HL Deb 20 October 1954 vol 189 cc507-38

2.52 p.m.

LORD BRABAZON OF TARA rose to call attention to the urgent need for increased development in this country of rotary winged aircraft; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I know that I have been a member of your Lordships' House for only a very short time, but I have come to the conclusion that it is, without doubt, the most remarkable place in the world, for the reason that it indulges in such a variety of occupations. One day you may see in this House pageantry and ceremonial unequalled in the whole world; the next day your Lordships will be having an acrimonious debate upon Party lines, and another day your Lordships may be, so to speak, revising Bills from another place. But there is one particular side of the work of this House which I think is extremely valuable. Here, we can sometimes, as we are doing to-day, discuss subjects of general interest, suggest future developments and appraise the present situation, and we can do all that without trying to disparage anyone or to convey censure. I consider that a valuable and unique property.

This afternoon I want to draw your Lordships' attention to the helicopter, to ask what are its uses, what is its future and how it fits into our life to-day, and possibly in the future. I cannot help starting by paying a great tribute to the Spaniard Cierva, who invented the autogyro. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that most of the work he did was done in this country until, regrettably, he was killed in an aeroplane accident. It is true to say that he did not actually build a helicopter, but the autogyro effect, which is the safety element in the helicopter, was certainly his invention. His name will always be honoured. Sikorsky, a Russian, started making helicopters in America, and he was just about to fail when, curiously enough—and it is little known—the Royal Navy went to him and ordered a large number of helicopters, which saved him but which were never received because the war came along and they were devoted to the Americans and not to us. So that we have had a certain amount to do with the early days of this remarkable invention.

I now want to turn, first of all, to its uses in war. I have always been a keen advocate of keeping all air forces under one head, in the Royal Air Force. I have always felt that it was peculiarly an arm which could be switched about tactically on various occasions, be it on land, or on the sea, but of course its fundamental and great work is of a strategic type. With the helicopter, however, we get into a somewhat different set of circumstances where the apparatus becomes rather tied tactically to the Service. For instance, in anti-submarine work the helicopter makes a convoy almost self-contained. It does not need an aircraft carrier; it can land on the deck of any ship and, consequently, it is of tremendous value. I would draw attention also to the question of sea rescue by helicopter which has already proved its value. It is true, therefore, to say that the actual possession and running of the helicopter relative to the Navy, apart from the Air Force, is a thing which must be considered. There are, of course, other considerations, such as central radio control and that sort of thing, which might mitigate against it.

In the Army, as your Lordships know, when after a war the staff are training future officers, they train them to run the next war like the last one, and that is invariably the wrong way to train anybody, because wars are never the same. Here I find, very interestingly, that among those officers who think ahead the possibility of the helicopter has been much appreciated. In fact, some people go so far as to say that it will replace the three-ton lorry. Certainly, there is a great deal to be said for the light aeroplane, flying just behind the lines, carrying up to three tons and which can land on what is not an aerodrome but just a field; but the final conveying of munitions to the front line can well and efficiently be done by helicopter. I think this side of the helicopter's use in the Army needs considerably study. It has many uses. One is the moving about of commanding officers; another is the evacuating of wounded from forward positions; then there is artillery spotting, which can be done by the helicopter, and, of course, there is the bringing up of ammunition in desperate situations. Here, again, it becomes more or less a tactical arm of the Army and might be considered from that point of view; but I should not like to go back to those old days when one Service competed against another for a definite machine, and I would not advise anything but that the machine should be ordered through the Ministry of Supply, as are aeroplanes.

It was a long time before it happened but, eventually, military and civil aircraft went along on separate lines; and so here, with the helicopter, a divergence will quickly become apparent, for the reason that the jet engine and gas turbine engine will soon be used in the helicopter, and the noise is intolerable. I know quite well—and few will disagree with me on this point—that war is always a very noisy business, and a little more noise by helicopter can be tolerated. On the other hand, at a public dinner the other day I heard the Minister of Supply make a very wise remark, when he said that civil aviation must be civil—he was, of course, referring to the noise problem. It is true to say that when you knock air about very violently it always makes a noise. Noise is a very peculiar thing, because if you add two noises together you do not get twice the noise—all these odd things come in. But the study of diminishing the noise of a helicopter is something which should be investigated very thoroughly, because it is intolerable to have machines of the present noisy type coming down in the centre of our towns. I say, therefore, that silence, although not basic to a military machine, is basic and essential to a civil type of machine.

I hope that I have not by any word conveyed to your Lordships the idea that I think that the helicopter is safe at the present moment—I sometimes doubt whether the aeroplane is safe. But certainly at present it is not in a very advanced stage. I should consider the helicopter in about the same stage to-day as the motor car was during the 1,000 miles trials in 1900; it has a long way to go. What has been established is that, whereas the aeroplane shows itself to great advantage for very long hauls at high speeds and great heights, when it comes to the short haul then, due to terminal delays, the helicopter is the faster method of transport. The experts tell me that it is a faster form of transport up to a haul of about 350 miles, and it would be difficult to contradict that. In America, distances are of astronomical size, as I always think was well illustrated in a story by O'Henry, which started: In Texas a man can walk in any direction a thousand miles. Nobody can walk a thousand miles in our country in any direction. Compared with America, ours is a small country, so that the suitability of this machine is greater for us than it is for America.

If your Lordships look at the situation to-day you find that not only is America well ahead of us, but she is very active in development and production. I am, and always have been, a great admirer of the British aeroplane industry, but I maintain that on this subject a little more drive and activity is long overdue. There are some honourable exceptions. The great firm of Fairey is experimenting with a most revolutionary design which looks as if it might be satisfactory; but it will not be in production until 1960. The great firm of Bristol have done some noble work. They have produced a twin-rotor machine and others, but not even their greatest friends could ever accuse the firm of Bristol of being in a hurry. Westlands are the representatives of Sikorsky in this country. They have, I understand, one or two orders for a model called the S.55, which carries ten passengers, but they cannot get an order from the Government for the S.56, which carries twenty-six. I think they should be given that order immediately, because when we are backward it is better for us to start where the Americans have left off and perhaps improve later when we have gained the experience. All other machines of a revolutionary type are more or less gambles. One of our greatest firms is doing nothing at all with helicopters. It was this firm which the other day accused the industry of "timidity and complacency." A little self-analysis before such a general attack on their friends would not have been out of place.

