§ 2.45 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the plans and arrangements for the manufacture and supply of military and civil aircraft; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I venture to bring before your Lordships the subject on the Order Paper to-day, because I think it is both an important and an urgent one. In recent weeks we have seen in the Press statements which, in grandeur and scope, excite our imagination; but, unfortunately, although the outline is magnificent, the details acre somewhat vague. I hope that to-day the Government, to change the metaphor, will put some clothing upon the skeleton, and also some flesh and blood, if that is possible. So far as I am aware, the Government policy has been as vague as the announcements which have appeared in the Press or which have been made by Ministers in this House and in another place. It seems clear that the Government intend, in the first place, the curtailment of the rearmament programme; in the second place, a slackening in the orders for certain military types, such as the Canberra; thirdly, the establishment of a super-priority list for the new military and civil aircraft—and for the first time there appear upon this list civil aircraft, such as the Britannia, the Viscount, and the Comet. Lastly, there is the recognition by the Government of the contribution which these new aircraftcan make to the export drive. If I am wrong in those assumptions, perhaps the Minister will inform me so but I gather that they are the main lines of the Government's policy.
§ The super-priority list, I believe, now embraces eleven aircraft, military and civil. As I shall be saying at somewhat greater length later on in my speech, I understand that, on the whole, the introduction of this super-priority list has had considerable effect. But obviously there 444 is a limit to the number of aircraft that can be introduced to any super-priority list: at a certain stage it must follow that there is no merit in a super-priority list if too many aircraft are placed upon it. No doubt the Government would agree to that proposition. What we want to know to-day, in effect, is, what is the precise demand for civil and military aircraft, both in this country and abroad? What are the means that are necessary in materials, factory space, men and finance to meet this demand? Are these means available? If not, will the Government take such steps as are desirable to make them available?
§ We are told that there are on this super-priority list certain types of military aircraft. I understand that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Air does not propose to go at any great length into these various types to-day, for reasons which I fully understand; and I will only touch upon them. But I am bound to do that, because the Government's policy as regards aircraft, military and civil, is now so bound up that it is almost impossible to discuss civil aircraft without touching also upon the supply of military aircraft. The R.A.F., I believe, are concentrating on a few types. As to bombers, we have been told of the Handley Page, the H.P.80, with four Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbo-jets, and crescent-shaped wings. There are the Vickers Valiant, and the Avro Vulcan, both delta wing aircraft, both jets, with Rolls-Royce Avon engines. These three types have been announced as being able to fly on operational missions at about the speed of sound—possibly more—at heights up to 50,000 ft. They are all long-range bombers, and there is an interesting duel between the crescent wing and the delta wing aircraft. But a question which has arisen in the specialist Press and elsewhere is whether it is necessary for us to have three types of medium or heavy bombers. I appreciate that it is necessary to have development and experiment, but as against that there is the expense. None of these aircraft can cost less than£1 million each, and there is a limit to what the British taxpayer can pay for bomber aircraft or for anything else.
§ Is there any N.A.T.O. policy of integration? Some of us, through the courtesy of the noble and gallant Earl 445 the Minister of Defence, had the opportunity of visiting N.A.T.O. a short time ago, and they talked to us at great length on, among other things, this question of integration—the desire to have the forces of N.A.T O. integrated in regard to machines, weapons, armaments, and so on. Has there been any consideration of the necessity for the integration of bombers and the making of one or two types for the N.A.T.O. forces as a whole? As to the Canberra bomber, we know that that is a most successful light bomber, and I think the whole House would wish to congratulate the makers and those who fly in it, and the Minister, on the remarkable flight to Australia in just over twenty-two hours' expended time. It was a remarkable achievement. We are sorry to hear that the Canberra is not being made in such numbers as was anticipated, but if that means that the Royal Air Force will get machines sooner than they would otherwise have got them, possibly that is a factor in favour of the policy.
§ As to the fighters, we know little about our fighter policy. We are hoping that, either now or on a later occasion, the Secretary of State for Air will tell us something about it. But there are certain fighters of which we have had information. There is the Hawker Hunter, the swept wing jet fighter. I have been told that the Mutual Security Agency is ordering 200 of these machines for N.A.T.O. at a cost of about£25 million in dollars. This is obviously doing what I suggested might be done in regard to bombers—that is to say, adopting some integration and some rationalisation of the machines to be used by N.A.T.O. There is the Super marine Swift, a swept wing jet fighter, and we are told that the Mutual Security Agency is also interested in this machine. Then there is the Gloster Javelin delta wing all-weather fighter, and the Gloster Meteor. As to the Meteor, another curious fact has come to light; that is, that the Meteor forms part of a barter arrangement whereby 15,000 tons of Brazilian cotton are to be exchanged for seventy Gloster Meteors, spare parts and maintenance and trading facilities. The sum involved is reputedly£4,241,700. This, I take it, is a case of exchanging the swords for the ploughshares. I think many of us have not quite made up our minis whether it is a good thing to exchange Meteors, 446 or any other 'planes, for cotton or any other materials. We are not quite sure whether it is a good thing necessarily to exchange them with a country like Brazil, when we are told that the N.A.T.O. Powers are so short of aircraft.
§ If the Minister could give us some information, I should like to know something about guided missiles. I realise that here he will probably, quite properly, hide behind the skirts, always available to Service Ministers, of national security. But it seems to me that, at least so far as the bomber policy is concerned, the guided missile may have considerable effect. Has thought been given by the Government to the effect on bomber production of the guided missile programme? I was going to say something about naval aircraft, but I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Pakenham, who has considerably more knowledge of this subject than I have, is to speak in the debate and he will deal with that particular problem.
§ Now I come to the civil aircraft. There are certain propositions here upon which I think everyone in the House will be agreed. It is obviously in the interests of the United Kingdom and the N.A.T.O. countries that the United Kingdom should be encouraged to develop its strength in civil aviation. The civil air fleet forms a reserve, in case of need, for the Royal Air Force; it operates in relation to the Royal Air Force just as the Merchant Navy does in relation to the Royal Navy. For Britain to play her part in the world to-day—a very important part, as we all realise—it is necessary for us not only to have bombers and fighters but also a good sound civil aviation industry. I believe some quarters in the United States do not appreciate this point of view; other quarters, however, do. For many years—due to circumstances into which I need not go—the United States had virtually a monopoly of big civil aircraft. They have at their doorstep an enormous market. I think that British European Airways, which is the largest operator in this country—that is, the largest passenger-carrier—comes about seventh in the world. There are six United States air lines which carry more passengers than and, of course, many more which carry fewer. Therefore there is an enormous market at their doorstep. Moreover, during the 447 war we did not make any big civil aircraft, so that they have had the market pretty well to themselves. But we want trade, not aid, in this country, and we must, I think, seek to persuade the United States that it is for the benefit of us all that there should be a valuable and developing civil aviation aircraft industry in the United Kingdom.
