May I ask for your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? The whole subject of the Auxiliary Air Force has so far been excluded from the Debates. I quite admit that it could have been raised in general terms on the question of getting the Speaker out of the Chair, a week ago, but that is not a very good opportunity to raise a discussion upon what is a very big experiment in Air Force organisation. Therefore, I thought that possibly under Resolutions 2, 3 or 4, it might have been possible to deal with the personnel of the Auxiliary Air Force or with the material and equipment which are employed in that Force; otherwise I am afraid that it may simply go by default in the middle of the night or the end of the Session, and that nobody will have very much chance of expressing his views upon such an important subject.
I am afraid that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot discuss that question upon any of these Votes, because, as he will see from the Estimates, the particular Votes to which he refers are expressly excluded. This relates to the auxiliary air service which has a Vote to itself. That particular Vote for the Auxiliary Service has not yet been before the Committee or been passed by the Committee, and therefore it has the ordinary stages to go through of Committee stage and Report stage. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman must take his chance of raising the question when the particular Vote comes up in Committee or on Report.
I want to raise only two points. The first is in respect of men who are discharged upon completion of their service, and who have applied to complete for a pension, but, owing to the trades being full, they are unable to have their applications granted. I am not in any way trying to criticise the administration of the Air Ministry in respect of the limited number of men for pension, but I expect that many hon. Members as well as myself have had letters from constituents who are in the Services saying that they are bitterly disappointed and asking for our assistance and influence, if we have any, to allow them to complete for pension. Would it not be possible to institute some system whereby these men are notified earlier than is the case at present, when their services according to contract are completed, and when they will be unable to be granted an application in respect of the completion of further service for pension, so that what I would call—
I am not trying to deal with pensions; I am trying to deal with the administration of the Air Ministry in respect of these men while they are still on the active last, in order that, when they become non-effectives, their life may be somewhat easier than it is in the present circumstances. I would ask my right hon. Friend if the Air Ministry could consider some system whereby there should be notification of what trades are open for completion up to the pension stage at an earlier time than is now the case. A man probably applies within the last few months of his 12-year period of service, for permission to complete his service for pension, but that application cannot be granted. If it were possible to let him know a year or two years beforehand—the Ministry themselves know—that his trade is full, I feel that this disappointment just before he goes into civil life might be avoided, and his ability to get work when he has left the Service might be enhanced.
The second point that I desire to raise is with regard to the Fleet Air Arm allowances for officers, which come under this Vote. I know that during the last year the Air Ministry have been able to some extent to rectify the anomalies. Fleet Air Arm officers have to serve a certain number of months afloat each year, which entails upon them a certain loss of allowances. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is satisfied now that the officer of the Royal Air Force serving in the Fleet Air Arm has a completely fair deal with respect to allowances? If the answer is in the affirmative, I hope that my right hon. Friend will allow me to bring to his notice some cases which I do not think are very fair; while, if the answer is in the negative, I should be glad if my right hon. Friend could give me an assurance that the Air Ministry have this matter constantly under review, and that, as and when financial circumstances permit, they will take steps to put it right.
With regard to the question of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour), about men who wish to apply to be allowed to continue their service in order to qualify for pension, it surprises me to hear him say that the notice given is not enough. We try to give as long notice as we possibly can. I will certainly take note of my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion, and see whether any alteration is possible whereby earlier notice can be given, but we have the whole question constantly in mind, and, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, we have now largely increased the gratuities for ex-apprentices and are doing everything that we can to mitigate hardships which we are unable to avoid.
In the second place, my hon. and gallant Friend asks me, with regard to general allowances, to reply "Yes" or "No" to his question whether I am completely satisfied with the position. I should be very sorry, and I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend would be very sorry, if I were able to answer a question of that kind either simply in the affirmative or simply in the negative. The situation was definitely much more unfavourable than it is now. Owing to what we have been able to do in the last year, the situation has been greatly eased, and I think my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that what we have been able to do has gone a long way towards mitigating what was certainly an acknowledged evil.
I again rise for the purpose of asking assistance and information from you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to whether any opportunity can be found, under this Vote or the next one, to discuss what preparations are being made, if any, for a programme of expansion which may have to be announced in this House within a few months time? I do not know whether, under the head of payments which have to be made between 31st March, 1934, and 31st March, 1935, any opening could be found for consideration of what the programme of expansion might come to.
I want to ask my right hon. Friend if he can say anything about the proposed aerodrome at Mablethorpe, and what progress is expected to be made with it during the coming year? It is close to the sea coast, and we shall be very glad to hear anything that my right hon. Friend can tell us about it.
I desire to ask a question regarding an aerodrome which is in the middle of my constituency, namely, at Manston. Could my right hon. Friend say how long the married quarters at that aerodrome will have to continue in wooden war-time huts? I have raised this question on various occasions before, and have been told that the future of the Manston Air Station was still under consideration. Has its future as a permanent peace-time station now been settled, and, if so, can any works that may be necessary there be done under this Vote?
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) is inquiring this year in a very different tone about the aerodrome which is situated in his constituency. Last year, and I think on previous occasions, he was rather inclined to take exception to what I pointed out to him would be a benefit to his constituency. In the course of the past year he appears to have realised that it will be a benefit to his constituency, and is anxious that it should be completed as soon as possible. I can give him every assurance that that will be the case. With regard to Manston, I am afraid I cannot tell my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) anything very satisfactory to him. The policy regarding the station is not yet definitely settled, and, until it is definitely settled, it would obviously be a mistake to demolish the huts to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, and which, although they are of no permanent use, will be useful during the intervening period. I will take note of what he has asked me, and will on the earliest possible occasion give him as much information as I can.
In this Vote we are granting a vast sum of money for the provision of aeroplanes, seaplanes, engines and spare parts, the primary object of which is to defend this country against an aerial attack. But on 10th November, 1932, the Lord President of the Council made this statement in the House:
I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can prevent him from being bombed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 632, Vol. 270.]
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary what is the point of our voting this very large sum of money for the provision of these machines, if in fact there is no defence against aerial attack, and whether that is the considered view of the Air Ministry? During the last War,
when our Air Force was considerably larger than it is to-day, we effectively prevented all German raiders from May, 1918, onwards from breaking through. Would my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that the number of machines that we are about to build with the money which we are now going to grant will be sufficient at any rate to give us the same security in future, should the necessity arise, as we had during the last War? If the Under-Secretary can say that that is the case, I am sure it would give profound relief to the country, and we should be able to agree to the Resolution with enthusiasm.
