HL Deb 28 March 1946 vol 140 cc451-71

4.47 p.m.

THE EARL OF MUNSTER had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the recent visit of the Minister of Civil Aviation to Australia, New Zealand, and India; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I feel that my first words in addressing your Lordships this afternoon should offer the sympathy and solace of the whole House to the friends and relatives of the passengers and crew of the Lancastrian aircraft which disappeared en route to Australia. I do not know whether the noble Lord, the Minis- ter, is in a position to give us any further information, but I sincerely hope that it is not too late for some, if not all, of the survivors to be found. I feel certain that your Lordships will be glad to welcome home the noble Lord, Lord Winster, from the tour which he has just completed. There are many noble Lords in this House who take an active interest in the development of civil aviation, and I have no doubt that they would welcome from the noble Lord some statement of the result of his visit to Australia, New Zealand and India. It is for that purpose that I have placed my Motion on the Paper to-day.

I think I should be substantially correct in saying that the noble Lord's visit was the sequel to a useful and very fruitful meeting of the Commonwealth Air Transport Council which met in July, 1945, under the chairmanship of my noble friend behind me, Viscount Swinton. That meeting was assisted by the African Air Conference which had been convened earlier in the same year by Field-Marshal Smuts, and many noble Lords may remember that after replying to the noble Viscount, Lord Rothermere, on March 15 last year, my noble friend behind me set out the same evening to attend the Conference in South Africa as the representative of His Majesty's Government. I have no desire to remind your Lordships of every decision which was reached, but I think it would be useful if I did remind the House of the more important agreements that were made. All arrangements were made for the United Kingdom-South African service (commonly called the "Springbok" service) and the South African Transport Council was set up. The Conference lasted for a period of six days. It was a really remarkable performance, for within that time they agreed on all details for the operation of the great trunk route and agreed that it should be worked in parallel partnership by B.O.A.C. and South African Air Lines, both companies using the same aircraft of British manufacture.

Having briefly reminded your Lordships of the results of the South African Conference, I should like, if I may, to come back again to the July meeting of the Commonwealth Air Transport Council. Here the principles were agreed under which the Commonwealth air routes would be operated in parallel partnerships, and particulars were contained in a Press communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting. Moreover, much detailed work was done on the practical application of those principles on the routes between the United Kingdom, India, Australia and New Zealand, thereby, of course, following the precedent which had been set at the South African Conference. This meeting further discussed the operation of a Pacific route by the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom joint company working in parallel partnership with a reciprocal Canadian service. I have no doubt that the best way of operating services between Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji Islands and elsewhere was also discussed. Those are, very briefly, some of the more important matters which came up for discussion at the July Conference. I hope that the noble Lord, the Minister for Civil Aviation, will be able to state this after-noon what further progress has been made in this great Empire and Common-wealth partnership which was given such a flying start when my noble friend behind me was Minister for Civil Aviation.

I should also like to ask the noble Lord what is the basis of the reciprocal services between Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and whether it will be on the same lines as the parallel partnership which my noble friend agreed with the other Dominions. It may well be that some other kind of reciprocal arrangement was arrived at, but perhaps the noble Lord could make that quite clear. At the same time I should like to know whether the necessary arrangements have been made with the United States to cover United States calls en route. I imagine that on the long journey he made the noble Lord not only discussed the problems to which I have just referred but interested himself in how and when these services were to operate. It is, of course, always desirable to have full details worked our and agreed amongst the partners to any new concern, but frankly we do not get very much further in the air unless we know the aircraft which is to be used on the particular route and what the production position is. I should like the noble Lord, if he would be good enough, to tell us when this service will be in full operation.

