§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION (LORD WINSTER)
My Lords, in moving that this Bill be read a second time, I should like to say at once that it embodies the policy, announced in the White Paper and in Government statements, of passing scheduled services of British Civil Aviation and the aerodromes used by such services into public ownership with three corporations as the instruments for executing the policy. The Bill has already 444 occupied fourteen days in another place, where it was finally carried by a majority of 270 to 91. It has therefore come under very careful scrutiny, which has resulted in several improvements. I was glad to agree to the acceptance of certain Amendments, and to the introduction of others, and as a result it is a better Bill. I look forward with respect to the co-operation of your Lordships in searching for possible further improvements. It has been said that it is not given to any of us to know the whole truth, and any sensible man is glad to learn from his critics and have his opinions disputed by those who hold opposite views. I think it was in that spirit that the Opposition spokesman in another place said:We are dealing with a Great British industry which both sides of the House and the whole country and Empire want to see prosper and succeed. It is the merit of our Parliament and people that once decisions have been taken people on both sides work loyally and try to carry out the common decisions of our land.Your Lordships' House was the originator of my Ministry, and it therefore seems to me that it is a peculiarly suitable board of examiners before which to appear for my pass degree. An honours degree is perhaps more than I can hope for, but a pass degree will serve my purpose. Your Lordships constitute a formidable tribunal before which to appear with a Bill of this nature. It includes my predecessor in office, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who was also at one time Secretary of State for Air. May I say with great respect to the noble Viscount that constantly in my work at my Ministry I am brought into touch with the work he did and the great thought and care he showed in establishing that Ministry and in laying a foundation for British civil aviation.
In addition to the noble Viscount, there is the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, another former Secretary of State for Air, three Air Chief Marshals, and Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who, when Under-Secretary of State for Air, was particularly charged with matters relating to civil aviation. We have the Chairman of the Brabazon Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Reith, formerly of Imperial Airways, the noble Lord, Lord Harmsworth, the President of the Air League, and such notable pilots as the noble Duke, Lord Hamilton, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the Chairman of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. It is indeed a stiff 445 board of examiners before which to appear.
When the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill was brought to this House noble Lords opposite accepted its principle and then proceeded to discuss it in detail. I hope that that procedure may be repeated and that the main structure of policy embodied in this Bill will be accepted without prejudice to the full discussion of details. What are the alternatives to the policy laid down which might be employed? I doubt if any one today is prepared to advocate 100 per cent. free private enterprise competition. If any noble Lord holds that view, I shall be interested to hear the argument developed. Are there still any advocates of free private monopoly, of a free chosen instrument possessing privileges and monopoly, but free of State regulation and control, or is it thought that there should be controlled private monopoly, a chosen instrument owned and run by private enterprise, but under supervision by a Minister of Civil Aviation? Such State control of private enterprise would certainly mean State subsidies to encourage private management. In other words, the taxpayer would be called upon to provide subsidies to produce profits in which he would not share.
For a variety of reasons, the State must be in control of much that is essential to civil aviation. The State is paying for the development of many most costly services, and it must obviously control, for instance, the meteorological services, it must conduct large scale research, it must integrate civil and military needs in the production of aircraft, and it must finance unremunerative but essential services. For these and other reasons, it is far better to let the State do the whole job than to construct a patchwork arrangement in which private enterprise and State control are mixed up. We are not alone in deciding that public ownership is the way to do the job. The trend of civil aviation is in the direction of national ownership of air lines. Nineteen countries, including the Dominions of Canada and South Africa, have nationalized their scheduled services. Twenty-three other countries have partially done so.
There is this great advantage in the public ownership of civil aviation—planning can proceed unhampered by considerations for this or that vested interest and all ancillary services can be integrated 446 without let or hindrance. The whole business can be tackled more comprehensively, with wider scope and with more elbow room. Also, civil aviation, which has so many international and economic reactions, can, under public ownership, be kept more easily in step with general policy by Parliament. That can be done without Parliament interfering vexatiously in management, but allowing the Corporations to be conducted as the great business organisations which they will be. Many noble Lords desire to speak in this debate, and I do not wish to occupy an undue share of time. I fear that it would be tedious if I were to go through the clause by clause. It may serve your Lordships better if I deal with the main points at issue in different clauses, and if your Lordships are good enough to permit me to speak again at the end of the debate I will try to deal specifically with points which are raised.
Clauses 1 to 5 of the Bill deal with the establishment and the functions of the three corporations. By means of these corporations we can get the benefit of business management conducted with enterprise and energy, and preserve Parliamentary control on the broad issues involved so that civil aviation will develop in step with general Government policy. I am, of course, expecting to hear something about the "dead hand of Whitehall bureaucracy" and also about "strangling with Civil Service red tape." We do not intend to have either. The boards of the corporations will be appointed by the Minister, who can be brought to book by Parliament if his boards do not run the corporations well. These boards will have a double incentive—to make a success of a business job and to discharge great public responsibilities, and they will take pride in doing both. The Government will expect them to fulfil their public responsibilities, while leaving them alone to get on with the business job. It is not always the case, where a board has the first but not the second of these duties, that they interpret their duties to the shareholders with a sense of responsibility to the State. There will be three corporations.
This method of running civil aviation has been deliberately adopted after due reflection. We have rejected the principle of free private competition. But emulation and rivalry have a useful part 447 to play in the development of an industry when so much is empirical. Each corporation will be restricted to operations in an allotted sphere, and, within its own sphere, will, in many instances, be doing the same thing in different ways. Out of the results which each achieves we shall find the best way. We want, at this stage, to have the results of varied experience to study. It must not be thought that these three corporations will exist and operate in water-tight compartments. Already I have regular meetings with the three chairmen, and the chairmen themselves meet regularly for discussion of matters of common interest. The relationship already established between the chairmen and myself is that we feel that we are partners in a great enterprise. We have worked out a relationship based on common sense and mutual understanding. In any case, the Bill provides that I must consult with a chairman before giving him directions.
The powers which the Bill entrusts to the Minister are powers which he must have. I am responsible to Parliament for seeing that Government policy in civil aviation is carried out, and for satisfying Parliament that money granted to the corporations is properly expended. I must have powers commensurate with those responsibilities. In a democratic system of Government, powers must be reserved to the Minister in his dealings with public corporations. Without such powers these corporations would be even less responsible than private enterprise, which is, at least, responsible to its shareholders. So this Bill provides that as regards the exercise of their main functions by the corporations the Minister may make orders which must be laid before, and can be annulled by, Parliament, while as regards directions to the corporations, the Minister consults with the chairmen before issuing them. The experience that we have already had with British Overseas Airways Corporation shows that these provisions will work.
I have spoken quite frankly about the Minister's powers, but there need be no fear that they will be used to interfere vexatiously with the corporations. The men appointed to the boards are men of a type who will certainly not fail to resist if they find that they are interfered with, and the Government do not intend 448 that their policy shall be stultified by unnecessary limitations of the managements. Experience also shows that corporations of the type proposed in this Bill are an effective instrument for their purpose. We have only to look at the records of the corporations so far. B.O.A.C. has in a year increased its fleet from 172 to 212 aircraft. In the twelve months up to March, 1945, they flew 200,000,000 passenger miles. In the year ended March, 1946, they had increased that to 300,000,000 passenger miles.
The South American Airways Corporation, which started on January 1 this year, under very adverse conditions had flown 270,000 miles by May, and reports from South America show what an admirable impression those air services are creating there and what good has been done to our reputation as a result. The British European Airways Corporation opened up in February this year. By May it had 69 services a week to Europe. In April, 247,000 miles were flown, and 98.8 per cent. of schedule flights were completed. All this is a great testimony to the efforts of the maintenance engineers, working under inevitably adverse conditions at Northolt. All corporations show a record of new services, of increasing frequencies on every service, and of reductions in times and fares. They show great activity and progress, with their three prime watchwords of safety, regularity, and comfort. Those facts alone show in that in the corporations we have an effective instrument for executing our policy.
Clause 3 gives the corporations power to set up such committees as are necessary for efficiency, and in this connexion it will be convenient to deal with the question of Scotland, because a committee will be set up under this clause specifically to deal with matters of interest to Scotland. A good deal of time and energy has been misspent by misinformed people in endeavouring to represent the Government in general, and the Minister in particular, as indifferent or hostile to Scottish needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. What are the facts? The Government, from the first, have clearly laid down that a separate Scottish autonomous airways corporation, with power to run its own services, cannot be entertained—for good reason. Not only would such a corporation be uneconomical in management and operation, but it would run counter to the world wide and international conceptions 449 which must govern civil aviation by reverting to local conceptions. It would be detrimental to Scotland, which would get less efficient services from it than she will get under this Bill. Apart from that overriding decision of policy, I have all along been solicitous about Scottish needs and I have been interested to notice that whenever I have met or gone to see deputations from Scotland I have always been able, after the preliminaries of clearing away misunderstanding, to reach harmonious conclusions, because I had already anticipated and done what the deputation wanted. I have always agreed to meet everyone who has wished to see me.
Scotland's needs will be met in the following way. There will be a Scottish division of the British European Airways Corporation and a Scottish Advisory Committee, with headquarters in Scotland, which will have access to the chairmen of the corporations and to the Minister, if need be. The chairman of the Scottish Advisory Committee will be a member of the Board of B.E.A. The principal officer of the Scottish Division will be a Scot. A regional board will be established to manage Scottish civil aviation aerodromes within the regional organization for the control of State airfields. Those are the provisions which will be made in respect of Scotland. Many of the details connected with these plans must be further worked out before announcement. This is because until this Bill passes, B.E.A. cannot be constituted or its board appointed. When it is appointed the board must obviously meet to discuss all that the plans which. I have outlined involve, before decisions or details can be announced. It would manifestly be most improper for me to take decisions in advance of deliberations by the board on their own business. All I can say at this moment is that the arrangements which I have outlined indicate beyond any possibility of doubt that Scotland will have ample opportunity to make her wishes known and to ensure that her necessities are met. These are not concessions which have been wrung from me. We all know that the cock thinks that the sun rises because he crows. Of course, that is not the case. These decisions were reached, largely on my own initiative, because the Government sincerely have Scottish interests in these matters at heart and it is my wish that the arrangements which I 450 have outlined shall be implemented in a large spirit.
I will not say much about Prestwick, but for purposes of record I will point out that it has been designated an international airport and it will be used as a bad weather alternative to Heathrow. A proportion of transatlantic services will be routed via Prestwick and our internal services will be developed to link up with Prestwick and to meet traffic needs. International agreements also have been shaped in order to bring traffic to Prestwick. I have enumerated these points very tersely because of pressure of time but they suffice to show the arrangements made by the Bill for Scotland. As I have referred to Scotland I think I should refer briefly to Northern Ireland. I recently visited Belfast and had the pleasure of calling on the Prime Minister and meeting Sir Rowland Nugent. I discussed the civil aviation needs of Northern Ireland with Sir Rowland, and as a result of this very friendly talk a Northern Ireland Advisory Committee will be set up. Its Chairman will be a member of B.E.A. I am fully alive to the needs of Northern Ireland and it will be my endeavour to meet them. The Bill contains adaptation clauses to meet the cases of Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Clauses 6 to 18 and Clauses 21 and 22 of the Bill are concerned with finance. I will deal with these Clauses generally at this moment and hope for an opportunity of answering specific questions later. We do not intend to provide subsidies for rate cutting or other improper purposes. The financial provisions aim at making civil aviation self-supporting as soon as possible. We aim at securing international agreements to eliminate all forms of subsidy, but we must provide for financial aid for the operation of unprofitable services which are essential in the national interests. Many services will at once be profitable. Others must be tided over during development, and corporations must be tided over while they are building up their organizations, training aircrews, ground staffs and doing all the work that is required or re-establishment, and the establishment and expansion of vast organizations.
To put British civil aviation into the air necessitates financial support, which must be adequate, while not excessive. The corporations shall have that support. We are placing great responsibilities on 451 them. They have to plan against the plans of other nations. We, who know the scope of these plans, appreciate the scale on which we must launch our own efforts. The Bill makes provision for giving such support. It also contains safeguards which I hope will satisfy your Lordships that financial provision will be prudently administered. The maximum capital for the three corporations is £80,000,000. Apart from temporary borrowings, capital will be raised by the issue of stock charged on the undertaking of the corporation, that is to say, it will be tied stock and not Treasury stock. The capital of B.O.A.C. was so raised, and it is held by the National Debt Commissioners. No issue of it was made to the public. The stock bears a fixed rate of interest, guaranteed by the Treasury as to capital and interest. Stock for financing the corporations will not be Treasury stock, but if stock is issued to the public it may carry the Government guarantee as to capital and interest, and will, in effect, be a gilt-edged security. Such a guarantee will enable capital to be raised at reasonable rates of interest.
The Bill gives the Minister power to make, with the consent of the Treasury, regulations governing such matters as issue, transfer redemption, and dealings. Government control of Corporation finances under this provision is considered to be fully adequate. There is also provision for Exchequer grants in aid of the revenue of the Corporation. No grant provision has been made for the period after 31st March, 1956, and the total grant which may be made up to that date cannot exceed £84,000,000. These grants will not be made in order to promote unfair competition on international routes, but only to provide services which are necessary in the public interest if these cannot be run at remunerative rates. I agree that the global sum fixed for these grants is fairly high to allow of rapid expansion of services, but I hope that we shall not reach the maximum which is permitted, because the fact of having a maximum does not mean that we shall just spend it because it is there to be spent. We shall endeavour to keep within reasonable limits.
Scrutiny of development programmes and estimates of cost will enable the Minister to satisfy himself that such grants are necessary and justifiable in the public 452 interest. I agree that in the past there have been complaints from time to time about inadequate information being given regarding the accounts. I think that the omissions, certainly during war-time, have been due to the requirements of secrecy and security. But this Bill provides for annual statements and annual reports dealing with operations to be made and to be laid before Parliament. Full information will be given. I may require such information as I consider necessary for the information of Parliament. Certainly my wish would always be that the information shall be full, and that it shall be rendered to Parliament with the least possible delay.
There is only one other financial point with which I need deal at this stage. The international character of operations may require the Corporations to form associated companies. Those associated companies will be able to qualify for grants, which must, however, come out of the global figure which I have mentioned. Let me repeat that in the development stages there must be financial assistance by the State. Public ownership means that Exchequer aid must be enough to secure progress and efficiency. It will not be excessive, and it will be used in the right way. Parliament is chary of such subsidies, and I dislike the whole idea of having in any way to subsidize civil aviation. If it has to be done—and it does have to be done—we must see that subsidies are sufficient, that they are profitably used, and that they are reduced and discontinued as soon as possible. So much for what I have to say on the financial clauses of the Bill.
Clauses 19 and 20 and 39 and 40 deal with matters affecting the staff. Clause 40 will be dealt with in what I have to say regarding compensation. The Bill makes provision regarding the interests of the Corporation staffs, to ensure that they have proper terms and conditions of employment. All this has been considered by my Department and the Ministry of Labour. The Bill requires each corporation to consult with representatives of employees, to set up joint consultative machinery for settling matters by negotiation and by arbitration in default of agreement. These matters fall under two heads. The first may be described as welfare—terms and conditions of employment, safety, and health etc. The second is participation in management—that is to say, 453 every employee shall be able to put forward his views on matters relating to his own particular job, or to the general working efficiency of the corporation.
