two of the most remarkable services in the world. True we do it with American aircraft, but that does not detract from the merit of the performance. With three Boeings, B.O.A.C. have maintained a four-times-a-week transatlantic service throughout the summer. With twelve Liberators a daily service, winter and summer alike, has for four years plied between Canada and Britain, and that is something which nobody else has been able to do. The pilots who fly these services deserve high praise, but I ask your Lordships to reflect also on the work of the ground and overhaul and maintenance staffs which makes such performances possible.
Now let me mention a British aircraft, a fine aircraft and a remarkable service. London to Australia is served three times a week by a Lancastrian, the converted Lancaster bomber. It can only take six passengers with baggage and 1,225 pounds of mails and freight, but the service is essential and valuable. What the air has to offer in transport is speed, and the Lancaster offers it in good measure. Here are the schedules. The aircraft leave Hum at 4 p.m. G.M.T. on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays, arriving in Sydney at 7 a.m. G.M.T. sixty-three hours later, touching down at Lydda, Karachi, Colombo and Learmouth. A very fine service indeed. Very shortly, I hope that we shall start a through land-plane service to South Africa. At present it is necessary to travel by land-plane to Cairo, and to change there on to the Empire flying boats, which have done such excellent work on the Durban-Calcutta service throughout the war, and travel by them via the Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika and Portuguese East Africa to Durban. Civil air letter cards and surcharged air-mail go all the way by air by this route. I think your Lordships will agree that these services reflect great credit on the Board and on the staffs of the British Overseas Airways Corporation.
While on the subject of air services I should like to mention those with Ireland to which reference was made in this House last week. I went into this matter soon after I took office as the possibilities seemed to me very great, not only as 397 regards convenience to the travelling public, but financially also. There are regular services running to Belfast from Croydon, Liverpool and Glasgow, and from Liverpool to Dublin. We are at work on arrangements for a direct service from London to Dublin. Two extra Dominie aircraft have been put on the Northern Ireland service, and two Avro XIX's will soon follow, while a further Avro XIX will be put on the Liverpool-Dublin service. Although we have had to revert to winter schedules, which reduces the amount of work which can be got out of any one aircraft, we have been able to keep capacity on these services unimpaired.
May I say here that, as regards air services, I have two aims constantly in mind, one short-range and one long-range? The first is, in this extemporizing reconstruction period, to do what is possible to serve the business community. The second is to cheapen rates and fares. Air transport must be brought increasingly within reach of all, and cease to be luxury travel.
As regards the business community, I have been able, with the help of other Ministers to give facilities for a limited amount of business airmail to Australia. Your Lordships will have noticed that attention has been called to the question of priorities as affecting business travellers. Recently, a representative of the Board of Trade joined the Priorities Boa rd, and, after consultation with my noble friend the Secretary of State for Air, it has been arranged that, in future, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation will sit with the Under-Secretary of State for Air as joint chairman of this Board. I must issue this cant on, that this may not effect any great immediate change. Some Government and military priorities must continue for some time yet, but the needs of the business community will now enjoy representation. As opportunity arises, and I hope it will arise with increasing frequency, I shall endeavour to assist in these ways, for I fully appreciate that export trade cannot be recreated unless exporting firms are given proper facilities.
After aircraft and air services, a word about airfields. Hum, Heathrow, Northolt and Prestwick. All these are very much in the public eye, and there is a certain amount of confusion of thought. 398 Of course, we have not got to-clay the civil airport facilities that are needed. How could it be expected that we should have after six years of war? The question is: Are the proper steps being taken, and being pressed with energy, to ensure that we get what is wanted without undue delay? Hurn has been the best stop-gap airfield we could get during the war. It has done, and is still doing, good service, and has its place in the future scheme of things. Until Heathrow is ready, Croydon is being used to its maximum capacity, but the growth of traffic demands the use of a supplementary aerodrome. My noble friend, the Secretary of State for Air, has agreed to allow the part use of Northolt for civil transport services. Northolt has been a war-time necessity for the Air Force, and it is quite wrong to suppose that there has been a contest over it between my Ministry and the Air Ministry. My noble friend and myself quite understand each other's requirements.