I should like to ask for rather more details than are given in relation to engines, and what plans have been made to provide for an expansion, if such an expansion is called for. I do not think it is quite realised that the key to any expansion of any moment in the air depends on the engine. We found that to be the case in the last War. We found that, despite the utmost efforts that were made, we never could ge within 25 per cent. of the aeroplane production, because of our inability to build engines, and, as I was the person concerned and responsible, I realise this difficulty only too well. More than that, if the building of planes had been allowed to be extended as it could have been, we should have been 50 per cent. down. These are the figures that were worked out afterwards, and they are perfectly sound. They indicate in what a terrible state we should be if this difficulty were not properly foreseen. The arrangements that we have for research at Farnborough are good, but it is during the period between leaving research and beginning to get into production that the necessity arises for some expansible body, so to speak, some arrangement which will allow of a great increase as compared with ordinary production, and I am afraid that we have not got it. I am afraid that the belief of the Lord President of the Council, whom I am very glad to see in his place, that we could bring ourselves to a parity with the nearest striking force, is a belief that he would not hold if he went in for building engines.
Situated as we are, it is practically impossible, unless the Under-Secretary can tell us something that I do not know, to increase our Air Force if we wished to do it. The aero-engine is a piece of mechanical engineering of the most highly skilled kind. It approximates to a watch. It depends upon extraordinarily skilled workmen, high-class machinery, and the finest materials that we have, and of all these things we found last time that we had not anything like sufficient. We drew engines from France, from Italy, from America, and, despite that, we were 25 per cent. down on the production of planes. If these Estimates are to provide for all this being done should the occasion arise in the future, something that is not disclosed will have to be told us by the Under-Secretary when he replies on what I consider to be the most difficult problem of the whole question. We cannot build engines today any easier than we could before. I do not think there is any harm in my saying that we drew very many engines from France, and each engine cost at least £200 to put into the position of being a usable engine so far as we were concerned. I only mention that to show how difficult it is to increase your supply. If there were a large number of aircraft on order in this country, for defence, I do not see how it would be possible to get through with them on account of the difficulties of engine production.
We must remember that the engine that secured the Schneider Cup for us is a very highly developed form of engine which is practically unable to be built anywhere except in the works in which it was designed. It is accepted generally that 90 per cent of the performance of an aircraft is dependent on the engine and if you are going to depend on this remarkable engine for results, where will you be if you desire to get in a short time parity with the nearest striking force? It seems to me that it is almost impossible. I do not want to go too far with this, but it is to me so extraordinarily serious that I feel it my duty to press the point as hard as I can. That is the only reason that I am speaking. It is without question the key to the whole situation. Unless further steps are taken and a broader basis built up, I am afraid we shall be seriously disappointed when the time comes in trying to build anything like the volume that we shall be called upon to build if affairs abroad do not go through as we should like.
Another important matter is the development of engines using oil fuel. Those engines are specifically developed for very long distance flights. All very large flying boats which have to fly long distances should be equipped with these engines. The consumption is so much less than that of the normal engine that they give the boat a range which would otherwise be impossible. Although it is eight years since I designed an engine we have not yet got a large flying boat equipped with oil engines for long distance flights. The fact shows that there is something wrong. We are not, surely, waiting for any other country to develop them, because we have the finest engine-builders and designers, and I do not quite know where the difficulty is which has caused this development to go on so exceedingly slowly. Wherever we stand with engines, we must in the end depend on the fuel that we are going to use, and greater steps should be taken to secure that we have a larger reserve and a more protected source from which we draw the oils. In taking steps to produce our own oil here we are making an advance, but we should take further steps to protect sources within the Empire and, if possible, carry on still more development work for the production of improved fuels, which will give higher economies and longer ranges. The whole question of a successful Air Force which will adequately defend the country in the conditions which have been so eloquently described by the Lord President of the Council depends upon the engines and, unless we take steps to broaden our base and further develop our capacities in this respect, we shall fail.
The hon. Member has urged, very properly, that steps should be taken to provide the country with a supply of efficient engines as and when they may be required, but he did not indicate the lines that those steps should take. The demand for an increased Air Force, which is partly reflected in these Estimates, arises primarily from the fact that other nations are increasing their air services. A very large number of the engines used to propel foreign Air Forces are engines made in this country and, if the right hon. Gentleman would deal with this matter, it would remove a great many misgivings that are held in the country in[...] that the supply of aeroplane engines to the British Government is almost exclusively from private firms. These private firms are only able to maintain their businesses and keep up their profits by not only supplying the British Air Ministry but by exporting aeroplane engines as well, and it seems to me, as a layman, and to a vast number of other people, to be a highly unwise arrangement that, in order to maintain the efficiency of our defence force, we are bound to supply foreign Powers with the same materials that we ourselves are buying.
Those people who are properly concerned for the defence of the country, aided by those who have a pecuniary interest in an increase in the supply of aeroplanes, bring to the notice of the Government the fact that our Air Force is insufficient to cope with possible attacks, having regard to the size of the Air Forces of foreign countries, and there begins the clamour which we have recently seen in the Press for an increase in the British Air Force based entirely upon the fact that foreign Air Forces have increased when, as a matter of fact, the foreign Air Forces have been increased by supplies from British factories, and those British factories very properly argue that they cannot maintain their efficiency on orders from the British Air Ministry alone. So we are in a vicious circle. Under the present arrangements, the Air Ministry cannot get efficient supplies unless it permits its private suppliers to export its products and, if a foreign Power buys the exports of British factories, it is argued that the British Air Force must be increased to meet the impending menace of a foreign Power which has been supplied by British factories. It seems to me to come right to this point, that it is the business of the Air Ministry to see that the supplies of aeroplanes and aeroplane engines are furnished from Government factories which are not permitted to export the same material abroad.
It is a very great advantage that we should export these engines because, in the event of a war occurring, they would have no spare parts, and they would have to get them from this country.
I do not know whether I am expected to take that interruption seriously. I am sure that it was meant as a joke. I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the very difficult position that has arisen as a result of this export of aeroplane parts. One finds in the Library of this House magazines devoted to the technical side of aircraft construction advertising for sale to foreign Governments the very machines which they proudly boast have recently been purchased by the British Air Force, and then hon. Members get up and point to these foreign purchases and urge the right hon. Gentleman to increase his Estimates. It seems to me perfect lunacy that we should permit these exports to go on. I asked the President of the Board of Trade some days ago whether there was any system of control of these exports.