In the debate which took place in your Lordships' House last October the noble Lord stated in the course of his reply that he was in active consultation with the Minister of Supply, who realized the needs of civil aviation and afforded him full co-operation. I hope that the cordial association and friendship which has been formed between the noble Lord and his right honourable friend the Minister of Supply has not waned in the interval of five months. The noble Lord went on to say that although he had some good aircraft coming along, they were not coming so soon or in such numbers as he would like and he hoped that production could be speeded up. I would ask the noble Lord whether in fact production has been speeded up and what is the present position. For instance, is the Tudor II (which the noble Lord thought would be a most useful aircraft for our Common-wealth routes) yet in production? The Minister will appreciate far better than I can the vital need for the rapid speeding-up of production of civil aircraft of all types. It would be interesting to know the type or types which it is intended to use on these routes, the earliest date at which they will be ready for use, and whether in point of fact the parallel partnerships will be in operation on those routes. Those are the principal questions which I should be glad if the noble Lord could answer.

I have an additional number of detailed questions, of which I have given the noble Lord private notice, and which perhaps I might also ask. Two months ago it fell to my lot to go with a Parliamentary Delegation to India, travelling by air both ways. I was grateful for the arrangements which were made for our accommodation and for our comfort, but it did strike me that at certain stopping-places en route the food arrangements could have been largely improved. I thought the time had arrived when passengers needed no longer to suffer on Army rations or iron rations, and I wondered whether the noble Lord would contemplate the appointment of a catering manager or inspector who would have complete power to travel on all these routes and give advice on catering arrangements where necessary. At the same time it came to my notice that, under instructions from the Treasury, issued through the noble Lord's Department, there had been a cutting down of the domestic staffs at the hotels and rest houses en route. I cannot really believe that that is a correct story and I should be grateful if the noble Lord could sub- stantiate or repudiate it. I was also told that on these journeys before the war playing cards and games were made available to the passengers and that they were each provided with printed maps to show them the course which they were taking. There may be difficulty in obtaining the games and the playing cards to-day, but I should have thought it might be possible to issue to the passengers maps of the routes on which they travel.

Lastly, I come to the question of landing at the aerodrome, when passengers are conveyed to the hotel or rest-house in Army lorries not of the most modern and up-to-date type, and when everyone has certain knowledge that a short distance away American aerodromes are provided with large and, I am told, luxurious motor-cars in which to take their passengers from the aerodrome to the place where they intend to spend the night. I do not know whether the noble Lord is contemplating doing away with these Army lorries and putting in their place some more comfortable means of travel. All those are detailed points, but it is the etceteras which, as I feel sure the noble Lord will agree, go so far towards making a long journey comfortable and which leave in the minds of the travellers an earnest desire to proceed in the future to other destinations by air. It is for that reason that I have addressed these questions to the noble Lord.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Munster, for putting this Motion on the Paper, and for giving me an opportunity to give your Lordships some account of my recent journey, and also for raising very many interesting and valuable points in connexion with civil aviation. Before giving some account of my recent journey, may I first of all deal with some of the points extraneous to that journey which the noble Earl has raised? First of all, may I deal with this most unhappy news about the Lancastrian? I regret to have to tell your Lordships that I have no further news at the moment beyond that which has appeared in the Press. I have been making inquiries as recently as this afternoon, but I have nothing, I fear, to add to what has already been published. I am sure that your Lordships will share with me in regretting the anxiety under which Sir Roy Dobson must be concerning the fate of his son. Sir Roy Dobson played a most noble part during the war in the production of the Lancaster, which I think was the most potent single war-winning weapon of the war, and I am sure we must feel the deepest sympathy with him in the anxiety which he is under at the present moment.

That leaves me to refer to another sad matter at this moment, before I pass on to other matters. Mr. John Marchbank, a member of the Board of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, died suddenly last Saturday, and I attended his funeral this morning. His whole career was a story of grit and ability and of service to his fellow-workmen. As a member of the Board of the British Overseas Corporation he rendered most sterling service to British civil aviation. I think of him in particular in connexion with Hurn airport. Conditions there were difficult during the war with unheated hangars, poor living accommodation, and many things to discourage the workers, but by his visits and by virtue of his stolid, sensible, human personality, Mr. Marchbank kept them cheerful, and in doing so rendered a real and important war service, and I am sure your Lordships will feel with me that in him civil aviation has lost a very good servant indeed.