Now about Heathrow. The site was selected as the best in the London area for an airfield capable of accommodating the largest types of aircraft. Although, at the time of selection, the immediate need was for a military airfield, post-war needs of civil air transport were borne prominently in mind. Work on construction of the airfield was begun by the Air Ministry, and is proceeding as rapidly as the labour and materials situation will permit. The first stage of construction was planned to meet military requirements, but practically all the work already done, or in hand, will serve for purposes of civil air transport. It is expected that the airfield will be usable by civil aircraft by next summer. My noble friend has agreed that the airfield shall be administered as a civil airport, and arrangements are in hand to give effect to this agreement. Although, of course, the larger volume of the air traffic there will be civil, the airport will also be used by military aircraft to a limited extent.
When making my statement on policy, I shall be dealing fully with the question of Prestwick, to which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred. But before, and after, Heathrow is ready, Prestwick will be available for such use as operators wish to make of it. Mention has been made of the fact that America is going to use Rineanna. I state the hare fact that America published her plans to use Foynes and Rineanna as long ago as June, 1944, 399 and concluded agreements to that effect in February, 1945. It is not the case that Prestwick airfield has been or is -being closed as an international airport.
Your Lordships will have noticed Press statements regarding certain American transatlantic services which are to start operation into this country. We have no wish to behave in any other than a generous manner about these services. We had, some considerable time ago, expressed our willingness to enter into interim arrangements concerning these services in order that there need be no delay in their coming into operation. Also we recognize the objections which exist to Hurn as the terminal point for these services. As I have mentioned, the Secretary of State for Air is extending the facilities for civil aviation at certain airfields near London and, as these mature, we shall certainly be agreeable to share the benefits with the American operators.
I am pressed—and strongly pressed—by those who wish to see all the world's air services internationalized, or alternatively that European services at least should be so handled. I have very great sympathy with those who advocate these courses, and their sincerity is above question; but what they suggest is not a matter of practical politics. It takes only two nations to make a quarrel, but it takes many to make an international agreement. "I can call spirits from the vasty deep," said Glendower. "Why," replied Hotspur, "so can I, or so can any man: but will they come?" The nation which issues invitations for an international conference with this aim in view will suffer the disillusionment experienced by the man who issued invitations to a marriage feast. My reading of history is that invitations should never be issued for an international conference until after an international agreement has been reached. What this country can do is so to shape its civil aviation policy as to permit of our arrangements fitting into larger arrangements if these ever become possible. In this connexion I wish to point out that the courses this country advocated at Chicago were based upon larger than merely national considerations. We stood, and still do, for order in the air, for regulation in civil aviation, for equitable division of traffic, for mutuality, for giving everyone a fair share. So strongly do we feel that our policy is right that we are prepared to forgo certain 400 advantages which we already enjoy in order to bring our agreements with foreign countries into line with this policy. It is clear that if large world plans or arrangements ever become feasible they will find no opposition from us.
This leads me to say one word about our relations with other countries. I have had the great pleasure of welcoming at my Ministry Mr. Lemass, Minister for Supplies and for Industries and Commerce in Eire. I approached the talks in the spirit that no good purpose is served to-day by digging up the bones of ancient controversies. What has been has been. At the same time, sentimental talk which ignores the past is absurd. What is wanted seems to me to be that where commercial relations or negotiations between the two countries are concerned they should be approached on a business footing, in a spirit of sincerity and with a desire to bring them to a successful conclusion. Mr. Lemass is a man with whom one can do business. We agreed that Aer Lingus Tecranta should operate services between Eire and this country, and that reciprocal rights should be enjoyed by United Kingdom airlines. The use of the Shannon airport for United Kingdom transatlantic air services was also discussed, and the existing temporary permit to B.O.A.C., authorizing the use of Foynes and Rineanna, will be renewed pending the conclusion of a long-term agreement. Eire will now operate services between Dublin and Liverpool and between Dublin and London direct, while the possibility of other services—namely, Dublin to Glasgow and Rineanna to London and provincial centres—is under discussion.