§ The attitude in the United States is important in one respect, among others; that is, over the new airworthiness certificate for the British jet and turbo-prop air liners. Your Lordships know that at least one of these types, the Comet, has been ordered by an American air line operator. That is in itself an enormous achievement for British manufacturers; and there may be more. It is important that the United States Civil Aeronautics Administration should recognise the certificates granted to our 'planes as being airworthy in this country, and I understand that there is hope that they will do so. I ask the Government to give every possible help to the industry to ensure that such certificates are granted by the Civil Aeronautics Administration, Britain's enormous rearmament has to be paid for, and in the view of many of us one of the most likely means of paying for it is by the civil aviation industry. This is no new thesis. Right at the very beginning of the present Government's stay in office, both my noble friend Lord Pakenham and I, and others of your Lordships in various parts of the House, pressed this point of view upon the Government: that it was better in those days to concentrate on selling to the United States, and elsewhere, things that they wanted, rather than try to push on them things they did not particularly want. And since it was clear that in all probability they would want our aircraft—and as opinion developed, they did—it was just as well to make the necessary provisions for supplying them.
§ Then, as your Lordships know, the development of military aircraft and the development of civil aircraft are complementary: the two really go together in overall efficiency of design and production. It is difficult for manufacturers to ignore one and concentrate on the other. The effort and equipment necessary for research and experiment can more easily be borne if the two sides of the industry are available to the manufacturer. 448 Finally, there is the great benefit of stability of production and employment. If one talks to any of these manufacturers, one finds that there is always in their minds the bogy that the military sources will dry up; that they are not going to get many orders; that there is going to be a switch in policy, as there has been lately, and that they will be left high and dry. Therefore, if they have a good and progressive civil aviation side it helps them tremendously on the military side as well.
§ Now, turning to particular types, the jet aircraft, such as the Comet, and the turbo-prop, such as the Britannia—the big ones—cost£500,000 to£750,000 each. A turbo-prop such as the Viscount—smaller machines—cost between£250,000 and£300,000. Those are the terms in which we are thinking, and those three machines will undoubtedly be the basis of our civil export trade. The companies concerned have, I understand, been engaged on market research and technical salesmanship, and they have made some estimate of what is a reasonable expectation of sales over the next five to ten years. The production of Comets is going up to six a month and the Viscounts to eight or nine a month quite shortly. The companies, by the way, say they have not lost any sales over delays of delivery dates, and those people who have come here from abroad and have made a great song and dance about not being able to get Comets and other machines, and who say they are going away disappointed, have not really been quite as forthcoming as they might have been. Apparently no firm contracts have been lost because of delays.
§ The major airline operators calculate the operating life of a machine at ten years; so a machine costing£750,000 to£1 million will probably cost about as much again in spare parts as the whole of this amount. It may be that£1,500,000 to£2 million will have to be amortised—to be written off over ten years. That is a very large amount of money to write off. When I was Minister of Civil Aviation I found, in talking to representatives of foreign and Commonwealth airlines, that the enormous expense of these new machines and their lack of experience in handling them made them very chary about risking purchases. I have no hesitation in saying that these new and exciting 449 machines which really have put Britain on the map in aviation and in other ways, have been made possible to a large extent because the B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., with the backing of the Government, ordered the new types before they were proved commercially or proved from the operator's point of view.
§ Now, if we assume peak results of 70 Comets and 100 Viscounts a year, with other machines as well, I understand that the industry believe that in about five years and thenceforward they will be supplying about£100 million worth a year of new aircraft, without spares. If we add on another£100 million for spares, it means that in all possibility there will be a trade in about five years' time of about£200 million a year. That would probably include aircraft supplied to this country. That is a very rough estimate, but it gives us here something to go upon when we are considering the scope of this new business.
§ I should like to turn for a moment to small aircraft, because in the past what I may call the "bush" operators (I hope they will net be upset by my calling them that; I mean the people who are running little aircraft businesses in Africa, Asia and Malaya, and in this country, for that matter) have been able to get their aircraft by purchasing them secondhand from big operators or, perhaps, even privately from some wealthy person who no longer wishes to maintain, or has not the money to maintain, his own aircraft. Here we come to the division of the ways. When it is a matter of dealing with aircraft costing£1 million, or£500,000 or£250,000, it is beyond the capacity of the little aircraft operator to handle these delicate, technical and complicated machines. Your Lordships who have visited Africa will have seen the places where they repair the engines and will know that they cannot send the engines to England for repairs; they have to do them on the spot, keep them going and renovate them and their facilities and finances are limited. I do not know where these people are going for aircraft in the future. This is where the Government should come in. The successors to the Doves and the Rapides and machines of that kind must be produced. I am told there is a good aircraft, I believe only at the drawing stage—the twin Pioneer, 14-seater. If the 450 Ministry of Supply would give a development contract for the production of a prototype, it might help the small operator whom I am sure we all want to keep in the field. He does a very good job, especially in Africa and the East.
§ Perhaps I may now say a word about the helicopter. As your Lordships know, in the future, broadly speaking, the big jets and possibly the big turbo-props, such as the Britannia, will deal with the long-distance hauls, and the turbo-prop Viscounts and machines like that the middle distance hauls up to about 1,500 miles. In spite of the things that will be said in the discussion on the Transport Bill in this House on Monday, we have a good deal of transport, and fairly rapid transport, for short hauls; and therefore there is not such a demand for aircraft in this field. It is not possible for ordinary winged aircraft to compete with the existing facilities. But, of course, the helicopter is the ideal machine for distances up to 250 miles, in a densely-populated country such as ours. I was therefore pleased to see at Farnborough last year a prototype in the air of the Bristol 173, two-engined helicopter. Up to now the Ministers concerned have not been willing, for obvious reasons, for a helicopter where it had only one engine, to fly either over water or over densely-populated areas. This is a two-engined machine, and the Mark III especially will, I hope, afford useful experience to operators in this country in the development of the helicopter. But we need more prototypes and we need tests for both civil and military purposes. For this reason I would suggest that the B.E.A. unit must be continued, to obtain operating experience. There is a most urgent need for the examination of the design studies that were recently submitted by five aircraft manufacturers for large transport helicopters made to B.E.A. specification. The industry must be asked to tender and development contracts placed as soon as possible.