I will now deal with the other matters raised by the noble Earl. I am grateful to Lord Munster for the words of welcome to myself on return from my tour. I must also fully endorse the references which he made to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and also fully endorse the value of the work which Lord Swinton did in South Africa for civil aviation. I think what I have to say will answer many of the points raised in that particular direction, and will show that in many respects we have filled up and closed the gaps left by that valuable work which Lord Swinton did in South Africa. As regards the arrangements made with the United States to cover the ports of call which are involved in the trans-Pacific service, it is for the Governments of Australia and New Zealand to negotiate the bilateral agreements necessary for securing rights in United States territories, in return for similar rights which the United States will require in Australia and New Zealand and British territories. Arrangements to this end were discussed at Wellington. The noble Earl then asked me about my relations with the Ministry of Supply; has production been speeded up, and is the Tudor II in production? As regards my relations with the Minister of Supply, the honeymoon is not over, and so far I have no reason to suspect any grounds for divorce.


When is something going to be born?


The statutory period still remains at nine months, and I have only been in office for eight. But I can say with complete confidence that steps have been taken to speed up production, and as regards the Tudor II I am sure it will not have escaped the noble Earl's notice that the prototype of Tudor II has flown, and has flown with successful results.

Then the noble Earl raised some points connected with his recent trip to India. He said the food was not too good. It is not too good anywhere at the present moment, and I wonder if the noble Earl finds it much better in some of the London restaurants. He spoke about the cutting down of domestic staff at rest houses en route. I have no information about that, and I have heard nothing to that effect. He spoke about the supplying of playing cards and games for the passengers, and of supplying a printed map to show the course. I remember when I went across the Atlantic in a Boeing, there was a very remarkable chart with a moving pointer which showed our position at any moment en route The noble Earl also spoke about landing at the quay, and passengers being conveyed by Army lorries, whereas the Americans were supplying limousines. All those are really important points. It is essential, if our Air Services are to succeed, that the reasonable comfort and convenience of passengers should be most fully considered, and I am certain that those concerned with our Air Services, including the B.O.A.C., are full alive to that point. I am sure the noble Earl will recognize they are working under certain difficulties at the present moment. They have to supply facilities for passengers in countries where conditions are still very disturbed and abnormal and it is not very easy for them to make things quite as comfortable and as convenient as they would like, But it is certainly their aim, and nobody will quarrel with the noble Earl for bringing those points to notice. I am quite satisfied that the Chairman of the Corporation and the Chairman Designate will be very grateful to the noble Earl for bringing this point forward, and I am sure he may be equally satisfied that full attention will be given to them and constant efforts made to improve the arrangements for the comfort and the convenience of passengers.

Now if I may turn to the particular purpose of the noble Earl's Motion. The primary purpose of my recent tour was to attend the Pacific Civil Aviation Conference convened by the Government of New Zealand at Wellington. I took the opportunity, however, to have discussions on matters of mutual interest with the Australian Minister for Air and Civil Aviation, the Honourable A. S., Drakeford, at Canberra, and at Delhi with Sir Mahommed Usman, the Member for Posts and Telegraphs, who is responsible for civil aviation in India. I was also able to discuss with the Civil Air Attaché at Cairo a number of important matters arising in the very wide field of territories to which he is accredited. I assure your Lordships it is a very wide field indeed, and the Civil Air Attaché is hard put to it to cover all the ground.

It was with very great pleasure that I was able to respond to the invitation of the New Zealand Government to attend this Conference in Wellington and discuss the many civil aviation problems of common interest to Australia, New Zealand and ourselves. These Conferences among Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are conspicuous for their atmosphere of cordiality, for a spirit of mutual accommodation and for an ability to recognize the other fellow's point of view—all matters which might well form a pattern for other international conferences. The Conference at Wellington was no exception. It demonstrated the spirit of give and take and the desire to find solutions for the common good—for the common world good not merely for the Commonwealth good—which characterizes the British peoples. Owing to the Parliamentary preoccupation of various Ministers, the work of the Conference was compressed into six intensive days and nights from February 28 to March 5. That so much was accomplished in so short a time was due to the patient and effective management of the Conference by the Chairman, Mr. Walter Nash, Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. He was an ideal chairman if there ever was one.

