Orders of the Day — Air Navigation Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 30th March 1936.

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Order for Second Reading read.

7.25 p.m.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

I beg to move, "That this Bill be now read a Second time."

Those who are acquainted—and who is not?—with the progress that has been made in aviation during the past 15 years will not be surprised that it has become necessary to make certain amendments and additions to the Air Navigation Act, 1920. That is the purpose of the Bill which I have now the honour to propose for the acceptance of this House. It is not a long Bill, as Bills go in these days; and its length, such as it is, is largely composed of provisions which, though suitably adapted to the special needs of the latest and most progressive form of transport, have their counterpart in statutes relating to transport by land and sea. If, indeed, certain Members of this House were to complain that the reforms embodied in this Bill in relation to air transport are long overdue, I should be far less surprised by criticism of that kind than I should be were serious opposition to arise to the main provisions of this amending and complementary Bill.

The House will not expect me at this stage to do more than outline the general purpose of this new Measure and to give in broad, but, I hope, convincing terms, the reasons why the Bill is put before it for acceptance. The Bill is divided into five parts; but the five main questions or matters with which it deals do not correspond entirely with that division. With the permission of the House, I will enumerate briefly the five main points and then proceed to discuss each of them at slightly greater length. The first main point is contained in Clause 1 of the Bill. It is a financial provision dealing with subsidies to Civil Air Transport. Thereby it is sought to empower the Secretary of State, with the approval of the Treasury, to enter into agreements for the grant of subsidies up to an annual limit of £1,500,000 over a period ending on the 31st December, 1953, in extension of the limit of £1,000,000 over a period ending on the 31st December, 1940, authorised by the Air Transport (Subsidy Agreements), Act, 1930. The second main point is contained in Clause 2. It provides for the delegation, to an independent body representative of civil aviation, of certain of the administrative functions concerning airworthiness at present discharged by the Secretary of State for Air. The third main element of the Bill is to be found in Clause 5. It provides for the setting up (as and when circumstances require it) of a licensing system in respect of air transport services, as distinct horn the licensing of flying personnel and the certification of aircraft as airworthy. Fourthly, Clauses 8 and 9 respectively extend to Metropolitan boroughs the powers at present enjoyed by other local authorities for the provision of aerodromes, and give to all such authorities compulsory powers for the acquisition of land for that purpose. They already had powers to purchase land by agreement, for this purpose under the Act of 1920, and have had temporary powers to purchase it compulsorily under the Public Works Facilities Act, 1930.

Photo of Mr William Kelly Mr William Kelly , Rochdale

Why are the Government introducing into this Measure the Common Council of the City of London, seeing that the County Council cover all the area?

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

I did not mention it.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

Perhaps the hon. Member will raise that point in the course of Debate. Finally, by Clause 12, limits are placed upon the liability of aircraft owners for damage done to third parties, concurrently with the introduction under the provisions of Clause 13 of a system of compulsory insurance of civil aircraft against third party risks for damage done either to persons or property on the ground. The special provisions affecting such insurance are set out in Clauses 13 to 17, and in the Second Schedule.

Those are the five chief matters dealt with by the Bill. It will be appreciated that, even where new in their application to air navigation, they are not to be described in any sense of the word as innovations. The first is merely an extension of powers in regard to subsidy agreements which have been in existence since 1930. The second represents the liberation, to an extent at least, of civil aviation from the shackles of the Air Ministry; thereby meeting a demand which has long since been growing in volume, for the freeing of civil aviation from what has been described—with how much accuracy I will not attempt to say—as bureaucratic control. Two of the other three main provisions merely extend to the air, in appropriate form, principles and methods already in operation in other relations, while the third, broadly, simply makes permanent powers which have been enjoyed on a temporary basis since 1930.

There are, of course, a number of other supplementary and minor points dealt with in the Bill, to which the full attention of the House will doubtless be directed at the proper time. Clause 3 will enable regulations to be made to govern aircraft when operating on the surface of the sea, in the same way as they can be made for ships, for the prevention of collisions and other matters in which the marine rules are relevant. By Clause 4 facilities are to be given for the collection from the experience of civil air transport of statistics likely to be of advantage to aviation. Clause 18 makes provision for giving effect to the Rome Convention of 1933, when the occasion for the ratification of that Convention by His Majesty's Government arises. Other Clauses in the main either rectify omissions in the Act of 1920 or are supplementary or complementary to the five main provisions with which I now propose to deal in somewhat greater detail.

Hon. Members are aware that we are in the midst of a process of rapid extension of British air transport services and that, in addition to the development of existing Empire air routes, we are on the point of attacking the greatest of the natural obstacles with which air transport is confronted, namely, the Atlantic. In order to enable these new projects to be taken in hand at all, it is necessary that the Government should be able to enter into long term agreements, for the grant of subsidies, with the air transport companies concerned with them. To come down to detail, the Air Ministry requiries statutory authority to enter into agreements covering up to 15 years and entailing expenditure which cannot be met within the aggregate limit of £1,000,000 a year at present existing. Neither the time limit nor the financial limit imposed by the Air Transport (Subsidy Agreements) Act of 1930 are any longer adequate to meet the developments which are now en train. We are asking, therefore, for an aggregate annual limit of £1,500,000 until the end of 1953.

I do not think that I need say anything now to emphasise the vital necessity to the British Empire of the development of air transport services, nor yet to justify the general principle of subsidy upon which the House has acted for so many years. Hon. Members are well acquainted with the position in both respects. Relying on that fact, I submit this portion of the Bill in the confident belief that it will be received with universal approval. I need only add that the provision made is to the best of our information adequate without being extravagant.

I hope that the second of the main provisions will also appeal to all who are interested in the future of civil aviation. It will be within the recollection of the House that the Report of the Gorell Committee presented to Parliament in 1934 advocated the devolution to an Air Registration Board, representative of manufacturers, operators and underwriters, of the supervision of the design, construction and maintenance of civil aircraft and of the issue and renewal of certificates of airworthiness. It also recommended that the authority of the new body should be derived from the legislature, rather than solely from an administrative decision. Various measures have been taken by the Air Ministry in recent years for the progressive relaxation of official control over civil aviation, and in 1933 the conclusion was reached that a further review was desirable, in order to see what additional relaxation had become practicable. Lord Gorell's Committee was the outcome of that conclusion, and the wide measure of approval given to the Report of that Committee testified to the excellence of the work done by it and earned the well deserved thanks of this House.

In the second Clause of this Bill the work of Lord Gorell's Committee is brought to fruition. The demand on the part of owners, operators and constructors of aircraft, to which the Committee referred, for the control of airworthiness of civil aircraft to be transferred from the Air Ministry to an outside and fully representative body, is met in substance. I should point out, however, that the Clause provides that the delegation shall be effected to such extent as is specified in an Order of the Secretary of State, and it is not intended that the control of airworthiness of the larger passenger-carrying machines shall be completely surrendered by the Ministry. I think that it will be agreed that this is a reasonable and desirable exception, in the interests of public safety. Even in the case of ships and motor vehicles, the constructional technique of which is far more stabilised, the competent Departments of State have found it necessary to retain some control in the interests of fare-paying passengers. Apart from this, it is intended that the board shall operate with the maximum degree of freedom from the Air Ministry and that there shall be no official representative upon it. I would add that, also in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee, power is taken in Subsection (3) of the Clause which will enable a generous measure of financial assistance to be made to the board during the first five years of its work.

The provision for the licensing of air transport services contained in Clause 5 is not necessarily intended for immediate application. It is for use as and when it may be found to be necessary. It enables a licensing system to be introduced by means of an Order in Council which will have to be affirmed by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament before it is actually made. Parliamentary control of the actual introduction of the licensing system is thus assured.

At present, while aircraft have to be certified as airworthy and the flying personnel have also to be licensed, no licence is required for the service. It is open to anyone to establish a new air transport undertaking in this country at any time. The disadvantages of such a state of affairs have been clearly demon- strated in the case of public motor vehicle traffic, and it is desired to make timely provision to obviate, in the case of air transport, the unfortunate experience which necessitated the ex-post facto regulation and control of public road transport services. The regulation of public vehicle traffic on the roads was effected by the Road Traffic Act, 1930, after the mischief had already arisen. It would clearly be inadvisable to wait to grapple with this question, as regards the air, until vested interests had been created and measures of control made more difficult. There are, in the case of air transport, further practical considerations demanding the existence of some measure of control, namely, the need for preventing congestion at air ports and the consequent danger of collision in the air.

That brings me naturally to Part II of the Bill, which gives local authorities power to acquire land compulsorily for aerodromes and so facilitate, as I hope it will, the provision of an adequate number of air ports for this young and growing form of communication. Here again we are profiting by experience and applying old and tried methods to the meeting of new needs. Under the Air Navigation Act of 1920 local authorities can acquire sites for aerodromes by agreement only. It was always possible for the acquisition of these sites to be held up, or the cost unduly increased, by the objection of property owners to part with their land except on exorbitant terms. For the past five years, therefore, power to purchase compulsorily has been given to local authorities and renewed year by year under the terms of the Public Works Facilities Act, 1930.

Objection has been raised on more than one occasion in another place to the continuance of these powers by repeated renewals of a temporary Measure passed for the primary purpose of relieving unemployment. It may be that there is substance in the objection to such a method of meeting an acknowledged and permanent need. The Bill, accordingly, makes permanent provision for the powers that have actually been renewed year by year under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. There is no doubt at all that these powers are needed. That is shown by the fact that at least 13 Orders for the compulsory acquisition of land for aerodromes have been confirmed under the 1930 Act. It will be appreciated that there is nothing new in the principle nor anything novel in the methods by which it is applied. They correspond with the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. I feel sure that the House will be agreed upon the necessity for making the powers of compulsory acquisition permanently available.

I now come to the fifth and last of the main questions dealt with in the Bill, that of insurance. Here, again, we are applying to the air the lessons of the roads. That is in Part III of the Bill. The application of a system of compulsory third party insurance to flying has, however, certain aspects of its own. In the first place, if adequate protection is to be given against damage by aircraft, the insurance must cover damage to property as well as injury to persons on the ground. If insurance is to be practicable at any reasonable premium, some limit must be set to the liability. At present, the aircraft owner is liable for any damage done by him or his machine, whatever the amount of the damage. If he wishes to insure voluntarily against third party risks, as he can do if he wishes, he finds in practice that it is not possible to effect an insurance except for a certain limited amount. That being the situation, and the reasons for it will be readily understood, it follows that, if insurance is to be made compulsory, some limit must be set to the liability. Therefore, Clause 12, fixing the limit of liability for third party damage, so far as power driven aeroplanes are concerned, at from £5,000 to £25,000, according to the weight of the machine, is a natural preliminary to Clause 13, which makes third party insurance compulsory.

By including provision for compulsory insurance in this Bill, we are again following the recommendation of the Gorell Committee who, in their turn, could point to a precedent in the Rome Convention of 1933, to which I have already referred in connection with Clause 18. It was accepted by the framers of that Convention that it was proper that compulsory insurance should be linked with limitation of liability. Certain exceptions or conditions in policies, corresponding broadly, but not identically, with those allowed in motor vehicle policies, will be permissible. I recognise, of course, that the ideal state of affairs would be that third parties on the ground should he indemnified against all possible loss. The result, however, of excluding all conditions and exceptions from policies would be such a considerable increase in premiums as to be an impossible handicap to aircraft owners.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the rate charged for third party risks, in order that we can find out what the cost would bes as a result of these proposals?

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

I cannot answer that question just now, but I will answer it later on. The provisions of the Bill under this head are based on the similar provisions of the Road Traffic Acts, 1930 and 1934, and they provide insurance which would cover all normal cases of third party damage. Since aircraft owners will be obliged to insure for the amount provided by the Bill, the general public will be in a far better position than they are to-day, when there is no guarantee that any compensation for damage or injury will be recoverable at all. At the same time, the premium cost to the owners of aircraft will be kept within reasonable limits. From inquiries which have been made it is believed that the making of insurance compulsory will not result in any material increase in premiums. I am sure that the House will agree with me in expressing the hope that this belief will prove to be justified. I would appeal especially to the insurance interests to keep the rates as low as possible in the general interests of aviation. I should like at the same time to mention the great assistance which we have received from the representatives of the insurance companies and Lloyds underwriters in the preparation of the general scheme of third party insurance. The advice which the Air Ministry obtained from this quarter has been given frankly and disinterestedly, and was valuable in the extreme.

I may here say that the Air Ministry and the Board of Trade have been in close consultation, in regard to Clause 17 of the Bill, with the British Insurance Association which, as hon. Members know, represents practically all the leading insurance companies carrying on business in the United Kingdom. The Association have repeated the views previously expressed, in regard to discrimination between one kind of insurer and another. Such discrimination is, in their view, inevitably to be found in any legislation based, as is Clause 17, on the Assurance Companies Act, 1909. The companies and certain private underwriters are treated differently as regards both the deposits which they have to make and the returns which have to be rendered to the Board of Trade. Returns made by the companies are open to public inspection; those made by private underwriters are not, but the private underwriters have to comply with certain other special requirements. The Association maintain strongly that the Bill should have been framed so as to avoid this discrimination. I am glad to be able to say that they fully recognise the urgent need for legislation in regard to aerial navigation, and for this reason they are unwilling to exert any influence against the passing of the Bill.

The question at issue is, in the opinion of the Association, an important one, which will no doubt come before the departmental committee which, as already announced, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has appointed, with the following terms of reference: To consider and report whether any, and, if so, what, changes in the existing law relating to the carrying on of the business of insurance are desirable in the light of statutory provisions relating to compulsory insurance against third party risks and by employers against liability to their workmen. The insurance provisions of this Bill must, therefore, be regarded as interim legislation pending the findings of this committee. I may add that the companies are anxious that it should not be thought that, by accepting the position I have described, they have in Any way departed from the view already expressed by them to my right hon. Friend.

The introduction of compulsory insurance will enable another concession to be made which should be greatly welcomed by private flyers. The Gorell committee recommended that certificates of air-worthiness should be optional in the case of private machines that are fully insured. Since that condition will necessarily be fulfilled if this Bill becomes law, it should be possible to exempt private machines, if the owner desires it, from being certified as airworthy for home flying.

I have endeavoured to describe the general scope and main provisions of this Bill sufficiently, I hope, to enable hon. Members to appreciate the purpose for which it has been put forward. If I have succeeded, and I hope I have, the House will realise that there is nothing strange or alarming in it. It is a solid useful work-a-day Measure, based on the lessons of past experience and the findings of previous enquiry, and designed to carry aviation in this country and in the British Empire yet another step forward. There will, no doubt, be points of detail which hon. Members will wish to raise later. Hon. Members do not need my assurance that any suggestions of a helpful character, from whatever quarter of the House they may come, will be very carefully considered. I am sure that hon. Members are at one regarding the need for the development of British air transport upon the best and most fruitful lines. I hope, therefore, that they will give to the general principle and main provisions of this Bill the acceptance which, I am confident, the Bill deserves.

7.56 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Moore-Brabazon Lieut-Colonel John Moore-Brabazon , Wallasey

I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."

I do not think that any hon. Member will accuse me of not being enthusiastic about the position of air development in this country. I find myself therefore in the somewhat lamentable position of moving to reject the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has explained with all his charm the many things which the Bill actually does, and I cannot quarrel with many of those things. I cannot quarrel with many of the recommendations of the Gorell Committee, upon which I served, now being embodied in the Bill. It is on the financial side that I quarrel with the Bill, and the financial considerations seem to transcend so much the rest of the Bill that I have felt bound to do what I consider is vital to the future of aviation, and to move the rejection.

I ask the House to look on the Bill as in no way a party Measure. It is not put forward as a Conservative Bill or a National Government Bill. If the Labour party were in office to-day the same type of Bill would be before the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members do not like my saying that, but let me point out that this is an Air Ministry Bill to give power to the Air Ministry alone. I cannot get away from being a sort of Cassandra of the House of Commons. I prophesy, hon. Members never believe me, but I am always right. I still harp upon the fact that we did wrong when we compelled that war marriage between military and civil aviation, and I say that it is high time that this very unhappy menage were separated by divorce. The Bill perpetuates the unhappiness which the Legislature imposed upon the future of civil aviation. It is no use saying that civil aviation is helped in regard to research. Nobody who has studied the question will deny that Diesel engines of 2,000 horse power are required for civil machines, of the flying boat type, but we are also aware that the whole resources of the research side of the country are earmarked for the military side of aviation, and any money which can be spared for research is going towards the military side.

We are asked to hand a blank cheque to the Air Ministry as to the future. In the early days of aviation the granting of subsidies of a monopolistic type was justified. But things have changed. Now we are asked to grant a sum of £1,500,000 a year until 1953. That appears to be based on the assumption that civil aviation is in a static condition, but I firmly believe that nothing is so fluid or subject to change as progress in aeronautics. It may sound unpleasant to my right hon. Friend, but I must ask the House whether the country is really justified in placing confidence in the Air Ministry when we are asked for a blank cheque for £1,500,000 a year until 1953? Looking at the military side of aviation, has the Air Ministry done so extraordinarily well? Has it ever produced good machines? It was not until this House forced it to produce aeroplanes that it did so at all. On the other hand, as regards civil aviation, is our civil aviation in the Empire anything to write home about? Is anyone proud of it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] The advertisements of Imperial Airways may speak well of it, but nobody else does. Compared with civil aviation in every other part of the world it is behind.

I am not one of those who say that Imperial Airways should not get a long-term subsidy, for there is a tremendous lot of work to be done in pioneer flying in connection with Empire development, and that requires long-term help. I am not here to say that what the Government decide to give to Imperial Airways is not justified in every way. All that I am against is monopoly, and it is for that reason that I want to see these agreements, with regard to Imperial Airways and anybody else, attached to the Bill. I do not want something to arise in which, while we are paying £1,500,000 per year, we find ourselves tied up with an agreement about which we know nothing and which has taken place behind our backs.