In matters affecting welfare existing national machinery will be used as far as possible. As regards participation ill management, B.O.A.C. is already in line with what the Bill requires and has production committees now. I regard this matter of participation in management by employees on the lines I have indicated as one of the very greatest importance, and the three chairmen are already in consultation with me and between themselves to ensure common action to meet the requirements of the Bill in this respect. The skill and the experience of the workers of all grades must be woven into the fabric of the enterprise. We need to build up a chain for collecting ideas, suggestions and experience, and that will be done. The Bill requires me to institute superannuation schemes which will be supplementary to the national insurance regulation, and will involve contributions from the participants. There is also the question of the independent operators. They will be required to comply with Clause 39 as regards conditions of employment.
Clauses 23 and 24 deal with the reservation of certain air services to the corporations. Outside the scheduled air-services there will be scope for charter flying, and charter work will be free for all. Incidentally, it will enable interesting comparisons to be made between services run by the public corporations and services run by private enterprise. Legitimate and bona-fide charter operators will be encouraged—not merely permitted, but encouraged to continue with charter flying. Equally, the corporations will be entitled to carry on charter operations. These clauses have been designed to prevent private charter services from being developed into regular air services trenching on the ground reserved for the three corporations, and so defeating Government policy. The corporations will have to take the rough with the smooth, and they must not be exposed to sporadic inroads by those who only want the smooth, and intend to avoid having any of the rough. Charter operators I hope will understand that their operations must be bona-fide charter work, and not regular services operated under the guise of charter services.
454 It is admittedly difficult to define legally what is a "scheduled air service", but it is an expression commonly used and well understood. Public air services normally operated in accordance with time-tables would be scheduled services, times and places of departure, stops and destinations being published in advance. The publication of a time-table is not the criterion of a chartered service, since services might be run regularly or frequently without any such publication. "Charter" in civil aviation is merely a form of hire, and the Bill does not restrict charter work if it does not develop into a systematic service open to the public. If a charterer does operate regularly and frequently over the same route for hire or reward, then he must have regard to the provisions of Cause 23; he certainly must not make the aircraft available to persons other than the charterers. But the operator who keeps to legitimate charter work—and believe me he will know if he is sailing near the wind—will find good scope for his activities. The corporations will be able to charter, because there may be a demand for charters outside the powers of charter firms to supply; but the main function of the corporations is scheduled services. I repeat that far from there being any hostility, there is every wish to encourage the charter operators in their bona-fide sphere of work. I see that an enterprising body of gentlemen who are starting a charter service are giving a cocktail party tomorrow, and they have been kind enough to invite me along. I have accepted that invitation with great pleasure; I shall go there and have a drink and wish them all possible success in their bona-fide operations. Clause 25 affects the existing B.O.A.C. and will bring it into line with the two new corporations to be established.
We now come to Part II. Clauses 26 to 35 involve questions of land and consequently of compensation. These clauses are a great improvement, and they have been improved in another place. I feel it would be right for me to pay a tribute to one honourable Member, Mr. Turton. With the great practical experience on these matters which he most kindly placed at my disposal we were able considerably to improve these clauses and to render them satisfactory to all parties concerned. In these clauses we are using or adapting principles existing in current legisla- 455 tion. I do not suppose any Minister ever enjoys presenting a Bill which in any way involves interference with land, but in starting new enterprises it is not always possible to avoid doing that. You cannot make an omelette without breaking some eggs—though sometimes that is not true, because Lord Woolton showed us how to do it. There will be interference with land involved under some of the Clauses of the Bill and I will quite frankly and fully enumerate them.
Clause 26 deals with the compulsory acquisition of land. Compensation in these cases will be exactly in accordance with existing law, namely the Land Clauses Act, 1845, the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, and the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. The procedure for compulsory purchase of land is laid down in an Act which your Lordships have recently passed; you will be familiar with the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946. Clause 27 deals with the acquisition of easements and way leaves over land and rights to instal beacons, and so forth. The procedure for acquiring these rights is in the Third Schedule to the Bill. There is a right of appeal to the High Court. Compensation is also provided for in the Third Schedule in the case of diminution of value of land affected, subject to the 1939 ceiling during the five year period laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944. In addition, compensation is provided for damage done to the land in exercise of rights of entry for such purposes as constructing and maintenance of beacons.
Clause 29 deals with the control of land adjoining aerodromes. The Minister does not seek in this clause powers already effectively available under planning control. Procedure is by an Order subject to special Parliamentary procedure, and again your Lordships will be familiar with the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945. This Order defines the area of land which is to be subject to control, and the forms of control which may be exercised; such control, for instance, as reducing height of buildings, cutting down trees, the removal of cables, pipes, and so forth. Compensation is provided for under three heads: first, the diminution in value of land affected, which is subject 456 to the 1939 ceiling with the appropriate supplements; secondly, compensation for disturbance—for example, loss of profits or goodwill; this is to be always at current values—thirdly, indemnity for the actual cost of carrying out the direction.
Clause 37 deals with the prohibition or restrictions on use of aerodromes in the neighbourhood of Minister of Civil Aviation aerodromes. The procedure is laid down in Schedule III and compensation is provided for in Schedule VI under two heads: first, where the aerodrome is a land aerodrome, compensation for diminution in the value of land is subject again to the 1939 ceiling; secondly, whether the aerodrome is a land or sea aerodrome, compensation is provided for in respect of loss of goodwill and profits to persons disturbed. Compensation under both these heads is subject to the aerodrome having been established with the Minister's consent subsequent to the Bill receiving Royal Assent. If it was established before the Bill is passed, compensation will be irrespective of Ministerial consent. Clause 28 empowers the Minister of Transport to stop up highways crossing or skirting Minister of Civil Aviation aerodromes, and the Minister of Transport is given ample power in this clause to provide alternative highways and substitute rights of access, and he will be able to use the machinery of the courts in furtherance of general highway policy. Before leaving this admittedly complicated section I should add that compensation for statutory undertakers is dealt with, and also the adjustment of their undertakings in accordance with principles of existing law.
I regret the length and complication of this subject but whether your Lordships agree or not with all that has been laid down, I feel you will agree that these matters have been very carefully studied and every effort has been made to follow principles which have already received the approval and assent of various Parliaments under various Governments. Compensation for loss of employment or loss or diminution of emoluments by aerodrome personnel is dealt with in Clause 40. We expect to absorb far more people than have been employed in such undertakings as we proceed with public ownership of aerodromes, and a few anomalies may arise. Provision has been made for dealing with this in Part III. Clause 36 deals with the Air Transport Advisory 457 Council. The travelling public, the consumer, must have machinery through which complaints can be heard and representations made concerning the inadequacy of the service or matters affecting the service. This will be provided by means of an Air Transport Advisory Council. An Order in Council will be required to establish it. Complaints and representations will go direct to the Council, who can hold hearings in public, and there will be recommendations to the Minister.
The Council will not have the power to issue directions to the corporations but the Minister will have power to act on the representations of the Council, and will lay a report annually with a statement of what action he has taken. This Council will constitute an effective forum of public appeal against excessive charges and so forth. I have in mind a council of three or four qualified persons, under a chairman with legal experiences. The details of procedure and powers are being worked out. It is undesirable that such a council should have the powers of a tribunal, able to direct variations of rates and provision of services. Those are matters which must be left with the Minister who is in general control of the working of the corporations, but I would remind your Lordships that I have to lay a report on the action if have taken in response to representations made to me by the council.
In connexion with Clauses 37 to 38, I think I may conveniently deal with the subject of aerodromes. Up to the outbreak of war aerodromes for civil aviation had developed in a very haphazard fashion; private enterprise provided some, but in the main there was reliance upon local authorities to provide them and municipalities did provide aerodromes in many parts of the country. We see now that we cannot properly charge ratepayers with the cost of aerodromes for national services. The State must take over that job especially as it has spent a lot of money during the war on laying hard runways on aerodromes which are to be acquired, and that expenditure should not be lost to it. The State must take responsibility for aerodromes which are required for civil aviation services and have to conform to international standards of safety and control. The cost of modern runways and equipment puts aerodrome 458 construction and equipment far beyond the scope of private enterprise. The aerodromes which are not required for civil aviation services can remain in the hands of private enterprise. We shall use existing aerodromes wherever possible and it is unlikely that we shall have to build many new ones. I am very glad to be able to say that.
I should like to deal with the question of the building at London Airport, which has aroused considerable interest. In order to bring together the requirements of the prospective users of London airport I set up a departmental committee, with the following terms of reference:To estimate the space requirements for the various functions to be performed in the London Airport terminal building, to prepare schedules of these requirements to serve as a guide to architects; to Indicate the essential functional relationships between the various parts of the building, and how the building might progressively be developed by stages to keep place with the development of the traffic capacity of the landing area, and with the expected growth of traffic.The committee consists of officials of my Ministry who will, in the light of evidence received from prospective users of the airport, have the expert knowledge necessary to state the space requirements for the various functions to be performed by the building and to indicate essential functional relationships between the various parts of the building. When this committee has reported, I intend to throw open the design of the building to competition. In this connexion the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects most kindly undertook to assist me in nominating an eminent architect to sit on the departmental committee and act as an assessor, and I have appointed for this purpose Mr. Graham Dawbarn. I also propose to approach the Royal Fine Art Commission at the appropriate time. It is my intention that the winning architect shall be associated with the construction of the building and shall be responsible for carrying out any modification which may be necessary as the detailed plans are developed. The committee is working as rapidly as possible, but I ought to say at once that its work will obviously take many months to complete. Meanwhile temporary accommodation at London Airport will be developed to enable the airport to be used on an ever-increasing scale.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Will the noble Lord say anything about Earl's Court and its possible use in the years which will intervene before these plans are brought to fruition?
§ LORD WINSTER
That is outside the scope of the Bill, but that does not matter as it is a question of importance. I fear there is nothing I can add at this moment to what I told the noble Viscount in reply to a question which he addressed to me. The importance of a central terminal for civil aviation is fully recognised by the departments concerned, but there is a conflict of needs, and my needs in that respect have to be considered as against the needs of other departments. The necessity for such a central terminal is certainly not overlooked and I have good hopes of a satisfactory solution of that problem. I do not think I need trouble your Lordships with Clauses which refer to the registration of births in aircraft, the loss of property and insurance, or the appointment of special constables at aerodromes, nor with Clause 45, which deals with the provisions as to offences. I think the implications of those clauses are quite clear, and, as I have said, I will answer any questions which may be raised with regard to them. Clauses 46 to 54 deal with technical matters, as do the Schedules, and I think those are best dealt with on specific points or questions which may be raised in debate.
May I say one or two words on some matters in which I think your Lordships may be interested? First of all, as to research; so far as it lies within my power, I will endeavour in every way possible to stimulate research, to encourage the scientist to play his part in the devlopment of our air services and especially to bring the work of the operational scientist into the work of my Ministry and of the corporations. I am fully alive to the part which research and the scientist can play in this industry. On the question of research I would like to mention flight refuelling. During the war experiments in flight-refuelling were reconsidered in the light of war necessities and much work was done. I am trying to find out if this war-time work on flight-refuelling has any useful lessons for application to civil flight. Experiments are in progress, and have been for some time, and I can only say that their results justify their continuance. I am not yet in a position to indicate 460 whether I feel they will result in something useful to civil aviation or not, but those experiments are being carried out.
I gave details in your Lordships' House recently of the committee which I set up under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Pakenham to enquire into the relative merits of the various sites which have been proposed as suitable for a permanent marine base for our flying boats. That committee has worked with a commendable promptitude and my noble friend informs me that its report is completed and is on its way to me. That, I think, is very good work for one of these committees which are usually accused of wasting time and dilly-dallying. I think I should point out that the committee were only asked to inquire into this matter and to decide from the civil aviation point of view alone which is the best of the proposed sites. Quite clearly the report must be considered against a far wider background than the needs of civil aviation alone.
Other Departments are concerned, and there may be Defence interests concerned also. I should like also to refer to the Self Committee which has not been mentioned here, but which has been mentioned in another place. That is a committee which sits under the chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Sir Henry Self. It is a departmental committee which has been set up in agreement with the Minister of Supply and myself, and its aim is to bring together the operators, the Ministry of Supply and my Ministry, in order that there may be full and constant consultation on matters affecting the operators' requirements and also constant planning ahead in order to meet what the operators' requirements will be.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Before the noble Lord leaves the subject of committees, could he tell the House when we are likely to get the Report of the Departmental Committee on Flying Boats? It is a matter of great interest.
§ LORD WINSTER
That Report has been completed, and as a matter of fact, I believe it is on my desk at the moment. I should be studying that if I were not addressing your Lordships. The Report has been sent to me, and it will have to be carefully studied and submitted to other Departments before any final announcement can be made on the matter.
§ LORD WINSTER
A decision on that point will have to await the outcome of the discussions with other Departments which the Report will entail. It will not be a matter for me alone to decide, and many of my colleagues will also have to be consulted. The last matter I would like to refer to, about which we are conducting experiments and going into very carefully, is the question of the helicopter. Undoubtedly that is something which is coming to the front rapidly. We are investigating and studying that matter. My noble friend the Earl of Listowel is not here at the moment, but I think there may be developments in regard to the helicopter which may be of great assistance in the carrying of mails. On this and other matters I am in constant touch with my noble friend.
I apologize for what I fear has been far too lengthy a speech, but this is a longish Bill and I am trying to explain it with all the information in my possession. May I say in conclusion that the task confronting the Government is to build up British civil aviation to its rightful place. Our plans must have regard to the primary necessities of inter-Empire communication—that comes first—and then connexions with all other parts of the world. In this respect I remember that after I took office somebody informed me that given a certain type of machine no place in the world was more than fifty-six hours away from any other place. I said, "Just think that one can no longer get more than fifty-six hours away from one's wife and creditors!" But I have heard more recently that the time has come down, and now no part of the world is more than twenty-four hours away, given a certain type of machine. That emphasizes the necessity of working out these communications with all parts of the world.
We are participating whole-heartedly in the deliberations of what is called P.I.C.A.O. at Montreal—I think your Lordships will be familiar with those initials—in the erection of international coordinating machinery to promote orderly development of air transport.
The many agreements which we have concluded with other countries also aim at 462 orderly development and they are concluded without prejudice to the possible future establishment of a multilateral convention based on order in the air. We are working in the closest co-operation with the Dominions, and have held Dominion conferences—one of which I had the great pleasure of attending—to ensure that the Commonwealth routes will be operated in parallel by national air lines but under arrangements for pooling receipts and common arrangements for economic and efficient operating. It is a cardinal principle of policy with the Government to plan our civil aviation in conformity with what we regard as the necessity for orderly development in civil aviation, and we intend to maintain that principle.
Our policy is that our air transport services shall, as a public service, be placed under national ownership and control, which we believe offers the best guarantee to the nation that the nation's air services will achieve the most rapid possible expansion consistent with economy and efficiency. We believe that zealous and disinterested service, leading to efficiency, initiative and enterprise, can be secured as well in this way, if not better than by the old system of private enterprise. Such successes as British civil aviation has achieved—and believe me, those successes are very real indeed, and would make a good story to the credit of British civil aviation—have been due to the air-crews, to the operating staffs and to the freedom from interference which the management have enjoyed. We shall retain those advantages, and we believe that public ownership will stimulate those who have shown great qualities in the past to even greater efforts and results. I commend this Bill to your Lordships as an effective measure for promoting that development of civil aviation and giving us our rightful place in world civil aviation. I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Winster.)