§ I am told by those who are interested that military tardiness is responsible for the delay in development. The ideal machine for military as well as civil purposes is, I suppose, the type designed to carry thirty or forty passengers. The military people, I am told, are more fussy about performance. That may or may not be true—I see the Secretary of State looking rather dubious—but it is a fact 451 that civil operators feel that the military are holding up development. To obtain 100 large helicopters will cost about£21 million. That is a large sum, but undoubtedly the outlay would be spread over, say, ten years, and a good deal of it will be recovered from sales.
§ I have given some details of the new machines which we know are either in prototype or in actual manufacture, save only the naval machines, with which my noble friend Lord Pakenham will be dealing. May I now say a word about the supply position generally? In order to fulfil orders for these new machines—and there may be others of which I have not heard—has the industry the materials, the factory space, the men and the capital needed? We have the lead. For the first time since the war, I think, in a particular department of export we have the lead. The British horse is well in front, but a Yankee challenger is coming up in the distance, going very strongly, a powerful, persistent animal imbued with natural determination and carrying his owner's shirt. Unless we go into this thing in a big way, in two or three years' time we shall lose that lead; and, once lost, it will not be regained.
§ I should like to give your Lordships some indication of what we are up against to-day. The United States aircraft industry is turning out 1,000 aircraft a month: it is the second largest industrial employer in the United States, with enormous capital involved. It will not sit down under this challenge; it will meet the challenge. If we want to keep the lead which we have gained, through our inventive genius and our sacrifices—in sacrificing the piston engine after the war—through the work of the aircraft manufacturers and their men, and the assistance of the Government, then we must take the necessary steps to get enough of these new aircraft on to the market at the right time. We have a glorious chance, not only a chance of capturing the world's civil aircraft market, and possibly a great deal of the military aircraft market as well, but also of gaining enormous prestige. When we were over at N.A.T.O. recently we also visited S.H.A.P.E.—by "we" I mean noble Lords from this House and Members from another place. Many of the distinguished officers at 452 S.H.A.P.E. told me how much they admired the new aircraft, how much they esteemed the British people for turning out, under conditions of so much difficulty, these wonderful new aircraft which we hope will be available at a not too distant time. Many of the machines are only in prototype, but they have an enormous prestige value to us. No one in the world can say that the British are down and out, or that the British are ceasing to be an important Power, and all the rest of it, when we are scooping the world in aircraft. The two things do not marry, so it is important, from all points of view, that we get these machines on the market.
§ I understand that the position in regard to materials and machine tools is now easier and that it has been helped by the super-priority list—and also, may I say, by the former Government's foresight in 1950 in ordering 20,000 machine tools from the United States and Western Europe. There is still some difficulty over alloy steels and special items of machine tools, but the present position may be altered if production is greatly stepped up. Then as to factory space. There are no great difficulties at the moment, I understand, but if any do arise perhaps the Government would consider subcontracting. I notice that the Standard Motor Company, and also no doubt others, are making aero-engines in their motor factories. That is the sort of development that can well take place. With regard to manpower, recruitment is now at the rate of 2,500 a month net gain, and we have about 204,000 men in the manufacture and repair of aircraft. That total has been increasing at the rate of about 15 per cent. per annum. What is needed is a stabilised force, but the graph has not reached that point yet, so that we cannot see exactly what numbers the stabilised force will have in it. There is still a shortage of technical and skilled craftsmen, and there is likely to be so for some considerable time.
§ Finally, with regard to finance. Of course, the aircraft industry, like all others, has to bear heavy taxation and take considerable risks. It has been heavily strained since the war with these developments, but it has been helped by the Ministry of Supply with their accelerated progress payment and by loans of machine tools. It is interesting to note 453 that both Rolls-Royce and Hawker-Siddeley have had to increase their capital to get new money. Rolls-Royce have increased their capital by£2¼ million, and Hawker-Siddeley have increased their borrowing powers from£5 million to£16 million. In the United States the average percentage of profit is estimated at 2.2 per cent. for the aircraft companies, compared with 6.2 per cent. for all manufacturing industries. That in itself, I think, shows the risks undertaken in the aircraft world, the very considerable expenditure to which the industry is put and the lesser proportion of profits gained, in comparison with industry generally. One would expect that. The next generation of trunk route air liners will cost£1 million apiece, and it will be difficult not only for the aircraft operators to find the money to pay for them but also for the aircraft manufacturers to find the money to finance the making of them.
§ I believe there is some suggestion—I will not say at this moment whether or not I agree with it—that the Government should consider some sort of development contract to the manufacturer with recovery to the Government of an agreed sum for each aircraft sold. That may or may not be a good plan. I am not going to make any pronouncement to-day upon that proposal, but that is the sort of suggestion which is going around in the aircraft industry. There is also, of course, the proposal that there should be assistance under the export credits guarantee. Those are the main points that I wish to bring to your Lordships' notice to-day. They can be summed up once more in a phrase which I would reiterate, since I think it is important and should be the keynote of this debate: here we have the chance of a lifetime. How can the Government and the nation help the aircraft industry to seize it? I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for giving us the opportunity to-day of discussing the affairs of the aircraft industry. I hope that I can persuade the noble Lord and his colleagues that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this regard is not vague but practical and well thought out. Of course, it cannot be written on half a sheet 454 of paper as a series of points, because the aircraft industry is a complicated organisation, and no very simple direct form of policy would be suited to its organisation or to its task. At any rate, we can all agree that in recent years the aircraft industry has risen to a position of prestige comparable with the finest of our older and established industries, and that aircraft are no longer what they appeared, at least to some of the previous generation, to be—new-fangled machines. The aviation industry is no longer art esoteric plant to be forced in the hothouse of war and allowed to wither and fade in peace. Flying has become a commonplace and not an adventure. Thus it is to-day that the aircraft industry is playing in our economy a part comparable, for instance, to the old-established and very well-known shipbuilding industry.