I look upon this help as something of a capital nature. It is too much to ask a private company to lay down aerodromes, to erect buildings, to get supplies of petrol, to put down beacons, wireless equipment and all that sort of thing; but, if the taxpayer puts down the capital for these things, they ought to be a free port for all. Already one can see that the success or failure of the route to South Africa—a most expensive route to develop—and also of the route to India, is ultimately going to depend on the type of service that is run on those routes, and, if we do not look out, we may find ourselves paying a big subsidy to a company which is running inefficient machines. I do not think that anyone who was not patriotic would go by Imperial Airways to-day. If the taxpayers pay, they should certainly get the best in the world, and I cannot see that happening if this Bill is passed.

There is another point, which affects the aircraft industry in this country. I have always hoped that the British aircraft industry would eventually become, like the shipping industry in this country, the headquarters of aeroplane construction throughout the world, but if the only possible outlet for civil machines is going to be one company alone, it is quite obvious that the building of machines for commercial aviation will slip out of our hands into somebody else's. I feel that what happened with regard to the railways is going to happen again with regard to shipping. The railway companies forgot all about road transport until, too late, they found a rival knocking them out in every quarter. It is going to be the same with the shipping companies. The cream of the traffic of the shipping companies should go by air. It should be their work to see that it goes by the quickest and best route for them, which is rapidly becoming the air route. But in this country now we are subsidising Imperial Airways from the point of view of mails and everything else, and we have already laid it down that all first-class mail is to go by air. Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to take away the subsidies from our shipping companies in the future because first-class mail is now taken by air? If not, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to argue a very curious theme, because he is going to subsidise the shipping companies for not carrying mail, while he is paying Imperial Airways for carrying the mail. That seems to be a very illogical position.

Moreover, although I do not grudge Imperial Airways the help that they get, we have to remember that the Air Ministry is a part of and a shareholder in Imperial Airways, and, therefore, very naturally, the Air Ministry helps its child as much as possible as a private company. If anyone who tries to run a civil aviation service on the basis of no subsidy at all, but purely on a commercial basis, is going to receive nothing but discouragement from the Air Ministry, that is a very serious thing. If you like to decide that your subsidy shall go to one company alone, give it to them, but I think the position will be come very grave if the Government, qua Government, because it is interested in one company, is going to discourage other people from running lines. I do not know enough about the Ireland-Newfoundland story to say anything about it to the House to-night, but I know that everything was going swimmingly, and the Air Ministry was helping everyone, until Imperial Airways said that they were going to change from the southern to the northern route. The moment they said that, the whole attitude of the Government changed. That is a very distressing thing. I should like to know also from my right hon. Friend what are the machinations of the Fisher Committee. The Fisher Committee is a Treasury Committee, I understand, on which there are representatives of other Departments, and it is investigating the possibilities of air development outside England. The Treasury is a very strong Department, and, if any enterprises are going to be supported which may possibly be running against Imperial Airways, it seems to me that the Treasury is going to try to stop the necessary finance. We have already had indications of that.

I believe that many hon. Members want to speak on this subject, and there are many points on which later on I should like to say a word in Committee, but we must look upon all this enterprise, and the whole policy as being between complete Socialism and complete private enterprise. I do not suppose that even the staunchest Tory would advocate running the Army on the basis of private enterprise, or that even the staunchest Socialist would advocate the complete nationalisation of children. We are all somewhere between these two extremes. But here we have a principle which seems to me to have no advantage from either point of view. If you say that from the point of view of the Empire, from the point of view of showing the flag, from the point of view of prestige, it is a good thing to run Empire air services on the basis of the State and the State alone, I am willing to agree. It would have many advantages over the present system. If machines were not running up to time, we could question Ministers in the House of Commons, and the people of this country would see that the service was efficient. It might be very expensive, but it would be efficient. But under the present system all we can do is to buy a few shares and turn up at a mutual admiration society's meeting, namely, the annual meeting of Imperial Airways; there is no other way of dealing with the situation. That seems to me to be extremely unsatisfactory. If you are an extreme Tory, if you believe in competition which develops the best type of aeroplane, you will not vote for this Bill. If you are neutral, if you do not care which way aviation develops, why should you consent to pay £1,500,000 of the taxpayers' money every year to subsidise civil aviation? If you are an advanced Socialist, you will look to the complete Socialisation of airways throughout the Empire. I cannot see that there can be any group or individual in this House that can be in favour of this scheme, and, therefore, I hope that the House of Commons, not from any party point of view, but on the merits of the case alone, will reject the Measure.

8.13 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

I beg to second the Amendment.

In the first place, I do not think that this Bill is sufficiently a Navigation Bill. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) that it is unfortunate that civil aviation has remained under the care of the Air Ministry; I think that it should be under the care of the Board of Trade; but I also think that the day has come when it is essential for the safety of aviation that we should have a national scheme of regulations with regard to our air services—that there should be a co-ordinated scheme for aerodromes with regard to lighting, radio communication, and so on. I view with distress the powers which it is proposed to grant to local authorities, under Part II of the Bill, to purchase land compulsorily for the laying down of aerodromes. They can, as the House knows, do this outside their ordinary borrowing powers, and those who have studied the Press lately will have noticed that all over the place local authorities are beginning to think it necessary for their prestige to put forward schemes for aerodromes. To-day, the average cost of an aerodrome is in excess of £100,000, and the average annual cost of upkeep is in excess of £5,500. The average income from an aerodrome is in the region of £250. I think, therefore, that there is a very grave danger in allowing local authorities to send forward schemes for the compulsory purchase of land, and I regret that this Bill has been brought before the House before we have had the Report of the Maybury Committee, who might have suggested some scheme whereby there should be a recognition from the central Government of where it was necessary and where it was desirable to have aerodromes.

Also we ought to make national regulations with regard to safety. I was very much shocked when on 6th February the Under-Secretary told me, with regard to the "City of Khartoum" disaster, that the responsibility for an adequate supply of petrol in machines rested upon the pilot. It is wholly wrong that an employé of any company should be made responsible for saying when he considers he has or has not an adequate fuel supply. In the United States the "City of Khartoum" would have been carrying another 200 gallons by national regulations. It is high time that we had national regulations with regard to the quantity of fuel that should be carried in any machine.

If we pass this Bill, we of course continue the subsidy to Imperial Airways for another 15 years. I believe there is a strong case for continuing some subsidy to Imperial Airways, and I am not altogether against it, but I should like to know exactly on what grounds these subsidies are given. A good deal has been made lately of the fact that just recently the Government have allowed British Airways to have a small part of the subsidy for their service to Sweden. I should like to know why it was that British Continental Airways, which ran a service before British Airways ever started a service to Sweden, and which is running a daily service to Antwerp, Brussels and Lille, and spends a great amount of money on it, was never allowed to put forward a tender. Why is it that the arrangement with regard to these subsidies is made behind everyone's back, with no reference to any one at all? If you are giving air mail contracts to a shipping company, it is usual to allow tenders to go forward, and it is a curious and unsatisfactory state of affairs that these arrangements should be made without anyone knowing anything about them until they are completed.

If we are continuing the subsidy to Imperial Airways for 15 years, we ought to be sure that the service that it has given in the past has been in every case wholly satisfactory, because civil aviation is vital not only to the future trade of the country but probably to the future unity of the Empire, and we cannot risk giving it into the hands of any one company for a further 15 years unless when we look at the past we can be wholly satisfied with the service that it has provided. I do not think that we can be absolutely content with the service that Imperial Airways has rendered in the past. To-day great schemes are going forward. There are 29 new seaplanes under construction and 12 land machines. A few days ago I saw one of those flying boats which is nearing completion. If it is as good as it looks, it is a machine of which we may be pround, but why has it been so long before we have been allowed to have up-to-date machines? Why, if the Air Ministry is doing its work efficiently, and if Imperial Airways has shown that initiative and enterprise which we have a right to demand of the company which has control of something of such vital import to the future of the country as commercial aviation, have we had to bring perpetual pressure to bear? Why is it that the machines run on Imperial Airways routes are obsolete from the point of structure, performance and speed? Why is it that in so many parts of the world we have no service where we ought to have a service?

South Africa intends to take over her service from Johannesburg to the Cape. It is very probable that she will later on insist upon taking over the whole of her own internal airlines. It is not a matter for satisfaction that she has bought German machines with which to run those services. It is indelible proof that she has not been satisfied either with the service or with the machines of Imperial Airways in the past. You can come to no other conclusion. Australia intends to take over her service from Singapore to Brisbane and Sydney. She is not going to have flying boats. I do not think there is any question that probably the ideal boat to put on that service would be the new Short machine which is shortly going to be flown. But Australia has not thought so, and the machines that she has bought for that route are American Douglas machines. That again is an indictment of the service that Imperial Airways has given in the past.

It is a serious and a terrible thing that Australia has thought it necessary to buy American machines and that Africa has thought it necessary to buy German machines. It is lamentable. Pan-American Airways is going to run a service to New Zealand. She has annexed three small British islands in order to do so. I cannot remember all the names of these islands and as usual I have lost my notes. One was called Baker Island. I read of it in the "Daily Telegraph," and that is a reliable paper. I should like to know why those islands were annexed. Was it with the consent of the Government and, if so, why was the matter not referred to this House? I believe the service is eventually to be carried on from New Zealand to Australia. Is it not a pity that Imperial Airways is not the service that is connecting Australia and New Zealand? It is a very serious thing. It is imperative for our interests in China and the East that we should run a service from Singapore to Hong Kong and Shanghai. It is Pan-American Airways and Deutsche Luft Hansa who are capturing the trade in China and the East with their air lines. I do not think we can afford, either from the point of view of our trade or of British prestige, to allow this route to be captured entirely by an American service. We should not be asking why that has been allowed to happen if Imperial Airways had given us in the past the service that we have a right to demand and expect.

Deutsche Luft Hansa intend, I believe, to extend their services from China to India and Persia and Greece and on to Europe. Is that a situation that the House is going to view with equanimity? I do not myself regard it with any great degree of equanimity. If we pass this Bill, we shall give Imperial Airways a monopoly on routes on which it is to-day running no service. But look at those routes on which it is now running a service. Look at the route to Singapore. There is a Dutch service that reaches Singapore in three and a-half days less time than Imperial Airways. I think it is true to say that the Dutch service will not carry British mail because they have found their extra speed of such value to their trade. I cannot look upon that as satisfactory, and again I say that, if that is the service which Imperial Airways have given us in the past, we should be hesitant before we give them this tremendous power and monopoly for another 15 years.

France, in conjunction with Belgium, runs a line through Marseilles, Oran, and across the Sahara to the French possessions in West Africa in two and a-half days less time to-day than the projected service of Imperial Airways. That again is an unsatisfactory position. We granted a monopoly to Imperial Airways with regard to the North Atlantic route, and I believe it is probably true to say that Imperial Airways are further on with their schemes for running the North Atlantic route than any other company which could start to-day. But that is because every other company has been very clearly told that it would have no backing and no support, no subsidy, and would never be given the carriage of His Majesty's mails. I believe that had that not been the case in the past we might have been further on with schemes for the North Atlantic service than we are at present. The situation as we find it now, however, is such that probably Imperial Airways will be able to give us a North Atlantic route sooner than any other company which could start from scratch would be able to do it. But it is just as well to remember that Pan-American Airways have made very good agreements with France, and with Germany, for the running of the North Atlantic route, and it is also certainly true to say that Germany is further on with her experimental flights over the North Atlantic than this country.

Whenever we compare ourselves with America we are told, "You must not compare yourselves with America. She has these vast spaces and these wonderful opportunities and we cannot compete." That may be true, but surely we have a right to say that we can compete with Germany. She has not had that vast wealth; she has not a vast Empire to serve. Should Germany to-day be further on with regard to the North Atlantic service than Great Britain? I do not think so, but there is absolutely no question that she certainly is. Germany flies 30 per cent. more route miles than we do, and in 1934 she had 100 per cent. more flown miles and carried nearly three times the tonnage of mails and two and a-half times the tonnage of goods. Holland gives more than half the service which Imperial Airways gives at less than one-tenth of the cost.

I do not think, when you look at that record, you can feel that you can, with trust and confidence, give to-day a monopoly on these many routes to Imperial Airways without thought. If we give this monopoly it will exist for 15 years. We are told of these great new seaplanes and these wonderful new land-planes which we are building, but I still doubt whether the seaplanes under con- struction are as good as the seaplanes already in existence in other parts of the world. I hope that they are, but, even so, we have got them only after intensive pressure from this House. We have heard about them only in the year when it becomes necessary that the subsidy should be carried on for another 15 years. If we give the subsidy for another 15 years without question, what proof have we that Imperial Airways will show that initiative and enterprise in the future which they have failed to show in the past? What power will this House have to bring pressure to bear upon Imperial Airways if they fail? We cannot afford to-day to risk failure, and therefore, I hope that the House will reject this Bill.

8.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Montague Mr Frederick Montague , Islington West

I assure the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State that his speech in moving the Second Reading of this Bill will not satisfy hon. Members on this side of the House. The Mover of the Amendment put his finger upon one strong objection that we hold when he said that the terms of the subsidies ought to be included in the Bill. I would draw the attention of the House to Clause 1, Sub-section (1), which says: The Secretary of State may, with the approval of the Treasury, agree to pay subsidies to any persons and to furnish facilities for their aircraft, in consideration of undertakings entered into by those persons with respect to the carriage by air of passengers or goods. The Secretary of State may do this until the year 1953. It may be done without the consent of the Treasury and without any authority or power as to the actual amount which is to go to Imperial Airways or any other operating body, because the Act of Parliament which at present provides subsidies will be wiped out. You have not only an increase from £1,000,000 to £1,500,000, but you have an expansion of the period of time which is not covered by Government control over subsidies at all. That is one of the very strong objections that we have to the Bill.

The Bill seems to stand for three principles, to each of which the Labour party has more than once expressed its opposition. They are, subsidies from the State, regulations by Orders in Council and control by vested interests. It may be true that, in the special circumstances of civil aviation as at present organised, these, to us objectionable features, are unavoidable, but it would have been the purpose of the Amendment on the Paper which was to have been moved from this side of the House to insist that the circumstances themselves required to be altered and that civil aviation should be placed upon a more logical footing of public service. It is a remarkable thing that the inherent defects of the present system are readily observed by Members on the other side of the House, who prepare elaborate and complicated Measures to deal with the results only while the actual causes of the troubles and the anomalies of which they complain stare them in the face. We had an instance of that on Friday last when admitted abuses were sought to be remedied by a Bill which by its very clumsiness, if nothing else, alone challenged, in the name of freedom and public interest, opposition in all quarters of the House. But none of the critics of that Bill, elsewhere than on these benches, could see the plain fact that the proper and completely effective method of dealing with the abuses described would be a State medical service.

Similarly, we find that the new industry, service and pastime of flying is floundering in a bog or, would it be a more appropriate metaphor to say that it is trying to find its way out of a fog of anomalies and grievances that are the inevitable result of the compromise which allows so much State interference, perhaps of a niggling and unimaginative kind, to go with so much private enterprise; a compromise under which the interests of the community fall down as between two stools. Only Socialists know and appreciate the reactionary and paralysing inhibitions of mere State interference.

May I give an instance of what I mean in regard to Clauses of the Bill which deal with the subject of insurance? We are told with complete complacency by the Under-Secretary that insurance for third party risks is to be enforced upon the basis of weight, that is, so many pounds according to so much weight of the machine. What has weight to do with the question of third party risk? A small machine, a machine of small weight, may quite easily create more damage if it falls upon a town than an Imperial Airways liner. You must, of course, have some method of insurance, but here, again, as I pointed out with regard to the Measure in general and with regard to the illustration about last Friday's Bill, the proper solution of the question of insurance is the solution that we propose from this side. If we had a State service of flying as we should have—the air is not private property, but is comparable to the ether that is controlled by the British Broadcasting Corporation—the problem of insurance would solve itself. We could not have a finer insuring authority than the State itself.

All these niggling, little, foolish compromises and adaptations are brought out in the Bill which allows, without any consideration of detail, a board to be set up according to the recommendations of the Gorell Committee. It allows the board to do certain things and to take control of things which we consider ought to be more directly under the control of the House of Commons. The Bill is designed, beyond its subsidy provisions, to carry out the recommendations of the Gorell Committee. Let us compare some of the provisions of the Bill with the corresponding recommendations of the committee. The committee desired that certificates of airworthiness should continue for regular air transport, air taxi joy riding and training work, in addition to one of third-party insurance and the licences of the crew in each case, while private and aerial work aircraft should be required to carry only the certificate of insurance. The Air Ministry, they contended, should not prescribe the detailed requirements to which aircraft should be built, while such matters as the system of approved firms, approval of modifications, inspection of certificates of airworthiness for renewal, daily inspection certificates and the system of ground engineers should lie relegated to the board. That is what the proposals of the Bill mean, although that is not stated. Nothing is clearly defined.

I take it that we may assume that the functions of the board correspond in general to the recommendations of the Gorell Committee. That board was to be named the Air Registration Board, representing Lloyd's Register and the British Corporation Register. It was to be an autonomous, statutory, executive body. The Bill is less precise. Under Clause 2, if the Bill becomes an Act, the Secretary of State may—there is a tremendous amount of "may" in this Bill—make provision by Order in Council for delegating to a body appearing to him to be substantially representative of the interests concerned, particularly of operators, constructors and insurers of aircraft, such matters as may be specified respecting the design, construction, and maintenance of aircraft. Such an Order may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order.

This advisory and executive board is to be more widely representative than the board proposed in the Gorell Committee's report. I understand—I am open to correction by the Under-Secretary, but it seems to have been arranged outside—that one-fourth of the board is to consist of operators, one-fourth of constructors, one-fourth of insurers, and by co-option one-fourth other interests. We do not know what those other interests may be. They may be chambers of commerce, pilots, even users of aircraft, but we have no definite details. There is no representative, in fact the Under-Secretary emphasised the point that there would be no representative of the Government upon the board, and no direct control or authority from the point of view of this House. It is not too clear to members outside aviation interests where the Air Ministry comes in or how far it is to be kicked out.