§ 12.38 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, the Minister at the beginning of his long and very interesting speech said he hoped that the many informed critics in this House would on this occasion and in Committee examine closely the progress or lack of progress of British civil aviation over the 463 last year and the provisions of this Bill. I am sure that your Lordships, who are very well qualified so to do, will respond most readily to that invitation. I regret to say that it is against a gloomy background that the Minister presents in this Bill his plan—or perhaps in fairness to him I ought to say the plan which his extremists have forced upon him. I notice a noble Lord present who was one of them.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I observe that in all the debates in another place, in which the Under-Secretary spoke with such authority, never once did any spokesman on behalf of the Government deny the plain statement made in the Tribune, which I understand is a very well-informed organ. It said this:The Government did not want this Bill, but the Labour Party Civil Aviation Committee forced it upon them.Be that as it may, let us take the facts of the position today. The Minister has rejected in this plan the partnership of all those with experience of aviation and transport. The prewar operators (with the exception, of course, of B.O.A.C.), the railways, the shipping lines and the travel agencies—all those, with their wealth of experience and their world-wide organizations, are rejected. He has slammed the door of this new industry in the face of any new enterprise. He is even seeking to impose upon his creature corporations very hampering and restrictive controls—unless this Bill is considerably amended, which I feel sure it will be.
The Under-Secretary, as late as the Third Reading of the Bill in another place, likened the Minister to "a schoolmaster with a cane in the cupboard"—a very happy description. The Minister himself did not appear to be quite satisfied with the role of schoolmaster merely—with or without the cane—judging by the homily that he addressed to the noble Lords who come from Scotland, who really take a considerable interest in matters affecting their country and who know a good deal about it. They may or may not be satisfied with what was said to them today, with, for example, the remarks in the course of which they were likened to "crowing cocks." The Minister appears 464 to have cast himself for the role of le roi soleil—the sun which shines in its majesty and tells us where we get off. Even in the limited field of charter flying, the only scope which is left open to operators old or new, the Minister has (it is true that he skated very lightly over this in general terms) imposed really intolerable handicaps, as I will show, both on the operator and on the user.
Moreover, he has denied to the travelling public and to the great municipalities any effective appeal or remedy against excessive fares, however high they may be, against inadequate facilities or, indeed, against a complete failure to provide any facility or any service at all. This is vitally important. After all, we are here to represent the travelling public. That, at any rate, is how I see it, and that is the only attitude that I propose to take up in this matter. He and we are here to serve the public, and I shall certainly, at a later stage and in Committee, return to this complete ignoring of any effective right of appeal by the travelling public. The Minister was warned by very many people that this ideology—I suppose that is what one should call it—would lead to delay, to inefficiency, to wasteful expenditure. An executive of an American company having heard, some months ago, the pronouncement of policy which the noble Lord made, was heard to observe—and he said it rather sorrowfully because he was a sportsman—that this was the best day that American aviation had had for many a year. The warnings have been justified up to the hilt. I wish I could say otherwise—I do sincerely. But delay and inefficiency have resulted.
I am not sure whether the South American Corporation is really formed or whether it is still functioning as a branch of B.O.A.C. Certainly the European Corporation, with its responsibilities for the whole of the European services and the whole of the internal services, is not formed. There does exist a section, I understand, inside the B.O.A.C., with some people attached to it who probably will take part in the management of this corporation when it is formed. Under the plan which the National Government adopted, these corporations could have been formed immediately; but here we are, after a year, and the formation has not been accomplished yet. Everybody who at that time was concerned, emphasized how vitally important it was 465 that the corporations should be formed, that the boards should be set up and given the necessary authority without which they cannot engage staff—unless, of course, the Minister is going to do all that in his Department and these people are to be merely subordinate civil servants, and have even the choice of their staffs dictated to them.
If they are to have any real power they must be able to choose staffs, to plan the details of the services, to operate them as soon as possible, to get all the detailed working arrangements fixed up and be in a position to link up—as I had arranged to do—with Transport Command, so that the take-over from Transport Command might be carried out as harmoniously and as conveniently as possible. But instead there is all this delay when we have so much leeway to make up. Leaving aside America, with the flying start she has got, look at what other countries, countries in Europe, are doing; look at the way in which they are outstripping us at the present time. The noble Lord said, I believe, that there were 180 aircraft (I think that was the figure but it will appear in Hansard) a year ago and that now there are 220. I do not think that indicates a very remarkable advance.
Let us take a look at some of these other countries. Take Switzerland, for example. The Swiss are flying air services from Switzerland into England and back, and that has been happening for quite a time. Until a few days ago there was not a single English air service flying into Switzerland. I would be much interested to know if there is one to-day. The Belgians are operating admirably on the Continent. They are flying machines between here and the Continent—I agree that so are we—and they are flying to and from Brussels and down to the Belgian Congo. And Belgium was occupied by the enemy until only a few months ago! Now the Belgians are flying regularly to the Congo. Their machines, I am told, make the journey to Leopoldville in twenty-five hours. We actually suspended the service to West Africa which was flying for certainly two years—the last two years of the war—with the result that under the new dispensation the whole of the air mail for troops, civil servants and commercial people in West Africa was suspended. I hope that it is going to be restored again now.
466 I do not think that our record is a very good one compared with that of the Belgians who are flying quite regularly across the Sahara to the Congo. The Dutch, the Swedes and the French, too, are pressing on. Fortunately, the Minister of Civil Aviation inherited the Commonwealth partnership, with all its mutual arrangements. He inherited a form of agreement with foreign countries and the results of a number of negotiations. I agree that a number of agreements have been concluded with foreign countries and with other countries. Some of those agreements are good and some are not so good. The object of such agreements, after all, is to run services. The public want our air services. They require them to be frequent, comfortable and economical—and they will not be satisfied with a litter of agreements.
I must mention one particular agreement to your Lordships, and that is the agreement which the Minister has made with Eire and which covers all the services between Eire and the United Kingdom. No aircraft to fly to Eire, except those en route to America which come down to refuel at Rinneanna. The whole of the traffic between here and Southern Ireland is to be vested in this company. There will be no right to fly any other aircraft. And it includes the traffic which comes by Northern Ireland, picking up in Ulster. Your Lordships will be surprised to learn—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that it is not a fifty-fifty agreement in which Eire holds half and we hold half; it is an agreement in which we are minority partners. We have forty to their sixty. The proportion of management on the Board is a sixty-forty one.
This is a most extraordinary agreement to have made. It was defended by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on the amazing ground that the Chicago Agreement which I entered into prohibited us from making a fifty-fifty agreement with a foreign country. There are two points to be made in answer to that. The first is that the Chicago Agreement provides no such thing. If I am challenged on that, I will prove it to the hilt, and if the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will study the Chicago Agreement, he will see that the clause quoted was against camouflaged companies, and that there is a whole section dealing with the establishment of joint 467 operating companies encouraging their formation. I think that the noble Lord himself has made an agreement with Egypt under which the partnership for joint air-lines is to be a fifty-fifty partnership. But even if he were right about this provision relating to foreign countries, I would point out that this is the first time we have heard any member of His Majesty's Government intimate that we regard Eire as a foreign country. It is a most extraordinary explanation which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State gave, and I should have thought it more convenient for such a suggestion to come from the Secretary of State for the Dominions in a formulated statement, rather than from a Parliamentary "aside" by the Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation. If the Minister had not tried to operate everything in the air he might have made a better agreement.
So much for the delay in services. The delay in aircraft is nearly as serious. On a previous occasion the Minister boasted of the happy marriage between his Department and the Ministry of Production. I have never been able to see why the Minister of Production should come between the man who uses the aircraft and the man who makes it. This Government seem to delight in obstacle races, in putting one obstacle after another in the way, not only of private enterprise but even of their own State enterprises. The Minister said that the period of gestation was not yet over. It is over now; and let us study the results. I want to be quite fair. Let us look first on the bright side. Some of the aircraft are being delivered. The Viking came out on time and is an excellent aircraft. It is interesting to recall that, at the time, there were a good many people in the Ministry of Production who wanted to buy something quite different, something which the operators did not want—I do not think that I am saying anything which I should not; if I am I shall be reproved. But this point shows one of the dangers of having irresponsible Ministries interposed between the operator and the producer. The man who does not have to do the job is always full of bright ideas while the man who has to do the job wants something different. The latter is the person who should have the say.
468 I solved that problem by ordering 100 of the Viking, and I told the producer not to have any nonsense or to be held up by modifications unless they were for "essential performance," or for safety. The result of my action is that the Viking is in service and is a most excellent aircraft. The Dove, too, is well in production. I do not know how many of this machine the Ministry have bought, but I understand that foreigners are buying it very extensively and that it is very successful. But that was a private venture of De Havillands, and had little or nothing to do with the Ministry. The Wayfarer, which is also out, was a private venture of the Bristol Company, who received encouragement from the railways and from myself. The Tudor aircraft, which is so vital to the Empire routes and which was to be used on all Empire routes, is sadly behind. The York was only a stop-gap. The whole of the South African agreement which I made and to which the Minister paid such tribute was based on the assumption that the Tudor would be available reasonably quickly to take its place. I think I am right in saying that the South Africa Government, which at that time declined to buy American aircraft in the expectation of having the Tudor, have now had to buy American planes, just as the Ministry have, in order to run the African route.
Then there is the 14-seater Miles Marathon, a type particularly required for internal services and one for which, like the Tudor, the Ministry are directly responsible. I was on the point of placing an order for that a year ago. What has happened about it? Has the order been placed? If so, when? This 14-seater would come between the Viking and the small machine. The noble Lord talked about experiments. I want to ask—and I am very glad that the Minister is to speak again—about a very important machine of the future, the gas turbine replacement for the Tudor, whether it is the fat or the thin Tudor. It is vital that we should be getting on with that machine because tremendous progress has been made in the gas turbine in this country. Has the manufacture of the prototype been started? Is the design complete?
Another question which is being asked is about pressurization. I understand that the Minister had some experience of that, the other day. I begged him a good while 469 ago—and I will give him all the help I can in this—to realize that everything depends on getting pressurization right. We have the lead in the design and production of gas turbines but I am not happy about pressurization. I was not happy about it when I left the Air Ministry. I was going to make very considerable changes. I am perfectly certain that to get pressurization right you must have some great chamber capable of taking a large section of the aircraft itself. That is a job for the Government, because it is experimental. Everything inter-acts under this pressure. The engines or the power unit may give trouble. There is the plant which takes in air, which heats or cools or wets the air, and keeps it at this right pressure. I gather that one of the reasons why the Constellations have been grounded is because of anxiety about this matter.
I believe that we have got the lead in the gas turbine, but the lead in the gas turbine is no good unless you solve the problem of pressurization. I am perfectly certain that instead of dithering about between the corporation and the people from whom they are ordering, we should concentrate constantly on great and continuous experiments in pressurization (which is a horrible word) at every temperature and every pressure. Then there would be a great contribution. If that is done, then I will hail this Government as having done something very real for civil aviation. So much for that aspect of the matter.
Now, what about waste? We asserted that there will be a waste of public money. The Minister quite rightly told the House the position with regard to subsidies. I would ask the House to note that the prewar operators, the railways, the shipping lines and travel agencies, were all prepared to put up their own capital, and to run a great network of services, as extensive as the Minister contemplates, with no subsidy at all. The only subsidy would have been upon Empire routes. The Minister now proposes to raise all the capital from Government funds, and to give enormous subsidies. If your Lordships will look at Clause 15, you will find the figure of £10,000,000 a year in each of the first two years, and there after £8,000,000 a year. The, Minister totalled it up and said that over a period of years it would be £84,000,000. As a subsidy that is perfectly colossal when it is borne 470 in mind that people were prepared to operate without any subsidy at all. Whatever may be said with regard to the Coal Board, and all the difficulties past and present, I must say that I think this is a bad Bill. The delay and refusal to bring into partnership that great volume of experience which was at our disposal, the worldwide organisations of other operators of transport by air, land and sea, has already done great harm to British aviation, and will do much more harm.
What is our duty in this House? I think our duty is plain. By common consent we greatly improved the Coal Bill. Let us try by Amendments to make this Bill as good as we can, keeping always before us the interest of the travelling public, whom it is our duty to serve. I think that we shall be greatly helped by the work we did with regard to the Coal Bill. I am sure that the Government will agree to accept comparable amendments to this Bill. For example, the Minister's power should be to give general directions, and not to interfere with day-to-day management. That was very well settled on the Coal Bill. Similarly with finance, whether in regard to normal banking facilities or the creation and management of reserves, the initiative and conduct should be with the Board, the Minister or the Treasury exercising overriding powers only in the last resort. We should also follow the Coal Bill in prescribing the keeping and presentation of accounts. We should be informed as was provided in the Coal Bill—or the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act as it is now—when the Minister overrules the Board. These are matters which we can fully consider in Committee.
But there are two matters which so vitally affect the travelling public that I think I ought to refer to them now. The first has reference to charter services. The Bill restricts charter services in a way which I think your Lordships will agree is entirely contrary to the public interest. Personally I think—I know this has been much argued—that it is reasonable that the corporations should have the right to do charter work, although they must concentrate on their main and real job of running scheduled services. But there must be no preference in favour of the corporations in airfield facilities or anything else. I am sure that the Government will accept a provision in the Bill 471 to that effect, just as they were anxious to provide against undue preference in the Coal Bill. I would direct the attention of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, to the fact that as the Bill stands at the moment there is no such provision. I am sure he will agree that certainly we must put that right.
Applying the only test which it is our duty to apply, namely, the public interest, I think these restrictions are far too severe and will gravely injure the travelling public. The noble Lord said it was difficult to define what was a scheduled service, but that everybody would understand it. I am not quite so sure. I know that people have employed able lawyers to try to construe this. But let us see what the position is. If your Lordships will look at Clause 23 (2), you will find that it states:In this section, the expression 'scheduled journey' means one of a series of journeys which are undertaken between the same two places, and which together amount to a systematic service operated in such a manner that the benefits thereof are available to members of the public from time to time seeking to take advantage of it.I am advised that that means that it will be quite illegal for anybody except a corporation to provide a charter flight unless it is what I may call occasional and fortuitous. Let me take an example which I have discussed frequently with the travel agencies—particularly with the Workers' Travel Agency—who provide regular trips. This matter is of greater importance now with more general and "staggered" holidays. The Workers' Travel Agency for years have provided facilities for a fortnight's holiday. People buy an inclusive ticket. Noble Lords on the Benches opposite will be aware of the position. Some of them may have profited by it. You start from this country, from somewhere in the North it may be, on a fortnight's tour, going in the past by rail and by steamship, then by charabanc or by boat on the lake it may be. A night or two nights may sometimes be spent at different places. That, of course, is done regularly. The business could not be done otherwise. The people want to know the position and be able to book for these trips now that holidays are "staggered" from May until the end of September. I hope and believe that a great deal of that kind of travel is going to be done by air. It was one of the reasons why I and others 472 persuaded the Bristol Company—they did not need much persuasion; they are very good people—to turn the "Wayfarer" which was designed as a freighter—into a sort of charabanc. It goes a short distance, some 500 or 600 miles, quite admirably and quite cheaply if it is filled up. These travel agencies will want to charter planes for that quite admirable service, and if anything could be termed a charter service, I should have thought this a good example. But it will be illegal, under this Bill. It will be a regular scheduled service. If the ordinary run was, say, from London to Zurich, that might be called a scheduled service. In fact it is nothing of the kind. This is nothing but a round tour stopping it may be half-a-dozen times or ten times on the way. I am advised that, if such a service is provided, regularly, as of course it must be provided, because people must know when they are to go, that the only people who will be allowed to run it are these corporations. Is not that grossly unfair to the travelling public? What is to happen?