May I give a specific example of what I mean? The noble Lord has referred to exports, and it is a striking fact that in 1952 the exports of the industry—I am talking about aviation goods in general—totalled£43 million, which just about equalled our exports from the shipping industry.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
What I might call aviation goods produced in the aviation industry. We hope that in the current year the figure may rise to£60 million. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, talked about£200 million in five years. That may be an optimistic figure, but at any rate, if not in five perhaps in ten, we may seethe industry achieving really remarkable progress; and perhaps£200 million may be achieved. We must not be over-optimistic; on the other hand, we must not set our sights too low. This is a great achievement and we owe our thanks to all the many interests concerned. It is most remarkable that there are still in the industry so many of the early pioneers whose names are household words, whose spirit of adventure, inventiveness and, one might add, pertinacity have been the foundation of its success.
The noble Lord talked about our lead in the design and manufacture of modern aircraft. I agree with him. But whether we have a three, four or five year lead is 455 something on which I am not going to commit myself. I agree that, whatever our lead may be, we have got to make the most of it: it will certainly not be automatically maintained. Lord Ogmore referred to the United States aviation industry. This is certainly a most powerful, skilful and resourceful competitor, and one that is not likely to accept things as they are. Competition is the natural stimulant to American industrial and technical progress. Therefore I think it is true to say that we must expect that the great range of civil aircraft which is now in production—the Comets, the Vickers Viscount, the Bristol Britannia, which are the outstanding examples—will not much longer remain, as they are to-day, unique in their class. The general public are beginning to take a keen and. I think, commendable interest in aviation matters, and it is up to us, in all parts of the House, and to Parliament in general, to see that that interest is an informed interest.
It is only natural, when some really striking new aircraft shows its paces—let us say at Farnborough in the autumn show of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors—that there should be a general expectation, stimulated, I have no doubt, by the Press, for which I may say the Government are not responsible, that these aircraft will be produced in quantity in a very short time. People are accustomed to look upon the Farnborough Show as being rather like the Motor Show at Earl's Court. They rather expect that when a model appears in the advertisements in the Press, or on the stand, it will be in production and in the shop window very shortly. Noble Lords opposite know more about production and development than that, but it is still a fact that, unless the productive process is understood, this kind of expectation leads to disappointment. Therefore I shall not flatter myself that I am informing Lord Ogmore and his colleague, Lord Pakenham, if I go into a little greater detail than perhaps we normally do about some of the problems inherent in the production of new types of aircraft.
I think it is true to say that the industry's record with these latest types of civil aircraft is a good one. For example, it took, I believe, some seven years for the conception of the American Constellation to be translated into production for air line use. In the case of 456 the Comet I the comparable process took five years. The Comet II, which is a development of that original design, will be in production in an even shorter period, due, of course, to the development of the first Comet aircraft. The Comet III, which is virtually a new aircraft, completely redesigned, will take four years from the initiation of the project. It is important to emphasise that the Comet III, despite its family name, is not really a stretched-out Comet II; it is a new aircraft. Naturally, experience gained in the design and flying of jet air liners has proved invaluable to De Havilland's in building and designing these aircraft, but four years is not bad in the aircraft industry.
It is interesting to remember the earlier Comet of the De Havilland Company. In 1934 the aircraft was designed, built and flying in an international air race in nine months. That shows the measure of the technical advance since those days. But if a customer goes to Hatfield tomorrow and orders a Comet II he can, as I have said, have it in about two years' time. For a highly complicated machine like the Comet II, costing, as the noble Lord said, something over£500,000—as much as an ocean-going merchant ship of 5,000 gross tons—this is not bad. In fact, I think two years is a short time. I do not believe that any customer prepared to invest in an aircraft of this type—and it must be an experienced customer, otherwise he would not be dabbling in it—would regard two years as an excessive period. It is not expected that these aircraft, any more than a new ship, can be bought "off the shelf." The capital risks implicit in putting any aircraft "on the shelf" are too great for any firm or any Government to contemplate.
I hope that I am dealing with the points which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made. May I go on to say, that the time between order and delivery is not due to lack of manufacturing capacity? It is important to know that. For instance, Vickers can see their way to increase their production of the Viscount, if necessary—which means if they get a sale for them—up to 100 a year. The noble Lord mentioned, eight or nine a month, and this figure of 100 a year is the highest production ever contemplated for a big civil aircraft, either in America or in Britain. Using all the manufacturing 457 techniques of a great industrial concern like Vickers, the cycle of production will, I am told, still be about twenty-four months; and that is after All the difficulties, foreseen and unforeseen, of the prototype stage have been solved. These are the physical facts which govern the rate of progress in actually building the machines.
May I interrupt the noble Lord, merely to make sure that I appreciate his meaning? He is not denying, I take it, that if capacity were greatly increased we could produce many more aircraft in two years: he is simply saying that each aircraft will take the same time.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
Perhaps I make take the parallel of the building of a ship. There the materials, the labour and the machinery must be made available, and the time which it takes to build the ship would, in the nature of things, depend upon whether one, two or three shifts were worked. But I am informed (and I must rely on those experienced in these matters) that there is a cycle of aircraft production. Obviously, by increasing capacity from, say, eight to twelve a month, we might produce more aircraft; but production must be related to the market.
Coming on to sub-contracting, a point which the noble Lord mentioned, in so far as that will speed up the production of a particular aircraft it is certainly Her Majesty's Government's policy to encourage it—if, indeed, the design firms need any encouragement in a matter which is so much in their own interest. I myself have been able to discover no cases where production is being held up because of the omission to sub-contract. And, of coarse, a company ought not to sub-contract to more than a limited degree beyond what is required to meet its firm otters. I think it would be properly criticised for bad finance if it did.
Again, it is not widely realised—how could it be, in view of the limited number of people who come into really basic contact with the business of the production of aicraft?—how many tests a prototype must be submitted to before it can be cleared for production. In our present state of knowledge, no designer, however gifted and however experienced, 458 can tell his board that he is certain that design and performance will actually match. At modern speeds all sorts of unexpected things are bound to happen, requiring further exhaustive tests. With large expensive aircraft, in the nature of things there is a necessary limit to the number of tests which can be simultaneously conducted. I speak here, with all humility, as a layman, having had no engineering training, but I have had, in my present capacity, some recent opportunities of seeing and learning at first hand the complication of the problems which face design teams. In my contacts with these firms I have seen no signs of dawdling or any lack of the keenest desire to get on with the job in the shortest possible time. Therefore, it is neither lack of capacity nor lack of finance which is the limiting factor in production at the present time.
