HL Deb 14 June 1950 vol 167 cc650-710

2.40 p.m.

VISCOUNT SWINTON rose to call attention to matters affecting the Royal Air Force and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, these debates on individual services are, I think we shall all agree, unrealistic and of little value unless they are related to the overall plan which, internationally and nationally, must govern the structure and planning of each individual national force. That rather obvious truth is greatly reinforced by the important decisions of the recent meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Council The communiqué of the Council, which was published shortly before the House adjourned, lays down that the Governments should concentrate on the creation of balanced collective forces", taking fully into consideration the requirements for national forces which arise out of commitments external to the North Atlantic area.

The Council agreed to appoint deputies—not a phrase I like, but I understand that their powers are to be much more than those usually connected with the name—and a full-time permanent organisation with a full-time chairman to ensure that effect is given to the co-ordinated plan. These deputies are to be responsible for carrying out the policies of the Council of Ministers. The resolution dealing with this matter states: On the military side the strategic concept of the Treaty has been adopted and a defence plan drawn up, and the corresponding estimate of the necessary forces is being established. This is the first opportunity—and I am sure your Lordships would wish that it should be taken—of asking questions to clarify these important declarations. The first question I shall ask is this: May we assume that the "defence plan," as it is called, on the military side embraces Navy, Army and Air? I gather that that is correct, and I am obliged for the assurance. I thought that must obviously be so, because unless it was a comprehensive plan embracing all three Services it would be neither a plan nor defence. Secondly, I would ask this. A defence plan pre-supposes the forces that plan requires. Now there seems at first sight some discrepancy between the two statements in the resolution—the first statement that "a defence plan has been drawn up," and the following statement that "the estimate of the necessary forces is being established." I say that at first sight there is some discrepancy, unless the latter part of the sentence means that it is merely detailed planning to give effect to an agreed overall plan. I would further ask this: Has the overall plan laid down in general terms, now to be implemented in detail, established the size and nature of the collective forces of the three Services?

To make the plan effective, each country must make its forces conform to the requirements of the plan, subject, of course, to its commitments outside the Atlantic area. That, I take it, means that each country will plan and work to a quota. I appreciate that a country may say, "I cannot fulfil the whole of my quota without help"—though we must surely all accept that there is a minimum insurance premium of peace which collectively and individually we must all pay if we are to safe. I know the cost of that premium will be high; but it would be prohibitive if money and effort were misspent on forces which did not conform to the overall plan. I ask, therefore, whether this conformity with the overall plan is accepted by all countries and, in particular, whether we in this country are conforming to it.

I now pass o the powers of the Council of Deputies. They are to be responsible for carrying out the policies of the Council of Ministers. I assume that this includes—indeed, it would appear that it must be their primary duty—the task of ensuring that the individual countries carry out the combined defence plan to which all have agreed. I therefore ask: Has the Council of Deputies power to interpret and to give decisions on how the plan is to be carried out? Let me turn now to the appointment of the man who is to represent this country on the Council of Deputies. If the scope and powers of this new Council are as wide as they appear to be from the communiqué and the resolution, it is going to be a post of supreme importance; and the qualities of the man who is to represent us on that Council are all-important. If I may, purely personally, venture on a suggestion, I cannot conceive anyone who would more suitably fill that post than my noble and gallant friend Lord Portal of Hunger-ford. In a complex organisation a vital factor is speed, and speed depends largely on the power to take decisions. I therefore ask: Can the Council of Deputies mould the existing organisations or create a new organisation if the Council considers that such changes will give quicker or more effective action?

I have assumed that our Service programmes now conform to the overall plan. I hope I am right. I would ask: In the air, does that mean that we shall have a balanced force? I think there are overwhelming arguments in favour of the Royal Air Force and the British aircraft industry making their full contribution, both in bombers and in fighters. While it is, of course, desirable to avoid a multiplicity of types, if we are to get the best type the fullest use should be made of design and technique. Indeed, I should go so far as to say this: that unless we give full scope to the competing genius of designers we shall not get the best on which to concentrate. Let me take an obvious example. The outstanding capacity shown by our designers in jet technique, both for fighters and bombers, should have the fullest possible scope. Moreover, apart from skill in design and manufacture, there are obvious practical and psychological advantages in the Royal Air Force which must make a great contribution, embracing in that contribution strong bomber and fighter forces. I am quite certain that it will be of the greatest advantage, not only to this country but to the United States and the whole Alliance, that our technical and operational skill should include both bombers and fighters; and that carries with it the obvious corollary that any tactical air force will include as a matter of course both fighters and bombers.

I turn now to some more detailed questions affecting the Royal Air Force which I have informed the Secretary of State (as I have of the more general question) that I should like to raise. May I take radar first? In the recent Defence debate which we had in this House I said, I think with the full approval of the Government, that the possession now by Russia of the atom bomb had given an entirely new significance to the whole of our air defence system. That in no way reduces the importance of the counter-offensive force that must always be there ready to take immediate action, but it does add an intensified responsibility in defence. Your Lordships may have seen that General Vandenburg, the chief of the Air Staff in the United States (I think in giving evidence before a Committee of Congress) recently emphasised the importance of radar defence in the United States. How much more important that radar defence is to us, who are 3,000 miles nearer the source of danger! I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to assure us that every possible step is being taken to complete our radar defences, both in equipment and in personnel. In this connection, I ask specifically: When will our jet night fighter squadrons be in operation?

My next question relates to air bases. It is an obvious truism that modern war becomes ever more unlimited in time and space. At the same time the range and capacity of aircraft increase, and the supreme value of an air force in defence or attack is its mobility. The Secretary of State for Air in another place emphasised that, and said that mobility—I believe I quote him rightly—is an essential complement of balance. But that mobility is hopelessly handicapped unless there are widely dispensed bases from which air forces can operate. Bases do not mean simply landing strips for aircraft; they mean supplies of petrol, antiaircraft defence, and such necessary facilities as cannot be flown out rapidly to the spot. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, referred to this in our debate on Defence, and I hope that both he and the Government will return to this subject to-day.

Finally, I should like to ask some specific questions about recruiting. The Secretary of State for Air has stated frankly that some of the more serious deficiencies are in the most important highly skilled trades. What is being done to remedy this situation? It is absolutely vital, not only to mobility but to the capacity of action of our squadrons, that these highly skilled men should be there. It is so important that I do not think we should be bound by precedent. I know that there are difficulties of differentiation in pay. Any old Service Minister knows that. But it has always been accepted, or at least for many years, that a high degree of skill justifies a differentiation in grading and in pay. Therefore, we are not applying any new principle. Our problem surely is to create those conditions, minimum conditions if you please, which will ensure that the Royal Air Force gets the skilled men who are absolutely vital to its existence.

I believe that a marked improvement has been made in the use of National Service men, to which I referred last year. I should like to acknowledge all I hear of the improvement that is taking place: that the men are much more rapidly graded and that a genuine and often successful effort is being made to employ them where their natural or acquired skill will be most useful. That is all to the good. If these men are given this outlet for their skill, and are encouraged to take an interest in the Service into which they come as National Service men it is all tie more likely that they will stay on in the Royal Air Force and make it their career. But you will not obtain the skilled men by that alone. I should like to ask whether full use is being made of Halton. Of all the contributions to the Royal Air Force made by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard—and they were many and great—I am not sure that the creation of Halton was not the biggest and the best. It has been the cradle of the skilled men of the Royal Air Force and, indeed, of many first-class pilots. I am sure that every effort should be made to fill and, if necessary, expand Halton. I would remind the House that even before the war we had not only extended Halton but made a new Halton, and we were in those days, I am glad to say, able to get the boys for both.

I turn now to pilots. Is the intake up to the programme? I am sure that everybody will agree that it is enormously important that both parents and schoolmasters should value the Royal Air Force as a career for their children or for the boys in their charge. I would ask, on that: Is the liaison satisfactory with the public schools? If I may say so—and I speak from some practical experience of this—there must be liaison not only with the schoolmasters, with whom no doubt senior officers are the right link, but also with the boys. Much the best form of liaison with the boys in the public schools is to give leave to young cadets from Cranwell to go back to their schools or to go to other schools and tell the boys what a fine Service the Royal Air Force is. For those who cannot make the Air Force a career, but who are willing to fly, are we making adequate use of flying training in the Volunteer Reserve and in the flying clubs?

Now a word on the auxiliary squadrons. To-day, again, the auxiliary squadrons have become an integral and essential part of our fighter defence. How many of those squadrons have yet got their jet fighters? Every one of the squadrons I know is to he armed. I am sure it would not be against the interests of security if we were allowed to know the number of auxiliary squadrons—I hope that is not giving dangerous information to the enemy—and I do not think that it would be giving away much in security if we were told how many of the squadrons had their jet fighters and how many will have their full complement of jet fighters by the end of the year. The sooner they get them the better. Not only the squadrons but the auxiliary fighter control units are now a vital part of our defence. I would ask how many of these fighter control units are complete in personnel and equipment. That may appear a rather detailed question but, again from experience, I have found how valuable it is to have the right man as liaison officer. Have the Air Ministry a good senior liaison officer between the Ministry and the auxiliary squadrons? Some people, even members of this House, will remember what excellent work Air-Commodore Peake did in that capacity. He was of great value, both to the auxiliary squadrons and to the Air Ministry, as I am sure anyone who had to do with either the auxiliary squadrons or the Air Ministry during that time would agree. If the Ministry have not such a liaison officer—and he must be the right man—I hope that such an important appointment will be made.

My Lords, I have asked a number of questions, some general, some particular, but all, I hope, of a kind that should be asked and answered in a Defence debate. They are prompted by our anxiety to know whether the Government are doing those things which are necessary to our peace and, if so, whether they are doing them fast enough. There are two things on which I am sure we need have no anxiety: first, the efficiency and spirit of the men in the Service, in the air and on the ground; and, secondly, the skill of our design staffs and the quality of the work in our factories. Our anxiety is that these priceless assets shall be fully used and supported. I do not believe that war is inevitable; I am sure it is not. But the insurance premium of peace is the right use by ourselves and our Allies of the resources, physical, scientific and moral, which are the priceless possession of a free world. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a wide review from the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and I shall be most interested to hear what answers we receive to his questions from the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I have studied the guiding principles laid down for the North Atlantic Treaty organisation, and they seem to me to be excellent in every way. I think the difficulty will be in the application of those principles. But I do not intend to discuss those principles now; I propose to descend to a rather more pedestrian level. I want to talk about the defence of sea communications and the question of Coastal Command.

It was interesting to me to note that the noble Viscount, in his opening speech, mentioned fighters and bombers, but made no mention at all of Coastal Command. I cannot help feeling a little anxious at what I hear of the present strength and condition of that Command, because, whatever is done in connection with the North Atlantic Treaty, the protection of the sea communications; of this Island is obviously a vital commitment. As to whether it should be done alone by the R.A.F. or with the assistance of our Allies, I am not competent to say; no doubt that is being worked out. But I cannot help feeling somewhat anxious about the present state of Coastal Command. I was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of that Command for eighteen months, from January, 1944, until July, 1945. On VE-Day, the strength of the Command was about 70 squadrons, with 1,100 first-line aircraft—a truly formidable force. Shortly after VE-Day, as A.O.C.-in-C. I was instructed drastically to reduce the strength of the Command, with a view to concentrating all our available air resources against the Japanese. This was clearly the right thing to do, as we then thought we were in for a prolonged struggle with Japan and it was obviously no good having a lot of very good squadrons "kicking their heels" about Britain when, we had a major war on our hands in the Far East. Consequently, preparations were put in hand to transfer a large part of Coastal Command to the Far East, some of the squadrons in their Coastal Command role but the majority of them as transport squadrons. A few superfluous squadrons were disbanded, and the Command was finally whittled down to about half a dozen squadrons. At that time I was assured by the Air Ministry that this did not represent the peace-time strength of Coastal Command, and that after the defeat of Japan the Command would be built up again to its proper peace-time level. From what I hear, however, I am not sure that this assurance has been implemented to a sufficient degree.

