I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
The administration of all the Services of the Air both for peace and war are now united in a single Ministry. If war comes to this country, no longer an island, it will have to meet attacks on its towns, its factories, its communications, and its shipping, which no armies can stop and no battleships avert. In peace we shall find in our scattered Empire infinite possibilities for the development of our Air Service. The whole Empire will be brought nearer together by the power of the air. Within a few days of the Armistice the Royal Air Force set out to explore and to prepare the air route from Cairo to the Cape. The choice and preparation of air routes of the Empire raise questions of the commercial strategy of the air. These are the first annual Estimates which have been presented by the Air Service since the signature of Peace. During the War the Air expenditure rose to about £1,000,000 per day. Last year the cost was £54,030,850, and this year the Estimates amount to £21,056,930, which makes a reduction in twelve months of nearly £33,000,000. Included in the present Estimates there is a net charge for War liabilities of £5,883,500, so that for what might be called normal expenditure the net total for this year is £15,173,430, and in addition there are, of course, the separation allowances amounting to £566,000. I suggest that this is a remarkably close approximation to the programme for the next five years which was laid down at the rate of £15,166,500, not including the separation allowances. The amounts are almost identical. It is most important to remember that there are now included in this sum two very important services which in the days of the War were not chargeable to the Air Ministry. I refer to the provision, under Vote A, of a sum for civil aviation, amounting to £1,004,282, which, of course, was not in existence during the War, and also to a sum set apart for Supply and Research work, which was done during the War by the Ministry of Munitions. It will be seen, therefore, that the present Vote includes three services—the fighting Service, civil aviation, and supply and research, of which the two last are additions to the work of the Ministry.
In considering the cost of the Royal Air Force, it must be borne in mind that these two new branches necessarily add to the cost and to the work of the Air Ministry, and before going into the question of its cost, I should like to refer to the very valuable and very hard work which has been done, under the able guidance of Lord Londonderry, by the Finance Department of the Air Ministry in the-difficult work of preparing these Estimates during a time of transition and great pressure, and to the valuable assistance given to all branches of the Air Service by the Secretary's Department of the Air Ministry, under Sir Arthur Robinson, to whom I am much indebted. The combined process of demobilisation and reconstruction has been a great strain on all connected with the work of the Royal Air Force. It is quite true that in the new Estimates there is an increase of £185,000 to the cost of the Air Ministry, but to appreciate the truth, the following facts must be borne in mind. The Air Ministry have now taken over from the Ministry of Munitions the whole of the Supply and Research Services connected with the air, and these services represent an addition to our Estimates of £181,500. Moreover, the Ministry have-taken over the Meteorological Service, and this transfer accounts for a further increase of £50,000. The work of this office is obviously a national work, concerning not only the air, but a great many other branches of our national life. There are also minor items that were shown last year under different Votes. These now appear under the Air Ministry Vote and amount to about £12,000. It will be seen, therefore, that the additional services taken over by the Air Ministry Vote account for an increase of £243,000. If this additional sum is taken into account, the actual reduction on the original Estimate is £58,000. If the additional services are ignored and only the pre-Armistice Departments are taken into account, the reduction of the total staff of the Ministry is from 4,660 at the date of the Armistice to 1,803 on 8th March this year, a reduction of 61 per cent. It must be borne in mind that this staff has to deal not only with clearing up all the liabilities of the War, but with the enormous task of building up in peace time an entirely new service.
I will now deal in turn with the three branches into which the work of the Air Ministry is divided, namely, the Department of the Chief of the Air Staff, the Department of Civil Aviation, and the Department of Supply and Research. I will take first the Department of the Chief of the Air Staff, under that distinguished and able officer, Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, It includes, operations, intelligence, training, organisation, personnel, equipment, medical services, and other branches, including works and buildings. I should like to add my own tribute of admiration, not only to his work, but also to the unceasing devoted labours of the staff and of all ranks of the Royal Air Force. They are working untiringly at the most difficult task of training and reorganisation after the War and at the winding up of the surplus stations with a depleted staff. The senior officers of the Royal Air Force have a wide know-lodge of the methods of the other two Services, because, as a rule, they have already a long naval or military experience behind them. They come to us from the Navy or the Army. The leaders of the Air Force have developed a spirit of united enthusiasm for their new Service which is the very essence of its success. It is necessary to state how great are the difficulties which the Royal Air Force has to face and how impossible it is to compare these Estimates with those of the older Services. The Army had its pre-war training grounds considered and allotted long ago; its barracks were standing ready for its return from the War; its War Office buildings were available for the work of administration; Woolwich and Sandhurst were there to train its future officers; the Staff College, Military Schools, and rifle ranges were all there ready for use when peace came. The expenditure which created these essential facilities for the Army was spread over the Estimates of the distant past. The Royal Air Force, however, sprang into life during the War. The housing of its personnel was often of a temporary kind, which is unavoidable in war; its training schools have to be created; its permanent quarters have to be designed and built; and unlike the natural growth of the other Services, the work has to be crowded into a short period, if the training of our future airmen is to proceed without delay and under the good conditions which the country should provide for those who serve it.
While this constructive work has been carried out, the reduction of the Force from a war to a peace footing has gone on most rapidly. There were on the 31st March, last year, 22,000 officers in the Royal Air Force. At the end of this month there will be 3,280. The normal strength of officers is 2,850, so that we are almost at our normal level. In the case of the other ranks, there were a year ago 160,000. It is thought that by the end of this month, unless shipping difficulties delay matters, that there will be only 25,000 left, and our normal peace strength is 23,300. There were a year ago 14,000 civil subordinates, and there are now 6,000, including natives, and those who are engaged in the staffing of stores, etc. Our normal establishment for this purpose is 5,500. A year ago there were 22,000 women in the Women's Royal Air Force, and at the end of this month this valuable Force will come to an end. Therefore, from a total of 104,000 a year ago we shall at the end of this month have come down to 34,280, and our normal strength is 31,500, so that the total reduction effected in the period is 129,720, a very remarkable reduction. The Royal Air Force has other work to give up. It has given up 149 aerodromes, 122 landing grounds, and 2,240 what are known technically as hirings, as a rule land and buildings. The problem of handing over our surplus equipment and stores has proved a vast and most difficult work.
In the midst of all these reductions, the work of rebuilding has been going on. Tentative establishments of units have been laid down for home and foreign stations, and these units are being brought up to strength. The replacing of War service men on ordinary engagements has been a very considerable undertaking. In the midst of all these great reductions and in the midst of this reorganisation, calls have come from the East for additional Air Forces. These calls have had to be met, and the Royal Air Force has been in action in the past year in many parts of the world against the Afghan Mahsuds and Waziris. In the recent Afghan War the Royal Air Force are stated by the Commander-in-Chief to have appreciably shortened operations. In two days the Royal Air Force compelled the unconditional surrender of the Kharza Madda Khel. The services of the Force have been also most valuable in Egypt where by next April it is hoped that it will have seven squadrons of modern machines. A curious development of the work of the Royal Air Force has been the photographing of a serious outbreak on the Nile. The flooded area was clearly defined and the work of dealing with the difficulty was very much assisted. In Mesopotamia, to which full allusion has been made, the Force has been engaged in constant work in maintaining order and Communications, in making maps, and even in collecting revenue. A much appreciated reference to its co-operation has been made by the Civil Commissioner. In Russia during the last year the Force has been engaged in work of exceptional difficulty both in the south and in the north. In the north it gave great assistance in covering the evacuation. A feature that I ought to mention was the great success of the seaplanes in connection with the operations in the north.
We also heard from Aden some time ago that Colonel Jacobs' Commission had been captured and imprisoned, and that there was a serious plan being made for the despatch of a considerable force to relieve him. Fortunately, this was effected simply by the despatch of two aeroplanes, resulting in an enormous saving in every way. In the case of Somaliland—I should like to have gone more fully into it, but it has been already clearly stated to the House—twelve aeroplanes played a most decisive part, and in three weeks broke up the power of the Mullah over a district which he had devastated for 17 years at a very heavy cost in life and expenditure. The Force, therefore, has proved a most valuable addition to the methods by which in the future we may police our distant Empire. The enormous importance and value of the police work of the Royal Air Force in restoring order in scattered territories and the saving in both lives and in cost are most important developments, and the extent to which the Royal Air Force is being employed on work of this kind must be borne in mind when considering the Estimates. At the beginning of 1919 there were five rigid and 87 non-rigid airships in commission and 14 stations. They are being reduced to a peace footing of one rigid and three non-rigid airships with one permanent station. The R 38, as the House knows, has been sold to the United States, and the R 34, within the last year, has accomplished the great feat of the double journey to America and back, encountering winds up to 50 and 60 miles an hour. She is still in commission. Progress has been made with the work of mooring these ships. The Colonial Governments are acquiring non-rigid airships for various purposes, including forest patrol and general survey work. I now come to the question of training.
I would rather that my hon. and gallant Friend asked a question as to the exact numbers, because I am going on in a regular sequence. I am very anxious to condense, because I want to give as much time as I can for the general discussion, and I have an enormous subject to cover. With regard to the training, the Royal Air Force Cadet College was opened at Cranwell on the 5th February this year. There are 52 cadets there, including 17 midshipmen who have been transferred from the Navy, and I shall be glad to hear from any hon. Members who would like to go down and see this college. This is an interesting point. A number of Royal Air Force officers have gone through a course of four terms at Cambridge, through the courtesy of the University Colleges, and I have read with much pleasure the excellent report that we have received on their work. The training of boys as mechanics is steadily going on at Halton, and a new system of entering these boys by nomination and examination by local authorities has already produced an excellent type of boy. These new enlistments are being sent to Cranwell, and hon. Members who go there can see these boys at their work at the same time as they see the college. The closing of surplus stations has proved a huge work, but it is hoped that they will be all closed by the end of April, including those in France and Flanders. We are getting help from the Army and Navy with supplies of certain stores to avoid duplication where possible. To give an example: Rations, marine craft, torpedoes, machine guns and ammunition, clothing, petrol and oil, maps, and compasses. It is a notable example of our connection with both Services that three of these items come from the Army, three from the Navy and two from both Services. The Army is helping us with the storage of guns, the inspection of all our explosives, lands, certain forms of barrack equipment and with training of personnel for the medical, sanitary, and fire-fighting services, and in other ways.
Our scheme of co-operation with the other Services includes the training of Royal Air Force personnel for cooperation with the Navy and Army, and this question is taken into account in the distribution of our training centres. It is proposed to substitute Royal Air Force Units for considerable military forces in Mesopotamia if a considerable economy is found to be practicable and an important development is shown in the announcement that if the Royal Air Force supplies the main power involved the command will be held by a Royal Air Force officer. We now come to an important question, our work in connection with civil aviation. This Department of Controller General of Civil Aviation is under the able guidance of General Sir Frederick Sykes. The Department was created a little more than a year ago, and this distinguished officer has done most valuable work. The International Air Convention has been signed by Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and by 25 other countries. Legislation will shortly be introduced to give effect in this country to the terms of the Convention. The activities of civil flying in this country include an Air Mail Service between England and Paris, which has been running since the 10th November, 1919. A service has also been maintained with Brussels, and it is hoped to establish a similar service with Holland and other countries. The cause of civil aviation has been helped by many important demonstrative flights showing the possibilities of the future, such as the recent flight to Australia, the aeroplane flight across the Atlantic, and the gallant attempt now in progress to fly from Cairo to the Cape, to which we wish all success. It is a source of pride which I feel very strongly, that all these great enterprises radiate from this country. The Service side of the Royal Air Force has also helped the cause of civil aviation by the historical flights of the rigid airship R 34 in its double journey across the Atlantic, and by the flight to India, which has opened up the route.
The Department of Civil Aviation includes the distribution of Wireless Weather Reports, and constant touch was kept by wireless with the R.34 during her progress across the Atlantic. I wish I had time to refer to this in more detail. The Meteorological Office is now part of this Department. Its work is of great and growing importance. Maps, charts and navigational information were prepared for the aeroplane and the airship Atlantic flights, for the London to Australia, and Cape to Cairo routes, and for London to Paris and London to Brussels. A manual of aerial navigation is being prepared. At the same time progress is being made in other parts of the Empire; and in Canada, India and Australia Air Boards have been created. I am glad to say that British firms have secured considerable craft in South Africa, Scandinavia.