I have a feeling that the great aeronautical armament firms should not just exist and prosper on Government orders, but should be prepared on their own to pioneer occasional private ventures. It is not that helicopters are wanted only for Government use; they are wanted the world over. Motor cars did not come about, and the motor car industry was not started, by Government orders and nothing else: the pioneers of the motor car industry produced goods which they knew were wanted, and that is the way they grew up. Helicopters are wanted badly in all new countries throughout the world—where there are swamps, where there are jungles and where there are hills. That is the sort of place where they are wanted, and where they are capable of being bought. The Bell Company of America is producing sixty of their model 47 a month and they have produced 1,300 of them. Admiral de Witt, an American, appraising the general situation of helicopters, tells us that America already has an export market in helicopters to the value of 500 million dollars a year. We have no export in helicopters at all at the present moment. I cannot believe that that is a situation which your Lordships will find satisfactory in a country which is meant to lead the world in air matters.

I cannot close without just drawing attention to a new development along a similar line—namely, jet levitation which has been developed by the Rolls Company, with a machine called the "Bedstead." Here, of course, there are great new possibilities, relative to lifting an actual aeroplane, and consequently getting it into the air without runways. I cannot refrain from drawing your Lordships' attention to the fact that a machine of that type needs no undercarriage; nor does it require flaps. Those particular items account for over 5 per cent. of the all-up weight of the aeroplane. So there is a great possibility in the development of that invention, which will have severe effects upon the design, the use and the desirability of these tremendous runways and airports which are fashionable to-day. I would remind your Lordships that the amount of concrete that has already been put into London Airport is more than would be required for a twin road thirty feet broad from London to Edinburgh. You will therefore appreciate the enormous size and expense of aerodromes.

This new technique may have profound consequences upon aeroplanes but I do not think that it clashes in any way with the rotary-winged auto-gyro, the helicopter. Both have their places. I should like to be rescued at sea by an ordinary helicopter, but I do not know whether I should like to be rescued by the Rolls type machine, with a red-hot blast com ing down on me. I would rather be drowned than burnt. Those things probably will adjust themselves. My noble and gallant friend Lord Douglas of Kirtleside and Mr. Peter Masefield have already said that within ten years all routes up to 200 miles will be run by multi-engined helicopters coming into the middle of the city. While on that point it seems regrettable that a man with the expert knowledge of my noble friend Lord Douglas of Kirtleside cannot come to your Lordships' House and give his opinions on a proposal such as this. I see no reason why he cannot. He can write an article on the subject in the Daily Telegraph, but he cannot come and address your Lordships here. That seems a ludicrous situation. Those two people are the greatest experts we have, and that is their view of the subject.

We may be only at the beginning of an entirely new flying technique. It may well be that the very long haul at high speed will in future be taken by flying boats carrying up to 500 passengers and that the short haul will be done by the helicopter. I want to impress upon your Lordships that aeronautics is a very restless science and one must not think one has got to the end of anything. Trees do not grow to the skies, but aeronautics is still a very young plant, and it is difficult to assess the future. Of one thing I am perfectly certain: the modern aeroplane is not the last word. The requirement, first, of a runway a mile long, of 8 in. concrete, to enable the machine to get up into the air, and the fact that it touches down at over 100 miles an hour just will not do, though it may be all right for the present. How are we to galvanise the industry, and indeed their ally, the Government, to appreciate what is going on in other countries so that we outstrip them? It is no good for this little country to imitate people; if we are to export, we have to produce not only something, equal to other countries but something better. We have the talent, but somehow we do not seem to have the will to do it—that is the trouble. I am sorry to have to say this, because it is rather sad, but I am not at all happy at the situation. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, you will wish me in the first place to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for moving this Motion and for the contribution that he has made. He has said that aeronautics is a very young subject, and indeed he himself exemplifies the fact, for he was the first British subject to fly and, as we have seen to-day, is very hale and hearty yet. I regret that the Motion is not drawn more widely, because the questions which the noble Lord has rightly raised with regard to the production of helicopters can equally be applied to fixed-wing aircraft for which we had such hopes in recent years. There are to-day, over the field of British aircraft design and production, disturbing features. It appears that British manufacturers who, through the genius of our inventors, started with such a fine lead, are falling badly behind. The plan was that we should have jet aircraft for long-distance, fast, first-class air travel, turboprops for middle distances or for slower tourist routes, and helicopters for distances up to 250 miles from city centre to city centre.

That was the post-war plan for British civil aviation. We can see to-day how that plan is failing to materialise. I will say nothing with regard to jet aircraft, because the Comet inquiry is in progress and it would not be proper for us to discuss any results that we think might come of it; but with regard to turboprop aircraft we have the satisfaction of knowing that the Viscount is doing well and is being used both by B.E.A. and by Air France. This winter Air France will use the Viscount on nearly all their European routes. We are-told that in 1956 the new Mark V. 802 will, it is hoped, be delivered to B.E.A. What of the Britannia? On that there is complete silence, except that we occasionally hear that one is having trials. Why is the Britannia not in the air? We find that B.O.A.C. is negotiating for at least ten Douglas D.C.7s and we are not given any satisfaction at all by the manufacturers in this country as to why at this stage the British Overseas Airways Corporation—a State corporation—should be going to the United States to buy a large number of American machines. These machines, though it is hard to realise, are themselves to be powered by British Rolls-Royce turbo engines. That is the pen-picture against which we must see the problem of the helicopter.

The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, in an interesting article in this morning's Daily Telegraph already referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, says: Within three or four years the Continental competitors of B.E.A. will want to fly helicopters into the centre of London and other large centres of population, and we must, I suggest, be in a position to match these competitive services. B.E.A. has foreseen this for some years, and in 1951 we put out to the British aircraft industry a specification for the type of helicopter that we require. That specification was given three years ago. Briefly, this helicopter must be safe and must therefore have at least two engines and the ability to stay up if one engine fails; it must have a cruising speed of 150 m.p.h. over distances of the order of 250 miles; and must carry at least 45 passengers. Although several manufacturers are working on this problem there is little prospect of a British helicopter of this kind being ready for service for some years. On the other hand the Americans have two large helicopter prototypes already flying, the Sikorsky S.56 and the Piasecki H.16, able to carry 37 and 40 passengers respectively. Silver City Airways Limited, a very enterprising private enterprise firm who, as many of your Lordships know, operate cross-Channel ferry routes, transferring car, motor bicycles and bicycles from one side of the Channel to the other, are going in for helicopters, and I understand that they have been given by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation permission to use helicopters on their cross-Channel air routes. For the next seven months they will be operating a series of noncommercial proving flights with a Westland-Sikorsky S.51 helicopter.