Coastal Command has two primary roles—the first, anti-U-boat, and the second, anti-shipping. It is with the first of those two roles that I propose to deal briefly this afternoon, because I think it is of transcending importance to us in our present situation. I am not an alarmist about the possibility of war with Russia; in fact, I think there has been too much talk about it on both sides of the Atlantic. On the other hand, we must obviously be well prepared for such an eventuality. I understand that Russia possesses some 300 submarines. This would be a formidable threat to our vital sea communications at the outbreak of war. I regret I was not present at the debate which was held some weeks ago on the naval aspect of this problem, but I have read the report of that debate in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Obviously, the Navy cannot be expected to tackle this problem on its own; it must have help from an adequate force of shore-based aircraft. It is an interesting fact that when the number of submarines destroyed during the war is totted up, we find that almost an equal number were sunk by aircraft and by naval surface forces—it is practically fifty-fifty. Air reconnaissance also played a considerable part in the operations of the surface forces which resulted in their sinking U-boats. The great majority of the U-boats killed by aircraft were destroyed by Coastal Command, who during the war built up what I venture to say was an excellent system of close co-operation and co-ordination of operations with the Navy. It is the strength of this anti-submarine force of shore-based aircraft about which I am so anxious at the present time, and I should like to ask His Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to rebuild the force to an adequate strength.

My Lords, I have always been a little of a heretic about air strategy. In air circles it is fashionable to say that the bomber force must always and in all circumstances have priority. Those I opinions are supported by such platitudinous truisms as "Offence is the best form of defence," and so on. I quite agree that you cannot hope to win a war by defensive action, and that the air war cannot be ultimately won without a strong bomber force. But you must have a strong base from which to launch your operations, and you must have a minimum defensive force in being at the beginning of a war to prevent yourself being knocked out in the first round. The classic example of that, of course, is the Battle of Britain. If Fighter Command, under my noble friend Lord Dowding, had not been just strong enough to win that battle, it is quite possible that the magnificent and decisive exploits of Bomber Command in the latter stages of the war would never have occurred, because we should have lost the war before Bomber Command had had time to build up its striking power.

What I am anxious about now is lest we may be putting ourselves in danger of losing the battle of sea communications in the early stages of a future conflict, because we have not a sufficiency of anti-U-Boat shore-based air squadrons. It may he said that the best way of dealing with this threat is to employ our bomber force against the U-Boat bases and kill them in their nests, and that consequently our bomber force should not be weakened to provide more antisubmarine hunting aircraft. Of course, there is something in that argument. I have no wish unduly to weaken our bomber striking force. But I do not believe that the Allied bomber force at the beginning of a war, with all the tasks which it will be called upon to perform, will he able to prevent more than a proportion, perhaps quite a small proportion, of enemy submarines from putting to sea. And once they are at sea, there must be a well trained and properly equipped force of shore-based aircraft to deal with them, working of course in close co-operation with naval surface forces. Consequently, my plea to-day is for a strengthening of Coastal Command's anti-submarine squadrons. Coastal Command has always accepted with good grace the role of Cinderella. I do not imply by this simile that Fighter or Bomber Commands are precisely ugly sisters—indeed, I have a great admiration and affection for both, and I was Commander-in-Chief of one of them for two years. But I think they must, if necessary, yield a little to their regrettably small and weak sister.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great honour for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, under whom I once had the privilege of serving for what was, in my view, a regrettably short time. I should like to take the debate to what is perhaps a more pedestrian level. I think that the time has come when the Air Force should be understood more fully by all sections of the public. It may be that there is need for something approximating, to what are known as Cardwell reforms in the Army. It may be that other changes are required. I feel, however, that the internal structure of the Royal Air Force requires to be made more fully known to the public as a whole. I may even be true that the emphasis laid by Lord Trenchard on an independent Air Force has to some extent hidden its structure. I suggest that, perhaps because there has been too much emphasis on the element of security, the internal structure of the Air Force is not as well understood as it ought to be.

I am fully aware that the pre-war Air Force List was something in the nature of a child's guide to enemy intelligence. I realise that it went too far. But are we not going too far in the opposite direction at the present time in hiding the identity of units in the Service? While I realise the necessity for a measure of centralisation in matters of equipment and operational control I would ask whether we cannot decentralise personnel control so far as possible. There may be many ways of doing it. Could we not have unit badges of some character? Could we not perhaps appoint Air Commodores-in-Chief of individual squadrons, and could we not identify sections of the Air Force with geographical locations? I repeat that the general set-up of the Service is not adequately understood by the great majority of the public to-day, and I maintain that it is extremely important that it should be.

May I now turn to the whole question of personnel, which is vital to the Service? Although the Secretary of State for Air was able to paint a slightly more rosy picture in the debate on the Air Estimates the situation is still profoundly unsatisfactory. We have had it stated here that it may take seven years for an aeroplane to evolve from the drawing board to the operational stage. But it takes very much longer than that to build up the personnel of an Air Force. If the personnel is allowed to diminish or deteriorate in quality in any way at the present time, the effects will be lasting. I should like to ask the Government whether they consider the position satisfactory. I do not say that they do. And I am going to ask two questions. First, will they divide the number of aircraft which are serviceable to-day into the total personnel of the Service? I do not know whether the result will be a larger or smaller number than the total strength of this House, but I suggest that it will be a frightening figure.


The noble Earl must of course hear in mind the number of serviceable aircraft in reserve.


Aircraft in reserve are not serviceable, and I said serviceable aircraft. May I now put a second question to the Government? Will they examine the relevant statistics and state whether more persons are re-engaging for permanent service than are taking their discharge? We are aware that a crucial point has been reached. A great many of those who joined for twelve years before the war are due to go out of the Service this year, and I believe that many of them are not re-engaging. Are the numbers re-engaging more or less than the numbers leaving? I put that question now, though I do not suppose the noble Viscount will be able to give me an immediate answer, because I wish to emphasise what appears to me to be a vital question in relation to personnel. I have been told that many of those who have tried the Service are not liking it at the present time. That is a very serious situation. The Service in the past has always been popular, and it is in the public interest that it should continue to be popular. It is no good saying year after year that the Service is suffering from a lack of balance which materially contributes to excessive posting. There is some basic error in the organisation which has permitted this to continue so long. We must find a system which prevents these two evils of lack of balance and excessive posting. The Service at present, in the eyes of people who would be willing to serve, is not satisfactory in many respects.


My Lords, I am anxious not to have a wrong impression created in the country, because of the suggestion made by the noble Earl as to unpopularity. I would ask him to remember that the Services have had a particularly difficult job after the heavy run-down in the last three or four years. They are now getting over that, but conditions have been exceedingly grave for them in regard to organisation. They are doing their utmost to create conditions which will be popular. We are most anxious that any publicity which this debate may receive should not give a wrong impression to people outside.


I am delighted to hear that. If the noble Viscount can assure us that he has the requisite number of permanent personnel, that the requisite number of people are re-engaging, I will willingly withdraw. But, as I have said, my impression is that many of those who have tried the Service are not satisfied. And what is the reason? Take the position to-day of the L.A.C. He receives three guineas a week, and he is in many cases a skilled fitter. What would he get in industry outside? Probably £10 to £15 a week. Even a sergeant after sixteen years would he earning under £5 10s. a week. If he was a good man his weekly earnings in civilian life would be certainly three times, and might be four times, as much. It is all very well to talk about the "perks" of the Service. Take the case of a pilot officer. He earns 16s. a day, which is about half the average wage of a man in the coal-mining industry. If you went to a coal-mining area and sail to men there: "We propose to halve your cash salary and in return for that we will give you the 'perks' of a Royal Air Force officer," the preposition would not be found very acceptable. I do not think that anyone expects the Secretary of State to be a great strategist in matters of air warfare, but we are entitled to expect him to see that the Service gets a fair deal from the Treasury. A pilot officer to-dry may be in command of an aeroplane which is worth as mach as a cruiser wa4 in 1914. That is a very heavy responsibility.

May I give one more example for which I hope the noble Viscount will excuse me? The Prime Minister has recently taken large amounts of his salary as expenses. The net effect of that is to increase his gross salary something like ten times. Nobody grudges him that, because he has an arduous and difficult task; but other people have arduous and difficult tasks in the service of the State, and the Secretary of State has the task of seeing that they are properly remunerated for what they do.

Let me turn for a moment to the Reserve Force. I see that recently a circular was issued describing the reserve organisation. I wish that organisation every good fortune. It is necessarily a bit sketchy yet, but it will no doubt fill out in due course. I am not very happy, from what I have heard about the qualities of reserve instruction, but I hope that will be built up. In the Auxiliary Air Force, of which I have some experience, I wish to emphasise three points: first, that some of the squadrons are commanded by regular officers. That is a mistake in principle. I will not say that there are no occasions when regular officers should command auxiliary squadrons, and I am not making a comparison between the qualities of regular officers and those of possible auxiliary officers. But the two functions are different, and if the pre-war policy of appointing an absolutely first-rate adjutant, who had virtually the power of the commanding officer, could be followed, it would be quite unnecessary to put regular officers in command of auxiliary squadrons. I hope the noble Viscount will convey to the Secretary of State the damage which this policy will do if allowed to continue, even for an exceedingly short time.

The second point about the Auxiliary Air Force, which I would ask the noble Viscount to note is that at the present time the Air Ministry refuse to appoint honorary chaplains to auxiliary squadrons. I assure the noble Viscount that in my experience, and in the experience of other officers, certainly in Scotland, an honorary chaplain is of tremendous value to the morale of a squadron. I should be grateful if that point could be looked into. My third point has already been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, that an advisory officer should be appointed in the Air Ministry. Good work was done before the war by such an officer, and from what I hear there is ample scope for work of that character to be done at the present time.

Turning to equipment, there is no doubt that the Government have been successful in equipping fighter squadrons, so far as they go, with first-class aircraft, but it is a little disappointing that they are taking two and a half years, from September, 1948, to March, 1951, to double their number. The necessary aircraft were already in production and were already jigged up, but none the less they are taking all this time. I will say nothing further about Coastal Command than has already been said, but I wish that those interested in the Navy would press for a stronger Coastal Command. I will make a bargain with any noble Lords interested in the Navy—if they press for a stronger Coastal Command I will press for stronger escort groups of the Royal Navy. Their combined work in the last war with Coastal Command is something of which we can all be justly proud. In regard to Bomber Command, the position is one of grave anxiety, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has said. The Government have said in another place that if the machine—that is, the larger jet bomber—turns out as they hope, they will equip Bomber Command with it. I hope the noble Viscount will tell us that that is still the intention.

Against that, however, I would quote what General Omar Bradley said in Washington in July, 1949: The United States of America will be charged with strategic bombing, and the terms of the Agreement on Military Aid of April, 1949: the arms given cannot be used outside the North Atlantic. I should like to add to that what the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, said yesterday afternoon on the Schuman Plan, when he spoke of the necessity to ensure that the United Kingdom is in a position to discharge its responsibilities in every part of the world. If our heavy bomber force is going to be restricted by the terms of the Agreement on the Atlantic area, that will not do. We are entitled to know something of what this policy is. What is meant by an integrated air force? It is vital that we should be informed of this.

It is easy to say that we should have a straightforward plan, that we should build the fighters and America should build the bombers. It is easy to take a jingoistic point of view and say that because we are a great people we must have a bomber force. I do not propose to take either view but to examine just where we stand. The year 1950 was marked by the heavy reduction of Transport Command. That means no airborne attack, no Berlin air lift, and difficulty in moving personnel and equipment to overseas bases. I would ask the noble Viscount whether commercial avia- tion is being built up to meet this requirement, because transport is an essential requirement in war. We have to remember the fact that to-day, five years after the war, there are four different types of aircraft flying the Atlantic which are all built in North America. Not one British land plane, except the Lancastrian, which is not a civil aircraft, has ever regularly flown the Atlantic. Are we to have the same position in Bomber Command? Are we going to go out of this type of development? I know that the Brabazon is being built, but no one will say more of the Brabazon than that it is a long shot.