The air traffic between this country and the Continent carried, between August 26th and December 31st, 1919, £59,826 worth of imports and £31,185 worth of exports. This traffic consists mainly of clothing, and I can give no explanation of that fact. Two-thirds of our exports go to France and one-third to Belgium. The passengers carried were 603 to be Continent and 295 from the Continent, excluding mechanics. Aeroplanes or flying boats from this country have repeatedly visited India, Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Scandinavia.
My next point deals with aerodromes and the work of licensing. Every aerodrome, before civil use is made of it, must be inspected and licensed. One hundred and six licences have been granted, certificates of air-worthiness have been issued to 296 machines. What is believed to be the first Customs areodrome in the world was started at Hounslow, and it is being moved to Waddon, near Croydon. Other Customs areodromes have been appointed at Cricklewood, Lympne and Felixstowe. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely) appealed last year for emergency landing grounds, and I am glad to say that out of the 123 required 109 have been provisionally selected up to 24th February of this year, and 164 sites were inspected. The figures of civil aviation in this country will no doubt be interesting to the Committee. Between 1st May, 1919 (when the War Restrictions were removed) and 21st January, 1920, there were 36,000 flights, 66,000 passengers were carried, and the mileage was 619,000. I am glad to say that the casualties have not been numerous. Four pilots, one passenger, and one third party have been killed. I recognise that the figures are not comparable, but it is interesting to note that in the last half of 1840, four years after railway travelling had begun, 153 passengers were killed or injured in railway accidents. The inspection of accidents is part of the work of the Civil Aviation Department. Experts are sent down to investigate them. A committee representing both the Ministry and the industry have drawn up rules for the competition to further the comfort and safety of air travel, and it is hoped that competition will begin on 1st August. A considerable grant has been obtained from the Treasury. It will be seen that the policy of the Air Ministry has been to assist civil aviation by preparing routes, aerodromes, lighthouses, weather reports, emergency landing grounds, signals and communications of all kinds, by supplying information to the trade of aerial developments in other countries, arranging demonstration flights, and by exploration of the air routes of the Empire. In short, we supply facilities which all the firms would have to combine and supply for themselves, if they did not get this, State assistance, but we leave full play to individual enterprise, and refrain from the policy of subsidy.
Coming to the Department of the Director-General of Supply and Research, this, the third work of the Air Ministry to which I shall now refer, is under the guidance of that able officer Air Vice-Marshal Ellington, who is doing most important work. This Department by its work assists both the Royal Air Force and civil aviation. Its duties consist of research, inspection, and supply. It is responsible for all experimental and research work done by the Air Ministry and for advising the Controller-General of Civil Aviation as to the airworthiness certificates. It assists the civil industry by advice on experimental work and by criticism. It considers new designs for aircraft, which are submitted by firms for the Royal Air Force. Then there is the Directorate of Inspection, which is responsible for examining all materials and equipment ordered direct by the Air Ministry. Inspection of aircraft has necessarily to be far more delicate than the examination of other equipment used by the Forces of the Crown. It extends from the raw material, through the processes of manufacture, to the erection of the complete machine or engine, including the accuracy of adherence to the drawings, in order to secure interchange ability. The staff is also responsible for seeing that the so-called "subsequent" machines are built according to the specification of the typo originally tried out. The Supply Directorate places orders for experimental material for research for all aircraft equipment required by the Chief of the Air Staff, subject to the Contracts Advisory Branch, which makes contracts and superintends their fulfilment. In the absence of tenders, it investigates costs.
The Advisory Committee for Aeronautics has been abolished and has been replaced by the Aeronautical Committee with wide powers to carry out research. A scheme has been drawn up for the higher education of students in the science of aeronautics in connection with the establishment of the Zaharoff professorship of aeronautics at the Imperial College of Science. This is a postgraduate course. The establishment retained by this department are the Royal Aircraft establishment at Farnborough, which undertakes experimental work, research and tests. It could be used as a manufacturing establishment if necessary, and, I may add, it was during the War. We have also Martelsham Heath, where the military and civil testing of aeroplanes is conducted: Biggin Hill, for the development of wireless telegraphy in connection with aircraft, photography, testing instruments and navigation research; Grain, for testing seaplanes; Gosport, for testing torpedo work; and Cardington, a Government construction station for seaplanes. Six types of experimental machines are now on hand. With the present small output of machines the cost of testing naturally appears to be high, as it is the examination of original new types which involves far more research than the subsequent examination of the reproductions of that type. There are a few other points which I must mention. There is a round sum provided for awards to inventors. There are war claims amounting to millions, and the larger awards are made by a Commission. That is really a War charge. There are considerable sums for building at Halton, where the boys are being trained. I regard it as essential for the well-being of the personnel that good accommodation should be provided for them, and not only good housing, but space for recreation. The welfare of the men who join the Royal Air Force is a national duty. For the majority of our skilled mechanics we have adopted a system of "boy entry."
What the future may have in store, none can see. The Air Service goes forward united, preparing for either peace or war. I should like to pay a tribute of respect and of admiration to the Air Officers Commanding at home and abroad and to the officers and other ranks who are maintaining to-day the high traditions of the Royal Air Force. They will, I believe, give to this country a force that will maintain, by its discipline, its training and its skill, the pre-eminent position this country has attained. Looking back at the early years of the Air Service we see that in this—the greatest product of mechanical skill and man's inventive genius—the greatest triumph of all is the courage of those early pioneers who, in the face of terrible losses, built the foundations of the Air Service of to-day.
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question and to add, instead thereof, the words,
in the opinion of this House, with a view to promoting the wider efficiency of the Air Services for both military and commercial purposes, the Royal Air Force should be placed under the control of an independent Department of State presided over by a Minister directly responsible to Parliament for his policy.
I hope my hon. Friend will permit me to congratulate him on the comprehensive survey of the work of his Department during the past year. After listening to
it, it seems almost an act of temerity in me to propose the Amendment which I have put on the Paper, but I remember that, whereas a Department may very well do admirable work and be able to show a fine record of accomplishment, it does not necessarily mean that the basis on which it is founded is the right one. The Amendment, I have the honour to submit, suggests that only in a completely independent Air Service can we hope to achieve that progress in aviation which both for military and commercial purposes is so essential for the future of this country and of the Empire. If I may judge by the opening remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend, in which he made reference to the independence of the Service as it existed to-day, that seems to me to be the guide to the line which the Minister may take up when he answers this Amendment. He may tell us that at the present the Service is entirely independent in so far as having a representative responsible directly to Parliament is concerned. He is that person. We can all appreciate the superman who is prepared to come down on the Monday as Secretary for Scotland, on Tuesday as the First Lord of the Admiralty, and on Wednesday as the Home Secretary, with a permanent commission as Prime Minister. But while that may fit the super-man, I venture to think that as far as this House is concerned, and it is this House, after all, which has to control expenditure whereby all these Departments alone can carry on, that we like to have an independent Minister whom we can attack in his individual capacity as being responsible directly for the particular Department under him. At present the right, hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has unflinchingly shouldered the responsibilities of two great offices of State, the efficiency of each of which is essential. I am not one of those who carp at the right hon. Gentleman for the immense expenditure that he put before the House for the Army the other day. I do not see in him one who desires to be a Napoleon in the future history of our race, and I join heartily with the House in congratulating him and the officers under him for doing what was an amazing thing indeed, which was, during the turmoil that naturally follows a great war, to have developed on a voluntary basis an army entirely fitted for the much greater needs of the country that exist to-day
than was the ease before the War. There I am with him. But whilst in his capacity as Secretary of State for War I gladly congratulate him on having found a permanent basis of policy, when we look at him as Secretary of State for Air we have some right to distrust that hesitancy which seems to be wavering between the various poles of indecision. On 22nd February he said:
I favour the steady increase of the Air Force at the expense of the Army and the Navy, and I believe that will be the tendency increasingly year by year, but I am sure that any such increase should only take place in proportion as the Air Force is actually able to discharge blocks of day-to-doy duties which are in fact discharged by the Army and the Navy now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February 1920; cols. 3353–4, vol. 125.]
That came as balm in Gilead to those who believed that in due course the surface Navy as we know it to-day is bound to be abolished, and that the Army as known in the past will disappear.
I do not go quite so far as that distinguished authority, Lord Fisher, who demands, "Scrap the Fleet!" One's interest in a fighting service is only the interest that one should have as long as it is the main and chief defence. If something better takes its place, that is the thing to concentrate on, and that is why I have concentrated on the Air Service. We want to see that the right hon. Gentleman is not paying lip service in his protestations of endeavour. I do not say he is, but it seems to me there are only two policies practical at the present time for attaining a happy equilibrium between the contending factors of Army, Navy, and Royal Air Force, the elder sisters and Cinderella of Imperial defence. There are only two lines of progress which can maintain the essential equipoise of relative values, and it is relative values which, we must remember, are most important at the present time. The first line is that there should be a supreme Minister of Defence responsible for all the fighting services of the Crown, and under him Under-Secretaries of State for War, Navy, and the Air Force, co-equal with one another and responsible to the Minister for Defence. I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman would take on this position without a wink; in fact, I believe it is one of the things he has at the back of his mind, and he would not do it so badly. The second is that the Royal Air Force should be actually under a Minister as definite and separate from all other services of the State as the Army and Navy were in the old days. The right hon Gentleman knows perfectly well that the Air Ministry is the handmaiden of the War Office.
I propose, with the leave of the House, to examine some of the main objections to the present arrangement. These most naturally fall into two distinct categories—military and commercial. It is in the nature of our race that we cling to that to which we have become accustomed and look askance at anything new and likely to disturb the habits of a lifetime. Applying that principle to naval and military matters we have always discovered that when anything in the Army or the Navy seemed in danger of being relegated to the scrap heap, distinguished officers arise in fear and trembling and endeavour to stem the tide of progress by crabbing development and bolstering up the obsolete. That was the case in regard to the screw-propeller and I would remind the House that there was a time when the Admiralty having adopted the breech-loading gun gave way to the objections of senior officers at sea and reverted to the out-of-date muzzle-loader. The opposition in the senior ranks of the Army to high-explosive shells and the use of tanks is of too recent a date for me to recall it in detail to the memory of the House. When an officer of high standing comes forward with ideas beyond the ordinary he courts condemnation as a crank and a visionary. What greater soldier had we than Lord Roberts? He, wanted National Service, yet he was scoffed at. Sir Percy Scott pointed out the danger of submarines; he was ignored: whilst this distinguished officer, Lord Fisher, speaking of the surface vessels of the Navy tells us to scrap the lot and is laughed at. He may be a bit previous, but it is coming. I know that as a result of a lecture I gave about twenty years ago on the future of the submarine-boat, I received a letter from my chairman, Sir William White, then Chief Naval Constructor, in which he said I had better give up the study of submarines as they would all be on the scrap heap within ten years, showing how false a prophet of his distinction could be. I do not think anyone doubts the personal enthusiasm of the right hon. Gentleman in flying matters. He is awfully fond of it. He has done a great deal of stunting and frequently goes up in the air. But I remember all the time, while I am keeping to the forefront his enthusiam, that he sits at the War Office surrounded by counsellors whose interests are purely military and that he is bound by association to be hampered by three factors arising from the present anomalous position. It is human nature. The first factor is that his military advisers will desire to sec the Air Force kept as an ancillary and auxiliary force to the Army. His military advisers would oppose any attempt to place the defence of the Empire in charge of the air. None of the old arms will appear to them as obsolete. Secondly, the natural tendency is to develop land machines to the disadvantage of machines for the sea, i.e. flying boats: Thirdly, as a result of that, the Admiralty by way of riposte will do its very best to get the Admiralty side of the Royal Air Force out of his hands, to split up the Service and bring it back again as it was originally in the days of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. There are here the seeds of dissension which everyone must see. The War Office can never efficiently run a Service requiring an element with which they are not familiar.
I turn from that to an admirable Memorandum issued in December by Air Marshall Sir Hugh Trenchard. He says:
The principle to be kept in mind in forming the framework of the Air Service is that in the future the main portion of it will consist of an independent Force together with service personnel required for carrying out Aeronautical research.
Here comes the cloven hoof—
["In addition there will be a small part of it specially trained for work with the Navy, and a small part specially trained for work with the Army, these two portions probably becoming in the future an arm of the older services."]
One or two other points I might deal with in extenso on the military side, which could be brought forward as arguments against the present situation. I want to know what the situation is going to be when the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity as Secretary of State for War, is finding it difficult to get the money he requires for the Army and yet has insistent calls from the Air Ministry?