I did not understand the reference which the Mover of the Amendment made to this question when he said that the Bill was giving the Air Ministry more control by giving them greater authority. I have read the Bill very carefully and I am afraid I cannot see that. Air transport and other commercial flying is to be regulated by licence under Order in Council, in so far as such regulation may become desirable. This, we are told, is to provide for the rationalising of inland services. There seem to be some hon. Members who think that you can allow for or tolerate chaos in the operating of aircraft at this time of day, that you can have competing interests running over the same routes. Apart from the financial considerations there are surely the considerations of public interest and public safety to be looked at. There is to be rationalising of inland services because there may be a tendency for too many companies to run air services on the same routes. It seems that private owner-pilots are to be allowed to kill themselves if they wish to do so, provided they can find an insurance company to insure their craft, while unless they kill or seriously injure themselves or their friends there is to be no inquest or investigation. I know that is not in the Bill, but it is in the recommendations of the Gorell Committee, whose recommendations are to be implemented by this board, which is not under House of Commons control or public control.

I should like to know whether the proposal of the Gorell Committee that there shall be no investigation of accidents unless there is a fatal accident or serious injury is to be part of the policy of the new board? In respect of private flyers the insurance companies are to be made responsible for airworthiness; the board is to be responsible of course; but it depends entirely upon the possession of the insurance certificate. One advantage of this, we are told, is that renewals will be facilitated because organisations like Lloyd's have branches in all parts of the world. The proposal to devolve questions of construction and design to this independent board is, as many hon. Members know, the culmination of a long struggle between constructors and the Air Ministry. Such bodies as the Society of British Aircraft Constructors have had a long fight with the Air Ministry about their interference with details of designs, and I am quite prepared to admit that they have some case, that there is substance in the contractors' grievances. Apparently, there has not been sufficient elasticity, and this fact has been of some disadvantage in competition.

For instance, when I was at the Air Ministry it was regarded as unreasonable to subject manufacturers to the same rules of design in regard to lift, load and take-off, and so on, whether the aircraft was to be used in this country with its mosaic patterns of fields going back to the manorial system, or in Canada with its vast spaces and large aerodrome areas. I admit that there is substance in these grievances, and that they have to be dealt with, and I am confident that they can be dealt with infinitely better under the proposal we make for public control of civil aviation. At the same time, this House, I am confident, will wish to be assured that the high standard of British manufacture will not be impaired. Insurance risk as a measure of safety is all very well, and perhaps it is effective enough, but as one who has flown in many kinds of aircraft in this country and on the Continent, I prefer the comforting thought that the fragile craft in which I may be up in the air has been built to five times its likely stress, to the Continental principle of test to mere destruction. I think that there is too much devolution in this Bill, both as regards second and third parties.

The Amendment on the Paper says that the principle of State subsidies to private enterprise is in itself a vicious principle. I should like to make a distinction between the question of public subsidies to private enterprise and a mere proposal to break down what has been called the monopoly of one particular company. A dividing up of subsidies is not the breakdown of a monopoly; the monopoly will still exist. So long as private companies run air transport, and particularly so long as the Government rely on civil aviation as a background to the Air Force, in ground organisation and navigation if not in machines, so long will subsidies be paid. I am not at all misled by those who say that big subsidies to one firm are indefensible and ought to be split up in order that competing firms may have a chance. That argument does not intrigue me in the least. I do not want a number of separate vested interests created. I am certain that public ownership in some form or other is inevitable. I have suggested the analogy of the British Broadcasting Corporation but I am certain that it is inevitable in some form or other. I want the transition, when it comes, to be simple; least of all do we want a multiplication of nuisance values.

In regard to Imperial Airways it may be true that subsidies pay the dividend which over the whole term has been about 3 per cent. It has varied from as high as 7½ per cent. to as low as 2 per cent.; but I fail to see the point so long as subsidised private enterprise exists. Of course subsidies must pay the dividend or some of it. The company, Imperial Airways, are not a philanthropic concern. They take subsidies for a purpose, and they are given it in order to pay the dividend or some of it. But there is this to be said: We are told—and I should like the House to consider this point—that the capital of Imperial Airways, a little more than £600,000, upon which the dividend is paid, is very small on comparison with the present organisation, which points to the fact, as Henry Ford put it, that fructification has gone on from the core and not from the periphery, which from our point of view as well as that of Henry Ford is the sound way of handling what is called, under capitalism, "expansion." It is the co-operative method of finance as it would be the Socialist one—to provide for development first as a charge upon the scheme, not distribute dividends and then rely on public investment for expansion. It is this reliance upon new issues and not upon fructification from the inside which is very largely the cause of the cycles of unemployment and depression and poverty which afflict the modern capitalist system. I should like to know how far these reflections are true of the history of Imperial Airways.

The consideration brings me to fundamentals with which we in the Labour party are concerned. The Bill raises a Socialist issue of vital importance to those who believe in the public ownership or public organisation of the means and machinery of production. We want to transfer the machinery of production to the public service as the foundation of what we believe will he a noble and decent state of society. I should like the opportunity some day of being able to justify those words. But that is our view of what Socialism will be, and we want to transfer the machinery of production in the most practical and least injurious manner. If civil aviation were organised on the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation, it would not be Socialism. If all the great industries were nationalised, it would not be Socialism, because the equality for which Socialism stands would not have emerged and the economic consequences of inequality would still persist. [Interruption.] If I were permitted to discuss this matter, I should be very pleased to do so. By equality one does not mean imposed equality. We are not talking about an imposed amount, determined by Act of Parliament, which everybody shall receive as an income. Equality will be the natual outcome of a co-operative state in which education and training are controlled—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

The hon. Member cannot pursue that subject in this Debate.

Photo of Mr Frederick Montague Mr Frederick Montague , Islington West

I rather suspected I could not. The Socialist idea of public ownership—and here I return to the point we are discussing—would provide a structure out of which such emergence would ultimately take place. In creating this form of public service, which we regard as transitional, there is in mind the fact that the nature and scope of an industry would properly determine its mode of management. That is the case in Russia, where the overwhelming number of economic units exist in the form of public trusts and syndicates of various kinds—my words are those of the Russian Ambassador—having freedom and elasticity of management and employing the best brains and organising capacity obtainable. I was talking to a well-known aircraft manufacturer the other day, and I said, evidently to his surprise, that under such a control of British aviation he would stilll be doing his job and doing it well. Of course he would, and as long as the conception of equality remained an ideal of some remoteness for all its common sense in an age of miraculous abundance, he would occupy as good It, relative economic and social position as, say, the high-grade public servant, and he would have as much freedom of control and management as he would desire, subject to considerations of general public policy.

What objection is there to this policy embodied in our Amendment Surely the objection does not come from those who, in this Debate, will be telling us of the inefficiency and chaos that there are in aviation to-day. We have been told—and I am not inclined to believe the extravagant words of the Seconder of the Amendment—that inefficiency is the rule in British aviation to-day. But everyone recognises that there is, at any rate, chaos in aviation, particularly in international aviation, where in some cases corridors which one is compelled to fly along do not fit with one another at frontiers, where every country imposes different vexatious limitations, and where even the right to fly is a matter of treaty and the treaties are all different. All the internal and external difficulties which will be urged in sup- port of the Bill, and, for that matter, in opposition to it from some quarters, construct and prove the case which we submit for a rational, scientific organisation of air services, which in any event cannot be left to chaotic private monopoly—which I think is admitted—and must not be given over to an even more chaotic private competition.

I trust that in replying to the Debate the Minister will make it clear that public safety is not to be imperilled. We are very much concerned about this principle and the method by which the evolution is to take place. We sincerely think that the House ought to be taken more into the confidence of the Minister and the Government in this matter, and that, as the Mover of the Amendment said, there ought to be attached to the Bill the definite terms on which these long-term subsidies are to be granted. So far as the control of airworthiness is concerned, again I am extremely anxious, as we all are, that whatever may be done and whatever may need to be done to give greater elasticity to the methods of control of construction and so on, public safety shall not be imperilled. We are not satisfied with the constitution of the board and its obvious concern purely for vested interests. We believe that the difficulties and anomalies which the Bill seeks to rectify would be best solved by the adoption of the principle which was embodied in the Amendment on the Paper and which, had the order of the Debate gone otherwise, we should have moved from this side.

9.2 p.m.

Major HILLS:

I believe everybody will accept the ideal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague), who wants a rational, scientific organisation of civil aviation. Everybody in the House wants that. I will go further and say that if I had complete charge of civil aviation in a Socialist Government, I could run it very well. But as my hon. and gallant Friend behind me said, we have now a compromise between Socialism and individualism, and when I come to deal with that point, I hope to show that that is not only a very useful way of running an air service, but is also a principle which has been applied over and over again in similar enterprises.

My hon. and gallant Friend made two statements on which I would like to comment. He said, in the first place, that that which the Government did for Imperial Airways was justified, and almost in the same breath he went on to say that Imperial Airways ran the poorest of any civil aviation service in the world. If Imperial Airways were so incompetent, I cannot see why he wanted to continue the subsidy to them. I would like to deal with all the points made by my hon. and gallant Friend. First, I agree with him that we ought to have a unified service—at least, I am not sure that my hon. and gallant Friend would agree to that. I would like to put it to the House that the advantage of Imperial Airways is that there you have a unified service in civil aviation which is especially valuable for running the Empire routes. If money were spent on various Empire services, there would be the risk of wasting part of the money and of not getting such an effective service and such a good return for the money spent. The traffic service is one which requires unity. The machines may fly on one route at one time of the year and on another route at another time, and the more there is unification the more economy is introduced into the service. I submit to the House that this can be done without the disadvantages of a monopoly. My hon. and gallant Friend made great play on the disadvantages of a monopoly. Is Imperial Airways a monopoly? Is it anything more than an enterprise which the State has elected to develop and run Empire services? I submit to the House that it is that, and that the State was very wise in following such a course.

I always differ with great diffidence from my hon. and gallant Friend, not only because his is one of the most acute brains in the House, but because he was the first Englishman to fly and has studied aviation all his life and has a knowledge of the subject which is unrivalled. But on this occasion I differ from him on two essential points. I do not believe in competition and I do not believe that Imperial Airways service is the poorest civil aviation service in the world. Before dealing with those two points I wish to comment on what my hon. and gallant Friend said about the disadvantages of compromise. His brain is too clear to admit compromise. His logical mind wants either Socialism or Toryism. I submit with all respect and deference that compromise is sometimes a very good thing.

Here we have a combination of private enterprise—private shareholders in Imperial Airways—and a large State subsidy. That brings in the public and interests them in flying and makes Imperial Airways a more effective machine than it would be if it were entirely financed by the Government. After all, the Bank of England is very much the same. It is a private bank and also a State bank. The Government lately made a large investment in the Cunard Company. They have also found big sums for the railways and those actions, I think have been accepted by public opinion. I think they tend to create efficiency and get business done better than either clear-cut individualism on the one side, or clear-cit Socialism on the other. It is sometimes a mistake to be too logical. Sometimes a quite irrational and muddled-headed mind like my own, which accepts these indefensibly illogical arrangements arrives at better results than the severely logical mind. Is it a good thing that there should be one company or several companies running civil aviation in the country? My hon. and gallant Friend wants to keep on Imperial Airways. I suppose he would leave them their present routes and their subsidy but I suppose he would subsidise other companies too.

Major HILLS:

He would subsidise other companies on other routes. No aeroplane can go into the air and pay unless it is subsidised. To fly without a subsidy and to make it pay is unknown.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Moore-Brabazon Lieut-Colonel John Moore-Brabazon , Wallasey

The London-Paris service pays.

Major HILLS:

I wonder. With obsolescence and so on, on a proper footing, I think it remains to be seen whether it will pay or not. Air finance is an extremely complicated matter, as I know very well. It is very difficult and it is a matter in which, unless you exercise great care, you can go extremely wrong. But supposing we are to spend more money how shall we spend it best? Do we spend it best on subsidising one company and giving them all the money and all the routes or on spreading out the subsidy to cover various companies on various routes. I am strongly in favour of the first alternative. I am perfectly certain you get the best organisation, the best machines, the best service and the best staff by singling out a company on which you spend all the money you wish to spend.

Is Imperial. Airways a company of the character which deserves this subsidy? I agree that is an important matter. May I say, first of all, that I have no personal interest whatever in Imperial Airways except that I hold one share, value £1. I was an original director in 1924. T, then, was not a Member of Parliament. In 1925 I was elected to the House and since the company was subsidised I thought it, better to resign my directorship and give up a work which, may I say, I loved. I thought it best to sell my shares because there were certain dividends on those shares—of which I had received none up to that time—which were subsidised. I sold the shares at a heavy loss and resigned my directorship and so I have no interest at all in the company to-day, but I retain a great belief in the organisation of that great enterprise and the able man who is at the head of it. In 1925, the company operated 1,700 miles of air routes. That, in fact, was the cross-channel or European service. It now operates 17,000 miles a day and its air routes are 25,000 miles. That is not bad progress in 11 years. Its traffic has increased seven times between 1930 and 1934 on Empire routes and the cost per ton mile is less than half. I respectfully submit that those are the results of unity. It runs Empire services to the Cape, India, Singapore, Australia and from the Sudan to Nigeria.

The hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) made a very clear and precise speech unfavourable to Imperial Airways and she complained that they did not run more services. May I remind the House that if you give Imperial Airways more money they will run more services but that you cannot run services without subsidy. When she also complained that the South African Government were buying German machines and the Australian Government were buying Douglas machines, she used that stick to beat Imperial Airways for a crime for which they are not responsible. Imperial Air- ways do not build machines. They have to buy machines like anybody else. My hon. and gallant Friend said if there had been more competing companies there would be more competing manufacturers to build machines for them. When he says that, it either means that the routes would have been flown with an excessive number of machines and therefore too expensively, or that as long as the money is provided Imperial Airways, can fly any route they are desired to fly, for which the Government find the money.

Imperial Airways have not a monopoly. They do not carry all the mails, they do not fly on Northern European routes, but they are the selected company for Empire routes. The hon. Lady below me said they fly those routes with poor machines that are obsolete and too slow. The machines are improving very rapidly, and it was impossible for Imperial Airways to give an order for the new machines which they now require for the Empire routes until the subsidy question was settled. If you want a long-term policy, you must give a long-term subsidy. A large part of this subsidy might have ceased in 1937, and so they could not take the steps which the Empire routes require until they knew that the subsidy was to be continued. As a. matter of fact, the machines were ordered beforehand, and also, to account for some of the delay, they had considerable trouble in coming to terms with the Australian Government.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel John Moore-Brabazon Lieut-Colonel John Moore-Brabazon , Wallasey

Did the company order these new machines, gambling on the fact that this Bill would be passed to-night?

Major HILLS:

I do not know. I have no sort of connection with the company at all. I have no shareholding, and I am not on the board, but my hon. and gallant Friend saw all the machines himself, did he not? I did certainly, and they are being made now. I may be too enthusiastic over Imperial Airways—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—Well I wonder if I am. I am certain that if any of those hon. Members who imply that I am had been there in my place, their enthusiasm would have been much greater than mine, and they would have put it much better than I can. I do not believe there has ever been an organisation of this sort built up so quickly and so cheaply.

Our subsidies up to now have been much smaller than those which other Governments pay. It is useless for the hon. Lady below me to say that the Dutch subsidy is only one-tenth of ours. It is perfectly well known that there are all sorts of concealed subsidies, especially in Holland. We have up to now received far less money than have other countries, and for that we have done wonders, so I remain an unrepentant advocate of a single, unified company. I do not believe you can for a moment contemplate breaking up this great organisation; I do not think you can do it now. I also think they are doing their work more efficiently than could have been expected, and when this Bill is passed and the extra finance which the Bill contains is given to them, I do not believe that we shall hear the complaints which we have heard, for I believe that then there will be unanimity in admitting that the service is the best in the world. Outside this country nobody complains of it. It is only here that the service is criticised and that tendentious statements are allowed to appear in the Press, but I believe that when this Bill passes, all the doubts which exist in the minds of some of my hon. Friends will be removed.

9.20 p.m.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

In approaching a Bill if this kind, one cannot help regarding it with very grave suspicions at the outset, because it includes two things that are generally disliked, namely, a monopoly and a subsidy; and, seeing the great enthusiasm of the Government for a subsidy as a remedy for all the ills that the economic flesh is heir to, one naturally has to look very closely at a Bill like this, and it is necessary for the Government to make out their case in full, both in general and in particular. I cannot help feeling that some subsidy is still justified, and probably will be justified for some years to come, in connection with the development of civil aviation, because it is clear that if other countries do it, we must play our part. We must not be behindhand in the development of this wonderful new invention. We must be triumphant in the air, as we have been all down the ages at sea. Therefore, we should not grudge any well-worked-out scheme for encouraging a development of this kind.

I have some figures here which show how far off we are at the present time from reaching the paying stage. In 1933, I understand, there ware only four companies in Europe that were even halfway to paying without a subsidy. Taking 100 as the point where financial autonomy is achieved, where no subsidy is needed, we find the position to be this: Holland 76, Finland 70, Great Britain—that is, the European routes of Imperial Airways—61, Denmark 55, Germany 35, France 21, and Italy 8.7. It is clear, therefore, that a subsidy of some kind, to some company, is justified. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), said it was impossible to make flying pay without a subsidy. That is very nearly true, but I submit that it is not quite true, because under favourable conditions, such as you find on the flights to Jersey and in Northern Scot land, companies are actually paying without a subsidy now, and there are certainly people who are very anxious to organise long-range flights, across oceans, at the present time without any subsidy at all. Whether they could do it or not may be a matter for argument, but there are certainly responsible people who think they could.