I would suggest certain considerations in approaching this problem. I am sure that no man likes to lean too heavily on a comrade, and we have to play our part with our great Allies. Secondly, the problem of aircraft is like the Navy problem which was once described as: Build few, build fast, each one better than the last. Unfortunately, that is contrary to the whole principles of economics, but it is none the less true that an aircraft which is out of date is practically useless. We have to keep up to date, and for this reason I submit that timing is of importance. If our aircraft are good this year, perhaps America's will be best in three years time. We could integrate our bomber strengths in time. The real difficulty is development, not production.

Apart from these economic points, we have made a great advance in jet propulsion. Here we still have an advantage over the Americans, which, by greater efficiency, gives us, among other things, longer range. We have always been ahead in radar, and I think we are still ahead. Perhaps I may say that we are more inventive, while the Americans are more productive. Maybe these two things will fuse together. We have always been ahead in navigation, in which our schools have shown great development, and they have still to learn from us here. Over a wide sphere we have superior practical experience, and particularly in the organisation of night bombing. In this country we have had an intimate contact between Service and industry, a contact which has been mutually advantageous and which has never been misused. That is something of great value in our development of fighting aircraft.

Finally, a striking force is absolutely vital. It was the striking force in the last war that compelled the Germans to make fighters rather titan bombers, which obviously redounded to the benefit of the population of this country. At the end of the war they were making more fighters than we, because they were driven back on tot he defensive. For all those reasons, I submit that this is a vital decision, which will be materially advanced by what is decided this year as to whether or not we go out of this type of business. I submit that if we are to be able to play our part in the Atlantic Pact it is vital that we continue with this type of construction and development. I would add merely this. During the last century the Royal Navy were able to maintain the peace of the world and prevent any major conflagration. Today, in my view, that task falls to the Royal Air Force and the American Air Force, and with proper leadership they can carry it out.

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has just spoken offered a very fair bargain when he said that he would assist the Navy to get their escort vessels if the Navy would help him in procuring the aircraft he desires. I accept that proposal and, se far as I am concerned, I shall be glad to work with the noble Earl on those lines. I am particularly interested in what the noble Viscount who opened the debate had to say on the all-important subject of our relations with America. I look forward with great interest to hearing the replies to many of the questions which he raised. America has made it quite clew that she will make military contributions only to a completely integrated North Atlantic defence. I feel that perhaps the matter goes even further than that, and involves not only an integrated common defence but also a smoothly working integrated economic system and common action in regard to major matters of foreign policy. I have seen our relations with America in these matters described in America as being based upon the principle that we must hang together if we are not to hang separately.

I. feel that we must pay tribute to the manner in which America has faced up to what must have been, in many respects, very unpalatable responsibilities indeed. For instance, I noticed recently that although in Congress there has been great pressure—as there is in our Parliament—on the subject of economy, yet when General Eisenhower the other day called attention to certain weaknesses and deficiencies in American armaments Congress at once enormously increased the necessary appropriations. The essential point, however, is that America is now fully committed to the co-ordination of her military measures with those of certain Western European countries. That is so because her foreign policy would obviously be reduced to nought if Western Europe were overwhelmed. Nowadays, there is also the fact that no nation can afford to pay the whole expense of its own defence—in fact, only international trade can find the money which is required for Western defence and to enable America to supply arms to Europe. Such international trade involves economic co-operation, which in turn must involve a certain sacrifice of national sovereignty. That is always an unpalatable matter, but it is essential.

Hand in hand with that goes another grave fact which must always be borne in mind—namely, that while we rightly press the necessity for common integrated defence, yet balanced collective forces must mean unbalanced national forces. Mr. Acheson has gone on record to the effect that no agreement with Russia on disarmament, or even on atomic energy, is possible, and American foreign policy is now based on the principle of building up a deterrent power. At the moment America seems more optimistic about Western defence, according to the words of General Omar Bradley. But I notice that this optimism is based on what are described as "the new weapons"—that those new weapons are so powerful that they will give defence the upper hand. I am sure we all agree with that, but the vital matter is: Are the new weapons yet available, or will there be a considerable time lag before they become available? With great respect to all that has been done in the various conferences, and the drawing up of the various schemes for Western defence and so on, we have to remember that at the moment a great deal of it is still on paper. Our great anxiety must be to remove from Russia the temptations to which our weaknesses expose her. We must remember that Rus- sia will not be in the least afraid of paper pacts, paper treaties and paper agreements, or of those extraordinary genealogical tables we see setting out the various committees and sub-committees, and their proliferations of more sub-committees, and so on, which represent on paper a toothless system of defence. Russia will never come into what we want her to come into so long as there is weakness by which she can profit.

I hope we may hear something this afternoon as to how our discussions with America on the mutual defence programme are progressing. At the end of last December Mr. Acheson said that those engaged on this programme were still on general principles, and that the technical representatives had for many months been considering what items were most urgently needed to strengthen the integrated defence of the North Atlantic area. Six months have since gone by, and no doubt great progress has been made in the interval. It will he interesting to hear what that progress is, if it is possible for the noble Viscount who is to reply to tell us. But we have to remember that, even when the weapons have been decided upon and supplied, a lengthy period is still necessary for training in the use of those weapons. The Whole question of Western defence is complicated by shortages of men and money. Money is the core of the business—the cost never stops growing. The Foreign Ministers agree on what they want Foreign is policy); the Chiefs of Staff are told what the policy is, and they have Ito decide what is practicable (that is strategy); the planners then have to plan to implement the strategy; and when all that has been done the Finance Ministers come along and say that they cannot find the money and the whole plan must be pared down.

To resist an opening attack we require overwhelming strength in the air, so much so that I, for one, incline to the view that priority in defence expenditure ought now to be given to the air. It has been said this afternoon that we are short of bombers. It would be unfair to apportion any blame in that respect. As I understand it, the Air Ministry decided not to re-equip with a turbo-jet or with another piston engine bomber, because, at the time when they had to take the decision, the European situation was not quite so threatening. Therefore, they decided to press on with the development of advanced jet bombers. They had to take a decision of some sort—call it a gamble if you like—but the international situation at the time when the decision was taken seemed to justify it. The situation has grown gravely worse at increasing speed, and so we are short of bombers. As regards fighters, anti-aircraft armament has become much more effective and jet fighters of a very high speed and with a very high rate of climb are required. The Canberra twin-engined jet fighter is, understand, a fine aircraft but it has not a very long range. Information has been released this week about a jet night fighter. We have been given—I dare say very properly—few particulars of that aircraft, but I have heard doubts expressed as to whether she is fast enough to catch the fastest bomber now in the air.

An Air Force which is weak in numbers of aircraft, in material or in men, may be quickly overwhelmed. I have always been told that we won the Battle of Britain only by a very small margin indeed, and that is why I say that the first priority to-day is that we should build up an overwhelming strength in the air. We do not know what first-line strength the Government are aiming at. At the moment it is probably something in the hundreds rather than in the thousands. I understand that the Secretary of State is going to double the jet fighter programme, but—as has already been asked this afternoon—are the skilled men necessary for maintenance available? It is not possible to increase front-line strength if man-power is decreasing, and apparently at the moment the man-power is decreasing. I understand that the man-power of the Air Force on April 1, 1950, was 202,500; it is estimated that on April 1, 1951, the man-power will be 198,000. Clearly this raises a problem of the first importance if you are seeking to double your jet fighter programme while a decrease in your man-power is taking place.

This lack of man-power has had most serious results. Transport Command has been reduced, and some very valuable units have been suppressed. Out of that figure of 202,500, 126,000 are Regulars who have to train 76,500 National Service men. I suppose that is a job which takes something like twelve months. In these circumstances, in spite of all the skill and the energy displayed by those in charge of the Royal Air Force, I am afraid it is unfortunately the fact that it has too many handicaps to face to enable it to pull its full weight in Western defence at the present time. With these shortages it cannot be ready for an immediate emergency, because man power is the weak spot. I do not believe that the man-power question can he remedied until the pay is improved. After all, the pay is worse than the pay the trade unions obtain for their members. America does pay, and she gets the recruits she requires. I am sure that the matter turns upon this question of pay, because, even if you increase the pay of a man to a point where he is getting the same, or to all intents and purposes the same, as his opposite number in civilian life, the fact remains that in civilian life the hooter goes at five o'clock and the man is then his own master until he returns to work the next morning. In the Armed Forces there is the disadvantage that even when the day's work is over the man is still subject to certain restraint; he does not enjoy quite the same full life and liberties as does his opposite number in civilian life. For those reasons, I am sure that it is essential to increase the pay. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating; and if the pay is not increased we shall see whether we get the recruits or not. If we do not get them, we shall have to face up to the inescapable fact that it is the pay which is at the root of the trouble.

I listened with great interest to all the noble Viscount said about having plenty of people on the job of building aircraft, getting competition in ideas, and so on. We must remember that in the last war our aircraft industry could not supply us with the numbers of aircraft we needed. We had to rely on America and the Dominions for the number of aircraft we required. That, I think, lends force to the argument which has been advanced for keeping in existence all the aircraft firms we can, so that we may have a varied aircraft industry to fall back upon if, unhappily, war comes.

I do not think I have asked any questions, but there are two I should like to ask before I sit down. I feel that it is very necessary that armaments production should now be decentralised. I do not think this country is a suitable spot in which to establish a large armaments production. I know that there are people who say that things are all right because America probably has 100 atomic bombs and Russia has only ten. But I know who is going to get the ten. It will not be America; it will be this Island. Therefore, I think that some decentralisation of our armaments production is highly necessary, and I should like to ask how far matters have gone in regard to establishing factories in the Dominions. The only other question I would venture to put is this. We know what has been said and done about standardisation of armaments for Western defence. Can any information be given as to how far ideas of standardisation of air equipment have progressed? I conclude by repeating what I have already said, that I do not think this House could debate a more important subject than we are debating this afternoon, because I am convinced that our survival depends upon our having overwhelming strength in the air to face any emergency which may come.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, before I come to the Motion which is on the Order Paper, I should like to state what, in my opinion, is the background to the question we are discussing this afternoon. We must remember that to-day we are short of men, materials and money, and, most important of all, we are short of time. Another part of this background is that our possible enemy—bearing in mind those four points I have just mentioned—is at the present time immeasurably superior to the Allied Powers in numbers of men in the Army. We are also informed that their Air Force is more numerous than that of the Allied Powers—although I will never admit that its quality is anything like as good. But those are facts which I, for one, read in the papers and hear from other sources. I am told that the only thing in which the Allied Powers are vastly superior to any enemy is in ships of war. One must not forget another fact, however, and that is the new type of submarine that the potential enemy may have. That should be the background of this debate to-day.

The terms of the Motion, "To call attention to matters affecting the Royal Air Force" appeal to me much more than if this debate were confined to the Air Estimates. I am one of those who regard air power as an integral whole which cannot be considered in watertight compartments. It consists of fighters and bombers and many other types. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, said that he had not noticed that the word "Coastal" had been mentioned by the noble Viscount who initiated the debate; but he surely missed the point that bombers and fighters are in Coastal Command—that, in fact, Coastal Command consists of bombers and fighters, among other types of machine. We cannot divide Bomber Command from Fighter Command except as regards their administration and operation; they are all part of air power and they work for Coastal Command, Intelligence and all the rest.

I agree with the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, regarding the importance of knowing something about the air bases, and I will refer to this matter again. But on the subject of differentiation in pay rates, r feel that a man must be paid for the job he does and that it is natural that the more skilled man wants more pay than the less skilled or the unskilled man; and that if the Air Force want these skilled men they must pay them accordingly. I spoke at some length in the Defence debate on April 4, when I enumerated four points—three of them connected with the Royal Air Force and the fourth connected with man-power. The Government did not reply to three of my points although the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, displayed what I might perhaps call a little irritation when I referred to the subject of having one Air Force instead of two. But when in the recent debate on the Navy Estimates it was suggested that the Navy should take over a great division of the Royal Air Force—that that Force should be mutilated again after all these years and after all it has done—I saw no signs of irritation. I feel I must express my agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, when he said: I hope that the idea of divided control of the air force is no longer being entertained. After all, one cannot have two wars, one being conducted on the sea, and another being conducted on the land. If unity of command means anything whatsoever, it means control over both spheres. I will not refer any more now to this matter of the two air forces, but I still say that air power must be taken to-day as one whole, if we are going to consider efficiency, economy, man-power, material and time. I would not have said anything which I have in fact said if it were not for those four things which it is vital we should consider.

