§ 2.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
called attention to the development and administration of civil aviation, and moved for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, as this is the first occasion on which we have had a debate on civil aviation under the new dispensation, I am sure that I should be expressing the wishes of the House if I congratulate the new Minister of Civil Aviation on his accession to a high and important office. I am sure, too, that he will welcome the earliest possible opportunity of making to us a progress report on the execution of the plans which were announced so fully by his predecessors, and on the progress of the nationalized industry in which, I suppose, we may all now regard ourselves as shareholders. To-day, therefore, in the observations which I shall make to your Lordships, I shall confine myself almost entirely to put- 333 ting a number of questions, of all of which I have given the Minister notice. I should have had something to say about international agreements and in particular about the Bermuda Agreement, but I understand that we shall shortly have before us a Bill for ratifying the Chicago Convention, or the new convention to take its place, and I think that that will be the most convenient time to discuss all those matters.
There is only one point with regard to agreements that I think I must raise at the earliest possible opportunity. That is a point with regard to the Eire Agreement. Your Lordships will remember that this Government made an agreement with the Government of Eire, under which every service between Southern Ireland and this country is to be operated by a joint company, in which the Eire Government are 60 per cent. shareholders and we are 40 per cent. shareholders. We each have to bear an equal share of loss, if loss there be. Immediately that was announced, there was, naturally, a great deal of comment as to why, in an agreement of this kind, we should be in a minority position in the shareholding of the company, the seats on the board and the management of the company. The most extraordinary answer was given by the former Under-Secretary who is now, I am glad to say, in a position where he will learn a little more about the Constitution of the British Commonwealth. He gave the answer that Eire had to have a majority interest because it would have been a breach of the Chicago Interim Agreement not to have given them that. I challenged that immediately. I refer to this personally, because the Under-Secretary said it was an Agreement which I made. So it was. But he has completely misread the Agreement. So far from discouraging these operations, Article 12 of the Interim Agreement lays down in terms that it is desirable that there should be joint companies, and, indeed, goes further, and says that the Council may invite different States to form these joint companies. Of course, there has never been any suggestion that one side should have 60 per cent., and the other 40 per cent., of the shares. Indeed—and the noble Lord will bear this out—his predecessor has concluded an Agreement with Egypt, or at least one is in negotiation, for a joint company between the United Kingdom and Egypt, to which each country shall be a fifty-fifty shareholder.
334 Therefore, even assuming that Eire was a foreign country, there is no possible foundation for the excuse which the Under-Secretary gave. But Eire is not a foreign country: at least, so we understand. Certainly, so far as the British Commonwealth is concerned, the whole basis of the Commonwealth partnership has all along been that where we had parallel arrangements for joint companies, the Dominions and we would work on a fifty-fifty basis. Therefore, even if the Chicago Agreement were construable in the way the Under-Secretary sought to construe it, it could have no application to an arrangement between this country and one of the Dominions. I have raised that point because I think that the extremely wrong statement made by the Under-Secretary ought not to remain on record, and I am sure that the present Minister will take the earliest possible opportunity of putting it right.
I will say no more about agreements. Agreements are ineffective, however good they may be on paper, unless we have three assets—airlines in active operation economically and efficiently managed, enough good aircraft, and adequate airfields well equipped and well run. I shall, therefore, concentrate on those three points and I will take them in that order. Let me take, first, the air routes and the services. Parliament is entitled to full information. The Minister is responsible; the taxpayer is paying; and the estimate is that we are to pay £10,000,000 a year in subsidies for the three companies two of which, under our proposals, were prepared to go forward without any subsidy at all. I am sure that on consideration the Minister will not stand by the answer he gave us the other day. It really is not good enough to be told that Parliament—let alone the taxpayer—can go and look at the time-tables of the companies, when they are published, and that it would be contrary to the public interest to say when services, which are not yet in operation, are going to come into operation. This is not a case of giving confidential information to the enemy. They know all about it. I do not regard them as the enemy. They are friendly competitors. Indeed, the Minister himself, having made these agreements, will, of course, have to tell the foreign countries, with whom he has made the agreements, when and where and how he is going to operate his services. We must have proper 335 information about these matters, and I am sure that the Minister will give it to us to-day.
His predecessor boasted of the great network of services that he was going to carry on, and he said that all the plans were ready. So they were. As a matter of fact, he found the plans for all the routes ready when he took over a year and a half ago. I do not think I can resist saying that, if he and the Government had not rejected the partnership of the shipping lines, of the old independent operators, of the new operators which might be coming forward, and the railway companies, with their great experience, we should have made a good deal more progress, and have had a good many more services running than we have got at the present time.
The British plan envisaged a network of routes and services to be operated by British lines. These covered, first, the internal services. There can be no question of giving away information about those, because those are entirely in our own hands and nobody else is going to run them. Then there were the services between the European countries and the United Kingdom. Thirdly, there were the Commonwealth routes. Fourthly, there were the services to the United States and South America. I would ask the Minister a question of which I have given him notice with regard to these planned routes—and incidentally his predecessor placed in the Library a map showing where all these routes would run—which of them are to-day being operated by British companies, whether directly or by charter; and which are not yet in operation, and when they will come into operation? I would ask this also. A number of services have been operated by Transport Command. It is the intention, as your Lordships know, that those Services shall be taken over by British European Airways. I should like to know which services are still being operated by Transport Command and when they are being taken over by the European Corporation.
Now I ask the noble Lord this. The basis of these agreements—very sound agreements—is for reciprocal services. The foreign country runs a service to this country, and we run a service back to the foreign country. I ask: On what routes 336 to-day are the foreign companies operating to and from this country, where British companies are not yet operating a reciprocal service? I should like to give him certain specific examples. I do not suppose I am by any means exhausting the list. I would ask him this: Is it a fact that for months past Swiss Air Lines have been running a regular passenger service into this country, but that the British Government have been unable to run any service to Switzerland, except through the medium of getting a charter company—which was so much sneered at—to run that service for them. That is now coming to an end and through the winter, while the Swiss Air Lines will continue to run their services here, we shall have no service to Switzerland. I ask him another question also; though this has already been answered in anticipation in the affirmative by his Under-Secretary in another place. Lord Winster told us what a great influence the plan was going to have on the Scottish services, both services inside Scotland and services running from Scotland to other countries. This is my question: Is it a fact that foreign lines are flying from France, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland into Scotland, but that not a single British airline is flying from Scotland to any one of those countries? Is it also a fact that the Dutch Line is, or has been, flying from Holland to Manchester—a very important commercial service—but that no reciprocal British service is available between Manchester and Holland?
Thirdly I come to the transatlantic route. The Bermuda Agreement, which is a good agreement if it works all right, envisaged, by and large, so far as ourselves and the Americans were concerned, that the traffic on the route will be, broadly, apportioned to meet the demand, and that we and the Americans will have an equal opportunity for sharing in that traffic. I ask the Minister—and on all these points I have given him ample notice—how many services a week are the United States companies flying into the United Kingdom, and how many B.O.A.C. services a week are flying to the United States? I would also ask this—I know that a number of American aircraft have been purchased for this service—which is to be the first British aircraft on the Atlantic United States route, and when will it be put into service? Lastly, I 337 ask about the Dominion and Colonial services. Is it a fact that the West African service, which was flying all the time I was Minister in West Africa, had to be discontinued, and has it been reinstated? I should like to return a little later for a few minutes to other questions relating to Commonwealth routes and so I just mention that one in passing to complete the catalogue.
I will leave my Scottish colleagues—who are very well equipped to deal with the matter—to deal in detail with the improvements which are alleged to have taken place in Scotland. I would just put this one definite question, which I am sure the Minister will be able to answer at once. What increases have taken place in the British services running inside Scotland and from Scotland to this country or to foreign countries since the Government nationalized the industry? What increase has this step brought to Scotland? I should also like to know this—perhaps I have missed this point. Your Lordships will remember that (in Clause 36 of the Act I think) we secured by agreement the insertion of a provision that a reasonably effective tribunal—a council I think it was called—should be established, to which complaints of inadequacy of services and excessive fares and so on could go. I should like to know whether that council has yet been set up. If not, when is it going to be set up?
So much for the air routes. Now I come to the second essential factor in efficient service. I want to be as fair as I possibly can over this. There has been a number of successes and I will take them first. The outstanding success of its type is the Viking, a most admirable aircraft in speed, economy of operation and performance. I am sure the Americans would not mind my saying that it has the Dakota absolutely beaten. So it should have. The Viking stands alone to-day in its class as a successful, efficient aircraft and I am glad to know that it has been sold to many countries all over the world. But can the Government, and least of all the Ministry of Supply, take to themselves any credit for the Viking? I do not think that I reveal any improper secret when I say that the Viking only exists because I insisted, when I was the Minister, on ordering 100 of them in the face of most vehement opposition from the Ministry of Supply. Everybody is now very glad that we have got it.
338 Then there is the Dove, an eight-seater aircraft. It is a very good machine, economical and easy to maintain. It is having great success in foreign markets where the density of traffic is not very great. But that in effect is a De Havilland private venture. Then there is the Bristol Wayfarer, a very useful aircraft, slow but cheap on short trips. It is quite an admirable aircraft. Credit for that has certainly got to go to the Bristol Company; some credit must go to the railway companies, and particularly to Mr. Elliott of the Southern Railway, who saw the value that this would have; and there was perhaps a little encouragement from myself.
Let me now turn to some of the aircraft which have not yet shown their paces. I would like to ask what is the position—and again I have given the noble Lord full notice that I would raise this—with regard to those very important machines the Tudors I and II; the Tudor I which is to fly the Atlantic, and the Tudor II which is intended to serve all our Commonwealth routes. I have been looking up my own records as to the delivery dates which were anticipated, and firmly anticipated both by the Ministry and by the firm. As your Lordships will remember, we had a meeting of the Commonwealth Air Transport Council in May or early June in London, and these are the figures which were then given to the Dominions on the full authority of the firm and of the Government at the time.
With regard to Tudor I, the first prototype was due to fly in June, 1945. An order was placed for twenty production aircraft, and they were scheduled to come off the line between September, 1945, and May, 1946. Then the Tudor II, the fat Tudor, as it is sometimes called: 85 of those were ordered. The first prototype was due to fly in November, 1945, production to start almost concurrently. They were scheduled to be produced between November, 1945, and the end of 1946. I am sure your Lordships would wish to know what has been the actual delivery dates of both those aircraft, and I would ask what is the pay-load of both the Tudor I and the Tudor II. Is it better, or is it not so good as the original estimate? Have both those aircraft got their certificates of air worthiness and, if so, at what pay-load? Then as regards the Tudor II, which is the aircraft for the whole of the Commonwealth routes, is 339 that going to be all right for taking off from all the airfields which lie along those routes? So much for the Tudors I and II.
I now come to the Miles Marathon, a 14-seater which is badly wanted, or its equivalent, where the Viking is too big and where the traffic is not dense enough for the Viking. When were the orders placed, and what is the present rate of delivery? Then for the Atlantic there is the Brabazon I the very big Bristol aircraft. When is it expected that that machine will fly, and when is it expected to be in service? Those are machines which are on the stocks and, as far as the Tudors and the Marathon are concerned, they should be in process of delivery by now in very considerable quantities.
Now I come to what I think is the most important machine of the whole lot, and that is the jet or gas turbine replacement of the Tudors I and II. I do not think the most optimistic of us would say that the Tudors are going to beat the Constellations or the Skymasters. Frankly, I would not expect it. We are behind-hand because we were doing our war job. We have, however, got a wonderful lead, at any rate a tremendous achievement, on the pure engine side of jet and gas turbine. Here in the replacement of these Tudors with a gas turbine or a direct jet is the opportunity to cash in on that lead in jet construction. The Minister of Supply has made a great many speeches on what we are going to do with this aircraft. I agree that this jet replacement is the most important thing in the programme of the Minister, or the bevy of Ministers. I ask what firm or firms are making this jet replacement of the Tudors, and how far has the construction of the prototype of that replacement proceeded?
That leads to me to ask this: What is the position of the Minister and the Ministry of Supply in this business to-day? Quite frankly, I cannot understand why, apart from perhaps long-range research, they should be in the business at all. Heaven knows, the Minister has got enough to do: He is the William Whiteley, the universal provider of all the Fighting Services; and he seems to be becoming the largest building contractor in the land, buying all plenishings for all our houses. I should have thought he had got about enough on his plate. Why should this Minister and this Ministry intervene be- 340 tween the user of the aircraft, the Corporation which has got to run the services and take the responsibility for running the services, and the producer of the aircraft with whom the order is placed? It is an elementary canon of practical business which I do not think anybody would reject that you want the closest relationship between the producer and the user. That is the way in which our great shipping industry has been built up. You find that closest relationship between the shipping lines, the passenger liners, tramps or cargo liners and the great shipbuilding firms. They would have been horrified at the idea that some irresponsible third party should intervene between them.
When we were discussing this matter six months ago or more the then Minister said: "We have got to do this for the moment"—I am paraphrasing him, but I do not think I am doing him any injustice—" because the Corporations are not formed yet." I am not at all sure that he would not have been the best person to place the order even in that case. But the Corporations are now formed. You have got the three—B.O.A.C., the British European Airways Corporation and the British South-American Airways Corporation. Why are not they placing these orders? There was an argument used during the war which was valid certainly up to a point—namely, that the aircraft firms were so busily engaged in making Service aircraft that it was really very hard to fit in a civil order and that one single co-ordinating Minister had to have the allocation of factory space and design staff. That cannot be the position to-day. Thank God, no aircraft are being shot down; we have an enormous number of them. We are, I hope, proceeding with certain experimental types, but there can be no question of firms not being able to take orders. Indeed, they must be howling for orders in order to keep their works full. I really do hope that this fifth wheel to the coach may be taken away and allowed to concentrate its effort upon all its other very wide and far-flung activities.
I want to say a word about pressurization, and this follows directly on what I have said about jets. I am not wholly competent to talk on these highly technical matters, but I am going to try and put what I have to say into language that I, as a layman, can understand, and I have no doubt that if I am wrong technically 341 I shall be corrected. Everybody will, I think, agree that on the early solution of all the problems of pressurization—horrible word!—depends our ability to make effective use in aircraft production of our great developments in jets and gas turbines. The designing and making of the individual units which are required for pressurization is only a part—and certainly not the most difficult part—of this problem. The supreme test is what happens when all these units are assembled together in an aeroplane which has to use them all and maintain the requisite pressure and other conditions—and maintain those conditions without risk of failure for thousands of miles of flying, at varying heights and pressures and in changes of temperature. It is obvious that a failure, at 40,000 feet may spell disaster—probably would spell disaster—to everybody inside the aeroplane. Here is a real opportunity for the Government to finance, to co-ordinate and to inspire practical research on a large scale.
I am advised by many who are engaged in the highest technical manner in this subject that what is really needed is some great chamber, rather on the lines of the old wind tunnels we had for testing aerodynamics—a vast chamber into which can be put, if not the whole of a great aircraft, at least a large section of it, so that you get inside the chamber the cockpit, the engines, all the apparatus for compressing the air, drying it and wetting it again as it enters, and, above all—or certainly equally important—enough of the aircraft and the inlets into the aircraft, which are going to be the danger points when the aircraft is operating under these varying conditions. You need that so that you can test out a large section of the aircraft with all the units assembled together, and test it continuously for hour after hour, under all the variations of temperature and other conditions which are encountered in crossing the Atlantic in all weathers. That seems to me to be a real opportunity for Government activity. I wish to know what has been done in that way and also what experiments are being made with completed civil aircraft. So much for machines.