With regard to the question of Imperial Airways, a great deal might be said in criticism. No doubt they have not done all that they might have done—they have been slow and various other things—but they have done a great work, none the less. They have built up in this country an organisation that we have reason to be proud of, I think. They have a vast fund of experience now, and they are a very powerful organisation. It is most difficult for any other company to raise up its head with Imperial Airways in the field. Indeed, it is rather difficult for the Air Ministry itself to attempt to advance in the matter of civil aviation without relying and calling upon the technical assistance of Imperial Airways. Imperial Airways are the civil aviation branch of the Air Ministry, in the opinion of a great many people.

While I am going to make some comments on the lines taken by my hon. and gallant Friend when he moved the rejection of the Bill, I think some tribute should be paid to Imperial Airways for the very effective national work which they have done along certain lines, even if it might have been very much better done. It is said that they have not built a very fast machine and that they have gone in for safety. Well, there is a great deal in having a safe machine, and I think—

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

Is the hon. Member aware that between October and February this year they have had nine accidents, and is he proud of that as a safety record?

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

The point I was going to make is that the general public, both in this country and in other countries, very much prefer to fly in Imperial Airways machines when they can get the chance, because they know that, while they may not go quite so fast, they are not likely to he smashed to pieces, as they might be if they travelled in the machines of other countries, where not quite so much care is given to these matters. The chairman of Imperial Airways said in his speech at the annual meeting that the company was virtually a national undertaking. The hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) argued in favour of having a national corporation. I agree that the time will come, and should come, when civil aviation in this country will be under such a corporation as the British Broadcasting Corporation or the Port of London Authority, but I do not think that that time has come at present. It is better to proceed on the system where you have some Government control over a company which is directed on the lines of Imperial Airways. The development of civil aviation is a great adventure. You want risks taken; you want forward movement; and that is not generally associated with Government departments. When it becomes more stabilised the time will have come to make it into a more national undertaking.

I want to raise what is the real criticism against this Bill and against the system of giving subsidies. This is a limited monopoly, and I agree that there should be a limited monopoly for Imperial Airways for the Empire routes, which are of great importance and should be encouraged from the point of view of national prestige, and also for the European routes. But the question I want to put—and I hope that my right hon. Friend will make it very clear—is what is going to be the position with regard to those Empire routes which are either not covered or are not likely to be covered by Imperial Airways for a number of years to come? What is going to be the position on those routes which are not contemplated by Imperial Airways at the present time? It would be greatly in the national interest if it were made clear that any company could come along and on equal terms, in free competition, could take its place with Imperial Airways for a claim for a subsidy, a mail contract and everything of that kind. There should be every encouragement to firms to compete on these routes where Imperial Airways have no intention of going. There is the route to South Africa. There are companies who want to go there, and I believe that plans are actually under consideration at the present time. There is the West Coast of Africa, where Imperial Airways have no plan at the present time, as indicated in the diagram given with their annual report. There are routes also in certain parts of the Mediterranean which other companies would be glad of having a chance of developing.

In this connection I would like to know what are the precise duties of the Fisher Committee and the Maybury Committee. Is it a fact that all proposals for developing routes abroad have to be passed by the Fisher Committee and that all those in connection with routes inside this country have to be passed by the Maybury Committee? I think that information ought to be given about that. I believe that the present situation in regard to the matters to which I have referred is profoundly unsatisfactory. I have been in touch with several different associations of people of a responsible kind who have got schemes and ideas and actually companies for developing certain routes. Whatever may be the real facts, the impression has been left on the minds of all these people that they have not had a square deal, that they have not been reasonably treated by the Air Ministry. If you are to get in and get any chance of a contract you have to know the right people, you have to be in the swim, and to have certain friends if you are to have any chance at all. This may not be true, but it is the impression strongly graven on the minds of all these persons with whom I have been in contact and who have desired to take their part on equal terms. I have even heard of one case where a public issue was going to be made of a certain air transport company and the Air Ministry put pressure on the persons connected with it not to make the issue, not to provide the funds. That is really a most improper proceeding, and it seems to me that the whole matter wants organising on a more systematic basis. It is far too casual and far too indefinite, and everybody concerned ought to know exactly where he stands.

I should like to make two suggestions which I believe would put the matter right. First, when it is proposed by the Air Ministry to deal with any particular route, they should advertise the fact to the public. Let it be known through the public Press to everybody interested that such a route is being considered, so that everybody concerned can come forward and if he has a scheme, technical or financial, it will have a chance of being heard on its merits by the Air Ministry. You cannot get that to-day. The other safeguard is that specific agreements should be attached to the Bill and that agreements entered into after the passing of the Bill should be communicated to the House in some way and the House be given an opportunity of considering them and satisfy itself that every possible consideration has been given to all those concerned. It may be that as a result of this all the contracts would go to Imperial Airways. I do not know, and I do not care, as long as everybody concerned has had an equal opportunity. I want to refer briefly to Clause 2, which deals with the question of inspection in future. It seems quite a natural thing to adopt for the inspection of aircraft the system which has worked so well and so long for shipping through Lloyd's Register. It may not be logical, but it is practical; it has worked well. For a considerable passage of time now the inspection of aircraft privately owned has been carried out by Lloyds' Register, and they would be glad enough to have the chance of going on doing that work on a bigger scale, bringing in commercial aircraft, but that the Air Ministry have insisted on bringing forward this new scheme. If you went on with the present practice I believe that you would have in a much shorter space of time a system of inspectors throughout the whole world by which at any given moment British aircraft as well as ships could be inspected by a very competent officer, whereas under the scheme proposed it will take a considerable time before the inspectorate is built up and it will be confined in the beginning to aircraft in this country, and you will not have the world-wide organisation which otherwise would be available.

It may be that I have not properly understood this scheme. The Under-Secretary ought to give the House some idea of the maximum subsidy which is contemplated under Clause 2. If he cannot give an exact figure, we ought to have some indication of what the amount is likely to be. Under Clause 5 an appeal board can be set up by Order in Council. I feel in general that there are far too many Orders to be made under this Bill. It gives numerous powers to the Minister, and in a great many eases they might be better dealt with by putting the proposals of the Air Ministry into the Bill instead of giving the Ministry such a free hand. I agree that the rationalisation of the home flying services is desirable. There is likely to be, and perhaps there is now, an unnecessary amount of duplication. For instance, the number of services in 1932 internally was six; in 1933, 13; and in 1934, 36. It is clear, therefore, that in due course we may get such a multiplication as to make for confusion.

The whole point is as to the form and adequacy of the appeal tribunal. It will be fatal if that tribunal is associated with the Air Ministry because the Ministry is a deeply interested party. It is one-half shareholder in certain concerns—at any rate, a 49 per cent. share-holder—and it is clearly essential that there should be some appeal tribunal above the Ministry which can be trusted. We shall have an opportunity of dealing with that question because it cannot be put into force without an Order being brought before the House. In view of the unsatisfactory state of the non-Imperial Airways companies and those who would like to come in either with or without a subsidy—because there are people in both categories—I associate myself with my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill. Unless the Under-Secretary is able to give some definite assurances on this matter, we on these benches will feel obliged to vote against the Measure although no one is more anxious than we are to see this country develop in the realm of civil aviation. I hope I that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give assurances which will make it clear that fair play will be available for all, and that they will be able in that way to effect the conquest of the air and so make a reality of that splendid motto of the Royal Air ForcePer ardua ad astra.

9.38 p.m.

Photo of Sir Alan Anderson Sir Alan Anderson , City of London

Two questions which have been asked by hon. Members seemed to me to correspond so closely that they might be put opposite each other for observation. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. blander) asked how far we are off from paying. The hon. Lady, the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) asked why Germany should be further on in the air than we are. It is a question of money. The whole of this business is subsidised. It is conducted on a completely artificial basis and the nation which is prepared to put its hand deepest into its pocket will, with decent management, get the fastest and most elegant machines. I do not think that we need waste much time about comparing our results in Imperial Airways with the results of other nations which are spending on an entirely different scale. I submit that in talking about this Bill we are really discussing one of the most vital and fundamental points in the whole of our commerce and civilisation. We are on the threshold of speed, and speed lies at the basis of trade and of all progress. We have to learn how to step from our old element the sea, to the new element the air. It is vital that we should do it with the least loss of time and money.

We have been supreme on the sea for 70 years, and now we want to move from the sea into the air with as little loss and friction as possible. That is a very difficult problem. I oppose the Amendment in favour of the Bill. Speed means cost, and one of the great costs of transport, apart from speed, is waste. The load factor is one of the most important of costs. You can get speed without exaggerated cost if you can load your machine. It is the same with ships. I believe that we in our contact with the air have already come to the point to which the operators on the sea have come after much loss of money and much loss of temper and time. They have had to put their heads together and rationalise the service on a route. Nowadays on almost every route you will find operating steamers which are so expensive that their owners have been driven to put their heads together, and they sit down usually with their customers to try to rationalise the service. That has to be done in the air. We are doing it, and that is the object, as I understand, of the Government in setting up one company and concentrating their subsidies upon it. I do not think that it is at all certain that one company has brains enough to operate services all over the world, but on each separate route it should be our fundamental policy to avoid the waste of competition as long as the services have to be heavily subsidised.

We are not within sight of getting them economic. We cannot be. I believe that Imperial Airways are moving in that direction faster than anyone else, but the whole question is relative. How much are the Dutch, the French, the Russians or the Germans going to pay to subsidise their services? As soon as we get ours within a reasonable level of paying, somebody else will put on a much faster and more subsidised service, and ours will prove to be a loss, and the operator will be told by critics in the House that they are behind the times. I am afraid, therefore, that we must look forward to many years of these subsidies and of uneconomic enterprise in the air. I regret it, for I think the air offers us an enormous chance of human progress. When we were talking about it last week we saw in the speed of the air a threat to our lives. Let us look also at the promise of the air, the promise of bringing together all the nations of Europe. It gives us, if we use our chances properly, an enormous possibility of progress such as we have not had since we moved from sail to steam. For all these grounds I strongly favour the Bill. There is, however, one point that ought to be remembered. The right hon. Baronet, when he was introducing the Air Estimates, said: Though we are convinced that our policy is basically sound, we do not want the House to think that we are not fully alive to the dangers of monopoly nor yet that we overlook the fact that, with units of organisation too great and a sphere of operations too vast, efficiency may begin to suffer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1936; col. 273, Vol. 310.] There is one danger who has not yet been provided against, although it ought to be. We maintained ourselves at the head of the world's shipping on the ocean as long as the ordinary rules of competition prevailed. We have great organisations, with capital and ships and local knowledge, engaged in every trade of the world, and I think it is very important, when we are stepping up from the old element of the ocean into the air, that we should as far as possible use the basis of our past prosperity to help us on in this new service.

9.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

Listening to this Debate I have been struck by the fact that the science of travel by air has been subordinated to financial and vested interests. All that has been described by the poet and the scientist of what man can do in the command of the air has been turned in this House to—night into a vision of huge, black, ugly vultures trying to feed upon subsidies. The Bill has raised certain questions which must be dealt with, and I hope that the Minister will not neglect the serious statement made by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who put forward a very serious charge regarding the powers that were being used by his Department to prevent what is called honesty in trading. I shall say no more and will leave it for the Minister to deal with. I see that, according to Clause 2, the Secretary of State may by order provide for delegating to a body appearing to him "— That is giving me trouble. I am not being personal, but it is a very dangerous thing to leave this power with one individual, I do not care what his mental capacity may be. No one man should be left with so much influence over what is fast becoming an essential of the life of every nation, and especially of ours. If I were somewhere else I could become very personal, and I might make myself more explicit, but I want to go on with the Clause. It continues— to be substantially representative of the interests concerned with civil aviation (and in particular of operators, constructors, and insurers of aircraft). When we get language like that in a Bill it always means the heads of firms. The men who really know about the essentials of things like this are the men who do the work. It is not the director of the firm, who has never been engaged in any part of the work, and who can compel the man who knows only to be in a position to reply to questions. The man cannot say from his knowledge; he can only reply to questions. I do not want to recall what happened in this House in regard to R.101 when that airship was under constructions but my friend the late Mr. Rose and myself made some remarks—we were the only two in the House—which I regret very much proved to be true. We were laughed and sneered at when we were talking about the weights and the impossibility of that machine getting through, and no two men ever regretted more that they had spoken.

To-night I make an appeal drawn from that experience: If you want to get real knowledge you must go where that knowledge is. If the taxpayer has to pay a subsidy, surely he has a right to get the best knowledge. Why should knowledge filter through the board of a company? I have had some experience of boards of companies, and I know that the average board is made up of what I call the "industrial boneheads." We had an instance of what I am talking about in this House the other night. We had persons coming forward as a firm who could neither answer questions nor say in detail what they were manufacturing, yet these persons were said to be the head of that firm. Suppose you want to know something in regard to the building of aircraft. You do not want to have to consult a gentleman comfortably seated at a table dealing with figures which have been supplied to him. That is waste of time. You want to get the men who know their subject—just as I should like to see on the Treasury Bench the men who know the subject in detail. If you get in the man who knows the job you are going to save time and money. On the question of design you get the man who is capable in that department of science, but he can only go so far, until he meets the practical man who can tell what materials must be used for strength. On those details depend the success of the thing called a flying machine that is going into the air. Clause 2 says further: The matters to which this Sub-section applies are the design, construction and maintenance of aircraft and matters connected therewith. A great deal has been said to-night in criticism of what has taken place in connection with the manufacture of aircraft. We learn from experience, and all that I am trying to do is to get the best experience into the place where things are determined and things done from knowledge and practical experience. We had a speech just now from a Member who has since gone out who spoke about shipping and said that for many years we should have to look forward to paying a subsidy to air transport. He might have told the House that he was feeling very comfortable because he is at the moment getting a subsidy from shipping. It seems to me, since I have come back to this House for the second time, that there has been a great change. It looks to me as though every time the House is meeting on serious business there is someone at the door with a hat waiting for a subsidy. It is just one subsidy after another. If he wears a tiled hat there is no means test; but if people come there wearing caps, then it is assumed that they must be subjected to a test.

Lieut.-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN:

Does the hon. Member realise that the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson), whom he has just accused of accepting a subsidy, gets no subsidy at all for his ships? He is a liner owner and not a tramp owner, and is not interested in the subsidy. The hon. Member ought to be more careful in his remarks.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

Yes, but I was thinking that you would agree with this. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] If there was any offence in what I said, I withdraw. I was speaking generally of shipping.

HON. MEMBERS:

No, you were not.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

May I ask whether being accused of getting a subsidy is a reflection upon the character of the hon. Member?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

It is regarded as a tribute to his abilities.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

We are told that there must be assistance in order to maintain these air services, that no machine which goes into the air makes a profit that keeps the service alive, and that there are deficiencies which have to be made up in some way. If the nation as a whole were going into the business I could understand flying being done to make the business a success. Why can we not do that? Why should it be necessary for firms of private individuals to come in and get something out of the fact that we need aeroplanes? Why not face the issue now? It has been hinted that we are going step by step into what is called a Socialist business, but it is not Socialism. Socialism means complete ownership and control. We see the capitalists being driven by the stress of their own system into coming here for assistance, and they have no shame in doing it. I have seen poor people having to be coaxed to go to get their unemployment insurance benefit because they needed money, but we find no hesitation here in coming to get subsidies. In a book written by Mr. Cunninghame Graham I read: "The world is to the pachyderm." I did not realise what the word "pachyderm" meant until I came here and saw the pachyderms at work.

I want to put another question to the Minister in regard to commercial aeroplanes. There was a serious loss of life the other night in a southern part of this country, and I would ask the Minister whether it was within his knowledge that an arrangement had been made for the civil aeroplane concerned to circle round in a certain area in order that the, military might practice with their spotlights on that machine. If so, here is something that we have to face. The pilot was regarded as a man capable of becoming one of the most skilled of pilots. We are told that his use of the commercial aeroplane was combined with a military use, and that he had great skill in evading the spotlight. It would seem that when the first light was thrown on him he took some action which meant that he was thrown to the ground, and all those fine people were killed. Is there to be a provision in the Bill that will prevent that kind of thing from happening? Is the civil aeroplane to be under the control of the military at any time, in order to give the military this practice? These things affect the civil population, and ought to be dealt with.

A most interesting thing is what we find when we come to deal with the question of insurance of people who commit damage. We are told that the limit in the case of aircraft and airships is £25,000. We come down the scale, and afte we leave the aircraft we find, in paragraph (d): in any other case—(i) a number of pounds sterling equal to the number of pounds avoirdupois constituting the weight of the aircraft fully loaded. That is to be the basis of calculation of the damage, if one of the machines comes to the ground. I would remind the Minister that here we are dealing with the weights of falling bodies. Are you going to take the weight of the machine when it meets the ground, or what is known as the surface weight? If the machine weighs two tons in the air, and it falls to the ground, is the damage still to be calculated as two tons, or are you going to have a scale with regard to a falling body increasing its weight? Is it not a fact that a falling body may do less damage when falling from a height if it falls in a straight line, than a glider, say, would do in taking a slanting method of getting to the ground? If we are to be in the hands of the machine companies at this end of things, we should be very careful. The Bill seems to be built of a good many things indicating that there will be many complications. I can see men debating for years what weight in avoirdupois is equal to so much pounds sterling, and so on. All these complications contained in the Bill were drafted by people who know all about the law. They are capable of defining things so as to get the fat for which other people have to pay.

The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment was one of the first of our highly skilled airmen, and he made remarks which I hope will be burnt into the memory of the Minister. He dealt with research, and one great statement he made, which has so far been kept from coming into a real general application, is that the public will have the results of research only in one section of flying. That is most unfair. If the nation is paying for research of that kind, it has a right to receive it.

The Secretary of State to-night is trying to deal with something which will defeat him, no matter how he tries to escape. It has been proved so by other hon. Members who have tried to support the Bill. They have found that the system under which they live is not capable of putting this flying service into the air so as to meet its own cost. Why not be honest with yourselves and say: "Since this cannot be done in the ordinary way of business, and since it is a service that the nation must have, why not socialise it now?" Why not have the insurance in your hands? Why should any private enterprise, insurance-mongers or brokers, have profit out of the fact that somebody may be killed? Why should any private enterprise men get a single halfpenny of return upon a service such as the air service?