Supposing the corporation which has not enough aircraft to fly a regular service to Switzerland, or does not want to do it, tumbles down on the contract. There is no right for a charterer anxious to offer his services, to come in, and all the people who have booked through Travel Agencies are going to be deprived of their holidays because of this hidebound determination that nobody except the corporation shall run anything in which there is any element of profit or success. All this at a time when Mr. Bevin so rightly says to us: "I want everybody to travel, and the more people who can travel and get abroad and mix with the other people, the better." I do hope that by agreement we can remove that provision from the Bill. An exclusive monopoly is created.
I should like to mention just one final point. What remedy is there for the public if fares are excessive, if the facilities are inadequate, or if there are no facilities at all? The noble Lord slid gently over Clause 36. When your Lordships come to consider that clause in Committee you will see there is really no effective remedy. An advisory council is to be set up, and its members are to be anybody the Minister may select. Today he has said the members are going to number three or four, but he has introduced some Amendments himself to say that the council is to consist 473 of technical, professional, industrial and commercial bodies, including organised labour and those directly concerned with the provision of air transport services, and persons who use the air transport services. If he gets that sort of "Uncle Tom Cobley and all" into three or four, he will be rather clever. There is no power in this body which will be set up. They may hear complaints and then report to the Minister, but neither the Minister nor the corporation need pay any attention to what they say; indeed, we may not know anything about it for a year, as there is only to be a yearly report. And as the corporations who are running the transport are to sit on this body it is not likely that they are going to agree to a recommendation which is contrary to their interests, or which they think may be contrary to their interests.
There is no power to order the corporation to reduce the fares, however high they are and however little relation they bear to the fares which are charged by the Americans, the Swiss, the Swedes, or anybody else. However inadequate the facilities, there is no power to give an order. Even supposing a service is not run at all, and that the corporation flatly refuses to run a service between two points in this country and somebody else is willing to run it, there is still no power to give any order to the corporation to run that service or to allow someone else to do so. This is treating the public with contempt. If the Minister wants a council to advise him, consisting of this conglomeration of persons and organizations, well and good; but the public want something more, and the public are entitled to something more. They are entitled to a judicial tribunal, with a judge or senior lawyer as the chairman, and somebody who is expert in air transport—somebody, I would say, with a great knowledge of general transport. That would be an independent tribunal.
The individual trader or traveller or, better still, the great municipalities who were very much interested in civil aviation, would have the right to enter complaints. Any reasonable complaint should be heard, just as the Railway Rates Tribunal or the Railway and Canal Commission hear complaints. The tribunal should publish their findings and recommendations forthwith. And I suggest that if the corporation refused to carry out those findings, then the tribunal 474 should have power to licence another operator to do what the corporation was unwilling to do, provided the operator is financially and technically competent. The tribunal would, of course, be bound by any international agreement, and would be just as competent to interpret it as the Minister or I would be. I have based my appeal entirely on the interest of the travelling public. That, I think, is what we should do. We are here as trustees for the public. That is the least the public have the right to demand of this House and of the Minister, for both are here to serve their interests.
§ 1.17 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, in your Lordships' House there are so many persons competent to speak with technical knowledge on this subject and to express their views in what may perhaps appropriately be called "winged words," that I hesitate to intervene. I do so only in response to the invitation which the Minister gave at the beginning of his speech that he might receive some indication as to whether or not the general conditions which applied during the debate on the Coal Bill would obtain again in the course of the discussion on this Bill. So far as the noble Lords who at more propitious hours of the day sit upon these Benches are concerned, I would only say that while perhaps not extending a very enthusiastic welcome to this Bill, we are prepared, as we were on the Coal Bill, to do our best, now that it has reached its present stage, to ensure that when it leaves this House it will be a better Bill than it was when it arrived. Perhaps I might add this. I hope the parallel of the Coal Bill will not be carried through to the end; that the matter will finish when the Bill leaves this House, and that the Minister in charge of this Bill will not follow the example of his colleague by uttering minatory rumblings during the succeeding week-end over the action taken by this House in assisting to improve the Bill while it was in its hands. I have every confidence that that will be so with the present Minister.
I merely want to attach one condition. We see no reason why in time, and given various conditions, the system introduced by this Bill should not produce an efficient air service. That after all is its purpose. I do, however, want to attach one proviso, which may not be 475 necessary at the moment with the present Minister in charge, but which I think it is important not to overlook. It will only be possible to run an efficient and economical air service if that intrinsic purpose is the only one to which attention is paid and no extraneous factors are allowed to intervene. There must be no question of any form of political pressure from one quarter or another, either within the sphere of domestic air service, or in the wider sphere of world air service as possibly interpreted in the light of foreign policy. It must be a question of running the most efficient and economical service in the interests of the travelling public of all nations, and particularly of this country, and no other question.
I have one other point, and only one other, which I want to add. As a humble and infrequent user of the B.O.A.C. service (and I confess, for my part, I would use it more if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were more complaisant in encouraging one in foreign travel at the moment) I would like to express the hope and indeed the belief that it is the intention to take over as far as possible the present staff of the B.O.A.C. into the new organisation. Although my experience of air travel may not be very great, I should like to take the opportunity, from that limited experience, of paying tribute to the efficiency, helpfulness and courtesy which I think all your Lordships who have ever taken advantage of the B.O.A.C. services, will agree is shown by the personnel of that Corporation.
§ 1.21 p.m.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, I feel some diffidence in adding my brief remarks to the weighty speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. The nationalization of this industry is something new. Hitherto nationalization proposals have been confined to long-established industries which might be said to have reached their peak of productivity; but here we are nationalizing an industry whose power for the good of mankind is boundless and whose future shape it is not, as yet, possible for us to see clearly. To me this Bill seems a glaring example of the Government's apparent inability to discriminate between reasoned State control and outright State ownership. I will not dwell on the virtues of competition or on the value of the pioneer spirit, but it 476 would almost seem as though the Government, in framing this Bill, were afraid of both, having regard to the harshness of the penalties they seek to impose on anyone who tries to fly a regular air service. A monopoly is being imposed. I know this is heresy to noble Lords who sit upon the other side, but to us on this side of the House monopoly is absolutely repugnant, because, quite regardless of the good intentions of those who impose it, it has certain inescapable and ineradicable vices, which you cannot remove because they are inherent. The first is an arbitrary attitude towards the wants of the public, and the second is the inevitable marketing of a second-rate product. In spite of the healthy rivalry to which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, has referred, they are inherent and they will inevitably appear.
Your Lordships will recollect the speech made by the Lord President of the Council some months ago, when he was on a visit to Canada. He said in effect that it was up to the nationalizers to prove their case, and he added that it was also up to the opponents of nationalization to prove theirs. That was very justly and fairly said. The case for nationalization, in the form it takes in this Bill, appears to me to rest for its foundations upon a slogan, and upon a rather misleading statement. The slogan is that this is the creation of "order in the air." There will be order in the sense that nothing disorderly will be able to take place, and in the sense that there will be Orders, restrictions and directions in great abundance. But, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said, and as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said after him, our object must be to safeguard the interests of the public by building up a really efficient organization. That is a thing which cannot be ordered; it must be built. Then the statement. Listening to all these arguments it would seem to me that the principal foundation is the statement that private enterprise flying in this country failed before the war. I am not one of those to whom the noble Lord, Lord Winster, referred as unqualified believers in what might be called unlimited and uncontrolled private enterprise in this particular field. Private enterprise flying in this country before the war was perhaps not very successful, but neither was nationalized flying in any other country in the form which is now envisaged.
477 There is surely only one criterion, and that is which country operates the most successful system. None of us are impressed by hearing a list of those countries which have nationalized or semi-nationalized civil aviation. What country has the most successful system? No one who has studied this question can possibly deny that the United States of America have the most successful system in the world to-day. There, I think, they have the best of both worlds; they have a reasoned control in the public interest, together with all the virtues of the dynamic striving of competitive enterprise. Your Lordships are probably familiar with the workings of the American system. They have the private companies and they have a non-political Board, totally unconnected with the operators, called the Civil Aeronautics Board, which deals with conditions of operation, fares, licensing and safety requirements and which, in fact, safeguards the public interests in every way. The American system pays for itself. The operators make a profit of round about £8,000,000 a year, and the public receives a magnificent service and its interests are fully safeguarded. It is envisaged in the scheme embodied in this Bill that for the first few years the subsidy will be of the order of £10,000,000, falling, I believe, to £8,000,000. Thus we shall see in America first-class, efficient, competitive enterprise paying its way to the tune of £8,000,000 a year, and in England the taxpayers finding £8,000,000 from their pockets in order to maintain a highly restrictive monopoly.
Every industry (and civil aviation is obviously no exception) has grown up by trial and error, and the gravity of the error is commensurate with the size and scope of the trial. The size and scope of this undertaking before the House to-day is very considerable, and if it should fail its failure will be little short of catastrophic. There is one more point to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention, and that is centralization. For the last hundred years the tendency has been very noticeable—becoming, in recent years, very pronounced—for all activities, certainly those involving any expenditure of public money, to be centralized in London. That is having a most deplorable effect, particularly in Scotland, and 478 no one who knows that great country can but be saddened by the devitalizing effect of centralization. It has achieved a measure of agreement between all Parties in Scotland, which may be a matter of some little concern to noble Lords opposite. One of the most respected Scotsmen alive, Mr. Tom Johnston, has been most forthright in denouncing it. We have some measure of agreement about this among all Parties. Surely now is the time to try to check this evil growth instead of accelerating it, by this kind of legislation, with a most tragic momentum.
The noble Lord, Lord Winster, went into the concessions to Scotland, as I think he called them, with great fairness of explanation and in some detail. Scotland, it appears is to have a Scottish Division of B.E.A.C. Without pitching the claims of Scotland any higher, it seems an act of purely natural justice that Scotland should be allowed to manage her internal flying. As far as I can make out—and I shall be delighted to be corrected by the Minister or any member of the Government—the function of this Scottish division is purely the day-to-day management, and administrative function of a branch of a Whitehall monopoly. You will never develop the genius, the energy and the enterprise of the great country of Scotland unless they have full operational functioning and full powers of initiative in this connexion. Internal flying services in this country have a future, as I see it, in cross-country routes. Distances are very small in this country, and there are a great many roads and railways, but the cross-country routes, particularly those involving the crossing of water, are the ones where internal flying will do a good business.
Routes which spring to my mind are Manchester to Bristol, Glasgow to Inverness, and then flights involving the crossing of water to the Orkneys and Shetlands—which now have a substantial population—and the Islands of the Hebrides. It is surely a very moderate request on the part of the Scots that they should have full initiative and full autonomy in running those services, when so many of the internal services will be flown in that country.
Then we are to have the Scots Advisory Council. I do not question the goodwill of the Minister or the Government in setting up that Council. I think they acted 479 in the greatest good faith. I have not much faith myself in that kind of advisory council, nor can I extract much comfort from the explanation of its functions. London has received a great deal of good advice from Scotland which it has not taken. It is going to receive a good deal more to-day, which it will not take either. I must say that I cannot derive any very great comfort from this advisory board.
At the present moment I think that flying all over the world is the perquisite of the first-class passenger. Certainly long-distance flying does entail a good deal of expense, and we all look forward to the time when flying will not be confined as now to officials or business men, or others who get their fares paid, when it ceases to be the perquisite of the rich and when we get the third-class passenger of the railway trains into the air. We all hope that that time will come soon. When you get the third-class passenger into the air the man with a slender purse and a short holiday will be able to take a long flight to see his friends and relations in other countries, and I believe there will then be a great future for long-range flying from Scotland. Between the wars 400,000 people left Scotland for the New World, of which a large number went to Canada. If, and when, flying is made really cheap and brought within the range of the purse of the poor man, then you will see a tremendous demand for traffic from the New World to and from Scottish aerodromes.
I think the Government in producing this Bill, based on monopoly and centralization, and so prodigal of public funds, are making a very bitter mistake. I think that this country will watch with growing discomfort the progress made by alternative systems such as those in the United States of America, and I think that except for the blind protagonists of this ideology, who will bury their heads further and further into the sand in order to convince themselves that this is working, our discomfiture will become intolerable. That situation will change when wiser counsels prevail, and I do not think it will be many years before wiser counsels do prevail.
§ 1.36 p.m.
My Lords, we have had a most interesting speech from the noble Lord who has just sat down, 480 and I have a great deal of sympathy with his plea for Scotland, but I am afraid his desires will not be granted until the Act of Union of 1707 is repealed. It was inevitable that the concentration of administration and finance should be increasingly in London. I have great sympathy with the Scottish protagonists who object, but I would remind him that when the Railway Bill was introduced in 1919, after the last war, the Scottish railways, supposedly in the interests of Scotland, were made into a separate unit, and immediately there was a tremendous agitation. Viscount Younger, then Sir George Younger, whose son is a Member of the present House of Commons, led the Scottish pressure group who insisted that their railways should be bracketed, so to speak, because they could not be made to pay, with the profitable English main line group. I will ask the noble Lord to consider that experience in a not dissimilar case. If he looks up some of the arguments used then, he will find them very enlightening.
I am sorry that the way we run our debates in your Lordships' House leads to speeches from three or four different Party leaders or spokesmen, and therefore the speech given by the noble Lord, Lord Swinton, was not answered immediately. It was not answered by the noble Marquess from the Liberal Benches, and, except in one respect, I think the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, was in complete agreement. I would have liked to answer the noble Viscount were he present, but other exigencies denied him the privilege of listening to the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, or to me. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, suggested that the most successful private air lines in the world were the American air lines. Well, they certainly had an advantage in the past, although I am looking forward to the time when we shall be most formidable rivals. They have the great advantage of large land spaces, and the continuity of the Canadian and Mexican territory, and so on. There is also the question of the immense internal distances to be covered. I daresay the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, in his travels has spent a week in a railway train going from New York to San Francisco. When you can fly that in 24 hours, of course it has an immense advantage. There is no great advantage in flying from, say, Hull 481 to Liverpool, because the journey at the worst of times does not take so very long. In the continent of America flying is an immense advantage for travellers, and that was the initial asset which American flying had.
The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, is aware—I do not think the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has quite appreciated this—that the American Air Lines are and must be entirely independent by law from the American railway companies, shipping companies and road transport companies. The main argument against the Bill that I could gather from the noble Viscount Lord Swinton, was that the Bill—to use his words—saw the closing of the door (as opposed to his scheme) to the railway, shipping and transport interests. Yet these ultra-successful American flying interests, as he knows, are entirely divorced, and must remain divorced, from the surface transport companies and their financial interests. I really think that the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, makes hay of that of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has not been able to stay in the House, I do not propose to follow him any further, except to say this. I think some defence is needed for the delay in re-establishing the West African services. The noble Lord made great play on the fact that there has been this delay and inconvenience caused, but I think it is only fair to remember that certain of those services were operated by Transport Command, which was under the Royal Air Force, as were many other services as well. The process of changing over from Transport Command to B.O.A.C. involved quite a number of problems. For instance in the matter of changing personnel it may be that in some cases people are not available or are unwilling to reengage.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Will the noble Lord forgive my interrupting him—I am sure that he would wish to get this correctly? The internal services in West Africa, based on Accra going to Lagos and Northern Nigeria, were run by Transport Command. But the main line service through Morocco, Port. Etienne, Bathurst, Sierra Leone, Accra and Lagos was run, first once a week and then twice 482 a week, by B.O.A.C. I know that is so because I was there—I was Minister Resident in that territory.