§ LORD OGMORE
I appreciate that; and I have said so. But there is a possibility of getting an enormously expanded market. What I was getting at was this: are facilities available if that opportunity should occur, as I think it is quite likely to occur.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I hope very much that the noble Lord will be right in his optimism, which I share, in these matters. But I do not think one can rule out that the situation depends to a tremendous extent on such factors as the aircraft, the market and the finances of the firms themselves. I can assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Minister of Supply is in constant touch with industry as a whole, and with particular firms who have particular propositions to put forward. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, need fear that we are losing, or shall lose, markets which we should otherwise have, for every encouragement is being given to firms to set up their selling organisations in all parts of the world. It is one thing to make a design, and quite another to sell aircraft of that design at the right price to the people who want them. It is most important to get hold, of the customer. But firms are not being prevented by either of those causes from accepting orders or offering the shortest possible delivery dates.
The noble Lord referred to super-priority, and he stated quite accurately a 459 number of types which have received super-priority. Here again, we want to get the matter in proportion. The main emphasis in the Government's policy has been that of easing the industry's tasks in respect of labour and materials. Because without such action, there would undoubtedly have been needless delays. And I am glad to be able to report progress in both those fields. Demands for labour from firms on super-priority work have been given special attention by the Minister of Labour. Nearly every firm in the industry in this country has increased its labour force during the past year, and, all told, the total number employed in the industry rose during 1952 by 30,000—that is, by 17 per cent., which is quite a big rise. Then there is the specially important problem of housing. Local authorities have been most helpful, and with their co-operation some 4,000 houses have been provided for the aircraft workers. Some 3,000 of these houses are for firms engaged either partially or wholly on super-priority work. Behind these schemes there has been the general policy of trying to attract labour to the firms, and especially of dealing with the very difficult problem of getting skilled labour. Skilled labour, I am afraid, will always be less in an expanding industry than the amount needed. It is, in fact, almost a function of an expanding industry that it should be short of that particular type of labour.
As regards materials and machine tools, super-priority has worked. The noble Lord has referred, quite justly, to the ordering by the late Government of 20,000 machine tools, and that action has shown favourable results. Delivery dates of some materials have been reduced quite remarkably in some cases. May I give an example? Before the introduction of the super-priority scheme, alloy steel bars, after ordering, took sometimes nearly two years to deliver. Now that delivery is down to nine or six months, which is a pretty big drop. Aluminium alloys, again, are now being delivered in three months, compared with twelve months before the super-priority scheme came into operation. It is not yet possible, because of the production cycle, to point to any remarkable improvement in delivery dates of aircraft, because the aircraft to which this policy 460 has been applied are those in the first stage of production or the even earlier stage of development. That applies, of course, to the civil types, as well as to the military types. Again, it has been said, quite rightly, if we give super-priority to too many types of aircraft we defeat our own object. It is the old story of the queue for super-priorities. In fact, it is eleven types out of sixty, which is an important proportion to remember. The second point to remember is that it is not super-priority within the aircraft industry but super-priority for certain aircraft within that industry, over competing firms in the engineering industry as a whole. The queue behind is larger.
The keynote of the super-priority scheme has been co-operation on a voluntary basis between Government and industry; and the scheme has really worked. It is not surprising that it has worked, because there is a valuable record of good relations between the Government and the aircraft industry. Over this period, I think, mutual respect and confidence have been built up, and the functions of each party in this complicated set-up are, if not easy to define, well understood. It is true, as the noble Lord has said, that the Government must play a big part, not only in the military field, but also in the civil field of the aircraft industry. I agree that it would not be possible, even if it were desired—and one would not desire it—to separate the civil and military fields in aircraft manufacture. The general rule is that the Government finance the prototypes of large civil types of aircraft, and a proportion of the proceeds of sales is paid by the firm to the Government. This proportion is calculated on the assumption, after market research has been done, that a stated number of aircraft will be sold. The Government get their money back if the estimated number is sold, and make a profit if that number is exceeded—as is likely in some cases. Therefore, I would emphasise that the keynote in this whole set-up is partnership.
Of course, as the noble Lord knows—I think he told the House this on a previous occasion—the Comet I was rather an important exception to the general rule. Certainly all credit goes to the firm of De Havilland and to B.O.A.C. which have combined, the one in making and the others in purchasing, these (as I may call them) revolutionary 461 new aircraft. Again, showing the relationship between military and civil design, the Comet I was designed round the Ghost jet engine which was designed and developed to Government specifications, and with Government finance, primarily for military purposes. Indeed, it is now used in the Venom fighter. As with aircraft, so with aero engines. The design and preparation for the production of a powerful new jet engine, such as the Avon or Proteus, is quite as expensive as the same process for complete new aircraft. In present conditions, it is not possible to cover the costs of a new jet, or turbo-prop, engine developed purely for civil purposes. That is why most modern civil aircraft are propelled by engines which have been designed in the first place for military purposes. It is interesting to note that one of the latest types of large jet engine under development in the United States, the Allison turbo-prop, will be financed by United States Government money, exactly on the same principle as in this country. Again, in this field it is worth noting further examples of joint enterprise that benefit our export trade. I am talking about the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engine, which is being made under licence in the United States and is coming into production there. The royalties are shared by the Government, and the firm and the whole national economy benefits from the dollars earned by this joint enterprise.
I have gone into this aspect, perhaps at some length, of the partnership between the Government and industry because I believe that we cannot appreciate the scope to which the partnership has developed without some knowledge of these facts. I am sure its merit is—although not designed, in the sense that it was conceived on an a priori plan—that it works and produces results. I, for one, cannot believe that any greater control by the Government, and certainly nationalisation, would be of benefit either to the industry or to the nation—quite the reverse. The healthy rivalry and competition between aircraft firms, more especially in the field of design, with the pride of the individual firms in their own ideas and products, is at the root of the great advances made since the war, and of the lead we now hold over the rest of the world. I must, therefore, say that in my belief it would be folly to threaten 462 with nationalisation an industry which is performing so great a task. In my estimation the result would be to quench the enthusiasm and destroy the confidence which now exists, whether in the board room, the design office or on the shop floor. In my present duties I would certainly fear for the re-equipment of the Royal Air Force in these critical times, and I believe that on the civil side our prospects of gaining a greater share of the market for civil aircraft would be gravely prejudiced.
