asked the Prime Minister (1) whether the Government have yet been able to consider the question of the control and provision for the air arm of the Royal Navy; whether the Government are satisfied that adequate provision is being made to meet the Admiralty requirements for fighting, reconnaissance, and spotting planes; whether better provision in these respects and actual economies can be made if a re-organisation of the branch of the Royal Air Force operating with the Royal Navy is carried out and the Royal Navy made responsible for and be given control of its air arm;
(2) whether, in view of the alarm which is admittedly felt by the Government regarding the present position of the aircraft industry in this country and of the vital importance of the industry to the country, he can announce before the House rises what immediate steps the Government intend to take to deal with the situation?
asked the Prime Minister whether the- Imperial Defence Committee has reached any decision which will enable production orders to he given forthwith to the recognised British aircraft and aero-engine firms, so that, they may find it possible to keep their works going and their experienced staffs together until the House reassembles in November?
I do not think that at the present stage I can usefully add to what I said on Thursday last in reply to questions on these subjects. The whole problem is engaging the earnest attention of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and there will be no avoidable delay in coming to a decision. But, having regard to the difficulty and importance of the problem, I cannot fix any definite time limit.
Did not the right, hon. Gentleman intimate that he would make known the decision before the rising of Parliament, and would it be convenient to put down a question on Thursday next?
Yes, I think I might be able to answer a question then. As a matter of fact, we sat a couple of hours this morning to consider this matter, but it involves many important considerations.
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Air if his attention had been called to the publication in a London evening newspaper, on Friday and Saturday last, of detail statements as to the preparations for aerial defences of the Empire, and which are stated to be "exclusive" to the newspaper in question; whether the information so disclosed is authentic, if so, who is responsible for giving it to one newspaper, if, and why, it is in the public interest that such information should be published; and, if it is unauthentic, will the Minister take immediate steps to officially repudiate it?
I assume that the hon. Member refers to the statements on the air defence of London, which appeared in the "Evening News" on Friday and Saturday. These statements are, to a large extent, accurate. Much of the substance of them will be found in my speech introducing the Air Estimates on 21st March, to which I would refer the hon. Member. The Press published this information at the time, and I conclude that this newspaper has now reproduced it in view of the great interest at present being taken in air defence. Other details were, no doubt, obtained by the intelligent use of ordinary sources of information, such as the Air Force list and previous Press reports. No exclusive information whatever was given to this newspaper. In reply to the last part of the question, I do not think that any further action is necessary beyond what I have already said in this reply.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he remembers that in the Friday night issue there was a map of London and its environs, and I would like him to tell the House if he can whether that map was authentic, or whether it was an intelligent deduction from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman delivered in March last?