I have been advised about the facts I venture to put before the House. If there is any inaccuracy I am very glad to have it pointed out to me. I know that Lord Balfour, by reason of his Ministerial position at the time, is well acquainted with these matters. As I was saying there is some excuse in regard to other services, at any rate in the matter of the change over from Transport Command to B.O.A.C. I have one or two suggestions that I hope my noble friend Lord Walkden will be good enough to pass on to the Minister, when he returns from his very necessary duties. In any case, no doubt somebody in the Department will one day read Hansard and consequently what I have now to say will not altogether be lost in the desert air surrounding the red Benches here.
There is, I know, no mention in the Bill of flying clubs. The Minister of Civil Aviation has the obvious duty—and I am sure my noble friend Lord Winster will do his very best in this respect—to encourage the development of an air sense generally in our population. One of the most valuable ways of making people air-minded before the recent war, and incidentally producing a great many partially trained or wholly trained flying men and other personnel, mechanics and so forth, was provided by the private flying clubs. I hope that in the general interest of British civil aviation the Minister will do all he can to help these clubs to re-establish themselves.
Something, I know, has been done. A hundred redundant training machines were made over to the flying clubs at a cost of £50 each. I would have thought it a little more generous to have given the machines to the clubs for nothing. These clubs are struggling with financial difficulties of all kinds, and I would have thought it worth while considering whether, in view of the educational value of flying and gliding clubs, the instruction which they give in flying, mechanics, aeronautics and so on, they should not rank for a subsidy from the Ministry of Education. I think they are worthy of a subsidy and of every other kind of help that we can give them.
483 If anyone wishes to see the good results—or in this case the bad results—of the activities of gliding clubs, let him look back at the history of Germany under the Treaty of Versailles. Before the Germans broke away from the aerial provisions of the Treaty we know that the nucleus of a great air force was evolved through the promotion of numerous gliding clubs. I myself saw it going on in Germany. It was a most extraordinary business, and the movement received great help by reason of subsidies which were given surreptitiously by the German Government of the day. But, apart from the question of what that movement was designed for, I think the policy of encouraging private flying and gliding clubs is right, and they ought to be fostered here.
The second point that I would like to make—these are largely administrative points, but I think them important—is that in my view a little more imagination is needed by those who operate the priority system in deciding who should have priorities for air passages. I had a case brought to my notice recently in which a most important business man from South America was concerned. He was on the Continent of Europe and he was desirous of getting back home, but he wished to come over here first, and had he done so he would, I am assured, have placed some very important orders in this country. He is the sort of man who if Pan-American Airways had heard what he wanted they would have fallen over themselves to give him every kind of facility. As I say, he wanted to come to England on his way back to South America, in order to place a great amount of business here.
He was accompanied by his wife and his son—a young child—and he wanted passages for them as well as for himself. There was no difficulty about giving him priority by the British airline to South America, but he could not be given priorities for his wife and child. That, he was told, would be quite without precedent. They were not important people. Well, he was not going to travel without them. He mentioned the matter to the French Authorities, and the Air France concern agreed at once to take him immediately with his wife and child. They also expressed their willingness to take anyone else whom he might possibly like to have 484 with him. I do think that this is an illustration of a case where a little more discrimination and imagination were required. Not only was the man a most important person in the business world of South America, so that from a commercial point of view it would have been to our advantage to have accommodated him, but had he travelled by a British airline to South America, as he wanted to do, that in itself would have been a very good advertisement for us.
The case for the Bill, as made out by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, in the really admirable speech in which he compressed such an immense amount of matter on so important a subject, is really overwhelming. But there is also the Socialist point of view which I am very proud to be able to express. We regard this Bill as only a step towards a great international air service. It may be years in coming but it is, I think, an ideal which all of us on these Benches have to keep in mind and to strive for. At the present time, the British Dominions, and I expect India, when India achieves the full status of sovereignty, France and many other countries, are prepared to join with us in making an international trunk air service joining together the most distant parts of the world. The Americans are against the idea, and so, I am informed, at the present time, are the Russians. That may not always be so. But it is our ultimate aim. We are all convinced that the only way in which a service can really be run which will give the third-class passenger, as I think he has mistakenly been called, or the "poor" passenger as the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, has called him, such facilities that he really will come into his own. Then you will indeed link nations together in a vast international combination, instead of having the incipient rivalries and hostilities which separate national services, we feel, are bound to engender.
The grounding of the Constellations as the result of the discovery of certain defects illustrates my point. The grounding of these machines has put out of joint, disorganized and disrupted both the British and the American air services. It has caused great inconvenience to many hundreds of busy people. Now there was a notable case for pooling. If one type of machine suddenly develops defects, then you should pool the others. Under 485 a plan of international co-operation you would at once pool all the good planes that were available and so prevent all this dislocation and inconvenience. I admit that this is an ideal, but it is an ideal towards which we can work. After all we have had flying for only a few years, and our slight advance in civilization has taken many thousands of years to accomplish.
And now for the immediate future. Obviously everything will depend on the efficiency of the managements. I thoroughly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Reading, said when he spoke of the admirable services performed by the personnel of B.O.A.C. I have travelled a good deal by B.O.A.C. since the end of the recent war, and I hear on all sides that the experience of other people has been the same as mine—that the personnel cannot do enough for the comfort of passengers and the efficiency of the service. That must be continued, and in matters of technical efficiency there must of course be continual improvement. Of that I know that my noble friend Lord Winster is perfectly conscious. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, complained bitterly of the railway and road transport and shipping companies, and travel agencies, being barred from the Bill. They are not completely barred. Several directors on the new corporations are the direct representatives of the shipping or railway companies or the financial interests behind the old dispensation. I have no doubt that my noble friend could not help himself in appointing these people and in time I dare say that personnel of the Boards will be modernized and improved. I am speaking for those who have taken a special interest in this Bill and in the whole subject of civil aviation in the new Parliament.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, spoke of pressure on the Ministry to alter their policy. The noble Viscount is not here at the moment but I would have liked to tell him the story of the young boy who was kicked on the head by a mule in his father's field in Texas. It is the well-known Jackson case. The mule drove a dent in the child's brain. The child was rushed to hospital and a remarkable operation was performed so that the child recovered. He grew up to be quite normal, except that he had the peculiar characteristic of believing every- 486 thing which he saw in the newspapers. When the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, believes everything which he sees in the Tribune—however admirable a paper that may be—or any other newspaper, I would remind him of the Jackson case. I was out of the country when the policy was evolved and announced but it was of course a Cabinet decision and it has the unanimous support of the Party for which I am speaking. Anything which we can do on these Benches to help in the future stages of the Bill or in the future development of civil aviation we will try to do. I am sure that in saying that I am speaking for all noble Lords on this side of the House. The management and development of civil aviation will be a greater test of our whole policy of nationalization and socialism than was even the coal mining Bill. We know that and if there are defects in the Bill they can be remedied. If there are defects in the administration they can be remedied, but we believe that the future is with us in the system which we have espoused and supported.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should at the outset refer to my interests in this subject. For fifteen years I have been interested in civil aviation, in the training of air crews, the operation of airlines and the development of airports, including Prestwick airport. I am at present connected with the operation of an airline which is called, somewhat unkindly, a pirate airline. We have, however, had the honour to be chartered by the noble Lord the Minister of Civil Aviation, so we may not perhaps maintain the buccaneer spirit to justify that title. There are two elements of principle in this subject. The first is that of public ownership of all civil aviation services. The second is the centralization of control of those services in London.
I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, referred to the question of the Civil Aeronautics Board. To my mind that is the perfect example of decentralized control, free initiative within the framework of Government and State regulation.
It is interesting to find that in your Lordships' House and in another place the Government spokesman who introduced this Bill skated with skill and speed over the arguments in favour of the Civil Aeronautics Board. The noble Lord, 487 Lord Strabolgi referred to it and told us that America is a big place. Is not the Commonwealth of British peoples also a big place? Is communication between our far lying Empire not best achieved by air? Surely air communication has a wider significance to us than to any other people in the world. We have as much need of it as the Americans have. I only refer to that because I am interested in the Civil Aeronautics Board as a solution to the problem of centralized control.
In the terms of reference of the committee on new towns presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, occur these words "the furtherance of a policy of planned decentralization." Do they mean that, or is it just one of the phrases which slip out from time to time and to which no effect is given. If they do believe it, then just as the noble Earl, the Postmaster-General, said that there must not be an east-end and a west-end to a new town so equally there must not be a north end and a south end to this island. If you believe in planned decentralization it is useless to think that you can distribute the hewers of wood and the drawers of water equally over the ground while you retain the marionnette strings in London. That is not planned decentralization. You must decentralize control. It is a cardinal error and omission of the Barlow Report; if anyone in future is to rewrite and develop the important theories examined for the first time in the Barlow Report I am sure greater emphasis will be placed on the decentralization of control.
I will mention some statements made by the most distinguished Socialist in Scotland to-day. I refer to Mr. Tom Johnston. He is a man whose name stands higher in the political world in Scotland than anyone else, whose success as Secretary of State for Scotland is unquestioned by men of all Parties, and whose absence from another place is universally regretted. In a broadcast last month, he said:Public ownership to me, and I am certain to many thousands of other men and women, never meant a vesting of the control of the publicly-owned industry in some long-distance bureaucracy. Are we in Scotland, for example to have elbow room and initiative in management, perhaps through some system of federated boards with, say, the powers of the Clyde Navigation Trust. Or are we to be directed from London as if we were an animal disease or a branch Post Office?488 I will make one further quotation, if your Lordships will allow me, because it is exactly germane to this point. In an address to the Philosophical Institute on January 6, Mr. Johnston used these words:I am certain that any effort at depriving Scotsmen inside Scotland of control of their own affairs, will in the end fail, for not only does the growth of public business make the centralization of the Imperial Parliament economically and administratively impossible but renders devolution of some kind inevitable.Not only is the control of Parliament getting much tighter, but the subject matter of that control is getting bigger every day. Decentralization affects all parts of the United Kingdom. I am not pretending this is a problem which affects only Scotland, but we see the effects of it with greater force. In January of this year a meeting sponsored by the Council in Industry—a body appointed by the Secretary of State to advise him on industrial matters—and attended by representatives of all Parties from both Houses of Parliament, passed a resolution that the administration of airports, and the operation of air services, the powers of initative and management, should be guaranteed to Scotland.
As a result of that, certain limited concessions have been made by the Minister. But, in effect, he says this: "If I allow any executive management outside London, it will mean chaos. I will not allow any executive control to take place at a distance of 300 miles." He says he will allow one member of the Board of B.O.A.C. to be Chairman of the Advisory Council. But it is virtually impossible, if you are resident 300 miles away, to take an effective part on any board in London. That is a matter of mechanics. You can attend occasionally, and give advice, but to take any executive and regular part at 300 miles distance is not possible. I therefore must object that the degree of centralization allowed to Scotland today is negligible, and will allow of nothing but a limited sphere of daily management.
I am sorry that the noble Lord is not in his place. I feel that he is somewhat mystified and uncertain as to why so much attention should be directed to his activities. I believe that his predecessor, Viscount Swinton, was for a time equally mystified: but Viscount Swinton saw the 489 point and realized that there was a genuine case. Unfortunately, no such light has been vouchsafed to the noble Lord, the present Minister of Civil Aviation. He has not seen that there is a real case for decentralization. What I particularly complain of is that he has held no impartial investigation to ascertain where the necessity lies. How little he has understood it is particularly evident in one statement which he made, and which he repeated to-day, that the head of the Scottish Division will be a Scotsman. That is, I think, a unique utterance in Parliament, and I hope it will remain so.
Do you expect in return that, shall I say, the head posts in certain of the big departments in London should be reserved for Cockneys? Because that, in effect, is what he is saying. The statement is quite redundant, and it suggests, above all things, that the interest in this subject is sentimental. It is not sentimental. It is based on sound reason, founded on bitter economic experience. Moreover, there is no feeling that there is any malice in this matter—as the noble Lord suggested—no feeling at all. But there is a feeling that his policy is actuated by a profound ignorance of the situation, and by a large measure of indifference.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, (I regret to see that the noble Lord has gone), suggested that the only solution is to repeal the Act of Union. I do not think that is necessary. There are many who would repeal the Act of Union. But I think it is fair to look at the Act of Union as it stands. The Union was formed. On the one side the English asked the Scots to accept the Act of Settlement ensuring the succession of the present Royal line. The Scots on their side asked the English to permit free commerce between Scotland and the plantations on an equal footing with that conducted in England. Those two points were agreed, and political union was established. But now the political union assumes an entirely different atmosphere, when you change from a free economy to a closed and controlled economy. It was never intended at the time of that union that an economic union should be imposed on a political one, and that imposition is opposed to-day, as I am quite sure it would have been opposed at that time.
The last twenty-five years has been a period of hard-thinking. We have seen 490 the evolution of that process of, shall I call it, capitalist concentration, which Karl Marx foretold about seventy years ago. It has been bitterly opposed, and by no one more than by Socialists in Scotland, who have used every epithet from their large and extensive vocabulary to throw at the capitalist; but what was the astonished horror at finding a Socialist Government in power with a plan of centralisation which put all the efforts of capitalists into the shade and far exceeded anything which had taken place in the capitalist world, and left no measure of power to Scots to deal with their own affairs. I must confess I am astonished to see that the Government have been able, through the exercise of Party discipline, to persuade the representatives from Scotland in another place to support the policy which they have put through. I have great sympathy with their supporters, because when they go back to their constituents and tell them that they have placed twenty-five per cent. of the industries in Scotland under the rule of Whitehall, I think they will have a great deal of explanation to do. We have had Whitehall parties formed in Scotland before, and those who are familiar will remember that historians have generally said that such men were seeking their own personal advancement rather than truly forecasting the political requirements of their country.
I want to explain some of the difficulties because I feel that noble Lord finds it difficult to appreciate the real interest which is being taken in these affairs. In Scotland we have been through a very difficult period. After the last war we failed to get a grasp of the new industries which were gradually developing, particularly the motor car industry and the electrical industry. We are going through a very difficult transitional stage. There are to-day more unemployed men in Scotland than in any other part of the country, and with 75,000 men unemployed it is felt that the same economic circumstances are coming into operation as existed between the two wars. This is already causing grave anxiety. Scotland is hungry for a new industry and it saw, or hoped to see, such an industry in the development of aviation which would have given the opportunity looked for. Moreover, it provided communications, the lack of which had always been the greatest difficulty in 491 developing the commerce of Scotland. It remembered that the steamship was developed on the Clyde and had been of very great importance.
We do not believe that an organization based and directed from London will provide the services required. There are specialized problems which will be obscured by the great pressure of immediate circumstances in London which will make those of 300 miles away seem not so urgent. Take for example, the subject of Heath Row and Prestwick. Why did the noble Lord never put that in its true light? Why did he never say there was never any question of rivalry between Prestwick and Heath Row? Everyone in Scotland realizes that London has to have a great air port. There was rivalry between Rineanna and Prestwick, I entirely agree, but it does not give the impression that the problems are truly and properly understood or handled as they should be.
I would add further that the interests of Scotland are very often contrary to those which exist for London. For one reason we wish to by-pass London as a traffic centre rather than to pass everything through it. Furthermore, commerce with the Continent and with Canada was formerly more important and probably more intimate and close to Scotland than to any other part of the British Isles. Moreover, industrial contracts are placed at the head office. If I were a maker of telephones I should indubitably place my factory as near as I possibly could to the Postmaster-General. Furthermore, central control means the payment centrally of the highest salaries, which means drawing away the best brains from the outlying areas and concentrating them in London.