I merely intended to point to the fact that there is no possibility of limiting this under the present arrangements, and that I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us why it is that the Air Ministry, faced with this extremely serious situation, does not take steps to limit the improvements in British aircraft for the use of the British Government alone.
I am sure that the hon. Member will not expect me to follow him in his extremely interesting speech and develop this into a Debate on the private manufacture of arms. The fact that we export has nothing to do with our inability to get sufficient engines for our Air Force. We export engines, I presume, because foreign countries think they are the best in the world. It has nothing to do with the Air Ministry or the orders that we place for what we require. The hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Chorlton) really answered the hon. Member when he said that the basis of the manufacture of engines was not broad enough. My hon. Friend is an authority
on engine building and everything that pertains to it. He probably knows a great deal more about it than I do, but he also knows, because I told him in the speech in which I introduced the Estimates, that we were spending next year an extra £250,000 on new machines and engines, and that ought to be as satisfactory to him as it was unsatisfactory to the hon. Member who spoke last.
We are perfectly satisfied with the firms that are now building engines for us and we are not only satisfied that they are able to build up to our peace requirements but that in the event of a war or an emergency they will be perfectly capable of expansion, and there will not be the situation arising in the next war which was described by my hon. Friend of having to get engines from foreign countries. With regard to the question about compression ignition engines working with heavy oils, he asked why we have been so slow in developing. It is because development is difficult, and not because attention and concentration have not been devoted to it. I hope that in the near future those difficulties, which have faced other countries besides ourselves, will be overcome. My hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds (Mr. Whiteside) asked me whether I could assure him that it would be impossible for a foreign air force to attack London, or something of the kind. I do not think that there is any air force that could give complete immunity from any attack by bombers from any country, but it is obvious that if you have a strong, efficient and up-to-date air force you can intercept foreign bombers, and the fact that you have a strong air force makes it more unlikely that other countries will attack you.
|Division No. 172.]||AYES.||[6.1 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Belt, Sir Alfred L.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.|
|Apsley, Lord||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Blinded, James|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent. Dover)||Bateman, A. L.||Borodale, Viscount|
|Ba[...]llie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Beauchamp. Sir Brograve Campbell||Bossom, A. C.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pybus, Sir Percy John|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Hamilton, Sir R.W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hanbury, Cecil||Rankin, Robert|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hartland, George A.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Remer, John R.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Rickards, George William|
|Buchan, John||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hepworth, Joseph||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hills. Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Burnett, John George||Holdsworth, Herbert||Rothschild. James A. de|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hope, Capt. Hon. A.O. J. (Aston)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Russell, Albert (Kirkealdy)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Howard, Tom Forrest||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Ca[...]orn, Arthur Cecil||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Samuel Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cayzer, Mai. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chlppenham)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Scone, Lord|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Ker, J. Campbell||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Klnc'dlne, C.)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Lees-Jones, John||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Levy, Thomas||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Lewis, Oswald||Spens, William Patrick|
|Cross, R. H.||Liddall, Walter S.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Klim'rnock)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Lindsay. Noel Ker||Steel-Maltland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Little, Graham, Sir Ernest||Stevenson, James|
|Denman. Hon. R. D.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Storey, Samuel|
|Dick[...]e, John P.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Doran, Edward||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Mabane, William||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Dunglass, Lord||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Tate. Mavis Constance|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A. (P'dd'gt 'n, S.)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Maltland, Adam||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Tree, Ronald|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Martin, Thomas B.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|F[...]rmoy, Lord||Mayhew. Lieut.-Colonel John||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Milne, Charles||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Moreing, Adrian C.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Morris, Owen Tample (Cardiff, E.)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Morrison, William Shepherd||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Munro, Patrick||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Nunn, William||Withers, Sir John James|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Patrick, Colin M.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Pearson, William G.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Penny, Sir George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Major George Davies and Dr.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Morris-Jones.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Banfield, John William||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Buchanan, George||Kirkwood, David||Thorne, William James|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lawson, John James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Daggar, George||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert||Wilmot, John|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McGovern, John||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. John.|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
First Resolution read a Second time.
I notice the presence this evening of the Lord President of the Council, and I want to be among those who tender to him sincere appreciation of the way in which he handled the Debate on the Air Estimates about 10 days ago. As one of the members of the Air Committee, who have followed, as best they can, the Debates on air matters, I should like to say that it is not our business to waste too much of the time of the House, because we may rest assured that within the next few weeks, should such a situation arise as was indicated by the Lord President of the Council, he will give to the House a further opportunity of discussing matters of air defence. Therefore, I shall restrict my remarks to a very limited area. The Vote which we have in front of us is for civil aviation, and the sum of £513,000 is granted for this Service. Several of us at different times have tried to draw the attention of the House and the country to the extraordinarily small Vote which is devoted to what you might describe as the amateur effort, and I think that I am right in saying that the amateur effort ought not to receive the cold shoulder. Out of the £513,000, 86 per cent. is granted to a great organisation, and the remaining 14 per cent. finds its way into the pockets of the small light aeroplane clubs.
I do not know how often this subject has been raised in the House, but every time the chance occurs I feel that it is one's duty to draw attention not only to the tremendous efforts which light aeroplane clubs have made, but to the difficulties under which they labour. It is in many cases a great difficulty to find landing grounds, and even with difficulty that they find a place in which to house their machines, and it is with greater difficulty still that they collect the little nucleus of men and women to help to form a club. Many hon. Members know as well as I do—and I have been round most of the clubs—that it is perfectly wonderful how they have kept themselves alive with very little help from the State. Certain organs of the Press decry the light aeroplane movement, and it would be a great advantage if the Minister in charge of the Vote could give his opinion of the value to this country of light aeroplane clubs. He gave us a figure a few weeks ago of something like 2,800 as representing the "A" licence holders in this country. The "A" licence is the first licence which anybody obtains. It can be obtained by anyone between the ages of 18 and 75, and it is something very wonderful that persons of these ages should be able to obtain them. After you have eliminated the extremely young and the extremely old, there is no doubt that in the middle of that block there is very valuable potential war material, and to have them described as the halt, the maimed and the blind, almost indicating that they are those who spend their time up against the bar, is not a patriotic expression for a well-known aeroplane paper to use. But such is the discredit poured upon those clubs that they find it almost impossible to carry on.