Now we come to the "flying bedstead," as Lord Brabazon of Tara called it—or, perhaps it would be more correct to say, as someone else called it, though the noble Lord referred to it by that name to-day. In this connection, the cat was let out of the bag by the former Minister of Transport, Mr. Lennox-Boyd, at a public dinner, rather to the surprise, I am told, of the makers of the "flying bedstead," Messrs. Rolls-Royce. But, whether that is so or not, this is very much a machine of the future. It is not likely for many years to come to subject Lord Brabazon of Tara to the uncomfortable situation of blasting him when he is struggling in the sea, because I do not think it is likely to be in operation for some time. The difficulty in the case of a machine of that kind is not whether it will lift itself off the ground—it will do that easily enough—but whether you can control it when it is in the air. It is a machine very much of the future, and I do not think we need really consider it in the context of the Motion to-day.

Lord Brabazon of Tara has stated the principal uses of the helicopter in war and peace, and I would just refer to one matter which I do not think he mentioned, namely, the great benefit that can be derived from crop-spraying by helicopter. I read recently in a Colonial magazine a most interesting article on this subject which stated how important and useful the helicopter had proved in work in this particular field. And I would say that it has proved itself in more ways than that. The helicopter offers great promise for the future. It is going to be vital, I think, in relieving congestion on the roads. Already in this country, particularly in London, it is often quicker to walk than to ride on the roads. Usually it is far quicker to travel by "Tube," and we are really getting to the position when the motor car has ceased to have, in some large areas, the advantages of speed which it used to have. In almost all directions—even on the Great West Road and other roads of that kind—one finds oneself to-day in a continuous stream of traffic. The helicopter may well relieve that sort of congestion.

It will also, we hope, save valuable land. When I was Minister of Civil Aviation, one of my officials told me that the Ministry and the cemeteries were always competitors for the same land, and that the best land. And they were competitors for the same reason—it was flat land and well drained. There are other competitors—indeed there are too many competitors—for the limited amount of land which we have in this country. It has been said of the helicopter that noise would be a great deterrent to its use. But as Lord Winster, I think, said, quite rightly, in the early days of motor cars noise was a great deterrent. No doubt in time our inventors and technicians will be able to invent methods of overcoming this disadvantage. But one cannot overcome the disadvantage, if so you like to call it, of having helicopters land and take off from the centre of cities. That is one thing we shall have to agree upon. If helicopters landed only at places on the edges of cities, a good deal of the virtue of this type of machine would be lost. We must find some way of ensuring that either on the tops of large buildings or in clear spaces in the centre of cities airports or airstops, as I believe they are called, are created and preserved for the use of helicopters.

There are a number of noble Lords with considerable knowledge of this subject to follow me, and I do not wish to speak at much greater length. But before I sit down I should like to ask a few questions of the noble Lord who, I understand, is to reply. First, what is the reason for the falling behind—the undoubted falling behind—of the British aircraft industry with aircraft generally, and in particular with regard to the helicopter? Who is to blame—if anyone is to blame? Are there shortages of men, materials or money? Is there anything the Government or local authorities or big industrial enterprises can do to help in this way? I agree entirely with Lord Brabazon of Tara that this is a situation that we as an industrial and exporting nation cannot tolerate. We cannot agree to the situation continuing as it is at the present time so far as helicopters are concerned. A suggestion which I have heard is to the effect that so far as helicopters are concerned what is needed here is more interest in them, more money for them, and more pressure on manufactures, as a whole, to provide them. Those should be the three pillars of this at present rickety temple.

At the present moment, as Lord Brabazon of Tara has pointed out, the helicopter is looked on in this country as a sort of offshoot from the big firm. Such a firm, if it has enough time, money, materials and men available, may devote them to this side-show. The Bristol Company is a case in point. They have been developing for some years a two-engined helicopter—a 12-seater. I saw the prototype three and a half years ago. It appears to make a little trip around at the Farnborough show every year and then to go into cocoon again, and we do not hear anything more about it. Why is this? Can the Government persuade manufacturers to take this matter up? As we have been told and as we all believe, there is a great future for the helicopter. The new Minister of Supply, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, for years past has been wrestling with Mr. Vyshinsky at the United Nations Assembly. I sincerely hope that the vigour he exercised in dealing with Mr. Vyshinsky will now be redoubled in his grappling with an equally tough proposition—namely, the development and production of the British helicopter.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, the two speeches which we have just heard from the mover of the Motion and Lord Ogmore show clearly that this is a serious position in one of the most important branches of the aeronautical world which your Lordships could possibly consider to-day. The Motion draws attention to the urgent need for increased development of rotary winged aircraft. Now increased development can be stimulated only by pressure of demand from the persons or Departments that are going to be the chief users. I am sorry that, for what I have no doubt are good reasons, neither the Secretary of State for Air who represents the Department which is the greatest actual user, or potential user, of helicopters for some years to come, nor the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence have found themselves able to be here to-day. I hope my noble friend Lord Mancroft will particularly draw their attention to the powerful arguments that have been delivered by both the noble Lords, Lord Brabazon of Tara and Lord Ogmore.


My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me, out of justice to my noble friends whom he mentioned, to tell him and the House that they are both inevitably out of the country to-day and cannot be here?


I did mention that they were absent for very good reasons, but this is a very important debate, and I would repeat again, with the greatest courtesy, and I am sure my noble friend, Lord Mancroft, will accept this remark in the spirit in which I make it, that he should draw the particular attention of his noble friends to what is said in this debate. I believe a situation is growing up which is comparable with the situation when your Lordships debated some months ago the shortage of Service transport aircraft to serve Navy and Army needs and how America was ahead in the use of transport aircraft. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, pointed out, helicopters are in use in very great numbers in America—virtually in hundreds. Far front there being many helicopters in Britain, there are extremely few, whereas in America there are hundreds of helicopters in use for both military and civil purposes. I should think that in this country—and I am open to correction as regards my exact figures—there are probably fifteen civil helicopters and perhaps fifty military helicopters. I think it is important that we should recognise the great contrast which exists to-day in the helicopter position in Britain as compared to that in America. My noble friend, Lord Thurlow, who is going shortly to address your Lordships, will no doubt be able to say something on the need for helicopters in a field of operation with which he is particularly familiar. Undoubtedly one has but to talk to military experts back from Korea, Malaya and Kenya to hear on all sides of the shortage which exists at the present time of helicopters for Service use.