There was another question which I raised in the debate I have mentioned, to which I received no answer. I hope that after what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has said this afternoon, we shall get an answer. I refer to the subject of air bases. Are we setting up these strategic points throughout the world in the same way as the Americans have done in this country? The noble Lord the Minister of Defence did not make any reference to that on the last occasion. An air base, as has been said, is not simply an aerodrome or a landing ground. It is much more. The noble Viscount the former Minister of Defence knows all about the great naval bases with their oil tanks, supplies, plant and machinery all over the world, such as those at Malta and Gibraltar. The Air Force must also have its workshops, fuel supplies, radar, and all the ground organisation necessary to-day for the efficient working of Air Force bombers and fighters. Are we making that provision throughout the world so as to make the Royal Air Force a mobile force? It may be that the noble Viscount will think, for security reasons, that we must not mention where these big air bases are. I cannot see why we should keep the thing secret when any visitor to any of those places throughout the world can observe and know for himself, just as he can know of the American air bases in this country. But I would ask the Government to tell us, if they can, how many of these air bases there are ready to-day and how many more are being constructed in the Commonwealth and in the friendly countries of the North Atlantic pact. Is Malta being maintained as a well-equipped air base, as it became in the last war? Are the workshops there being maintained, or is it being allowed to degenerate into an aerodrome comprising nothing much more than a few machines and an air strip?

Another point of the utmost importance is, how is the Royal Air Force going to be organised? The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, talked about a balanced force; I feel that this air force must be a balanced force with fighters, long-range bombers, mine droppers, rocket ma- chines, Coastal Command and transport machines and all the other units that will enable this country to take its fair share of air power as a balanced whole with that great country, America, in the defence of Western European civilisation. I have sometimes seen it stated that we should have only fighters for defence and that the long-range bomber—which is the main force of air power—should be the province solely of the American Air Force. It is said that America, with her vast production resources, will have to build and man all heavy-type bombers and that we should concentrate on the smaller machines. I agree that we should support General Bradley's thesis that if all the North Atlantic Powers try to build up little national replicas of what ought to be the overall military establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers the result can only be waste and inefficiency. But that does not mean that we can afford to have in this country an unbalanced Air Force, for reasons that have been stated. We have to face the fact that we are unpleasantly close to the potential enemy and must be ready for instant action in the air, over the sea and over the land. Should the need arise, although we hope it will not, we must be ready that way.

I would suggest also that to concentrate our production entirely on the smaller machines would be a serious mistake—and not only for the reason I have just given. It would destroy the spirit and morale of the Royal Air Force if they felt that they had been relegated to a purely defensive rôle. Having been to America a good many times, and having great friends over there, I cannot escape the conviction that America would feel that we were showing lack of courage and defeatism if we were not prepared to share the load of this most important and necessary aspect of air power—the heavy bombers, where experience has shown that the proportion of casualties in men and machines is greater than in any other branch of air war. For there is there a continuous wastage. The Air Force of this country has always borne that responsibility, ever since conflict in the air started, and we are only too willing and proud to continue doing so.

We must go into any future conflict, should it unhappily arise, as partners—maybe junior partners—with America. We are still a great country. When we look at the new map of the world, which I wish I could see here in this House, it is interesting to note that we are still a great country. We are still the centre of the world. If you divide the globe into hemispheres, you can cut it in a hundred different ways. If it is cut in one way, 98 per cent. of the production of the world is in one hemisphere and 2 per cent. in the other. If it is cut another way, 96 per cent. of the man-power of the world is in one hemisphere and 4 per cent. in the other. It so happens that England is the geographical centre of that hemisphere of 98 per cent. which I have mentioned. I have maps showing this. England is the centre of the world.

It is obviously impossible for us to build as great a number of heavy machines as the Americans have or, for that matter, anything like the number that we had at the end of the last war, under Sir Arthur Harris. But we still have brains in this country capable of designing and building machines as good as any in the world—and, being British, better. If we find that we cannot produce all that we want in sufficient quantities, we must say so frankly, and ask America, as we did in the last war, to build some of them for us. We must again ask them to help us. Healthy competition and rivalry between ourselves and the Americans as to who can produce a better bomber and fighter is another important factor which must not be lost sight of, and that might well happen if each concentrated on one side of air power. If there is no competition between this country and America in the air, we shall be handicapping both countries in getting the best that the human brain can produce and the human body can operate. Therefore I say to the Government: "Are we building and designing long-range bombers? Can the noble Viscount assure us that we are?"

Another point is that it is thought by some—and this is a controversial point—that the British Empire, scattered as it is throughout the world, should have big aircraft carriers as its main aerodromes, and that very big land bases all over the world would not a waste of money and man-power. On the other hand, there are many of us who feel that it is a gigantic waste of money to build these large carriers and to main- tain them at sea. They need big docks to service them, escort vessels to guard them and they are very vulnerable and can be sunk in a few minutes, as the "Prince of Wales" was sunk. I feel that this is the crux of this question of getting enough man-power and everything for what is wanted. It is the crux of one of the most important points of the efficient defence of the British Empire and Western civilisation. Are we not putting too much time, man-power and energy into the big aircraft carriers, their supply and support services, and their docks, which are not strengthening our overall air power, but rather diluting it?

The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said in the last debate on Defence that I must not claim that there was a large body of opinion in this country which shared my view. But I claim that I am not speaking only for myself. I know that I have no right to speak for the serving officer, but I venture to claim that at least 90 per cent. of those who served in the Air Force in the last war—I am not talking of officers of such an early vintage as myself but of officers of the last war—will say that the big aircraft carrier was obsolete at the end of that war. I will go further and say that I believe that the majority of people in the Royal Air Force hold the view that the big carrier is obsolete, and that it is a dangerous fallacy to base our defence upon it. I notice, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who moved the Motion on Naval Estimates, hinted that he would like to see small carriers instead of large. It is evident that he realises at least some of the dangers of pinning our faith to vulnerable large carriers. I do not want to digress too far into naval matters, but as they are to some extent connected with the air I have to mention them. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, said in the debate on Naval Estimates on May 10 that airborne forces when first landed are doomed unless they are rapidly and continuously supported. He went on to say that these reinforcements must come from naval carriers. I differ from him there. I think they are too vulnerable to be counted on as a safe means of support for the landing of airborne forces. In fact, I am certain that there was no operation in the last war where carriers could have been used as the sole means of support for airborne forces.

And now, what about air power in its relation to the Army? For air power is an even more basic need than naval support to our Army to-day, and in the work of the Air Force with the Army again the tactical machine is just as necessary as what has been called the strategic bomber. Both are necessary for the Army. All experience in the last war has shown that, unless we can keep command of the air over our armies advancing into an enemy country, our armies will have no chance of going forward. Does anybody forget what air power did during the landing of the British Army in France or Italy, and what the big bomber in a tactical operation did at Caen to enable the Army to advance, what it did at the landing in Normandy and on the crossing of the Rhine? I am not talking of the bombing of Germany but of the bombing to enable our armies to advance at all, when we are knocking out the enemy's supplies of oil and various other things, and at the same time laying mines at sea.

I think Field-Marshal Montgomery has time and time again said that armies cannot move unless we have air supremacy, and he built the whole of his tactics and strategy on this premise. We have got to see that we have the fighters, the tank-busters, the rocket machines or the coastal machines, or whatever are the comparable machines of the future, to support our Army. And we must have sufficient of them, because the work they will be called upon to do is unlimited. One moment they may be bombing or knocking out fast coastal transport ships; the next moment they will be knocking out an enemy tank. The target may be on land or on the sea. Then we must have the transport machines to carry supplies, troops, and the air-borne armies as well. These are the machines we will need against any armies, navies, or aircraft of the enemy advancing against us. These machines will be the mainstay of the protection of Western Europe, and they can be switched to co-operate with the Army or the little ships of the Navy.

My Lords, there is one other point I should like to refer to here. In the Defence debate the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referring to the air and the sea, said that there was one principle that still remained—namely, that we had to keep the seas open so that our com- merce could go on and our ships proceed without being destroyed. I could not agree more. The machines of which I am speaking can help in that way, and can assist the Army at the same time. The Royal Air Force together with the American Air Force must be powerful enough to enable the Allied merchant fleets to sail the seas without interference. It must be powerful enough to enable our armies to advance against the enemy and to prevent the enemy advancing against us. But, my Lords, it must be known—and I ask the noble Viscount to comment on this—that we have this force. If we are to prevent war we can do it only if it is known that we have a sufficient Air Force to prevent another nation attacking us. On July 7 and 8 at Farnborough there will be another Air Force display. It has been revived. It was started by the Secretary of State some years ago in order to show the public what types of machines and men we had. Certainly from what I saw only a few days ago, we shall show at Farnborough that their spirit and their skill is the same, and it will be for the Government to say that we have a sufficiency of them to enable us to prevent war.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am but a very humble authority to speak in your Lordships House' this afternoon on such a weighty topic on the Royal Air Force. Nevertheless, His Majesty's War Office thought fit to spend some £7,030 or £8.000 on my training and personal comfort for but a short time, and I feel that in a debt of gratitude to the War Office I must put forward my views in this debate on air transport for the Services and on Army co-operation.

I regret that I was not able to give notice to the noble Viscount who will be replying in this debate of the points that I wish to raise. I think that they are all academic points in regard to air transport problems, however, and if the noble Viscount cannot give an answer to-day, I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, who after all is responsible for one of the largest air transport monopolies in the world, will be able to answer them before your Lordships in but a short time.

The Royal Air Force has taken on supreme responsibility in the air. The Royal Air Force is responsible for the air war, in whatever form it may take place, over a very large area in the next war. Now, my Lords, it has been shown that under modern conditions, as has already been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Trenchard, the Army and the Navy cannot carry out their purposes without adequate air support. But to-day I should like an assurance from the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, that the Royal Air Force and the Air Ministry are giving as much thought and priority to air transport for the Army and Navy and for air co-operation as they are to jet fighters and bombers. To-day units will have to move at very great speed to any part of the world's surface, to wherever a troubled spot may be—and preferably, of course, they should be there before that trouble begins, possibly forty-eight hours before. A brigade or brigade group may be required to move at a moment's notice. Are there the aircraft that can move even a proportion of a brigade, much less the brigade equipment or machinery that it would need to go into action next day? Furthermore, these units will have to move in complete safety, at speed, and above all on time. Are there the transport aeroplanes and the personnel available to carry that out?

Air transport for the Army under the auspices of Transport Command developed during the last war, and especially in Malaya it reached a very high art. Transport Command, as we have already heard, is almost finished. The day of the old Douglas Dakota, the transport aeroplane, has gone by, and fifteen years' worth of them have gone at the same time. We have got to have something new to carry the equipment and men about. I myself know just how adequate a vehicle an aeroplane is for transporting foxhounds. They can be transported for a very long distance without trouble, although I remember that a certain amount of discomfort was caused to one very gallant and distinguished Army commander. My Lords, air transport solves a thousand and one problems in regard to the Quartermaster's supplies for any large forces, either for the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force itself, whenever they have to be moved. The plans of operation can be made simpler, the orders must be simpler and, above all, it is far more economical.