If it had not been—and I say this seriously—for the patriotic and tremendous efforts of famous patrons of the air, notably Lord Wakefield, there would be very few of these clubs in existence to-day. I saw him present an aeroplane to Nairobi, of all places, 5,000 miles away from the homeland. It has been only by the most strenuous efforts of individual generous people that the clubs have survived. Therefore, there is an opportunity for the Minister to take this matter more definitely in hand and say to them, "We appreciate your efforts and will squeeze out some more pennies and help you with every licence you obtain, and we will not have you looked upon as the halt, the maimed and the blind. I pass from that because many other hon. Members, no doubt, wish to speak, but I want to add one sentence. I tried to raise it on the Debate on the Air Estimates, but not with much success. Could not these same "A" licence pilots be allowed to continue their training, at no cost to themselves, on Service machines? I can see that there would be a certain amount of difficulty in the organisation; it would mean the provision of a few Service machines and a few Service engineers to keep the machines in good order, but I feel certain that Government money would be well spent if in the process of training a man for an "A" licence he could be trained into becoming a potential military pilot. I pass from that subject to another.
I view with the greatest anxiety the new agreement which has been reached between the railway companies and Imperial Airways. I will not say as much on the subject as I said 10 days ago, but I do deplore the step that has been taken. The answer which the Undersecretary gave to me on the subject was rather hastily given and I cannot describe it as satisfactory. In my private capacity I come into touch with many small firms who have the greatest difficulty in raising £15,000, £20,000 or £30,000, in the hope of running a small aircraft business and making a profit, and if we destroy them we shall foe losing a valuable national asset. Whether they could be drawn into a scheme, or whether in some way their individual efforts could be absorbed into a national movement, remains to be seen. I urge the Minister not to look at the matter merely by saying that the railway companies have stepped into the breach and that Imperial Airways can manage to equip the aerodromes. I hope he will give the matter his attention with a view to strengthening our air services as a whole.
There is one further point to which I would refer, although it is not quite relevant to civil aviation, but relates to aviation as a whole. I read in the Press the other day that Germany intends to become air-minded. Under the Treaty of Versailles they have a loophole by which they can put into the air numbers of potential war pilots. If it is Germany's intention to become a great nation in the air, surely it is up to us not to be left behind. Not many generations ago the Briton looked upon himself as the ruler of the seas. I hope that airmen, whether in the Service or in civil aviation, and all others who are interested in aviation, will say: "We will set ourselves the same standard that was set by the blue-water school in days gone by."
There are two points to which I called attention at a late hour on the Committee stage to which I should like to refer. The Undersecretary promised that he would make some reference to them on the Report stage, and in anticipation of what he may have to say I should like to add a little to what I then said on the subject. The first point is the proportion in which the subsidy paid to Imperial Airways for the African service is divided between the Colonial territories concerned, the Union of South Africa and ourselves. Since I spoke on the Committee stage the Under-Secretary has been good enough to let me know that in addition to the subsidy which we pay directly for the African service we also pay a subsidy for the service between England and Egypt, and that half of that may be quite fairly added to our subsidy on the whole African service. I accept that as an addition to our contribution to this service as a whole.
Nevertheless, the proportions seem to me to be improper and quite unjust. It works out with that addition, in the following way: five small Colonies pay £52,000 between them—and they are small Colonies whose combined revenues scarcely amount to one-tenth of one-tenth of the revenues of this country—the Union of South Africa, £94,000, and Great Britain, with the addition to which I have referred, £100,000. I am bound to say and I say it with all the force at my command that these proportions seem to me to be quite indefensible. In the case of Kenya, with a revenue of under £2,500,000, after certain deductions for railways have been taken away, the payment is £15,000 a year. If His Majesty's Government in this country contributed in the same proportion we should be paying over £5,000,000 a year. That seems to me to be an improper division between a very small territory and this great country, which carries the main responsibility.
There are two standpoints from which this division of expenditure seems to me to be wrong. In the first place, there is the question of justice to dependencies of that kind. We often hear in this House that the Imperial Government should maintain control of the expenditure in States like that. We often hear complaints in this House that the settler is deriving more advantage from expenditure than other races and that the arrangement made are unfair to the natives. I think the House is right in keeping a very close watch over matters of that kind, but if we are going to keep a watch upon our brothers in Kenya we should also keep a watch upon ourselves, and the responsibility which lies upon us in regard to a territory like Kenya seems to be badly discharged when we allow such a sum as that which I have quoted to be taken from the taxpayers of that country as compared with the contribution by the taxpayers here. It has to be remembered that this expenditure affects a very large number of native African taxpayers. Far more African taxpayers than white taxpayers are affected by this subsidy, and I say that this proportion in which the subsidy is divided is an exploitation of the African taxpayer for the benefit of the taxpayer here.
Therefore, I hope the Government will look very closely into the division of the expenditure and endeavour to redress it next year. There are two ways in which it can be redressed, and that brings me to the only other point on which I wish to say a word. It may be redressed by reducing their share or by increasing ours. In my opinion, very strongly, it should be redressed by increasing ours. I believe that the African taxpayer is getting value for his contribution to this service, but he would be getting much greater value if we paid our proper share. The service should be more frequent and should be faster. There are many things which could be done to develop the service if we were paying a just share. We are demanding from them an unfair payment and we are keeping the service inadequate because we ourselves pay so much less than we should be called upon to pay. This is a matter that concerns not only the efficiency of Imperial communications, but it is, as the whole House knows, an immensely important matter as affecting the reservoir of pilots and mechanics in the matter of defence.
Certain figures which have already been given are worth repeating. While we are paying only a paltry £500,000 for the development of civil aviation, France is paying something very near £2,000,000 and the United States well over £4,000,000. Those figures are worth bearing in mind. At the present time when we look at the number of convertible air liners possessed by the various Powers, France has 269, Germany 177, Italy 77, and Britain 32. I should be very glad to know from the Under-Secretary if these figures are in any way related to the facts and whether in that case he is satisfied with the proportion we hold of convertible air liners at the present time. The inadequacy of this Vote for civil aviation is only part of the inadequacy of the whole Vote under certain circumstances which we all hope may not arise but which nevertheless seem only too likely to arise. Because that is the case and because that possibility is always there I express the hope that before very long the Government will come to the House again with a clear statement of its intentions and its policy with regard to our position in the air.