Of course, when one compares the American position with the British position, one knows that America has vastly greater financial resources than we have had available at the end of a terrible war. But not only have they more money; they have more experience. It is regret-able that we cannot repeat in the helicopter field the tremendous technical lead, with its economic advantages, which we have enjoyed and still enjoy in the production of jet engines. Whereas in the jet world Britain is supreme, in the helicopter world Britain is lagging behind. I think the reason why there is not an increased demand by the biggest potential user of helicopters—it is a very understandable reason and there is no blame attached to the Air Ministry—is that the Air Staff have a limited amount of money and they quite rightly concentrate their resources on what they consider from their point of view to be matters of greater importance—namely, combat types, fighters, bombers and other strategic and tactical aircraft requirements. Even for those requirements their resources are cut down by the Treasury, Now they are expected to devote some of their inadequate resources to develop a requirement which they do not really want themselves and which is required by a sister Service, the Army. Understandably, therefore, the Air Staff put Army requirements fairly low in their line of priority.

I suggest to your Lordships that the Air Ministry, although the responsible Department, cannot put the drive and urge into helicopter ordering which they do into the ordering of other combat types. I would suggest the solution which was put forward in the debate in your Lordships' House on transport aircraft: that every Service should give up a certain amount of its money into a common pool for the development and purchase by the Air Ministry of helicopters which would satisfy the needs of the other Services for which the Air Ministry is responsible. If that were done, then I believe the Army requirement could be met, and there would be less crying for a separation from the Air Ministry of the use of helicopters and its handing over to the military. If the Air Ministry do not meet military requirements, then understandably there is a demand by the military staffs for independence from the Air Ministry. I believe it would be the Air Ministry's own fault if that happened in the future. But I repeat that their present position is understandable. I suggest that there should be a review of this matter, to see whether some common pool could be set up to which all three Services should contribute and from which the Air Ministry could supply the needs of the other two Services.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to join with those noble Lords who have spoken in all that has been said in regard to helicopter development, and especially by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, who, in his very interesting speech, referred to the question of noise. I agree with him that much more could be done in that respect. As your Lordships will recollect, when from time to time my noble and gallant friend Lord Douglas of Kirtleside has a machine passing your Lordships' House from South Bank there is a considerable noise. It is mainly exhaust noise, which certainly could be quelled, and I hope my noble friend Lord Mancroft will be able to assure the House that the tests which are now taking place in the development of silencers for helicopter motors are going to be speeded up.

With regard to the question of landing facilities in addition to those already existing on the South Bank, it is to be hoped that the Government and the L.C.C. will give active consideration to other possibilities now before them, as, for example, the Hungerford Bridge potential and that of certain buildings which might be roofed over, subject to their being near the river, which is essential in present circumstances. For good reason, my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye said very little about the military side of the use of these aircraft, and I, too, say nothing, because we are to have the advantage of listening to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, who is on short leave from Kenya and will be able to say something about the aspect of these machines in use in Kenya and in Malaya. But I should like to say a word or two about the possibilities from the naval point of view. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, told your Lordships, the first production order ever to be given for helicopters was given during the war by our country to the United States, in 1942, and it was for some 250 R.5 type Sikorskys; but, for reasons of strategy that the noble Lord explained, those were not delivered to us. None the less, it was an order which started the development of that now substantial branch of the American aircraft industry engaged in the design and manufacture of helicopters.

About that time, in 1942, the Admiralty sent to the United States one of the leading pioneers in the flight and development of rotating wing machines, Wing Commander Brie, partly in connection with the order I have mentioned and partly in connection with some tests with helicopters which were carried out from one of His Majesty's ships, "Dagestan," in U.S.A. waters. Those tests of the wing commander's plan were extremely interesting, and they showed quite clearly that every merchant ship in a convoy could become an independent aircraft carrier. As such it is capable of providing an effective means of localised search for submarines or mine-infested areas. In this rôle, therefore, the helicopter can provide a valuable adjunct to the normal frigate and destroyer escorts. This scheme of Wing Commander Brie, tested fairly extensively a number of years ago, should, I suggest, be taken up again, because there are still certain technical points that have to be proved with regard to the arrester gear, and so forth, when the helicopter lands on the stern of the merchant ship in rough weather.

I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, paid tribute—and no too high tribute can be paid—to that great pioneer, De la Cierva. The noble Lord also said that a large part of that inventor's work, the development of the autogyro, was done in this country. As one of the volunteer workers in that particular line of development, perhaps I might be allowed to remind your Lordships that that was rendered possible entirely by a distinguished member of your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount, Lord Weir of Eastwood, and in particular, by his far-sighted brother, Mr. J. G. Weir, one of the first pioneers of flying. They made possible this substantial development of the autogyro from the designs of De la Cierva. A number of machines were manufactured in this country and exported to different parts of the world. I would say that from a technical point of view—and it was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara—but for the success of the autogyro here, the helicopter would not be where it is to-day. A Member of your Lordships' House has played a vital part in that development.

A final point to which I should like the noble Lord who is to reply to give attention—perhaps he may have something to say on it—is the vital need for a pilot training establishment. There is no effective training establishment for helicopter pilots to-day, something akin to what used to exist, like Air Services Training at Hamble. A school is vitally required. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the work of the Westland Company, and they will train pilots for their own machines. But there are no proper training facilities here, and therefore it is difficult for those who design and construct helicopters here, and want to sell them, to complete a sale because of the lack of training, facilities. In conclusion—and I am sure these words would be re-echoed by all your Lord ships —I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, on his new office, and we shall listen to him with great attention since he addresses us in that office for the first time this afternoon.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, as a serving officer home, as you have heard, for a short visit from one of the operational theatres, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has raised this most important question in the House to-day. The Army have for a long time been examining the numerous uses to which rotary winged aircraft can be put, particularly in speeding administration and movement. The immense possibilities offered by the characteristics of helicopters are fully appreciated—indeed, our Chief of the Imperial General Staff is probably the biggest user and the most travelled passenger in helicopters in England. But I am doubtful whether in this country development and trials have kept up with the study and the theory. Certainly in Korea the Commonwealth Division has been on occasions entirely supplied by helicopters, but all the machines and all the pilots were American. A former Commander of the Commonwealth Division told me only today that he was unable to secure a helicopter for his own use during the whole time he was out there, and he had to depend on the kindness and help of our American Allies.