The Conference was on the Ministerial level, and the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand were represented by delegations headed by Ministers. The Australian delegation was led by the Honourable Arthur S. Drakeford, Minister for Civil Aviation, and the New Zealand delegation by the Honourable Walter Nash, Deputy Prime Minister. The Governor of Fiji, who is also High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, attended in an independent capacity on behalf of those Dependencies which he administers. The Government of Canada, which is interested in the trans-Pacific route which will provide her air communications with Australia and New Zealand, sent an observer, Dr. W. A. Ridell, Canadian High Commissioner in New Zealand, and I would like to acknowledge his generous and helpful attitude. We reached agreement, but the recommendations of the Conference will, of course, be subject to the approval of Governments.

The topics of discussion fell under two main heads, namely, the organization of air transport services of interest to Commonwealth countries operating in and through the South Pacific area, and the provision of the ground organization and meteorological facilities necessary for the operation of those services. After a preliminary survey of the various civil aviation matters of common concern, the members of the Conference got down to the main points at issue, and decided to recommend to their Governments that a South Pacific Air Transport Council, with a permanent secretariat to be located in Australia, should be established to provide machinery for consultation and to advise the Commonwealth Governments concerned on all matters connected with the co-ordination and development of civil aviation in the Pacific. The membership of the Council will be those Governments represented at the Conference, and Canada has also been invited to accept membership. The South Pacific Air Transport Council is modelled on the South African Air Transport Council which was established so successfully by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, at Capetown last year, and it will work in close liaison with the main Commonwealth Air Transport Council which was set up as a result of the Commonwealth Conference in Montreal in 1944, and which held its first meeting in London last July.

The constitution of the South Pacific Air Transport Council makes provision for the appointment of such technical committees as it may consider necessary, and at the Wellington Conference it was decided to recommend the early establishment of a Committee on Air Navigation and Ground Organization to survey and make recommendations to Governments on airfield requirements and their equipment, and a Committee of Meteorologists to carry out similar functions in relation to the meteorological organization required for the operation of air services in the South Pacific area.

So much for organization. Now let me deal with the air services. The air services of interest to the three countries are, firstly, a trans-Pacific trunk service connecting Australia and New Zealand with North America via Fiji, Canton Island and Honolulu; secondly, services between Australia and New Zealand across the Tasman Sea; and thirdly, local and regional services serving the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom territories in the South Pacific area. There is already in existence an airline, Tasman Empire Airways, which operates flying boat services between Australia and New Zealand. This airline, in which Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom participate, was established in 1940 for the period of the war, and the Conference recommends that Tasman Empire Airways should continue to be entrusted with these services with headquarters, as at present, based at Wellington.

Now for the trans-Pacific trunk service. The Conference had before it the conclusions reached at the Montreal Conference in 1944, and at the Commonwealth Air Transport Conference in London in July last, that Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom should combine their interests in this route by forming a tripartite organization to operate services between Australia and Vancouver and between New Zealand and Vancouver, both services being routed via Fiji, Canton, Honolulu and San Francisco. It was also contemplated at Montreal that this tripartite organization would operate services in parallel with those of Trans-Canada Airlines under partnership arrangements which involved the pooling of aircraft, of traffics and of revenues, and the provision of facilities required by the operators on the routes on a common user basis. In accordance with these arrangements, it was agreed that both the tripartite organization and Trans-Canada Airlines should be equipped with the same type of aircraft—that is the Canadian-built DC4M, which is powered by Rolls-Royce engines manufactured in the United Kingdom.

These decisions of the Montreal Conference in 1944 were endorsed at Wellington, and it was decided to set up at once an organization to be known as British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines—B.C.P.A.—in which the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand would participate, to operate trans-Pacific services as soon as the DC4M aircraft become available early next year. The noble Earl asked me about that specific point. We hope and believe that these aircraft will become available early next year. The main base of this organization and of the operations will be in Australia where the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines will be registered, but in view of the urgency of establishing Commonwealth air communications across the Pacific at the earliest possible moment, it was agreed to recommend that the British Common-wealth Pacific Airlines should be empowered to enter at once into a contract for a temporary service on the most economical terms obtainable consistent with the provision of an efficient service until such time as the DC4M becomes available.