On two previous occasions I have raised the question of the subsidy for the light aeroplane clubs, but I have not yet been lucky enough to obtain an answer from the Under-Secretary. To-night, however, as he is in a very good temper I hope that, at long last and for the third time of asking, I shall be lucky enough to obtain an answer. We are paying out every year £16,000 to light aeroplane clubs. Is that expenditure necessary? If it is necessary are we getting full value for our money? I claim that in this country the best and the most efficient light aeroplane clubs are the ones which have no help or subsidy from the Government. Let me mention three that exist in the London area. There is the one at Heston, another at Hatfield and the one at Brooklands, which has been going for many years. Not one of these clubs receives any subsidy whatever, yet they are going ahead by leaps and bounds. If these aeroplane clubs can thrive without a subsidy, it is only fair to argue that the other clubs should thrive without a subsidy, and that our money should not be wasted. If however, the Air Ministry is determined to pay out this money, could they not reconsider the policy of paying out subsidies to anyone who comes along, just because they want to fly? These people would be of very little use to us in this country if it came to war.
I suggest that the Government would be well advised to copy the principle which has been adopted in France. The French Government subsidise not the individual pilot but the man who is prepared to buy and maintain an aeroplane. Therefore, if the Undersecretary could see his way to subsidise private owners in this country we should get much better return for the £16,000 which we are now giving. In the first place, we should have a number, a very small number it is true, of really efficient pilots, which we are not now getting from the light aeroplane clubs. In the second place, we should have a considerable number of new aeroplanes being bought, and that in turn would help the aircraft industry. I should like to make another suggestion, although it is very risky to make suggestions to the Air Ministry, because any suggestion that one makes is always automatically turned down.
I hope the House will agree with me when I say that the British air mails are the disgrace of the world. They are the slowest in the world. I would suggest a way in which we can speed up the mail to India and Australia. I would not interfere with the first part of the mail. I suggest that Imperial Airways should carry the mail as far as Egypt, as they do at the present time, and that onwards the Royal Air Force now stationed in Egypt, Transjordania. Iraq and India should be allowed to carry the mails on from Egypt to India. That could be done once a week in one machine as part of ordinary patrol duty. They would have to fly day and night. If that was done there would be three definite advantages. In the first place, we should have a dozen or more really fast mail carriers, which we have not got now, machines capable of doing 180 to 200 miles per hour. These machines, if we were so unfortunate as to be involved in war, could be used out there for patrol duty and would release the Service machines in those areas. In the second place, we should get a great deal of really useful practise for our Service pilots in these areas. I may be told that this has been adopted in America and that they succeeded in killing a dozen pilots in the first month. I am not suggesting that we should rush into it in the same way as the Americans, but that we should train our pilots gradually in the task of flying day and night in all weathers. The third advantage, and probably the most important, is that the people in India and Australia would get their mails one, two, or perhaps three days, earlier.
I feel it incumbent upon me to raise a question of which I have given private notice to the Undersecretary of State for Air with reference to the Committee on the control of private flying and other civil aviation questions; which are borne on this Vote. This Committee was appointed last year with the following terms of reference:
To examine the requirements of present air navigation regulations, with particular reference to those governing private flying, in such matters as certificates and airworthiness, and to consider whether and in what respects the present system controlled by the Air Ministry should be modified by way of devolution or otherwise, and make recommendations in regard to these and cognate questions which may be remitted to them by the Secretary of State.
There has apparently been a very wide interpretation of these terms of reference, because it is generally understood in the aeronautical world in this country that the type of committee to control private flying is more or less the substance of the work to be carried out. But it is quite clear that the Committee is considering quite a different point, and that is whether civil aviation should not in fact be completely separated from the Air Ministry and put under the aegis of some other Department. I cannot think that the Under-Secretary of State when this Committee was appointed had in mind this particular point, because he has always taken a very jealous attitude on this subject. He says that "civil aviation is our child, and we do not want to see it weaned." A few weeks ago in
discussing this matter in the House he concluded with the word:
To sum up, I do not believe that there-is any theoretical case for the divorce of civil aviation from the Air Ministry. I am quite certain that such divorce is a practical impossibility, and is likely to remain so for a long time to come."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1934; col. 2039, Vol. 286.]
I am therefore further established in my view that when the Air Ministry appointed this Committee they had no idea that this question would be raised, otherwise the speech of the Undersecretary of State and his attitude, to say the least of it, would be discourteous to the Committee and alien to his wonted conduct of public business. I therefore put a question to him this afternoon in the following terms:
To ask the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will state the number of members of the committee on civil aviation under the chairmanship of Lord Gorell who are directors of companies in receipt of Air Ministry contracts; and the total value of the contracts received by each of such companies during the current financial year.
The Under-Secretary was good enough to tell me that there are two members of that Committee who are directors of companies in receipt of Air Ministry contracts, but he declined in the public interest to tell the House the value of the contracts received by these companies. Perhaps I may do him the compliment of assuring him that these contracts in both cases are quite substantial. There is the other point, that one of these gentlemen is specifically on the Committee to represent the Society of British Aircraft Contractors, an association representing almost all companies in receipt of Air Ministry contracts, which in the present financial year amount to £6,000,000. We, therefore, have this position. On the one hand, the Air Ministry attitude upon the question of withdrawing civil aviation from the Air Ministry—a definite refusal to contemplate such a move—and, on the other hand, we have these two gentlemen, under the most specific obligations to their shareholders who are enjoying substantial Air Ministry contracts, who are invited to condemn the Air Ministry policy in the report of the Committee. I submit that this is a most unfortunate position for these gentlemen to be placed
in, and, further, I think it is definitely opposed to the public interest.
What, therefore, in these circumstances ought to be done? Let me say that I think these circumstances have arisen through the transitional stages under which the terms of reference have passed. As I have said, I do not think that the Under-Secretary had any idea that the Committee would deal with this question, but we have to consider the facts of the case, and, in the circumstances, I suggest that there are one or two courses open to the Under-Secretary. He can either let the Air Ministry advise this Committee that the question of the separation of civil aviation from the Air Ministry is definitely excised from the terms of reference, or release these two gentlemen from the obligation of signing the report. I make no suggestion, not the least implication, of any improper conduct by omission or commission on the part of the Under-Secretary for Air or of these two gentlemen, for both of whom I have the highest regard, but, on the other hand, I believe that it is a matter which the House will feel must be properly adjusted and, therefore, I trust that hon. Members will consider that I have done right in bringing it to their notice.
The hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) will not expect me to follow him into the question of the Gorell Committee, but I must say that he does the committee less than justice if he thinks that any personal considerations will carry any weight with people who are there in a judicial capacity to decide questions which will affect the whole of civil aviation, on which they have personal and particular knowledge.