I should now like to pass on to the part which fundamental research plays in this great aviation complex. A great deal has been done by the Royal Aircraft Establishment, by the T.R.E. and others; and the universities have made a valuable contribution. Wind tunnels, and other complicated and costly equipment, are made available to the industry by the Government. These facilities, the creation of the Scientific Civil Service, to which I pay my tribute, form the reservoir which can, as it were, irrigate the complex of channels, scientific and technical, military and industrial, which may be loosely termed the aviation interest. Let me state explicitly that there is a direct connection between the efforts and resources devoted to fundamental research and the appearance of these fine aircraft to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has referred and to which I referred earlier in my speech. Here again there is a partnership between Government scientists in the. Ministry of Supply and the research establishments, and those in industry—a partnership in which, so far as I can see in my contact with the industry, neither side claims a dominant interest.
Despite the wider terms of the Motion on the Order Paper I have advisedly addressed myself primarily to the question of the production of civil aircraft. I have asked my noble friend Lord Mancroft to wind up for the Government, and to take up the points which I have no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will shortly be raising on the production of aircraft for the Royal Navy, a matter on which he speaks from his intimate knowledge. No doubt there will be other noble Lords who will follow the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in dealing with this aspect. I have not dealt in any detail with the production of 463 specific types of military aircraft for the Royal Air Force, for the reason that shortly we shall have a debate following the publication of the Air Estimates. Some of the ground will also be covered on the publication of the Government's Defence White Paper. I am sure that it would make for a much more complete and satisfactory discussion if our debate on this type of aviation were conducted in the light of the information to be provided. But I would emphasise, once again, that it is not because I do not agree with the noble Lord that aviation is indivisible but rather for the convenience of the House that I suggest a division of the debate.
I should like to take up one of the passages in Lord Ogmore's speech, in which he referred to three types of medium bomber. First of all, I can reassure him that they do not cost£1 million each. Perhaps a leading article in The Times may have led the noble Lord to suppose so. There was also a speech by an officer, now in the Ministry of Supply, who unfortunately was not at the time completely informed on costs. I am happy to say that the cost is somewhere between£300,000 and£400,000, which is a considerably smaller amount.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I think this ought to go on record, as being the first time in recent years that an Estimate from the Government has been found to be three times greater than the actual amount. That is a triumph.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
An officer who had joined the Ministry of Supply was giving a lecture in a private capacity to a body of engineers and unfortunately gave this figure which had not been checked. A million pounds is a lot of money, and although£300,000 is still a lot of money it is a good deal less than a million pounds; and we could get two or three bombers for that amount. That is the first point I think I should make perfectly plain. The Valiant was the first four-engined jet bomber to be designed, if not put into production, and inevitably later specifications have called for higher performance. Two solutions have been 464 offered by the houses of Handley Page and Avro, which are to a large degree different answers to the same question. Until the matter can be tested, as in the last war, when there were three bombers, no one can say which will be the most suitable. Indeed they might both be suitable for highly different but critical purposes. It is most important that everybody should realise that we cannot predict, until an aircraft has been in service, whether its performance will match up to what is required.
The second thing, which is also vital, is that we cannot yet tell which aircraft—to use a term of jargon—has most development in it. In the last war the Lancaster bomber was produced from the rather unpromising Manchester bomber, which had two engines. It was redesigned with four engines and proved the stalwart of our bomber force. For the purposes of defence progress, the Government would have been wrong not to be bold enough in this matter to order from the drawing board not only the Valiant, but the Victor and the Vulcan. I have gone into this point because it is important that I should correct any misconception. I hope the noble Lord will allow me to deal on a later occasion with the question of the production of other military aircraft, so that we can concentrate our attention on it.
The noble Lord referred to helicopters. I have asked my noble friend Lord Mancroft to take up that point, in order that my speech shall not be inordinately long. But as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has been a little critical of the Royal Air Force on the question of helicopters I must, in fairness, explain that, although the Royal Air Force would like to develop a great many further different types, if they had more money, they have always devoted resources to those things which they consider of most importance. I concede that it has proved important in Malaya to have aircraft of that type, and the American Government, with great generosity, have advanced some which are now flown by Royal Naval pilots. But when only a limited amount of money is available—and the noble Lord and his colleagues were responsible for allocating the funds at the time really under discussion—it must be devoted to those things which seem most important. And at that time, rightly I think, it was felt 465 that the money available should be devoted to the production of what I might call offensive military aircraft, meaning bombers and fighters and other kindred aircraft.
§ On the question of the Pioneer, my attention has already been called to the utility of that aircraft, and all I can say is that this question is being examined again. It must come back to ends and means, and we have not unlimited funds; we have much more limited means than the United States, and we have to think carefully before we order a prototype, however attractive it may appear, to see that we are getting these things in the right order. I thought that the noble Lord was going to talk about rearward facing seats—he gave me notice of that point. In this matter, which I find of great interest, I happen to have informed myself, as best I can, about the state of affairs, and perhaps I may offer him, gratuitously, a little information about it.
May I apologise to the Secretary of State for not mentioning this subject after I had given him notice? It was for the same reason that he decided to give some of his material to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. I thought it would perhaps make my speech inordinately long, and possibly it is a little off the track of the main. Motion to talk about seats.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
The noble Lord has rightly reminded me that we must not individually take up too much of your Lordships' time. Shortly, there is great difficulty in this matter, unless every civil air line adopts the same policy and accepts the same weight penalty. In the experience of the Royal Air Force, rearward facing seats have proved a utility, and certainly we think they have saved lives in accidents. As to any private schemes of the noble Lord, they have been examined, but technically they have been found lacking in certain important and desirable data. I have taken too long, but this is a matter which I find of consuming interest. I hope that noble Lords—though I suppose they would not be here unless they found themselves interested in this topic—will share the enthusiasm and interest which I think covers both Front Benches and both sides of the House in this great topic. I should like, in conclusion, to 466 repeat the opinion which I have on a former occasion expressed in this House, that air power is one, and that we must regard it as one. I am equally convinced that air power will play an important part in our affairs, both economically and militarily, and that the opportunities which it offers to us as a nation, to our ingenuity and contrivance, as a medium of transport and economic expansion, make it admirably suited at once to our needs and abilities.