Now I turn briefly to the third thing, the airfields over the Empire routes. The Empire routes cannot be operated with- 342 out adequate airfields. How near completion are the new airfields at Nairobi and Salisbury, both of which are essential to the African service? The Salisbury one I regard as of great importance because unless there is an adequate airfield there the average hop has to be increased by 600 miles; it is necessary to fly straight through from Nairobi to Johannesburg, whereas the other hops average 1,200 or 1,300 miles. It is of great strategic importance too. This great air route to Africa is going to become more and more important in peaceful and less peaceful times. The airfield at Salisbury is also very important as a connexion with Portuguese territory. It is the natural—indeed it is the necessary—contact point for the feeder lines coming up from Portuguese Colonial territory, with which we want to work, as does South Africa, in the closest possible co-operation. How far has that got? I am going to say here and now that I think it would be a very right and proper thing for His Majesty's Government to make some contribution—they are probably going to do it anyhow—to that. I hope the noble Lord will tell us that to-day. I think it is rather too much to expect Rhodesia to bear all the cost, because Rhodesia is in a sense more interested in airfields for its own shorter feeder lines than in the great airfields. I think it would be very reasonable for us to make a contribution. It would be good business too, because if you get an airfield which is going to give you on every plane you run another 600 miles of pay-load each time, that is worth something in money. Strategically and commercially, I think that would be a very reasonable thing to do.
Then I want to ask about our own United Kingdom airfields. I will say a word about Heath Row, or London Pride—is it not called that now?
§ THE MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION (LORD NATHAN)
It is called London Airport, but I think it is also London's pride.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I do not think the Minister can be wholly satisfied with conditions as they are today at that airfield and at the terminal in London. What we want to know is what he is going to do in the way of improvements—improvements that can be made rapidly and improvements that can be 343 made in the long run. May I ask about one improvement, which is not a technical one but one which we can all understand? Is it a fact that there is no licence at Heath Row? I do not mean a landing licence; I mean a drink licence. If there is not, it seems to me to be quite fantastic. Heath Row had not come into existence when I was at the Ministry, but I should have felt I had done something very shocking if I had failed to provide a drink licence. People arrive at Heath Row after these stormy Atlantic crossings. It is all right for those of us who are accustomed to flying thousands of miles a week, as many of us used to do, but it is a different matter for people crossing the Atlantic for the first time. They have probably been a little air sick, and they certainly want some spirituous consolation when they reach the ground. It really is a bit steep if they land on this sea of mud and are conducted to a damp tent where they cannot even get a whisky and soda. That is not going to take people off housing. We should really make that reform by common consent, without getting any split in the Cabinet.
I take no personal responsibility for this, but I read in the paper last Sunday that there is no remote control for the signals and the lights. Is it true? The lights are used to signal to the aircraft which runway to use. As your Lordships know, the runway is used according to the wind, and here there are three runways in use. In England the wind changes very often—it may be it changes every half hour—and that may mean that an aircraft which is coming in has to use one runway instead of another. There are lights, arrows, neons and things which tell the aircraft where to come down. I know that the pilot can be talked to by telephone as well, but that may fail. The natural way to control those signals and lights is by remote control, and it is a very simple way. I read in the paper—and, as I say, I take no responsibility for this—that there is no remote control, and that a man has to go out on a bicycle—not even a motor bicycle. I will abandon this argument if it is not true, but if it is true you have a man pushing along on a push-bike against the wind on a runway nearly three miles long in order to find the thing to turn on the light or turn off the light. By the time he has got half way down 344 the road the wind has changed again and another man starts off on his bicycle. This may be one of the things one reads in the papers.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I do not remember which paper, but it was quite a respectable one. I read the Sunday papers on a wet Sunday quite impartially, one of each, and I even look for a Liberal one. If I am hunting a bad hare I abandon the hunt at once, but there it was in black and white. Anyway, it can be dealt with.
Then there is the question of emergency hospital arrangements. These are immediate needs. The first impression is so important, because this is the gateway of the foreign tourists. The long-term view is more important because I think we have done perfectly right to select Heath Row, London Pride, as the London terminal. There were a number of other suggestions made, and I know the Air Staff and the Ministry of Civil Aviation considered them very carefully. But we have got to make it a success, and you must have a terminal inside London. The traffic is going to be vast and, according to the noble Lord, Lord Winster, we are going to have 160 aircraft landing or taking off an hour. That means, assuming that those aircraft have only got fifteen passengers each, a total of 2,400 persons, and if there are twenty passengers in each aircraft it means 3,000 persons. That was the statement the noble Lord volunteered on April 10 of this year. Well, why not Earls Court? It really has every possible advantage.
Dealing with traffic on that scale, I believe you have got to bring them in by rail. The traffic on the roads is going to be more dense, and therefore a suggestion was made that we could deal with them by helicopters. I am all for new ideas, but I do not think that is a very good one. To start with, even if it were physically possible, the number of helicopters required to transport several thousand people an hour—because that is really what it comes to—from Heath Row into the middle of London would be quite beyond the bounds of possibility. There is another objection which is even more 345 serious. An airfield like Heath Row has got to be the most disciplined place, and the planes have got to come down at their two-minute intervals upon the runways in the strictest possible order. It would be quite impossible, with all these great airliners on these different runways, to have hundreds of helicopters coming up and down on the same airfield. The Ministry concerned has had to say, quite sorrowfully but quite definitely, to the aircraft constructor that he could not fly an occasional aircraft on trial. Certainly, therefore, you could not bring in hundreds of other aircraft, sort of dodging in and out among the airliners.
May we know about the flying boat bases which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was inquiring into some seven months ago? He is a very quick worker and there are not many alternatives open, so perhaps we may know what is happening about that. I would also ask how many of the required internal airports are in use.
I have one last question about Heath Row. What is being done to instal blind landing equipment? When will it be complete and, if it cannot be completed for a considerable time, why was F.I.D.O. discontinued at Heath Row? The delay which has taken place is a profound disappointment. The Empire services are delayed and the Dominions have been driven to buy foreign aircraft. That is a great disappointment to me, and I am sure it is to the Government. I made an agreement in South Africa, which was fully endorsed by everybody, that they would take Yorks to be followed by Tudors. I hoped the same would apply to Australia. The Tudors have not materialized, and it was an essential feature of the Commonwealth parallel partnership scheme that we should use the same aircraft. It would be a saving in maintenance and in repair and in being able to exchange aircraft.
Then there is West Africa. We are flying again but are we flying over the Sahara? When I was in Belgium in July, I found that they had started the service to Leopoldville. They were not going the long way round but they were flying over the Sahara. Lagos and Accra are on the route to the Congo. What has happened to the plan for the internal services in Nigeria? You only want a few aircraft, and the aerodromes are already made. 346 We built thirty during the war. It really does hold up Empire development very much. There is one other point I would like to raise: What is the position of companies vis-à-vis the trade unions? There has been a good deal of discussion and debate about this. I am not going to argue the merits of a closed shop, because there will be other opportunities for that. Those who do advocate a closed shop say that if you get a great majority in a union, then the other people ought to join the union. Well, there is a good deal to be said on the other side, but I am not going to say it. What is alleged to be happening in these companies to-day is that there is a union with large membership.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am obliged to the noble Lord. This union contains, in one case, sixty per cent. of the ground staff of the company, and in another eighty per cent. or more of the ground staff. It has got the great majority of the people in it. But the companies are not to recognize that union. They are to recognize a series of unions who have only the remaining sections divided up between them. Whatever may be said on the merit of the closed shop, it is the first time I have ever heard it argued that the shop should be closed against the majority and closed in favour of the minority. If that is the position, the Minister ought to look into it, and we certainly ought to have an explanation.
None of us can be satisfied with what is happening. Is it hopeless to ask the Government to learn by experience and in this, the newest of all industries, not to be the blind slaves of their ideology? It would surely be better if the Minister of Civil Aviation were to concentrate upon the equipment and operational control of airfields, and not try to run the whole industry of air transport. The charter companies are full of work. It is a very fortunate thing that we secured them some liberty when the Bill was passing through this House, though I am not sure whether they have to pay a toll to the Government Corporations as a kind of unearned increment. The Minister has a great opportunity to think again. He is a practical business man, or, at any rate, he is the legal adviser of business men. Can he persuade his colleagues to profit by experience and encourage enterprise and 347 initiative in this new and competitive industry? If he could do that, I for one would not mock. I would give his Ministry all the help I can, and so, I am sure, would all my friends. If the Government persist in going on blindly on this course which is already so strewn with failure and frustration, if they persist in losing the Battle of Britain in the airways of peace, then, indeed, the country will hold them to strict account. I beg to move.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, as this is the first occasion upon which civil aviation has been debated in your Lordships' House since the Act received the Royal Assent at the beginning of August, I hope that it will be agreeable to your Lordships if I intervene now with a view to making a general statement and, at the same time, deal with some of the questions raised by the noble Viscount opposite. Then, by the indulgence of your Lordships, at the close of the debate I will reply to further questions of the noble Viscount and to such other points as may have arisen in the course of the debate. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for having moved this Motion. There is no one better qualified than the noble Viscount, whose name will always be associated with civil aviation as the first Minister of Civil Aviation. He speaks from a wealth of experience and knowledge derived from a long association with the activities of the air both military and civil. I am a Minister of six weeks' standing.
It would not, I think, be unreasonable to say that when the Ministry was first established it was little more than the old Civil Air Division of the Air Ministry with a Minister put at its head. It was not until April of the present year that a permanent secretary in the person of Sir Henry Self was appointed to the Ministry which was then established with all the paraphernalia of a first-class Government Department. When, in the early part of last month, I was appointed to the Ministry I was amazed to find how, within so short a period, there had been gathered round a very small nucleus a fully articulated organization working with extreme enthusiasm, and filled with zeal for bringing to a successful outcome this new and vastly important enterprise. They were interested and intrigued by some of the 348 problems of organization presented by the new set-up and in the working out of the problems involved by the framework created by the Act of 1946.
I think this Ministry stands apart from other Ministries as regards the functions which they perform and the relation between the various organs with which the Ministry is concerned. It is unlike any other civil Department. It is more akin to a Service Department in that it not only has an administrative side, but also has an operational or service side. There are still gaps in the organization both on the administrative and on the operational sides, but I am hopeful that these will soon be filled. In addition to the ordinary administrative functions pertaining to any Government Department, the Ministry has to exercise regulatory powers. It has to deal too with technical matters, to direct operational responsibilities, and supervise the three statutory Corporations. In other words, it has a responsibility, in some places general and in others more particular, in regard to this socialized industry. I believe I am to-day making the first statement on behalf of a Ministry responsible for one of the newly created publicly-owned industries.
In addition to the ordinary administrative work of a Government Department, there is, as I have said, the regulatory function. It is sometimes overlooked that my responsibilities as Minister extend over the whole of the British air and over the ground so far as it is required for use in connexion with the air. It is sometimes spoken of as if my Ministry were mainly concerned, or even solely concerned, with the three statutory Corporations. It is very natural that that should be a common belief because the three Corporations have, for one reason or another, been much in the public eye. They are a large part of my responsibility, but by no means the whole of it. I regard myself as having a responsibility towards the private charter companies as well as to the Corporations. Indeed, all the facilities which my Ministry can make available to private charter companies operating in their own sphere will be made available. I have already arranged for the Maybury facilities such as control, meteorological, and radio, to be available for the charter companies. In other words, these facilities will by no means be confined to aerodromes used by the statutory Corporations, 349 they will be made available also to the private charter companies. That is in consonance with the policy that we have a responsibility to those who wish to travel by air to see that they may travel safely by air.
But if these facilities are to be provided by my Ministry, there must be a reciprocal obligation on the part of the charter companies to bring themselves up in operational standards to the requisite standards of safety which I am laying before Parliament as part of the revised Air Navigation Safety Regulations, which I hope will lead to that end, amongst its other objectives. I welcome the formation of the British Air Charter Association, and I look forward to co-operating with that body speaking on behalf of the charter companies. The charter companies may expect complete sympathy and full co-operation from my Ministry in their own sphere in flying and operations.
I feel also that club and private flying have great contributions to make. The private flying clubs were responsible for producing some of the finest pilots who served with the R.A.F. in the last war. I am very anxious to encourage private flying and also gliding, which, perhaps, teaches air-mindedness to a greater extent than almost any other form of use of the air. Consequently, I have decided to set up a committee representative of interests closely concerned with club and private flying, to advise me on the matter generally, and with special reference to the development of light aircraft suitable for the future needs of club and private aviation in this country, which shall at the same time be as cheap and economical as is possible in matters of production and subsequent operation and maintenance. The Committee will also be asked to advise on the needs of the gliding clubs. As I have said, I am most anxious to encourage them as a means of providing the cheapest facilities for the greatest number of interested people to gain useful and pleasurable experience of the "feel" of the air and of a form of recreational flying which ought to enjoy a much wider popularity than it has enjoyed hitherto. It is our wish to encourage private flying and gliding as a measure towards establishing and maintaining this country as a leader in the air age, and I am glad to say that Mr. Whitney Straight, Chairman of the Royal Aero 350 Club, has agreed to become Chairman of the representative Committee.
A great part of the responsibilities of my Ministry lie in the technical field, in advising the Minister on the various questions that from time to time arise, whether at the instance of the Corporations or of any other users of the air or on the initiative of the Ministry itself. There is in course of being set up an Operational Research Board, within the Ministry, for research in all matters with respect to which the Ministry has operational responsibilities. That will be in close contact with the research branches of the three Corporations which are more concerned with research into actual flying operations. We have encouraged experiments in flight refuelling, and operational trials have already taken place up to a height of 20,000 feet with great success. The trials are continuing during the winter months to check up on whether the success achieved during the summer will be maintained under the conditions of winter. If those flight refuelling experiments achieve the results which are hoped for then we shall have achieved great advantages in the saving of fuel which forms so large a percentage of the "all-up" weight of aircraft when taking off, particularly on long-range operations. We shall also have gained the advantage that intermediate landings at non-traffic points can be eliminated, thus saving time involved in coming down to refuel, aerodrome charges at the refuelling aerodrome and the additional liability to maintenance expense which springs from aircraft ground, as apart from air, movements. I do not wish to say that I am hopeful, because that would be to express an opinion which I am not qualified to express, as to the outcome of these experiments. But I will say that if they achieve the objects for which they have been instituted, then very important advances will have been made to help us to resolve a great number of our difficulties.
Another matter into which investigation is being made is jet-assisted take-off, but it will be a considerable time before there can be any substantial progress in this matter to report. Meanwhile development is proceeding. Then, in addition to the functions which I have put under the heading of "regulatory," my Ministry has direct operational responsibility for the 351 whole ground organization and air traffic control organization in this country. Much work still remains to be done with regard to the provision of facilities. I think it may interest your Lordships to know that as regards aerodrome organization, the country is to be divided into four divisions—one for Scotland with headquarters probably at Renfrew; one for the North including Northern Ireland, with headquarters either at Liverpool or Manchester; one for the South and West of England with headquarters at Bristol; and a London and Eastern division will take the London area and the south-east corner of England. The Traffic Controllers will be responsible for the general control of traffic within their divisions and at the aerodromes. Within the divisions there will be an Aerodrome Commandant responsible for the day-to-day working of the technical services of the aerodrome and the whole of the business management of it. Aerodrome Commandants will be appointed almost immediately to London Airport, to Northern Ireland and to Prestwick, and the appointment to the post of Divisional Controller to the London Division is likely to be made in the early future.
I should say a further word with regard to the Scottish Divisional Office. As undertaken in both Houses of Parliament during the passage of the Civil Aviation Bill, there will be a Board established in connexion with aerodrome management. This Board will be under the Chairmanship of the Divisional Controller and the members of it will be selected by myself in consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland. This Board should. I hope and believe, be of very great assistance to the Divisional Controller in dealing with the problems of aerodrome management.
I think, perhaps, this may be a convenient point to say something with regard to London Airport, to which the noble Viscount referred in his opening observations. My predecessor undertook that there should be published the lay-out of Heath Row. I am proposing to publish not only the lay-out but the supporting reasons showing why the particular lay-out has been adopted. The document is in the hands of the Stationery Office, and I hope that it will be ready for issue in the immediate future. Of course, I agree with the noble Viscount that the amenities at Heath 352 Row are not what we hope they will become; but, after all, it must be remembered that until a short time ago Heath Row was little more than a tented camp. A great deal of change has taken place since that time. The tents have disappeared; wooden buildings have been substituted. I should be the last person to suggest that it is what we should like to see, as the entry for foreign visitors into this country, yet I am hopeful that within a not-too-distant time we shall be able to do what I know the noble Viscount opposite wishes as much as I wish; that is, to provide not only comforts and amenities, and facilities which will enable passengers to pass quickly from the airport to or from the plane, but also buildings compatible with the dignity of the principal airport of entry into this country; or, at least (shall I say?), the principal airport of entry into London.