I definitely accepted that position. I say that when gentlemen are appointed to a committee of this nature it is unfair to ask them to accept conflicting loyalties.
The hon. Member should look at it from the other point of view. Obviously, the people who have the greatest knowledge of the construction of aircraft must presumably take part in the deliberations of such a committee. I cannot see how it is possible to set up any committee to go into any subject if no person with any particular knowledge of the subject is to be appointed, and I cannot agree with the hon. Member on that point. Nor can I agree with the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) on the subject of light aeroplane clubs. He has overlooked the primary function of the light aeroplane club. Its function is not to help wealthy people in this country who can afford to pay the high rates for learning to fly, who can buy their own aeroplanes and own their own aerodromes; the whole purpose of the subsidy is to help those people who are less well off. The purpose is to subsidise a lower rate for learning to fly and, therefore, give a bigger opportunity to all sections of the community to learn to fly. The hon. Member is entirely wrong when he suggests that we should take up the aristocratic method of France, which is really a method of subsidising private owners, who ought to be able to buy their own aeroplanes with their own money and fly at their own expense.
The system of helping light aeroplane clubs is an estimable one and I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division (Captain Guest). I have brought this matter up myself on previous occasions, and during the Committee stage I asked the Under-Secretary whether it would be possible to extend this subsidy system. Hon. Members will see a note to this Vote to the effect that the grants to light aeroplane clubs are estimated at a lower total than allowed for in 1933. That is a move in the wrong direction. If we are going to train more pilots, a matter of vital importance to this country, then the training of pilots should be open to every section of the community. If we are going to do that then it is clear that there must be something wrong somewhere if this year the grant to light aeroplane clubs is lower than it was last year. I am going to ask the Under-Secretary whether he can give me this information. Will he tell me how many light aeroplane clubs there are in England, how many of that number are receiving a subsidy, and whether a smaller number of clubs are receiving a subsidy than was the case a year ago? If that is so, then I think it is an argument that we should open this subsidy to clubs which formerly have not had it. The Under-Secretary will no doubt agree that a great deal of good work has been done by these clubs and, therefore, it would be wise indeed to consider an extension of the subsidy to those clubs which have not had it before. It has the effect undoubtedly of reducing the costs of learning to fly, and it is the cost which stops the majority of young men learning to become pilots.
If everyone was instructed free of charge we should have thousands of pilots willing to come forward and learn. We cannot do that, but by an extension of this subsidy scheme we can get a lot of people being taught to fly with a small expenditure of public money; which is what the majority of this House desire be see. If the Under-Secretary will give this matter his careful consideration I am sure that the clubs will endeavour to improve their instructional methods and get a larger number of pilots through. I do not like the fiat-rate subsidy. I should like to sec a larger amount of subsidy given to those people who might be of use in time of war or national emergency. I do not think that a club ought to receive the same subsidy for the woman or the man who has passed the age for war service as would be given for the training of the younger generation. That matter might receive consideration in any new arrangement of the subsidy. Whether it can be done or not, I am certain that we are taking a retrogade step in devoting a smaller amount of money to this most essential service.
As I understand it, the Debate has gone on the line of increasing the subsidies for various forms of aviation. I have no doubt that it is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State to resist as far as possible the increase of the subsidies to various forms of aircraft. I do not wish to mention light aeroplane clubs, but with regard to the air transport services, I think the Government would be well advised to resist an increase of the subsidy. I understand that the subsidy they receive now is £561,000. I understand also that the only company that receives the subsidy for aerial transport is Imperial Airways. I have here the balance-sheet of the Imperial Airways Company. I see that the issued capital is £649,080. The subsidy, therefore, is a very big one indeed compared with the issued capital. It is round about 86 per cent. To pour out more money in that way would not be a very desirable thing to do. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) asked the other day what it costs to send a "Times" newspaper to India, and the answer was that the cost was round about 7s. 6d. But that is what it costs the individual who posts it. When you take the question of the subsidy into consideration the cost immediately becomes a very much bigger figure.
I myself did flying, but I do not do any now, and I have no intention of ever doing any again. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] For very good reasons, but I do not want to retard the cause of civil aviation by giving them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) mentioned small aviation clubs thriving without a subsidy. It seems to me that if aviation ever does develop and become a really profitable proposition from the civil point of view, it will start off in a small way and gradually develop from that. I understand that there are some people in the country now who started in a very small way and have been able to develop commercial aviation without a subsidy at all. If that be so it is a tiling that should be allowed to develop, and if in any way subsidised competitors are going to hinder these people, I think it would be a great mistake, at any rate, to increase those subsidies.
First of all I would join with my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Everard), who himself has done so much for the development of civil aviation, in expressing the hope that we may see this Vote increased, because the development of this aviation service is without any question of vital national and commercial importance. I rose to speak about the Gorell Committee, to which reference has been made. I understand that the committee has been sitting for some time. It must sit, of course, in camera, because of the matters of national importance that it has to discuss. I hope we may have another declaration from the Minister that there will be no divorcement of any kind between the Air Ministry and civil aviation for any length of time which we can now conceive as likely. I am aware of what the Minister said, a fortnight ago, and I hope we shall hear from him a definite statement that once and for all it is the considered view of the Government to continue control by the Air Ministry of all kinds of civil aviation.
This is indeed a very small Vote when one considers the vast amount of work still to be done in this country before we reach a reasonably efficient state of civil aviation. I would like to see air services from North to South extended rapidly. I hope that no part of the plan for the maintenance or speeding up of these services will be allowed to be checked by the vested interests of any railway company. Railway travelling to a large extent has not moved with the times. It has become obsolete largely through the bad management and bad services of the railway companies, and there is growing up in the aeroplane services a cheap, safe and rapid means of transport between distant points which have no railway service of any kind befitting the needs of the commercial community of England.
I hope that the Under-Secretary will bring home to local authorities all over the country the great value of the establishment of municipal aerodromes. There are some aerodromes. One in particular, which is about to be opened in the constituency which I have the honour to represent at Leicester, I believe, will give a lead to the country in the amenities that it will offer. But I would like it to be brought home to local authorities what a great need there is to-day, not as an experiment and not as a luxury but as a development of the greatest importance, for more municipal aerodromes. I would go further and express the hope that it will never be thought right to encourage the maintenance of such aerodromes only for those who are using the air services. I want to see the people encouraged to go to the aerodromes, even if they go with no idea of flying, even if they have never seen an aeroplane. I want to get them there in good surroundings. The aerodromes should not be reserved for aeroplane travellers or aeroplane clubs. I want to see the whole of the people drawn to the aerodromes, to sit there, to watch, to inspect, to become air-minded, and to see that interest in aeroplanes is not limited to one class of the community.