When a demand is sent up from him, as Secretary of State for Air, to get certain tugs and ships for carrying seaplanes for the Admiralty, what is to be the position? Is he to control them himself or to borrow them from the Admiralty? What will be the terms that the Admiralty will set up in matters of research? How is he to do the torpedo-dropping practice that is required by the particular squadrons allotted to Rosyth for that purpose? These are essential points. They can only be viewed from the naval standpoint. I cannot see him and the Admiralty working in close co-operation in that direction.
I turn from that to the commercial side. This problem is of even greater interest, and provides an infinitely bigger argument against the present anomalous position even than the military side. I come back to two lines of Air-Marshal Trenchard's memorandum. He says:
The Royal Air Force may be compared to the prophet Jonah's Gourd. The necessities of war created it in a night, but the economies of peace have, to a large extent, caused it to wither in a day, and we are now faced with the necessity of replacing it with a plant of deeper root. As in nature, bow-ever, decay fosters growth and the new plant, has a fruitful soil from which to spring.
In as far as the two senior services are concerned, the Army and the Navy, I do not think anyone could suggest for a moment that they are services which could be turned to a commercial profit. They might be described as an insurance premium of a colossol size paid for our national safety, but if we could get an assurance that there would never again be war, our Navy and Army, except for purposes of policing the land and sea, would entirely disappear. That is not the case in so far as the Air Service is concerned. There is no parallel in the history of military warfare to it. Here everything that is learnt from war in aeronautics can be applied for use in peace. What is being done? The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Tryon) gave us a survey of the various activities of the Controller-General of Civil Aviation and he took special pride in the magnificent exploits of British pilots. Everyone will compliment those British pilots upon that, and whilst he did not say anything too much of the gallantry of those men and the dare-devilry of the feats they have performed he did rather suggest that other countries were not doing anything of a line nature. I could give an enormous number of instances where services have been opened in
all parts of the world for commercial purposes, and what is much more important is that while he claims that the Civil Service side of this Department is maintaining our supremacy in the Air he does not state that we are about the only country with a big Air Force which has refused to send air missions to other countries with a view to pushing our wares. The French, the Italians and the Americans have sent round missions throughout the States of South America and throughout Europe and are doing amazingly good business and we ought to do as much as that.
Another difficulty with which they have been faced is that they have allowed their surplus stores, which ought to have been used as travellers' samples, to be turned over to the Disposal Board. In Italy machines were handed back to their builders without any cost whatever, and they are sold in competition with British goods. That is a circumstance which ought to have been taken into consideration by the Secretary of State for War when discussing the disposal of their spare aircraft. That is not a sound policy. It is true that if they had handed the aeroplanes back to the builders they would have lost the value they have obtained for them on disposal, but there would have been this advantage, that if they had been sold to foreign buyers naturally there would have been repeat orders and work would have been given to British workmen and British designs would have come to the front. For fear it should be thought I am saying anything derogatory of those in charge of the civil aviation side, I may say that I know that anyone who has been in touch with General Sykes can bear testimony to the courtesy and the help and advice that he and those who have been associated with him have always given. The claim I put forward is twofold. The first is that that side is very much understaffed and that many of those who are on his staff are working at most inadequate wages. They are magnificent men doing it practically for nothing. Not nearly enough money has been given to that side of the question. Whilst I do not object to the high expenditure of the Army, I should have liked to see a few more millions taken away from that vast expenditure and handed over to the development of civil aviation. I am not in favour of these prize stunts. The prizes are not big enough. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman really imagine that any of the prizes for these long nights actually pay for the cost of getting them up? Nothing of the sort. It does not meet the charge at all. The charge can only be met by big firms, and those are not the ones we necessarily require to develop. What you want to develop is the best design.
Two other points occur to me on the subject of civil aviation. I think you would improve that service if the posts in the Department could be filled through the regular Civil Service with examinations which would include aviation as a special subject for those willing to qualify for that Department. My own view, having been there and talked to a number of them, is that the Civil Servant is an essential, and he is a very useful and businesslike asset where Government Departments are concerned. What the Civil Aviation Department is suffering from is a lack of them, and it is endeavouring to make up for it by a number of officers who have not the necessary experience, admirable and patriotic as is their work. With regard to the Air Act, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman understands that whereas it specifies the offences under the Act and the penalties which may follow, such as flying over prohibited areas, carrying passengers without a licence, or having an unregistered machine, there is no machinery by which offenders can be brought to justice or the specific penalties can be inflicted. That is a point the hon. and gallant Gentleman might look at.
I have made my case. It is twofold. The first is that, in so far as the military side is concerned, we can never expect aviation, which is essentially a thing apart altogether from the military or the naval side of our defences, to prosper when it is directly associated with and controlled by one or other of our great offensive and defensive Departments. The second is that since it is, in these times, a very great commercial asset, it is folly to associate its control with either the Army or the Navy. One is lather apt to be hypercritical. I recognise that this Department is quite a new thing. It is something which has only sprung up, as it were, in a night, and I am sure that the House very heartily congratulates the hon. and gallant Gentleman on all the work that has been done We know how difficult it is to get things straight. I do not want the House to think I am finding fault, but I want to see to it that this has Department is not hampered by the clogging atmosphere that hangs round so many other Government Departments. We want it to be free to expand and to develop to a position as creditable to our race as were the old Army and the Navy. Whilst we may say the Army is sufficient and the Navy is sufficient, we can all pick holes in them. The answer is always given, "They have gone on like it for so many years." I plead with the right hon. Gentleman that, in so far as the Air Force is concerned, what we have to do in starting a new business is what we want to do in starting a new Department of State, which is to see that the machinery is as perfect as possible;, and that the map is correctly drawn, and build it up on a design that is up-to-date. Only in that way will you have efficiency.
I beg to second the Amendment. I fully appreciate the fact that there are several other ex-Air Service pilots in the House, whose senior rank would certainly put them before me, but I understand they prefer to enter the Debate later on. When the present Government was constituted, what created more surprise than anything else was the fact that the Air Service was placed under the control of the War Office. There were a. good many protests, but in the times in which we now live epoch-making events come hard on each other's heels and public interest was very soon transferred to other matters, and it was left to but a few specially interested people to try to combat a move which we felt sure is seriously to the disadvantage and prejudice of the Air Service. To my mind the Air Service requires a separate Ministry for several reasons. The reasons which especially strike me are these. First of all, the Air Force is as different from the Army as the Navy is, and further, the work of the Air Force, taking into account its great possibilities from the point of view of both Peace and War, is of such great importance and involves problems of so complex a nature that it is certainly both wrong and unbusinesslike to subordinate it to another Department. If devolution of administration is necessary in the case of pensioners, which are administered by a separate Department, how much more must it be necessary that the Air Force should have a Ministry of its own when it has to deal with so many more and far more complex problems. From the business point of view I do not think any industry under peace conditions look forward with any feeling of happiness or confidence to being under the War Office. It cannot but stifle, as it is stifling, commercial enterprise. I should not like the House to consider that I am in any way attacking the War Office, and my view is that the War Office is just as much to be pitied as the Air Service. I am quite sure it does not really like to have this extra responsibility of the Air Service to look after. I fully agree that there are only two satisfactory alternatives for dealing with the Air Service, that is either to have a separate Ministry or to have a Minister controlling defence with a general staff under him controlling the three different services. My hon. and gallant Friend (Major Tryon) referred to reconstruction work. I think all Air Service people will thoroughly agree with me that so far as the Air Service is concerned reconstruction spells something much more akin to destruction. One of the most serious features of the present control appears to me, as an ex-pilot, to be the terrible lack of skilled technical instructors and mechanics. Apparently the War Office is either unable or unwilling to appreciate the fact that the Air Service depends entirely upon mechanical science.
The Secretary of State for War is responsible for it. Owing to the Government delay in formulating their policy for the Air Service and owing also to the manner in which they have handled this problem, the very best and the majority of the personnel of the old killed mechanics and technical instructors are no longer to be found in the Air Force, and I am sure there is not the slightest doubt in the mind of any ex-Air Service pilot in this country that the awful disaster which took place in Egypt, as well as the catastrophe of a much more recent date of the flight to Ireland, was solely and entirely due to inefficient mechanics. Unless this difficulty is very soon overcome we shall have more catastrophes of this nature, quite apart from the fact that there will be a very large wastage of public money from improper handling of machines and stores. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Tryon) told us about Halton and Cranwell, and invited us to pay a visit. The present mechanics, or the mechanics of the future, are being trained at Halton. My view of Halton is that you have an officer in charge, an extremely efficient engineering officer, but under him he has a totally inadequate and totally inefficient staff. I go further; I believe I am right in saying that to a great extent the instruction that has lately been given at Halton for the boy mechanics has to a certain extent been given by other boys, whose entire qualification consists of a few weeks' or months' training which they have received themselves. Apart from this, which in itself is quite a serious thing, I was simply dumbfounded and amazed when, in reply to a question which I put to him, my hon. and gallant Friend informed the House that the Government, apparently, know nothing about the German regulations regarding construction of aeroplanes. I believe he will find the statement I make is correct, that every commercial machine that is being manufactured in Germany has to be built to a specification which enables it to be very easily converted into a war machine. Apparently, he does not consider that this is a sufficiently important matter for us to consider, following Germany's lead. He rather inferred that our present commercial machines could easily be converted into war machines. That is absolutely incorrect. The large majority of our commercial machines recently constructed, and still under construction, could not be converted into war machines, except with very great difficulty, and in many cases they would be quite unsuitable. There must be but one policy for the Air Service. For the safety and the honour of the Empire we must be second to none, and to achieve this result it is essential that we should have proper control of the administration.
First of all, I should like to join with my hon. and gallant Friends in congratulating the Under-Secretary for Air on his admirable speech in introducing the Estimates. It was convincing and short, but packed full of facts. I have never heard a better statement or a better presentment of a case for any Estimates. Having said that I must say at once that I do not approve of the Estimates, for the very simple reason that we are being asked to vote £21,000,000 for services which do not give us what we want, and I shall try to show-that in a very few words. We are asked to vote £21,000,000, of which, as the Secretary of State for War and Air points out in his memorandum, a little less than £16,000,000 is permanent expenditure. £6,000,000 approximately being for War services which are now being wound up. Some hon. Members may quarrel with the total. I am not here to do that. What I am here to quarrel with is the fact that we are not getting what we ought to have, whatever the sum paid may be. We are drifting into a position of extreme danger from the point of view of national defence, and I. shall try to prove that, especially from two points of view, both originating in a common cause.
First of all, I make the assertion that the naval side of the Air business is being scandalously neglected. It is often thought that there is competition between the Air and the Navy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that we always have been, and I hope always shall be, a great Naval Power makes it the more imperative for us to use air power in conjunction with sea power to the utmost. We cannot have a better instance of it than what has happened in the last few weeks and days. This country, by the consent of all parties, Liberal, Conservative and Labour, is committed to the view that we must-protect the Armenians; and that we must protect from massacres and misgovernment those unfortunate people whom the Turks have been misgoverning for centuries. It was said constantly in the Debate the other day that we cannot move the Turks from Constantinople because, if you take him away, he would not be, or his governing power would not be, under the guns of the Fleet. But, as has been pointed out again and again, by the more enterprising spirits in the Navy, the fact of the power of man to leave the surface of the ground gives a range to the guns of your Fleet, not of 20 miles, but of 300 miles. If proper arrangements are made, a combination of sea and air power is decisive in almost any theatre of possible war in which we may be engaged. That is not being done. No doubt when the Secretary of State replies he will tell us what has been done, but I know that what ought to have been done has not been done. The close co-operation and the assistance of the Admiralty with the Air Ministry with a view to securing an adequate Air Force to co-operate with the Fleet has not been secured, and it is a fact, I know, that not only in the. power to destroy certain ships by means of torpedoes has the whole thing been allowed almost to lapse, but no other progress has been made, although this is admittedly one of the most important war advances in the power of the air that we have seen in our lifetime. Also the provision of aeroplanes and seaplanes carried on ships ready to start from any point, as, for instance, the Bosphorus, has been greatly neglected. The result has been that our arm has been paralysed in Eastern Europe, and it is not going too far to say that thousands of Armenian lives could have been saved if we had had the foresight to devote much more of the sums asked for in respect of the navy, the army and the air, to the provision of seaplanes and aeroplanes operating with the Navy.