Will the noble Lord say what aircraft will be used?


What I foresee is this. I think British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines will receive several offers. There is probably more than one organization or operator who will feel able to make proposals for the operation of this interim service, and it will be for the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines to choose from the various proposals made to them and to enter into a contract for the operation of a service pending the arrival of the DC4M. Now I should like to speak about the local and regional services in the Pacific area. These are mainly the concern of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand and it was agreed that each country would continue to operate services to their respective territories in the South Pacific. Where these services do not provide adequate air communications to meet the requirements of Fiji and of the Western Pacific High Commission for inter-island services in the Western Pacific area, it was agreed that consideration should be given to the possibility of making charter arrangements for the purpose of meeting the needs of general administration of the territories.

The ground facilities—airfields and equipment and meteorological services—required in connexion with the operation of the trans-Pacific and local services formed the subject of special study, and very prolonged study, by technical committees which were set up by the Conference. The recommendations of these committees, which made considerable progress, were adopted by the Conference with a recommendation that further study should be given forthwith to these problems by the proposed Committee on Air Navigation and Ground Organization and the Committee of Meteorologists, which I have already referred to, which are about to be set up under the agis of the South Pacific Air Transport Council. The Conference recognized that each Government would be responsible for the provision and maintenance of ground facilities in their respective territories but recommended that the organization required on the Pacific routes, outside the mainland of Australia and New Zealand, should be treated as a joint responsibility of the Governments concerned. But in that connexion it was also agreed that Australia and New Zealand, as agents of the United Kingdom, should provide the technical services and staffs required in the United Kingdom territories. This is obviously a sensible and practical arrangement which relieves the United Kingdom of the obligation to maintain and man the ground organization in this very remote area.

So much for Wellington. From there I flew to Sydney and on to Canberra where we had talks with Mr. Drakeford, the Australian Minister for Civil Aviation, and his advisers about the operation of air services between the United Kingdom and Australia and there I negotiated a bi-lateral agreement covering those services. Mr. Drakeford and myself agreed, as a temporary measure, subject to the approval of the Governments, that the existing Lancastrian services which are operating to a thrice-weekly schedule should be supplemented by a Sunderland flying-boat service operating to the same frequency. These arrangements are to be reviewed at a date not later than September next when the long-term policy for the organization of these services will be further considered. The bilateral agreement which I negotiated with Mr. Drakeford follows the standard form already negotiated with other Commonwealth countries and, subject to the approval of the Government of Australia will shortly be concluded. Mr. Drakeford and I initialled it before I left Australia.

The agreement confers on each country the necessary rights of operation in each other's territories, makes provision for capacity to be maintained in close relationship with the traffic offering, and for frequencies and fares to be agreed between operators subject to the approval of Governments. Following these talks at Canberra I returned to Sydney to resume my return journey and I took the opportunity to visit Delhi in order to discuss with Sir Mahommed Usman a number of technical problems of mutual interest. While these matters were chiefly of a technical character the opportunity was also taken to discuss the form of bilateral agreement being negotiated between the United Kingdom and India to cover air services between the two countries. These talks were of a thoroughly practical and also of an extremely valuable character.

This journey which I made has practically completed the fulfilment of the policy of Commonwealth co-operation in civil aviation which I announced in your Lordships' House shortly after I took office. The various partnership arrangements now concluded, covering the operation of Commonwealth main trunk and regional air services and the necessary ground organization over a large part of the world, will make an important contribution to the general cause of Commonwealth co-operation which we all know to be an important, in fact the main, stabilizing force in a highly unstable world. One of my outstanding impressions of the tour was the readiness of those with whom I conferred to subordinate a merely national approach to the greater Commonwealth good in dealing with the various problems which we had to discuss.

If I ever had any doubts about the importance of the Commonwealth in reestablishing world order, my flight over the troubled and ravaged areas of the world would soon have dispelled them. Let us consider for one moment the places at which I touched down. After leaving Poole I went to Augusta, Cairo, Allahabad, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore and Sourabaya and then to Port Darwin. I think your Lordships will agree with me that it was not only an extraordinary experience but a most informative experience to fly from this country over those places. It was indeed a ravaged part of the world over which one flew and between Poole in this country and Port Darwin in Australia one was in contact with sights and scenes which gave one nothing but cause for great reflection. The provision of air services to establish speedy and vital communications between the various parts of the Commonwealth is of supreme importance to the achievement of this worthwhile objective, to restore and to reconstruct.