My job is the command of an infantry brigade in Kenya, and for over a year we have been trying to get one helicopter—only one for all the security forces there—to be used to evacuate casualties from the trackless forests and the mountains where we operate in pursuit of Mau Mau gangs. For some time we were told that no rotary winged aircraft had been invented that could take off with even one passenger at 8,000 feet, which is the average height of our operations. Only a month ago one of my officers was severely wounded in the forest. He was shot through the body in a clash with a Mau Mau gang at 3.30 in the afternoon, and we did not get him out of the forest until 11 o'clock the next day. Incidentally, we should not have got him out as soon as that, had it not been for our American light aircraft, manned by British pilots of the Kenya Police Reserve, which brought us news of the action. That light aircraft was able to contact the patrol by wireless, bring us back the information and then go out and drop the necessary medical supplies. Even then, the two stretchers so dropped fell on the top of trees and could not be brought down. The officer suffered a great deal of pain during the difficult operation of getting him out of the forest to proper medical attention. If we had had a helicopter, we could have landed one quite close, and he would have been in hospital within an hour of being wounded.

We have been most fortunate in Kenya in so far having had very few casualties in the forest, but I do not conceal from your Lordships the fact that that is my greatest anxiety in my present command. We have been told that one rotary winged aircraft has now been found with the requisite performance; but nine months have elapsed since we heard this, and the machine had not arrived when I left Kenya a fortnight ago. I do not want in any way to be critical of the Government and the Ministries and services who administer us there, because the immense help we get at every turn, for every possible requirement, is most encouraging, and this is the only thing that we have failed to get. I know that it is not for the want of a great deal of trying by a great many people, but this is an important matter. Therefore, I hope, as it would appear to be a fault in the lack of development, or the lack of progress in development, that the noble Lord who is to wind up for the Government will be able to tell us what authority is responsible for development in this field, and to reassure us that adequate funds are available.

I believe that the Royal Navy are working for themselves in this matter. I understand that the helicopters being used to such good purpose in Malaya were made for the Royal Navy, and were, I believe, stolen in some cunning way by Sir Gerald Templer. I suppose that other developments for the Services are being carried out by the R.A.F. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, that if special funds are not made available, we in the Army cannot expect the R.A.F., who are trying so hard and with such great success to keep up with developments in other countries, developments costing a great deal of money, in making our Air Force the best in the world, to set aside very much to help us along in this problem. I should like to add that if we had had helicopters in Kenya in recent months, I am quite certain that we could have done a great deal more damage to the Mau Mau by using the machines offensively and in that way helping to end the present emergency. There is undoubtedly an urgent need for much greater effort in development and production in this important field of aviation.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, may I first of all join other noble Lords who have spoken in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for bringing this matter before the attention of your Lordships' House. As the noble Lord quite rightly said, it is on occasions such as this that your Lordships' House is perhaps at its best, for the subject is non-political and non-Party, and every speaker up to the present has been wholly objective. I find myself in complete agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has said, and also with what my noble friend Lord Ogmore has said. Who better to say what he did than the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara? He has always been years ahead in his thinking upon these subjects. He is quite right, and so is my noble friend Lord Ogmore.

The helicopter is the short-haul vehicle of the future, but the future of the helicopter rests completely and entirely on its ability to land in the middle of congested areas. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, likened it to the three-ton lorry of the future. My plea this afternoon will be that every effort should be made, not only by the Government but by the industry, not to start off this great invention of the future with public prejudice. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara—and he was supported by my noble friend Lord Ogmore—mentioned what I think is the most important thing; that is, noise. Noise of aircraft is fast becoming the scourge of our modern life, and it is amazing that so little thought is being given to it, not only by the aircraft production industry but also by our scientific bodies.

I followed with great interest the proceedings of the British Association at Oxford recently. The Association discussed every possible subject from life in the atomic age of 2,000 years to come, to thumb-sucking and its effects on the modern age. But I could not find one word spoken towards the scientific examination of the elimination of noise. There is no technical difficulty in silencing an aircraft engine, especially an internal combustion engine, and I speak from a one-time experience of engineering. The jet may present a little more difficulty, but I can only think that the reason why there has been no real thought given to silencing aircraft is because there has been no compulsion about it. My noble friend Lord Ogmore was quite right when he drew attention to the noise of the motor car years ago. We then had the sense to look to the future, because it was in 1912 when the first Construction and Use Regulation was made, prohibiting noisy vehicles on the roads of this country. I wonder whether your Lordships would like to speculate upon what life in London or in this country would be like to-day with 5 million motor vehicles on the roads (the numbers coming on the roads are now about half a million a year), all with blaring open exhausts. I do not know whether any of us would be alive.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, my noble friend Lord Ogmore and other noble Lords have forecast that this will be the problem of the future. The recent experience of a few helicopters flying over to the South Bank was sufficient to raise a public protest. Unless something is done about this question of noise, public opinion will handicap this new development from the start. I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara whether, from his eminent position as Chairman of the Air Registration Board—an independent body set up by the Government that has to give a certificate of airworthiness to all aircraft—he would think it a proper function to say that no aircraft shall be considered airworthy unless it conforms to certain degrees of silence. The aircraft industry have been forced to silence their aircraft, or to insulate their passengers from noise, because if they did not they would never get anybody to go in the machines.