If the Secretary of Scare for Air had to take the air, as men who are compelled to do it by order, I am certain that he would, for his own safety, say to-night: "This is our service. This is the nation's service, and no private enterprise will enter here. Nothing but the finest knowledge and experience is given by our men, or shall be used in giving us the truth about flying." Instead of that he is putting forward a Bill that says that there shall be delegation, but about that delegation he has so far remained silent. I ask him now, if he has the convictions of a man, if he believes in the right of individuals to all knowledge without profit, if he believes in the nation's right to have that which it needs without its passing through profiteering companies, to stand up and say that once for all these national services shall remain national and shall be supplied by the nation.

10.5 p.m.

Photo of Sir Alfred Beit Sir Alfred Beit , St Pancras South East

I do not think it devolves upon me to follow the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) into the intricacies of his speech, and I do not envy my right hon. Friend who will have to reply to them, but I hope he will take the opportunity of correcting the hon. Member with regard to the statement he made about the increasing weight of falling bodies, which seems to me to be very much at variance with what I learned at school. I am glad to see that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel MooreBrabazon) is now in his place, as I was very interested to hear him repeat his, by now, familiar charge that the Air Ministry has been asleep for many years past. I hope, however, that, if he insists upon pursuing that charge, he will allow me to class him with Rip van Winkle, for he himself can hardly have been awake recently if he still maintains, as he did in his speech this evening, that no developments have taken place in recent years with regard to civil aviation. He seems to have forgotten the statement of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary only 18 months ago, in which he outlined the very remarkable developments that are now being implemented in this Bill.

My hon. and gallant Friend asked a number of what I thought were rather rhetorical questions, susceptible of easy answers. For instance, he said that, where an air port or an air service or a ground organisation was developed by the expenditure of the taxpayers' money, it should be a free port to all. Surely the answer is that it is a free port to all. I am not aware that there are any restrictions upon the use of it. But, just because the taxpayers' money has been used to put down a beacon or develop a wireless direction-finding service, there seems to be no reason why His Majesty's Government should be asked to find money to subsidise every aeroplane that uses that port. I was also interested to hear of my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion that this House should have control of the organisation and administration of the air mail services, in order that he might be able to come down and ask the responsible Minister questions about the late delivery of air mail letters. I wonder, however, whether he has had any very satisfactory experience, during all the years he has been a Member of this House, in asking similar questions of the Postmaster-General about the late delivery of ordinary letters, because it seems to me that many of us have asked such questions of the Post Office and have not derived very much consolation from the answers.

The hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), who, I regret, is not at the moment in her place, applied to this Bill a number of statements which I feel I cannot have been entirely accurate, and I very much hope that my right hon. Friend, when he tames to reply, will give us some official confirmation of my fear that her statements were not entirely true. For instance, her statement that an Australian company has ordered, or is about to order, American aeroplanes for one of its services, is entirely new to me, and I should very much like to have the Minister's confirmation that it is not in point of fact true. Her reference to the fact that the Union of South Africa uses certain German aircraft on its air lines has certainly no elements of surprise in it, because it has been the case for a number of years. It arose originally, I believe, from some trade agreement which the Union made with Germany. The Union has used these German aircraft for some years past, and has also ordered an equivalent number of British machines. The hon. Lady also seemed to think that the British Empire was in immediate danger of disintegration because Pan-American Airways have been using certain rocks in the Pacific, which can hardly be called islands, as bases and re-fuelling stations. The cumulative effect of the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the rejection of the Bill was very alarming, but I feel sure that any fears that the House may feel can soon be put at rest.

In supporting the Bill, I welcome it as the fulfilment of the Under-Secretary's statement of December, 1934, and I propose to address myself exclusively to Clause 1, which deals with that and kindred matters. It has taken a long time to appear, but there have been many obstacles to negotiate and many Governments to consult, and I understand that even now certain difficulties have not been entirely overcome. Let us recall the three outstanding features of the scheme which is now being implemented. The first was a very material improvement on the present time schedules on Empire routes; the second was an increase in Empire services; and the third was the very remarkable and novel proposal that all first-class mail should in future be carried by air, and, furthermore, should be carried to India in two days four or possibly five times a week, to East Africa in two and a-half days three times a week, to the Cape and Singapore in four days, and to Australia in seven days twice a week. Those were the original suggestions outlined in the statement of the Under-Secretary in December, 1934, which we are now asked to implement by passing this Bill.

There has been, and it has been voiced from several quarters of the House this evening, criticism of Imperial Airways, who will carry this traffic exclusively; but, together with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), I feel that that criticism has been unjustified, in that Imperial Airways seem to me to be best qualified to carry this enormous new burden, and I think their organisation will enable them to perform this work for the least amount of subsidy. On looking back over their history, who can say that their policy has been wrong, in spite of what the hon. Member for Frome said? The obsolete aeroplanes of Imperial Airways, to which the hon. Lady referred, are still carrying more traffic than all the other lines in Europe put together, and the volume of this traffic is, I believe, the envy of their competitors. Who, therefore, can seriously suggest that Government money should be used to establish and support costly rivals? In fact, the reverse policy is the tendency throughout the world to-day. For instance, we have seen in recent years an amalgamation of all existing air lines in France into one big organisation, and in a different though analogous sphere we have seen Government support given to shipping companies, such as the Cunard line here and the Italian line, conditionally upon their forming amalgamations.

On the expiry of the existing agreements there are three alternatives open to the Government. The first, complete cessation of all subsidies, would in present circumstances be both inadvisable and impossible. I think that the second alternative, to continue their present benevolent interest, at the same time continuing with the air mails on a surcharge basis, would merely mean that we were marking time. I feel certain that the support that has been received for the third alternative, which is the new policy which is before us now and which we hope will be adopted, will be justified in every respect. The carriage of all mails by air without surcharge to all parts of the Empire is a very forward policy. I only hope that some extension of this sort will be granted in the case of newspapers. I do not wish to deprive shipping companies of the remaining benefits of the mail contracts that they have but I remember very painfully that in 1932, when I visited South Africa, at the time when the Imperial Airways Service was first opened, it cost 7s. 6d. to send a copy of the "Times" to Central Africa by air. I hope, if it is proposed to send letters for 1½d. to these and other parts of tae Empire, some more or less corresponding rates will be brought into operation for newspapers.

The new policy that we are hoping to carry through has made possible the designing, construction and ordering by Imperial Airways of a new fleet and that order, which is for 29 flying boats and 12 land planes, amounts to £2,500,000, the largest single order ever placed for aircraft, and they are of truly remarkable efficiency and performance. The two years that have been necessary for the programme of design and building—not an unduly long period—is one very good reason why the Bill has not been introduced before, because it would be impossible to design and construct such aircraft, which is a very costly process, without firm orders, and these orders have been made possible by the Government policy. It is surprising that the innovation of all first-class mail by air, which at least rivals in importance the introduction of the penny post by Rowland Hill, seems to have failed to capture the imagination of the aeronautical industry, or even the Press, but possibly the inevitable time-lag between the adoption of the policy and the departure of the first service takes the gilt off the project, and much has to be done to turn the policy into performance.

In regard to this proposal to send all air mail without surcharge the attitude of Australia remains unsatisfactory. In fact, it is the only weak link in an otherwise perfect chain. Australia still demands a surcharge of 6d. on all air-mail letters. That would mean that letters posted to Australia from this country under the new scheme would only require 1½d. postage but a reply from Australia would require 6d. postage. This differentiation seems to he based on a mistaken idea in Australia of her national needs. We propose a flying boat service all the way to Brisbane. Australia still wants land planes from Singapore to Brisbane, though formerly, when the scheme was first mooted, she wanted flying boats.

HON. MEMBERS:

Who are "we"?

Photo of Mr George Garro-Jones Mr George Garro-Jones , Aberdeen North

On a point of Order. May I ask, Sir, whether you have kept the hon. Baronet under observation? He appears to be reading from a brief, which is contrary to the rules of the House.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I have noticed that the hon. Member has some copious notes to which he occasionally refers.

Photo of Sir Alfred Beit Sir Alfred Beit , St Pancras South East

My notes are not nearly as copious as the hon. Member would suggest, and I have read only selected passages. I was asked what I meant by "We". Perhaps I might have been accused of speaking out of turn. I only meant to say that the implementation of the policy which underlies the Bill before us to-night, and which was first brought before this House in December, 1934, by the Under-Secretary of State for Air, would involve the use of flying boats all the way to Brisbane, but that Australia still requires a service of land planes from Singapore to Brisbane. Australia's strategical needs could very well be satisfied if she were to keep those land planes for use on her internal feeder services and if she were to accept the proposition of the Air Ministry, that flying boats should be used over the mainland as far as Brisbane, she would then benefit both economically and possibly strategically from the fact that she would have at her disposal both types of aircraft in case of any imaginary emergency. If Australia persists, a difficult situation will be caused by the fact that there will be smaller return loads of mail and, therefore, what is the bugbear of all transport, an empty return journey will be produced in the most extravagant manner.

The only alternative put forward to the Government's schemes are the Opposition plan for a State air service, and the anti-monopoly plan, which would mean going back to the days before 1924, when Imperial Airways were formed. In those days there were four competing concerns all using money, and the public interest demands now that we use all our efforts to put up one efficient British air line to compete with the French and the Dutch lines on the Empire routes. Subsidies are not in themselves infallible or even a dispensation of Providence, but neither are they irrevocable. They can be varied or abolished. Under the Bill they will carne to an end in 1953 unless some future Government renews them. Imperial Airways have built up an ever increasing and a more efficient traffic with a declin- ing subsidy, and it is difficult to believe that the State could establish a completely efficient organisation without the vast outpouring of public money, and, if it did, it would be well nigh impossible ever to bring it to an end. The experience of Governments in transport enterprises has not been a very happy one, and a State-supported private venture such as Imperial Airways or any other company which may benefit from the proposed subsidy, could be much more easily rapped over the knuckles for alleged shortcomings than could the Government's own venture. No vested interest is a greater tyrant than one which has been built up by the Government itself or becomes such a veritable Frankenstein monster.

Photo of Mr John McGovern Mr John McGovern , Glasgow Shettleston

Would the hon. Member advocate that the Navy should be handed over to private enterprise?

Photo of Sir Alfred Beit Sir Alfred Beit , St Pancras South East

No, I would not advocate that the Navy should be handed over to private enterprise. Earlier in the evening my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), in pursuing his line of argument, said that, just because he supported the continuance of a subsidy for commercial aviation such as that which is before us to-night, it did not follow that one should want to hand over the Army to private enterprise. If the Government had run commercial air transport since 1924 I wonder whether they would have made as good showing as Imperial Airways? Would they have given us, for instance, increasing efficiency at decreasing cost? Would they have organised a service which, of all those existing in the world to-day, is nearer the self-supporting stage than any other, and which at the present rate of progress might very well stand on its own legs in a few years' time? I very much doubt it. Air transport within the Empire needs as close co-ordination as, for example, London transport. This is an age of co-operative effort, and if we seek to perpetuate the equivalent of the one-man business in air transport we shall just as surely be left behind as if we still persisted in one-man manufacturing units in competition with the vast joint-stock undertakings.

10.26 p.m.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

I recall the day when this House honoured itself by elect- ing you, Mr. Speaker, and you asked that we should conduct our debates by way of cut and thrust, but I find it very difficult to do that on this particular Bill. I have sat here for 3½ hours and I have heard three speeches made in support of the Bill. One was made by the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson). I failed to grasp his reason for supporting the Bill. The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) seemed to support the Bill largely on a new definition of air monopoly. Those who were present will remember his attempt to re-define that particular word. The hon. Member who has just resumed his seat spent most of his time in making a Minister's speech replying to the point which other hon. Members had raised in debates. On the whole, the defence of the Bill has been an appeal for Imperial Airways.

Let me make my attitude on subsidies quite plain. As a Member of the last Parliament, from its beginning, and until now, I have definitely refused to vote for any subsidy to private enterprise. I am a believer in private enterprise, but I have stated before and I re-state now that there is no justification for private enterprise except competition. I say to hon. Members opposite that they will live to regret the day when they voted these subsidies to private enterprise. What answer have I to a constituent of mine who says to me: "You profess to believe in private enterprise and yet by your vote, executed on my behalf, you give to certain people privileges in order that they may derive profit "? I find it impossible to answer that question from the private enterprise point of view. I will vote for no Bill that gives a, subsidy to private enterprise.

But this Bill goes even further than that. Not only does it give a subsidy to private enterprise, but coupled with the subsidy it gives a monopoly. I believe in Liberalism and it has always been a tenet of that faith that when a monopoly exists there is justification for the State taking over that particular thing. I have not receded from that position. I have been told that Cobden has come to life again, and Gladstone, but I do not apologise for my views. If you are going to have subsidies for this particular industry then the House is entitled to know, before voting a subsidy for a period of 17 years of £1,500,000, a total of £25,000,000, how it is proposed to decide the companies which are to receive the se subsidies. The hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) mentioned that a subsidy was to be given to a company called British Airways, Limited, who, I understand, run a service to Scandinavia.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

No, a subsidy is to be given to British Airways, Limited. I understand that there is another company in existence, the British Continental Airways, who were in existence before British Airways, Limited, who use the same type of machine and have built up a regular service. I do not speak for either company. I no interest in them, but the point is, why has it been decided to give a subsidy to the one and reject it in the case of the other? Why not give it to both? If there are to be subsidies, I object to one particular company having a monopoly. I understand the attitude of the Air Ministry is that wherever Imperial Airways run a service they are to enjoy the subsidy, but that, where they do not run a service the Air Ministry will decide w hat particular company shall enjoy the subsidy. Whether I am right or wrong about that is not the point. The point is why is not any company which is prepared to tender for a regular service to be given equal opportunities with those companies which the Air Ministry decides is to have the subsidy? It is absolutely wrong in principle to subsidise particular people and refuse others. I understand that if I go to certain companies which issue tickets on certain routes and Imperial Airways are not running on that route it is practically impossible to get them to issue me a ticket for any other line apart from those which are subsidised: they prefer to issue me a ticket to go by a foreign company. Perhaps the Minister will answer that point. Then, again, there is the Air Ministry's attitude towards subsidised companies. In Clause 5 provision is made for a system of licensing, and the Minister made it quite clear that it was not intended to bring this into force immediately, but that they should have the power if there were any difficulty at any future time to regulate by licence this industry. Clause 5 (1, a, iii) reads: for such flying undertaken for the purpose of any trade or business as may be so specified. Is the House to understand that a man who wishes to use an aeroplane for his private business is to be subject to a licence which may be refused by Order in Council? I would like a definite answer to be given on that particular point.

I would like now to come to Clause 12, which seems to me to be a very important Clause indeed. I cannot understand why a Statute law should be brought into being which takes away the common law rights of an individual. The position is that a citizen of this country is called upon through taxation to subsidise a company which is to be given the privilege of a limited liability if it hurts that particular citizen. That is an absolutely absurd position. The total limited amount if the aircraft is an airship is £25,000, and if this Bill is passed it must be remembered that it applies equally to foreign airships, and other aircraft, as to our own. If an airship came down in Piccadilly Circus on a huge business establishment, or if it set fire to a big factory, in which hundreds of lives might be lost, the liability would be limited to £25,000. In the case of a glider, why on earth is the amount the lowest, seeing that it is the least controlled of almost any aircraft? It might kill two or three people, and yet the liability is limited to £1,000. The liability under paragraph (d) is somewhat amusing. One hon. Member who dealt with this particular Clause referred to a thing being worth its weight in gold, and here we have that saying put into legislation, for the liability is limited to one pound sterling for one pound avoirdupois.

This point must be seriously met. Is it right that the people of this country should be asked to accept a limitation of liability for something they have already subsidised? I ask the Minister, who is not here at the moment, why there should be this limitation of liability? He made the remark that it would be a costly business. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) handed me a paper and said that in the case of his private light aeroplane, for a maximum in any one accident of £2,500 it would cost him about £12 per annum. The limitation in the ease of a three-ton aeroplane is just over £6,000. Why is there this limitation? It cannot be on the ground of expense, for if the amount were £12,500 it could be covered for £60 a year, although I know there would be an additional premium for the passenger capacity. Neverthless, I am certain there would be no burden on any company of such a nature as to warrant a provision of this kind, and I am not prepared for one moment to give away the common rights of individuals in order that subsidised companies may escape their proper liability. I repeat, that Members of this House who oppose Socialism will regret having ever gone into the Lobby in support of subsidies for private enterprise, as they are now doing week after week. While I am opposed absolutely to Socialism, yet I can find no answer to the case put forward by the Socialists to the effect that if subsidies are needed then the State ought to take any reward that is forthcoming as a result of them. There is no answer to that case and any attempt at an answer must be made with the tongue in the cheek. I hope we shall have an answer to the question: On what principle is it decided to give subsidies to particular companies and to refuse them to other companies? That point ought to be met before we go to a Division on the Bill.

10.42 p.m.

Photo of Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence , Orkney and Shetland

The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holds-worth) seems to have a, very strong objection to subsidising private enterprise. It seems to me that that is a rather narrow view to take because there are occasions when it is impossible for private enterprise to succeed unless it has the assistance of the State. It is also the case, as I may point out to the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) that hall a loaf is sometimes better than no bread. By means of the State assistance afforded in this Bill it may be possible to break a monopoly to which, I am sure, the hon. Member would be the first to object but I shall return to that point later. I welcome the Bill which I think is long overdue. Not nearly enough has been done in this country to foster and develop civil aviation and in particular our internal air services.