If your Lordships will permit me, I would like to say a word about the flight itself. My journey was undertaken in a British-built flying-boat, the Hythe type Sunderland. The journey from Poole to Auckland was accomplished in six days and in just over 82 hours of flying time. The fact that we were able to go into conference within one hour of our arrival in Wellington speaks well for the superior standards of comfort of the flying-boat and justifies my belief that, if passenger preference is to be the criterion, the flying-boat still has before it a great future. That I was able to fly 30,000 miles in 26 days and to discuss important business in New Zealand, Australia, India and Cairo is, I think, an impressive demonstration of the possibilities which air travel places at the disposal of Ministers. These possibilities were evidently realized by Mr. Chifley and Mr. Nash. I am happy to tell your Lordships that they gladly accepted my proposal to place at their disposal for their approaching visit to London a flying-boat similar to that in which I travelled to their countries. In fact, I believe it will be the same flying-boat.

Your Lordships will not, I think, mind if I conclude with a few personal matters. The noble Vis- count, Lord Bledisloe, is not in his place, but I should like to tell him through the medium of the Official Report that his memory and that of Lady Bledisloe is very green in New Zealand, where their names are everywhere spoken with great affection. I must also mention the names of Captain Stead and Captain Steer and the crew of the flying-boat. I do so not because of their personal services to me, but because by their professional skill and their attention to duty during an exceptionally strenuous trip they gave British civil aviation a good name wherever we went and demonstrated those qualities without which the finest aircraft in the world will not give you a good service. It is those same qualities, which I have observed everywhere among the staffs of British airlines, which will stand us in good stead during the difficult period which immediately faces us. I would also say that it was impossible to travel across that troubled and devastated belt of the world without realizing all over again the quality of the men by whom this country is served. And I realized, too, that for anyone engaged in politics, especially at this time of many difficulties and disappointments, a visit to the Dominions is not only an essential experience but also an immense encouragement. They are indeed splendid people in New Zealand and Australia, full of vigour and initiative and facing the future with complete though modest self-confidence.

I have endeavoured to describe my mission in terms of moderation, but I think I may fairly say that it was a useful one, and that it had good results. I must add that these results were due in no small measure to the advisers who constituted the delegation which I led. I gladly acknowledge my debt to them. Step by step we are building up a network of agreements and understandings with other countries. The progress is real, even if it is not spectacular. May I say in conclusion that any agreements we enter into are not aimed at national advantage, but at the establishment of international arrangements which shall benefit the entire world?

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the House will be grateful to the Minister for giving us such an interesting account of his journey. Before I offer one or two observations on what he has said, I should like to associate myself in the tribute he paid to Mr. Marchbank. I fully endorse it. Very good relations existed in the B.O.A.C. with their crews and their ground staff, and the really admirable arrangements for pensions and superannuation allowances, and for giving opportunities to men on the ground when their flying time was over, are generous, as indeed they should be, but essentially practical at the same time. I know that very well, for I discussed these matters often with Mr. Marchbank, and I know how much is due to him. B.O.A.C. has deed suffered a sad loss in his demise, and our sympathy goes out to those he has left behind. I should also like to associate myself in the sympathy extended to Sir Roy Dobson in his anxiety.