I generally agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins). He is almost invariably right, but I hope he will allow me to disagree with him entirely in his observations about subsidies. I think it would be a very good thing if some differentiation were made between the grant to female flyers and that made to males, because the women who learn to fly cannot be of the same benefit to the community in an emergency as the men who learn to fly. To say that because Hatfield and Heston have triumphed over difficulties without any subsidy there should be no subsidies for other aeroplane clubs, is entirely wrong and a misconceived idea. Neither of them wants any praise from me to-night. These aerodromes have risen in remarkably short time into excellent flying grounds, and they serve an excellent purpose. They are efficient and remarkably good aerodromes. But there are circumstances surrounding them which do not apply to many other aerodromes in the country. I ask the Under-Secretary to tell the House and the country that the subsidies to light aeroplane clubs will continue whenever those clubs qualify for the grant.
I think it is open to criticism that there is an insufficient means of transportation between the landing grounds at the aerodromes and the destinations to which travellers wish to go. The hon. Member for Stroud mentioned Heston. It is only a few weeks ago that I had the advantage of travelling in an aeroplane owned by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton. We came from Leicester to Heston, 87 miles, in 45 or 46 minutes, but we found at Heston a difficulty in getting to this House. That journey took nearly as long as the journey from Leicester to Heston. It should not be so. In a year or two's time, as air travel gets faster, we shall see the Great West Road more congested than now in the day time. There should be some ready means of getting from an aerodrome to the place in city or town which one desires to reach. It may be that some day one or other of the three great railway termini, Euston, St. Pancras and King's Cross, will become wholly unnecessary. Then it should not be long before we see a really central landing ground or aerodrome to serve this great Metropolis in one of those places, right in the thick of the traffic, bringing us immediately into the district which we want to reach.
Then there is the question of bad lighting of aerodromes, which is a source of great complaint and great delay, and may be a source of great danger. There is no public aerodrome North of London which is properly lighted for night flying. I would like to see some alteration of that. We must not be dependent on daylight or on weather. The regular service that we want to get must not be checked because of bad weather or bad lighting Electricity has developed in this country by leaps and bounds in recent years. There are plenty of idle hands willing to get to work to lay down electricity anywhere in the country. There should be no complaint in future, therefore, of the bad lighting of public aerodromes. What can be done by private owners can be done by public aerodromes.
I hope it will be within the province of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who has this subject so much at heart and is interested in the development of aviation in all its branches, to recommend some kind of quick and cheap transportation between the provincial cities which are now encouraging aviation, and the landing grounds and aerodromes. I do not see why we should not have light railway lines for short distances, the engines driven by Diesel engines, using British fuel and taking from the aerodrome, by rapid transit, those who descend on to the landing-ground to the various provincial cities to which they desire to go. In these days cross-country distances can be accomplished by light aviation traffic more cheaply, as safely as and very much more quickly than any other forms of transport, the railways included. If these difficulties are removed, and if we once do all we can to bring aviation within the reach of everybody—to get the people air-minded—we shall have done a great thing to help this country in attaining the leadership which it must undoubtedly have in all aviation matters.
The House has listened with great interest to the many varied fields, all of interest, over which my hon. Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) has just roamed. As I have been reminded by several speakers this afternoon that certain points were raised at the end of the previous Debate to which I promised I would reply on this occasion, I will try to dovetail my answers into those I will give to the questions put to me to-day, as they were more or less on the same subjects and were put to me by more or less the same hon. Members.
In reply to the question raised by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest), it is an encouragement not only to the Air Ministry but to all those interested in aviation to hear an expression of the continued interest in civilian flying which is shown on all hands. He raised the question at the end of the last Debate, emphasising again and again the amount allocated in these Estimates to civilian aviation. I thought it was rather unkind of my right hon. and gallant Friend to contrast the £513,000 in these Estimates with the £1,000,000 which he said he found when he went to the Air Ministry. Stated in that way it gives perhaps rather an incorrect impression. The figure in 1921, which was actually £880,000, included provision for meteorological services, which now appears in Vote 9 at £144,000, and £150,000 for airship development. If allowances are made for these two items, the comparable figures are £656,000 and £730,000. Nor is that the whole story. The actual expenditure in 1921 on civil aviation amounted only to £400,000, and in the following year, when my right hon. and gallant Friend was Secretary of State for Air, the provision, excluding meteorological services, was reduced to £300,000.
My only object was to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if public opinion was prepared to support the House of Commons to the extent which it did in those days, how much more ready should it be to support it to-day.
I was only pointing out that there were in that £880,000 several items which we are to-day including in a different Vote. I fully sympathise with all those hon. Members who would like to see a larger expenditure on civil aviation. After what I have said, I think hon. Members will agree that I am not putting it too high when I claim that £513,000 is not a bad advance on £300,000, considering that the need for economy still subsists. That the Air Ministry, if not unmindful of the needs of civil aviation is, I think, shown by the fact that this year the total Air expenditure is down by £1,000,000 on 1931, whereas the expenditure on civil aviation is up by 10 per cent. on that year. I can assure hon. Members that the Air Ministry is just as anxious as they are to see civil aviation fully and further developed. If, however, I may say so frankly, we should rather, instead of complaining about the insufficiency of the sums spent on civil aviation, congratulate ourselves on the very good value which we obtain for the not insignificant sum for which we ask.
The subsidy to Imperial Airways is one-tenth of the corresponding American expenditure; it is one-quarter of the French and one-half of the German and Italian expenditure, yet with that moderate subsidy I said that we had attained commercial results that no other country has been able to reach.
I would not accept that statement absolutely. Certainly, in essential services such as mails there are machines in other countries which are faster than ours as a whole, but we carry our passengers safely and comfortably to their destinations, and, on the whole, those who travel by Imperial Airways are well satisfied with what they get. Compared with these 14,000 miles which Imperial Airways fly, the United States alone flies a bigger mileage than is operated over the British Empire. As hon. Members have asked whether it is proposed to increase that mileage during the coming year, perhaps the House will bear with me if I give a few figures illustrating the progress which has been made since 1929. The route mileage has increased by 150 per cent.; the actual miles flown on regular services have gone up by 100 per cent.; the number of passengers carried has gone up by 90 per cent.; and the volume of air traffic in mails has gone up by 70 per cent. Considering that during the last 2½ years we have been operating under great economic difficulties, that is a record of which we may be proud. Nevertheless, although we are proud of that record during the last five years, we hope to do much better over the next five years. If the tree is justified by its fruits, then our policy with regard to commercial air transport is justified. While Imperial Airways is able to show a small modest profit to its shareholders, all other continental services, despite far larger subsidies, have shown losses and even very heavy losses. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it is significant that the Germans have, in the last year or two, copied our policy of giving financial assistance to one strong operating company. France followed suit last year with her new combined air undertaking, and it is reported that Italy has recently taken a similar decision.