One of the reasons why I intervene to-night is to try to elicit from the Under-Secretary a statement on the question of whether the internal air services are also to receive subsidies wherever necessary. I have been much impressed by the statements made from time to time by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) as to the necessity for making this country thoroughly air-minded and getting the largest possible pool of trained pilots. The occasion may arise, although we all hope it will not, when this country will find itself very thankful that Governments have taken the trouble to train a large number of pilots. That is one aspect of the question which has already been dealt with by other hon. Members but there is another consideration to which I would draw attention. In many parts of the country communications are exceedingly antiquated and slow and I see no hope of improving them in any way other than by the development of our internal air services.

The Bill holds out great hopes in that respect. The lack of modern transport facilities is a tremendous handicap in the more remote parts of the country. It is depressing to business interests and the people generally, as a result of it, suffer from a want of amenities. One way in which I can see that business development can be possible in these places is through the development of civil aviation. I might illustrate this by referring to my own county of Shetland. One hon. Member referred to rocks in the middle of the Pacific being used as stepping stones on air routes. I would like to call the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for Air to some rocks rather nearer home, a group of rocks lying about 200 miles off the North-East coast of Scotland, the Shetland Islands. Communications with these islands are worse to-day than they were 50 years ago, slower and more irregular, in spite of all the advances that have been made in forms of transport, due to steam and so on, and the only hope that I can see of getting any improvement there is through the encouragement of an air service.

We have been complaining in that part, of the world for 50 years without anything ever having been done to effect any improvement at all, and I think we are coming to about the end of our patience. The communications with these islands—and this is the point about the monopoly to which I referred before—are in the hands of a steamship company which enjoys an absolute monopoly and which has abused that monopoly and treated these islands in the most unscrupulous manner. The hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), whom I do not now see in his place, referred to the desirability of air services being used to take the cream away from the mail services. I wish he would accompany me to the Shetlands a fortnight hence; he would very quickly realise that so far from his getting the cream away from that-company, that company would skin him and will continue to take the cream from the people of these islands until that monopoly is broken; and the only way in which it can be broken is through the development of an air service.

To show how bad things can be where communications are bad, it may astonish hon. Members when tell them that we have only one direct mail service a week at the present season of the year to Shetland. There is not another county in Great Britain which has less than a daily mail service. We have two indirect services, but even so letters posted in London on a Wednesday will be delivered throughout most of the Shetlands on the following Monday. An air service is already in being in the north of Scotland, developed entirely by private enterprise, Highlands Airways, and it is running very successfully to the Orkney Islands and has given them the benefit of very much more rapid communications than they ever had before, and also of a daily mail—[Laughter]—a daily delivery of letters, I mean. Recently there was started an air service to Scandinavia. Scandinavia is in daily communication with Great Britain, and here our own Scandinavian dependency, Shetland, has no such service and has nothing like a daily service.

One of the counties which I have the honour to represent is neither the smallest county in Great Britain by area nor the smallest by population, but in the matter of communications we are far any away the worst off. If hon. Members wonder how that seat was overturned after 98 years adherence to Liberalism I can tell them that the reason was that we wished to get better communications with the adjacent Islands of Great Britain and Ireland. Now private enterprise is making an effort to develop an air service to Shetland. It is a very recent development, and I am glad to be able to thank the Air Ministry for being about to provide there a wireless station for directional purposes. This company is making a big gamble in starting an air service to Shetland. It is a different problem in the case of Orkney. The distance is greater and the traffic less. It is possible that the traffic will go ahead all right during the summer months, but there is a great danger that the company may not be able to stand on its own legs during the bad season of the year. No doubt the Post Office will be in a position to help, and I hope it will.

I would like the Under-Secretary, when he replies, to answer this point. In such a case as this, and surely I have made out a case, will it be possible through the operation of this Bill to save an enterprising company like that in the early years, until they see whether they can get a permanent service? It is because I see a hope in this Bill of righting an old standing grievance by a wise development of civil aviation that I support the Bill.

10.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ronald Ross Mr Ronald Ross , County Londonderry

It is a great pleasure to speak after the hon. Member, and I would explain to him that I live in one of the neighbouring Islands. I mean Ireland. This Bill is providing a fairly long-term policy. We are committed to the year 1953 as regards policy, particularly of the Transatlantic air service. I wonder whether we realize the great importance of what we are doing? This is the first step in the inauguration of the Parliamentary side of the Transatlantic air service. Probably in times that we shall not see that service will be a dominant factor in the life of this nation. It seems to me that in approaching the matter as it is presented in this Bill we are abrogating our duties, because Parliament is muzzling itself, and that we are surrendering our control. Until 1953 the arrangements of the Transatlantic air service will be solely at the command of the Secretary of State for Air. Parliament, in pressing him, will be told that he can do nothing, that he has signed his agreement and that the control is with some company. I understand that the company is to be Imperial Airways.

What my right hon. Friend is asking us to do is a thing that Parliament should be very hesitant about doing, namely, to accept a committal to a course of policy over which it will have no control. My right hon. Friend has, I know, made a study of the eighteenth century, and he will recall the days of the South Sea Bubble. He may remember that it was a case of an enterprising body of persons who raised large sums of money for a company the prospectus of which was merely the sentence that it was raised for purposes hereinafter to be divulged. It was a successful money-raising concern. The course proposed here is rather unworthy of the great matter which we have to consider. We shall be told afterwards that it is too late, that the time has passed to criticise these schemes. What are the schemes? Is it a matter so trivial that it can be settled inside the Department? Is it a matter over which Parliament is to have no control? I am particularly interested because my constituency is nearer to the American continent than that of any other Member of the House, and I want to know where the Transatlantic air service is to land.

My contention is that for that service to be worth doing its first land-fall on the European side should be in the United Kingdom, and its first land-fall on the American continent should also be under the British flag. No one can so insult the members of the Irish Free State as to call their tri-colour the British flag. If the base is to be in the Irish Free State it does not fulfil the hopes that I have for this service. There is only one argument which I will admit as being paramount in making the base for this service somewhere else than in Northern Ireland. If it is held, from a technical point of view, to bring a definitely increased factor of danger into the service at the present time, I do not think that one can ask the men to undertake this almost terrifying task, which it must be at the beginning, and I do not think we have thought quite enough of them this evening. If it is for the time being going to increase their risks, let them go to the safest place. That sacrifices my interests, but I would ask that it should not be in perpetuity. Will my right hon. Friend give me an undertaking, if it be necessary now to land elsewhere than in the United Kingdom, that as soon as it is technically possible and reasonable to land in the United Kingdom it shall be done?

There has been a company, of which I know little, except that they were proposing to have their base in Northern Ireland and that they were asking for no subsidy but only for air mail contracts. I would ask my right hon. Friend why they were encouraged up to a point until October this year, and were discouraged from that time onwards. The survey which the members of the Air Ministry who went to my constituency made of facilities there was of the most superficial nature. Apparently a decision had already been reached on that point. I should be glad to know whether they were merely sent up there in order that they could say they had been there, or, if not, why their survey of the facilities in those parts was not more thorough. Imperial Airways have come in for much criticism this evening. Imperial Airways, of course, are neither private enterprise nor Socialism, and I am surprised that hon. Members opposite do not display a more friendly spirit towards them, because I think the method which has been adopted is a very effective method of quelling private enteprise, and undoubtedly it has done so. I do not say, because I am not in a position to know, that it is not, perhaps, the best method for the time being. But the money on which Imperial Airways is run is, to a great extent, provided by the State. What control has the State over Imperial Airways? When it is handed this blank cheque—at least it is a blank cheque up to the sum of £1,500,000—what are we to know and what control are we to have over its profits? Is it not a case of taxation without representation—that we are merely the paying organisation, the organisation which runs the money and passes it on to an organisation which can spend it and over which we have no control?

There are two specific questions which I should like to ask the Under-Secretary for Air, and I implore him on this occasion to refrain from the great ministerial virtue of reticence, because they are questions which ought to be answered before we vote this money. We all know that Imperial Airways will play the greater part in regard to the Atlantic air service. Have Imperial Airways made agreements of which we know nothing with other bodies, and, if so, what are they? Is there an agreement between Imperial Airways and the Irish Free State, and are Imperial Airways to get financial advantages from such an agreement? That is a matter of great importance. As we are going to provide the money out of which they will pay their dividends we are entitled to know whether there are others with whom they are going to make bargains, perhaps at the expense of the United Kingdom, to their own financial advantage. Further, have they an agreement with Pan-American Airways, and in that agreement is there any article which prevents them from co-operating with British air companies? Any firm for operating air services which is assisted financially by this Government ought not to have an agreement to co-operate with firms of non-British origin rather than with British firms. If it is decided that the first landfall on this side of the Atlantic must temporarily be in the Irish Free State because conditions are still too dangerous to allow of anything else, does my right hon. Friend hope, as soon as possible, to be able to transfer that first landing ground to the United Kingdom?

11.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) asked the Government some very pertinent questions about the projected air service across the Atlantic. He might have added this further question to his questionnaire: "Can the Government tell us why the new company that is to undertake the projected service is returned simply as having been floated in November last with a capital of £100?" Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us at some time later why this concern, which is to undertake a great Imperial air service, is so reticent about its financial inauguration.

I have no intention at this late hour of attempting to re-cover ground that has been traversed by hon. Members of all parties. There has been a steady stream of criticism of the principle of finding public money for the subsidisation of private financial concerns and of the reticence in the Bill as to the precise amount and method of distribution of the State subsidies that are to be given. I would draw attention to one or two points which have been made by most hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate. The Minister and the Government had a great chance, of immense importance to the State, of converting this air service into a public service. Instead of that, what has happened? I looked at the files of the London "Times" to-day, beginning with 3rd September, 1935, when the shares of Imperial Airways, Limited, stood at 46s. At the end of last week they stood at 59s. 9d. per £1 shares. The increase, before this Bill has become an Act of Parliament, is already 13s. 9d. for every £1 share. As there are 624,000 shares issued, there is already a surreptitious dividend of £360,000 upon the shares of Imperial Airways, Limited. It is true that the Government hold 25,000 of the shares, but the Government got them in a rather curious way. The Government got those shares as the price of foregoing their legal claim to subsidies which had previously been given to Imperial Airways and which were returnable to the State. As the price, so far as I know the only price, of abandoning their claim to hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money, the Government received those 25,000 deferred shares in Imperial Airways, Limited. That concern were paying a 6 per cent. dividend in 1933 and 1934. I understand they are now paying 7 per cent. The concern, which is prosperous, is being given a great monopoly, and the shares are jumping week by week steadily on the London market. To-night, at the instigation of His Majesty's Government, they are being given further advantages.

There have been three great jumping-off grounds in our industrial history in the last 100 years. In the first place, there was steam power. Steam power, 100 years ago, floated in one year 624 companies, with a capital of £379,000,000. In two years' time the £379,000,000 had all disappeared, with the exception of £48,000,000, 70 banks had broken, and hundreds of thousands of homes in this country had been ruined, because no control whatever had been taken by this House over the operations of the financial manipulators of a great new invention. A hundred years ago this year in 1836, there was the railway boom, in which £78,000,000 was lost. Railway shares became unsaleable. After the promoters, the landlords and the Parliamentary lawyers had had their kill, the financiers stepped in, and by their manipulations ruined hundreds of thousands of poor and middle-class families, and spread devastation and ruin all over the land. Here is the third great jumping-off point—the air. What steps are the Government taking to control the flotation of the new financial corporations that are already in being and developing. Are the right hon. Gentleman and the Government prepared to take any steps whatever to prevent the great financial ramps which are already in operation?

The vultures are gathering round this great new service. I can give some of the names. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman of the Whitehall group, Financial Securities, Limited, with £4,000,000 of capital, already operating round dummy companies; and before this House knows where it is and before the public know where they are, millions of pounds will be lost by simple-minded investors unless the Government step in with a national investment board and prevent the ramps which are already beginning in the air, as they began 100 years ago in the case of the railways, and 110 or 120 years ago in the case of steam power. I have been at some pains to find what has happened in other hands on this same matter. I have here a, cutting from the London "Times" of the 20th January, 1934, in which it is reported that the vice-president of the United Aircraft and Transport Company in the United States, the largest of the lot, admitted on the witness stand before the Senate Committee that an investment—I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will take note of these figures—of 253 dollars showed a profit, in two years, of 35½ million dollars on civil aviation. There has been nothing like it in the history of finance in the United States or in this country. It is the admission of the vice-president of the United Aircraft and Transport Company. More than that, he admits that he made a profit of $9,500,000 upon part of his holding. He admits that he took $431,000 as salary, bonuses and director's fees in the two years. The Postmaster-General of the United States declared also in the "Times" of 16th February, 1934, that he did not believe Congress ever intended that the air mail appropriations should be expended for the benefit of a few favoured corporations which could use the funds as the basis of wild Stock Ex- change promotions, resulting in profits of tens of millions of dollars to promoters who invested little or no capital. £70,000,000 disappeared in civil aviation investments in the United States.

We have seen the phenomenal rise of our Imperial Airways shares. We see it going on now. The Minister takes no steps to safeguard the nation from the financial ramps that are now being organised. I prophesy that before this Government is finished the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will be sorry indeed that they did not take steps to save the nation while yet there was time. We shall vote against the Bill because we know that this is m financial ramp. We want to see the air service developed. We want to see the world brought closer together. We believe this should be done by the State as a State service. If the right hon. Gentleman and his friends delay, we shall have to pay untold millions to get rid of the vested interests that are speedily growing around this service. I beg the Government to withdraw the Bill and let us have by consent a State service under State control, State owned for a State purpose. We are mixed up in this, I know, with military aviation. There are vital State interests hidden in this Measure. The hon. Member for Londonderry has hinted at some of them. The House, on party lines, will go into the Lobby and hand over the future control of the air to selected private groups of speculators and financiers. We will do our best in the Lobby to defeat it.

11.20 p.m.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

I should like, in the first place, to reply to two questions which have been addressed to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) who asked me whether Imperial Airways had concluded any arrangement with Pan-American Airways, and, of course, it will be essential—

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

On a point of Order. I put it to you, Captain Bourne, that the right hon. Gentleman has already spoken, and that it ought not to be taken for granted that a Minister or anyone else should speak twice without asking the formal leave of the House to do so.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) is quite correct. This being an Order of the Day, the Minister can only reply with the leave of the House, and I assume that when there is no other Minister to reply, the House will grant it.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

I apologise to the House. It was a complete oversight. I would like permission, if I may, to be able to speak, and I might add that I do not mind if the House refuses me. I was replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry, saying that it was hoped that Imperial Airways would conclude an arrangement with Pan American Airways, because the carriage of American mails will be one of the most important factors in a Trans-Atlantic service. As far as a base in this country is concerned, in the interests of safety we must make the crossing as short as possible, but the terminus will, of course be in the United Kingdom.

The House will agree that we have had a very wide and interesting Debate, and I am sure that hon. Members will not expect me to answer all the many and varied points that have been raised. I think that many of them were points that night suitably be dealt with in Committee. I will reply first to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon). He said in his speech that no one ever listens to him, but that he is always right. I would rather say that everybody listens to him, as I did this evenning with great pleasure and interest, but I might say that he is not always right. He is always very unkind to the Air Ministry, but I also think that he does not really mean to be as unkind as he makes out to be. Unfortunately, he shows on many occasions a complete disregard of facts. He was discussing Imperial Airways this afternoon, as he has done before, and one gathered from his remarks that Imperial Airways have been a dismal failure. Perhaps I might be allowed to quote certain facts and figures which I mentioned in my Estimates speech, and ask, How is it, if Imperial Airways have been such a dismal failure, that they have carried more ton-mileage in one year than their French, or their Italian competitors, with a far less subsidy? How is it if they are such a dismal failure, that their share of cross-Channel passenger traffic last year was more than all their five continental competitors combined?

Moreover, how is it, if our system is such a dismal failure, that it has been copied by many foreign countries and that more are in process of copying us. It seems to me unthinkable that, ignoring all the lessons of experience, we should go back to a system which we deliberately abandoned because it had broken down, and turn away from a system which other nations are either adopting now or have already adopted. How, if we did so, could we hope effectively to compete with foreign enterprise in a field where our rivals are sparing neither effort nor money to get ahead of us in the race. My hon. and gallant Friend also said that the Air Ministry never produced a good machine until this House compelled it to do so. I doubt whether hon. Members would wish to claim a credit which is not theirs. I would not claim for the Air Ministry the credit for the long series of successful aircraft and engines which this country has produced and as a result of which we see 26 different countries using our aircraft and as many countries using our engines. It is the industry that deserves the greatest credit, but the Ministry is entitled to a share of it. Has my hon. and gallant Friend forgotten the three successive victories that we gained in the Schneider Trophy? We won that trophy outright against the competition of the whole world. Is he really unware that most of the very successful machines which are now coming into production were planned on paper two years ago by the Air Ministry and the industry in co-operation? He alleged, in connection with the transatlantic route, that the Air Ministry's attitude towards the promoters of one of the schemes had changed as soon as Imperial Airways showed interest in the northern route. I say that there is not a shred of truth in this allegation, and I think it is a very great pity that allegations of this kind should be made. I was very sorry, also, to hear the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) say that you have to know the right people to get a hearing at the Air Ministry—

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

I said that that was the impression left on the minds of those who had failed to get a hearing.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

It is only fair to say that the hon. Member added that he did not take responsibility for the statement, but that it was what he had heard. The suggestion is wholly unwarranted and it should not be made unless his informants are prepared to furnish chapter and verse. Who are these people and what are their names? I should like to know. I hardly think the House needs any reassurance on this matter. As other hon. Members made enquiry about the Fisher Committee which has been set up to look into the whole question of the development of international air communications. I may say it is a standing committee which deals with the major proposals affecting overseas air services and on which at least six different Departments are represented. We could have no more effective safeguard if safeguards be needed.

Let me turn to the speech of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). To-day, as on previous occasions, he has made a very interesting contribution about the possibility of civil aviation in the future being conducted as an organisation more or less on the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation. I would not for one moment say that such a future is not possible, but I do not think we can look to the possibility of it yet. I admit that there is force in the argument used by the Gorell Committee, that freedom from Government control rather than the intensification of such control was essential in the interests of civil aviation. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member attack the subsidy system because in connection with these subsidy agreements he it was who sponsored the Air Transport (Subsidy Agreements) Act of 1930. I think he should be glad to see how well his policy is working and take some credit to himself.