I do not mind what they do over the middle of the Atlantic. They can make as much noise as they like there, and they can make as much noise as they like over deserts. But public patience is wearing a little thin over the terrific noise of low-flying aircraft in this country. I shall have something more to say on this subject on another occasion, and I will only impress this upon the noble Lord who is to reply. Could he give your Lordships' House art assurance that Her Majesty's Government will act energetically upon this question of the suppression of aircraft noise? It may be possible to follow the example adopted with the motor industry, because, as I say, forty years ago it was an offence to allow a noisy motor vehicle on the roads of this country. I feel certain that public opinion will support any action of that kind, and, in the last analysis, public opinion will be very anti-helicopter if it has to look to a future in which we have these terrifically noisy machines coming down in the middle of the congested areas. And unless they do, the helicopter loses its whole value. I could not help smiling to myself when I picked up the Sunday Times last Sunday and saw a letter from a well-known gentleman inquiring what was the origin of a text he found hanging up in a certain bedroom which he had occupied. William Morris had lived in the house, and he wondered whether he was the author of these lines: Blessed be His name who hath appointed the quiet night to follow the busy day, and the calm sleep to refresh the wearied limbs and to compose the troubled spirit. I cannot satisfy the writer's curiosity by telling him the name of the author of the lines, but I am prepared to wager a good amount of money that I could tell him two gentlemen who did not compose it. One is the Minister of Civil Aviation and the other the Secretary of State for Air.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, it is a chastening thought to me that this debate should have been initiated in your Lordships' House by a man who first flew an aeroplane just over five years before I was born. I must apologise to your Lordships for not having that expertise which has been displayed in this interesting debate. My sole practical knowledge of the subject is confined to one journey in a helicopter in a very high wind. I disliked it intensely, and I was told that for some time afterwards I was a good deal quieter than usual. I must also apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who would obviously have preferred either the Secretary of State for Air or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence to reply to this debate. My noble and gallant friend Lord De L'Isle and Dudley is on duty in Canada, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is recovering from a serious operation, but I will do my best to answer some of the questions which have been put to me in this debate. I think that enough has been said so far to echo public interest in this subject, an interest stimulated, of course, by recent affairs in Malaya, by last year's flood disasters and, on a much lower plane, by the general indignation at the time it takes to get from the Waterloo Air Terminal to London Airport.

This debate has ranged sufficiently wide to demonstrate to anybody who is a stranger to the subject that this means of transport is revolutionary. Potentially the helicopter can operate almost without restriction between any points in an area, limited only by its range, always provided—and I emphasise this point—that its complicated maintenance requirements and supplies of fuel can be assured, and, of course, that its operations can be fitted in with those of other users of the air space. It can fulfil many rôles which fixed-wing aircraft cannot. As has been pointed out, in these islands the opportunities are great because geographical conditions are exceptionally favourable. I was also glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mention the use of the helicopter in the Commonwealth and Dominions. Her Majesty's Government believe that there is a great future for helicopters in the Commonwealth. Already they have played a notable part in opening up mineral resources in the remotest parts of Canada. In Australia, they may well supplement or replace the cowboy's horse or "the flying doctor'" light aeroplane. In our island possessions such as the West Indies there must be great opportunities for the use of helicopters for speedy communications. Oil prospecting, forest fire patrols, whaling and fishing, aerial photography and survey, cable laying—the field is almost limitless for the use of this particular type of aircraft.

On the other hand, I think I must make this point fairly early on: in considering the general use of helicopters for passenger transport, we must bear in mind that they will have to be economic, which they are not at the moment. One of the keenest supporters of the helicopter Mr. Peter Masefield, of British European Airways, said the other day that we must beware of being what the B.E.A. call, neatly but rather nastily, "helicoptermists." And even with the most advanced American machines the economic fare from London to Birmingham would have to be about £5, compared with the first-class rail fare which was £1 4s. 6d. when I looked it up this morning—I hope that it has not gone up since. I think that a balanced view of helicopter prospects (I apologise for the cliché), is the justified one.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, referred to the military uses of the helicopter. Let me say a few words on that aspect. The War Office are well aware of the importance of increasing mobility and relieving congestion, and they are examining with the Air Staff the extent to which air transport is likely to be a practical, efficient and economic means of achieving this end. Your Lordships will probably have seen in the papers in the last few days mention of an experimental unit for Army air transport which has been set up at Old Sarum for this purpose, and which will be equipped initially with helicopters. Until we have had some experience and practical information from this experiment it should not be too readily assumed that the helicopter is the answer to all the Army's supply problems. Economics will be an important factor. A helicopter to lift five tons will cost anything up to £150,000, compared with roughly £4,000 for a 5-ton truck, while a fixed-wing aeroplane of the same capacity would cost approximately three-fifths of the helicopter cost.


I cannot let that remark go by without interrupting: £4,000 for a 5-ton truck? I should be surprised if it were half that price.


I also was surprised when I was told that figure, but I checked it and am told that the new truck, with all the refinements for which the Army has asked, will indeed cost £4,000. On the other hand, there has to be considered the greater amount of work that the helicopter can do in a given time.

I hope that I have said enough so far to convince your Lordships that we are as aware of the opportunities as we are of the difficulties and are pursuing a logical programme of helicopter development aimed at both civil and military needs. The fact that during the war no helicopter development was possible here has inevitably left the United Kingdom with a lot of leeway to make up, compared with the United States; I think that is a point which, in all fairness, ought to be made. The Westland-built S. 51 and S. 55, which were of American origin, performed a valuable service in the period before British designs became available and have assisted building up experience in the operation and handling of helicopters.

Our policy has been and is, broadly, on two lines: first, the development of the gear-driven helicopter to provide reliable single and multi-engined machines for service and civil use. Into this category fall the small Saunders-Roe Skeeter, and the Bristol 171 which is now flying with a Certificate of Airworthiness, as well is in service in some numbers with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. From this has been derived the Bristol 173, the first twin-engined, twin-rotor helicopter in the world to go into production, and which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has seen from time to time in fleeting appearances, he tells us, at Farnborough. He will be interested to hear, therefore, that Service orders for about a hundred of this machine have been placed, particularly for the anti-submarine rôle for the Navy, to which I think the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, also referred.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that interesting piece of information. Can he give us any indication as to when the orders are likely to be supplied?


Production is going ahead as fast as possible, but I cannot give a firm date that will satisfy the noble Lord. Subsequently, it is intended to proceed to a version with gas-turbine engines, which should yield a helicopter with twenty-seven seats, for short stages, or twelve seats for longer stages.

The second line of our helicopter policy is a research programme on reaction-less rotor systems, aimed particularly at meeting the longer-term demand for faster, simpler and larger and more economical machines. Two main projects are included in this programme, the Fairey Rotodyne and the Hunting-Percival gas-turbine helicopter. The Rotodyne is intended to explore two new principles—the use of wing-mounted turbo-prop engines for forward propulsion, with the rotor rotating by itself and part of the load borne by the wings; and the use of rotor-mounted jet units, drawing compressed air from the turbo-prop engines, to give reaction-less drive for take-off and landing. I hope that that statement conveys a certain amount of information to those noble Lords who are more fitted to receive it than I am.