§ LORD NATHAN
I have made inquiries since the noble Viscount mentioned that matter before, and I understand that the position is that there have been no Brewster Sessions in that neighbourhood since the facilities were asked for.
§ LORD NATHAN
The whole matter is in hand, with a view to a licence being obtained. I think I can reassure the noble Viscount by saying that there are no ideological principles involved. It is merely a question of getting it done. With regard to London Airport, the noble Viscount asked whether it was necessary for someone to travel round on a bicycle in order to put on the lights. I can tell the noble Viscount that in nearly every instance there is a central control, and the complete central control will be finished in the very near future. What we have now is merely a temporary situation, extending to a part of the area to which the noble Viscount has drawn attention. I say to the noble Viscount—and I am sure the House will be glad to know this—that, as far as navigational and safety devices are concerned, London Airport is the most comprehensively-equipped in the whole world; and we shall exert every effort to maintain the lead which it at present holds.
353 Another function of my Ministry is its supervisory function, in relation to the three Corporations. I have necessarily had to give much thought to the relationship between the Ministry and the Corporations. The Act creates an entirely novel situation. In all cases, the overall general responsibility rests upon me as Minister. In some cases the Act imposes a specific responsibility upon me; in other cases it imposes a specific responsibility upon the Corporations. But I would say this—and I am conscious of the fact that I am throwing a hostage to fortune in doing so—that as regards the relations between the Ministry and the Corporations I am prepared to be judged by the fewness of the written directions which it is necessary for me to give. If I had to give a large number of formal directions, I should consider that I had failed. I believe the correct relationship is one of mutual confidence, and co-operation with the members and Chairman of the board—particularly the Chairman—who should know, as they know now, that at all times they can find my door open to them, and me ready to listen. We can then discuss matters of common concern, whether they come to me for the exercise of formal powers or for advice in a friendly way. I believe it is along those lines that we shall achieve the best results. At any rate, I believe that so far we have done well. Although the time has been short since I first occupied my present office, good relations have been established with the Chairman, which promise to lead to good results, in mutual co-operation and mutual confidence—informality, rather than formality.
It may interest your Lordships to know that on the whole the services run by these Corporations cover a very important mileage, amounting each week to between 400,000 and 450,000 miles. The frequencies on the existing routes will, of course, be increased and new services will be opened.
The noble Viscount asked me about services. He referred to the British plan, and he previously mentioned this following an answer given by me to a question in this House on November 19. I think the noble Viscount must have been referring to the statements which he made in your Lordships' House in January, 1945, when he specifically mentioned these routes (all 354 from the United Kingdom); to India, to South Africa, to Australia and New Zealand, to Canada, and the trans-Pacific route from Australia and New Zealand to Canada.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
If the noble Lord will forgive me—I was not. These routes were agreed years ago. What I was referring to were the very specific plans (all of which were set out and published by the railway companies two years ago) of the internal routes in this country, and the routes from England to the foreign countries. Those were the things about which the noble Lord said, in answer to a question, that we must wait and see the time-tables when they occur.
§ LORD NATHAN
I thought the noble Viscount referred, also, to Commonwealth routes. At any rate, he will not mind my giving the information. I will not keep from him the further information which he seeks. Those routes were specifically mentioned by the noble Viscount as being the routes which should be flown. I am in the happy position of being able to say that all these Commonwealth routes, as well as the route to the United States, are in regular operation by British airlines. I might give your Lordships a list of the routes which are being run, which includes and exceeds the list of routes mentioned by the noble Viscount on the occasion to which I have referred.
I wish to give this list, because I think it will remove a good deal of misunderstanding not only in your Lordships' House but outside. There are services from the United Kingdom to South Africa four times weekly; to India, four times weekly; to Australia, three times weekly and three connected by trans-Tasman service to New Zealand; to Canada twice weekly. There is a trans-Pacific service from Australia once a week to Canada and that is operated by Australian National Airways. From the United Kingdom to the United States there is a service four times weekly; to Egypt 17 times weekly; to Malaya once weekly; to Hong Kong one service weekly; from Singapore to Hong Kong once weekly; from the United Kingdom to West Africa, three times weekly; Palestine and the Lebanon, once; South Africa, Egypt and India, twice weekly. I should say that this last-mentioned service will be withdrawn at the end of the present year.
355 In addition to the main trunk routes that I have mentioned, there are others operated by British Overseas Airways radiating from Cairo to Turkey, Iraq, the Hejas, Ethiopia, Aden, Cyprus, Greece and Persia. Indeed, the only planned services on the trunk routes which are not yet operated by a British company are the extension to China and Japan of the Far East service, now terminating at Hong Kong, and a South China Sea Circular service connecting Hong Kong with Manilla, Sarawak, Singapore, Siam and French Indo-China. Both these extensions depend upon an increase of the B.O.A.C.'s flying boat fleet, and, so far as China is concerned, on the conclusion of an agreement the initial stages towards which have already been undertaken.
With the exception of the trans-Pacific route operated by Australian National Airways, all the routes which I have mentioned are operated by B.O.A.C. directly, although on the service to India the capacity has been augmented by a once-weekly service chartered by B.O.A.C. The noble Viscount mentioned West Africa. Local and regional services in the Colonies are the responsibility of the local authorities sometimes with the assistance of B.O.A.C. as in the case of West Africa, East Africa and Malaya. The capacity for West Africa, as well as many other routes, is not equal to the demand. As regard Europe, I think the noble Viscount wished to know about the services.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I do not want the noble Lord to alter the flow of his explanation. I asked him how many services a week there were from the United States to here. He has given, I think, four a week from here to the United States.
§ LORD NATHAN
It is very true that the noble Viscount did mention that in his speech but, if he will forgive me for saying so, he did not mention it in the note he sent to me and, consequently, I cannot answer that question offhand. I will let him have that information, of course. So far as the European services are concerned, they run to Paris; Brussels; Amsterdam; Copenhagen; Stavanger—Oslo; Gothenberg—Stockholm; Gothenburg—Stockholm—Helsinki; Bordeaux—Lisbon; Bordeaux—Madrid—Gibraltar; Bordeaux—Madrid; Marseilles—Rome—Athens; Marseilles—Rome—Athens—Instanbul—Ankara; 356 Prague; Marseilles—Rome; Hamburg—Berlin; Frankfurt—Vienna, and they run with varying frequencies from 21 per week to Paris. I cannot tell the noble Viscount at this moment precisely what services not yet inaugurated will be begun, but I can tell him that services to and from Poland and the Balkans have not yet begun because they have not yet been authorized by the Governments of those countries. One route in respect of which we have been compelled to curtail certain services during the winter is to Milan, which has had to be cut out during the winter months.
With regard to internal services, I scarcely know how most conveniently to put it to your Lordships, as the schedule covers some four pages. I do not think your Lordships would wish me to weary you by reading that. I will tell your Lordships that, subject only to the difficulties in securing adequacy of aircraft, the services set forth in the list in June, I think it was, of this year, are being run, and as soon as capacity aircraft are more easily available, the remainder will run, and others, too. The services are at present being run by the various Railway Airlines, by the Isle of Man Air Services and by the Channel Islands Air Services on behalf of the Corporation, and these companies will be taken over by the British European Airways Corporation. Negotiations to that end have reached an advanced point.
The noble Viscount also asked me about the South American services. A thrice-weekly service is provided to the Argentine, via Brazil and Uruguay; a once-weekly service to Chile via Brazil and the Argentine; a once-weekly service to Brazil; a once-fortnightly service to Venezuela via Bermuda and Jamaica. There is a mission from my Ministry at present in South America discussing further agreements, as a result of which it is hoped to start new routes in the Caribbean and the west coast of South America within a measurable period of time.
The noble Viscount asked about Transport Command—how far Transport Command was carrying services which should be carried be the Corporations. So far as B.O.A.C. is concerned, the only trunk routes operated by Transport Command have been to the Middle East, India and Malaya, on which B.O.A.C. and Transport Command operate parallel services. The 357 retention of these Transport Command services is a long-term military commitment, whether or not the capacity provided for B.O.A.C. is sufficient to cope with normal traffic demands. As regards Europe all services operated by B.E.A.C., which come within the contemplated programme of B.E.A.C., have been handed over by Transport Command, with the exception of services to Warsaw, Belgrade, Sofia, Budapest and Bucharest, for which the consent of the Governments concerned has not yet been secured. I have endeavoured, at greater length perhaps than some would have wished, to give the information for which the noble Viscount asked.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
There is one other thing of interest to Scottish members particularly. That is the increase in services which has taken place to Scotland and in Scotland.
§ LORD NATHAN
The noble Viscount did press the point that there were certain other lines running into this country and we were not running services to the other lines' country. He is quite correct so far as France to Prestwick is concerned, but that is run not by Air France, but run on behalf of Air France. He said by Air France.
§ LORD NATHAN
Amsterdam to Prestwick is also run, and from Iceland, Prestwick, Copenhagen. Now those services which I have mentioned, although they are run from the countries indicated are, all of them, run by Scottish Aviation in British aircraft, and there you have a very valuable invisible export, without prejudice to the services which can be run nevertheless to those countries from this country by the British Corporations a soon as aircraft are available for that purpose. There are also one or two other routes run by Air France, and there are also the Scandinavian Air Lines. I think those are all.
As regards aircraft the difficulty does not arise so much in respect of small and 358 medium sized aircraft, but the noble Viscount will appreciate that with the larger aircraft, where there have un-doubtedy been setbacks and disappointments, the question with regard to the new types of aircraft must have its answer in a broad review. The general picture is that the three Corporations are being provided with new types of British aircraft, such as the Viking and the Tudor, the first of which is already in service while both marks of the second should be in service next year. While I am convinced that we have first-class aircraft for short stage and medium stage flights, we have not yet got aircraft which are fully competitive with the best in the world to-day on the long stages. The reasons for this go back to the war and the time when the noble Viscount was himself in office. We are hopeful that the period of this state of affairs will be short, and we look forward to seeing first-class British replacements in service by 1951 competing successfully with any aircraft that they are then likely to meet.
The noble Viscount asked particularly about Tudors. Like every new type the Tudors have had to go through a period of severe testing and modification of design, and there has been no unusual prolongation of the period. Indeed, owing to the utilization of design features of the successful military counterpart, the Tudors have been developed from the preliminary stages in a much shorter period than would have been possible for producing new commercial types designed as such ab initio. But there have been corresponding disadvantages. The adaptation of the aircraft designed to commercial use has entailed a series of teething troubles in addition to those inevitably experienced by all new types. These difficulties have had to be faced in order to secure the saving of time essential to our plans. In the case of the [...] the first aircraft has been in the hands of B.O.A.C. since September for development flying and training preparatory to introduction into service. I am not advised of the results of the preparatory flying but the plan is to bring the type into operation on the route between the United Kingdom and Canada this coming spring or early summer. A certificate of airworthiness has been issued for a payload of just over the total of 4,000 pounds called for in the specification. Deliveries of the full production 359 programme are expected to be completed by the spring or early summer.
Turning to the Tudor II, the position is that production deliveries should start next month and progressively build up during the early months of 1947. The complete certificate of airworthiness has not yet been issued but the first prototype has been flying for some time, under an experimental category. The present indications are that the pay-load will not be markedly below that specified in the original order, which is 9,760 lbs. I give these figures because the noble Viscount asked for them. As is not unusual in the development of new types, the "all-up" weight will probably be somewhat higher than originally estimated, and this may involve limitations on effective pay-load for operations from aerodromes at high altitudes. This will necessarily react on the dates by which the types can be introduced into service throughout the routes to Australia and South Africa, respectively. Urgent action is in train to get the ground facilities into line with requirements at the earliest possible dates; meanwhile the aircraft during 1947 will come into operation as far as possible along the Empire routes. In broad, it is hoped that the ground organisation as far south as Northern Rhodesia will be made adequate for operation of the Tudor type by the time they come into service. It is possible that the South African authorities may find themselves unable, in view of the construction of a new airport, to undertake the expansion necessary at the existing airport at Johannesburg to permit the Tudor II to operate there. In that event the through service to Johannesburg will probably be operated with Tudor I's while the Tudor II will terminate at an earlier stage until the new airport becomes available.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
That is rather serious. It really means the limitation of flying on high altitudes—the important place is Nairobi—and the Tudor II is going to be quite ineffective for the South African route.
§ LORD NATHAN
I am rather anxious not to become too deeply involved for reasons which I will explain. I can, however, tell the noble Viscount this. It would be a misunderstanding to think that at Nairobi a new airport is necessarily required. There are certain extensions and elaborations needed but, as far as 360 Nairobi is concerned, I am advised that the work can be completed by the time the Tudor II is ready.
§ LORD NATHAN
I said at Nairobi. So far as Salisbury is concerned, there, as I understand the position—the noble Viscount will realize that I have only been there six weeks—it is usable in the summer but not usable in the winter. The question therefore arises as to whether the plane could fly from Nairobi to Johannesburg. It is likely that that can only be done, if at all, by the loss of pay-load beyond a degree which would be tolerable. But a survey party has recently been making a very careful survey of the African route, and as a result of that survey it would appear that it will be possible to bring into play an intermediate aerodrome new for this purpose in Northern Rhodesia at N'dola. If that is done—and there is no reason why it should not be done by the time it is needed for use—then I understand that there is no reason why these planes should not run to Johannesburg. That should, and we believe will, go a long way towards overcoming the difficulty.
I do not wish to speak further on that subject, because at this moment Lord Knollys, the Chairman of B.O.A.C., is in South Africa discussing these matters with the South African Government. I am sending a technical party to that part of the world in the immediate future to have discussions, especially with the Colonial Governments concerned, with a view to getting things done and making appropriate arrangements for our respective responsibilities. I should not like to say any more on that subject which might disturb the negotiations which are now taking place between the South African Government and the Chairman of B.O.A.C., upon which he is in communication with us.
Now I turn to the Australian route. There the restoration after Japanese occupation and the improvement of ground facilities east of Calcutta will not be completed in time to permit of through operation of the Tudor II's next autumn, and until adequate facilities are available the Tudor II's will not operate beyond Calcutta. Measures have been 361 taken to seek temporary solutions for these difficulties pending the creation of new airports at the critical points and surveys have been made and are being actively pursued to that end.
The noble Viscount asked about the Marathon aircraft. Following successful tests of the prototype, negotiations are in progress with the firm by the Ministry of Supply for a production contract for the prospective needs of the British Corporations and their associated companies. The contract will cover both the Mark I, with Gypsy piston engines, and the later version, the Mark II, fitted with Mamba propeller-turbine engines. We are extremely hopeful of this type. The Brabazon I prototype with piston engines is expected to fly in the summer of 1947 and to be followed in due course by the second prototype with propeller-turbine engines. The plans for this type, allowing for the incidents and difficulties to be expected inevitably with such a new and far-reaching development, are based on its introduction into actual service in 1951. As to the jet successors to the Tudors, I assume the reference is to be types known as the Brabazon III and IV. The Brabazon III is the subject of a contract with Messrs. A. V. Roe and much work has been done in the design stages. It is becoming increasingly necessary however, to ensure that the type shall be so designed as to take advantage of the rapid progress in power plant development made during the last two years. The arrangements have recently been reviewed from this standpoint and the design is being actively reshaped on that basis. The Brabazon IV is, of course, the De Havilland 106. Much work has been done in the research and development necessary to determine the basic information against which the design will proceed.
I should like to take this opportunity of expressing profound regret at the tragic loss of Captain Geoffrey De Havilland during the course of the experiments, and I wish to pay a warm tribute to the courage and devotion with which he pressed forward these adventures into the unknown regions of high-speed flight. Messrs. De Havilland are now giving definite shape to the basic features of the design, and the Ministry of Supply is negotiating a production contract to ensure that the whole project moves forward as rapidly as possible. We are similarly 362 pressing forward with the big Saunders-Roe flying boat, for which a production order has been placed. Then, in the shorter term picture, we have the Hermes IV as well as the successor to the Vickers Viking. The questions put to me by the noble Viscount raise such wide issues and involve, for their proper comprehension, so much detail that I could not hope to be able fully to place the position before your Lordships without occupying your Lordships for far greater a time than your Lordships would tolerate, long as I have been already. But the questions were put to me specifically.