Photo of Mr Frederick Montague Mr Frederick Montague , Islington West

Those agreements were definite, and were passed by the House with the full knowledge of the amount to be given to Imperial Airways.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

This is a continuation of that policy, and a White Paper will be placed in the House in connection with these subsidies and hon. Members will have ample opportunity to discuss it in all its phases before the agreement with Imperial Airways is signed. We are, I hope, going to have the Committee stage on the Floor of the House, which will give hon. Members an opportunity to discuss these points, and I hope that in those circumstances the House will let us have the Second Reading now.

11.33 p.m.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered several questions, including one which I asked—on what principle is a subsidy given to one company and refused to another? We are asked to vote £25,000,000 over the course of 17 years. That is not a Committee point. A question of principle is involved. Why does not the Under-Secretary tell us why one company is to get a subsidy and others are refused? On what principle is this matter decided? We are entitled to an answer. It is not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman to reply to one or two questions put by hon. Friends of his and decline to answer substantial points put by other hon. Members.

11.34 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Garro-Jones Mr George Garro-Jones , Aberdeen North

I want to add my protest to the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has replied to the Debate. I have participated in Air Debates on other occasions and I have previously complained that the right hon. Gentleman takes good care to answer criticisms which are friendly but completely ignores those which are put forward from this side of the House. The right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) made grave charges about this financial ramp. The Under-Secretary has not said a single word in reply. If this House valued its honour, that would have been the first question to be answered by the Under-Secretary. All he did was to score a cheap debating point against the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) that he brought forward a Bill which compromised the hon. Member as far as this subsidy principle was concerned. The right hon. Gentleman knows that my hon. Friend could not bring in the Bill which he would have liked because the Labour party had not a majority in the House. The right hon. Gentleman has a majority, and in his innermost heart he knows that this ought to be a State service.

There is no service in the State about which a stronger case can be made. The State has to give it financial assistance; it could have bought and floated this company for one year's subsidy. That is only one form of assistance The State has to give the company diplomatic assistance. Imperial Airways cannot operate or fly over Europe, or any other part of the world, without calling in the aid of the British Foreign Office, with the vast expenditure which that entails in every part of the world. It has to have meteorological assistance; all the weather reports, and so on, of the Air Ministry are at its service. It receives service in research; all the scientific research departments of the State are at the beck and call of Imperial Airways. If it wishes to build a new type of machine, the Air Ministry pays for it. The subsidy is not the whole tale of the assistance which the State gives to Imperial Airways.

There is only one reason why Imperial Airways remains under private enterprise, and that is because the Government are trying to bolster up a rotten system, and they know very well that if they acted honestly in this matter, Imperial Airways would be a State service. I venture to say that before very long there will be a Nemesis which will follow the right hon. Baronet on this matter. The country is beginning to realise that these attempts to bolster up, by every form of payments—if it is not a subsidy, it is remission of taxation; if it is not a remission of taxation, it is a guaranteed loan—are carried out for the purpose of maintaining, in the interests of financial ramps, this rotten system which the right hon. Baronet is maintaining.

I believe the House would give the right hon. Baronet a third hearing if he would tell us what he intends to do to prevent this financial ramp in Imperial Airways shares. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and Clack-mannan (Mr. Johnston) did not tell the worst of the story. It is, I believe, only 12 years ago that these shares stood at 1s. Then, I believe, there was a time when they stood at 5s. Now they stand at 42s. or 52s. Every shilling of that capital appreciation has no other basis but the subsidy paid by the State. I did not rise with any intention of detaining the House long, but I hope the right hon. Baronet will not be allowed consistently to get away with this system of his of answering the easy criticisms and over- looking those which go to the root of our complaints.

11.38 p.m.

Photo of Sir Harold Boyce Sir Harold Boyce , Gloucester

Hon. Members on all sides of the House realise, I think, that civil aviation in this country has not yet reached the stage at which it can be expected to continue without some Government support, whether it be nationalised or carried on under private enterprise, with the assistance of a subsidy. That, however, is no reason for nationalising this particular transport service as suggested by the Hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro-Jones). If one looks throughout the Empire, whether it be Australia or Canada, and if one looks at foreign countries—and there comes to one's mind immediately the example of Germany after the War—one finds that the nationalisation of transport has afforded one of the most disastrous and catastrophic examples of Socialism that could be found.

There is one point I would have wished to put to the right hon. Baronet before he sat down, but I regret to say that I came into the House rather late this evening, and I did not have the good fortune to catch your eye, Sir, before the right hon. Baronet had resumed his seat. There already exist established and regular transport services, other than air services, for the carriage of mails, passengers and freight. These are run on commercial lines and without any Government subsidy, and they are bound to be prejudicially affected by having traffic displaced as a result of the increased subsidy to air transport. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the Government ought to give some consideration to that problem and endeavour to find an equitable solution of it, in the public interest. The granting of an increased subsidy to this particular form of transport will give rise to a problem, with which the Government must deal if they wish to do justice to all forms of transport. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not advocating any one of them in particular to-night.

I suggest as a solution of that problem that those transport agencies which are prejudicially affected as a result of the Measure should be given priority of claim to participation in the operation of these services.[Interruption.] I am anxious that hon. Members opposite should not miss their last trains, but there is one other point to which I wish to make a passing reference. I welcomed the statement made earlier in the Debate by the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that he was desirous of seeing some system of licensing air services in order to avoid uneconomic competition. I think that statement will be welcomed in most parts of the House. My hope is that if such a system of licensing is brought into operation those transport agencies, whatever they may be, which are likely to be most seriously affected as a result of the subsidy, will receive special consideration.

11.44 p.m.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

I ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes while I put one or two points to the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary. In a Debate of this nature, a good deal is, necessarily, said about Imperial Airways, but the House ought to recollect that Imperial Airways was formed for the purpose of establishing an effective series of air services. The right hon. Gentleman will, I hope, bear in mind, first of all, the necessity that these agreements should be brought before the House from time to time so that the House may have in mind at all times the different services in respect of which agreements are negotiated. It is idle to say that any national service can fly by itself. [Interruption.] Civil aviation in this country cannot pay for itself, and it is essential, in order to preserve this system of communications within the Empire, that a Government subsidy should be given. I think we can take consolation from the fact that during the short time it has been in existence this national Airways service has achieved substantial results. It is one thing to operate an air service between the frontiers of one country or even in Europe, but it is a very different thing indeed when services have to be operated, as Imperial Airways services are now functioning, over four Continents and something like 30 countries. Criticisms may be made—and most of them have been rather unfair towards Imperial Airways. [Interruption.] We have listened to my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill with that care and consideration which are always given to what he says. He is one whom we honour as one of the pioneers of flying, but I disagree with him in the request which he makes for the divorcement of civil aviation from the Air Ministry. I hope there will be no divorcement between the Air Ministry and civil aviation, and I believe that this new scheme can go forward in a great pioneering spirit and that, by the aid of this increased subsidy, we can link Empire communications in such a way as to provide ourselves with an outstanding air service on these routes.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

The Minister has already spoken twice, and except in Committee Members, whether Ministers or not, are only entitled to speak once. If Ministers are to be allowed to speak in this House as many times as they like, we are really making all debates the same as in Committee, and I think the House should consider very carefully before it grants permission to a Minister to do that.

11.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

I think the only proper course for the House to adopt, in view of the attitude of the Minister, is to adjourn the Debate. I am surprised that someone above the Gangway on the Front Opposition Bench has not taken the opportunity of moving the adjournment of the Debate. The Minister had his opportunity of answering the Debate. He answered a few people on his own side of the House, made a few casual remarks to the former Under-Secretary of State for Air, thinking he was scoring a point, and then left all the other questions unanswered. In these circumstances, I think the House is entitled to art answer to all those questions. As it is obvious that the Under-Secretary of. State has proved himself quite unable to answer them, an opportunity should be given for him to go over the Debate and possibly get some other Member of the Government, on a future occasion, to answer those very pertinent questions. I therefore move the adjournment of the Debate.

Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

The House divided: Ayes, 95; Noes, 161.

Division No. 123.]AYES.[11.50 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. DykeGreen, W. H. (Deptford)Pritt, D. N.
Adams, D. (Consett)Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)Riley, B.
Adamson, W. M.Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)Ritson, J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)Hardie, G. D.Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Ammon, C. G.Harris, Sir P. A.Rowson, G.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Henderson, J, (Ardwick)Seely, Sir H. M.
Barr, J.Holdsworth, H.Sexton, T. M.
Bellenger, F.Hopkin, D.Shinwell, T. E.
Benson, G.Jagger, J.Silverman, S. S.
Broad, F. A.Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)Simpson, F. B.
Bromfield, W.Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Brooke, W.Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cape, T.Kelly, W. T.Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cocks, F. S.Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.Sorensen, R. W.
Campton, J.Lathan, G.Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cripps, Hon. Sir StaffordLeonard, W.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G.Leslle, J. R.Thurtle, E.
Dalton, H.Logan, D. G.Tinker, J. J.
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)McGhee, H. G.Vlant, S. P.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)MacLaren, A.Walker, J.
Day, H.MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)Watson W. McL.
Dobbie, W.Mander, G. le M.Westwood, J.
Dunn, E. (Bother Valley)Marklew, E.White, H. Graham
Ede, J. C.Mathers, G.Whiteley, W.
Edge, Sir W.Messer, F.Wilkinson, Ellen
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)Milner, Major J.Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.Montague, F.Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Foot, D. M.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)Woods, G, S. (Finsbury)
Frankel, D.Oliver, G. H.
Gallagher, W.Paling, W.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gardner, B. W.Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.Mr. Stephen and Mr. McGovern.
Garro-Jones, G. M.Potts, J.
NOES.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.Fraser, Capt. Sir I.Neven-Spence. Maj. B. H.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.Furness, S. N.Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Albery, I. J.Fyfe, D. P. M.Palmer, G. E. H.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.Gledhill, G.Patrick, C. M.
Anderson Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)Gluckstein, L. H.Penny, Sir G.
Apsley, LordGoldie, N. B.Perkins, W. R. D.
Aske, Sir R. W.Goodman, Col. A. W.Petherick, M.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral)Picktnorn, K. W. M.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGreene, W. P. C. (Worcester)Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.Proctor, Major H. A.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Gridley, Sir A. B.Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Belt, Sir A. L.Grimston, R. V.Ramsbotham, H.
Bllndell, Sir J.Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)Rankin, R.
Bossom, A. C.Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)Rayner, Major R. H.
Bower, Comdr. R. T.Hannah, I. C.Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.Hannon, Sir P. J. H.Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Boyce, H. LeslieHarvey, G.Ropner, Colonel L.
Bracken, B.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G.Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Bull, B. B.Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)Rowlands, G.
Butt, Sir A.Holmes, J. S.Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Sir E. T.Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Cartland, J. R. H.Hopkinson, A.Salmon, Sir I.
Castlereagh, ViscountHorsbrugh, FlorenceSalt, E. W.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Hulbert, N. S.Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Hunter, T.Scott, Lord William
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)Keeling, E. H.Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Christie, J. A.Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Clarry, Sir R. G.Kerr, I. G. (Scottish Universities)Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Colman, N. C. D.Kirkpatrick, W. M.Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.Lamb, Sir J. Q.Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)Spens, W. P.
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.Leckie, J. A.Storey, S.
Crooke, J. S.Leech, Dr. J. W.Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.Lewis, O.Strickland, Captain W. F.
Cross, R. H.Lidoall, W. S.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Crowder, J. F. E.Lindsay K. M.Sutcliffe, H.
Culverwell, C. T.Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.Tate, Mavis C.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.Lloyd, G. W.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
De Chair, S S.Loftus, P. C.Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.Lumley, Capt. L. R.Wakefield, W. W.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)Lyons, A. M.Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Dugdale, Major T. L.Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Dunne, P. R. R.McCorquodale, M. S.Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Eastwood, J. F.McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.Waterhouse, Captain C.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.McKle, J. H.Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Elmley, ViscountManningham-Buller, Sir M.Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Emery, J. F.Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Wise, A. R.
Emmott, C. E. G. C.Markham, S. F.Womersley, Sir W. J.
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Mayhew Lt.-Col. J.Wragg, H.
Errington, E.Mellon, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Everard, W. L.Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Findlay, Sir E.Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Fleming, E. L.Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)Major George Davies and Mr.
Fox, Sir G. W. G.Mulrhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.James Stuart.

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

11.59 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Frederick Guest Hon. Frederick Guest , Plymouth Drake

I have listened with great attention to this Debate, and I do not think anyone will mind my saying that the immense interest which has been taken in the Bill is perhaps the most important thing that has happened for a long time. There are a certain number of us here who have been working at the development of aviation, both civil and military, for many years in a House of Commons which has turned deaf ears to us. At last we have succeeded in making it the most important topic that the House of Commons can consider.

It is important to get the House of Commons air-minded; better to have some opposition in the House than to have a House which pays no attention at all to the subject. It has been the experience of a small committee of Members interested in this subject to which I belong to find an empty House whenever it came under discussion. To-night we have a great House. I came to the House to-night after having studied the Bill very carefully and after having attended several committees at which the details of the Clauses were considered. I was obviously opposed to the Amendment, because I believe in private enterprise, but I have listened to-day to able speeches made in support of the rejection of the Bill and I would submit to the Government that it is a great mistake to ignore expert opinion.

I do not think many hon. Members have the slightest idea of the value of the advice given to the House by the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon). Having listened to all that he has said to-day and on previous occasions, I feel bound to pause before I vote in favour of the Bill. I have been in this controversy for a good many years and the question has always been how to divorce civil aviation from military control. The problems of the two are different, yet they are interwoven. It is hard to dissociate them in their ultimate possibilities, though each has its fundamental problems. Therefore, it is a great mistake to judge too quickly whether this is a good Bill, a complete Bill or a bad Bill. My honest feeling is that the Bill should be reconsidered. The Government are embarking on a course which has not been sufficiently considered. There is the difficulty that in this House are three hon. Members who were members of the Gorell Committee upon which this Bill was founded, and I do not think that they themselves quite realise the lengths to which this Bill would carry us.

The recommendations are, in the main, splendid; in details I think they could be improved. If the Government would be tolerant and not steam-roller this Bill through the House of Commons, in the long run the country would be the richer. We should have a better measure. I will not bother the House to-night with suggested alterations and modifications. The alterations in the Bill would improve it to such an extent as would be of international value.

I am not ready to go into the question of national control or private enterprise, although I could keep that subject going for a long time if hon. Members could bear with me. I never take more than seven minutes. I could discuss the question of monopoly almost indefinitely. I want to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that the Committee stage of this Bill must really be faced by them in a lenient and generous spirit. They must realise that there is tremendous feeling in the House, which has at last begun to appreciate what air control means. They must not say: "We will not take any Amendment at all." I am content to support the Second Reading on the definite understanding that reasonable time and opportunity will be given to us. I am sure that we shall get from our charming Under-Secretary for Air a certain amount of understanding that makes the whole difference in carrying the House of Commons with him.

As has been said before, this is a national, not a party, matter. We have, somehow or other, to control one of the greatest new scientific forces that the world has ever seen. To treat the Bill as a sectional, temporary or party Measure seems unworthy of the dignity, knowledge and experience of this House.

12.7 a.m.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member has already spoken twice.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

I only wanted to answer one question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Agreed!"] With the permission of the House, I would like to answer the question put to me, so that I shall not give an impression in any way of having shown discourtesy to hon. Members. In connection with Imperial Airways shares, I would like to say that the Government's deferred shareholding entitles them to half the profits earned over 10 per cent. In this way there is no possibility of excessive profits being made by private capital [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, there is!"] and the Exchequer will get a return if the concern is really prosperous. There is no question of taxation without representation. We have two Government directors on the board.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

It is very important to clear this matter up. Does the Under-Secretary dispute the fact that, since the beginning of September, the share value of Imperial Airways, Limited, has risen by £360,000?

Photo of Mr George Garro-Jones Mr George Garro-Jones , Aberdeen North

[Interruption.] It is useless for the Chief Whip to make those exclamations. I have been asking the Under-Secretary to answer this question ever since I have been a Member of this House, and I have never been given an answer. What is his answer to the point that these shares have appreciated from 1s. to 52s. on the basis of the distribution of subsidies by the State? Does he consider that a satisfactory position? Does he realise that for one year's subsidy he could have bought the whole concern?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I cannot allow hon. Members to continue asking questions of the Minister.

12.10 a.m.

Photo of Sir Robert Perkins Sir Robert Perkins , Stroud

May I ask the Prime Minister, if the Under-Secretary is not allowed to reply, whether he can clear away the very unpleasant allegations which have been made against the honour and integrity of the Air Ministry during this Debate? It has been alleged by several Members of the House that one firm, British Airways, received a subsidy in preference to British Continental Airways, and the whole thing was wrapped up in a kind of hole-and-corner business. It is either true or untrue, and surely we are entitled to have some information. If it is true, they ought to be ashamed of themselves; if it is untrue, it is only fair to the officials of the Air Ministry that it should be denied.

Photo of Mr Francis Broad Mr Francis Broad , Edmonton

Is it not a fact that the Under-Secretary has still the right to address the House and continue his speech?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The Under-Secretary has no right to address the House at all; he has spoken twice already.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

May I submit, Sir, that before you came in a Ruling had been given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker warning hon. Members of the serious consequences of allowing the Under-Secretary to make more than one reply? As the right hon. Gentleman was then in possession of the House, would you kindly let him answer that one question?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The Under-Secretary has answered the question. He cannot make a speech on it.

12.12 a.m.