The noble Lord has expressed the view that there are technical difficulties which make it difficult and impossible to develop, shall I say, a measure of autonomous service from Scotland. I would deny that it is necessary or desirable to run an organization as large as that to which B.O.A.C. has now grown. B.O.A.C. is reported to have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 aircraft. That means with an efficiently run service B.O.A.C. should cover something like 150,000,000 aircraft miles a year—not passenger miles but aircraft miles; those aircraft should fly something like 6,000 times round the 492 globe on the equator, and they should have an air crew staff of something like 5,000, which is roughly the equivalent on that basis of seventy to eighty squadrons of the Royal Air Force. I say it with respect, that I do not know any man in this country to-day who is competent to manage an organization of that scope and size. An efficient unit which would allow of some measure of personal control would be a unit of twenty to thirty aircraft, which should carry effectively about 750,000 passengers a year. It may be said that B.O.A.C. will divide up into small units of this character, but the real problem is how it is to do that. It was admirably put by Sir Andrew Duncan in the course of the steel debate. He then said:It is the most difficult thing in the world to secure a responsible, creative and flexible management in units when the real responsibility lies at the centre.The Lord President of the Council was unable to reply to that except in these words:We must somehow develop managerial consolidation and managerial fluidity,which means that he did not know the answer, and that he had not really thought the problem out. The noble Lord has talked a lot about order in the air. One of the features we see to-day is a development very similar to that order which came to the railways which is a complete concentration in this City of London. There is nothing that has contributed more to the growth of this city beyond the size which is useful and desirable than the railway services which have led into it.
You can picture the noble Lord in consultation with his three chairmen, as we stand at the threshold of the arch of oligarchy, with the noble Lord in the middle—shall I say sitting at the peak of the Gothic spire, surrounded by a halo of corporations but somewhat obscured by a smoke screen of advisory councils? The worst type of bureaucracy which is operating to-day is that in regard to aerodromes. I am prepared to concede that there is a very strong case for public ownership of aerodromes, and the organization with which I am associated took steps to put it into operation in one case two years before the noble Lord was in power at all. I think that their case is strong, but I do not think a bureaucratic control is the way to run it. Only the other day I saw eleven Whitehall 493 officials departing for the western islands of Scotland. I do not think they carried any pistols, but I do know they did not intend to spend the night among those outlandish inhabitants.
At the present time aerodromes are controlled by a threefold functional system and no one man is in charge of the aerodromes. The point at which these functions meet is uncertain, but it is probably at an unknown celestial point in the Ministry, and it leaves responsibility very vague. I want to say a word on the subject of Renfrew aerodrome. On that airport the noble Lord wished to make certain developments, and I do not blame him for doing that. He consulted ten local bodies, I am informed, and they included the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, the boroughs of Paisley and of Renfrew. An official went down to see them, and he spoke to them. He made no satisfactory reply, however, to the objections which were raised on a number of important points, and in due course the noble Lord announced his decision. I do not object to clear-cut and hard decisions being made, but what did the noble Lord get out of it? He got one runway of 1,300 yards. One runway of 1,300 yards represents a runway which is below the standard laid down two years ago by the Department of Civil Aviation before the Ministry of Civil Aviation was established. It is below the standard of a fifth-class aerodrome. It is a runway which in point of fact cannot be used by any modern type of aircraft.
I will only say this in conclusion. I am pressing to-day, as I said at the beginning, for a measure of decentralized control. Planned decentralized control will never mean anything as long as additional and greater power are crammed into one area. If planned decentralization is to mean anything at all it must be spread over a larger area. London has become to-day more and more (and most people agree it is much too big) like a prehistoric monster. It is getting so specialized and so big that it will very soon be unable to perform the simplest tasks of life, and when it reaches that stage it will like prehistoric monsters become extinct. I would like to submit that this the greatest city in the world will only retain that ascendancy so long as she remembers that her strength comes from the provinces and that she is constantly reinvigorated by the provinces. If she stifles the vigour of the 494 provinces, then she will cease to hold the great position in the world which she holds at the present time.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I told the Minister I would raise a point, which think is of real importance, as no doubt your Lordships will agree. It is a point that will not be raised by the people principally affected. I am referring to the danger that in our search for speed—one may say the lust for speed—we may produce aeroplanes which fly so fast that the unfortunate pilots will be condemned to a terrible ordeal. Already in these very fast aeroplanes that are projected the pilot must lie in a restricted position, so I am advised, and I do not think the Minister will dispute this—suffering great risks if he moves into a more normal position at the critical time. These brave young men, to whom as we have been told again and again—and we cannot be told too often—we owe so much, even our survival as a nation, will turn away from nothing in peace or in war. I do not think we ought to take advantage of that fact. In war-time I suppose the saying salus populi suprema lex may be taken by most people as true, but to say that the safety of the State is the supreme law is not true in peace-time. When it was found eighty or one hundred years ago that some coal seams were so thin that people who had to work them had to go on all fours, public opinion and your Lordships' House (notably this House) said, "No, that is a thing you should not condemn human beings to do."
Would it not be a strange thing if in this lust for speed you were to condemn the very people to whom you owe your life itself to conditions which were condemned by this House one hundred years ago? That is how it would be. I have not pitched it too high, for the tendency is growing. A special flight has been formed in order to get still higher speed. That is perhaps outside the purview of the Minister of Civil Aviation, although he must, of course, be well cognizant of it all. It may be necessary, but I doubt it. What is this lust for speed? Is it so that we may send the human body faster than it has ever been sent before? The human body can be sent in any ordinary shell (in fact it has been done and the man survived, but not for long) at 3,000 miles an hour. What folly to say we will 495 not stop! What folly to say we cannot call a halt to the advance of science! We have got to call a halt, and I suggest we should call it when the conditions for the pilot become intolerable. I do not care what the other nations say or what the competition is.
I plead with the Minister for Civil Aviation, whom I wish well in all his schemes, apart altogether from the political question, to bear in mind that we ought not to ask these people to go through this terrific ordeal merely in order that we may hold ourselves out to the world as the nation which produced the civil aeroplane which flew at the greatest speed, or merely to snatch a profit which competing nations or organizations might otherwise take.
I gave notice to the Minister of my intention to raise the question of that important section of the public which lives on islands. Of course, we all live on an island, but I refer to subsidiary islands, like Ireland on the one hand or the Isle of Wight on the other. Those people have a special claim because it is to them that flying makes so great a difference. I will not, however, pursue that topic because the other is so much more important. In the interests of the pilots, I respectfully plead for the help of the Minister of Civil Aviation in this important matter.
§ 2.23 p.m.
§ LORD POLWARTH
My Lords, I rise with great diffidence to speak on this subject. You have been listening this afternoon to a number of experts on different aspects of civil aviation, and it would be gross impertinence on my part, at my age and with my short experience, if I were to claim to be any sort of expert. But I did feel that I should like to say a few words from the point of view of a class of people which is, I think, sometimes rather apt to be forgotten in these discussions but which has some claim to be considered, namely, the ordinary non-priority, non-Government sponsored, honest-to-goodness passenger, or, as unfortunately is more often the case at present, would-be passenger. My criticism is, I am afraid, in the main destructive rather than constructive; but surely that is the prerogative of the passenger or the user, and it is the job of, and the very reason for the existence of, the experts, 496 and perhaps most of all of the Minister himself, to provide a constructive answer to that criticism. If this Bill goes through in its present form I am afraid that very soon the ordinary passenger will have remarkably little chance of making his complaints and his criticisms heard.
I am going to make rather an awful admission; I am going to speak this afternoon also as a Scotsman. I know that the Minister, and quite a lot of others, probably wish by now that Scotland generally, and Prestwick in particular, were under the waters of the Atlantic ocean so that they could conveniently forget about the subject, but I think there are certain problems about our communications in Scotland which are rather different from problems in England. Owing to the nature of our country, journeys by land generally take longer in time for the distance involved than in the south. For example, at present it takes about ten hours to go from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye, where there is quite a considerable population. The distance involved is 140 miles, so the speed of travel is not very great. Then, with the present railway service, Edinburgh is at the fastest eight and a half hours from London, whilst before the war it was only six hours, which was quite good. Those are only two examples.
There is another reason why we are particularly interested in air travel. During the war we had in our midst the great airport at Prestwick, and in spite of all the security restrictions I think most people in Scotland knew just about all that was going on there. They knew about the vast numbers of aircraft which were flying regularly across the Atlantic from and to Prestwick, and in that knowledge there grew up not only a great pride in the fact that they were partly responsible for that great achievement but also a fuller realization of the possibilities of air-travel for Scotland. A great many of us resolved that when the war was over we would travel by air. I know that there is perhaps the feeling that we in the north can have very little reason to want to fly direct to the Continent, or anywhere else overseas for that matter, but I will give a true example. The local paper published in my home town in Scotland announced last week that a certain gentleman and his wife were about to spend a holiday in Paris. That gentleman happens to be my fishmonger. He is travel- 497 ling by air direct from Prestwick, but unfortunately the only way in which he can do so is to travel by Air France; we ourselves cannot take him direct to Paris.
What, then, is the position nearly a year after the defeat of Japan? Our air services to the Highlands and the Islands continued during the war, and they were a most essential link. They are continuing still, but not on a very greatly increased scale. We have two services from Glasgow to Belfast, and they are operating at a greater frequency than they were a few months ago. That is largely due to the enterprise of a second airline (or a pirate airline, as we heard earlier to-day) which provided a very healthy stimulus to the existing service. But even with their combined resources they are utterly inadequate to deal with the present demand for air travel. It is impossible to book a seat on either of those two services to Belfast in anything under six weeks from the present date. I know that because I tried to do so two days ago. There is another service in which we are interested. As far back as last January promises were made by the Government that a connecting service from Prestwick airport to London would be provided. I believe in the last few weeks an existing service from Glasgow to London has been diverted to call there, but very little has been said about this and it has not been fully advertised. Even when I went to the Airways Terminal in London and asked which services called there and when, I was told by the representative of the service concerned that he believed that a service called there but that he really could not tell me which. I think that speaks for itself.
Lastly, our capital city of Edinburgh at present has not one single air service operating to or from it. I do not think that needs any further comment, but I very much hope the Minister will tell us why there is no service and when it is hoped that one will be started. Why is this the position? I dare say the Minister will say that this Bill is not yet law and that therefore he has not the power to provide us with better services. But I think the fact is that when he originally announced these plans last November in this House and accompanied his announcement by such dreadful warnings to would-be trespassers against them, it was enough to deter any company other than those operating at that time from 498 embarking upon providing a proper service. Surely instead of uttering those warnings he should have given every encouragement to those persons anxious to run an air line in order to provide the service and meet the demand for air travel, quite regardless of what his ultimate plan was. Instead he has deliberately discouraged the would-be providers of services. I believe he limits the petrol supplies of the so-called pirate companies to quantities sufficient far sixty hours' flying a month. I am not an expert, but my friends who are experts tell me that sixty hours' flying a month is an entirely uneconomical amount for an aircraft.
What is the position about aircraft? Is it that there is a shortage of aircraft available to put on additional services? I know we have been very proud that we were going to use British aircraft on these services, but must we really be so proud? Where are all those hundreds of Dakotas which we purchased from America during the war? They may not be the last word, but they are perfectly adequate to operate internal air services. It does not require a great deal of pride swallowing to use those aircraft. After all there are a great number of Government officials who would travel in an American motor car without the slightest feeling of shame.
The next point is with regard to the fares. I think this is a matter on which the ordinary traveller can be forgiven his astonishment. The fares charged on internal services by, shall I call them, the chosen companies, the companies which were operating before and are going to be taken into this scheme, are on the whole somewhere between sixpence and eightpence a mile. At the same time we have a pirate company running a service from Glasgow to Belfast at fares of under fivepence a mile. That company is operating under the grievous handicap that it is allowed to fly only sixty hours a month. In spite of that, I am told that the company is working at a profit, although I doubt whether any noble Lord could accuse them of making an undue profit. I notice, too, that the majority of charter companies are advertising aircraft for charter at rates which work out at approximately sixpence per passenger per mile. If you were given the choice of making a journey by taxi or by bus 499 over the same distance for the same fare, is there any doubt which your Lordships would choose?
As regard this pirate service from Glasgow to Belfast, does the Minister intend, as soon as this Bill is through, to put an end to what is the cheapest service between the two countries? I feel that the dire penalty threatened in a clause of this Act to which reference has already been made, would perhaps be more suitable for members of the Government who seek to break, if not the letter, at any rate the spirit of one of the paragraphs of that Act of Union to which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk referred, namely, the paragraph which states that all subjects of the two countries shall have freedom of trade and intercourse between all places in the country and in the Colonies. If this state of affairs is to continue I cannot see why we in Scotland should be compelled to trail along at the tail, so to speak. Because we are three hundred miles away, the advantages will always be less, and I do not see why we should be penalized to that extent. That is why we ask that Scotland should have a measure of real control of her own air services. We do not want cut-throat competition or risk-taking—risk to lives or risk to aircraft—in the process, but we do feel that perhaps a little more is needed of that buccaneering spirit to which one noble Lord has already referred, and a spirit which was well expressed in some words written by a very distinguished Scotsman several hundred years ago, a forbear of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, whom I am very glad to see here to-day. It will perhaps surprise noble Lords to know that these lines were written by him:He either fears his fate too much,Or his deserts are small,That dares not put it to the touchTo gain or lose it all.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
My Lords, I am asked by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, who was to have followed, to apologise for his absence. I cannot help thinking that his absence is a very great loss to this debate, for no one has done more for flying than Lord Sempill. I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will soon wish that Scotland was below the sea, because Scotland is going to speak again. The people of Scotland do feel very sore at the way in which they 500 have been treated and the plans for the way they are going to be treated. I would like to remind the House that Scotland, in relation to its population, has done more for enterprise than any other part of the Empire. If it were not for Scotland a great many enterprises would never have been undertaken. That great Dominion of Canada is full of Scots, and that is one of the reasons why Canada has set a splendid example of what a country of that character should be. That is all the more reason why there should be a direct line of aircraft between Scotland and Canada.
We have heard a great deal today about the desirability of controls. If you are going on to control, control, control, there will be nothing left to control. Scotland is suffering from that all the more because those who seek to control do not know Scotland, and I venture to say that the last place which knows Scotland properly is Whitehall. Yet we are going to be saddled with Whitehall and prevented from developing our own aircraft services, simply for the sake of control. I think it is time that this House put its foot down and said that it really represents public opinion more than do certain people in another place. If we go on as we are going now, Scotland is going to become poorer and poorer, because Scots people are not allowed to develop their own natural ability to advance, not only on behalf of Scotland alone but of the British Empire as a whole. In fact, I make bold to say that if it were not for Scotsmen the Empire would not be what it is. In view of our comparatively small numbers we have done an enormous amount of public service for the public weal of the peoples of the Empire.
We hold that this new service—for it is comparatively in its infancy—ought to be allowed to have Scotsmen directing its affairs in Scotland, if not outside of Scotland. I venture to suggest that one of the most successful private ventures in flying exists—or did exist, for it may be that it has now ceased to exist—at a place called Dyce in Aberdeenshire. There was a splendid air service from Aberdeen to the Orkneys and Shetlands and Norway, also to the West of Scotland. The success of that particular corporation justifies its continuance and the granting to it of opportunity for still further expansion. That applies also to Prestwick. Why 501 Prestwick has been so much cold-shouldered no Scotsman can understand. It has enormous advantages over the new London airport. In the first place, it hardly knows fog at all. An airport which is subject to fogs is not only dangerous but it positively ought not to be allowed to exist. Fog is the greatest enemy of safety in flying.