I think I must ask to be allowed to make one or two statements as regards general policy. If I were asked what is the general policy which I wish to lay down for my Ministry, I should say it would be to pursue, first of all, safety: secondly, safety: thirdly, safety: and then, regularity, adequacy of service, and speed. If I put speed last, it is not because I underrate the importance of speed; it is because I feel that if the confidence of the public is to be obtained it is essential that they should know that they will arrive safe and sound at their destinations, and that they will leave home at the prescribed time and arrive at their destination safely at the prescribed time. So I put regularity very high. The adequacy of the service arises out of the aircraft becoming available. There is also the question of quality of service; we aim high.
I emphasize the question of safety, and I attach the first importance to it. Consequently I have decided to set up an expert body to exercise responsibility, under my authority, for all matters pertaining to safety in British civil aviation. I am setting up an Air Safety Board which will have these terms of reference:To keep under continuous review the needs of safety in British civil aviation and recommend measures calculated to promote safety in respect of bothThe Board will be empowered to initiate action in matters of urgency and it will have freedom of initiative in directing inquiry into and study of all aspects of air safety. The membership will be as follows: Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick 363 Bowhill, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara—who I am glad to acknowledge has accepted the invitation to that effect which I have extended to him—and Air Vice Marshal Collier. Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill is Chief Aeronautical Adviser to my Ministry and Air Vice Marshal Collier is Director-General of Technical Services. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, for his readiness to join, the Air Safety Board. From his position as Chairman of the Air Registration Board and from his altogether exceptional experience of civil aviation, his membership will be of the greatest value. It is my intention to make a fourth appointment, particularly to provide a standing personal contact with current research and development work. I hope to complete the Board in this way at an early date, but in the meanwhile it will be constituted as I have indicated in order to deal with current problems. I should add that, in accordance with arrangements which have been approved by the Air Council, representatives of the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force Commands will be invited to join in the Board's deliberations as and when necessary to ensure effective co-ordination of civil and military flying. This is a standing body of the highest technical qualifications. It will work in close consultation with airline operators and technical and professional aeronautical bodies and will have a permanent secretariat provided by the Director of Operations at my Ministry.
- (a) the operation of British civil aircraft throughout the world; and
- (b) the efficiency of the system of ground facilities provided for civil aircraft of all nations operating over the United Kingdom."
In the course of the debates on the Civil Aviation Bill a great deal of discussion took place, very naturally and very properly, with regard to the situation at Scotland. I wish to say at once that I take a profound interest in seeing that Scotland is well and properly served by air services. I hope that Prestwick (to which so much attention and indeed affection has been given) will, under the direction of my Ministry, and certainly with its good will, have a vigorous, active and prosperous life within the general framework set up by the Civil Aviation Act. I am visiting Scotland myself later in the week where I hope to make personal contacts and to examine Scottish problems on the spot.
§ LORD NATHAN
I am going by air. One of my first acts as Minister was to 364 ask my Parliamentary Secretary to examine the problems of Scotland, and he has recently returned from a visit to Scotland specially paid in this regard. I am hopeful that it was as valuable to the people of Scotland who are interested in these matters as it was to me and my Ministry. In the course of the debate undertakings were given that a Scottish Advisory Council would be established, and certain other organs in connexion with air services in Scotland. Those undertakings will, of course, be implemented. I am able to tell your Lordships that invitations for the membership of this Scottish Advisory Council have been issued, and I hope to have the answers to enable me to make an announcement of the names within the next few days. Following on the actual establishment of the Scottish Advisory Council, there will come the creation of the Scottish Division, and also the Scottish Board in connexion with the management of aerodromes. I hope to be able to say something further and in more detail about that when I speak on Thursday in Edinburgh as the guest of the Lord Provost of that great and lovely city. An Advisory Council is also to be set up for Northern Ireland. There again the position is the same—invitations have been issued and the Advisory Council is about to be constituted.
The noble Viscount opposite asked me about the Air Transport Advisory Council, the statutory body to be set up under the Civil Aviation Act with certain statutory obligations and duties. Now the drafting of the regulations appertaining to that body is somewhat complicated. Those whose particular concern it is to deal with drafting have been very much pressed, but I am hopeful that within the next few weeks I shall be able to lay the regulations in Parliament where they have to be laid and that the body will actually come into effective existence in the early part of the coming year. Meanwhile I propose, supplementary to the Air Transport Advisory Council, to appoint a National Civil Aviation Consultative Council. This will be a purely consultative body which will assist me in the discharge of my particular functions. It will thus differ from the Air Transport Advisory Council and from the Scottish and Northern Ireland Advisory Councils. The membership of the Committee will be drawn from certain easily defined and recognizable groups, the group of opera- 365 tors, of personnel, of constructors, users, and representatives of the general body of the population. I would very willingly give the names of the bodies which have been asked to nominate representatives to this Consultative Council, but I think it will be unnecessary for me to do so now. Both the Scottish Advisory Council and the Northern Ireland Advisory Council, of course, will be included in those to be invited to send representatives. I propose to invite someone who, I am advised, is well versed in Welsh affairs to become a member of that Consultative Council. It will meet at regular intervals under my Chairmanship, with my Parliamentary Secretary as Vice-Chairman, to discuss current problems and to hear statements from me with regard to developments in progress, and to provide a medium for the ventilation of the views of the constituent bodies with regard to aviation matters which they may desire to raise.
Now I said in my opening observations that I would, at the conclusion of the debate, answer further questions and direct myself to the points raised by subsequent speakers. I have spoken for longer than I had anticipated, but I wished to make statements which I hope have not been found uninteresting. I have endeavoured to deal with a business matter from the business angle, feeling that the politics of this matter are very largely behind us. What we have to do now is to make the thing work and to deal with it as a matter of business. That is the way in which I approach it, and that is the way in which I hope I have shown your Lordships that I regard it. No doubt mistakes have been made, and certainly in the future we shall have many setbacks and many difficulties; but we shall make those mistakes as few as possible and be resolute in the future to benefit by the mistakes which we have made in the past and to see that our progress is steady progress. I think I can at least say to your Lordships that civil aviation is on the move.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ EARL AMHERST
My Lords, before I address you this afternoon I wish to make it clear that I am an employee of the British European Airways Corporation. I do not speak to the House as a member of that Corporation, but as a member of the House and from the point of view of these Benches. The Minister 366 has underlined the word "safety" in declaring his policy. He underlined it three times, and he also said that what we have to do is to make the thing work. I do not think anybody would disagree with those two statements. I would, however, suggest to him that a prerequisite for both those things is order in the air, and there are two things you require to get that order in the air. The first is a unified system of air navigation and control, and the second the power behind that control to see that the regulations and navigation instructions are carried out. I think one would say that like a rarer commodity this order in the air should begin at home. For the moment I believe we are engaged in a policy of adopting the radar system known as GEE, coupled with VHF (very high frequency) communications between air and ground and ground and air, and also a system to bring machines into the final approach and landing in bad weather, a system known as SBA, standard beam approach. This last system is on a temporary arrangement until the adoption of the P.I.C.A.O. agreed system of instrument landing.
The reason we have embarked on this policy—I think I am right in saying that we have—is that in technical opinion this particular system is the best to date in areas of high traffic density. Probably the areas in which British civil aviation will have to compete in which there is the highest traffic density, coupled with the worst weather, are to be found in this country and Europe. That is not to say that there are not other systems which are more suitable for portions of the Empire air routes or the Atlantic routes, both north and south, but I would rather confine my remarks this afternoon to the area with the highest traffic density, Europe and this country. Quite honestly if we are to avoid a mass of multiplicity of equipment and procedure which, apart from expense, will probably lead to confusion and accidents, we should, having adopted a system in this country, do our best to see that a similar and reciprocal system is adopted in those portions of Europe open to our civil aviation. I understand that several if not all of the Governments affected have been impressed and are in favour of using this system, but that the limiting factor of their adopting it is the provision of equipment and the training of the technical 367 personnel required to man their ground stations. I think it would be most helpful if the Minister could tell us at the end of the debate what progress has been made in this connexion.
The next point is the authority lying behind the control. At the present moment I think it is not too strong to say that the situation is far from satisfactory. In fact our civil aviation is battling with the winter weather under hazards that the Royal Air Force during the war would not have tolerated—that is quite apart from the risk of enemy action—for the reason that during the war there was a co-ordinated control system backed by the discipline of the Service to enforce it. I think I am right in saying that the functions of our civil control officers are at present purely advisory, and they cannot do more than advise. They can advise the captain of an aircraft to fly such and such a course, at such and such a height, and on his approaching an aerodrome in bad weather advise him to circuit right or circuit left, but they cannot do more than that. If the captain of that particular aircraft decides to disregard those instructions all the control officer can do is to expostulate.
I hope you will not think it a waste of time if, as an illustration of that, I tell you of two instances which occurred recently in the London area. Both instances were under conditions of bad weather, low cloud and so forth. The first occurred when two aircraft attempting to land broke cloud somewhere at a height of about 200 feet, and proceeded to circle the airport, one in a right-hand circuit and one in a left-hand circuit. Quite apart from the fact that the whole control and operation of the airport was held up until these two aircraft were on the ground, there was, of course, the risk to the passengers and to the aircraft. The second instance was under somewhat similar conditions when two aircraft landed on the same runway, one landed from one end as, simultaneously, the other landed from the other end. I do not think it is necessary for me to point the moral. It must be remembered that all four aircraft were carrying fare-paying and, presumably, trusting members of the general travelling public. In two of these aircraft the captains were obviously disobeying the advice or instruction given by Control.
368 I believe both aircraft were foreigners. Surely the position is analogous to a foreign gentleman who arrives in this country and proceeds to drive his car on our roads and shoots past the traffic lights. The arm of the law would step in very quickly and, after the necessary proceedings, the offender would be relieved of a suitable sum of money in one or another of our police courts. Surely the captain of aircraft, whether a foreigner or one of our own nationals, should not be allowed to cross the traffic lights of the air with impunity. There is a corollary to this, and I would draw the attention of the Minister to it. If the control instructions of airports are disregarded then the aircraft interval increases, and the saturation point of the airport is more quickly reached with the obvious implication that you will have to find more new airports. I do suggest to the Minister that consideration be given now to investing the control officers with sufficient and appropriate authority to enable them to enforce the regulations and to bring offenders to book should they not obey the instructions given from Control.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I agree with the noble Lord. It is important that these rules should be enforced but is there not that power? Section 6 of Article VIII of the Interim Agreement at Chicago lays down:Each member State undertakes to adopt measures to ensure that every aircraft flying over or manœuvring within its territory and that every aircraft carrying its nationality mark, wherever it may be, shall comply with the rules and regulations relating to the flight and manœuvre of aircraft there in force. Each member State undertakes to insure the prosecution of all persons violating the regulations applicable.
§ EARL AMHERST
I am glad the noble Viscount has raised that point because I think that, while it is so laid down, the present situation is such that the control officer has no power whereby to cause such a prosecution. He is, in fact, in a purely advisory capacity; he has not the appropriate powers, and that is why I ask the Minister to see that he is given these powers.
I would next like to draw the Minister's attention to the development of the services. The full development of the services does not rely only on the provision of aircraft and skilled crews; it also relies 369 on the provision of airports complete with all the necessary up-to-date equipment. Airports outside this country are not under our control, but airports in this country are. Unfortunately some of the airports we have inherited from the pre-war era are not suitable for modern operation; in fact, the majority of the airports we shall have to use will require modifications, extension of runways, the installation of new equipment and, in some cases, new buildings. All this takes labour and material and, quite understandably, the priority for these must go for housing. But is the Minister satisfied that he has sufficient power to his elbow to get his fair share of labour and material for the building of airports with their equipment in sufficiently rapid time to enable the services to develop? I would also ask the Minister whether he has any difficulty in obtaining Treasury sanction for the expenditure on these airports, with special reference to obtaining the ground outside the perimeter of the airport which is necessary to instal the beacons for the standard beam approach and similar devices.
Very shortly the Minister, through his Ministry, is going to become the owner, proprietor, or manager, of some sixty or more airports in this country. I think either the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary has said that he proposes to establish civic centres at quite a few of these airports. Presumably these civic centres will have such amenities as bars, restaurants, and possibly cinemas—in fact, all the facilities that will attract the general public apart from fare-paying passengers. If this is so, unless he proposes to sub-contract this ancillary business to other concerns, the Minister will find himself directly concerned in a large way in the catering and amusement business. Therefore, I suggest to him the time may be ripe to consider the setting up of a fourth Corporation to manage the whole of this large undertaking, including the technical side of the airport as well as this ancillary business, in the same way as the three Corporations have been formed to take care of the airline business. It was the general experience of airport operators and owners before the war that it was impossible to make financial ends meet out of purely flying activities without levying fees on the operators to such an extent that they could not possibly pay them. With the greater increase in the size of airports and the equipment to be installed 370 this gap may be even greater. Therefore, it will be very essential that these ancillary businesses should be run on sound commercial lines if they are to reduce the financial liability. And so I suggest the time may now be ripe to consider a fourth corporation.
In making these remarks this afternoon, I have done so, and I think it is the wish of the Benches from which I speak that I should do so, not with the intention of embarrassing the Minister, but with the intention of providing constructive criticism which may help him in doing this onerous and difficult job. I would like to join with the noble Viscount who opened this debate in offering my congratulations to the Minister on his new appointment.
§ 4.39 p.m.
My Lords, I would also like to congratulate my noble friend upon his appointment and also upon his very comprehensive and detailed speech. If he will allow me to say so, he gave the impression that he wished to convey of his plans for air travel—of safety, safety, and more safety. After all, that is what we want in civil aviation. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton—I am sorry he has gone out after his very long speech—also said that one of the three needs of civil aviation was airlines efficiently managed. I do not want to speak—indeed I am not competent to do so—about such matters as blind flying and traffic control in foggy weather which have been so very adequately described to us by Earl Amherst, but I have had some little experience of the efficiency of airlines, mainly because this year I have flown with my wife for upwards of 50,000 miles. I made a voyage by Springbok Air Line to South Africa and back at the beginning of the year. I have been on several excursions to the Continent of Europe by air. I have flown across the Atlantic, across the North American Continent to Mexico, down Central America, right down the west coast of South America, across the Andes to Argentina, then back on the South Atlantic route to London by the British airline, by way of Rio de Janeiro, Port Natal, Dakar, and Lisbon.
I have flown on American, Mexican, Czech, Dutch and British airlines. I want to say—and I am sure that this is the experience of everyone who has flown in foreign planes as well as our own—that in such matters as working efficiency, care 371 of passengers, general excellence of equipment and accommodation, the British airlines are streets ahead of every other. I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has not been able to stay in his seat. He talked about wading through mud to tents at Heath Row. Now, Heath Row, where I landed after a very long voyage only a few days ago, has no tents. It has most comfortable buildings, concrete paths to walk on and, apart from the need of a licence—a matter which did not trouble me as I was not suffering from air sickness or any other form of strain—I could see nothing wrong with it. Heath Row originally was quite a scratch affair for it was put together under great difficulties with regard to labour and materials, but the accommodation now compares very favourably indeed with, for instance, those congested aerodrome buildings at Amsterdam, and very well also with any of the American air stations. For one thing it is far less crowded than most of them.
And may I make this comparison between the British and the American custom in dealing with passengers. After all, it is passengers you want to attract. If people are going to send freight by air, they will send it by any old line—they do not care which so long as their goods are insured. But in order to get passengers you have to provide certain facilities and to give them a general sense of confidence and satisfaction in your line and your service. The Americans run their lines on much the same system as the railways are run. You buy your ticket and, if you are lucky, you get a place reserved for you. Then you are taken to your destination by air and, again if you are lucky, you arrive on time. After that the airline authorities have no further responsibility for you. When flying from Mexico City down to Panama for one night, to Lima, Peru, for one night, and Santiago in Chile for one night, I found that the Americans take no responsibility for getting passengers hotel accommodation or transporting them to and from the aerodromes, which are usually some way away. To my way of thinking, the last word in pettifogging (I do not like to use that word) lack of consideration was when in the early morning I was charged a dollar for a seat in a crowded taxi from my hotel at Panama to the aerodrome.