The next reason I give for saying that these air estimates are gravely unsatistory is this. The Committee will remember that after the South African War a Committee called the Norman Committee was set up to find out why our defensive arrangements were in such a very inadequate position at the outbreak of that war. The Committee may remember that there was very great anger that our arrangements were not better, and the Government of the day accordingly appointed this Committee, on the findings of which all our defensive arrangements have since been planned. The Report was accepted "by the Government at that time, and it has been acted on ever since. The Report found that there should be a power of expansion of our defensive force beyond the Regular Forces of the Crown. In the case of the Navy and the Army that power, of course, is there. In the case of the Navy, as was shown in the late War, it was automatically expanded very rapidly directly the War broke out. It is not going too far to say that, had it not been for the Mercantile Marine, we should never have maintained the blockade, and should never have overcome the submarine menace; in fact, we should have been defeated at sea if we had not had our great Mercantile Marine. In the case of the Army, on the recommendation of that Committee the Territorial Force was formed, so that in the event of war the Regular Forces of the Crown can be almost doubled at once, and not only doubled in the number of men, but the organisation itself is capable of largo expansion. In the case of the Navy and the Army we have the power of expansion recommended by the Norman Committee; but in the Air Service we have no such power of expansion.
So far as my information goes, in the case of Germany, France, Italy and, I think, America—upon this I have not such precise information—they have most definite plans to ensure this power of expansion. They have definite plans to ensure that there shall be an expansion of the Air Force outside their own regulas forces. In the case of France they give considerable subsidies based on the speed of aeroplanes, and their weight carrying power. They also give mail contracts to certain services, and they give direct subsidies to any service which runs with machines which may be of value to them in the event of war. In the case of Germany they pursue a similar policy on a greater scale. Italy is also pursuing the same policy. The result of that is that in France, in Germany, in Italy and, I believe, in some other countries, they have at this moment a very large number of firms with big designing staffs, all engaged in producing air craft and designing fresh methods of making air travelling safer and more certain. Listening to the hon. and gallant Member who introduced the Estimates, one might have thought that something of the sort was going on here. It is not so, I regret to say. The air industry in this country is dying; it is withering away, and it is a most sad thing that it should be so, and it is also a very dangerous thing. Of the great firms which were producing aircraft and which had great designing staffs—and it is on design that your future in the air depends—nearly all have gone out of business. There remains one good big designing staff, almost as big as before, one other not greatly depleted, another now is reduced to only 14 persons, and in the case of a great many others their designing staffs have been altogether dispersed.
The position therefore is that this country, unlike other countries, has nothing to fall back upon except for the very few firms that now survive. We are not concerned with the financial aspect of the matter. It does not matter very much to the country, from the point of view of finance, whether these firms are engaged in making bicycles or aeroplanes, but it does matter very much from the point of view of national defence, and I make this assertion with great regret—that the aeroplane industry in this country is withering away. On those two grounds I say that the Estimates are unsatisfactory. They both have a common cause. That cause is the arrangement made by the Prime Minister, whom I am glad to see in his place, with whom I have no quarrel but this quarrel—though this will persist until the matter is put right—as to the arrangement under which he makes his right hon. Friend on his right (Mr. Churchill) a pluralist, contrary to the decision of Parliament, the declarations of his own colleagues and the declaration of himself. And it has had this direct result in the short time during which the arrangement has existed. First of all—may I have the right hon. Gentleman's attention? I remember very well the right hon. Gentleman even rebuking the Clerk at the Table for speaking, and perhaps he will permit me, not to rebuke him, but to ask his attention for a few moments.
The arrangement come to, which I am sure the Prime Minister made with the best intentions, has produced two results: first, the naval side of the air business has been, grossly neglected, with the result that it has not been able to do the things which it would have done in Eastern Europe, and several thousand Armenians are now dead who probably would have been alive if a proper arrangement had been made, and, second, that the whole aeroplane industry of the country is withering away. We know well that the Admiralty so dislike this arrangement that they dig their toes in—to use a popular phrase—and the result of that attitude must be a lack of cooperation. We also know that successive Secretaries of State for War have worked ten, twelve and fourteen hours a day at their job and have never had any time to spare. How-comes it about that at a time of exceptional trouble and difficulty, when Europe is a seething cauldron, and our military problems are more complicated than they have ever been, that a Secretary of State can have time to attend to a big independent Department, involving an expenditure of £21,000,000, and with an actual Ministry under his control costing nearly £1,000,000 a year. I said some months ago that it was an arrangement which I could not work and which I believed nobody could work, and that it would have disastrous results.
Those disastrous results have already begun to be apparent to the world, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider his decision. More than 120 Members of this House have signed a protest against it. Most of them support the right hon. Gentleman in everything else. There are a good many others who signed it, who disagree with him in everything else—like my hon. and gallant Friend on my left (Captain W. Benn). But we cannot delay any longer. The thing is becoming really a scandal. It is no good the hon. and gallant Gentleman introducing his Estimates and making an admirably effective speech when all the time his other efforts are hampered by his inability to get decisions. I know perfectly well that the thing is going from bad to worse. The difficulty of getting decisions from the right hon. Gentleman, who is supposed to do two things at once, is becoming more and more acute. Public money is being wasted and defence arrangements are going from bad to worse. I believe that the proper solution would be to have a Ministry of Defence with a joint staff. I believe that that would be a reasonable arrangement and a wiser arrangement, and it would certainly be economical. But to set up a Ministry like the Air Ministry, on a great scale, costing £1,000,000 in itself and spending £21,000,000, and handing it over to the few spare moments of a busy Minister, who nevertheless exercises supreme control and does not allow any decision to be taken without a personal reference to himself, is in my judgment trifling with the defence of the country.
Before I pass to the speech of my right hon. Friend I should like to put on record one question to the Under-Secretary for the Air. We had no figures given to us as to what the Dominions and India are doing and did not get the information which is necessary to obtain a complete view of the situation. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Major-General Seely) has made a very disquieting statement. He told us, and he spoke obviously with inside knowledge, that the aeroplane industry is withering away, and that the Navy is not getting what it wants in regard to the necessary Air Services which ought to be rendered to it in the future. If that is correct it is important to know what are the causes of it. We have had in succession two gallant officers of the Army as Under-Secretary for the Air. I happen to know both of them, and they are convinced of the value of sea power to this country, and I know their personal opinions to be such that they would always put the Navy before the Army. The reason given by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion and by my right hon. and gallant Friend is that the association of the Air Service under the Secretary of State for War is the chief cause of our difficulties.
What the Navy would ask of the Air Service is to provide the necessary aeroplanes for the purpose of acting with the feet and helping to maintain command of the sea, for the purpose of watching the gunnery results when the fleet is operating, for attacking the enemy's fleet with torpedoes, for warding off similar attacks and for carrying on expeditions inland based on the Navy, such as those which my right hon. and gallant Friend mentioned when dealing with the Armenian massacres. I agree with him that rather than have the present arrangement with the Secretary of State for War in charge of both the Army and the Air Service it would be far better to let the Defence Committee co-ordinate the three Services, with the Prime Minister himself as Chairman of the Defence Committee when he has time. Everybody knows that he has been utterly overworked at the Peace Conference and in everything else, but a time must come when he will be able to do the necessary work as between the three Services and bring the Defence Committee together.
The Secretary of State for War now presides not only over the regions that Cæsar knew, but also over the regions that Cæsar never knew. He also desires to preside over the Navy as well. That would mean far too powerful a Minister under the Prime Minister, and I doubt whether he would sanction that. My right hon. and gallant Friend tells us that the aeroplane industry is withering away, that the Navy is not getting what it wants, and certainly it is not because the Treasury has stinted the Air Ministry of funds. I confess that I was startled by the figures. In Vote 5 the expenditure on the Air Ministry is far and away in excess of what it used to be for the War Office and Admiralty. There is an in crease of £186,000. The hon. and gallant Member may tell us that we have in that the transfer of another Department from the Ministry of Munitions, but that still leaves us £703,000 for the Air Ministry, which is an increase of £13,000 on the War year of last year.
The Meteorological Department is not a large, expensive Department. Another thing which I may point out to my hon. and gallant Friend is that in the War Estimates you had war bonuses and overtime. You have none of these items this year, and the whole of this money is being provided for a. force which will number 2,850 officers and 23,300 men. The hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Lieut.-Colonel Burgoyne), who moved this Motion, stated that with that expenditure we had an entirely inadequate and underpaid War staff. Then where does the money go? It is certainly a very large sum.
I referred just now to what the Navy would ask for in the way of material assistance. I am satisfied that the Prime Minister will never have a persistent demand from the Navy to have these air services put under the Navy. The Navy will recognise that the Air Service should be under a separate Minister, but what the Navy will ask is that it shall get those things which it rightly wants, that it shall be able to practice manœuvres during peace with the aircraft which it wants, and that when the aircraft are engaged on exclusively naval service the discipline of those officers and men who are engaged will be entirely under the Navy. That is all essential. In bygone years we had great difficulties when we shipped officers and men from the artillery, and Nelson and St. Vincent complained bitterly of the behaviour of what they called the "artillery boys." We cannot have a semi-independent service in the Navy when it is doing vital naval work, and in a similar manner when the Air Service is playing a subordinate part to the Army it must necessarily be under the Army chiefs. We have arrived at a point when we must recognise that the Navy is no longer the sole defence of this country. In 1649 Lord Halifax said that the first article in the creed of every Englishman should be his belief in the sea. Now we may say that the first article in the creed of every Englishman should be his belief in the sea and the air. My right hon. and gallant Friend spoke just now of aeroplanes carrying torpedoes, and the vital effect that they exercise against capital ships. Those aeroplanes carrying torpedoes have a far more vital effect than any submarine. They play a much more important part and are a far more vital threat to an enemy. In 1913, writing in the "Quarterly Review," I ventured to say that the aeroplane would supersede the destroyer and be a successful means of preventing what would be the obvious tactics of the German fleet in war, that is, to withdraw and get an advantageous position on the bow in relation to our own chasing fleet. These aeroplanes will be required in large numbers to get in proper position in reference to the withdrawing fleet and threaten that fleet with torpedoes from both bows so that the enemy finds itself advancing to meet the dangerous torpedoes.
If I may be permitted what is so perilously near to a bull, I should say that the Air Ministry is breaking new ground. It is a new Ministry, and it can set a great example to both the Army and the Navy. I have for a long time thought that this House and the Treasury are entirely on the wrong tack in trying to enforce economy. By their constant system of checks on officers and men, by hunting them for the loss of a broom or anything of that sort, they make enemies of the officers. They teach them that economy is not their business, but the business of the Treasury. The result is that the two get into hostile camps. It would be much better if you laid it down, as a rule, that no officer can be an efficient officer unless he is an economist as well. Nelson's captains tried it themselves by an almost miserly saving of their spars and sails and never getting into dockyard hands. I think that that spirit can be got in both the Army and the Navy and the Air Service; and as the Air Service is a new Ministry, I hope that the Secretary of State for the Air will try to get that principle established, so that the Treasury may look upon the officers as allies, and cease the continual and costly system of checks. Years ago, when the dispute was in progress about cutting down the Navy Estimates—a dispute which resulted in the retirement of Mr. Gladstone—attention was called to the fact that there had been a Treasury Committee to investigate the expenditure on the Navy. The Admiralty were not able to put their hand on the document when Lord Acton and Mr. Gladstone applied for it which is an interesting revelation of how badly they kept their references and filing systems. I know the document well as a long Report made in 1859. The Admiralty of that day, instead of treating that meeting of British officials as an enemy, gave it every possible assistance, and the Treasury Committee reported strongly in their favour. This is the spirit which the new Air Ministry should adopt as an example to the older services.
Although there is only one Minister responsible for both the War Office and the Air Ministry, in practice, as far as I can judge, they appear to me to be watertight compartments. I will give the House an illustration. In North Berkshire there are two large stores. One is at Didcot, under the War Office, where they employ about 900 men. Adjoining this store is another store, under the Air Force, where some 500 or 600 men are employed. For the two stores there are entirely different conditions as regard labour and payment and the number of hours worked. The unskilled labourer at Didcot was receiving 47s. 6d. per week. At the other stores similar labour receives 55s. 6d. per week. I brought this anomaly before the notice of the Secretary of State for War and before the Under-Secretary of State for Air, and I brought it also before the National Com-Committee on Expenditure. The only result was that in some ways matters were slightly improved. The War Office wages were raised to bring them more nearly on a level with those of the Air Force. But even now the War Office employé not only works more hours a week than the Air Force employé, but receives 3s. a week less pay for doing it. Another anomaly is that I believe at Didcot no allowance is made for travelling beyond 10½ miles radius. On the other-hand, at Milton, under the Air Force, two hours a day were allowed for travelling. In addition to that, men were brought by train from Reading, a distance of nearly 18 to 20 miles, each day. That meant that the labourers at Milton travelled something like 40 miles a day to and from their work.