We have differed on many things. I dare say we shall differ on a few more, but with regard to this Empire partnership in the air we are all agreed. We all want to do what we can to make it a living reality, not only because of its importance in civil aviation, but equally for its value in knitting the countries of the Commonwealth and Empire together. I was glad the Minister took, as he did, what I thought was a very practical suggestion which the noble Earl, Lord Munster, made about travelling facilities, to use a comprehensive term. Airlines do not only get their passengers by What happens in the air (although that is the most important part) but also by what happens on the ground. Service and safety are the two things which are going to influence passengers in the choice of the line by which they travel. Incidentally, I would just add that nothing irritates passengers more than to be brought down on an airfield only a few miles from where they spent the night, and to be kept there for hours before the aircraft takes off, and very often, or sometimes, sent back again to the "stable" after having sat either in or round or near the aircraft for some hours in rain or in hot sun or in the medium climate of this country. Really that ought not to be necessary, because there is a thing called wireless. There must be at least a million surplus wireless sets in the Fighting Services in this country. Every police car quite rightly goes about with wireless apparatus. I see a great many other cars as well with wireless fitted, with less obvious purposes. It really ought not to be beyond the bounds of possibility for a simple wireless service to be established between where the aeroplane sits and where the travellers are spending the night, and for a message to be sent. There can be no security objections to it. I assume that a message could go, and therefore they need not undergo such an interminable amount of sitting upon the airfield.

I am very glad these conferences met where they did. I looked forward, I frankly admit, to taking part in them myself but the noble Lord was more fortunate. It is all to the good, indeed it is the essence of this Empire partnership and of the Commonwealth Air Transport Council that it should be in different parts of the Empire. That is excellent. I am very glad that, following the South African precedent, the South Pacific Air Transport Council has been established. It is very practicable to regionalize the Commonwealth Air Council in this way. One question I would like to ask is about the joint company for operating across the Pacific, with which I entirely agree. The shareholders will be ourselves, Australia, and New Zealand. I do not know whether he has settled in what proportions we shall hold the shares.


No, not entirely.


That is not certain yet. But it is obviously right that that joint company should operate, and I think it is quite right and economically essential that that service should operate with the same type of aircraft. It is going to be a very expensive service to run, anyhow. I think it must be run in parallel with Canada. I am extremely glad—and this we did, I think, settle right away back at Montreal—that there has been no reversion to the original idea of a Canadian service out to Honolulu and then an Australian joint service taking over from that point. The Canadians met us very fairly over it at Montreal. It would have been a bad system, but that does certainly imply that if these two services are to be run into and out of Canada in parallel, which will not involve a large number of aircraft, it would be extremely uneconomical to run different types of aircraft on the service. It would mean duplicating all the spare parts necessary at the different stopping places along the route and having to train the personnel to look after two kinds of aircraft instead of one. I think that really is unanswerable. Even so, I think it would be an intolerably expensive route to run. But I am quite sure we have got to run it. It is unthinkable that in the Pacific, with all our interests in it, there should not be under the British flag a direct air route from Canada to New Zealand and Australia and conversely. That I think would be all to the good. As regards the Australia route (the United Kingdom to Australia) I am extremely glad that the Lancastrian service is to be supplemented by a flying-boat service.

Your Lordships will remember that very soon after taking over Civil Aviation I made a plea that, however popular the land plane might be with the operators, we in this country, with our great knowledge of design and operation, should not abandon the flying-boat. I am not at all sure that it might not come into its own again. You do not know, nobody knows, be it a question of passengers or of freight, whether large aircraft are really going to be practicable or successful, but certainly the flying-boat has a great past and, I believe, a considerable future. It is comfortable and gives people a feeling of security. I am not sure that it is always much safer to land on the sea in a flying-boat than in a land plane; it depends on the state of the sea. But sometimes it certainly is. I remember some years ago a flying-boat which came down about 140 miles off the coast of Brazil and either taxied or was towed into Rio or Bahia or somewhere. It certainly kept afloat and it was finally rescued. That would not have happened had that been a land plane. I am extremely glad that one of the last things I did before I was dismissed from office was to sell a number of these flying-boats to the Argentine. I hope they are giving satisfaction over there.


They are very satisfactory.


The only other point I would mention is the route between Australia and this country. That, of course, is to be conducted in parallel partnership in the manner we settled last July when we also settled all the details, subject to Government approval, regarding the burden of expenses. It really followed the South African precedent and is thoroughly workable, and I take it there is no change. That working partnership is operating well on the Springbok route. I think that is all to the good. The Minister did not say anything about the postal arrangements but I take it we are not yet quite at the stage where we can make a comprehensive review of the Empire air postal arrangements.