372 If there is no accommodation in the town where you halt for the night, well, that is just too bad and cannot be helped. As an illustration of this may I tell your Lordships what happened recently on the American line from Buenos Aires to New York. The aeroplane was held up at one point, Port Natal, for repairs—the whole service is very greatly overloaded and the amount of repairs done on the ground is amazing. It was held up for three days at Port Natal, which is not a very attractive little town, and a number of the passengers could find no accommodation on the ground and had to walk the streets all night. These passengers could not get accommodation at all and the American airline authorities did not make any arrangements for them. They had to spend their time walking about the town without any place in which to sleep for three days. The British officials offered to take some of the passengers on as they had some spare places in one of their machines, but that offer was refused. Under the American system from the time you arrive at the aerodrome of destination or terminal port or at the intermediate stopping places, you are no longer regarded as being any responsibility of the airline authorities.
With British airlines on the other hand you are taken care of all the time. Transport is provided to and from the aerodromes. The plane is met when you arrive at an airport for the night and you are taken to your hotel, or in the case of Port Natal a very comfortable hostel which the British South American Corporation have had the enterprise to fit up there. In the morning you are taken from your hotel or hostel to the aeroplane. Everything goes smoothly all the time, you get the impression that the authorities are really concerned for your comfort and wellbeing, and you are thoroughly well looked after. Travelling by American airline you are all right as long as you are in the air. The air hostesses are charming little ladies and the air stewards are excellent fellows. The captains of the aircraft, too, are perfectly efficient. But on land you pass out of the picture—it does not seem to matter what happens to you. The British look after you as a human being and as a citizen who is worthy of every care and attention. I am certain that in the long run this is going to bring results.
Now take the matter of flying to time. Flying from London Airport to New York 373 and from New York to Los Angeles and on the various other stages on the way we found that we were behind schedule every time both starting and arriving. Sometimes we were kept hanging about aerodromes for hours. No one could get any information about the causes of delay. We were not told when we should be likely to be going on or whether it was advisable to book a room for the night or simply trust to luck. The British officials provide all available information and advice. Travelling under British auspices we left Buenos Aires for London on the Tuesday morning and arrived at London on the Thursday afternoon just thirty minutes late. We travelled that immense distance across the American continent, down the South American continent via Central America and everywhere we were late on the flying schedule except for one stage which we flew in a Mexican machine with a Mexican crew. That was the stage from Los Angeles to Mexico City.
The truth is that the civil airlines in the United States are greatly overloaded. There is tremendous pressure on them. The different services are trying to carry too heavy a burden. Take conditions at Chicago or New York or any big city. We found that at any time of the day or night there was a queue of people waiting in the hope that somebody might have cancelled a passage on one of the machines or there might be a vacant seat in consequence of somebody having fallen sick. Five times as many people are trying to fly as there is accommodation for, and the inevitable result in the United States—I mention these things because the Americans after all have immense advantages, geographical advantages, over us—is congestion and overcrowding.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, made fun of Lord Winster because of his prophecy that in ten years time 160 aircraft a day would land at the London airport. To-day an aircraft a minute lands or takes off at La Guardia Airfield, New York throughout the twenty-four hours, and already that airfield has proved to be insufficient in size for the traffic. I particularly ask Lord Nathan to note this, that a new aerodrome is being built ten miles further west of La Guardia as a relief for the immense and growing air traffic. I believe that he will soon have to do something of the same sort for London. Every minute throughout the twenty-four hours a plane either lands or 374 takes off at the La Guardia field. At Chicago, which is really the Clapham Junction of the air of the North American Continent, it is one aircraft every forty seconds throughout the twenty-four hours. Fortunately the aerodrome there is on a very large flat plain and can be extended at very little cost. The Americans have these immense advantages and yet I repeat the comparison that for comfort and for giving passengers confidence and service and everything else which makes travel by air tolerable, the British have it every time.
I would only like to say that I think that what we heard from the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, requires a great deal of attention and consideration. After all, what we must do is to restore confidence in civil aviation. It has suffered rather a jar lately—this does not apply only to our airlines—owing to a number of rather spectacular accidents. I ask my noble friend if he could not possibly arrange through the international organization, P.I.C.A.O. (I think it could be done), to publish statistics showing accidents per mile flown by air as compared with accidents per mile travelled by rail and motor car. I can tell him at once, without any fear of making a mistake, that he will find that the numbers of accidents occurring to people travelling by motor car are far greater than the numbers for either rail or air. I am told by Americans who keep these statistics for miles travelled—not hours travelled—that the figures for the railways and the air are about equal. That is the position in America, where they have a lot of accidents on the railways and in the air as well. The truth of the matter, of course, is that as the air becomes more crowded there is more pressure to get passengers away from or on to the ground. Unless you have adequate facilities for blind flying and for traffic control in thick weather you come to saturation point too quickly and you have to curtail services and check development.
The control of blind flying was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and with great ability and detail by the noble Earl, Lord Amherst. The point about which I gave notice to my noble friend, was to ask him whether he is in touch—I am sure he is, but I would like to make certain—with the existing American developments going on towards finding means of keeping 375 control of aeroplanes flying in thick weather—the Teleran system of RCA, which I think has been described in the technical journals, and the Navar, the system of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company. These two systems appear to be most promising. What they do is to provide a map on the dashboard of the aeroplane and every other plane within the danger zone is shown automatically on this illuminated map. The controller on the ground can direct an aeroplane flying into a dangerous zone to alter its course. It is a very advanced development of radar, and still largely experimental, but I do not see why it should not be speeded up. I am told that these two systems may be in production in from two to five years, and I hope that we are, at least, as far advanced as are the Americans in this extended use of radar devices.
I noticed in The Times to-day a rather promising account of the Montreal Conference of the radio technical division of P.I.C.A.O. where some progress has been made with proposals for the international standardization of equipment. The noble Earl, Lord Amherst, said in effect that it was all very well; we might have the most excellent instruments for controlling and making safe blind flying in this country, but our planes have to go all over the world and if Europeon aerodromes—to take one example—are not similarly equipped, then flying to these foreign airports is not as safe as it might be. At the Montreal Conference, considerable progress was made towards agreement for the standardization of such equipment, but this code of standardization will have to be ratified by twenty-eight Governments and by the main body of P.I.C.A.O. and it is not expected to come into operation before January, 1951. That is rather a long time, and I suggest to my noble friend that we ought not to be stopped equipping all the aerodromes under our control at home and overseas with the latest devices at our command. We ought to save no expense at all; this will be an economy in the long run.
There is a great deal more which I would like to say on one or two of these questions, but I must make one comment on the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, for he stressed the need for all 376 aerodromes and aeroplanes throughout the world being equipped for control of flight in thick weather. All this points to the fact that we shall have to come in the end to a great international corporation. Such a corporation need not interfere with the management of the national concerns, but it would be concerned with general international control and with the standardization of equipment. I am quite certain that eventually we shall have to come to some such international arrangement. If it is true that the world is one to-day, it is particularly true of aviation matters.
The last question which I venture to ask my noble friend is this. I understand that he is presently coming into possession of that great new aerodrome beyond Camberley for civil aviation. It is only thirty miles from London, and I understand from my flying friends that it is less fog-ridden than London Airport in certain months of the year. I hope that no considerations of finance, or anything else, will unnecessarily delay the bringing into use for civil aviation of that magnificent new aerodrome. I hope also that my noble friend is pressing on with the question of making the vast number of military aerodromes scattered about the country available for the private owner who has to fly about the country on his lawful occasions, so that he may land and take off without too many formalities and delays. At present the business man who wants to go to a part of the country which has not a civil aerodrome, or a suitable private field, has to ask permission to land at a military aerodrome. It often takes a long time to obtain permission, and if he is on urgent business the delay may wreck his programmes. I ask my noble friend to look into that. He has only been in office six weeks, but he has made a good start and I am sure I am speaking for all my noble friends, especially on these Benches, in wishing him success in his administration of this vital service.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I would like straight away to offer my warm congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, on his appointment, and to say how glad I am that he can find it possible to visit Scotland at an early stage. I am sure that everyone will be glad to see him. I was interested to listen to 377 his words and glad to hear that he wished to encourage clubs and private flying and private charter companies, because I am certain that he will find it a very good investment for the development of aviation in this country. His picture of the Tudor aircraft was, however, very depressing. I think it is proper that we should recognize that twelve months ago, the Tudor would have been a useful stopgap; but to-day aircraft carrying two or three times its load are already flying the Atlantic, and aircraft intended to carry perhaps six to twelve times its load have been flown in another country. The Tudor, therefore, has really missed the mark and we have to go beyond it to see whether we are to regain the position which we all wish. On that point, I think it is worth remembering that the British aircraft industry has now been directed for seven years by the Government, and pretty nearly controlled for the last four years of that period. It was a free aircraft industry which produced the Spitfire, the Hurricane and the Mosquito, which were among the outstanding aircraft which played their part in the war just terminated.
I am sure that we all endorse what the Minister said in regard to safety, but there is one thing I would like to say on that point. Safety is not a matter of black magic; it is a matter of hard work and thinking. It depends on good maintenance, good training and good equipment. With your Lordships' permission I would like to say one thing about aerodrome and aircraft equipment because that is a field in which we as a country have led the world. Navigational methods and navigational aids which have been produced and developed in this country are far better than those in other countries, and it is in that field that the Americans had more to learn from us than in any other. I would pay testimony to one other item of aerodrome equipment; that is, the lighting system known as the Drem system, invented by Air Commodore Atcherley. That has brought about nothing less than a revolution in night flying and night flying technique. During the war this island was the most highly-equipped of any place in the world, and one had hoped that perhaps a large portion of that equipment would be transferred to the disposition of civil aviation. I do not think it is fair to say that that has happened. To-day, there are only 378 four aerodromes which can be described as being reasonably well-equipped. The noble Lord has said that London Airport is the most comprehensively equipped in the world. If that is true—and I am sure that the noble Lord has confirmed it—I very much hope that the information will go out in the notices to airmen, because from the notices from airmen which I happen to have checked I find that there are other airports with twice and four times as many blind approach aids as exist at London Airport at the present time.
We are to-day, as the noble Viscount has said, very much in the position of the consumer approaching the directors of an organization, and we find ourselves faced with a horizontal monopoly of formidable dimensions and unprecedented powers. This is nothing new, because these dangers were criticized in the discussion on the Civil Aviation Act. What I want to look at to-day is whether there are already signs of those qualities which one would expect to find in a monopolistic concern of such dimensions. I do not think that the noble Lord will seriously argue that the services to-day are adequate. I give a quotation from the Daily Telegraph which appeared last Friday:Yesterday I tried to book air passages to ten different countries and was told by three Government Corporations that I would have to get priority before they could fly me.I do not think that is really much of an exaggeration. The fact is that there is nothing like adequate services at the present time.
I will give you only one other example, if I may, and that is the British services between Paris and London—six a day, whereas I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, will confirm that the services between New York and Washington are nearly sixty a day, and both of them are respectively smaller cities than London and Paris. So there is a big field for development. What I should like to examine is whether there is any restriction of the resources available. The first point is whether the Corporations have used their equipment to the full extent. I am informed reliably that the average hours flown per aircraft per day in the Corporations over the last twelve months is a little over two. The best commercial practice demands a minimum of ten hours a day, rising even to fifteen. The noble Lord will possibly not know the answer to 379 this, but I would ask him to ensure that these figures are made available regularly. They are the best criteria for efficient operation. I will take another point. We are told today that JU52s are about to be used by the Corporations. Why were not they made available twelve months ago? They must have been just as available then as they are to-day. I know that the noble Lord was not then occupying his present office. The Germans never seemed to be short of JU52s in a serviceable condition. Why could not we have made them available if they are required for our own services?
Then we come to the subject of Dakotas. In a statement made about six months ago on the settlement of Lend-Lease, it was stated that 1,343 Dakotas were placed at the disposal of the British Government by the U.S.A. Even allowing that half of these may be required for the Royal Air Force, could not the general public have had the benefit of the services from, say, 600 or so? I know that there is a certain prejudice against using American aircraft, even during the period when British aircraft were not available, but I never heard of one V.I.P. during the war complaining of being flown by an American aircraft at the taxpayer's expense. Why should not the hard-pressed British taxpayer now have the benefit of these services which have been denied him in the past? These aircraft are here and could be made available straight away. I would add, too, one other point, which I think is unfortunate, and that is that many British pilots and air crew are not finding immediate employment in civil aviation. They are thereby losing their skill and will require a longer period of retraining; some, moreover, are seeking employment overseas. I have dealt with the question of restriction. I think that there are questions, there which require answering. Are the monopolistic powers which the Corporations hold being exercised in a restrictive manner?
I will deal now with the question of prices. The purpose of restriction, or, shall I say, inherent in restriction, is high prices. Here we find a rather startling fact: that in the European zone of the British Corporation the fare at present charged is two and a half times that which has been current in America over the last seven years. I will give comparative 380 figures. The fare from London to Paris is £7; from New York to Washington, which is slightly further, £2 15s. od. For that delightful journey from San Francisco to Reno the fare is £2 8s. od., and for the same distance from London to Amsterdam £8. I know that it is commonly stated that there is a very wide difference between the conditions in America and Europe. But is there really such a wide difference as these fares might indicate? It is true that petrol is cheaper in America. It is true that distances are greater. It is true that America is an economic unit.
Would the noble Earl forgive my interrupting him? He referred to me just now. Is not the truth of the matter that there is a very dense traffic between Washington and New York, and between Los Angeles and Reno, and therefore you can reduce the fares, whereas the traffic to the places on the Continent he cited is comparatively slight? Furthermore, in America you do not get transport to and from the aerodrome included in your fares.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I entirely agree with the noble Lord that if you have the services you will generate the traffic. Does the noble Lord contend that there is a bigger traffic between Washington and New York than between London and Paris?
No. The two capitals of the United States are Washington and New York and traffic between them is colossal, much more than that from London to Paris.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am afraid that I cannot agree with the noble Lord. If the services are there, I am perfectly certain that the intimate relation between the French capital and the British capital would develop to an extent which at present does not exist. May I put it this way? Granted that the traffic exists in America, the population is in fact heavier in Europe than in America. Not only that, but.there is more water to cross. There are many areas of water throughout Europe which always constitute an advantage to aviation compared with other forms of transport. I would say further that the cost of living 381 is cheaper in Europe. But this is not all. For these services we pay a subsidy of £10,000,000, whereas the American companies pay taxes, and very considerable ones. From the figures I have seen they pay about £6,000,000 a year in Income Tax and over and above that a Transportation Tax of a further £5,000,000 a year. So that for what is costing us £10,000,000 a year the American Exchequer is receiving £11,000,000. But even that is not all, because the American Postmaster gets a whack out of it, too. Last year he made 73,000,000 dollars, being the difference between the surcharge on letters and the cost of transportation. Eventually, therefore, there was a benefit to the American public of nearly £30,000,000 as against the taxpayer's expense in this country of £10,000,000. I think that postulates at least the necessity to examine the technique of management which exists in American companies at the present time. The noble Lord may say that he is tied to the International Air Transport Association. I would simply say this, either the fares charged are just and reasonable, or they are not. If they are not just and reasonable then I do not think the fact that the Association has the word "International" before it, justifies the fares which are charged. I have brought this out to show that restriction of services is tending to cause high fares.
I will go on to the second point which I have mentioned and it is this, the results of centralized control in London, a subject which was well discussed during the discussion of the Bill, and we now can look and see the results which centralization has brought. The Minister was well warned about it. It may therefore, be reasonable to suppose that he has taken adequate steps to watch the effect. If we look at the services leaving the British Isles today for foreign parts, we find that there are 141 services a week out of London and four from any other part of the United Kingdom. Of these four services, three are out of Poole and one originates from London and touches down in another part of the United Kingdom. That means to say there is no service originating from any other part of the United Kingdom except London and that is what I expected to find from centralized control in London, and that is what we have got. What I want to 382 ask the Minister is this. Is this what he calls "order in the air," a phrase of which we have got rather tired in the last year, or is this simply the gross inefficiency of his Corporations? To canalize traffic through London causes congestion in the air and congestion on the ground, so that even taxicab drivers are complaining of the traffic on the London streets.