Again, the War Office ordnance stores, which are very much the larger, have only four motor lorries. The Air Force seem to think it necessary to have something like fifty. Out of that total of fifty lorries, seven are employed daily in bringing men to and from work at Milton. The reason for that is, I believe, that there are no houses in Milton or Didcot. I will read an extract from a letter from a county surveyor, which was written on 31st January last to the Chief Engineer of the Joint Roads Committee. He writes:
I was in the neighbourhood of Milton and found the work nearly completed. It seems to me an absolute scandal to think that these roads should be damaged for the sake of running a few workmen from Milton to Abingdon daily, when there is hutting accommodation for at least 2,000 at Milton. I do hope you will bring some pressure to bear and stop these lorries, otherwise there must be a heavy claim for damage to the roads."
I should like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened the Debate today, that since he considers it was his duty to provide accommodation for boys—I think he said at Croydon—as to what action he is taking to provide accommodation for these men fit Milton and Didcot. If they had accommodation there, the men would be more comfortable. Moreover, it would save the taxpayer expense, and it would enable the men to put in a proper week's work. I do not think the House will consider that 36 hours a week is the right amount of labour for the taxpayer to receive. It seems to me extraordinary, with one Minister responsible for the two Departments, that for similar labour in the same neighbourhood there should be absolutely different conditions for that labour, and I trust that the Minister will give this matter his earnest attention.
The very interesting statement of my hon. and gallant Friend who began the Debate this afternoon covered a very wide ground, and will no doubt be properly discussed when we are in Committee on Vote A, or on the Vote relating to the particular matters which were raised. I think this speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken would have been more appropriate, perhaps, had he delivered it in Committee of Supply, rather than on the question of Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair, which is a more convenient opportunity for dealing with the questions of policy. The question of civil aviation by itself might be discussed at great lengths, and the only observation that at this stage I would like to make on that most important matter is, that I hope the Government will not spend money in the present year, or in the next two or three financial years, on civil aviation further than is necessary to prevent the industry or art collapsing. Undoubtedly, something must be done to keep the thing going. On the other hand, it is precisely one of those things on which it may be proper to spend money liberally, if the country had the money available, but it is not one of those necessaries which ought to be developed now that economy is our first consideration, When the Government are able to spend money, I should like them to develop something resembling what used to be called in other branches of education a normal school, that is, a typical aerodrome, which should teach in the best possible way, should display the care of aeroplanes to the highest possibles perfection, and make such tests and experiments as might be necessary in the interests of civil aviation; and I think that in that way they would spend money much more usefully than by any direct encouragement they might give to private enterprise. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend say that it was not proposed to spend any money on subsidies. I believe that would be a very unwise course. I should have liked to have heard the hon. Gentleman develop his observations a little further about the conversion of aeroplanes, suitable for civil aviation, into aeroplanes suitable for war.
I am no more than an ignoramus on these questions. But I should have thought it was exceedingly difficult to build an aeroplane, useful for civil work which could, by any process much more convenient than rebuilding the whole thing, be converted into a war aeroplane. Fundamentally, what you need for civil aviation, is the opposite of what you need for war aviation. For civil aviation you want great security, but not necessarily great speed, and you want great weight-carrying capacity. I should have liked to have heard what possibility there is of the conversion of civil aeroplanes. I should also have liked my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to have said a little more of the plans of the Government and the Air Ministry for dealing with uncivilised warfare. In his anxiety to spare the time of the House he made his statement rather rapidly, and possibly I may have missed some observations. But I did not hear him say anything pointing out what truly is a very important consideration, namely, that the aeroplane in uncivilised warfare would play quite a different part, and I should suppose an even more important part, than it plays in highly-civilised warfare. I should have thought that it would have been possible to build an aeroplane, not to fly at great speed or great height, but an aeroplane of considerable weight-carrying capacity which it would be possible to armour sufficiently to make it almost independent of rifle fire. Such an aeroplane might be made very formidable indeed by low flying against any uncivilised enemy. Certainly, from what we have heard of recent operations in India it seems that the aeroplanes fought mainly by dropping bombs. I should have thought it was possible to use low-flying to a much greater extent. It might become in the end a most valuable and economical arm of the British Empire in performing the vast military police work that is necessary.
All this matter belongs to the general discussion and does not deal with the precise Amendment which has been moved. The question with which we are mainly concerned at present is, whether the present system of uniting in a single person the Secretary of State for Air and the Secretary of State for War is wise or unwise. Let me say at once if there is anyone who could make such a system successful it is my right hon. Friend, partly because he is a person of unusual energy, and partly because he has a very strong and sincere interest in the air and in the Air Force. Nevertheless I am convinced that it is a bad plan and that it is at least a most dangerous precedent to set. The right hon. Gentleman may be followed by some man with much less interest in the air, and much less versatile energy, and less capable, therefore, of bearing the double burden. I am sure, I need not enforce on my right hon. Friend, as he is converted personally, the immense importance of the Air Force being independent of the Navy and the Army. That independence arises out of the fact that both on its materiel side in respect of aeroplanes and the scientific technicalities connected with aviation, wireless telegraphy and the like, it is a highly technical and scientific force, and partly, and mainly, because the whole morale and discipline and training for it must be entirely different in the Air Force from that prevailing either in the Navy or in the Army. The fundamental heresy which I think still clings around the minds of some senior officers in the Army and the Navy is that a pilot is nothing but an officer in an aeroplane. He might be in a motor car, but he is a distinct person and quite unlike the soldier or the sailor. In saying that, I do not deny that there are conveniences in a single force and inconveniences in an independent force. Formerly there was no distinction between the Navy and the Army, and in the reign of Charles II. a young nobleman commanded both the Army and the Navy, though not very much to the advantage of either. So now it is necessary, just as that system was found to be ineffective as the two services became more and more divided, to insist on the independence of the Air Force.
The truth is that you will find in the Air Force a necessary individualism, because the flying officer must rely on himself, and there is, though perhaps it is only temporary, a certain contempt of anybody who is not able to do the things that he is able to do. The people who can fly have, by reason of that achievement, a superiority of which they are conscious over other people, and which we do not find in social life elsewhere. There is a feeling among them, if an officer, however distinguished, comes from the Army or Navy to speak to them or exercise influence over them, that this person is on a lower order because he cannot fly, and that he comes to them to exhort them without that knowledge. There is thus resentment which strikes at the root of any disciplinary force. Discipline can never be maintained merely by authority or by penalties. It must be maintained if it is felt to be necessary. The sort of discipline which the Air Force wants will always be quite different from that which is necessary for the Navy or the Army. The self-reliance necessary for the Air Force officer will always make him look for quite a different sort of control and influence in his superiors that that which belongs to military or naval tradition. If you put a force of that character under the supreme authority of those who are essentially soldiers or sailors, you would at once find, what you did find as long as the Air Force was under the Navy or the Army, all sort of dislocation. First of all, the Admiralty and the Army Council do not understand the material needs, or know anything about the necessity of improvements in the Air Force. That had to be done by pressure from below, and there was no spontaneous initiative from above. The Director-General of Aeronautics, as he was called, was in the false position of having to ask for things instead of being part of a machine which received its propulsion from above. Similarly, there was all through the first years of the War difficulty as to the Royal Navy and the Flying Corps. Anybody who had any connection "with the matter could not help seeing that officers of military training were constantly at fault finding themselves in a world to which they were unaccustomed and unable to see what was the remedy for those very evils which they criticised.
If that is so, is it expedient that the Air Force and the Air Ministry, although a distant Service should be united in the person of the Secretary of State for War. I think it is a mischievous position. Some Secretaries of State for War, at any rate, would fall under the military influence of their Army advisers. If that was so, the Air Force would at once sink into a Department of the Army, and the worst of Departments, a step-child. The worst of all relationships is the relationship which is subordinate without having any real hold of the authority. The War Office would be rather hostile and critical of the Air Ministry and Air Force, and still would have influence over the Ministry of Air and the Air Force by indirect control over the Secretary of State. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that it is quite a common experience to see Parliamentary Ministers fall tremendously into the hands of the Departments over which they nominally preside, so that they become saturated with the spirit of the Department of which they are the nominal heads. So, from that point of view, they would be a great danger. I am not sure there would not be still greater danger if the whole time of the Secretary of State is taken up by the War Office, and if the Air Ministry is constantly left to manage its own concerns. Although my right hon. Friend has exceptional energy, I cannot believe even now he is really the head of the Air Ministry as the Secretary for Air ought to be. He will not suspect me of any distrust in his own powers when I say that however influential or whatever knowledge he may have, it is not desirable that a permanent officer of the Crown should be the head of a public Department in the sense of the Secretary of State. It is not desirable for the reason that it is not fair to the officer and ultimately to the public.
We have our Parliamentary system. It is not perfect, and it has great advantages and disadvantages, but it is essential to that system that the great permanent officials, whether military or naval or air force or civil service, should not themselves come into contact with public opinion or Parliamentary control and should only do so through a man who is himself an expert in dealing with Parliamentary control and public opinion. Let me say I notice with great regret a growing custom, which began, I think, at the time of the South African War, of bringing forward distinguished soldiers and sailors and of Ministers sheltering themselves behind their authority instead of taking, as Ministers ought to take, full responsibility before Parliament for everything that is done. That is dangerous in several ways. In the first place there are a great many public servants who can absolutely be trusted to work in their own ambits and in surroundings to which they are accustomed, but who, the moment they get under the pressure of public criticism, are thrown off their balance. Sometimes their nerves are broken up by criticism, and in one way or another they are unfit for doing what is the essential business of a Minister responsible to Parliament. If they make a mistake, and everybody makes a mistake, they are not fit to face the subsequent criticism and attack which may be made upon them, because they cannot stand it as they find it is too much for them. That practice has been observed within the last 20 years in many cases. I do not think there has been a single instance of a great public official being brought out of his proper position and made virtually the person responsible to Parliament without more or less serious mischief. If you go on having a Secretary of State holding two offices it is almost inevitable that in the ease of the Air Force, the Secretary of State will become a mere pawn. The Scretary of State will come down and will make speeches and will say, "As Minister for Air, I take the fullest responsibility for this, that and the other." That is all quite unreal. It has been well said responsibility' is not an umbrella. You cannot take it if it does not belong to you. If the real responsibility is known to belong to the permanent head of the Department, you will' not stop Members of Parliament and newspapers criticising and attacking, sometimes very unfairly, that permanent Secretary.
It is the business of a Secretary of State to be the real head of his Department, and to take the burden of responsibility and to make the defence and to screen with a veil of impenetrable thickness the actions of his professional advisers, and their degree of responsibility. I hope that all Ministers will make it a rule never to shield themselves behind the authority of their professional advisers, but that they will stand on the defence they are able to make in Parliament. Otherwise you will get professional men put in a false position, to the mischief both of their personal position and that of the public, especially if the people get to think that those professional men are controlling directly the machine of Government, and if the newspapers abuse eminent permanent officials. That is a most dangerous step, which can only be prevented if the Parliamentary Chief screens the permanent official absolutely, not merely by a generous and chivalrous defence, but by an inpenetrable veil of secrecy. There is another aspect of the matter. I do not care how able the permanent official is or how much he is master of his work, it is not desirable that he should be freed from the criticism of the fresh mind of his Parliamentary Chief. Our Parliamentary system has advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is that you have a man who knows little or nothing of the subject matter, but who is an expert in human nature, put in at the top of the Department, ready to criticise and judge conflicting opinions, it may be, of his professional advisers. He is not able to judge from his knowledge, but he is able conspicuously so and better than any man in the Department, through his knowledge of human nature, to judge from the way in which the various professional advisors make good their case. He is indispensable from that point of view to the smooth working of our system, and he brings a moderating influence which is very necessary for experts. An expert has not only great knowledge, he almost always has great prejudices, and unless you have the Parliamentary Chief at the top, you have nothing to counteract those prejudices and nothing to make the machine work smoothly, without jostling against the excrescences of public opinion. Moreover, he lubricates the working of the Department beneath him. He is, as I say, an expert in human nature—if that is the only thing he has learned by his Parliamentary training he sees at a glance that So-and-so is a little touchy, that somebody else is a little egotistical, and the little defects of his professional coadjutors are apparent to him very rapidly indeed. He has seen them in his constituency beforehand, and these things he is able, therefore, to smooth over in a hundred ways. Moreover, of course, coming from another, profession, he has to encounter none of the jealousies or personal disputes or any of the other grit which so often gets into the machine when you are working one professional man with the other. On all these grounds. I am quite sure no Department can work properly unless it has an active, efficient Secretary of State or other Parliamentary head at the top. How is that possible if you unite two great Departments like the Air Ministry and the War Ministry? You will inevitably let the Air Ministry run by itself, or else you will inevitably let the War Ministry run by itself, and in either case it will be mischievous. There is in addition an objection, which has already been pointed out, that it is of vital importance that the Air Force should be independent and should at the same time work easily and smoothly both with the Navy and the Army. If the Navy thinks the Air Force is entirely in the hands of the Army and is under War Office influence, it certainly will not give that confidence to the Air Force that it is indispensable it should give, and the jealousy between the two senior services will constantly operate against the efficiency of the Air Force.