What sort of aeroplane is going to be evolved to carry out this work? It has got to be large enough to be able to hold some sort of fighting vehicle. It must hold upwards of sixty men, and yet it must be able to get down on any aerodrome which has but a reasonably prepared surface. It must he able to take off from that aerodrome again when it has disgorged its cargo. Preferably that aeroplane should have a mouth in its nose, so that it can swallow up men or machines and disgorge them having landed on its belly on some aerodrome. How it will take off again is a problem that has yet to be solved, but I suppose that it is possible. The Americans have such an aeroplane. They have the Fairchild Packet, which is an enormous machine, I believe capable of carrying a large or medium-sized tank of the latest pattern. In this country we have the Bristol Freighter, which is a relatively small machine, with only two engines. There is a four-engined prototype by General Aircraft. I understand that neither of these aircraft is favoured by the Air Ministry or the Royal Air Force, and I understand also that there are but very few of them, if any, in actual operation at this time. These are the only two aircraft that we have in this country that will go even half way to meeting the demands of air transport for the Services at this time. There is the Hermes, which is a fast air liner, but I very much doubt whether it could land in places where troubles are likely to occur, unless there are aerodromes such as my noble friend Viscount Swinton has already mentioned. Are those aerodromes there, or are we to have aircraft that will make do without them?

There is another point which has not been mentioned so far but which is of equal importance in a debate of this character, and that is that the War Department, the Army, must, equally, see that its equipment is able to fit into such aeroplanes as the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force between them are able to supply. At present, only one lighting vehicle, the Bren gun carrier, which has a track, is able to be fitted into an aeroplane. Another vehicle which meets this requirement is the Daimler scout car. No self-propelled gun comes in the category except the Bofors, mounted on a 3-ton lorry. That, I believe, can just be squeezed into one type of aeroplane. The Army is very short of equipment of the type that can be flown from a home base to a scene of trouble. I suggest that it is equally up to the Army to provide its own equipment that can be flown. That is as much the responsibility of the Army as it is the responsibility of the Royal Air Force and the Air Ministry to provide suitable aircraft to carry the equipment. If the noble Viscount in reply can assure me that he has "up his sleeve" an aeroplane something along these lines, it will give me great satisfaction.

And what about pilots to fly these machines? A transport pilot especially suitable for work with the Army, such as Transport Command used to have, has to know by heart every inch of the world's highways. He must be acquainted intimately with every aerodrome on which he has to land. I wonder how many pilots there are in the nucleus of what is now Transport Command, or whatever would be used as Transport Command, who, should they be needed to do so, would really know how to land at, let us say, Singapore or some even more troublesome spot at this present time. Such a pilot must know the aerodromes from the Tropics to the Antarctic, under all weather conditions, and above all he must be able to get to the place where he is sent by day or by night, without fail, or the expedition to which he is attached may be brought to nought. The Germans before the war managed to train their pilots by employing them on their civilian routes from Berlin to London. I believe it is true to say that every German bomber pilot when he came over here had had the advantage of having already flown over before the war, and knew by heart the Berlin to London route via Manston Aerodrome and the Crystal Palace. And he knew it by day and by night. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, or perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, would be able to work out some form of staff cut or economy cut in one of their many enterprises which might create the means whereby we could enjoy similar benefits. Could we, for instance, have men trained on the routes to Singapore or Saudi Arabia or other places to which the Army and the Air Force may want to go? That may be a possibility—one never can tell.

My last point is with regard to cooperation. The jet bomber and the jet fighter, I regret to say, have received most of the attention in your Lordships' debate to-day. In fact they have taken precedence over almost everything else except in the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, who has gone into the subject of what is required for Army co-operation work. I should like to ask whether the Air Ministry to-day is devoting sufficient attention to modern equipment and training, which must after five years be very different from what they were at the cad of the last war. Are the new forms of equipment and training being gone into by the Royal Air Force so that that force can really support the Army in the event of any show-down? We have heard to-day about the "tank buster" and we must not forget the need for training in photographic work and, above all, in spotting and directing by wireless the operations of the artillery and possibly, in the future, of the Royal Armoured Corps. All these things call for a tremendous amount of training and specialised equipment—especially wireless sets.

Army co-operation was carried out by the Tactical Air Force, as it was called. Is there to-day a unit of the Tactical Air Force that is able, under the latest conditions, to direct from the air a mobile brigade group or an armoured group which is about to go into action, having been brought to the scene by transport aeroplanes? As I say, this calls for highly specialised training. It does not get the limelight like the jet bomber and the;et fighter. We have heard of planes that go faster than the speed of sound, but we have heard from Air Ministry spokesmen very little about the development of planes that will come down to a speed of five or six miles per hour if necessary. Are such planes somewhere around the corner? Surely that is the sort of plane that will be of great importance in co-operative work.

I put it to your Lordships that both Air Transport and the service of the Tactical Air Force have been sadly neglected by tile Air Ministry and by the Royal Air Force in these last five years. Will the noble Viscount opposite, when he replies to the debate, be able to assure me that as much priority in training, equipment and aircraft is being given to these two services of which I have been speaking, as is given to the jet bombers and the jet fighters about which we hear so much and which have so much attraction for the public? I believe it is absolutely essential that air transport should be provided for the Army, especially in these days when we are going to have small forces and very large commitments. Furthermore, the Royal Air Force has taken over the supreme air responsibility of this country, of the Empire and, presumably, a large proportion of it in connection with Western Union and the Atlantic Pact. The Royal Air Force is the weapon which has to deal with all forms of air warfare. I hope that the noble Viscount will be able at some time to give me these assurances. It may well be that he cannot do so to-day, and I shall fully understand if he says that he will answer me at a later date.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord has given us a most interesting speech on a highly technical branch of the Air Force which I am sure has greatly interested your Lordships. He will perhaps forgive me if I do not follow him in any detail. I would only say that I think that with the limited resources available in the last five years, to which he has referred repeatedly, the Government have done their best—and I think with a good deal of success—to build up an efficient and strong Air Force. Whether it is strong enough for the tasks which may fall to its lot is another matter. As to its efficiency, I do not think there is very much to complain about. I want now to turn to the main theme of the speech of the noble Viscount who opened this debate and of the speeches of other noble Lords who have spoken—namely, the so-called integration programme which may, I consider, do a lasting injury if it deprives our Air Force of its bomber forces.

It has always been the policy of this country to have an Air Force complete, independent and balanced—that is to say, equipped with fighter, bomber and transport squadrons in the proportions required for the national and imperial tasks which it is likely to have to perform. Recently, however, a new element, which has been referred to by Viscount Swinton this afternoon, has been injected into dis- cussions of British air power, implying a new and fundamentally different principle from that of the balanced Air Force. So far as I am aware—and I think it is somewhat remarkable—no statement has yet been made by the British Government to the effect that the classic conception of the balanced Air Force to which I have referred has been abandoned. As recently as October 24, 1949, the Prime Minister referred to a review of the structure of the Armed Forces which had recently taken place, and said that its objects were, among others: to give us properly balanced forces which could make a worthy contribution to a Western Union and the Atlantic Pact. In spite of this we have had no authoritative statement from the Government, and I hope that we shall have some real assurance from the noble Viscount this afternoon.

Nevertheless, in the course of the evolution of the American Mutual Defence Assistance Act, with its subsequent mutual assistance programme, something which has been called "integration" of the Armed Forces of the Western Union powers has emerged, and this integration, it has been made clear, involves a complete modification of the principle of individual balanced forces. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred to General Bradley's explanation, made before the Foreign Affairs Committee of Congress on July 28, 1949. There it is clearly laid down that the United States Air Force has been charged with strategic bombing, and that Britain, France and the other countries of Western Union in alliance would have the bulk of short-range attack bombardment and air defence. That is what General Bradley told Congress and I have never seen it denied anywhere. It means, simply and plainly, that America supplies the long-range bombing force and we supply the short-range defence force. This has never been explained or denied, so far as I know, by any spokesman of the Government.

As has also been said in this debate, apparently supplies made to us are conditional upon the acceptance of this overall strategic plan. Subsequently, there have been reports of meetings of the joint Chiefs of Staff and the Western Union Defence Ministers, who have been unanimous in adopting the principle that America should undertake the rôle of strategic bombing in a future war, and that a limited tactical air rôle should be assigned to Great Britain and the other Western Union Powers. If the British Government have accepted the pattern for the Royal Air Force implied in General Bradley's "assumed factors," this constitutes a major change in the hitherto accepted conception of the Royal Air Force, that it should be a completely balanced force, including a component of heavy bombers. But no statement in regard to this matter has been made. I ventured to write to my noble friend to warn him in advance that I was raising this matter, and I am glad that it has been raised by other noble Lords who speak with greater weight than I do. I beg the noble Viscount to make a clear statement on this matter.

The argument is that our particular contribution should be mainly in sea power and air power, that we should not be required to throw in vast armies to the Continent, and that we should be prepared to take part in the local air defence of Europe and to give air support to the land battles in Europe. The integration argument declares that we cannot afford to build up a strategic bombing force and that we should leave this entirely to the United States. To accept this argument not merely exposes this country to considerable dangers but raises political, as well as strategic, questions of the utmost gravity.

I would ask the noble Viscount to bear in mind the statement of policy made by the Labour Party Executive yesterday, in which we say that in the political and economic sphere we must retain our sovereignty. Surely we must also retain our sovereignty in the strategic and military spheres, otherwise we are asked to surrender in the military sphere the independence that we refuse to surrender in the political and economic spheres. To do that would leave this country at the mercy of the American Congress, which has a great habit of changing its political views. It is open to Congress at any time to suspend the mutual aid programme or to cut down the appropriation for heavy bombers which were promised, and on which under this plan the whole safety of Europe depends. Either we must have what I hope will come one day and which in theory is desirable, namely, a real international force of all arms, responsible to an all-powerful United Nations—and we are a long way from that—or balanced and complete national forces which can be harmonised to work together with the balanced forces of our Western Allies.

In considering strategic bombing, it is important to bear in mind that this falls under two heads. We must discriminate between heavy bombing raids for the purpose of air defence and counter-attack, and what is needed as a long-term programme for destroying the enemy's war potential. The United States are well fitted to provide the large-scale reinforcements of strategic bombers to destroy the aggressor's industrial potential and sinews of war, but this country needs to be able to undertake long-range heavy bombing for Imperial security, involving the air defence of Western Europe in the fullest sense. An air force without heavy bombers is a spear without a head. Fighters alone cannot defend Britain against air attack. With the great increase in the speed of bombers, and with the development of rockets, it is becoming ever more important to crush air attacks at their source. The function of the bomber in air defence is to hold the enemy at arm's length in the air and to throw him on the defensive, so that he is obliged to concentrate his efforts on protecting himself with fighters rather than on striking his opponent with bombers. The beginning of Germany's defeat in the air occurred when she was obliged to concentrate on the production of fighters instead of bombers, until finally air ascendancy passed to this country in 1944. That is one of the lessons of aerial warfare, and surely we cannot neglect it.

If the principle of integration has to be accepted, it must be with the reservation that this country must not abandon the provision of its own heavy bomber force, which is needed for the air defence of Western Europe and for security tasks within the Commonwealth. If once we lost the technique of long-range bombing it would take a generation to recover it, and the same consideration applies to the design and construction of heavy bombers. Have we not heard for years that the reason for our lagging behind in civil aircraft construction is that during the war we abandoned the design and construction of civil aircraft in agreement with the Americans, so that they have the enormous stocks of aircraft which have been referred to? We must not make the same mistake with heavy bombers. We are well ahead of all the world in the design and development of heavy bombers. Are we to abandon that priceless asset on this curious arrangement, which would be simply a repetition of the mistake made during the war with regard to heavy civil aircraft? The result would be that we should soon fall behind in the design and development of air frames and air engines and in the important specialised industries concerned in the production of navigational equipment. This is a most serious matter and I hope that my noble friend will have some comfort to give us. He can be very comforting when he likes to be, and I have a feeling that he largely agrees with the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and myself, and with other noble Lords on this matter.

The other point that I wish to raise, and of which I gave the noble Viscount notice, has been referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. It is the manning problem. We cannot avoid the conclusion that the Air Force will not be efficient until it consists to a large extent of regular long-service volunteers. I know that I am at variance with some noble Lords on this matter, but I believe that only by the recruitment of more long-service volunteers can we give the personnel of the Royal Air Force the necessary training for a technical Service which is continually becoming more complicated and intricate.