What is it that Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle have done that they are unworthy of having any service connecting them with the Continent? Can you wonder that unemployment is growing in South Wales, in Lancashire and in Scotland, when you are pursuing a policy, as we see it, of full employment in London? That is the result of the policy you are pursuing by centralizing the direction and control of all services at one point to the detriment of services provided for the rest of the country. I would like, if I may, to summarize what I have said. First of all there are strong indications of that ugly word "restrictionism" already in the operation of the Corporations. Secondly, this political commercial caucus, if I may call it such, in London is starving the rest of the country. What I would like to ask the Minister is: Is this his policy or is this simply because the management is running away from him?
§ 5.11 p.m.
My Lords, there is one side of civil aviation which I am surprised to find has been hardly mentioned at all this afternoon. I refer to the flying boat. Before I go on to speak about that, I should like to join with other noble Lords in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, to his great office, and to say that I have already experienced his desire for friendly co-operation from all sides of the House, as he has spoken to me on one occasion and asked me to help him in any way that I felt able. I am sure we will all help the noble Lord wherever we can. I would suggest to him, however, that he does not make claims and say things in this House which are obviously an exaggeration. I know the noble Lord is not to blame for the state of Heath Row, and no doubt Heath Row is being improved as fast as possible; but when he makes the statement in this House—I think his words were "the lead it at present holds among the airports of the world"—I cannot for one moment accept 383 that. I do not know what the noble Lord means. Does he mean a faster cyclist to go and put those lights on, or a plastic cycle such as can be seen in the "Britain Can Make it Exhibition"?
On this vexed question of the bar, which I regard as of great importance, we have the astonishing statement that nothing has been done because there has been no sitting of the local Brewster Sessions, or some such body. Surely this is not a matter for the Middlesex Council, or whoever it is. Surely it is a matter possibly for a special Act of Parliament to get some twenty-four-hour licence for this great international airport. Many a disgruntled passenger arriving four hours late and cursing B.O.A.C. could be completely mollified if the Air Traffic Officer could give him a large whisky and soda; and after a second he might think the Corporation not half as bad, or even the best in the world.
I was most interested in what the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, said about control. As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, rightly said, there is the power, but is it being used? This matter of control is one which should be looked into immediately. The noble Earl also spoke about the ancillary business of the airfield, and how important that is. I entirely agree with him, and I remember that one of the reasons why the Germans became so air-minded was that the great beer gardens and music-rooms with their glass windows overlooked the airfield, so that people who had never thought of the air before got to know about it and took an interest in it. I am not always in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, but I was pleased to hear what he said about the British services. I do not deny the noble Lord's experience in any way, but it only goes to show that, whatever type of aircraft you have, if you can give really good service you can give a better impression than the fellow who does not. I would like to suggest one further thing before I go on to the matter of flying boats. It is of tremendous importance; it is something which I have said on a number of occasions in this House, and it is a thing which in pre-war days Imperial Airways often failed in. It is this. Take the passengers into your confidence, particularly if anything goes wrong. If there is a delay, tell them why it is. I 384 am sure that that cannot be stressed often enough.
As I said, my main reason for rising to my feet to-day is to plead the cause of the flying boat. Britain at one time led the world in flying boats, and I think she still does. But America is fast catching up, and I think we have no time to lose. I did hear one small mention of the flying boat in the noble Lord, Lord Nathan's, speech, in which he said the production order had been placed for a new type. I understand that production order, which sounds all very well in speech, is in fact for three aircraft. Surely that is a very small number for these great flying boat routes that we could so well operate from this country. I think the development of the flying boat has been hindered because of its lack of speed, but that is being got over in the new design. Also at the present time there is no doubt that the taste of the ordinary passenger is turning quickly away from pure speed to safety, as the noble Lord has said.
Another thing which I do not think the noble Lord emphasized enough is comfort. People are demanding comfort today. In the ordinary land plane they do not get as much comfort as they get in a first-class train. When I say "a first-class train" I mean a first-class train, something like the "Golden Arrow". After all, what have they got in any land plane to-day? All they have got is a seat to sit on and a lavatory. In a flying boat they can get a great deal more. They can get, or should be able to get, a cabin to themselves, a single, a double, or possibly occasionally a four-berth cabin, something comparable to a sleeper on a first-class railway. And they can move about; go up, I hope, to a dining saloon, perhaps to a little cocktail bar and to a lounge, and then they can lie down in their cabin if they want to. We all know what a difference it makes to a journey between England and Scotland by train when there is a restaurant car on the train. The very fact of being able to get up out of your seat, go along and have your dinner and come back, seems to make your seat more comfortable, and you can get around and talk to other people.
I understand that at the present time the B.O.A.C. flying boat route to Australia is the most popular of the two. Just at this time I think it is particularly unfortunate that the flying boat service to South Africa is to be abandoned. I 385 know that there are difficulties, and the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has told us that Lord Knollys is now in South Africa discussing with the South African Government the services to that country, and also that he proposes sending a party there. In view of what we have been told about the suitability of certain airfields for the Tudor II, I would suggest that serious consideration should be given to coming to an arrangement with the South African Government so that the flying boat service there may go on.
I should like to mention a few of the advantages of the big flying boat to-day—and I am thinking, of course, in terms of the types which could be constructed. At one time it was said that the flying boat could not be pressurized, but that has, I understand, been proved to be a fallacy. The hull of a flying boat can be pressurized. Not only that, but the double hull, if I may use the term, can be used to kill two birds with one stone: there is a double bottom so that in the event of the flying boat when on the water striking some obstacle, such as a lock, it does not sink as the old boat with a single bottom did. Therefore the double hull which is necessary for pressurization adds to the safety of the flying boat when on the water. Then, particularly on the Australian route or in tropical waters where the sea is usually calm, there is the advantage that in the case of the air terminal becoming unserviceable the flying boat can alight safely in any number of places instead of having to be diverted to another place which may be as much as 500 or even 1,000 miles away.
As the flying boat gets bigger, the disadvantage of the weight of the marine fittings, such as anchors and cables, will disappear. If the "Queen Mary" were scaled down to the size of a normal flying boat, its anchor cable would be as thin as a watch chain and you could put the anchor in your pocket. Obviously as the flying boat gets bigger all fittings of that sort will become much less in weight and size in proportion to the total weight and size of the boat. On the other hand, with the land plane, the chassis is getting bigger and heavier in relation to the total weight of the aircraft. But the flying boat will not go ahead until the Minister gives consideration to the provision of a really first-class flying boat base in this country. We 386 understand that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is presiding over an inquiry to decide the location of such a base, but nothing whatever has been heard yet of any decision being arrived at. We have been talking in millions to-day, and indeed a first class airport to-day costs many millions. The cost of a flying boat base, however, can be measured in hundreds of thousands, and that is a tremendous saving. There are today modern methods of mooring a flying boat, picking up a cable and bringing it into a dock in a matter of seconds, thus, doing away with many of the disadvantages such as the use of motor boats, etc., which existed in the past. We are a maritime nation. We have always led the world in shipping. Let us, therefore, lead the world in the ship of the future—the flying boat.
That is all I have to say on the flying boat, but I would like to add just a word as one of those humble and much maligned people, the travel agents. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, told us that in America there were five people waiting to fly for every aircraft seat which was available. I should like to assure him that here the comparable figure is not five but at least fifty. My travel manager is at his wits' end to arrange passages for our customers; he is having to send them away telling them that no seats will be available for three months, and so on. In that connexion I should like to support the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in his demand for advance information as to the services that are going to be inaugurated. We get inquiries from America as to what services there will be next year. Then is it not about time we did away with the V.I.P., the bug-bear because of whom the travel agents cannot be allotted seats for, very often, even weeks ahead? If a passage is really needed for some Government official or for some man or woman the Government wish to send overseas urgently, a seat can be found; there is no question about that. It always has been found when it has been really important. But I am afraid there are too many little men going about in this world in the guise of V.I.Ps., and I think it is time it stopped.
I was glad that in his speech the Minister paid tribute to one great company within the Empire which, at very short notice and with great enterprise, when nobody else was in a position to do 387 it, started a British service across the Pacific. I refer to Australian National Airways, whose great managing director is Mr. Ivan Holyman. I have recently been in Australia and I have seen what fine work that company did—how it stepped into the breach at the last moment and got that service across the Pacific going in an incredibly short time. I hope that my words to-day will bring the flying boat to the Minister's mind, because I feel sure that it should play a great part in the future of civil aviation.
§ 5.26 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to join with those who have followed the noble Viscount who initiated this debate in congratulating the Minister very sincerely on taking over the direction of air transport. As the noble Viscount said, he has an immense opportunity before him.
I listened keenly to the remarks made by the Minister in regard to types. It is quite clear that the Americans are the largest air mileage eaters in the world, as well as the largest freight and passenger carriers. They have a lot to teach us. We have been fortunate, as the Minister pointed out, in securing a certain number of their large types of commercial aircraft for the transatlantic services, but I hope it is the intention of the Minister to encourage, far more vigorously than has been done in the past, the design and development of British types to compete on these routes. For the moment we are able to get from our American friends some of the splendid types they have, but I would suggest that in the less important services, where great distances and great weights of freight are not involved, the British types should be used more and more until such time as the most modern designs emanating from British brains and hands can be made available. Reference was made—and very rightly so—to the Viking and the Dove. When the Minister comes to reply at the end of this debate I should be glad if he would inform your Lordships whether the Miles Marathon to which he referred was not the type that was at one time ordered to the extent of 100, the order being afterwards cancelled. Do I understand that the noble Lord is reinstituting that order for 100 Marathons to the design of Miles? The Minister referred to jet propulsion, and I presume it 388 is his intention that all types coming out in the immediate future will be fitted with gas turbines, in the first instance driving airscrews plus a certain jet propulsion effort and that ultimately the aircraft will be propelled by a jet propulsion entirely.
I completely agree with the remarks made just now by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, with regard to the flying boat. In the flying boat, as the noble Lord pointed out, we have always led in design and operation since flying boats were first designed. We all know that three large modern boats are under construction to the designs of that brilliant man, Mr. Goudge, the designer of the Empire flying boats now designing for Saunders Roe. I would suggest to the noble Lord, the Minister, that the numbers on order there are not nearly enough, and that he should arrange forthwith to order a greater number of these large flying boats, otherwise we may be told at a later stage that not a sufficient number are available and we shall have to go elsewhere in order to provide the aircraft.
That brings us to the question of airport facilities. I have just returned from Portsmouth and was naturally asked there what was happening to the report that has been given to His Majesty's Government by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. We have had under discussion for a long time the use of Langston Harbour, near Portsmouth, as an Empire flying boat terminal. That report, as I think the noble Viscount said, was rendered some seven months ago, and yet nothing has been said. Surely it is possible to say whether the Langston Harbour project is to go ahead, and if not, why not, and failing that what other flying boat terminal is to take its place? I was interested to hear that the noble Lord is shortly to have published, as I understand it, a report with regard to Heath Row and its design. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on May 14 asked the previous Minister to give information with regard to this matter, which was promised at the time, but so far nothing has been laid on the Table.
As I understand it, the noble Lord will let your Lordships see the report of the experts who proposed the design which is now in process of construction, as well of giving their names. I hope that is a fact and if I am mistaken in my understanding perhaps the noble Lord, when he comes to speak later on, would correct me. The 389 noble Lord's predecessor stated that the subject matter was so highly technical that he did not think the report would be of sufficient interest to warrant publication. But I think your Lordships would take an opposite view to that expressed by the noble Lord's predecessor in the office of Minister of Civil Aviation.
With regard to the light aircraft movement, I was very glad indeed to hear the words of encouragement the Minister had to give to that movement as well as to the movement for gliding and sail plane operation because, as we know, many of the pilots who were so effective in the Battle of Britain even trained originally from the Light Aeroplane Clubs. Up to now those clubs have had nothing like fair or adequate encouragement from His Majesty's Government at any time, and I am glad to see that the Minister is now going to do something for them. I hope, in parallel with that, that he will encourage those firms who should be engaged in the design, development and construction of light aircraft in which this country has led. Although the export of light aircraft will not be very great, it is an indication of the fact that Britain produces articles of the highest standard of quality in design and manufacture. Up to now encouragement has not been given to firms like De Havilland and others, whose names are world-acknowledged as leaders in the light aircraft movement.
Much has been said about Heath Row, and I have talked to your Lordships of the technical aspects, but I cannot, as a Scot, sit down without saying how very glad I am to hear that the noble Lord is going to do something about the licensing question. I feel it would be a tribute to those of us who are interested in the development of affairs in Scotland that he should see that Scotch is the main beverage served at the bars which the noble Lord will see are soon to be opened.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD POLWARTH
My Lords, it is rather late, so I ask your Lordships' indulgence because I think it is essential that one or two facts concerning the position of Scotland in civil aviation should be put before you. Events since the passage of the Civil Aviation Act have not given us in Scotland very much confidence, I am afraid, in the new management. I hope the noble Lord will not 390 consider that my criticisms are directed at him, because I wish to congratulate him on his accession to this office as possibly indicating that we in Scotland have some chance of reprieve from the consequences to which we thought we were otherwise condemned.
The first and most important point is the position of Prestwick. I do not think I need say very much about the attributes of this great airport, but I do think it is a fact that Prestwick is still the finest international airport in this country in not only its situation and weather attributes but in its buildings, its maintenance facilities and even in that facility which the London airport is lacking, a bar. We have taken over this airport of Prestwick and designated it as an international airport. What then does the Ministry proceed to do? It proceeds to draw a circle around it and cut it off from the outside world, or rather from the remainder of this country, and leave it to die a lingering death through the absorption of its traffic which will undoubtedly occur, into this Colossus of an airport at London, and into the utterly unsuitable municipal airport of Renfrew, outside Glasgow.
The first essential for an international airport is that there should be adequate feeder services to collect and disperse the traffic from the country in which the airport is situated; yet in September of this year the one feeder service which Prestwick boasted, a service from Prestwick to London, was withdrawn without any notice and with no reason being given. So far as I know no reason has yet been given for the withdrawal of that service: Last week, I admit, a new service was inaugurated, a service from Aberdeen to London stopping on the way at Renfrew and Prestwick. This service purports to fill two purposes at the same time: first, to convey the internal traffic between London and Scotland, and secondly to provide this feeder link to Prestwick. These two purposes are incompatible. Take the comparison of what happens when the "Queen Mary" sails from Southampton. You do not ask the passengers from London to fight for a place on the Southern Railway with the holiday makers going to Bournemouth; you put on a special train for them, and that surely is what is needed here. We must have a separate set of services from Prestwick to other centres in this country 391 to convey the traffic arriving there, and a distinct and separate set of services to convey the domestic and internal traffic of the country. During his recent visit to Scotland the noble Lord's Parliamentary Secretary stated that he considered Prestwick was entitled to all the feeder services which the traffic there demanded. That is all very well, but why are not these services provided?
Even if the British Corporations are not prepared to run more than one service a week—which is at present the case—the foreign companies have lost no time in taking advantage of its position to make it a regular port of call. At the moment I believe that something over seventy aircraft movements a week by companies operating by or for foreign countries are being made at Prestwick.
Provide these feeder services and more traffic still will go to Prestwick; fail to provide these feeder services and the traffic which is already going there will almost certainly fall off. It will go to some other airport which is not isolated from the rest of the country. At the same time it appears that mistaken efforts are being made to develop Glasgow's municipal airport of Renfrew—which is only twenty-five miles from Prestwick—into an international airport. By all means let it be developed into a good centre for the internal and near Continental services. I do not know whether the Minister realizes that a large sum of money is being spent on putting in an additional runway 1,300 yards long—a length that is surely out of date for modern purposes. There is also a small point about a firm which is engaged there in the manufacture of prefabricated houses. This firm is about to be evicted from the building it occupies in the vicinity of the aerodrome in order that space may be made for hangars to be used by British European Airways.