What would be my solution? I want a single Minister, but I do not want my right hon. Friend to resign the Air Force. The office I want him to resign is the War Office. He is a disciple of the air, he is almost one of its martyts. The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment compared him with Napoleon, but I think he ought rather to be compared with Icarus, for since his days there has never been an aviator quite like him. It was proposed, it is stated, in the Air Council that as a test of courage no one should receive a commission in the Air Force who had not given a lesson to the Secretary of State, but the proposal was rejected as the test was felt to be too severe and would lead to a serious shortage of officers. The right hon. Gentleman is, therefore, a man very well fitted to enter sympathetically into all the defects of the Air Force. On the other hand, I think he is almost a public danger in the War Office. In the time of peace we do not want a Minister of so much energy and devotion to his Department in the great combatant department of State. We want to have an elderly gentleman of conservative instincts, and my right hon. Friend might very well be at one of the Departments which watch over economy, or he might be in the Air Service, which has many tasks in time of peace on which he can expend his energies without hankering after another great European struggle, as we are sometimes afraid he floes. So on every ground I would rather see my right hon. Friend concentrate on the air and make that the sphere of his activities, and in that way we should not only have the advantage of a most skilful and efficient administrator in the air, but we should avoid setting this dangerous precedent, which, if not in his case, certainly in the case of his successors, must be fraught with mischief either to the War Office or to the Air Ministry.
No one could complain of the tone and temper of the remarks which have just been addressed to the House by my Noble Friend. He always speaks with particular insight on every occasion when he is called upon to deal with the affairs of the air and of the Air Force, in which he takes so great an interest, of which he has so extensive an experience, and for which he has a most profound and living sympathy. I was the last to complain of the mode in which he had passed his criticism or to object to the good-humoured chaff which at one moment depicted me as a danger to the lives of pilots and the next as a peril to the peace of Europe. I felt that my Noble Friend was giving effect to a line of criticism which is embodied in the Amendment now before the House, and which also I know arises from very careful and very instructive reflection on his part. I am going, in the short time that I will trespass on the attention of the House, to address myself to that main point, the union of the two Offices of State, of the Air and of War, in the hands of a single Minister, because that is substantially the only piece of serious criticism which I have heard to-day. Let me first of all deal with what I may call the merits, as apart, that is to say, from the principle involved. What is the complaint which is made on the merits? Is it that the independence and integrity of the Air Force have suffered during the last twelve months by this arrangement? Is it that the separate existence, of the Air Force has been menaced while I have been responsible for the two offices? Why, Sir, the exact contrary is the truth.
Show me—I say it to the Noble Lord and to my right hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Brigadier-General Seely)—show me a single step which could have been taken to assert the independence and integrity of the Royal Air Force during the last twelve months which has not in fact been taken, and taken on my responsibility. That is a fair question, and it is a very sweeping question. I say, show me any step which could have been taken, which reasonable men would have taken, which has not in fact been taken. My right hon. and gallant Friend said that there was a great difficulty in getting decisions, owing to my being so pressed with other work. Let me tell the House some of the decisions which have been reached during the present year—not decisions, mind you, which require merely the initial or the approving minute of the Minister at the head of the Department, but decisions which have to be wrested from other Departments of the State and for which Cabinet sanction and Treasury sanction have to be obtained, as the result of prolonged negotiations. We have obtained the transference of the whole construction and maintenance of airships from the Admiralty to the Air Ministry, thus completing the whole navigation of the air in the hands of the Air Ministry.
The great Departments of design and production and supply which I used to have under me at the Ministry of Munitions in the "War, and which carried with them all the experimental stations, the Isle of Grain, Marplesham, and others, all these great technical Departments, which were a most important portion of the work of the Ministry of Munitions in time of War, but which were always considered to be a vital part of the Air Ministry and always earnestly and ardently desired by the Air Ministry, have, since we lost the advantage of the assistance of my right hon. and gallant Friend opposite, been retained and obtained for the Air Ministry and are now an integral part of its organisation. The Meteorological Office, and the whole service of meteorology, has been taken over in the Air Service, and the Air Ministry is responsible to all Departments for all that is needful there. Civil aviation during the year has been, as I said before, rescued from the clutches, on the one hand, of the Board of Trade, and on the other hand, of the Ministry of Transport, and belongs to the Air Ministry. The Admiralty, we are told, are very discontented with the arrangement, but, as a matter of fact, they have treated the Air Ministry with the utmost consideration and goodwill during the whole of the present year. The Admiralty have intimated to us that they are desirous of assisting the Air Ministry to organise their future activities on a firm and durable basis, and they wish to emphasise that they have not the desire to establish a separate Naval Air Service. The War Office—the General Staff and the Army Council—have completely accepted the principle and policy of a separate, independent Air Force and Air Service. Separate uniforms have been introduced and perpetuated to mark the Air Service.
This is not a matter to sneer at. Some officers are proud of their uniform. A separate scale of ranks and titles has been introduced marking off the Air officers of every rank from their comrades in the other two Services. These are only to illustrate my point, but I defy any Member of the House to show any important step necessary to advance the integrity and independence of the Royal Air Force which could have been taken in the course of the present year which has not, in fact, been taken. So much for that. There is the general complaint, which may always be made, that the Department is not being well managed, that it is being conducted on wrong lines, that progress is not being made in building up the new Force, but we really have not had much evidence of that in the speeches which we have listened to to-day. Of course, the Air Force in its present condition, recovering as it is from the great War, absolutely dispersed and having to be recreated under circumstances of great difficulty—a Force which has been subected to an enormous contraction and retrenchment in the interests of economy, and which is cumbered with the debris all over the country, in 150 or 160 stations which we do not require, and the surplus plant and matériel of the Great War, which has been stripped of its skilled mechanics hurrying off to the attractive wages and employment of civil life—of course, a Force of that kind, in the first year of its new existence, is bound to present many points of weakness against which the shafts of criticism may be fired, but I say, broadly speaking and generously speaking, no one could deny a tribute of admiration to the work which has been achieved in clearing away the litter of the past and in building up this new structure which is now in a fair way to present itself effectively to the public.
My right hon. Friend complained, among other things, that we had not foreseen the need of acting with the Air Force sufficiently to save the Armenians, and that we could have saved many thousands of Armenian lives if we had taken steps to act with the Air Force. I am a great advocate of the use of the Air Force in many parts of the world, but a less promising theatre of action for its activities could hardly have been selected. The great difficulty of the Armenian problem is the fact that the Turkish and Armenian populations are so largely intermingled, and it is the massacres which arise from their close juxtaposition and intermingling that are the cause of our difficulties. Does anyone suppose it would help us in a case of that kind if our seaplanes could journey 500 miles from the Bosphorus to Armenia, or 200 miles to Marash, in Silesia, which is not, by the way, in our control at all, and then drop bombs on the towns and villages and the countryside in which Armenians and Turks are dwelling together. How that would benefit the Armenians or save thousands of lives, the experts I have consulted—not wishing to put my own opinion forward—are utterly at a loss to conceive. Really, in focussing his attack, for which, after all, he has a large field, I am surprised my right hon. Friend, with his great expert knowledge of the subject, has not embarked upon a more hopeful proposition. Is it that the Air Force is languishing because it is not being pushed sufficiently from the point of view of money? Of course, you could do a great deal more for the Air Force if you had more money. £15,000,000 is not a great deal of money at the present purchasing power of the pound. It amounts to very little more than £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 of money on the pre-War basis, and it is quite impossible on a sum like that to provide the Air Squadrons which are needed in the very disturbed areas, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, India, to provide those squadrons with their plant and trained mechanics, and, at the same time, keep alive this whole great industry of civil aviation. Of course, civil aviation and the great aeroplane firms are suffering, but that was inevitable in an industry created during the War and the exigencies of the War Here was an industry kept alive in the War on. which was spent upwards of £1,000,000 a day, and now we have £15,000,000 for the whole year. It is an impossible proposition.
I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend speak so sensibly, if I may say so without presumption, on the subject of civil aviation. Civil aviation must fly by itself; the Government cannot possibly hold it up in the air. The first thing the Government have got to do is to get out of the way, and the next thing is to smooth the way. But when both these steps have been taken—and I will take occasion to lay before the House very shortly a Paper by the Controller-General of Civil Aviation which will show in detail the very numerous steps which are being taken to facilitate civil aviation and to smooth the path of civil aviation—when those steps have been taken, I say, it must fly on its own power, and any attempt to support it artificially by floods of State money will not ever produce a really sound commercial aviation service which the public will use, and will impose a burden of an almost indefinite amount upon the Exchequer. I say that on the merits. Where is the attack justified in regard to the maintenance of the independence and integrity of the Royal Air Force? Where is there any real justification for the complaint that the Force is not being adequately and satisfactorily managed? I say, where is the justice of the complaint that we are not spending more money? With that I leave the merits as to whether in fact a good result has been achieved.
Now I want to come to the much more difficult proposition of whether the present arrangement of one Minister holding these two offices is, in fact, at the present time a good and convenient arrangement or not. I am addressing myself to what is admitted to be the most difficult part of the argument, and I will try to meet as fairly as I can the arguments which have been advanced against my point of view. Let me say at the outset that I wish to discuss this impersonally. I have no personal interest one way or the other in the matter. It really makes no difference to my internal peace of mind or daily satisfaction that I should receive each morning another great box of bulky papers, nor does it in any way affect my influence or position in the Cabinet or the Government to have another office of this kind placed in my hands. I have no personal interest in the matter at all. I told the Prime Minister at the time my right hon. Friend chose to take himself off—much to my regret—that I was perfectly ready to agree if he thought fit, and it would be convenient, that the offices should be divided. But, although on personal grounds I beg the House to believe I have no strong opinion one way or the other, I have a very strong opinion on public grounds. I have a strong public interest which leads me not only to defend the present arrangement, but to advise the House not to disturb it at the present time. The public interest is the smooth working of the two services, and the building up of an independent Air Service working harmoniously with the Army and the Navy. If the control of the two services is kept under one Minister at the present time and in the near future, that can, I believe, be done, and it is being done at the present time, and, in my judgment, it is the only way it can or will be done. I can, in fact, at the present time make the policy of the two departments march together. I can settle simply and easily and without friction a whole series of inter-departmental questions which otherwise would have to be fought out in the Cabinet, or delayed indefinitely during the ever-growing congestion of public business for want of Cabinet time. On this ground, I should greatly regret a retrogression in co-ordination, as would be involved at the present moment by a separation of the Air Secretaryship of State from that of the Army; but not on any personal ground.