§ 3.55 p.m.
My Lords, I hope I shall be forgiven for intruding rather unexpectedly in this debate. I had not expected that I should be present in the House this afternoon, and even now I fear that I may have to leave before the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, replies. If I do so, I trust I shall not earn the censure of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin; and I hope that I shall not be handled as roughly as was the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, the other day. I also have my living to earn, though it is not such a lucrative living as that which I am sure comes the way of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. Having mentioned Lord Hailsham, which I know is a dangerous thing to do in his absence from the House, I apologise in advance, not only partially, but completely, for any slight that may have been contained in my words. I am asked to make it an abject apology. I have known the noble Viscount too long to make an abject apology to him, but I make it a very friendly apology all the same.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L' Isle and Dudley, can be relied upon to deal with a large topic in a spacious and attractive way. I am sure that my colleagues on this side of the House will feel that he has lived up to his reputation this afternoon. It would be too much to suggest that he has given us a full and complete picture, or that he has torn away the veil to the extent that noble Lords in Opposition would wish. We realise the difficulties of his task. But, having heard him speak, I should certainly feel—if it is not an embarrassment to him—that his mind, the minds, I am sure, of his colleagues, and our minds, are at one as to the urgency and importance of the task before us. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in what seemed to me a most effective introduction, referred to "the 467 chance of the lifetime." Those words I would certainly echo. I, too, feel that there lies before the aircraft industry at this moment what may well be a fleeting opportunity. I think that is only putting in other words what was in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. We have this lead. We cannot say how long we shall have the lead, or how long we shall have in which to take advantage of it. One can think of variouspicturesn. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, sketched a race in which the Americans were, as it were, beginning to breathe over our shoulder, or soon would be catching us up. One can think in terms of catching or missing a bus. So far as I am concerned, I do not know whether we are catching the bus at the present time. There is the bus moving along in front of us, if you like at twenty miles an hour; and here we are running at, perhaps, fifteen miles an hour. Whether we can accelerate to catch that bus, or whether we are accelerating enough to catch the bus, I really should not be prepared to say this afternoon.
I do not believe that we shall find it easy to "collar" the jet market for a generation—to use an expression employed, I thought a little enthusiastically, by a noble Lord on the Government side last summer. I simply do not know what is going to be the result of this race. I believe it lies within our power to "collar" that market, but it will need a great increase of any effort that is being put forward at the present time. I am not making any kind of Party point, because it would need a great increase on anything that we ourselves were doing when we were the Government. At any rate, that is my own point of view. I certainly did not detect any sort of complacency in the words of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley. If I understood him correctly, he agreed that it will not be an automatic success in this business. I believe that was the expression, or thought, at any rate, that he conveyed to us.
The real question is whether we are increasing our efforts with the kind of intensity required by this unique moment. I call it a unique moment, because, after all—I am thinking particularly about the export of aircraft—the world's export market in aircraft has for years been dominated, almost monopolised, by the 468 Americans. It will be a very remarkable thing if we succeed in crashing into that market; in getting a large share of the market when they have so long possessed a monopoly. I believe it can be done, but it will not be at all easy. I do not think the noble Lord will think it churlish, after his remarks, if I say that I am not at all sure whether we are doing it as a country at the present time.
The noble Lord referred to one or two physical questions—the all-important issues of manpower, materials and houses. I do not know whether he had time yesterday, in his busy life, to read an article in the Observer—he will forgive my not giving him notice of the fact that I was going to refer to it—but the thought may have passed through his mind as he listened to the debate to-day: "Is super-priority enough?" There are certain statements in this article which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will probably wish to deal with when it comes to his turn to speak. The argument is submitted in the Observer by Mr. Chester Wilmot, whose rather controversial talents are widely applauded. He concludes that it is desirable to extend super-priority for housing for aircraft workers, even at the cost of reimposing some controls. He has made a special study of this subject, and he assures us that the removal of building restrictions has undoubtedly made it more difficult for the Government to get the houses needed for the rearmament drive. That is Mr. Wilmot's opinion, and it is based on a careful study. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will wish to say something about it.
If any element of complacency is to be detected by the most critical in the observations of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, it was on this question of housing. He gave us the impression that things were going pretty well on the housing front. I am not in a position to correct him, and certainly not to refute him, but I wonder whether they are going quite so well. When I last went into this matter in detail last year—which was since the present Government has been in power—I did not get the impression that the local authorities were playing up quite so magnificently. I realise that when one is a Minister it is tempting to hand out tributes to those for whom one has 469 any kind of indirect responsibility—the industry, the officials, local authorities and nearly everyone concerned. But it is rather difficult for a local authority in Bristol, say, to allocate houses to people who have, so to speak, just arrived, when there are long waiting lists of local inhabitants. I think there is a problem there, and, while not criticising any particular local authority, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, after consultation with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, would care to tell us if there is still a good deal of improvement which might be forthcoming from the local authorities in this respect.
That is just one detailed point, and I should like to raise with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, a rather more fundamental issue. Here, again, I am not speaking from any completely up-to-date or inside knowledge, but from a good deal of background. The noble Lord made a point often made on behalf of the aircraft industry. I do not think there is anyone in this House who has a higher opinion of the aircraft industry than I have, and that is a very high opinion on the whole. The noble Lord made the point that we are not losing any orders at present. I wonder whether that is good enough? I wonder, in other words, whether we ought not to be producing ahead of orders more than we are doing? Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will say a few words on that subject afterwards on behalf of his noble friend. Frankly, I hope that we are not waiting for orders before we move ahead on a much bigger scale than we have moved in the past.
Obviously, there is a question of balance. We have to pay considerable attention to balance, and I think we all wish that to be done. Equally, I feel we must produce aeroplanes on a large scale before having the orders. I cannot accept the view that because we have not yet missed any orders, we are producing fast enough or on a large enough scale. In my opinion, it remains to be shown whether that is so. I should have thought that some months ago the financial question was important, and I should be surprised if it had been entirely eliminated as a factor in retarding production. Some months ago, I am sure it was a limiting factor, and I was a little surprised this afternoon to learn from the 470 noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley—if I understood him aright—that to-day finance is no obstacle. I have not been in touch with that great firm De Havilland's lately and, therefore, I am in no way quoting any opinion recently imparted to me. I should have thought that some months ago there was a very real problem before that most illustrious firm: whether they could legitimately risk the money of their shareholders on the scale required in the national interest, as it seems to many of us in this debate this afternoon. Probably there is no more efficient firm in the aircraft industry—it maybe in the country—than De Havilland's. Even so, I am doubtful whether it is within the power of a single firm, unaided by the State, to launch out on the scale which this fleeting opportunity demands. That, I believe, was the position a few months ago. Are we to understand that all those difficulties have now been cleared up?