I want to turn for a moment to Scotland's internal services. Here, I am afraid, the picture is not very much brighter. Perhaps one factor contributing to this is that not one single director of British European Airways has officially visited Scotland since the formation of that Corporation. I may be wrong in that, but I think I am not. One of the main objects of an internal air service should be to enable a business man to 392 go from one part of the country to another, transact his business, and return on the same day in cases where that would not be possible by other transport. An important member of an English firm, which has set up a business in Scotland, recently said that one of the principal reasons why firms were shy of setting up business in Scotland was the inadequacy of the communications. Your Lordships know well that there are often times when it is not sufficient to write or telephone, but you must go and see the man. Very often nowadays, and almost inevitably if he happens to be a member of a Government Department, that man is in London and you must go to London. Yet until last week there was not a single air service between Scotland and London. Now there is one aircraft a day in each direction, but the timing of this service is such that it is impossible for the Londoner to go to Scotland, or for the Scotsman to go to London, transact his business, and return on the same day. I do ask the noble Lord, the Minister, to give us the reason for the timing of that service.
Then there is that, case of the service formerly operating between Prestwick and Belfast. That service was withdrawn at the beginning of this month on the ground that the airport at Belfast was unsuitable and unsafe for flying during the winter. I understand that the Company operating this service for British European Airways had virtually arranged to make use of an alternative airport at Aldergrove used by the Royal Air Force, but they were refused permission to do so. This service has now been withdrawn. During the first nine months of its life it carried at least 15,000 passengers, it always had a long waiting list, and it provided a service at a fare of 30s. compared with the service now remaining which is provided at a fare of 50s.
Now for the position of Edinburgh which, as the noble Lord told us a few days ago in this place, is the only capital in Europe which is not provided with an air service. The airfield at Turnhouse on the outskirts of Edinburgh, although it is not ideal for the purpose, is quite adequate for the size of aircraft at present in operation. I know the noble Lord said that it would be open for civil flying when the work of re-equipping it was 393 complete, and I ask him to tell us what work has been done so far to that end, and what work remains to be done. I do not myself believe that there is any reason why a service should not be started there to-morrow if suitable action were taken. There are buildings standing there which were vacated by the Royal Air Force, buildings which are palatial compared with the buildings considered adequate to put Heath Row into operation. There are also radio aids left by the Royal Air Force. I know these aids do not include the standard beam approach, but they are at least as adequate as the radio aids at present installed at Renfrew. Therefore, I can see no reason why a service should not be started at a moment's notice. There is one small point in connexion with that, or it may seem small to your Lordships. I do not know whether it is known that next summer an international festival of music is to be held in Edinburgh. Scotland is to have a second Salzburg. What will be the reaction upon the prestige of this country if the eminent people of the Continent who wish to travel direct to Edinburgh by air are not able to do so? Yet to-day there is not a single service operated by any of the three Corporations from Scotland direct to any part of the Continent.
That is the picture to-day, although it is admittedly the gloomier side of the picture. I know it has become fashionable to say that this agitation for a better air service for Scotland is nothing more than a political manœuvre. That is a very easy statement to make and a very simple way of countering criticism. I do ask you to believe that my noble friends and myself who come down here and talk about it have really plenty to occupy our time without wasting it on a political manœuvre. We do it because of our deep-rooted conviction of the opportunities which lie before Scotland in the development of air transport, and because of our determination to see that nothing is left undone which can be done to take these opportunities. I ask the noble Lord, the Minister, when he comes to Scotland on Thursday, to free himself from any prejudices which beset his Ministry, though I do not think they beset him, and to come with an open mind. I ask him to go and see Prestwick and our other airports, and to realize for himself the potentialities they have. I ask him 394 to return to London not only refreshed in mind and body, as I know he will be, but also determined to see that Scotland is given these opportunities in civil aviation which are her right and which she will so eagerly grasp.
§ 5.49 p.m.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
My Lords, I would like to add my congratulations to those of the other noble Lords to the Minister on his appointment to his office. The time is getting late and I shall not delay you for very long, but I should just like to say a few words on the subject of the Scottish air services. The last noble Lord has spoken about them, but I feel that to speak about them twice in one debate would not be amiss because they are of some considerable importance. I procured a copy of Bradshaw from which I obtained a number of details. I am not absolutely certain that these details are all correct, and if I am in error I shall be glad if the noble Lord will correct me. The first thing I see is that in Scotland air services are still largely provided by private enterprise. In the fourteen airports at which aircraft movements are taking place, British Overseas Airways Corporation is only operating at two—Prestwick and Aberdeen. Thirteen air services are in operation, excluding foreign ones. So far as I can see, these are run by five British companies which, I understand, are on charter to the Corporation. According to what the Minister said to-day, they will shortly be taken over. It is evident that the Corporations are still playing a very small part in the civil air activity of Scotland. In all, they are running only two foreign services and one between London and Scotland. There would be no services at all in Scotland if it were not for what these private charter companies are doing, and they meet only the barest necessities. I hope that the services which at present exist will be increased and not reduced. They have been reduced in the last month. A month ago, there was a service between Prestwick and Belfast three times a day, and a service between Prestwick and London once a day. These services have been taken off and instead of them there is now just one service between Aberdeen and London.
And now to deal more particularly with the matter of internal services. The British Overseas Airways Corporation is 395 running no internal services except the transatlantic services, which go from London to Prestwick and then across the Atlantic. Those services are of no use to passengers who want to make a purely internal journey. More important, particularly in this connexion, is the question of feeder services to Prestwick. Another noble Lord who has already spoken has dealt with this matter, but it is of such importance that I feel it right to speak shortly about it. The nearest airport to Prestwick which is used by internal services is Renfrew. There are no feeder lines to Prestwick itself. Surely it is essential for a big international airport to have feeder services. The main object of organizing world airlines is to ensure speed in travel, and that aim is defeated, to a great extent, if a long train journey has to follow a journey by aircraft. If, for example, someone were to fly from New York to Prestwick, doing the journey in a very short time, and then afterwards had to take a long train journey to his ultimate destination, the aim of ensuring speed in travel would be rather defeated.
Furthermore—and this is equally important—the usefulness of the airport is cut, it is made less attractive to international travellers and, therefore, less likely to attract new customers. Airlines are not going to make use of airports to which there are no feeder services, because that is bad for their own trade. The London airport is jammed, but the Prestwick airport is starved. Would it not be logical to connect up Prestwick internally by means of feeder services, and so give Prestwick a greater share of that traffic which is at the moment jamming the London airport. Not all travellers coming to this country wish to go to London. Nor do all the travellers who desire to set out on air journeys, over here live in or near London. It is also not the case that all travellers in this country using airlines wish to go to London. These people often come from, and wish to go to, places all over the country. In many cases, Prestwick would be a far more convenient airport for them to use, and I am sure that if the necessary arrangements could be made it would pay many times over.
With regard to external services, I understand that one is being run by the B.O.A.C. to New York and one from 396 London, via Prestwick, to Montreal. There are none to the Continent or to Dublin run by the Corporation, and there is no purely Scottish Atlantic service. If someone who is in Scotland wishes to cross the Atlantic by air, he must either travel to London or take the chance of getting a place on an Atlantic plane, which starts from London, when it calls at Prestwick. Surely Scotland merits a transatlantic service of its own. It has been said that there are four Continental companies flying into Scotland and yet there is no reciprocal service from Scotland back to the Continent. Scotland, in this respect, is only served by foreign lines. She is completely ignored by the British. I think that is a bad state of affairs. Scottish people need to fly just as much as anyone else, and, indeed, sometimes they need to fly more than do people in England, particularly to the Continent, because to journey by any other means of transport is harder for them than it is for people who live further south.
The Minister has said that he fears that the chances of our airlines in the international field would be endangered by revealing plans for the future. But I am convinced that there is far greater danger to our future interests in letting foreign lines see that we have absolutely no lines for ourselves, and that we rely upon them entirely. I was a little disappointed last week by the reply which the Minister gave to my question about publishing plans for the future relating to proposed air services. I should like to read one passage from the Minister's answer. He said:Under the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act, the three Corporations are required to submit to me their programmes and estimates for each financial year, as well as a forward programme covering three years. Consultations on the future programme are already on foot between my Ministry and the Corporations.The Government have been in office for well over a year now, and they have surely had time to prepare a programme of future services. Surely providence would advise that they should have ready a plan of future air services by the time the Bill was through and should not wait until after it had been passed to draw one up. As regards the programme of future internal air services, that was published in June—nearly six months ago. I know that I—and indeed I am sure all of us—wish to help the Minister in implementing this Bill. We saw a good deal of it in 397 this House, and we had some part in its passage through Parliament. I am sure that public ignorance as to the future plans of the Corporations can only lead to misgivings.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I would like to add my tribute of congratulation to the noble Lord who has assumed this Ministerial office to those of other noble Lords who have already taken part in this debate, which has ranged widely and over many subjects. I wish the noble Lord well in carrying out the duties of his office, and I hope that in future he will not have to come forward and give us what I cannot describe as anything but a rather dismal story in many respects with regard to the state of British civil aviation. The Minister began his speech with a most interesting, and, I am sure, very welcome, discourse on the general functions of his Department, and he announced with some pride that he found in it the whole paraphernalia of a first-class Government Department. I must confess that when he went on to announce the birth of one Committee, two Boards and four new Councils, I was a little bit alarmed as to the extent to which the paraphernalia of a first-class Ministry is going to oil the wheels of initiative and enterprise in British civil aviation and get them turning.
Lord Nathan said that he was willing to be judged by the fewness of his written directions. Let me tell him that noble Lords on this side of the House—and I believe on all sides of the House—will judge the Minister by the results which he achieves for British civil aviation. There will be no other yardstick. The Minister did his best, and I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, is grateful to him for the answers he gave to so many questions. But, equally, in thanking him for what we have received, we ask for something a little more than he gave us. There are certain questions, some of the most important of which the Minister—I will not say avoided: that would be an unfair word; but failed to answer, and to which we do look forward to having a very short reply when the Minister speaks again later.
May I summarize these questions? They are the Eire Agreement, the breaking-off of the British services to 398 Switzerland, just at a time when we are able to earn the greatest number of gold dollars to lay on—as the papers say—further services for Germany. Then, I would ask, do the operators order direct, or do they have to go through, and have relations with, no fewer than four Government Departments: the noble Lord's Ministry, the Air Ministry, who have some say in the matter of where capacity is to be allocated—the noble Lord shakes his head, so we reduce the number to three—the Ministry of Supply, and the Treasury? The noble Lord will not be able to deny that he has to negotiate with the Ministry of Supply, or that Treasury sanction has to be obtained. What we say is that the operator should be able to go to the manufacturer and state his requirements clearly, without having to go through the paraphernalia of three first-class Government Departments. The noble Lord rather reminded me of what one of my colleagues on the Front Bench said was an account of the student at Oxford, who was asked to give the names of the major and minor prophets in his Divinity examination. He did not know the answer, and therefore said on his paper: "Who am I to distinguish between such holy men? Let me rather give the names of the Kings of Israel." The noble Lord avoided them, and we look forward to his giving the names of the major and minor prophets!
At the beginning of my remarks, I said that the picture is rather a dismal one, because there are only two bright spots in the Government's operations. The first is the new Viking aircraft. We all admit that that is a bright spot, but it was not the noble Lord's "baby." It was the "baby" of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. The other bright spot is the unmatchable British crews. Other noble Lords did not mention that, not because they did not wish to pay tribute, but because they were saying other things. I do not think that this debate should pass without the assent of all your Lordships to a tribute, which I am inadequate to express, to the wonderful work of these British crews, flying not only on British lines but also on many foreign lines, as the world's best available material. I said that it was a rather gloomy picture, because we have heard in positive terms to-day, for the first time, that the Tudor I and Tudor II, aircraft 399 upon which a great deal of the future civil aviation of Britain was based at the time of their inception, have both had delays and troubles, and are anything between a year and two years overdue in going into operation. That is a very serious state of affairs for this country, coupled with another alarming statement from the Minister which, in effect, says that they will have no British aircraft flying the North Atlantic to New York before 1951. As far as I know, this is the first time that these things have been stated absolutely positively and clearly. It is just as well that we should thank the Minister for "coming clean" on this—if I may lapse into slang. There is only one point I would like to ask about the Tudors. With some pride, the Minister said that certificates of airworthiness had been given for one, and would be given for the other, for a payload which was originally intended.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
What I would like to know is, are those pay-loads also for the ranges originally intended, because if you cut down the range you can increase your pay-load? I am sure that the Minister would not wish to lead us astray in any way.
I want to turn, in a few words, to the subject about which the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, spoke. That is, the case of the poor traveller. We have heard to-day a lot about the difficulties of progress, and a lot about the lines we are hoping to raise. I am thinking rather of the poor men at the back of the queue who are clamouring for air passages to different parts of the world, and who have little prospect of getting there for any reasonable time; for this reason. There is a mysterious body (the membership of which is not made public, because the names of Government Boards are not made public) called the Air Travel Priorities Board. I suffered as Chairman of this Board, and it was one of the most unpleasant jobs I had to do. I am aware that the Minister may say that the Air Priorities Board is something which he regrets, and that he is reducing the allocation progressively. He will say, I expect, that the Government are gradually relaxing the grip which they have on a large amount of capacity, but I submit to this House that it is time 400 a decision on principle was taken for the abolition of air priorities, and for the abolition of that new war-time and postwar term, "V.I.P."
There has grown up in the war a new race—a race of V.I.P. bipeds. They are not to be judged by the greatness of their appointments; they are not to be judged by their physical status, but by whether they can claim the new privilege in a Socialistic democracy of being Government servants. Under a democracy of a Socialist Government should we not make this a red-letter day, and unite the Council of State in your Lordships' House, and say: "Away with the term V.I.P."?
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
They were a necessity in war-time, but are parasitical in peace-time eyes. I am surprised if the noble Lord's interruption means that he defends the principle of the V.I.P., because, after all, in a Socialist commonwealth all men are equal, and there are no V.I.Ps. I hope the noble Lord's interruption was in course of thought, and did not mean that he supported this terrible principle of the perpetuation of a war-time privilege into a peace-time existence.
I have taken some trouble to go to one of the greatest travel agencies—I think the greatest—to see some figures of Government allocation as to capacity. The Government are still taking a large proportion of capacity on many routes. I will not weary your Lordships with all the details, but the appalling thing is the wastage when capacity is not taken up. It has been not lower than 16 per cent., and has been as high as 76 per cent. through seats not being taken up by mysterious V.I.Ps. who must still fly round the world with special priority privileges. The wastage does not mean that these seats are not filled, but it means that they are not filled fairly, and filled by the people who have the right to travel. The capacity is given up by the Government twenty-four hours before the aircraft leaves, and the travel agencies have to fill the seats as best they can. The business man who had asked to go to Africa four months before, and was told two weeks previously that he cannot go because of Government requirements, is still working in his office. The man in 401 Scotland who has arranged his passage cannot get there in time when it is suddenly cancelled. The result is that the people who are able to hang around the counters of the travel agencies and the people who have the ready money to put down take precedence over the genuine traveller.
The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said—and this is confirmed by my inquiries at this great travel agency—that if the Government will revert here and now to the pre-war practice of abolishing air priorities one will not find Government servants really travelling on "important" missions. I do appeal to the noble Lord to make this a red-letter day by abolishing V.I.Ps. and abolishing the Priorities Board in particular, and to give us in this House a date by which air priorities will entirely lapse. I have no wish to detain your Lordships any longer by standing between your Lordships and the noble Lord in making his reply to these largely unanswered questions. I would only conclude by saying that it is not a bright picture, but that there are ways in which the noble Lord can help. We will help him, if he will show us that he is helping British civil aviation, and the way to do it is to some extent to help the poor traveller on whose behalf I speak this evening.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, this discussion has been most helpful to me. In the first place, it has been helpful because, by the many kind words which have been spoken by so many noble Lords, it has given me the confidence that I can go forward feeling that I have with me, at all events at this stage, the good will of members of your Lordships' House in the execution of the task entrusted to me. It helps me in a second way, because it has indicated clearly some of the matters which are exercising the minds of those concerned with the affairs of the air, and, no doubt, of the public in general. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, rather jeered at me for not having completely answered the questions put to me by the noble Viscount.
§ LORD NATHAN
I may say that that was out of consideration for your Lord- 402 ships. I felt that I had occupied so much of your Lordships' time that I should desist, but I was and am very ready to answer these questions, with one exception. As the noble Viscount said, we are to have a debate on Chicago in the relatively near future, when a Bill will come before your Lordships, and, as I had understood that the noble Viscount had deferred questions upon that subject, upon which he speaks with all the authority of one who was an actual contestant, I thought that would carry with it the Eire question. It is a rather complicated matter upon which, in these circumstances, I should prefer to defer the answer.