Let me illustrate what I have said about the smooth working which is promoted at the present time. I will give the House three instances. A long and complicated discussion had been proceeding throughout the whole of last year between the Air Ministry and the War Office on the subject of the relation in tactical and administrative matters between the military commanders-in-chiefs in every theatre, and the officers commanding the Air Force detachments in those theatres. The principles to be reconciled were broadly as follows:—First, the supreme responsibility of the local commander-in-chief—that is vital. Secondly, the tactical integrity of any war plan or war operation—that is vital. Thirdly, equal and separate status of the Air Force, not being a subordinate department or branch of the military forces, but equal and separate. That, again, is a point of principle, to us vital. Fourthly, the distinction between the Independent Air Force, which may be used strategically under the authority of the Air Ministry, on the one hand, and the Air Force, including reconnaissances, bombing and fighting squadrons which are placed under the control of the local commander-in-chief; and, again, the further distinction between this latter force and air forces which are much more closely interwoven with the Army, such as the squadron spotting for the artillery or the flight attacks, which are intimately interwoven with the daily work and life of the military arm to which they are ancillary. I am not going to burden the House with this complicated business, but I am stating the problem. Needless to say, it is a problem that gave rise to the most healthy and at the same time most acute difficulties. Anyone who knows about these things will perceive that there are 20 points of principle which might arise on which acute differences of honest opinion could take place. If these differences had been concentrated in the organisation of two rival departments, and each point of view had been championed by the Minister at the head of each department, I doubt very much whether any solution would have been reached. If a solution had been reached, it seems to me very probable that the views of the far more powerful staff would have prevailed completely over the new, smaller and immature organisation of the Air Service. However, the fact is that both Departments owe allegiance to one Minister at the present time, and that has been sufficient in itself to prevent this undue particularism leading to a deadlock on the one hand or the other.
It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Raper) that whenever a question arises between the Air Ministry and the War Ministry, I naturally side with the larger and more powerful Department. In practice the exact contrary has happened. So far from using my dual position to over-ride the air point of view, and to favour the larger Department, of which I am the head, I was able to persuade the General Staff, and an arrangement has been come to which is entirely satisfactory to the Air Staff, and which has been loyally-accepted by the General Staff. This arrangement is working quite smoothly everywhere that it has been put into application up to the present time. But the advantage does not stop there, and did not stop there in this case. The fact that this arrangement had been reached between the War Office and the Air Ministry greatly facilitated a satisfactory settlement being discussed and arrived at with the Admiralty, and the principles which were arrived at between the Air Staff and the General Staff have been found of the greatest value in dealing with the far more complicated and, in many respects, altogether diverse conditions which prevail in regard to aircraft in connection with the. Fleet.
I take another illustration. When I was speaking on the Army Estimates I offered the suggestion that the Air Force should try and see if they could exercise an effective control over peace and order in Mesopotamia. No greater opportunity could be offered to the Air Service than that a chance to have the whole of the Military responsibility placed in their hands for the internal security of Mesopotamia. What greater encouragement could you offer the Air officers than the possibility of such a command? What clearer proof could be given of the independent and equal status of the Air Force than to have, in an appropriate theatre of ground and river, a Force serving under their own command? Is not that one of the ways in which you will assert this equality of status between the two Forces where you have the Military Commander-in-Chief with the Local Air Officer under him, but independent? In Mesopotamia you have had a Royal Air Force Officer in command and the Military detachment serving under him. How-could this gateway of the possible expansion ever have been opened at this stage of the Royal Air Force if the Minister at the head of the War Office, who at this moment is responsible for order in Mesopotamia, had not had an equally keen interest in the Air Force and in securing economies irrespective of the Department in which economy was secured?
From my point of view it makes no difference in which of the two Departments the economy is secured. I consider the total. If I was saving £10,000,000 on the War Office Estimates in regard to Mesopotamia, by adding £5,000,000 to the Air Force Estimates I should not look at it from the War Office point of view, but from the dual and general point of view, and it would be a source of undiluted satisfaction to me. It would be impossible if the Minister had not this interest in both forces. It would be impossible if the relations between the two Departments were not rapidly becoming those of close sympathy and confidence. I am sure that but for this arrangement, which some of my hon. Friends of the Air Service have criticised, this particular project would not have been thought of. Whether it will be carried out will depend entirely upon the capability of the staff in devising plans, which really gives us an assurance that the country can be held with air-power as the main and dominant factor. That they have got to prove to the satisfaction of the Cabinet. But the opportunity is there! That opportunity has been freely offered to the Air Force. Speaking with many years' experience of these fighting Departments, I am certain that it would never have been offered but for this dual arrangement which has found so little favour with some hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon.
Take the third example, Somaliland. It is the first Air campaign in that country. Does anyone suppose that that campaign could have been arranged so easily or so secretly if there had been differences of view and a division of responsibility between the general staff and the Air staff? If those differences had developed into a conflict it would have been quite impossible. A separate air plan put forward for the campaign might have conceivably led to military forces being drawn in. There would undoubtedly have been criticism from the outset by the general staff had it not been that there was this connection between the two Departments, but for the fact that we were gathered under one head, which enabled a satisfactory liaison to be maintained. It surprises me with such evidence publicly before their eyes of the growing independence and equality of the Royal Air Force that some hon. and right hon. Members of the House, who profess to be well informed, should continue to bewail the cramped and subservient position of the Air Force, and attribute that position to the system of unified control which at present exists. Here let me point out that it is not dual control. In a previous debate on this subject some hon. Member described the arrangement as dual control. It is not that. It is the reverse of dual control. It is unified control. Dual control is two persons attempting to control one thing. The reverse process is one person attempting to control two things.
Perhaps the House will bear with me while I approach my conclusion by another argument, and quite a different one. I will try in this respect to meet the criticism of my Friend (Lord Hugh Cecil). It is said that there ought to be a separate Cabinet Minister at the head of the Air Service. That is also the contention of my right hon. Friend (Major-General Seely). It is asserted that it is derogatory to the status of the Air Force not to have a separate Minister, not to have a champion of their own in the Cabinet. Such a' suggestion, I do not believe, will be found practical at the present time. It will not be found either convenient or justifiable. That, I know, is the opinion of the Prime Minister and of the Leader of the House. It is not a matter which rests with me to settle one way or the other. The Prime Minister wished me to state fully the arguments on this matter, I will do so in general terms.
First of all, there is the question of the size of the Cabinet I think everybody who thinks about these subjects would regard a Cabinet of twelve or thirteen as an ideal Cabinet. In practice such a number is not possible. It is not possible because the growing complications of government, the claims of usage and precedent, the demand of great interests in our national life, and of important parts of the United Kingdom, have compelled, step by step, enlargement, until we have reached the normal pre-War size of the Cabinet of something like twenty. Everyone, I think, would say that if such a number erred in any direction, it erred in the direction of being unwieldy. But the demand which is made by several speakers, if it is to be met at all, involves an addition to that number. I know it may be said that one more or less cannot make any particular difference. But it is not a question of one more or less. The Air Ministry is a new office. It is a comparatively small service. The £15,000,000 which I mentioned is the figure assigned to develop this service. It is only worth at present, on pre-War rates, between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000. Compare it with the Post Office, for instance, or the Pensions Ministry, or the Food Ministry. These various Departments touch our national life at every point, and I say, if you decide this question on the merits of the inclusion of a separate Minister in the Cabinet for the Air Service, you could not possibly decide without including three or four, or possibly five, of the other Ministries at the same time.
It may be said, why not have a separate Air Minister without a seat in the Cabinet? [An HON. MEMBER, "Hear, hear!"] Well, I am trying to meet that point, and I hope my hon. Friend will give me credit for it. Surely that really would place the Air Force at a disadvantage compared with the Army and the Navy! Here you have the two powerful Services and Departments, into each of which the Air Force is going to come, at the expense of both, and of whom it alone will expand. Permanently represented in the Cabinet and the new fighting service excluded! What chance would it have in competition with the other two services in these circumstances? The hon. Member opposite for North Kensington (Lieut.-Colonel Burgoyne), in the course of a very well-informed speech, spoke of Cinderella and her cloak, of a dark atmosphere, and he used a number of other very picturesque expressions as ornaments to his already eloquent speech. In this case the service would indeed be the Cinderella, and would be left outside while the two elder and presumably uglier sisters had gone into the ball.
Yes, by securing admission to the ball! My argument goes to show that but for the undue congestion at the entertainment it is highly possible that she would not have succeeded even in securing the exceptional admission which she did secure. The more you examine this question with patience and goodwill the more I venture to think the House will be drawn to the conclusion that the present arrangement, although in some ways anomalous and open to criticism, is nevertheless not only the best that is possible now, but the only one. I believe this is the only arrangement which would have preserved the independence of the Air Service during the present year. Everyone can sec what a formidable danger the Air Service has encountered during this year since the War stopped. There are many in both the services, the Army and the Navy, who thought that the Air Service should be divided into a naval wing, and a military wing, and that Civil Aviation should be given to the Board of Trade. That is a perfectly clear point of view, very powerfully held both at the War Office and Admiralty, and, I dare say, at the Board of Trade as well. I can quite conceive such a view might have received support from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I do not mean personally, but from the Treasury—because it is perfectly clear that such an arrangement would show immediate economies in the central establishments of the Air Service. Our answer to-day, and I hope in the future, is the belief that the Air Service is going to grow, expand, and develop at the expense of—and to the advantage of the public—of both the other great services. But that is not their point of view. I was asked what is the arrangement in France. This is the arrangement which has been made in France: The Military Air Service is under the Military Section of the War Office, and the Naval under the Admiralty, while Civil Aviation has been erected into a Department of its own under a Secretary of State for Aviation.
These are the two alternatives. But everyone of those hon. Members who have criticised from the point of view of their desire to see an independent separate Air Service have criticised the present arrangement because they think it is not the best method to secure that end. All I know is that nothing but the exertions which have been ceaseless during the year have prevented the solution adopted in France being applied here. Had the two great services joined together they might have used their influence and power and the result of their authority might have been, in all probability, that the independent Air Service, which all in common are deeply devoted to and believe in, would not have had the chance of gaining a separate and independent existence. On even larger lines I believe the present arrangement must commend itself to the judgment of all. The Government of the country is bound to become more complex; new functions important to the life and welfare of the nation will force themselves on the State as time passes. New Ministries will have to be created to deal with them, and indeed, four or five have been created already in the revolution which the War caused in our affairs. I am not speaking of any intention on the part of the Government to create any such Ministries. I am only speaking of a general tendency which in the course of years will be found to be irresistible. How is this tendency to be reconciled with effective working? Cabinet Government to-day, requires a Council of moderate, and even small, size, every Member of which feels that he bears joint responsibility for the whole policy of the State. It is no remedy for the ever-increasing congestion of business to create individual Ministries each with separate representation. That would only lead to a breakdown of Cabinet Government by, reason of the increase in the size of that instrument. The only way in which this problem will ultimately be coped with is by a grouping of Departments, not only in defence, but in several of the domestic spheres. I see no other way in which can be surmounted the difficulty of the modern development of events. The arrangement which we have made, although it is incomplete, is entirely in harmony with what I believe to be the inevitable development.
I have now only to deal with the argument put forward by two of the speakers that the Air Ministry is a wholetime job which requires the entire daily attention of a single Minister. Certainly the task of building up a new Air Service is one which requires the whole attention of a high authority, but in spite of the arguments which my Noble Friend put forward, I do not think it is a task which at this stage is best discharged primarily by the Minister at the head of the Department. He is there to control, to supervise, to suggest, to define, to co-ordinate, to guide and to take full and real Parliamentary responsibility. There is an Under-Secretary, who also has a large share of administrative and of Parliamentary business, to which he has addressed himself with great enthusiasm, and in the financial sphere I have derived the greatest possible assistance from the work which has been done by Lord Londonderry during the last fifteen months. But the man to whom the primary task of building up this new Service belongs is the Chief of the Air Staff, Major Trenchard. My Noble Friend is wrong in supposing that in a fighting department like the Admiralty or the War Office, it is the business of the head himself to initiate the whole flow of movement on professional matters. It is not. He has a higher function, but it is a secondary function and not a primary function. I do not take the view that in a fighting department a political Minister should try to initiate the whole of the professional work himself, and I am sure he would fail if he tried to do so. He has to see to the carrying out of the general policy of the Government for which he assumes Parliamentary responsibility, but he must secure from his subordinate that initiative, that spontaneous creative effort in all branches without which no great business, no large undertaking can possibly be carried forward with success.
His task is one of very great difficulty. The Air Service is not like the Army or the Navy. These have their hundreds of years of tradition; they possess regiments and institutions which have grown venerable generation after generation. But the Air Service is a brand new force; it is an arm which has only got the glorious records it gained during the War; it was created by that trouble and fanned into the open on the fierce wind of war, and it was almost entirely dispersed at the close. Now we are laboriously reconstructing it with units which will really stand the test of long years, and we have to create squadrons and institutions to which fathers will be proud to send their sons either as officers, as mechanics or as men, assured that there will be for them honourable associations and a fine school, a school not only of airmen but of science: not only of science but of conduct, worthy to hold its place in spirit and in action with the best that the Army or the Navy have ever been able to produce. We want to build up a Service which men will leave with a first-rate training, both moral and practical, enabling them to take their place in all the varying conditions of civil life.