In the Memorandum accompanying the Air Estimates for 1950–51 it is stated that recruiting is "far from satisfactory," and that there are serious deficiencies in some of the most important and highly skilled trades. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has already made this point, and I merely venture to reinforce it. I believe that the Air Ministry are well aware of this need, and I have no doubt that they have been active in devising means to meet the deficiencies. But very little is known of what has been done. About a year ago the then Chief of the Air Staff, Lord Tedder, held a series of meetings called "Conference Ariel," at which the Royal Air Force representatives, headed by the Chief of the Air Staff himself, sat round the table with representatives of the industry to consider to what extent there could be a common approach to the economical use of national skills, leading to a closer integration of the Royal Air Force in the life of the industrial community. It was felt that the task of manning the Regular Air Force could be much simplified if the skills and professional attainments needed in the Service could be brought into greater harmony with civil requirements. Skilled men could then be attracted into the Royal Air Force as part of a normal civil career. The conclusions reached at that conference were regarded as a brilliant achievement, and it was said that they had only to be put into force. I venture to ask my noble friend whether he will lift the veil and reveal what the results are.

Reference has already been made today to the question of pay, and I desire only to reinforce the plea that if you want skilled men in the Royal Air Force you must bring their pay and emoluments up to the same rates as they can earn in civil life. If it he said that this would cost more and that we cannot afford it, that, in my view, it the worst form of economy. Why spend money at all on the Air Force unless it is thoroughly efficient? And how can it be thoroughly efficient unless you have sufficient skilled men of the right type? The figures I have of the state of the Auxiliary Air Force are most alarming. I am informed that on March 31 last the Auxiliary Air Force, which should have had an establishment of 29,000, had only some 6,400 men. I hope that that has improved since. I am further informed—I hope my noble friend can give us some better news than this—that the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, whose establishment is something of the order of 38,000, are nearly 30,000 short of that establishment in officers and men. If that is the case it is a terrible state of affairs, and obviously recruiting needs much more attention and much more success—and that applies particularly to the recruitment of skilled men.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, I do not want to belittle the efforts that have been made to cope with the difficulties that always follow a great war. Inevitably all the Forces suffer after a great campaign, and that has been true after the Second World War. It has been very hard for the Service Chiefs to fight against the demands for cutting down and economies. I am sure that they have done their best and that they have largely been successful. But I believe they will have the support of public opinion, and of Parliament, if they take us more into their confidence and give us more information. I do not, of course, suggest any breach of the veils of security (that sometimes overused word), but I do not see why we should not have as much information as the American Congress. We are an older democracy than America, and our Parliament is as responsible as the American Congress will ever be. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Alexander will agree that the way to get the support of the British people, and to encourage the right men and women to come forward and join the Royal Air Force as long-term volunteers, is to tell them the whole truth. Even if it is an uncomfortable series of facts that come out, I believe that in the long run the dangers of exposing the real situation are far less than the dangers of concealing it.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say, first of all, how much I appreciate the manner and spirit in which this important debate has been conducted. The general contributions have been of the highest quality and conducted with great courtesy. Indeed, the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who opened the debate might almost be described as a model of what such an opening speech ought to be on so important a question, with such a careful scheduling of the questions likely to lead to the proper conclusions of your Lordships. The noble Viscount has said—and to a large extent I agree with him—that these debates in your Lordships' House on individual Services are much more valuable if they are related to the overall plan of defence which we now have to consider and which must influence the size and shape of our own country's Armed Forces. As the noble Viscount said, a statement about that overall defence plan was issued on May 17, at the conclusion of the meeting of the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty. I want to make it clear at the outset that the plan does cover all the land, sea and air operations for the defence of the North Atlantic area, and that the requirements of all three Services have been embodied in that plan.

The noble Viscount then said that he saw—at least, at first sight—some discrepancy between saying that "a defence plan has been drawn up," and saying that "the estimate of the necessary forces is being established." If he will pardon my saying so, I do not think there is any real inconsistency in that. It is sensible to draw up a plan first, in the circumstances in which we are operating, and then to calculate the forces to implement that plan. I suggest that that is not putting the cart before the horse. I can say to the noble Viscount that an estimate of these forces has now been made, and it remains only to determine what contribution each member nation should make towards the balanced forces which are required to ensure conformity with the agreed plan. I prepared those words rather carefully, because I wanted to meet the exact form of the question asked, of which the noble Viscount gave me notice.

The object of this combined defence plan is to eliminate duplication of expenditure and, subject to the defence needs of the member nations to meet their commitments outside the North Atlantic Area, to concentrate on the build-up of the forces that are needed to conform with the plan. His Majesty's Government are in complete agreement with this objective. But noble Lords will realise that the requirements of a plan of this wide scope cannot be met without detailed discussions. Those discussions are now in progress, and in my view they must take into account the various stages through which the building of the balanced forces must proceed before the full requirements can actually be met.

Bearing in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said, I feel that we have to be very careful in all these matters to see that, in making our proper contribution to the balanced defence of Western Europe and to the North Atlantic area, we do not handicap ourselves in regard to other important duties which our forces must still perform on behalf of the country and the Commonwealth in areas outside the North Atlantic area. From that aspect, in view of what Lord Swinton put in his question, I suppose that it would hardly be true to say that our services at this moment conform to the agreed plan, because that would ignore those commitments I have mentioned which lie outside the scope of the North Atlantic Treaty organisation.


I think I quoted accurately the formula that there was to be the combined overall plan. Therefore, what I asked was: Assuming that within the formula we met the commitments which are outside the North Atlantic area, within the North Atlantic area are our forces conforming to the plan?


At the stage to which I have already referred, our aim will be to conform to the plan, but it will be necessary for other countries also to conform to the plan. All that is included in the discussions. While we approach the whole of the European and North Atlantic plan from the point of view of presenting them with our contribution to a balanced force, it is also vital—and I think your Lordships must be reassured on this point—that we ourselves run our national forces, for our general over-the-world commitments, also upon a balanced basis.

Now I come to the political aspect of the North Atlantic Treaty machinery. The noble Viscount referred to the decision to appoint deputies to the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Council. It became clear during the first year of the operation of the North Atlantic Treaty that there was need for more continuous guidance on the political level of the work of the organisation. In particular, there was need for greater co-ordination between the work of the Defence Committee, the Defence Finance and Economic Committee, and the Supply Beard, in order that progress might be made with the building up of the necessary defence forces by the Treaty Powers. The decision of the Council in May last to concentrate on the creation of balanced Atlantic Treaty forces for the defence of the area made this co-ordination all the, more necessary. The Atlantic Council, consisting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the countries concerned, is, of course, ultimately responsible for directing and harmonising the work of the whole organisation. But in the nature of things it is impossible for the twelve Foreign Ministers to meet sufficiently often to ensure rapid consideration of important problems arising out of the work of the other committees which require political decisions. It was for this reason that the Council decided to appoint deputies of the Foreign Ministers to act in their name between their meetings. As to the ancillary question which the noble Viscount asked, I would say that the terms of reference of the deputies—which he will remember were set out in the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Council's meeting, and which I need not recite now—gives us some lead in that direction. It is impossible to say precisely how the Committee of Deputies will operate, or what powers they will exercise, until the deputies have been appointed and the permanent chairman elected. Until this has taken place, it is not possible for the "full-time organisation composed of highly qualified persons" to be established.


The noble Viscount is being very helpful about this, but I do not understand why it is necessary to appoint the deputies before you can say what powers those deputies are to exercise. Surely their duty of interpretation and giving directions must be understood and laid down before they are appointed.


Having had the advantage of the notice which the noble Viscount gave me, I had carefully directed my mind to that, and I think I am coming to a point which will cover that. I was saying that until the appointment has taken place it is not possible for the "full-time organisation composed of highly qualified persons" to be established. It is clear, however, from the terms of reference, that the deputies will keep themselves informed of the work of all North Atlantic Treaty agencies. They will provide constant guidance and so ensure the effective co-ordination of work. They will have power to approve recommendations made by other committees to direct the course of planning, and to take any necessary decisions in the name of the Foreign Ministers where they are authorised to do so. They will have, in fact, all the powers possessed by the Atlantic Council itself, except that, where the Ministers could take decisions in their own right, the deputies will receive only delegated power and will be responsible to and controlled by the Ministers of their respective countries.

It follows, therefore, that the deputies could if necessary alter the structure of existing organisations, if this were found to be desirable in the interests of efficiency, though in practice, no doubt, decisions of this character would be left for a meeting at which the Foreign Ministers themselves were present. It is certainly hoped that the deputies will play an active and positive rôle, and that they will continuously search out means of improving the Treaty organisation and see that its work is carried on effectively. The expert full-time organisation which will be at their disposal and at the disposal of their chairman should enable them to do this. The carrying out by individual countries of plans and policies agreed upon under the Treaty is, of course, the task of the individual Governments. Nevertheless, if there were doubt as to whether this were being done, the Committee of Deputies would certainly be the appropriate place in which the matter could be discussed. The noble Viscount referred to the question of individuals and appointments. I am sorry that I cannot say very much about that matter to-day. As the noble Viscount knows, no announcement has yet been made, either in the United States or in any other country except Luxembourg, and we are well on with the matter. I can say only that it has not yet been possible to reach a final decision upon the most important appointment which has to be made—the representative of this country.

The noble Viscount referred to the pilot position in the Royal Air Force, and asked whether the intake of pilots is up to programme. The direct entry scheme for post-war recruiting of pilots was announced in February, 1948. Response to the scheme was slow at first, but it improved after new conditions were announced in September, 1948. During the period from October, 1948, to April, 1950, the Royal Air Force have obtained 91 per cent. of the number of pilot recruits required—a very good approach to the target. Indications are that, subject to recruiting being sustained at its present level, the training courses for the remainder of 1950 will be filled, and the full number of pilots required to enter training during the year will be obtained.

Now with regard to quality—a matter which the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, will agree is as important as equipment—we feel that we are not yet getting enough men of a suffi- ciently high calibre, and many of those qualifying at present as pilots are not considered to be up to commission standard. This means that the policy we have announced, of commissioning all pilots, cannot at present be implemented and that the strength must be made up partly by officer pilots and partly by non-commissioned pilots. Entrants to the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell, on the other hand, show a steady improvement as regards quality, and I am glad to say that all courses arranged by the College during the last eighteen months have been over-subscribed. That is a good indication that perhaps the Force is not quite so unpopular as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, feared; and I am quite sure that he and other noble Lords will be glad to have that information.

On the other hand, the overall manning level in most of the highly-skilled engineering trades in the Royal Air Force is not sufficient. There are still some slight surpluses in the highly skilled aircraft servicing trades, but there are very serious deficiencies in some of the most important trades, such as radar and wireless fitters, armament fitters and instrument repairers Grade I. By and large we have rather less than two-thirds of the numbers of men in these trades that are needed. That is obviously a very grave position. It is not possible to make any appreciable use of National Service men in these trades, partly because of the long training period required and partly because the posts in which these are established trades require experience as well as trade skill. Nevertheless, the position is improved slightly by the backing they receive from somewhat less highly-skilled associated trades—namely, radar and wireless mechanics, mechanics, armament mechanics and instrument repairers, Grade II.

Regular airmen have for some time been encouraged to re-muster to these under-manned trades, and some improvement in the position has been achieved by such re-musterings. However, the major remedy is considered to lie in the provision of assured long-service careers in all Air Force trades. Plans are now nearing fruition for the provision of careers for airmen up to the age of fifty-five. The major difficulty in the way of these plans has been the need to give airmen adequate status and prospects of advancement and to avoid any stagnation in promotion if a large proportion of our airmen are afforded such long-service careers. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred to the question of pay, and he was backed up by other noble Lords. I can only say that if the noble Earl will look back at some figures I gave in the recent debate, in which I compared the rates of pay in the Services with the rates of pay in skilled trades outside them, he will see that the figures he himself gave this afternoon perhaps need a little revising. It is, or course, possible to take here and there high rates in civil life and compare them with the average rates in the Services.


If I may interrupt the noble Viscount, may I ask whether the figures he quoted do not refer to rates as opposed to earning power? What matters to a man is what he earns at the present time. A pilot officer finds that at the present time his civilian batman is paid more than he is himself, because he earns more—his monthly or weekly earnings are more.