Of course, if the noble Lord says that, I accept it, but I say most emphatically that he can, at any rate, answer this, that the Government do not intend to treat Eire as a foreign country, and if Eire is still a part of the British Commonwealth there can be no possible question of this Convention affecting it.
§ LORD NATHAN
I do not think it is so much the question that the noble Lord has put as a question of legal interpretation. I have not, for the reason I indicated, really applied my mind fully to the question; but I thought it better that I should say nothing rather than say something on the spur of the moment in order to show courtesy, as I am always anxious to do, to noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, was a little critical of the creation of the number of Committees which are being formed. That is part of a policy which I believe to be a sound one, and which I believe will commend itself to your Lordships, in bringing as large a number of people as possible into the sphere of active interest in the development of the air. I feel that in the past we have perhaps been a little backward in seeking the assistance of men and women who would gladly have given their assistance in developing the air service. That is why I attach great importance to the National Civil Aviation Consultative Council and for the same reason I thought it myself desirable to introduce this private flying consultative council.
I think I can show your Lordships that what I really wish to ensure, to take aerodromes, is that aerodromes are local centres of the life and interest of the 403 people. I want not only the passengers but the local inhabitants to make a trip to the aerodromes. I want a visit to an aerodrome to be a "beano." I want to do that because that is one of the methods by which we can make our people air-minded. I am proposing, therefore, to arrange for tickets to be issued by the airport and aerodrome managers to local inhabitants in order that they may be able to go to the airport and find out things for themselves, see what is going on, watch aircraft coming in and taking off, and I propose to issue from the headquarters of my Ministry tickets for the Press admitting the representatives of the Press to all aerodromes. So there will be one ticket centrally for the Press and a ticket for each locality for those who wish to avail themselves of the facilities in each locality. I do not think there is very much purpose in making that operative until the early part of next year, because the weather at the present time is rather on the poor side, and I do not think there would be much advantage in introducing this scheme just now. Anyway, in three or four weeks' time I hope to start that system. In the same connexion, I want to arrange for parties of youngsters to be able to go from the schools to the aerodromes, so that they may indulge their natural curiosity and their natural interest in the air and go away thinking of the air and talking of the air. We must make our people air-minded and we must start when they are young, because I am much concerned about the aircrews of the future. If our air services are to develop, we must depend upon recruits for aircrews. I think the noble Viscount opposite spoke about the R.A.F.
§ LORD NATHAN
Civil aircrews drawn from the R.A.F.—or some other noble Lord did. I join with him in my tribute to our aircrews. To the noble Lord who mentioned recruiting from the R.A.F., I would say we are drawing upon the R.A.F. to the utmost extent. It would, however, be a great mistake to think that, because a man has been a successful pilot in the R.A.F., he is necessarily, for that reason alone, immediately suitable as a pilot for civil aviation. That is not so. Different qualities are required. For each of them you require skill, knowledge, a high standard of technique and courage. 404 But whereas in the Royal Air Force you require courage, extended even to recklessness, in civil aviation what you need is courage qualified by caution. It is the case that the civil pilot examinations which R.A.F. pilots, like any others, have to undergo are severe. I was, however, surprised to learn when I came as a novice into this Ministry that of candidates applying from the R.A.F. to be pilots in civil aviation only about 40 per cent. passed at the first attempt.
Although by taking further courses and undergoing further instruction no doubt the whole of them in the end will pass, at the moment the figure is only about 40 per cent. That source of supply will in the course of time dry up, and we have to look to the future. That is why I am so anxious to inculcate air-mindedness into the population at large and into the children in particular. I might perhaps say at this stage that I am proposing to arrange for members of the staff at my Ministry, who do not ordinarily come into contact with aerodromes and aircraft, to visit the aerodromes and see the aircraft. After all, it is a pretty dull business to be writing and conferring upon these things if you do not see what they look like. Perhaps other Ministries will in due course like to send representatives on such occasions.
Both the noble Viscount and the noble Lord asked me questions with regard to the procedure as to procurement. The position is that there is in existence a Civil Aircraft Requirements Committee, the successor to the Brabazon Committee, over which Sir Henry Self presides, and members of that Committee go into the details of the requirements of Corporations as put forward by the Corporations. That Committee consists of representatives from the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the three Corporations themselves. The Ministry of Supply then gives the actual order but does so as the agent and on behalf of the Corporations.
§ LORD NATHAN
We had better see how it works. The Ministry of Supply is acting as the agent for the Corporations, and the Corporations are the people who decide upon the specifications. The Corporations are in touch with the contractors upon all the modifications, although they will have to consult with the Ministry of Supply if very substantial changes are required. 405 But the Ministry of Supply is acting as the agent on behalf of the Corporations, and the Corporations have the financial responsibility. I think we should see how the thing continues to work in the future. If it requires changing, there is no reason in the world why the procedure should not be changed. I am at one with the noble Lords opposite who say that what we have to aim at is to get the best procedure in all the circumstances to enable the Corporations to get the craft they want in the quantities and qualities they need at the time they want them, and we must have whatever procedures are best devised to secure that end.
The noble Lord who spoke last expressed some disappointment at the statement I had made with regard to aircraft. He pointed to the success of the Viking, and he claimed that there by his side in the person of the noble Viscount was the proud father of the Viking. I would not impugn the paternity, but I for my part say that, so far as the Tudors are concerned, they are the damnosa hœreditas that I found waiting for me, and there is the testator in the person of the noble Viscount from whom I inherit them. Now I want to answer the specific questions that have been put.
§ LORD NATHAN
So far as flying boats are concerned, I would say in general that I was greatly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said in regard to flying boats. It has always seemed to me that an island people should certainly make use of flying boats, and these aircraft have the great advantage, as the noble Lord rightly said, that although they offer you a slower journey it is a far more comfortable journey than that given by land planes. It may very well be, for instance, that for the journey to Australia there will be an express service and at the same time a flying boat service which will be slower but more comfortable. Anyhow, the noble Lord will not find any dissent from me to the suggestion that we should go forward as opportunity offers itself with regard to flying boats. Of course, flying boats require a base, and the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has presided over a Committee which has made a report on that subject. That report is now under consideration by the Government and I am 406 not therefore at the moment in a position to make any statement with regard to it. However, I will certainly do so as soon as it is possible.
I was also asked about the service to Switzerland. The position there is that, owing to the limited facilities at the disposal of the Corporation and the higher priority which had to be allotted to other European countries, it was not possible for the Corporation to operate a scheduled service to Switzerland. But there was a very strong public demand, and the Corporation therefore arranged to operate a scheduled service through the medium of a charter company. The contract between the Corporation and the charter company was for three months, the Corporation hiring the aircraft as a whole and making the seats available to the public in the same way as if it was a Corporation scheduled service. In the later part of the summer the Corporation was able to operate the chartered aircraft on a financially sound basis, but with the coming of winter and the consequent gradually increased uplift of petrol necessitated by the worse weather conditions, the pay-load had to be considerably reduced and the service could no longer be operated economically Discussions took place with the charter company as to terms, but although they were prepared to make some reduction they were not prepared to make one sufficient to enable the service to be run on an economic basis. The Corporation anticipates being in a position to operate a Swiss service out of its own resources during the early months of the year. It was therefore decided that this uneconomic contract could not be renewed.
Another noble Lord raised a question with regard to V.I.Ps. and priorities. V.I.Ps. and priorities are not necessarily the same thing; indeed, they are quite different, and we must not prejudice this important question by confusing the two. Obviously occasions are always likely to arise where for some urgent reason of State special provision will have to be made for this person or that person to travel at short notice. That is what I understand by a V.I.P. The Priorities Board, however, is something quite different. That is there to ensure that the mere tourist, travelling purely for pleasure, shall not travel so long as there is a man, whether a business man or a civil administrator engaged in the pro- 407 gress of reconstruction or rehabilitation, who desires to travel. Indeed, the Priorities Board is the business man's safeguard: it is the business man's charter. It is the only means by which it can be ensured that those get away first who should, in the national interest, get away first. I may say that I have had very agreeable discussions on this difficult question with various Government Departments and representatives of the Dominions, and it is recognized that a priorities system is essential where there is a real shortage of capacity. It depends on shortage of capacity, and as the capacity increases, so will the need for the Priorities Board decrease.
The policy of the Priorities Board is, of course, to keep priority control to the minimum and to abolish it wherever and whenever possible: It has already been abolished so far as the South-American services are concerned, and on the Continent the Stockholm service is in the process of being freed. The Board met yesterday, and whilst I have not yet had their full report, I understand they are likely to recommend a considerable reduction in the number of priority routes and to release them to B.E.A.C. So the position should be ameliorated. We all agree that priorities should go as soon as possible, and movement is taking place towards that end, but it may be a little time before it is complete.
I think I have answered the questions put to me by the noble Lord opposite as to the Tudor I and the Tudor II. He asked me as to the mileage. I am assured that the mileage is substantially the same; there is no substantial difference. The noble Viscount asked me a question about pressurization. In answer to that let me tell him that there is a decompression chamber capable of producing high altitude conditions both in respect of pressure and temperature in which a section of a complete fuselage can be tested, together with all the parts affected in combination; other chambers to reproduce high altitude conditions are under construction. With regard to the experiments carried out on complete aircraft, two Tudor I aircraft have been flying for several months and have between them completed over 100 hours without any major trouble arising in this respect. It is confidently expected that the present installation planned for this 408 type of aircraft will prove satisfactory on service. The noble Viscount asked me the question and I thought he would wish to have the information.
I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, as to the Miles Marathon. The number of 100 aircraft which he quoted referred to a total originally proposed as the minimum for which tooling should be planned. The immediate requirements of the Corporations and their associated companies fall short of this total, but it is hoped that the contract discussions now on foot may result in an agreed price being related to a broader basis of tooling. In this way production for export will be facilitated and the effective price for each aircraft appreciably reduced.
The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, questioned the statement I made as to the equipment at London airport. I need scarcely say to the noble Lord that I would not have said that the equipment installed and being installed there made the London airport the most comprehensively served in the world unless I had taken steps to check that statement. However, since the noble Lord made his speech I have referred back and I have it confirmed that I may properly make that statement and that it represents the fact. I do not by that mean that we are satisfied; I do not by that mean that every possible kind of installation has been installed. Instead of saying that we are in that matter the most comprehensively served in the world, I should perhaps say that we are the least badly served, because in that respect there is plenty of room for improvement yet. I did not intend to infer that there was any complacency but merely to make a statement of present facts.
§ LORD CHERWELL
I think the noble Lord was asked about F.I.D.O. or some form of fog clearing equipment at London Airport. Either there is frequently fog, in which case it is very necessary, or there is very rarely fog, in which case it would not cost much to insure against it by putting a small plant on each runway.
§ LORD NATHAN
It relates to a question that the noble Viscount put to me in writing. I forget whether he mentioned it in his speech.
§ LORD NATHAN
As regards blind landing, I think there is a certain misunderstanding as to the present aids. The development in modern times has really been more in the direction of enabling a blind approach to be made than of ensuring that a blind landing may be made. Those which are in the process of installation can only provide assistance to the pilot in making his approach to the runway. They do not really enable him to land unless he can, at the end of his approach, actually see the runway. The present aids are not really suitable for what I understand are called "zero zero" conditions, but only when there is something which can be seen. We are working on the development of systems which we hope will some time in the future enable pilots regularly and safely to complete their landings without ever seeing the ground. The successful development of such systems, however, will not be completed for a long time to come. At any time there will always be the psychological preference for visual rather than instrument landings. I have therefore set on foot a re-examination of the potentialities of F.I.D.O. to ascertain whether, in the present state of development of radio aids and radar, a useful purpose may still be served by the installation of F.I.D.O. I am also having enquiries made in the United States to ascertain what is the practice now in that country.
May I say one thing? Surely the present state of the London Airport and the question of whether it is the best in the world must be a matter of opinion. I would suggest that if you talked to the Presidents of some of the big American airlines and showed them the London Airport as it is at the present time, you would find that they held a contrary opinion.
§ LORD NATHAN
I did not say the best; I said the most comprehensively served.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, asked me about Dakotas. I have no doubt we could have had Dakotas but the difficulty about Dakotas is that they had not got any spares. As a practical proposition, the bringing into operation of an additional number of Dakotas really will not 410 work. I was struck by the same idea myself, being a mere amateur in these matters, and I have satisfied myself that except within a very narrow margin it would not be practicable to bring into operation any considerable number of Dakotas. A certain number of JU 52s, when they are reconditioned, will be brought into use. The noble Earl asked me about restrictionism, as he called it, and inquired whether that was part of the policy of the Ministry. Let me answer him at once. The Ministry has only one policy, and that is to run safest services, the best conditioned services from and to the places where they are needed. The limiting factor at the moment is, of course, aircraft.
The noble Earl, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, and the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, spoke with regard to Scotland in general and Prestwick in particular. If I do not reply in detail to the two noble Lords I know they will not think me discourteous in any way. The Scottish Advisory Council is, as I have announced, about to be brought into existence, and I think it would be well that I, at all events, should not say anything at this moment upon this subject until the Council has come into existence with the duty of advising the three statutory Corporations. Of course, I shall be visiting Scotland in the course of this week, as the noble Lords know, when I shall have something to say with regard to Scotland in general and Prestwick in particular. I think the noble Lords will forgive me if I leave that subject now, especially in view of the late hour. But do not let them think me in any way discourteous; let me tell them how much I appreciate their contributions to this discussion. I hope I have dealt sufficiently and fully with the questions raised. I have endeavoured to deal faithfully with the questions put to me. As I said at the beginning of this debate we should treat this as a business matter to be dealt with in a business-like manner.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for his comprehensive answer. I think that the businessmen who get so many seats out of the Priorities Board at the expense of the Civil Service will be a little bit surprised when they learn that the Priorities Board is their best friend. It will 411 be, "Save me, oh save me, from my candid friend."
I followed the replies with great interest to see what Scotland had really got out of this. Well, they have got two more Committees and one more Council.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
No, they did not. They asked to be allowed to have facilities for Scottish enterprise to run some Scottish services, and not some Councils from London. Under all this nationalization they have not got a single additional aircraft or a single additional service, either inside Scotland, or from Scotland to England, or from Scotland to anywhere outside Scotland, although they have been multiplying the services which come in.
I do want to make one final appeal to the Ministry of Supply. I am perfectly prepared to accept paternity for all my offsprings, legitimate or illegitimate, but actually the Tudor was not mine—I did not begin it. I found it there, and it was in process of being born. It has taken a terribly long time to be born. It was the child of the Ministry of Production. The most damning indictment that can be made of that Ministry is the fact that the Corporations, as the Minister has told us, are not responsible, and he is not responsible, but the Ministry of Supply is responsible. It is the worst name they could have because they supply nothing. They had better get another title. We are all disappointed in the Tudors, and I am not blaming anybody because it was the right machine to order; but nobody can contend that they have not been a fright-fully long time coming to the birth and that they are not going to be altogether satisfactory in their performance. The most vital thing to get on with was the replacement of the Tudor, and the fact that we have learnt to-day that so far from there being any progress with the prototypes of those replacements the thing is not yet on the drawing board, is to my mind the most damning indictment which could be made of that Ministry.
I do beg the Minister, and I beg the Government, to stop that Ministry 412 meddling and muddling in this aircraft business. What earthly purpose can it serve? The Minister says that the financial responsibility is with the Corporation; the persons who are to put out the specification are the Corporation; the persons who, if there are modifications to be made, are to say what modifications are to be made, are the Corporations. The noble Lord is very modest as to where he comes in. Yet the Ministry of Supply is brought in to be the agent to place the order. Believe me, I know something about this. It is not just a Post Office, and if it were it would be wholly unnecessary. As the Minister has said, quite rightly, it has no responsibility at all and yet it interferes. In his own interests, in the interests of the Corporations and in the interests of civil aviation, the sooner he and his colleagues shed the Ministry of Non-Supply in this matter of aircraft the better it will be for British civil aviation. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.