I would urge that the noble Lord should really reconsider his decision with regard to Scotland. I cannot help thinking that the large portion of his speech which was devoted to Scotland was a piece of special pleading. He knew that he was on very poor ground, and I say that his special pleading to-day is a justification for the people of Scotland to demand more and more that they should manage their own affairs in matters of aviation in general. With these few words, I desire most heartily to commend the speeches which have already been made by Lord Tweedsmuir and the Earl of Selkirk. I am only sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, was not here also to give us the benefit of his vast practical experience in these matters.
§ 2.45 p.m.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
My Lords, I wish to bring out just two points. They are both points which have already been touched upon, but I venture to intervene as one who knows nothing about civil aviation from the inside. I have never been connected in any way with civil aviation, and so I can, perhaps, see the whole situation entirely from what might call the consumer's standpoint. I am just an ordinary consumer and nothing else. The first point which I wish to put forward has to do with the build-up of the organization. The buildup is, obviously, going to take some very considerable time. While it is going on there will be a shortage of machines, difficulties with regard to facilities, and even perhaps a shortage in the matter of facilities. Difficulties in connexion with the use of air transport for the ordinary person there are undoubtedly going to be. That is inevitable while the organization is getting going. For instance, it will not, for a long time, he as easy to take an aeroplane as it will be to travel by train.
We are getting to a state of mind now in which we are beginning to look upon 502 airways as comparable to train services and other transport services. While our mental development is progressing in that way, surely it is of the utmost importance that the flame that has been kindled and which is inducing people to use air transport services freely should not be damped down or put out. Therefore, it seems to me that until the organization has got going properly there should be some kind of alternative to it. Why cannot we have many small private companies running scheduled services? That, at any rate, would be a stop-gap and would supply a need which is bound to be felt until the organization is fully completed. Whether the organization proves good or bad, the adoption of the suggestion which I have just made would in no way affect the situation. If the organization proves to be bad, then we might still have to continue the arrangement which I have indicated. It may be possible, or expedient, to continue with these small private companies—that is., if we are out to ensure proper efficiency in air services, and that, I believe, is what we want in this new organization.
My second point relates to the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States. That Board is non-political. It is not connected with the operators and its main function is to safeguard the consumer. In this country, under the organization which is being brought into existence the Minister will be in pretty much the same situation as that Board in the United States, but with the difference that he is not connected with the consumer in any way. He is quite out of touch with the consumer, and instead he is connected most intimately with the operators. That, to my mind, seems to defeat the end of a good many measure; and the main end of this whole organization. It must be a great defect. Moreover it seems to me that the Advisory Council which is dealt with in Clause 36 of the Bill will not fulfil the function of the Civil Aeronautics Board of the United States, chiefly because of the relationship of the former body to the Minister and to the whole organization. Those are the two points which I wish to make, and I submit them to your Lordships to be judged on their merits.
§ 2.49 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate, and the Minister who is going to 503 reply will, no doubt, deal with the three forcible speeches which have been made by noble Lords on behalf of Scotland. Therefore, both on the grounds that points were made in those speeches in a much better way than I could hope to make them, and that the noble Lords in question know much more about the Scottish point of view than I do, I do not propose to touch upon those matters. I shall, like other noble Lords, look forward to the Minister's reply with great interest. I think that the whole House will be in complete agreement with the tribute that the Minister has paid to the staffs, the air crews and the ground crews of our air services, at home and overseas, for the work which they have done in circumstances which have not been easy. But it seems to me—and I am sure the Minister will agree—that Ministerial declarations as to our determination to obtain ascendancy in the air over all other rival countries, and declarations that our aircraft will beat all other aircraft at some date in the future, are not a substitute for positive achievement.
We are entitled for a moment to look at the position we are in to-day, after one year of the present Administration and approximately one year after Japan has surrendered. We have no civil aircraft of large size, of post-war types, yet in service. Consequently, such services as we are running in Europe in particular and on our internal services here, are being run inadequately—as regards accommodation in respect of the demand for passengers. Neither are our services comparable in comfort to the rival services offered in many parts of Europe by our competitors. In the third place, we have to-day no British services across the North Atlantic. I know there are reasons which can be put forward for that position; I could suggest the reasons that the noble Lord would probably give. They are very sound reasons from his point of view, but the fact remains that we have to-day a political Bill and very few air services over the world, compared with other countries. I put forward the contention that during the last twelve months we have lost in the race of technical and operational progress in order to achieve the political purpose to which the Government were pledged at the General Election.
504 As the noble Lord, the Minister of Civil Aviation said, we oppose the policy, but it has been endorsed by a freely-elected Parliament as the policy to be put forward by those who obtained power at the last Election. We opposed that policy then, but we did not succeed in getting it stopped. The Minister has brought forward a Bill implementing the policy, and having registered our objections in the past we on this side of the House intend now to try to co-operate and to improve this Measure. And let me say, if I may, that we see plenty of room for improvement—as the Minister also will see at later stages.
Let me refer briefly to some of the points upon which we propose to concentrate, so that I may prepare the noble Lord's mind for what is to come in the next week or two. Our first objection is to the very wide powers given to the Minister in this Bill. Read literally, they are powers which are sufficient to enable him or any other Minister to run the corporations, day to day, in any and every detail of operation and administration. Both on previous occasions in this House and to-day the Minister has denied any intention of following such a course. Before this Bill was introduced, when noble Lords debated the White Paper on the subject, the Minister said he intended to exercise only remote control upon these corporations. Noble Lords on this side of the House took comfort from that assurance, but when the Bill was printed and in our hands we found little cause for comfort, because all the powers which we feared the Minister would possess are set out in detail in the Bill. While declarations of good intention are always welcome, what we have to consider is the printed word which Parliament is asked to pass.
Let us look at Clause 2 (3). This states that the Minister can define the powers of the corporation as he desires. Clause 4 says that the Minister may stop any activity undertaken by the corporation if he thinks fit. On finance, the control seems to us on this side of the House equally absolute. Clause 17 (1), says that the Minister can control what goes into the reserve fund, while subsection (2) of the same clause says that the Minister can control the management of the fund. I agree that in each case the Bill includes the words "with the approval of the Treasury and after consultation with the 505 Chairman." But the Bill does give the Minister absolute power in the ultimate, although it enables him to meet the chairmen. I do not think that anyone can object to the policy of financial control by the Government in such a measure as this, but we think that the control should be expressed in general and not in specific terms. As regards these general powers, and as regards the question of reserves and accounts, we shall endeavour when we come to the later stages of this Bill to parallel the Coal Industry Nationalization Act, and to modify the proposals of this measure along those lines. If the noble Lord has any doubt whether I am right in what I say about absolute control existing at the present time, not only in general but in detail, he has only to look at this Bill. I think he will agree then that the Minister can control the directors as to where they order that their services shall be run, when and how the services shall rim, and with what they shall be run.
Even Clause 41, which refers to the registration of births and deaths, and which the Minister mentioned, is control, to the extent that the Bill does not provide for marriages to take place in the air. I think Whitehall control is complete when we get to that stage and in all seriousness I ask the Minister if regulations could not be made in order that marriages may be solemnized in mid-air as they may be at sea. My next objection is to Clause 23. I think that this is the most important clause of all, so far as we are concerned. This Bill restricts the scope of enterprise, and we feel that its spirit is alien to British character in that it clamps down on any expression of adventure or initiative.
In fact, there is a penalty of a fine of £5,000, or two years' imprisonment, for crossing the border-line between charter and regular services. The Minister himself has agreed to-day that that borderline is hard to define and in another place the Attorney-General did not succeed in defining it with any degree of clarity. Operators are liable unwittingly to cross this "equator" line at some time, and as the Minister says that he wants to encourage them we feel that there should be a much clearer definition of what is charter work and what is illegal or likely to draw from the Minister the process of prosecution.
506 Under this clause, also, the corporations have a right to charter. Some of us do not like the corporations enjoying that right. They have great advantages in engaging in charter work, in comparison with private enterprise concerns. Although the corporations are supported in part by public moneys, they will have what I may call mass production facilities of maintenance. Presumably they will obtain petrol at advantageous prices, and will have many other advantages over the small private operator. At a later stage, therefore, we hope to hear that the Government welcome proposals which we may put forward to prevent undue preference being given to the corporations when they are engaged in charter work. We shall ask for an assurance, also, that accounts will show in great detail the results route by route so that we can see where the charter work has contributed to the revenue of these corporations, what routes are running at a profit and what routes are running at a loss. I am sure that the Minister will agree that only by such detailed accounts, route by route, can he implement the pledge that he gave to-day that the gram: of £84,000,000 in ten years is not for subsidies on regularly established lines, but for the development of uneconomic routes.
Another objection to this Bill is that research and development are not mentioned at all. It is true that the Minister told us some of his ideas with regard to refuelling, and something about helicopters, but he made no reference to what Viscount Swinton said about pressurization. Perhaps his recent experience, when, according to the Press, he and the Parliamentary Secretary suddenly found themselves in a pressurized cabin which did not pressurize, is all too recent in his mind. But what we would like to hear is something more about the progress of pressurization. We feel if the Minister is to exercise wisely the great powers which are given him by this Bill, then the formation of research panels technically qualified to evaluate the opinions of those technically engaged in design, construction and operation are essential adjuncts to the Ministerial administrative machinery. The Minister will be a sort of all-powerful trinity. In the future he will be the person who is able to say who are to fly, where they are to fly, and what they are to fly. Surely, if he is going to have all those powers, on broad policy 507 grounds, he should have the necessary data upon which to base his decisions? I for my part wish that there had been placed in some part of this Bill a proposal or indeed an obligation on the Minister to set up properly qualified technical research panels, because the Advisory Council will not, in any way, fulfil that particular need.
The last objection which I have to make to this Bill is with respect to the procedure which will be followed for the ordering of new aircraft. As I understand it, the potential user will have to deal with four Departments when ordering the designing and the building of prototypes and then the production of any new type—the noble Lord's Ministry, the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Supply and the Treasury. All those, as my noble friend Viscount Swinton said, are new hurdles interposed in the obstacle race, the start of the race being the wish to get an aeroplane and the winning post being the obtaining of an aeroplane. It seems to us strange that the Government should put up these hurdles which prevent in major and in minor matters an absolutely clear channel between the potential user of the aircraft and the company which is designing and manufacturing in order to supply the demand. Could not the Minister devise some administrative machinery which would prevent Government Departments interfering by comment, criticism or suggestions in matters which are particularly appropriate for decision as between the user and the producer?
Of course, the Minister must reserve to himself, so long as the public is used to pay the bill, the broad policy of how much money is to be spent on new aircraft. We on this side would be much reassured if we knew that there was a positive direction, not only that nobody can interfere, but that nobody shall interfere, and that when there are conferences about accommodation of aircraft and conferences as to what engines are to be supplied, there should not be a predominant number of technical officials; they should rather be prominent by their absence instead of by their presence. I say nothing against them, but if there is to be a new type of aircraft, and it is to be a success or a failure, let the responsibility to the maximum degree lie between the potential user and the manufacturer, and not have matters so confused between the two and 508 the various Government Departments that it will never be possible to find out where the blame lay in the case of failure or where credit should be given in case of success.
Another question on which I wish elucidation relates to the Channel Islands position. In another place yesterday, the Prime Minister answered a question whether this Bill was to be made applicable to the Channel Islands by Order in Council, and whether the States of Jersey had accepted the position. I feel, in the interests of all concerned, that if the Minister could clear up that position this afternoon, he would be doing a considerable service. My last question is with regard to the matter of aerodromes. There is in this Bill a lot about aerodromes on which I am not going to touch this afternoon, but about which I shall have something to say at a later stage. Can the Minister say something about the aerodrome facilities that exist in New York for British services? According to the Press, British Overseas Airways Corporation in future will not be able to go into La Guardia Airport which is the main terminal for New York. Idlewide, apparently the terminal corresponding to our Heath Row, is not ready. Therefore British Overseas Airways Corporation, the Government's chosen instrument, are to be banished to some remote aerodrome in Long Island. Surely, if we are stretching ourselves to the uttermost to give to the Americans the hospitality of Heath Row, even although it is incomplete, we should insist on having proper facilities for our aircraft when they reach America. Although we dislike the policy, so far as we on this side of the House are concerned, this Bill will receive a Second Reading. In giving it a Second Reading, we nevertheless hope that we are giving ourselves the opportunity of improving it in the future along the lines to which I have referred this afternoon.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I have to ask your Lordships' permission to speak again in this debate. I hope that an indication may be given that I may receive such permission, in order to enable me to reply to the important questions that have been put.
I listened with attention to what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, had to say. He said that I had spoken against a gloomy 509 background. Well, I evidently inspired the noble Viscount in having to listen to a singularly gloomy speech from him. It would certainly have unnerved me if the speech had had any relation to reality, but fortunately it had very little, and consequently my head is unbowed. The noble Viscount spoke about my imposing restrictive measures on the Corporations. I have had no complaint of any sort from the existing corporation or the Chairman-Designate of the two corporations which are to be formed, on the passage of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
What I quoted were the powers he is taking in the Bill. I said "He seeks to impose." If the noble Lord will correct the Bill and make it conform to what he says is his intention I am sure your Lordship's will be satisfied.
§ LORD WINSTER
I have had no complaints, as I have said, and the reasons why it is necessary for the Minister responsible for a public corporation to seek these powers have been dwelt upon by me at considerable length in my earlier remarks. I may be allowed to point out that the arguments I adduced have not been met. No reference has been made to the arguments I adduced in support of the Minister responsible. I have the powers which are conferred upon him in this Bill. The noble Viscount said there was no effective right of appeal by the public. I really cannot accept that view. The Air Transport Advisory Council is to be set up, and the machinery will provide the public with ample means of making their representations. The noble Viscount said I have only to report once a year, and consequently grievances may remain without redress for twelve months. That again bears no relation to reality in these days of the Press and of Members of Parliament who are very fond of putting questions.
The noble Lord has challenged me directly. I would ask him one question, and he need not answer unless he wishes to. Will he accept the recommendations of a judicial tribunal in the interests of the public and see that his corporations carry them out?
§ LORD WINSTER
My reply is that I think the provisions made in the Bill for the establishment of the Air Transport Advisory Council provide the public with 510 absolutely adequate machinery for making their grievances, their wants, and their representations known. If the noble Viscount differs from that point of view there will no doubt be an Amendment put down in the Commitee stage and we can then argue the point. However, my reply to-day is that I am satisfied (and this is what I wish) that the public will have the opportunity of making their requirements known, and I believe the Council will provide them with that means. The noble Viscount spoke about ideology and what might have happened if the South American and European corporations had been formed long ago. It is all very well to talk about what might have, happened if these two corporations had been formed long ago, but the whole thing is governed by the provision of aircraft. I say that although we have not yet formed those two corporations, every aircraft which it has been possible to put into service on the routes which will in future be operated by those corporations when they are formed has been put into service. I deny that there could be a single additional service in operation to-day had those corporations been formed earlier. To speak of ideology having impeded the position there is a complete mistake.