On the other hand, there are certain advantages of stability which are of great value to people in the Services. They are given certain other emoluments besides their actual pay, and although it is possible to make satirical references to pensions, the fact remains that they are of enormous value to the men; and, by increasing the length of service in future, we make it obvious to the men that they will get pensions which are of great value. I believe that if we can at the same time improve the amenities we shall see a great improvement.

The Secretary of State for Air, is, I understand, to make some announcement in the next week or two about the new trade and career structure which will, we hope, be introduced into the Air Force very shortly. No doubt we shall be asked other questions after the Secretary of State has made his statement. Under this structure there will be a new avenue of advancement for experienced airmen who cannot at present be promoted because of the limited establishment of non-commissioned officers. By these means we hope to improve the conditions of service to the prospective recruit and to persuade a higher proportion of airmen to stay in the Service and make it their life career. But we do not think that when that scheme is announced there is going to be a tremendously rapid improvement. It will take a little time to achieve the improvement which we all desire.

I appreciated very much what the noble Viscount said about Halton. I agree with him in his tribute to the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the share that Lord Trenchard had in serving the country in that connection. The intake of aircraft apprentices to Halton is, I am sorry to say, considerably below our present requirements. During the past year 446 apprentices were entered to Halton and the corresponding radio school at Cranwell against a requirement of about 1,500. The quickest way to raise the numbers entering Halton and the radio school at Cranwell would be, of course, to lower the high standards which have always been demanded of candidates for apprenticeships, but such a solution cannot, we think, be accepted. The ex-Halton boys have made an outstanding contribution to the efficiency of the Royal Air Force in the past, and unless we maintain the standards of the present entrants they will not only be unable to secure the maximum benefit from the excellent training given at the school, but will also be unsuitable to continue in the fine tradition of their predecessors. We hope that the improved career prospects under the new trade structure which I have already mentioned will in future do something to persuade a greater number of boys of the required high standard to enter Halton and the radio school at Cranwell.

The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, raised a number of interesting points about liaison with schools. Liaison with public schools has been one of the most active and fruitful ways encouraging recruitment for Cranwell since the college reopened in 1946. Meetings of the Headmasters' Conference have been addressed by senior Royal Air Force officers; careers literature featuring entry into the Service by way of Cranwell cadetships is distributed to all Headmasters' Conference schools; facilities are provided by headmasters and careers masters to visit Royal Air Force selection and training establishments, including Cranwell; and schools liaison officers, who are serving Royal Air Force officers, are established on an area basis and make regular visits to public and other schools with the object of promoting good will among headmasters and of fostering interest in the Royal Air Force as a career. I was very struck by the reference of the noble Viscount to the idea of sending back ex-public school boys from Cranwell to talk to their old school about their excellent training.


I did that myself, with great success.


I think the noble Viscount must have been talking to somebody, for that is what the Air Ministry have in mind. They have not only fostered that kind of thing, but they now have fifty-three officers, most of them of air rank, acting as "old boys" in this way, doing liaison work with the boys in the schools from which they themselves came before they were commissioned, and I think that that kind of "topping up," as it were, of the policy in which the noble Viscount says he had already engaged will be all to the good. There is no doubt from the reports we are getting front these area officers that there is a growing interest among headmasters and boys in the Royal Air Force as a career. With the aim of still further strengthening the contacts between public schools and of stimulating interest in Cranwell cadetships, a scheme has been introduced for Royal Air Force station liaison with neighbouring schools. With only one or two exceptions, each of the 200 Headmasters' Conference schools is affiliated to a Royal Air Force station with the object of promoting a relationship of a friendly, social, and sporting nature, and thus developing in masters and boys a knowledge of and interest in the Royal Air Force.

I referred just now, and said I would come back, to the question of amenities, so I should now like to say a word on housing. It was clear that the noble Viscount had it in mind this afternoon. He did not make any long reference to it, but he wanted to know about it. It is impossible to overstress the importance of providing decent living accommodation for the men and women of the Royal Air Force. To take married quarters first, a high priority has been and continues to be given to their construction. By the end of May, 1950, nearly 13,000 married quarters were available, as compared with 6,500 in use in 1939. Since no quarters were built during the war, post-war construction has therefore doubled the number of quarters as compared with 1939. In addition, some 2,500 quarters are now under construction. A major development is the assistance to be given under the Armed Forces (Housing Loan) Act, 1949, whereby money may be borrowed from the Consolidated Fund to finance the building of Service married quarters in this country. As a result, it is hoped to more than double the rate of building which has hitherto been possible in this country. The programme for the current financial year provides for a start to be made on no less than 4,000 additional permanent married quarters, of which one-third will comprise officers' married quarters. 1f we can maintain this rate of progress over the next four or five years, we estimate that the full deficiencies should be met.

Overseas it is planned to double the rate of provision of married quarters, and it is hoped to complete over 600 in the Middle East and Far East during the current financial year. As an interim measure, we have adopted a scheme to supplement the married quarters available in this country. Under this scheme, the Air Ministry will lease suitable houses or flats and make them available to officers and airmen at the rates normally paid for a married quarter. Some progress has been made, and initially provision has been taken for some 500 of these hirings. With regard to single accommodation, some thirty new barrack blocks for airmen and two for airwomen have been completed at home since the end of the war. More are under construction and planned for both home and overseas, as well as modern messes and airmen's clubs. Apart from new building, however, much has been and continues to be done to replace or improve war-time hutting at a number of stations. This programme includes not only extensive improvements to single accommodation but to messes, kitchens, roads, et cetera, to bring them up to acceptable standards. In all, therefore, I hope it will readily be agreed that in this matter of housing we have made a good start to provide conditions which would compare favourably with those in civilian life.

The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, made a reference to the flying training given in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. In case I should forget it, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has left the House for a moment, I ought to say a word about the point raised by him on this question of auxiliary forces. He suggested that it was quite wrong to have regular officers in command of auxiliary and volunteer units. They should be volunteers, as far as possible. I should like to explain that the problem is not a large one, since out of twenty auxiliary squadrons there are only three with regular officers commanding. On the other hand, I do say, from my own experience, considering National Service and the like, that there is a great deal to be said for the point that, if you want to appoint high-ranking war-time officers to command them, they must at least have had experience in the command, the direction, and the growth of the reserve forces we shall get by means of National Service. I think we have to keep the point well in mind. Further, it is our intention to have as many as we can possibly get of the right type of officer from the volunteer source for the auxiliary forces.

Flying training in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve was referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. This force fulfils a most valuable function in flying training. It is constituted to provide refresher training for men and women who have had previous service with the Forces or who have comparable qualifications from their private jobs or interests, and thus to form a body of trained reservists who can be fitted into the structure of the Royal Air Force at the onset of an emergency. Flying personnel are required to carry out fifteen days continuous training each year, and 100 to 130 hours of non-continuous training at evenings and weekends. Forty hours' flying a year is required. Training arrangements in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve are, I may say, extremely flexible, and an endeavour is made to meet the circumstances of individual volunteers. Pilot training is carried out at twenty reserve flying schools, spread over the country, in Tiger Moths or in Chipmunks with which schools are being progressively re-equipped. As a measure to meet future requirements for pilots, I may say, in reply to the noble Viscount's remarks about the increasing use which is being made of National Service men, that 300 National Service men are to be trained as pilots each year. On completion of their whole-time service, they will go either to auxiliary squadrons or to the Volunteer Reserve, if they wish, for their four years' statutory Reserve service, and they will be encouraged to volunteer for a further period thereafter.

A small proportion of the aircrew now flying in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve received their training in flying clubs and entered the Reserve for probationary training when they had reached the standard required. Flying clubs give flying training up to the standard of private civil pilot's licence for suitable cadets of the Air Training Corps and Royal Air Force sections of the Combined Cadet Force, under the Air Ministry flying scholarship scheme. A sum of £30,000 a year is allotted for this purpose and should provide for the training of not less than 200 cadets annually. The Air League of the British Empire also provides funds for further flying scholarships which are administered by the Air Ministry under conditions similar to those applied to its own scholarships.

As to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, first of all may I refer to the position with regard to the re-equipment of its squadrons with jet aircraft? When the White Paper was drawn up by the Secretary of State at the time of the Estimates, he was able to say that seven of these squadrons had been so re-equipped with jets. I can say to-day that nine have been re-equipped, and four more will most certainly be re-equipped by the end of this year. That will make a total of thirteen squadrons re-equipped. I hope that that will be brought up to sixteen in the New Year. I think that is making just the kind of progress that we have promised Parliament, and I hope that will, perhaps not satisfy, but at least make the noble Viscount fell less gloomy than he lips been inclined to feel about that point.

I should like to take this opportunity of saying that many volunteers, both men and women, are needed for the units, especially in the signal and radar trades of the auxiliary forces. National Service men who have been trained during their whole-time Royal Air Force service will be encouraged to become volunteer members of the fighter control units, and it is hoped that many more women will join, as they have shown themselves to be particularly well suited to the work of the control and reporting organisation. Recruiting will shortly start for No. 3700 (County of London) Radar Reporting Unit at 77 Hallam Street, W.1, and I hope that by giving that information to-day we shall perhaps bring recruits to the office. This is a new type of unit which will specialise in the reporting rôle and should attract the support of a large number of well qualified people in the London area.

Reference has been made to expenditure on aircraft and engines, and from what he said to me in the note which he sent, I thought the noble Viscount was going to say rather more about that than he did. But I want to say, quite frankly, that it is true that the total expenditure in the Air Estimates for the current year for aircraft and engines is just about the same as for 1949–50. I am bound to say, however, that I think there is a very great improvement going on because, with the readjustment of the various other sections of the Air Estimates, with the reduction which of course some people regret, but which we have had to make for the time being, of the provision for Transport Command, we have been enabled to anticipate greater production of the jet Meteor aircraft engine and other types of equipment. I am quite sure that the noble Viscount will not omit from his reading of the Estimates how greatly we are stepping up the expenditure upon radar and also upon electrical equipment so fundamental to the modernisation of the Air Force.

A question was asked about jet night fighter squadrons. I hope that they will be in actual operation next year, by the end of which the major part of the Fighter Command night fighter force will be equipped. There will also be an increase in the size of the night fighter force itself. Night fighter squadrons are to be re-equipped progressively with the Meteor night fighter. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, wondered whether that was quite good enough, but I think he will agree that that represents a very considerable advance on the piston-engined night fighters at present in service. As well as operating at night, the Meteor night fighter will be capable of operating by day in weather conditions which would keep day fighters entirely on the ground. This aircraft has already made its first flight and it will be in operation in the R.A.F. as soon as its trials are completed.

The stress which has been laid in this debate, especially by the noble Viscount who opened it, on the vital importance of radar in the air defence of the United Kingdom, is appreciated. I have already said that we are stepping up the prevision of equipment, and I am afraid that, for reasons of security, there is little that I can add. I rather gather that the noble Viscount thought I would say something about that. I can only give the assurance that was given in another place, that we are doing all that we can to modernise and extend. High priority has been given to research and development in new types of radar equipment. Noble Lords will, I hope, appreciate that, considering the position two or three years ago, and what had to be done with the Air Force being run down, we are now making substantial progress to put it upon a proper basis. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount in what he said this afternoon of the vital importance of the development of radar. With the new weapons which are likely to be launched against us, and with much faster machines, we are doing all we can in regard to the effective radius in which we can get proper radar information.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, as well as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, referred to the question of air bases overseas. My Lords, we entirely agree that it is essential to maintain a chain of air bases to link up the strategic centres of air power. Overseas, the responsibilities of the R.A.F. are centred on the Middle East and Singapore, where it is certainly the case that well-founded and active air bases are in being. Equally, the strategic trunk route between the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and the Far East is in active use, with air fields at appropriate intervals. It should be noted that this lifeline is in being because we continue to have arrangements with the Middle East countries and with Pakistan, India and Ceylon for the passage of Royal Air Force aircraft. Not all the airfields along the route or in the main areas in the Middle and Far East are maintained at what may be described as full war-time strength. But this is unnecessary, and would be extravagant at the present time. The aim is to have a system of airfields and bases which is adequate for current needs and can he rapidly expanded if necessary. We think that this aim is being achieved. The purpose of overseas bases is to provide a standard organisation in all things required—


I do not want to make any point about this, but does that include oil? Are the tanks there?


