HL Deb 08 December 1949 vol 165 cc1384-8

6.16 p.m.

Amendments reported (according to Order).

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT HALL) moved, after subsection (1) to insert: () Without prejudice to the provisions of the last foregoing subsection, it shall be the duty of an association to make itself acquainted with and conform to the plan of the Admiralty for the organisation within the area for which the association is constituted of the reserves of the Royal Navy and of the reserves of the Royal Marines in so far as that plan relates to matters with respect to which functions are conferred on the association under the next following subsection. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I undertook when this Bill was before your Lordships in Committee to meet a point which was raised by the noble Viscount. Lord Bridgeman. In the interval we have had a meeting and as a result of our talks the Amendment which is upon the Marshalled List has been drafted. It meets the point which I promised to consider. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 21, at end insert the said subsection.—(Viscount Hall.)


My Lords, the noble Viscount has stated the position correctly. We are grateful to him for having proposed this Amendment which entirely meets the point we raised during the Committee stage. My noble friend Lord Mancroft has asked me to apologise for his absence on this occasion as he raised a question about the lettering to be employed in the Bill. I understand that his view is that this Amendment is a "capital" one in every sense of the word.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move the next Amendment, which is purely drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 22, after ("(1)") insert ("of section two of the Act of 1907").—(Viscount Hall.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be react a Third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a(Viscount Hall.)


My Lords, before this Bill passes from your Lordships' House I would like to say a few words. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, who dealt with this Bill on its Second Reading, said he regretted that I had not intervened in the debate. I will not detain your Lordships long. As the noble Lord said, it seems likely that one would need a consolidating Order in Council for the Royal Air Force at the same time as a consolidating Bill for the Army; then it would be possible to draft a Bill to repeal Section 6 of the Royal Air Force (Constitution) Act, 1917, and embody at the same time the provisions of the existing Orders in Council covering the Royal Air Force. He said that that suggestion is sympathetically viewed. I did not intervene in the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill because the Royal Air Force Act was pasted thirty-two years ago. I left the Royal Air Force twenty years ago. It may interest your Lordships to know that I recall some of the arguments which were used at the time when the Bill was introduced in 1917.

The year the Royal Air Force Act was passed was the year that the Auxiliary Air Force was first thought of—I was then the first Chief of the Air Staff. I remember that General Sir David Henderson, as he then was, was instrumental in helping to put together that first Royal Air Force Act. He and others thought that something should be done to co-ordinate the Auxiliary Air Force and other voluntary services which might be formed—the Women's Auxiliary Services, the Boy Scouts, the A.T.C. (which was not then formed, of course)—and to bring together what I may call these "support services to the Regular Services" for the Army, Navy end Air Force. He wanted to utilise and unify the local esprit de corps which exists in every town and county in the British Isles in organisations like the Territorial associations under the lords lieutenant. But the war was still going on and it was thought too ambitious a programme then. Therefore, we had to adopt the simplest form possible in order to get the Air Force Bill through and constitute the Royal Air Force. Nearly a year later, after the war was over, there were bitter criticisms of the Royal Air Force. We spent many years defending it. There were also many attacks on the Auxiliary Air Force. It was hotly criticised, even by Ministers of the Government of that day, and by others outside the Government. The members of the Auxiliary Air Force were called "Saturday-to-Monday pilots" and were described as being dangerous to the community. I remember one hot Summer's afternoon, we had a long argument on this subject, but those of us who were in the Royal Air Force won the argument; and it was agreed to form an Auxiliary Air Force of twenty squadrons.

That is all a long time ago. I do not feel very competent to intervene to-day, but I would like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, who introduced this Bill, that, whatever Government are in power next year, I hope they will find it possible to introduce a Bill which will put the Auxiliary Air Force on a better footing than it is to-day. Secondly, I hope that whatever Government are in power next year, they will remember that only twenty squadrons were formed thirty-two years ago. These Auxiliary squadrons always had the right spirit, and in the last war they did a lot to put the Royal Air Force into closer touch with the civilian life of this country, and they did a lot in defence of the country. To-day, there are still only twenty Auxiliary squadrons, and I hope the Government will double the number.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, I would add only a word to say how glad I am that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has intervened in this debate, because there is no one in this House whose voice is heard with more authority, especially in Royal Air Force quarters. The issue is narrowed down in this Bill to one point—namely, the decision required by the Air Ministry whether the Air Training Corps is to be dealt with by Territorial associations. I would say once more that I hope the noble Lord will convey to his right honourable friend how anxious I am that that decision should be taken, and taken in favour of the Territorial associations. I do not believe that great expense is involved. It is not so much economy in national expenditure as a question of departmental book-keeping. I refuse to believe that the cost of running the associations is much greater or less according to whether or not the Air Training Corps are in them. However, let us leave it at that. To use the language of the R.A.F., as I do deliberately, I wish the Bill "a happy landing." I am not going to wish it at the same time a long life, for the reason that this Bill should have as short a life as possible and a consolidating measure should follow as soon as possible after its passage.


My Lords, I have attempted at an earlier stage to stress the great significance that the Government attach to this Bill, although on the face of it it does not appear to represent a major departure. We feel it is essential that the Bill should go through, and that it is most valuable for the purposes we all have in mind. I should like on behalf of the Government to add my thanks to both the noble Viscounts who have spoken. I seldom venture to throw out suggestions to your Lordships, but on this occasion I threw one out which was picked up with alacrity by the noble Viscount, and I should like to take a little credit for the authoritative announcement he has made, which will be followed everywhere with close attention. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, that the remarks of no member of the House attract more attention than those of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, on these matters. And I should say the same thing of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. I should also like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for the way in which he has co-operated with us. As I said earlier, this Bill is a joint effort.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.