The Rotodyne is at present only a research aircraft, but the size and power of the first prototype have been chosen so that the minimum of further expenditure and delay will be needed to adapt the design to meet expected requirements, including the specification for a 40-seater helicopter drawn up by British European Airways. The Ministry of Supply have recently ordered a second Rotodyne prototype in order to accelerate this development, and we have high hopes that it will be able to compete successfully with any other helicopter in the world—and over distances up to at least 100 miles with fixed-wing aircraft. We hope that this machine will also meet the Army's requirements for a transport helicopter. The Hunting-Percival research helicopter embodies another form of reaction-less drive which might be applicable to civil aircraft; this, however, is at present only a small research aircraft. In addition the Ministry of Supply are undertaking a growing programme of fundamental research in connection with helicopters, both in the Ministry's own establishments and in industry. Further, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Supply jointly are bearing the greater part of the annual cost of the helicopter experimental unit which is operated by B.E.A. This unit will help to find solutions to the problems of air traffic control and navigational aids peculiar to helicopter operation, and will therefore pave the way for the introduction on scheduled services of larger helicopters when these become available.

My Lords, we have been talking a good deal this afternoon about money. The increasing amounts of public money being devoted to this work illustrate to your Lordships, I hope in a practical way, the importance which Her Majesty's Government attach to helicopters. The amount spent in 1951 was £290,000. This was doubled in 1952, doubled again in 1953, and is being doubled yet again this year, when it is estimated to amount to more than £2½ million. Next year it may well be higher still. I hope these figures will convince your Lordships that there is little basis in the argument sometimes advanced, and by one or two speakers this afternoon, that Her Majesty's Government are fainthearted in their helicopter policy. But I think it is only fair to add this: that we must beware of putting too many of our unfortunately limited financial eggs into the helicopter basket. After all, there are other developments of at least equal promise on the way, and they must be supported—for example, the techniques of blowing air at high speed over the wings or out of the flaps of fixed wing aircraft are expected to give remarkable improvements in landing and take-off distances, a matter which has been rightly accentuated as an important point this afternoon. There is also, of course, vertical take-off or jet-lift to which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and Lord Ogmore have referred. This machine, which is I think very aptly described as a "flying bedstead," is really a research machine to examine the basic control problems of vertical take-off. The machine has flown freely at heights of up to 25 feet or more, and I think that will still be a little uncomfortable for Lord Brabazon of Tara's purpose.

A great deal of investigation, development and testing will be needed before these principles could be applied to the design of a useful aircraft either for military or civil purposes. This is an even newer development than the helicopter, and there are therefore even more problems to be solved. I am given to understand that it seems likely that jet-lift aircraft will always require more power than helicopters for the same lifting capacity and that they will therefore be more suited to high speed rôles. However, it is much too early to define the part each is likely to play in the transport system of the future. That being so, surely we must not dissipate so much of our money on helicopters that we have none left for vertical take-off.

The Government have every intention of pressing on with all speed with this revolutionary development; and although, as many noble Lords have appreciated, it cannot have any immediate effect, its possible repercussions in the long term on aerodrome requirements will be constantly kept in mind. Those who criticise the Government's helicopter policy are sometimes apt to avoid specific points of criticism or recommendation and to content themselves with expressing a general malaise about the rate of helicopter progress in this country. I hope he will not mind my saying so because he has to be silent this afternoon and is unable to defend himself at this moment, but I have sometimes thought that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, has tended in that direction. He has frequently pointed out that British helicopter design is lagging seriously behind American progress, although in his more recent remarks he has tended to be a little more moderate.


If the noble Lord will allow me, I should like to say that there are variations in the depths of one's pessimism, but he must not take it that I am at all optimistic about the present progress or development of helicopters in this country.


I had rather gathered that from the noble Lord's recent pronouncements. What he has been saying is undeniably a statement of the position to-day. We are not too proud to admit it. We have plenty to learn from American experience. But I think the noble and gallant Lord would also agree, would he not, that the reason is not altogether lack of enterprise on the part of the aircraft firms, as several noble Lords have suggested. I think one must do justice to the fact that between 1939 and 1946 no helicopter development of any significance was possible in this country, very much unlike what was possible in America. Thereafter, while the Americans have been able to place vast orders and spend vast sums, United Kingdom progress has been impeded by a lack of production orders. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Supply undertook in advance of user requirements a reasonable and balanced programme of helicopter development. Had this programme not been started until user interest became keen, we should not now be able to look forward to a day not very far removed when helicopters of British design and manufacture will be available to meet all the principal requirements for them. My Lords, I think we can look forward to that day with confidence.

Another point which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, has made recently, referred to the possibility that when British European Airways started their network of domestic and short-range routes with their helicopter bus, it might have to be with one of two American machines which appeared to meet B.E.A.'s requirements—I presume he was referring to the Piasecki Y.H.16 and the Sikorsky S.56. I think we in this country are somewhat inclined to focus our attention, in the case of our own projects, on problems and difficulties that have still to be overcome, but to assume, in the case of other countries' projects, that all is plain sailing. No doubt, the S.56 to which I have just referred, which comes from a famous stable (if that is not a mixed metaphor) will be a good helicopter of its class and for the purposes for which it was designed. However, it is at present going ahead as a project specifically for the United States Marines. No civil version of this machine yet exists and a substantial amount of further development work will be needed before an economic civil machine, free from certain handicaps inherent in its military design, is available. I mention this point merely because statements are sometimes made suggesting that civil services with S.56 helicopters might be operating in Europe as early perhaps as 1956.


I think 1958 is the year I have mentioned.


That, I realise, is the view of the noble and gallant Lord, but I saw the statement last week—I deliberately did not attribute this one to him—that 1956 is the date. I think the noble and gallant Lord agrees with me that that is much too optimistic. I believe that on a realistic comparison, the time gap between the S.56 in a tried civil form and our own Rotodyne will not be as large as some people think. A civil version of the Piasecki machine is even further off than the S.56.


At least those two aircraft are flying now. The Rotodyne will not be in the air for another two or three years.


I quite appreciate that point, but I believe that the gap will be much shorter than most people think.