I am quite sure that that is fundamental. I cannot give information as to where or how our oil resources are going to be stored in these various places. That is a matter of security. The purpose of overseas bases is to provide a standard organisation in all things required for air power which will permit air forces to be transferred to threatened areas and to go smoothly into action—in other words, to provide the necessary foundation for the flexibility and speed of air power which is its chief characteristic. Thus the Royal Air Force is paying special attention to exercising squadrons from the United Kingdom in operations from overseas bases. Regular flights are made by Bomber Command squadrons (and these are squadron operations, not just flights by single aircraft) to the Middle East. Coastal Command squadrons have in the past year made flights to the Far East, and have carried out exercises and operations there.

Reference to Coastal Command will perhaps enable me just to break off and say how much I appreciated the speech of my noble friend Lord Douglas this afternoon, and to say how much I agreed with him—and he knows why, because of the nightmares that I and other members of the Board of Admiralty suffered from 1940 to 1944—in regard to this particular matter. We are most anxious that the development should go on, and that there should be proper supply and proper co-ordination between the naval and air forces in the anti-submarine campaign. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, referred to the recent speech of my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty about aircraft carriers, and recollected that about 90 per cent. of retired officers disagreed with the view put forward about aircraft carriers. Knowing something from the last war about the conditions which have to he met in anti-submarine warfare, I think it is fundamental not only that we need an adequate supply of shore-based Coastal Command aircraft but that we need anti-submarine forces accompanied by mobile aircraft such as we can get on aircraft carriers. I hope that shall be able to get both.

With regard to the question of bombers, I am sure your Lordships will agree that the recent reinforcement of the Far East forces by a Lincoln squadron from Bomber Command is another example, not only of mobility but of the ability of the Far East base to receive reinforcements and put them into actual operation. The Far East has also been the base of the Royal New Zealand Air Force unit of Dakotas which has done such good work in maintaining air communications between Singapore and Hong Kong and in support of our Forces in Malaya. Singapore will similarly be receiving shortly the Dakota squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force which the Australian Government are sending to operate against the Communists in Malaya. I think I ought to say that these are examples of Commonwealth and inter-Service co-operation, for which we, in this country, are most grateful.

Turning to Western Europe and the North Atlantic area, the centre of air power for the Royal Air Force must be the United Kingdom itself. But this does not mean that the importance of air bases on the Continent is being overlooked. The building up of the infrastructure (that is a dreadful word to put before your Lordships, but it is coming into common use in these matters) of the defence plans is an assurance of this. And by exercises between the Western Union Air Forces and the United States Air Force, air power in the West is being consolidated into a single weapon. I had intended to refer at some length to the visits to this country of units of the United States Air Force, but time is passing. I will just say that the United States squadrons already here are supplemented from time to time by visits of other units from America, including fighter and bomber sections. With these, combined exercises have been held. We are glad to welcome such visitors and to avail ourselves of the opportunity for joint exercises.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has asked for further information on the outcome of "Conference Ariel" which was held about a year ago, and from which arose proposals for a closer integration of the Royal Air Force with industry. I can say that, following the Conference, a national advisory council was set up, under the chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, consisting of the principal personnel officers of the three Services and representatives of both sides of industry and of educational authorities. The council had as their terms of reference: To advise the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Defence jointly of the best means of securing a relationship between Service and civilian life which provide, for men and women, the opportunity of a continuous career through the Services and industry. In addition, the inter-Departmental machinery was strengthened, and, in particular, a training panel was set up to co-ordinate, so far as possible, the training arrangements in the Services and industry. In the Air Ministry, an officer of air rank has been specially attached for duty under the Air Member for Personnel, to undertake liaison with industry and commerce. Many large firms, particularly in the radio, electrical and motor industries, have been visited and arrangements have also been made for firms to visit Royal Air Force stations and technical training establishments to see for themselves the training systems and methods in the Service.

The function of the Maritime Air Force working in conjunction with the Royal Navy is the safeguarding of our sea communications. The fact that I have left this matter to rather a late point in my speech, although it was raised early in the speech of the noble Viscount, does not mean that I do not regard this as of great importance. As I say, the function of this force, working with the Royal Navy, is the safeguarding of our sea communications. I agree with what has been said, to the effect that it would be possible to sustain a sudden and, it might be, an overwhelming defeat if we did not take proper precautions for the defence of our sea communications. In particular, the task of the Maritime Air Force working with the Royal Navy is to find and to destroy enemy submarines by day or by night. There is no easily definable difference in function between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Naval aircraft engaged in the war at sea. Both are concerned with the finding and the destruction of submarines. The criterion is that tasks which can more effectively and economically be performed by carrier-borne aircraft are carried out by the Royal Navy, while tasks which can best be done by land-based aircraft are allotted to the Royal Air Force.

Aircraft of the Royal Navy are also responsible for the fighter defence of the Fleet beyond the range of land-based fighters. Thus the functions of the Maritime Air Force and the Royal Navy aircraft are complementary, and in many instances the task is a joint one, involving the two Services' operating together. Only a part of the Royal Air Force—Coastal Command and the maritime squadrons overseas—is equipped and trained in the special tactics and techniques of anti-submarine operation. Other units of the Royal Air Force may, however, be required to undertake special tasks connected with the war at sea—for example, the bombing of submarine bases and factories—while the strategic air offensive, by reducing industrial output, affects the rate at which submarines can be built. The supreme importance of the utmost co-operation in every aspect of sea air warfare is fully recognised. The joint Sea Air Warfare Committee, with the Vice-Chief of Staff and the Deputy-Chief of Air Staff as joint chairmen, exists to ensure that this co-operation shall be as complete and continuous as practicable. The responsibilities of this committee, which operates directly under the Chiefs of Staff, embrace all matters connected with the control of sea communications, with which the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are jointly concerned, and sub-committees have been set up to deal with planning, technical matters and training problems. These committees are working very well.

Basic flying training of all naval pilots is carried out in Royal Air Force training establishments, and particular mention may be made of the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry, where the close co-operation of the two Services is exemplified by the combined training scheme in anti-submarine warfare. In addition, all available opportunities are taken for the joint training of squadrons with similar rôles. Thus a naval air squadron, at present disembarked, is now training in Germany with the British Air Forces of Occupation. Naval squadrons, whenever possible, take part in Royal Air Force exercises and vice versa. Turning to the question of control, the planning and conduct of maritime operations is effected through Area Combined Headquarters. These Headquarters have a fully integrated Naval and Air Force staff, and directly control all naval and maritime air operations in their area. The staff comprises the operational staffs of the Naval Commander-in-Chief and the Royal Air Force Group Commander.

My last point relates to the Royal Air Force and Western Union. The closest co-operation exists between the Western Union Air Forces, and a unified Air Defence Organisation for North-West Europe is being created. Large numbers of British jet-fighters are being supplied to the Continental Air Forces and standardisation of Air Force methods and procedures is being achieved to the maximum extent possible. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who raised the general question of standardisation in this connection, that one has to look at a very vast and varied field, as he will recognise from his own experience. I am glad to say that progress is being made. Perhaps the greatest contribution in this matter of standardisation arises not only from the extent to which we are manufacturing our aircraft in this country for Western Union powers, but also from the extent to which they are now manufacturing, under licence, the same types of aircraft in their own countries. There is no intention that the Royal Air Force shall concentrate on one particular rôle, or that the part we play in the defence of Western Europe will be such as to result in any unbalance of the Royal Air Force. It will be appreciated, of course, that the increasing cost of equipment renders it difficult to provide adequately for all the tasks for which the Royal Air Force may be responsible, but the allocation of available resources to meet those commitments is being kept under constant review. Noble Lords can rest assured that, so far as resources permit, the Royal Air Force as a whole will continue to be so com- posed as to enable it to undertake all the tasks which may be laid upon it.

With regard to the Canberra, which has been mentioned in the debate, I would add only this. All the trials of this machine have been fully completed, with Great satisfaction to all concerned, and it is on the order line for production. I hope to see bomber squadrons fully equipped with this machine in operation early in the New Year. That does not mean that we have given up —and I think it is important to say this —the intention to go on with our research and development work. Parliament has already been informed that research and development work in connection with the heavy jet-bomber is going ahead, and I hope that the decision to continue with this will be fully maintained. I will conclude by joining with the noble Viscount in saying that in the end we can confidently rely upon the skill, devotion and loyalty of all ranks of the Royal Air Force in seeing that their vitally important and constantly growing task in the defence of this country, the Commonwealth and freedom will be carried through to its proper success.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was good enough to say at the outset of his speech that he had found my speech a model. I am bound in fairness to give him a Roland for his Oliver and say that this is much the most informative speech about the Royal Air Force that we have had for some years, either in this House or in another place. I am very grateful for it. I am much obliged to the noble Viscount for having dealt with all the points I put to him about the Atlantic Pact and the Council to be established under it. The answer, so far as I could follow it, was complete. I will study it carefully, and I do not wish to make any further comment until I have done so. I think the noble Viscount answered every point raised in all our speeches except one: he omitted to deal with the question of a liaison between the Air Ministry and the auxiliary squadrons.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. I omitted to answer that question because I felt I could not answer it this afternoon, but I will bring the point to the notice of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Air and ask him to give attention to it.


I am sure that liaison will be of value. We found it so in the past, and before the war we had the right man in Commodore Peake. I should like to make one thing clear on this point. I am sure I speak for my noble friends who have experience in this matter when I say it is essential that this liaison officer should be a liaison between the auxiliary squadrons and the Air Ministry, and not between the auxiliary squadrons and Fighter Command, under which they come. I think that is of great importance. The liaison officer is not going to deal with the relations between Fighter Command and the squadrons, which are probably all right, but with a hundred-and-one things such as equipment and housing which are the concern of different departments of the Air Ministry, and not of the individual command under which they come. I think I understand why the noble Viscount could not say more than he did about radar. At any rate, lie admits the vital importance of it, particularly on the long-range side. The noble Viscount will forgive my saying that he is perhaps so used to talking about the "bad old days" that it was surprising to hear him say that the Government had done well considering the awful conditions of two or three years ago. The present Government have been in office for two periods, and the conditions of two or three years ago were not those which we created or which we enjoyed together.


They were not of our creation. They were the natural result of the rapid demobilisation of 5,500,000 men.


It is like the coal crisis, another act of God! The noble Viscount told us about the auxiliary squadrons and I am glad that their equipment is proceeding. I realise that we have to do a great deal in equipping our Allies with fighters, but I would venture to say that the Auxiliary Service, which is a vital part of our fighter defence, ought to have priority over foreign countries which are not our Allies in any sense or included in any of our defence plans. I hope that jet fighters will not go to those countries in priority to our fighter squadrons.

Finally, I was extremely glad to hear the noble Viscount say that there was going to be no disintegration in the balance of the Royal Air Force. I am sure that is a profoundly wise decision. I was glad to hear that the Canberra has turned out a success rind that the Government are going on with the heavy jet-engined bomber. I do not know who is going to turn out the best bomber or the best fighter, but I am perfectly certain that we are not going to get the best, either in this country or in America, unless both we and the Americans are engaged in design and production. When we have the best design, wherever it comes from, we can concentrate on what is to be made at a particular time. While we may design one type which comes into production one year, it may well be that two years later it will be an American machine that is the best; but it may equally well be that if that machine becomes slightly obsolescent, the best machine will be a British one. It is by competition in the Allied efficiency that we shall be able to get the best type of machine. We all welcome wholeheartedly the presence of American squadrons in this country. I hope they will feel as much at home on any airfield in Great Britain as they feel at home on the wonderful airfields of the United. States whose hospitality I have recently enjoyed. I am sure that the spirit of comradeship will be as fully effective in peace as it will be, if the worst comes to the worst, in war, if we share to the full the same adventure. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.