I agree with my noble friend Lord Ogmore that one cannot be dogmatic on these points. One cannot indicate precisely the form of State assistance required. It might be some sort of guarantee for aircraft produced for export purposes; it might be some sort of guarantee for the development of the Comet III and Comet IV. I hope that Her Majesty's present advisers—whose interest in this is, I know, at least as keen as ours—have not abandoned the idea of some new partnerships between the State and industry in connection with the aircraft industry. I had not intended even to refer to nationalisation. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, thought it necessary, for reasons I can well understand, to touch upon it in passing. I am certainly not going to come forward this afternoon and offer any personal opinion, or opinion on behalf of the Labour Party, as regards the principle of nationalisation. I would only say this, as, I hope, a friend of the aircraft industry: that if no more effective form of partnership between the State and the industry is discovered in the next year or two than has hitherto been arrived at, and if this fleeting opportunity is in fact missed, then I believe that, quite apart from Party politics, there will be a widespread demand in this country for revolutionary and drastic solutions. That is not said in a threatening spirit or 471 after any kind of discussion with any particular political elements.
I should like to touch upon the subject of naval aircraft. I certainly should not claim to be any kind of expert compared with the noble Lord, Lord Winster, or the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I have landed once, and once only, on a deck, and the whole performance seemed to be sufficiently miraculous, even though it was a very calm day in July. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, of course, has done many things much more dangerous in that kind of sphere. I would offer the opinion—and I should be surprised if naval Lords present disagreed with me—that the Navy has never had worthy aircraft. We have never had aircraft worthy of the Royal Navy, at any time, whatever Government was in power, whether it was Labour, Conservative, Coalition or indistinguishable. Quite apart, therefore, from any political influences, there has been a consistent failure on that part of the front.
I realise that one must use words here with discretion, and that particularly the spokesman for the Government must do nothing to give the boys who fly the idea that the machines are not adequate. Well, of course, I am not suggesting for a moment that the aircraft flown by our naval airmen are not safe. I am not wishing to suggest any kind of insecurity of that kind. But when we compare our aircraft—and I know it is difficult to compare naval, military and civil aircraft—over a long period of years with the naval aircraft of foreign countries, I should say that we come out of it rather badly: I do not mean in the flying of them—most certainly not—but in the supply. I think that as politicians who have played our part in different times we ought all to stand together in a white sheet. There may be some other prisoners in the same dock. Some blame the aircraft industry: they feel that the industry have not taken enough interest in the Navy. The industry blame the Navy: they say that what the Navy want is a kind of Christmas free upon which to keep on hanging things until the point is reached when the aircraft will not fly. We get these charges and counter-charges, and the result has been such that we, as public men, must resolve to see that the position in the future is better than it 472 has been in the past. These are general observations. I am sure we shall come back to them in the Defence debate.
I have given the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, notice of one or two questions about particular aircraft. If they embarrass him seriously I will gladly defer them. But can he tell us anything about the Attacker? For a long time we have read in, the papers that all was not well with the Attacker. There have been serious allegations about failure of one kind or another. Can the noble Lord tell us the story about the Attacker in service? If there has been anything wrong, I hope he will indicate what was wrong, and I hope also that he will not tell us that all was for the best with that aircraft. I hope he will find it possible to tell us what was wrong, and whether whatever was wrong has now been put right. And what stage has now been reached by the Sea Hawk? Can he tell us how late it will be? Will it be one year later, or two years, or more, when it does come into service? And if it is very late, can he tell us why? Can he also tell us whether the same kind of procedure which produced that aircraft so late is being applied to other aircraft?
When all is said and done there is something of a mystery here. It is not enough to say that individuals or Parties have failed, that the industry have failed or that anybody else has failed. Perhaps the machinery for ordering and producing the supply of the aircraft is unsatisfactory. I hope the noble Lord will not tell me that this machinery has always been perfectly satisfactory. It is not so very long since I was connected with it and I know it was not perfect then. If the noble Lord can say that it has been improved since then, well and good. But if he can only say that it is the same old thing, that he and others are merely imitating us, I shall certainly attack him on some other occasion.
I have here a quotation from a newspaper, which I should like to read. It is a quotation from an article by The Times Military Correspondent. I have given the noble Lord a little notice—about an hour's notice—of this, and I hope he will be able to explain the words away and send us from here more happy. The noble Lord will understand that these words are taken out of their context but I do not think he will consider 473 that this is in any way unfair. The article says:…the Admiralty's assent to recent policy regarding naval aircraft must have been mingled with doubts.That alone, my Lords, makes one prick up one's ears—or, if one is in the Government, hang one's head. Perhaps I may be allowed to read another quotation. In it we are referred to economies such as those made in naval aviation. It says:This applies particularly to decisions such as that on conscription, which affects most families throughout the nation, and economies such as those made in naval aviation.…Can we be told by the noble Lord whether these two sentences hang together? Apparently in the last few months economies have been made or planned in naval aviation; and, unless I am mistaken, it is those economies to which the Admiralty's assent has been given—"mingled" presumably "with doubts." It is proper that the noble Lord should have an opportunity of replying to the disquieting suggestion in this article.
Whether we are concerned with civil, naval or military aircraft, we are all struggling for the same object; we are all conscious of the vital character of success in the aircraft field. I agree that it would be most unfair, and indeed rather foolish, to begin denouncing noble Lords opposite in connection with their general policy. Speaking broadly, it seems to me to be a policy which they have carried on from us. I, for one, am not ashamed of our own record in this connection, and I hope the noble Lord opposite will be able to tell us of even greater achievements and a better policy during his and his Party's term of office. I cannot see ally signs of that occurring, but that is my patriotic hope; and, like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, to whose speech I listened with so much enjoyment, I am very glad that this debate has taken place this afternoon.