For this two things are indispensable—time and stability. One of the greatest evils which the Air Force has suffered from has been the repeated chopping and changing which has gone on in regard to the system of control and in respect of the personnel who control it. Up to a year ago hardly six months had passed—I almost said four months—without vital changes being made in the Staff, affecting the whole structure and principle of the Force, and creating a spirit of unrest and uncertainty in every rank. Now, at any rate, the present Air Council and the present Chief of the Air Staff have had one year of wide freedom of action with secure assured authority. It will require at least three years to obtain the results to which we aspire, and which we have a right to look for. During the year which has passed since we formed the new Air Council, I have allowed no changes of any kind which could possibly be avoided. The same men are staying in the same seats exercising authority over the same sphere, and they are doing so with an increasing feeling on their part that it is worth their while to make plans and economies, not for the current year, but for the next year and the year after, thus getting the feeling of confidence that, at any rate, their job will last, and their subordinates in all ranks are increasingly feeling that they belong to a stable and solid institution, where men are not jockeying each other for personal advantage or advancement, and where they may do their duty in confidence day after day and month after month, in the rank and station in which they are serving. I urge most strongly on those who have the welfare of the Air Force at heart, that whatever Minister may, for the time being, be in charge, he must establish in this organisation those conditions of stability and discipline without which no fine results, no real or certain success can possibly be achieved.
|Division No. 56.]||AYES.||[7.0 p.m.|
|Agg Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Purchase, H. G.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Glyn, Major Ralph||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gould, James C.||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Green, Albert (Derby)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Reid, D. D.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Greig, Colonel James William||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford).|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Royden, Sir Thomas|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Hartshorn, Vernon||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Simm, M. T.|
|Buchanan, Lieut-Colonel A. L. H.||Hood, Joseph||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Cololnel A.||Hope, H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n, W.)||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Burden, Colonel Rowland||Hudson, R. M.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Stevens, Marshall|
|Cairns, John||Irving, Dan||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Campion, Lieut-Colonel W. R.||Jephcott, A. R.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Jesson, C.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Casey, T. W.||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Taylor, J.|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Kellaway, Frederick George||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South).|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Kenyon, Barnet||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Kidd, James||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||King, Commander Henry Douglas||Turton, E. R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)||Vickers, Douglas|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Walton, J. (York,. W. R. Don Valley)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lloyd, George Butler||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lloyd-Greame, Major p.||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Loseby, Captain C. E.||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport).|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Lyon, Laurance||Whitla, Sir William|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Dawes, James Arthur||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Wignall, James|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Macmaster, Donald||Wilkle, Alexander|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Macquisten, F. A.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Edwards, John H. (Glam., Neath)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel. s||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Mitchell, W. Lane||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Morrison, Hugh||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Neal, Arthur||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Foreman, Henry||Nield, Sir Herbert||Younger, Sir George|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Forrest, Walter||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Parker, James||Ward.|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Pearce, Sir William|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Finney, Samuel||Hogge, James Myles|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Galbraith, Samuel||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Bromfield, William||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Kiley, James D.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Grundy, T. W.||Lunn, William|
|Cape, Thomas||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Hayday, Arthur||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hayward, Major Evan||Morgan, Major D. Watts|
|Devlin, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross).|
|Donnelly, P.||Hirst, G. H.||Myers, Thomas|
|Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John||Wallace, J.|
|Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Sexton, James||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Spencer, George A.||Williams, Col. p. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Spoor, B. C.|
|Raper, A. Baldwin||Swan, J. E. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Redmond, Captain William Archer||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Lieut.-Colonel Malone and Major|
|Richards, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Tillett, Benjamin||McKenzie Wood.|
|Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Tootill, Robert|
I only desire to make a few remarks on the general subject. There has been a long Debate to-day. A brilliant statement was made by the Under-Secretary of State for Air, establishing no doubt a very good case; as good a case as ever I have heard made for expenditure on aviation. I am one of those who wish to see more got for the money we spend and some economy made in the general expenditure of the Government. As a rule this House has not gained power by cavilling at a particular Estimate; but what has happened to them last year, and for the last 20 years on the Estimates, is that various grievances have been brought forward, reductions have been moved, and the grievances put right. But we have come, to-day to the position that this House reached years ago, when it was absolutely necessary to stop the extravagance of the Government and the country. I am not complaining, and I do not think anybody can complain of the Prime Minister not being heart and soul in favour of economy. The answers he gave to-day at question time show how determined he was to keep public expenditure down, but the difficulty is how to do it. Ministers come to this House and say: "We cannot have economy because this House is always voting for extravagance." It is quite true, and many of us are to blame. But there is another form of economy There is the method of running each Department on the smallest possible amount, and of getting the greatest possible amount of work out of them in return. Of late years there has been a system of appointing Committees of the House to inquire into expenditure. A Committee of the House is not much use at finding where the expenditure goes. They may be very anxious to make economies, and they may give some very good advice; but the only man who can really reduce expenditure in any business is the man who is thoroughly conversant with the work of that business. The head Government officials are the only people who can possibly make real economies in the government of those Departments. The permanent officials know every detail; they know exactly where there is a man too many, a room too many, an unnecessary publication, or an unnecessary piece of printing. They have absolute knowledge of where reductions can be made. It is true there is very little encouragement to them to make reductions. It means, sometimes, turning a friend out of a good job. It is the duty of this House to see that they are employed in reducing expenditure. The right hon. Genteman, in his speech just now, mentioned how, in the Air Ministry, men were sitting there month after month and were looking forward to being two or three years permanently in that position, and were making economies for next year, and even for three years hence. Exactly. They are the people who can do it. How are we to persuade them to do it still than they are doing it to-day. There is only one way, and that is for the House, not to move reductions to this or that item, but to say to the Ministry and the Department: "You have got to make economies. We are going to reduce what you ask for by so many millions. We do not care where You make them, but make them with as little cost of efficiency as possible." Let the House say: "We will reduce the whole sum and leave it to those who know where reductions can be made to decide how those reductions are made." We should not try, with our inexpert knowledge of each Department, to pick holes in this or that part of their working. That is the possibility of real economy, upon which this House should insist—that each and all the Departments should reduce their expenditure. I do not say that this Department is extravagant. I do not say any Department is extravagant, but they probably are; and if this House will only determine that they should be run at a less cost, it can do it by knocking off the total expenditure on the whole Department. I absolutely believe in the Ministers who are now in office. I believe the Prime Minister is in earnest, and I believe that this House can assist them in reducing the expenditure of the country, if they do it, not in small bits, but move their reductions on the workings of each Department.
Before you leave the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I should like to address a few remarks to the House on the subject of this Vote. This is the first of the Armament Votes, the first detailed Estimate for the fighting services. We are asked to approve of an expenditure of £21,000,000, which represents, if I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, a normal expenditure of about £16,000,000 or a little less. At the same time, we are asked to Vote and approve of 150,000 men. The present needs to-day, according to the Supreme Council, if the world generally, and Europe in particular, is going to get on its legs, are demobilisation, economy, and work. The great need to-day, according to the Supreme Council, is demobilisation. It is no good our scolding the Poles, the Czccho-Slovaks, the Jugo Slavs, and the other small nations, old and new, that have been created or recreated in Europe. It is no good our scolding them about excessive expenditure on armaments, if we do not lead the way ourselves. In the present state of the world I think we want a great deal more justification than we have had for the expenditure of this amount of money and the keeping of 150,000 men.
My crucial argument was addressed to the question of money, and I think I was correct in saying that we are asked to vote approximately £21,000,000, corresponding to a normal amount of £16,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman has quite properly drawn my attention to the fact that I misread the number of men, but I do not think he was up till the hour I was this morning voting against Government expenditure. If he had been he would, perhaps, have sympathised with my not being able to study these Estimates with the care I should have wished to give to them. We have been voting money on different Estimates at such a rate that it has been extremely difficult for hon. Members, with the best will in the world, to pay very great attention to the details of each particular one.
What will be the effect upon Europe of the news that we have voted this money on the Air Service eighteen months after the Armistice? I admit that a case can be made out for the erection and maintenance of schools and training establishments at the. birth of a new service, but that, will not be the argument used, for example, in the Polish Parliament, if there are any economists there and they bring forward a plea for reduced expenditure. They will remark that even pious England is spending £21,000,000 this year, in a time of almost peace, on aircraft alone. If we could show a corresponding reduction in naval and military expenditure, there might be something to be said for it, but I do not think the Navy or the Army can economise a million of money because of aircraft, and I am afraid that, when we come to examine Naval Estimates, we shall find that extra money is being asked for on Naval Services to enable them to work in co-operation with aircraft. The right hon. Gentleman, in his remarkably interesting and able speech, rather made fun of his late colleague at the Air Ministry, who suggested that aircraft might have been used for keeping peace internally in Turkey. Hesaid that he had consulted his expert advisers, and that they agreed with him that it was impossible for aircraft to have any effect in that direction. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that, during the last 18 months, the effect of long-distance aeroplane flights over those areas where massacres have been taking place or were threatened, would have had no effect. Would the stationing of seaplanes on Lake Van have had no effect whatever? Would there have been no moral support to the unfortunate Armenians or no effect upon the rebel Turkish influence in those districts? I was speaking to a very distinguished Armenian the other day, and sympathising with his people in their sufferings as he described them to me, and he complained bitterly of the lack of support which the Republic of Erivan had had from the Allies. He said that if one-tenth of the expenditure that has been lavished and wasted in Russia had been used to support the Armenians, we should have had none of those massacres and outrages. I make no apology for drawing attention to that, because the speech of the hon and gallant Member (Major Tryon) did touch upon the work of British aircraft in Russia. We are told that the Armenians and Turks are so mixed up in Asia Minor that it is impossible for aircraft to operate. I do not propose that undefended villages should be attacked, in fact I deplore very much the use that has already been made of aircraft to bomb villages in Egypt; it is a new use of a military arm which I think needs careful checking, and I am not sure whether in the long run it is not going to do more harm than good. There arc, however, military camps under the command of Mustapha Kemil which could have been raided by our new long-range aircraft from the Black Sea. Some of the squadrons that have been sent to assist the White Forces under General Denikin in South Russia might have been employed, at any rate in demonstrating along the shores of the Black Sea. I should like to know if any aircraft carriers have visited Trebizond and Batoum, and their machines sent out over the plains of Anatolia. If not, I think we are too late in demonstrating with Dreadnoughts in the Bosphorus. A little display in Asia Minor of the air power which we hear so much about when money is asked for, might have saved the lives of a few innocent Armenians; but that is a matter of the past, and we have to deal with the expenditure that we are asked for at the present moment.
The whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech reeked of militarism. He spoke of the pride and the traditions of the new squadrons or units that are going to be built up, and he spoke of the great military vested interest that was going to be created in aircraft. We do not want a vested military interest in a British Air Service. If the right hon. Gentleman had spoken a little of the possibility of an International Air Force, working under the control and to the orders of the League of Nations, I should have been personally much better pleased. That is the tradition that we want to build up now. There has been too much of the cry of this Guards Regiment and that Death's Head Regiment, of a new and growing pride in some aerial squadron. Esprit de Corps in war time is extraordinarily valuable, and in peace time it does help to weld together and build up the discipline and spirit of a fighting force; but it has also been one of the most potent causes of the evil of war. It unfortunately appeals to certain instincts in the human race which I had hoped the new era would see turned into a better direction. This is a matter of high policy with which we have few opportunities of dealing, but I should have liked to see the nations of Europe setting about a drastic disarmament—reduction is insufficient—and spending their money, scanty and hard earned as it will be in the lean years that are ahead of us, in building up an international police force, responsible to a higher authority than the nationalist spirit which, in its exaggerated and perverted form, has been one of the most fruitful causes of war and suffering in the world. I agree with the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir C. Warner) that we ought to attack these estimates in the mass, we ought to move great reductions, and to protest by dividing against them. This is the first of the Armament Estimates. No doubt it has given much pleasure to the Army, and it may have comforted a few of the many hundreds of officials who apparently require £181,000 a year for the Air Ministry at home. But I do not think it will afford much comfort to the people of this country, or much example to the bankrupt, starving, chaotic peoples of Central Europe, who need a lead, and are not getting it from the country which has in the past been held in such esteem by the world.