The service to West Africa having been suspended was also mentioned by the noble Viscount. The fact is that those services were very temporarily suspended owing to the fact that certain officers concerned in the meteorological services were removed. Those officers having been removed, in the interests of safety those services had to be suspended until the meteorological services were resumed. That has been done and the services are now in operation. The noble Viscount said that we have no services, but we have a litter of agreements with other countries. You cannot have the services until you have concluded the agreements. You cannot put the cart before the horse in this matter. You must have these agreements before you can establish your services. The agreements have been concluded, and the services are now in process of being instituted following upon the conclusion of the agreements. If the noble Viscount is unhappy about the Eire agreement and does not agree about other agreements which we have concluded (I do not shirk discussion of them in the least, although they are outside the provisions 511 of this Bill) I respectfully suggest that the noble Viscount or one of his friends should put down a Motion on the agreements we have concluded with Eire and with other countries, and I shall be very happy to go into it. But I do not think the matter is entirely appropriate for discussion on the Second Reading of this Bill. A great deal was said by the noble Viscount about the provision of aircraft. That again is outside the provisions of this Bill. Again I say that if any noble Lord opposite would care to put down a Motion on that specific question of the supply of aircraft, and of delays which have occurred in the provision of aircraft, I would be only too happy to answer those points. It is a matter of the first importance, and again I say I have no reason whatever to fear a discussion on those points.
The noble Viscount was quite right, if he will allow me to say so, in calling attention to the importance of the question of pressurization. In fact, it will be within the recollection of many noble Lords that in my earlier speeches on the question of civil aviation I myself called attention to the necessity of pressing on with this problem of pressurization. We cannot reap all the benefits which could accrue to us from the development of the jet and the gas-turbine-propelled aircraft until we have solved this question of pressurization. This does not entirely lie within the sphere of responsibility of my Ministry but, so far as I have been able to do so, I have set myself from the very beginning resolutely to forward it, and I have been knocking at an open door. The other Departments concerned are just as aware as I am of the importance of this matter and we are pressing on with it. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, was kind enough to refer to an experience which I recently had. Like the reports of Mark Twain's death the reports were greatly exaggerated. I did not understand that the reason why the test was abandoned was due to any failure in the pressurization arrangements; at any rate, at 18,000 feet the pressure inside the cabin was 3,000 feet, and we were in perfect comfort. I thought it was really remarkable, and I would beg your Lordships not to feel that pressurization is a failure, and that something is defective because of a very unfortunate local defect which terminated 512 the flight upon which we were engaged. If any noble Lords had been with me at 18,000 feet and realized the complete comfort of the atmospheric conditions, they would agree with me that we have indeed made very great progress towards the solution of this problem of pressurization.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, was kind enough, in effect, to give me notice of certain amendments which will be moved in regard to the financial provisions of the Bill and in regard to the provisions affecting charter services. I should be happy to reply to-day to those points, but if amendments are to be moved on those subjects, surely it is better that I should reserve my comments until we come to discuss them. The noble Viscount's remarks deserve, of course, the very greatest attention, and I can assure him that I do give that attention to them, because his experience and his knowledge are of great value.
As regards aircraft, the "Viking" and the "Dove" are the forerunners of a goodly procession. We shall press forward with the "Tudors," and the "Marathon" is now being considered for an immediate order. As I have said, pressurization will be developed to the highest pitch, and a comprehensive programme of forward orders has been shaped by the Self Committee, to which I have referred. This programme will cover both production orders and the forward planning of new types, which will, of course, he subject to Government consideration as rapidly as the proposals take definite shape.
I do not want to say the noble Viscount was ungenerous, but perhaps he stressed certain delays a little. Most of the troubles which have been experienced are legacies. We have tried to carry through the construction programme indicated by the previous Administration, but, as the noble Viscount knows, it is not to be expected that we can overcome, without such difficulties and delays, the loss of development work on civil types during the critical war years. I think I can fairly say, however, that the programme is at last beginning to move forward. I have dealt with the noble Viscount's remarks concerning the Air Transport Advisory Council. I fully believe that Council will give the public the opportunities it wants for ventilating its needs and that full 513 scope for municipalities and for all parties representing the public to secure the effective redress of legitimate grievances is provided through this machinery.
The noble Viscount foreshadowed certain proposals to adjust this Bill in parallel with certain amendments made by your Lordships to the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill. I cannot anticipate the discussion which will no doubt take place in Committee, but I must point out in advance that there are certain differences between the two cases. For example, this Bill provides for large financial grants, which must entail certain special stipulations as to the Minister's powers—the grants to which I referred this morning when we were discussing the financial provisions, the building of reserve funds and the rendering of accounts. I only mention this now so that these matters may be in mind when we come to the discussion in Committee.
As regards charter services, there is no simple answer to the noble Viscount's argument that air tours run regularly for the public should be left free to the private charter operators. The fact that the services are regular and are for the public makes them part and parcel of the field of activity specifically reserved for the corporations by the Government's policy of public ownership, and that policy must not be whittled away by a process of elimination. I have every sympathy with the charter operators, and I was quite sincere in what I said in my previous speech. I will encourage the bona fide operators. In the exercise of their proper rights under the Bill, and I wish them every success in their legitimate field.
In this connexion, let me say that I fully endorse the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for the encouragement of enterprise and initiative in this field, which is, I believe, rich in possibility. There is really no ground for fears that the operator will not know what he can and cannot do lawfully, or for fears that the corporations will use the preferences afforded by their special status to enable them to compete unfairly in the private field. The proper sphere of the corporations is the sphere of scheduled air services; that will be their main preoccupation and they will not seek to "muscle in" unfairly upon the field which is left open by the Bill to the charter operators.
514 I welcome the remarks of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. He will perhaps forgive my saying that I notice that, as in the case of the Coal Bill, he is not enthusiastic although he is kind enough to support the general principle of the Bill. I welcome the support which the noble Marquess gave, and I most wholeheartedly endorse what he said about not allowing political prejudice or pressure to interfere in matters concerning civil aviation. The Bill now before your Lordships embodies certain principles by which the Government will stand, but once those are out of the way and the Bill is on the Statute Book, I assure the noble Marquess that there is no intention of allowing political prejudice or pressure to interfere with the development of our civil air services. As to what the noble Marquess said about staff and he employment of staff in the future, I can assure him that that is under close consideration. I think that in the upshot the noble Marquess will realise that we want to give the fullest and fairest opportunity to the staff he has in mind, and I fully endorse his remarks in that respect.
With regard to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and other noble Lords, in which they again argued the views which those representing Scottish interests wish to put forward in this matter, I hope those noble Lords, to whose speeches I have listened with great attention, will forgive me when I say—and I say it with great respect—that I do not think they have brought forward any new matter this afternoon. The points which they have brought forward have been stoutly argued, and they represent an absolutely honest, sincere and convinced opinion on the part of those who represent Scottish interests in this matter, but I do not feel tint any new arguments have been advanced. They are arguments which have already been considered and in light of which the Government's decisions have been taken. I hope those noble Lords will not think I am treating them with scant respect or courtesy when I say that I feel that the statement I made this morning about the provisions which the Government are making in this Bill for the proper representation of Scottish interests meet the case. Under those provisions I do not think it is possible 515 that Scottish wishes, needs and necessities can possibly be overlooked.
If there is to be a Scottish Advisory Committee, if the chairman of that committee is to be a member of the Board of B.E.A.C., and if that committee is to have access to the boards of all three corporations and to the Minister himself, surely it cannot be conceived that Scottish interests and Scottish requirements can possibly be overlooked. I think we may also fairly assume that the Minister is anxious to meet those needs and requirements. There is no reluctance to do so. We wish to give Scotland the best air service we can, just as we wish to give to the United Kingdom and to all British passengers who wish to travel by air the proper services. I claim on behalf of the Government that the provisions we are making in respect of Scotland are such as to provide machinery which will ensure that Scottish needs, interests and wishes cannot possibly be overlooked. With great respect, I do not feel there is anything I can add to what I have said on that subject.
As regards Prestwick, again I feel that the statement which I made this morning does indeed cover the case. I earnestly hope to see Prestwick developing a great traffic. Nothing would give me greater pleasure, and everything will be done to enable Prestwick to meet the needs of the traffic which develops. There is nothing which the Government has done or intends to do which in any way prevents any operator who wishes to use Prestwick from using Prestwick. If we are to talk about rivalry between London Airport and Prestwick, the rivalry does not exist. The matter is governed by where the passenger wants to go. I cannot control what foreign operators do about their routing, but if the passengers want to go to Prestwick the operators will take them to Prestwick. If the passengers want to go to London Airport, it is really no good the American operator saying, "You may want to go where you like, but I am going to take you to Prestwick." The essential point is that if operators wish to route their aircraft services via Prestwick no obstacle will be put in the way of their so doing, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation will see to it that Prestwick is developed and given all the facilites to enable it to attract and to meet the traffic which wishes to go there.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
Will the Minister give equal preference to Prestwick as he does to Ireland?
§ LORD WINSTER
I have given, and will give, no preference to Ireland in this matter. If the operators wish to operate their services via Prestwick, they are under no obligation to route them via Ireland. There is no question of giving a preference in this matter, and the operators are completely free to operate their services on the route which they think best. May I remind the noble Lord of what I said this morning, that certain of our services will be operated via Prestwick, and Prestwick will be given every facility to enable it to meet the traffic requirements which Prestwick attracts. There has been no question of giving a preference to Ireland. Under the Anglo-Eire Agreement, operators remain completely free to operate their air services by whatever route seems to them to be best.
May I refer to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone? He made a very human appeal, and he always gets right down to the human factor in a question. Will the noble Lord forgive me if I say that I think he got a little mixed between military and civil flying? So far as the question of high speed affects the pilot, I put safety before speed every time, because I am concerned with the pilot; therefore safety comes first in my mind. As regards this question, one of the first considerations of British Overseas Airways Corporation—and I am certain the other two corporations will fall in behind them—is the welfare of their pilots. Not one of those three corporations is going to be indifferent to the human needs of the pilot. Over and above that, the pilots have their own organization which enables them to make collective representations about anything which affects their welfare or the conditions of their service.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
If the noble Lord will permit me to interrupt, may I say that I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks that the pilots would not raise these questions themselves. I know many of these people who served us so faithfully in war and are now trying to serve us in peace, and they will not complain. The better they are the more determined they are never to complain. It is a unique factor, and I hope the noble Lord will bear 517 in mind, and tell this House he bears it in mind, that these are not like ordinary folk who naturally complain when conditions are not good, but are people who have such a proud spirit that they refuse to complain, even when they are exposed to intolerable hardships.
§ LORD WINSTER
I do assure the noble Lord that I entirely agree about that, and nobody would be more responsive to it than I am myself. It is inconceivable that these corporations should ever wish to expose their pilots to intolerable conditions in the pursuit of speed, and, that being so, I do not think there is any need for me to say that no Minister, I am sure, would ever wish to expose the pilots to unfair and intolerable conditions. I fully endorse what the noble Lord has said, and he may rest assured that we will bear that in mind and see that the pilots are not sacrificed in the pursuit of speed. The noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, made a very useful contribution on the subject of London Airport, for which I was grateful, and certain things were done and movements made in respect of what the noble Lord said. In consequence I listened to his remarks to-day with very great interest. As regards the charter companies, the corporations can avail themselves of the services of those concerns. I spoke about co-operation this morning. The noble Lord said that we want to use private firms to supplement the corporations, and I think it is quite possible that a very useful sphere of co-operation between the corporations and chartered companies may develop.
I pass now to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and I should like to say, with great respect, that the noble Lord made a singularly fair and most thoughtful speech, which is of a character really helpful to the Minister. As the noble Lord knows from what I have said already, I cannot agree that our policy has delayed services. The fact that there is no service is not due to the policy which the Government have pursued. As regards the powers of the Minister, certainly I agree that good intentions are of no account, and it is the printed word which matters. But I have explained why, under public ownership, the Minister must be granted certain powers, because he cannot satisfy his responsibilities to Parliament unless he is granted those powers. That is the overriding consideration. It is not to give 518 the Minister some power to do this or that; but the power in the Minister should give the necessary force to enable him to fulfil his responsibilities to Parliament.
Something has been said about permission being given for marriage ceremonies to be performed in aircraft. As the noble Lord who mentioned this well knows, marriages can and do take place in ships at sea, so what does he expect a sailor to say? Naturally I should be delighted at the prospect of marriages taking place in the air—there will be no hostility to it on my part. A noble Lord spoke about some of our provisions as being in the nature of a clamping down on initiative. May I beg the noble Lord to make some inquiry as to the number of charter services which have already been instituted by men of very considerable experience in the civil aviation world. The fact that these services are being set up seems to me proof that the people concerned do not feel that there is any clamping down on initiative in regard to charter services.
As to penalties, it is really not the case that everyone who infringes these regulations is going to be fined £5,000 and sent to prison for two years. Penalties will be inflicted by the judges, not by the Minister. It would be a grave reflection on the judges of this country to suggest that these penalties are going to be harshly and unfairly administered. It has been said that the border line is unknown. I can assure your Lordships that those who are acting bona-fide in these matters will have no need to fear that they may unwittingly have gone across what the noble Lord who spoke on this matter described as "an unknown border line." The next point concerns accounts. I want accounts which will give the fullest possible information and enable a fair judgment to be mark of the progress of these public corporations. I want to keep nothing up my sleeve. It is my wish that the accounts should give the fullest possible information in order that we, and the public generally, may be able to follow the progress of these public corporations.
As to research, I have made it quite clear. I hope, what my attitude is. I think it is essential that research should be centralized. It would be a retrograde step if one Ministry or another were to set up its own organization in respect of research. It is essential and of the very spirit of research that it should be cen- 519 tralized. As regards procedure for ordering new aircraft, and what has been said about raising hurdles and other obstacles for operators to surmount in order to obtain their aircraft, I do ask the noble Lord to consider what I said on the subject of the work of the Self Committee. That is a committee which has recently been set up, and I think that their work will go a very long way indeed to meet the points which have been raised by the noble Lord and other speakers. In this connexion I am bound to say I do not know of any instances in which, when an operator has specifically asked for a certain type of aircraft, his wishes have not been met and orders have not been placed for that aircraft. I do not know of any such instances, but I will look into the matter again.
With respect to facilities in New York, I am satisfied that the United States authorities are doing their very best for us. They are grateful, and I know the American operators are grateful, for what we did at London Airport. They realize that we did our very best to enable them to come in there. I am satisfied that they are endeavouring to reciprocate and to give us the best facilities they can on the other side. But, as the noble Lord who raised the matter knows, the congestion on the other side is appalling. However, the authorities there are doing for us what they can. On the last point raised, that with regard to the Channel Islands, I may say that we have had conferences with the Island authorities, and they wish the Bill to be applied to them by Order in Council. We have agreed to do that, and the provisions of the Bill will be applied by Order in Council. I will not say—for I do not wish to put words into the mouths of the Island authorities—that they are enthusiastic about the provisions in the Bill, but I do say that they have accepted them with a good grace. At their wish, we have agreed that we will not take over their airfields but will leave them within the jurisdiction of the Island authorities. What I have said as regards the application of the Bill by Order in Council applies also to the Isle of Man. This is dealt with in Clause 53 of the Bill. The position is that we are in agreement with the authorities in the Channel Islands.
I regret having had to detain your Lordships twice to-day at such great length. I am grateful for the patience 520 and the courtesy with which you have listened to these very long dissertations of mine. I feel that the Government have no reason to be dissatisfied with the reception which the Bill has met with from your Lordships to-day. As regards what has been said about examining the possibility of improving the Bill, well, of course, no one will expect any father to admit that his child has any defects whatsoever. We all think our children are perfection. But I do say that the spirit which has been displayed in regard to the presentation of this Bill reflects a genuine wish to examine what improvements may be possible.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.