I have also welcomed representatives of Brazil, of Belgium, of Sweden, of Uruguay, and of the Argentine, with all of whom I have had talks of real value, and negotiations are proceeding with several other countries. We have prepared a standard form of bilateral agreement which we are prepared to enter into with other countries, and which embodies the principles which we endorsed at Chicago. Chicago left certain matters unresolved between America and ourselves. Time and thought often reveal possibilities for agreement, not necessarily at the expense of principle, and time and thought are being given to the matter. Having mentioned 401 certain South American countries, I will refer to the survey flight to that continent now in progress. I felt it necessary to give clear evidence of our intention to operate services to South America and to that end pressed on this flight. It is entirely technical in character, and is charged only with the collection of operational data essential to the organization of the future services. The following countries will be visited: Brazil, Uruguay, the Argentine, Chile and Peru.
Now let me mention private flying, about which I have been asked several questions. I hope soon to see the resumption of private flying and gliding and charter flying, and am in consultation with the Secretary of State for Air regarding the revocation of the Restriction In Time of War Order. The surface of this tiny country has changed much in six years of war. New gunnery ranges, new electric pylons and high wireless masts, new prohibited areas and new danger areas—all these have to be plotted and notices prepared about them by my Department in the form of Notices to Airmen. We could not do this until the war was over, because much of this information had to be secret. There have been great advances in the performance of civil aircraft and in the technical development of ground aids to flight. The State will continue to provide the air traffic control, radio and meteorological facilities in this country to ensure the safety and regularity of civil air services, and new procedures must be developed to take into account these changes. I do not wish to impose any restrictions on charter and private flying in this country save those which are essential in the interests of safety of flight.
To ensure that civil aviation shall at the earliest possible date derive full benefit from the development of radar during the war, a detailed study has been made of those radar techniques which might be applied to meet the needs of regularity and safety in high air traffic densities, and in conditions of bad visibility, and Ministry of Aircraft Production is pursuing a large development programme of radio aids to civil aviation. My Ministry was responsible for promoting the Commonwealth and Empire Conference on radio for civil aviation which was held in London in August of this year. This was attended by 75 delegates, includnig representatives of Dominion and Colonial 402 Governments, observers from the United States of America and technical officers from the U.S.S.R. This Conference made an exhaustive exploration of the international aspects of civil aviation radio, and its recommendations are already receiving consideration by the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization at meetings now in progress in Montreal. All these matters will in their turn assist private flying.
I have been asked by the noble Viscount about jet propulsion. I shall only refer very briefly to it, as I fear my statement is too long already. The first Brabazon Committee, in 1943, recommended immediate action on the design of a jet-propelled mail plane for North Atlantic services. The second Brabazon Committee, in 1944, drew up outline requirements for a jet-propelled machine capable of carrying passengers as well as mail and freight This Committee also recommended that two types should be powered with gas turbines driving propellers. Progress on the development of gas turbine power plants has now reached a stage at which it is possible to contemplate the application of these to all new civil aircraft, possibly including those in the light category.
For civil aviation purposes the gas turbine-propeller combination shows most promise of wide application, but much development still remains to be done. The power jet unit is at present less economical in fuel consumption except on high altitude operations, that is to say, for flight above 40,000 ft. And mention of that height brings me to the question of pressurization, upon which the noble Viscount rightly laid much stress. Nine types of civil aircraft are being, or will be, developed for pressurization by seven different aircraft manufacturers. I wish to say that I am most fully in agreement with what the noble Viscount said about research in this matter of pressurization. It requires to be undertaken in a very wide manner indeed. A big team is necessary to staff a really comprehensive research unit. I have already been taking some steps in that direction. Undoubtedly the matter is of very great importance.
Civil aviation is a world of enthusiasts and no Minister of Civil Aviation will ever be short of advice or of bright ideas in his "In" tray. But I think a Minister should be patient and recep- 403 tive about new ideas. If only one in a thousand comes to anything the patience has been well rewarded. I remember in my own Service how many new ideas were frowned upon. The introduction of steam, the ironclad ship, the breech-loading gun, the water tube boiler, the submarine, the torpedo, gunnery fire control, fuelling at sea, wireless—ail these things had to be fought for by the men of ideas against a wall of opposition and disbelief. I have even been told that the Wright brothers were turned down by the Admiralty and the War Office.