The noble Lord is making a very optimistic series of statements, all of which really are "pie in the sky." In view of our experience in regard to the Britannia, for instance, what right has he to say, as he has just said to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, with all his experience, that it will be much sooner than anybody else expects? Why should we expect that it will be sooner? Are we not entitled to expect that it will be much longer?


Of course, these are all matters of opinion; these are only forecasts, and I shall state only my opinion.


But on what evidence?


On the evidence of the progress made in America on this machine and the progress made in this country; but of course it is only an estimate. I have not been putting my mind to the question of the Britannia, but I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, had to say. I should like to take further advice before following his pessimistic view on the Britannia.


I fully appreciate the noble Lord's personal position, but, after all, he is answering for the Government here and the Britannia is a case in point. We were all led to expect years ago that the Britannia was going to do great things and would be in the air in considerable quantity now or very shortly. That at least was my understanding. Yet to-day we hear nothing, or very little, about the Britannia. Are we entitled to expect any more of the optimistic statements now being made by the Minister on behalf of the Government? We are not attacking the noble Lord personally. I appreciate his own position, but I should like an answer from the Government as to the evidence on which the noble Lord is now basing his statements.


That is not a fair comparison. The information available to the Ministry from the firms themselves justifies the opinion I have just expressed: that we do not think the delay will be so long as some people suggest it may be. I merely state that I do not think that the pessimism felt in certain quarters is justified. I do not want to be tied down more closely.

Turning now to a less controversial question, noise, I am only disappointed that it has not happened, as in the past, that a helicopter has flown over the House in the course of our debate to make all observations on this nuisance self-explanatory. There has been considerable concern, quite nightly and understandably, on the question of noise. The helicopter of to-day is undoubtedly a noisy brute. I know that people said originally that the motor car made such a noise that we should never get used to it. And when Clapham Junction railway station was built it was widely held that the noise would be so intolerable that no one would be able to live there. I am never very convinced by those arguments. If I am told that I must get used to the noise of jet aircraft I want to be convinced that it really is inevitable. I shall have to be a great deal more convinced than I am now that we really have to accept the noise which the helicopter makes.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, quoted my noble friend the previous Minister of Supply, who observed that civil planes are expected, so far as possible, to behave in a civil manner. Her Majesty's Government have already announced that a considerable programme of theoretical and experimental work is being undertaken into this problem. Most of this is of general application, but aspects of it peculiar to helicopters are being vigorously investigated by the industry, by the National Physical Laboratory and by the University of Southampton. Her Majesty's Government attach great importance to this problem, because they believe that until it is at least substantially overcome public reaction may delay, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, suggested, if not prevent, the full exploitation of those characteristics which give the helicopter its greatest advantages, in particular the ability to operate in and out of city centres. We shall continue to press designers and manufacturers to intensify their efforts with such support from public funds as may be necessary. The planned operation by B.E.A. of a scheduled helicopter service from London Airport into central London should provide valuable information about the level and character of noise in built-up areas from helicopter operations and about public reaction to it.


Do I understand that the noble Lord, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, is expressing the view that civil aircraft should be silent? Would he extend that to Service aircraft as well in peace time, because they are a bigger nuisance to-day than ever civil aircraft ever could be? Will research into the noise of engines be confined to civil aircraft or will be extended also to military aircraft?


I am afraid that I cannot say, without notice of the question, whether research is being made into military as well as civil aircraft, but I should imagine that the general principle is much the same. Has not the noble Lord a Question about this subject on the Order Paper for the near future?


Relating to it.


Perhaps the noble Lord can go into it in more detail when the time comes, as he has, I believe, a personal interest with which I entirely sympathise. I want to make perfectly clear to your Lordships' House that Her Majesty's Government are particularly anxious about this point, and will do everything in this difficult task to try to solve a problem which, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has pointed out, may seriously prejudice the popularity and thus the development of the helicopter.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and to other noble Lords who have participated in this debate, for giving me an opportunity to make what I hope has been a fairly comprehensive, though rather long, statement of the Government's views on helicopter development policy, and to demonstrate how ill-founded are some of the cniticisms commonly voiced on this subject. Sometimes these seem to be voiced on behalf of a small number of people who are prepared to "pay the earth" to get from Southampton to the Savoy in time for lunch. That is a protest frequently voiced and tends to throw other more serious problems out of balance. Her Majesty's Government are not particularly concerned to spend large sums of public money solely on that type of complaint or on meeting the needs of those people. I hope that I have convinced noble Lords that there are other more important requirements to be considered.

I hope that I have also satisfied your Lordships' House that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is both balanced and realistic. Naturally we could do a very great deal more if we had unlimited funds available. That is true in every field of endeavour. But first things must be put first. We must balance the claims of helicopter development against those of fixed-wing aircraft and of more revolutionary developments, such as vertical take-off, the "Flying Bedstead." and of engine development on which so much depends, within the total amount of money it is reasonable for a country in our position to spend on aeronautical research and development. It is the Government's claim that we have picked the most important and promising lines to follow and that in these selected fields we shall before long catch up with, if not pass, the United States. We are neither complacent nor over-optimistic. Given that funds are not unlimited, and that serious technical doubts were felt in the early days, it is not unreasonable that at first we hastened slowly. Now that the way ahead is clearer, Her Majesty's Government are showing their faith in the future of helicopters by the substantial sums they are devoting to helicopter development, by the production orders they have placed, and by the interest they are displaying, and will continue to display, in the whole subject of helicopters.

4.28 p.m


My Lords, may I say first, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who wanted to put "on the plate" of the Air Registration Board a new duty, that they should not give a certificate of air-worthiness unless an aeroplane was silent, that we have quite enough to do without that. I am sure noble Lords will agree with me that it is always a delight to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, speak. I prefer the speeches which he makes up in his own mind, rather than those which are given to him, as this was. We seem to be told of most remarkable things which are going to happen some time, but meanwhile nothing happens at all. I should have been more satisfied to hear that we were going to import a couple of Piaseckis and some Sikorskys. Let us now start with something that the others have made and try to improve it. All these hypothetical experiments in years to come are not very impressive. However, I should not like to say that the noble Lord has not done well: I do not wish to try to censure anyone. All I can say, in asking leave to withdraw my Motion, is that I do not go home, and nor does anyone else, feeling joyous over the present situation. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.