The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) raised the point about the subsidy between here find Africa, and the proportion which is borne. As I explained to him, we pay a great deal in subsidy to get the mail as far as Africa, and that has, of course, to be taken into consideration. He puts his point with great force, and nobody knows better than he does the situation out there. I assure him that, when the matter comes up, all the very important points he has raised will receive full consideration. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) said that he thought that I looked in a good temper this evening. I do not know whether he feels in a good temper; I certainly could not say that he does not look in a good temper. According to him, the Air Ministry have never received suggestions, the mails are very slow, and light aeroplane clubs are a pure waste of money. I am glad that some of the speakers were able to meet a number of his contentions about the light aeroplane clubs.
The hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) drew attention to the small sum of £16,000. The explanation of that comparatively small sum is, as many hon. Members know, due to the position of National Flying Services, Limited. As this club had not been able to fulfil its contract, we were not able to make payments, but we are perfectly ready to subsidise any of its component units as long as they reconstitute themselves as ordinary flying clubs on a basis whereby they are entitled to claim subsidy. I hope that the House, with the exception of the hon. Member for Stroud, will be glad to hear that the Air Ministry is sufficiently satisfied with the progress of the light aeroplane club movement to be re solved on its extension.
I should like to emphasise and to echo the remark that came from behind, by saying what a tremendous success the light aeroplane club has been. Apart from its attraction to people who are air-minded, and who understand aircraft, and apart from supplying a reservoir of people who can fly in the country, it is the only means by which the man-in-the-street can learn to fly an aeroplane. As was extremely well put by the hon. Member behind me earlier in the evening, it is a purely democratic movement, which has been extremely successful as far as its expansion is concerned. I cannot give any complete details beyond saying that we are contemplating increasing the overhead numbers of clubs that are able to receive subsidy. The number is 25, and in due course we shall be ready to receive applications from responsible organisations of amateur status which are desirous of being included in this movement.
In connection with this object, I should like to refer further to (he point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) and the right hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth, who suggested that light aeroplane club pilots should be allowed to fly Service aircraft. There is, of course, nothing to prevent members of light aeroplane clubs from being enrolled in the Reserve, where in due course they will receive training on Service aircraft. For many reasons, which I should not like to elaborate at the present time, we are not anxious for light aeroplane clubs themselves to be given a military flavour. We are building up a reserve of pilots in quite another way, and we contemplate an extension and expansion of the Reserve upon lines which will give direct encouragement to civilian aviation in that candidates for the Reserve will receive at initio training in civilian schools.
Before leaving the subject of civilian aviation, I should like briefly to refer to a point made by the hon. Member for the Duddeston Division of Birmingham (Mr. Simmonds) at the end of the Debate last week in the well-informed speech which the House always expects from him, which contained many points with which I am in agreement. One of these was that I was somewhat in error in pointing out the closeness of the contact between research in civil and military flying. In the circumstances it is my hon. Friend who is insufficiently informed. Even in America they have come to realise that there is so much common ground between military and civil flying research that they have instituted special co-ordinating measures by means of a joint body which is called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
Is not my right hon. Friend doing me an injustice? Although there may be a co-ordinating body, it is yet the fact that the two aspects are kept separate and there is no suggestion of amalgamating them.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to finish what I was saying. Even if what he says is true, that the system over there is so different from our own, I do not think he will say that it is much more successful. As far as this co-ordinating committee is concerned the latest reports show that it has now proved inadequate in practice and that the President of the United States is contemplating yet further measures of unification of commercial and military flying research. My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston made the suggestion that civil aviation should be put under a Ministry of Communications with the mercantile marine and the railways. I do not know what would happen to civil aviation, this tender nursling, between those two vast organisations. I think it would be like the little pig in the litter which is jostled away by his elder relatives from all possible sources of nutriment. I do not think it would have any chance at all.
Will not my right hon. Friend agree that I suggested that there should be Under-Secretaries for each of the three different aspects of transport under a Minister of Communications and I think the House will agree with me that if my right hon. Friend were Under-Secretary for civil air transport there would be no need to fear for the welfare of the little pig to which he refers.
I think I have definitely shown that research as between civil and military aviation is so important that it is difficult to separate the two. There is another point of contact between them in regard to research matters. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) who raised the question of the dangers to pilots caused by electricity cables. That is a danger which has been brought home to us in very tragic circumstances and to which the Air Ministry has been giving much attention and concern. The desirability of adequately marking high tension cables is obvious. The difficulty is to find a system which is safe and at the same time satisfactory. A system of lighting was recently installed at Horn-church, one of our service aerodromes and large-sized lanterns each containing four 60-watt red lamps were placed on the apex of each pylon. The cost is about £130 per pylon and the maintenance costs about £5 a year. The difficulty is that even the actual maintenance involves a good deal of risk. Hon. Members well see that this method is not being lost sight of but that it is not so easy to deal with as might appear.
My hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston also raised this afternoon a point affecting the position of certain members of the Gorell Committee in relation to the question of whether civil aviation should remain under the Air Ministry or not. I would merely remark that the chairman of the committee is of course responsible for the matter included in the committee's report and no one else and I have no knowledge myself of its probable contents. I may however say that my Noble Friend has not remitted this particular question to the Committee and does not regard it as falling within their terms of reference. I do not know, therefore, what justification my hon. Friend has for assuming that it will be dealt with in the report. In any event my hon. Friend is surely not suggesting that any of those Gentlemen who have so public-spiritedly consented to serve on this Committee would be in any way influenced in what they may or may not report by the fact that firms with which they are connected hold contracts with the Air Ministry. If he is, I for my part, cannot for a moment accept a suggestion so derogatory to those concerned; if he is not, I am afraid I cannot follow his point at all.
I specifically pointed out when I spoke on this subject that I thought it was placing these Gentlemen in an unfair position in the circumstances, and I know that a large number of hon. Members feel with me on that point. If my right hon. Friend cannot see the further implication I can only regret it.