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

May I most respectfully put this point to you? I think my right hon. Friend was replying to a point put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but gave way when a further question was asked, and he had not finished answering the question when other Members rose and asked more questions. You called hon. Members to order, as the Debate was getting a little out of hand. If I might respectfully ask that my right hon. Friend might be allowed to conclude what he was saying, I think it would be for the convenience of the House.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I do not mind his concluding what he was saying in answering one question, but I must keep order in this House. This is not the Committee stage. When the House is sitting as a House, if I were to allow ever so many questions to be asked, the reply which the Under-Secretary would have to make would form itself into a speech, which would be most irregular.

Photo of Sir Philip Sassoon Sir Philip Sassoon , Hythe

Might I just finish the answer as to the principle on which these external air services were allotted? I was not in the House when the hon. Member spoke, or I should have explained to the best of my ability that these services were decided by what is called the Fisher Committee, upon which five or six Departments are represented, and which examines the whole question of international air communications.

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

Is that the committee that decided the British Airways subsidy

12.14 a.m.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

This Debate has been an exposure, not only of the administration of the Air Service, but a terrible and deadly exposure of this Government. The hon. Member who spoke before the Under-Secretary got up, to evade answering, said that aviation was the greatest invention of modern times. This is correct, yet we have one of the pioneers of aviation moving the rejection of the Bill and saying that no one could consider the stage that aviation had reached without feeling something to be ashamed of. There could not possibly be anything so damning to the Government. Instead of advancing aviation, the system of subsidies for a particular group is preventing aviation from developing. An hon. Member said that private enterprise and private competition were wanted to develop the best type of aeroplane. A question was asked the other day whether there was any country that had developed aeroplanes to such an extent that they could carry whole fleets of parachutists and small tanks, and the answer was Yes. That is in a country where there is no subsidy but there is State ownership.

Why should we pay subsidies to a group such as Imperial Airways? Why should local authorities have the power to purchase land? Why should not they have power to requisition it, not only to make aerodromes but to become responsible for developing aviation? The Glasgow Corporation, which made such a historic success of developing tramways, and is now developing an omnibus service, is not only prepared to acquire land for a landing field but to develop aviation. Why should not these big authorities not develop aviation and carry passengers? There is an enormous field for developing the whole character of aviation if only we had a Government which was interested in aviation instead of being interested in handing out the nation's money to their own friends. An hon. Member accuses someone of receiving a subsidy and there are cries of "Withdraw!" Apparently his character is at stake. It is an offence to receive a subsidy. But, if you look round, there are Members whose friends are receiving subsidies. This Government can never develop aviation and the Bill can never develop it. It can only hinder it. An hon. Lady gave figure after figure to show that we are the one country that is dragging back in aviation. [An HON. MEMBER: "They were all wrong!"] I am certain they were not wrong.

I am positive that, in type and character of machines and service, other countries are in advance of us. I know that the Soviet Union, which started long after Great Britain, is far ahead of us now, and make no mistake about it. When you have 1,200 parachutes being dropped and aeroplanes carrying armoured cars, motor cars and all the rest of it, it is really a wonderful development. It is not only so, for you can go to many places in the Soviet Union where great towers are put up. There is a platform on each. There parachutists are being trained. They have a rope round their waist, the other end of which is attached to a pulley, and down they come in the parachute. What have you done in this country? Are you training parachutists? Never under this Bill. It is a Bill to maintain aviation within a small corporation which is concerned, as the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) pointed out, not with the jumping up of aeroplanes and pilots, but the jumping up of dividends. That is the one thing that this country has succeeded in achieving far and away in advance of any other country.

I challenge the Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary for Air to show us where in any other country there has been such an advance in the value of shares or where there has been such a failure to advance in air development as there has been in this country? The two things go together, and the more your corporation becomes restricted to a particular clique the more you see it. Therefore, I say that this Debate mono than anything has ever done, has exposed the utter incomepetency of this Government and, if there is to be an understanding and a development of aviation in this country, the absolute necessity of getting rid of this sorry crew—this side show. Nobody can treat it other than a side show, as a mixture of all kinds of incompatibilities, with the one thing in common, that not one of them understands his job, or is prepared to answer intelligently anything that is put to him. Until we get rid of the National Government, who give subsidies to their friends, there will be no development of aviation in this country. Therefore, I ask the House to get rid of this Bill and make it part of the process of getting rid of those responsible for the Government.

12.24 a.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

It is evident that, if the House of Commons agrees to pass the Bill with no further information in front of it than that which it has received from the right hon. Baronet who is in charge of it, it will be abrogating its function of examining Government Bills and having them justified to it. The right hon. Gentleman has heard speeches very critical of the Bill made from his own side of the House, but he has not designed to respond, even now, to any of the serious points raised. He did not even mention in his reply the name of the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), whose accusation was that there was favouritism being shown by giving a subsidy to one firm. Not a single word fell from the Minister to repel that particular accusation. It was made with such a wealth of detail and evidence that if, in any court of law, the Minister had wanted to get up and say there was no need to reply because the prosecution had not made out a case, he would have been told at once that there was a case to answer.

The right hon. and gallant Member after some moments of theatrical wavering, at last announced that he would vote for the Second Reading of the Bill on a tacit understanding. That is, of course, the only kind of understanding one can have with the right hon. Baronet, but he cannot expect, even though supporters of the Government are prepared to take tacit understandings, that His Majesty's Opposition, if it is to discharge its duties properly, will do the same thing. While the right hon. Baronet was out of the House and the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) was speaking, the Attorney-General was in charge on the Front Bench taking notes, and those of us who witnessed what transpired after the right hon. Baronet returned know that the Attorney-General read those notes over to him. If he felt that he could not reply to the hon. Member for South Bradford, surely the learned Attorney-General could have spoken for the Government and have answered the questions put by the hon. Member, which did not require any knowledge of the details to answer properly?

Here we have a Bill that seems to offend every sort of principle that we have established. The compensation that is to be paid depends on the size of the aeroplane. Apply that to motor cars. The small motor car can just as well end a valuable life as the biggest motor omnibus, and it has never been said in this country that the compensation recoverable was to be on the size or weight of the instrument that caused the damage.

I think it was the hon. Member for South Bradford who dealt with the point of an aeroplane falling on some big building in Piccadilly. Are we to understand that if a place is set on fire by a very big aeroplane and damage is done, that damage should be paid for by a bigger sum than if it had been caused by a small aeroplane? "How great a fire a little spark may kindle" is and has been for many generations a great principle of truth, and why should this Government, which was elected largely for its orthodoxy, be the first to depart from so sound a principle? I can only imagine, after what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that but for one thing these shares would rise still higher, because I understood him to say that all the dividend over 10 per cent. is to be shared equally between the company and the Government. That is only saying "You go on and plunder them as much as you like as long as we get half the booty." But there is no compulsion on the company to proceed to distribute dividends after it reaches 10 per cent. It can then increase directors' salaries and spend money in other ways, so that the safeguards that the Minister thinks he has secured for the public may very well be lost sight of.

Nor did we have a single word in reply to the speech of the hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) when he was dealing with the question of the opportunity this offers to repeat again the financial ramps that were so prevalent in the earlier days of the industrial revolution. He produced plenty of instances in every way similar to the instance in front of us but the Under-Secretary did not deign to give us a word in reply. I do think that the Prime Minister, as he has been here to-night, will realise that, after all, even though he has a big majority behind him, he is the Leader of the House and that the House is entitled to some respect and to have the policy of the Government defended to it. I hope also he will realise that it is not fair to leave the Minister in the position that, in order to reply to the Debate, he has to make an appeal to the House to allow himself to be heard. I suggest that in measures of this importance, dealing with a public service that is now in its infancy but which, obviously, is going to grow until it becomes one of the most important, if not the most important, services for mankind, there should have been at least two Ministers who should have addressed the House on a matter of such importance. Since the House of Commons reassembled last autumn it has not been treated by the Government with the respect which its historic position demands. It is no use the Prime Minister writing pleasant essays about democracy. This House has got to justify democracy if it is to live in Western Europe—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where is the Minister for Thought?"]—The Minister for Thought is no doubt thinking how he is going to block our way on the Education Bill to-morrow.

I appeal to the Prime Minister to realise that he has himself said quite frequently that this party has endeavoured, since he has occupied his office, to discharge the duties of an Opposition in a constitutional manner, but we have the right in return for that to expect that the case for the Government shall be presented to us in a way consistent with the Constitution and that when hon. Members on this side, as well as others, ask serious questions, challenging not merely the details but the principle of the Government's policy, there should be a Minister of Cabinet rank who should reply to the Debate and attempt to justify to us the principles upon which the Government has acted.

12.34 a.m.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I thought the Prime Minister would have risen in response to my hon. Friend. I do not know how much of the Debate he has heard—a fair amount, perhaps. The greatest criticism has come from hon. Members on the other side who are considered experts on the question under discussion. Their statements have been very serious ones, and they have not been answered at all. There has been absolutely no answer. I have great sympathy with the Minister, because I think he had a very difficult task at the beginning, and it is usual for some other Minister to wind up. This House ought not to be asked to vote before these questions are answered. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Patronage Secretary to give us another couple of hours one day in order that the Minister, or some other Minister, may go through the Debate and from that Box give a categorical answer to the statements made, because had those statements been made in connection with any local authority in the country they would have caused a great outcry and a great scandal. Not a word has been said in reply to what the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) said or to what other hon. Members said either.

The House has been quite indulgent to the Minister, who spoke two or three times. Probably he was not in the position to answer fully, but it is on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT and it would not take very long one evening, and I am quite sure the Leader of the Opposition would be only too glad to assist the Government to find time to give the answers. You can beat us in the Lobby but you will not beat the feeling in the country which will be aroused because of the statements that have not been answered. I do very earnestly ask the Prime Minister to let the Debate be adourned. There was no discussion on that Question. Then let him arrange so that, in a friendly manner, time can be given, and if there is an answer, let that answer be given not merely to us but to hon. Members on the other side.

12.37 a.m.

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

It is impossible not to make a reply to the right hon. Gentleman who for so long led the Opposition. I am sure he would certainly not repeat what was alleged by an hon. Member who, if I remember rightly, was not in the last Parliament, for I do not think there has been any lack of courtesy on the part of the Government towards the Opposition during the past four years, nor do I think there has been any in the present Parliament.

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I am pleased to say a word or two in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, because we have sat opposite for so many years and conducted our business on the whole, I think, to the satisfaction of the House. He has made one or two observations about the course of the Debate to-day. It is a very heavy task which, as not infrequently happens, falls on an Under-Secretary in charge of a difficult and complicated Measure, and when his chief is in another place—and there are always instances of that—all the responsibility rests upon him. I regret I was not in the House when he spoke. As a matter of fact, I have a rather troublesome cough, and am rather sorry for people who have to listen to me; that is why I have been out of the House the last few days. But I cannot agree to the postponement or adjournment of the Bill. We want the Second Reading of the Bill.

But I will say this: I gather from what has been said in the House that my right hon. Friend had not the time, or perhaps the opportunity, to deal with the many points raised—and the House has seen Mr. Speaker's very proper intervention to the effect that we could not have trespassed on the courtesy of the House any more—but if there be any points on which an answer is demanded—and I will look into that matter myself—I suggest that my right hon. Friend should reply to them on the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution which I do not propose to ask the House to pass to-night. I propose to ask the House for the Second Reading of the Bill, and I hope hon. Members may now be disposed to take it promptly. It is getting to a very late hour. My right hon. Friend will reply to any points raised on the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution, and I would remind the House that a Bill of this obvious importance must be discussed with great care when it comes into Committee. Upon the principle of the Bill, as laid down on the Second Reading, we do ask the House to-night to give its decision. I think from what I have said I have met, not unfairly, the point which was raised by the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury).

12.40 a.m.

Photo of Mr John McGovern Mr John McGovern , Glasgow Shettleston

I certainly had no intention of taking part in the discussions on this Bill, and intended to content myself with registering my vote on behalf of the official Amendment moved by the Opposition. But I want to say that I have listened to a considerable amount of this discussion to-night, and I disagree entirely with the statement made by the Prime Minister that there was no opportunity to answer the questions put by various Members, and that there was no time to discuss or answer the various questions put. I must frankly confess that during the limited time I have been in this House I could never at any time have challenged the Under-Secretary with being, so far as I know, discourteous in any way. I have always heard him speak with a great amount of ability in debate in the House, but to-night there has been a case made by Members of the Opposition, by the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), and by others, which has not been answered. I would say to the Prime Minister that if in a debate in a working class area a speaker standing up for an opposition point of view were to reply in the way in which the Minister has replied to-night, he would be chased by a working class audience in any part of the country. He has not attempted to answer the questions that have been put.

There is a more difficult and dangerous side for the Government. There have been charges levelled at the Government to-night almost of corruption. Once charges have been levelled against the Government that they have backed a ramp, or that some of their friends have been involved, that demands a serious reply. The Minister has not attempted to answer a single line of argument raised. It may be that he could dispel on behalf of the Government the charges that have been made, and that there was no foundation for them, but we are entitled to assume—as the Government would assume if they were in opposition and another Government were in office—that in the absence of any reply there is no reply to offer to the charges. Therefore, we are entitled to assume in the country and to state that charges of corruption have been made against the Government, and they have failed to answer at that Box to-night and to repel the charges. The Minister has shown contempt for those who have raised serious points in debate. It may be from time to time that there are Members in this House such as myself who offer a frontal attack of some kind of a complete oppositional character which does not demand or expect a reply from the Government. But when points are raised in this House by Members of the various Opposition sides and they expect a reply from that Box to charges that are made, I expect the Minister to answer the charges and the questions.

For this Debate to terminate to-night without an appropriate reply being made, and for Members to be asked to cast a vote in the Lobby before these charges have been answered or repelled, is to ask people to do that which no Member is entitled to do, Therefore, as a Member of the House I say to the Government that they have failed. The Minister has treated all sections of the House in a contemptuous way by a lack of courtesy and decency in Debate. He has answered one or two questions which, as has been said, are easy questions of a friendly character. Those of a serious oppositional kind he has refused to answer, and the Government to-night stand condemned, from the point of view which is growing in the House, of assuming that they have dictatorial powers with a huge majority, and have no need to answer. They can direct their sheep into the

Lobby to vote for them, but it will establish in the minds of the people of this country that Hitlerism is not confined to Germany but is rapidly developing in Great Britain.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 140; Noes, 85.

Division No. 124.]AYES.[12.45 a.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.Fox, Sir G. W. G.Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.Fraser, Capt. Sir I.Palmer, G. E. H.
Albery, I. J.Fyfe, D. P. M.Patrick, C. M.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.Gledhill, G.Perkins, W. R. D.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)Gluckstein, L. H.Petherick, M.
Aske, Sir R. W.Goldie, N. B.Pickthorn, K W. M.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)Goodman, Col. A. W.Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGraham Captain A. C. (Wirral)Procter, Major H. A.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Gridley, Sir A. B.Ramsbotham, H.
Beit, Sir A. L.Grimston, R. V.Rankin, R.
Bossom, A. C.Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)Rayner, Major R. H.
Bower, Comdr. R. T.Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.Hannah, I. C.Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Boyce, H. LeslieHannon, Sir P. J. H.Ropner, Colonel L.
Bracken, B.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G.Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. w. (Ripon)Rowlands, G.
Bull, B. B.Holmes, J. S.Russell, A West (Tynemouth)
Butt, Sir A.Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.Russell, S H. M. (Darwen)
Cartland, J. R. H.Hopkinson, A.Salt, E. W.
Castlereagh, ViscountHorsbrugh, FlorenceSassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Hulbert, N. S.Scott, Lord William
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Hunter, T.Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Colman, N. C. D.Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universities)Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. JKirkpatrick, W. M.Spens, W. P.
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)Lamb, Sir J. Q.Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)Strickland, Captain W. F.
Crooke, J. S.Leckie, J. A.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.Leech, Dr. J. W.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Cross, R. H.Lewis, O.Sutcliffe, H.
Crowder, J, F. E.Liddall, W. S.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Culverwell, C. T.Lindsay, K. M.Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)Lloyd, G. W.Wakefield, W. W.
De Chair, S. S.Loftus, P. C.Ward, Lieut. Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.Lumley, Capt. L. R.Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)Lyons, A. M.Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Dugdale, Major T. L.McCorquodale, M. S.Waterhouse, Captain C.
Dunne, P. R. R.McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Eastwood, J. F.McKie, J. H.Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Mannlngham-Buller, Sir M.Womersley, Sir W. J.
Emery, J. F.Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Wragg, H.
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Markham, S. F.Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Errington, E.Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Everard, W. L.Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Findlay, Sir E.Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Sir George Penny and Sir James
Fleming, E. L.Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H.Blindell.
NOES.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. DykeDalton, H.Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Adams, D. (Consett)Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Hardie, G. D.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)Day, H.Harris, Sir P. A.
Adamson, W. M.Dobbie, W.Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)Holdsworth, H.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Ede, J. C.Hopkin, D.
Barr, J.Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwelity)Jagger, J.
Bellenger, F.Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Benson, G.Foot, D. M.Johnston Rt. Hon. T.
Broad, F. A.Frankel, D.Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Bromfield, W.Gallacher, W.Kelly, W. T.
Cluse, W. S.Gardner, B. W.Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.
Cocks, F. S.Garro-Jones, G. M.Leslie, J. R.
Compton, J.Green, W. H. (Deptford)Logan, D. G.
Cripps, Hon. Sir StaffordGriffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)McGhee, H. G.
Daggar, G.Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)McGovern, J.
MacLaren, A.Ritson, J.Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)Roberts, w. (Cumberland, N.)Tate, Mavis C.
Mander, G. le M.Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Marklew, E.Rowson, G.Tinker, J. J.
Messer, F.Seeiy, Sir H. M.Watson, W. McL.
Milner, Major J.Sexton, T. M.Westwood, J.
Montague, F.Silverman, S. S.White, H. Graham
Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.Simpson, F. B.Wilkinson, Ellen
Oliver, G. H.Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Paling, W.Smith, E. (Stoke)Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.Smith, T. (Normanton)Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Potts, J.Sorensen, R. W.
Pritt, D. N.Stephen, C.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Captain Margessom]

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Monday evening, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Three Minutes before One o'Clock.