Those matters were very fully discussed but we were not able to come to a final decision about them at this point.


I am very much obliged. The only other thing I wish to say is this, and I know everybody will agree with it. One makes these agreements, and they are good agreements and represent good Imperial partnership, but it is no good having the agreements without the aircraft. As my noble friend asked, when is it all going to start? I shall not follow up the rather vulgar intervention I made in regard to the lovely picture which the noble Lord drew, but it really is very important to get these aircraft out. The smaller one, the Vickers Viking, has come along very well indeed. It is up to time and it is a very good plane. I have had the pleasure of flying in it. But the delay in bringing out these Tudors is a great disappointment. I do not know why it has arisen. There cannot be such a lot of work in the shops. There ought not to be a great many snags about it. I am sure the Minister is as anxious as I am to see them out, and I do hope there will be a great improvement in regard to this matter.

There is one point I wish to add. We have often been told, and I have said it myself, that we in this country have a tremendous future in the jet engine and in all the applications of it, whether it is a direct jet or working through propellers. We shall not be able to use that development unless, concurrently with the production of these engines, we have completely solved the problem of pressurization—that is a dreadful word but it means maintaining the pressure in the cabin. I did advert to this in the defence debate yesterday, and I do wish to press it strongly upon the Minister. Frankly, I am not satisfied with what is being done in regard to pressurization at the present time, and I do not believe he is. Whether the right people are on the job or not, I do not know. Let us assume that they are. Although I think the people who know a great deal about how to boost up an engine may be the people who know a great deal about some problems of pressurization, I am quite sure that in order to make your pressurization completely satisfactory you must have some vast chamber in which it can be not only tried out but worked in day and night. It is really vital. I do not believe that any little localized experiments, putting this or that part of your pressurization equipment into, as it were, an isolated box, is going to do the trick. If anything goes wrong with an aircraft which is flying at 40,000 feet, it is not going to be a case of just coming down quickly. Everybody is going to be blacked out altogether. I am told that if you get a hole an inch in diameter—well, I am not going to quote figures, but the pressure at which the air goes out is quite fantastic, and it is going to kill everybody on the ship, pilot and crew. If that happens—and pray God it will not happen to any line—it is going to put an end to people travelling by that line and perhaps by any other for quite a while.

In order to make sure that this does not happen, it is surely necessary to have a great chamber into which you can put perhaps not the whole aircraft but a sufficiently large section of it with all its accessories of pressurization and be able to operate the whole of your pressurization plant—the boosting up, the compression, the addling of the liquid air, and so on—and do it at every temperature, under every condition, and go on doing it. That is the point I want to emphasize: it is not sufficient just to make a single experiment. It may be that something is being done about that matter. I very much doubt if it is, and I do urge the Minister, with all the strength at my command—because I am sure the future of British civil aviation is going to depend on this—not to rest satisfied. A tremendous figure is put down in the Estimates for research. The figure of £28,000,000 has been mentioned. The Fighting Service is interested in this also, certainly for its bombers and its high altitude fighters. I ask him to make quite sure that all the money that is needed is, in the boldest and most com- prehensive manner, spent on this development of pressurization.


I think I should say that I endorse generally what the noble Viscount has said in regard to pressurization. It is also right that I should say that from the time I took office I have endeavoured to press this matter to the front. I believe that at the present moment the importance of it is recognized and that proper attention is being given to it by all those concerned.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the House will allow me thirty seconds in which to associate myself with the tributes paid to Mr. Marchbank for the work he did. I was at the Air Ministry when Mr. Clive Pearson and Mr. Runciman resigned and the new Board of the B.O.A.C., of which Mr. Marchbank was a member, came in. During all the time we worked together and on every occasion one saw the character of the man, the breadth of vision, the understanding and tolerance of all men and all men's habits, that he brought to his work. I would like to say, with the other noble Lords, that we send our condolences to his family in their irreparable loss.


My Lords, I see there is further business on the Paper this evening and therefore I will merely thank the noble Lord, the Minister of Civil Aviation, for his interesting and useful speech. I trust that at some future date it may be possible to have a further debate which may prove as useful as our discussion this afternoon. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.