Some of your Lordships may see from time to time an advertisers' journal called Punch, for which A. P. Herbert sometimes writes a comic supplement. A director of the firm of Handley Page recently called my attention to the following extract from its pages in November, 1906, at a time when a great many prizes were being offered for cross-country flights:MR. PUNCH'S GREAT OFFERS. £30,000 IN PRIZE MONEY. DELUGE OF CONGRATULATIONS.Deeply impressed as always with the conviction that the progress of invention has been delayed by lack of encouragement, Mr. Punch has decided to offer £30,000 in three sums of £10,000 each to:—Mr. Punch, I have no doubt, thought that screamingly funny at the time, but there you have a perfect illustration of the resistance which new ideas encounter. The fact is that we have entered into an age in which nothing can be dismissed as impossible, in which the solution of any problem, however seemingly fantastic, seems to depend solely upon the amount of money you are prepared to spend on the research involved. For these reasons I wish in every way to avail myself of the help of the scientist and of the technician and to ensure that ideas are examined with care and with a receptive mind. Only so shall we get ahead and keep ahead.
- (1) the first aeronaut who succeeds in flying to Mars and back within a week;
- (2) the first person who succeeds in penetrating to the centre of the earth in a fortnight;
- (3) the first person who succeeds in swimming from Fishguard to Sandy Hook before the end of the year 1909."
I have put before your Lordships what has been and is being done. But I speak 404 in no spirit of complacency, and I do not wish to make any alibis. I am most fully aware of what is still undone and of the tasks ahead. We have formidable difficulties to overcome, and an immense amount of leeway to make up. But difficulties should be regarded as a challenge and not as an excuse. We need not be despondent. I have already said that I feel that there is far too much croaking going on that nothing this country can do in the air is any good while nothing that America does can be wrong. Cromwell once asked a critic to entertain the possibility that he might be mistaken. I would ask the dismal ones to play with the idea that perhaps there are some faint hopes for our civil aviation. We start the race at a disadvantage for reasons of which we should feel proud and not ashamed. Whether about civil aircraft or anything else, we never thought of post-war advantages, but threw everything into the kitty in our determination to win. But why should we imagine that the same scientists, designers, technicians, workmen and managers who gave us some of the finest military aircraft in the world, will not give us equally fine civil aircraft when they get down to the job? I have seen for myself what the B.O.A.C. pilots and ground maintenance staffs are like, and it gives me great encouragement. We shall not get on terms quickly and we shall not get on terms by wishful thinking or by perorations, but only by hard thought and work and by full encouragement by the Government of those on whom success depends. I know that the spirit and enthusiasm are there amongst those engaged in all branches of civil aviation. Great efforts will be required of them to repair our disadvantages, but I have not the faintest shadow of doubt that we shall build up air services second to none in the world and an example to most.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, the House, I am sure, will be grateful to the noble Lord, the Minister, for the very full and interesting reply which he has given to a number of points that were raised. In particular, I am sure the whole House will have welcomed his declaration on the international policy of the Government and upon their Imperial policy also. I will proceed, in a moment, to withdraw this Motion, and it is the intention of the Leader of the Opposition to put down 405 another Motion for this day fortnight, asking for a statement. That will give opportunity for a fresh debate. The main question, I understand, will be put formally, the Minister will then make his statement, and a debate will follow.
I would like to ask if it would be possible for the Minister if only forty-eight hours, or even twenty-four hours, in advance, to give us a very short White Paper. I know that the House was very greatly helped in the debate we had last March because we had a White Paper before us. It does make an enormous difference to those who, although in opposition, speak, I will not say with authority, but with a very deep sense of responsibility, if they have this aid, when they have to follow immediately after a Minister (as I may have to do) even though his speech may have been delivered with the clarity which has distinguished the noble Lord's utterances this afternoon.
I f necessary, the matter could be amplified in a later White Paper, and I am sure your Lordships would not be at all critical of style, form or size. It would, indeed, be an enormous advantage to us if we could possibly have a White Paper which would give the general headings and the plan of policy. If he did that the Minister would, I am sure, put the House under a deep obligation. He has got some very efficient assistants in his Department and I am sure that they and he could do a great deal in this direction. After all, he knows the policy he has got in his mind.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
It would be an enormous help if that could be done. In that case, with your Lordships' permission, I will withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.