I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill, as the House knows, is a substantial step towards the complete nationalisation, or socialisation, of British air transportation. I do not wish to underestimate the extent of the proposals in the Bill, which provides that British air transportation should be a public concern and not a private enterprise, capitalist, or competitive concern. It is my duty to make a case for this policy, which is the basis of the Bill.
It is desirable to look back on the state and condition of British civil aviation before the commencement of the last great war. When civil aviation in Britain began, it developed along lines of competitive private enterprise. There was of course a certain amount of public regulation, or control, imposed upon it, but the industry originally developed rather in the field of ordinary competitive private enterprise than under the Imperial Airways Corporation. There were strictly limited subsidies out of public funds to part of this free competitive enterprise, but the subsidies and the services were inadequate to meet the needs of British civil aviation. So, later, it was accepted by the Conservative Government of the time that the rather extensive free, competitive private enterprise that had gone on in the air must be limited. Consequently, there was evolved and established Imperial Airways, which represented some degree of consolidation into one concern, particularly for overseas routes. To that extent, this step on the part of the Conservative Government of the time was a clear departure from the doctrines of private enterprise and free competition, and a move in the direction of consolidation and combination. I do not deny that Imperial Airways represented some improvement on the previous era, but those who look back on Imperial Airways will agree that it was by no means perfect, and that it did not do the full job. There was great complaint that British civil aviation, under Imperial Airways, was not doing the big and extensive job that was required to be done.
It is true that the subsidies tended to increase, but they were still inadequate to the needs of Imperial Airways. The result was that although we got some improvement by way of consolidation, there were uncertainties, inadequacy of service, and still inadequate subsidies out of the public Exchequer. I agree that under Imperial Airways there was some planning of Empire air routes, which had their advantages for the Royal Air Force when the war came. But the planning was inadequate, the intensity of service was not good enough, and, consequently, we did not reach the standard of adequacy of service and efficiency that was desirable, even in the Imperial Airways era. Our policies, therefore, were somewhat uncertain and uncourageous. There were complaints and there was unhappiness about British civil aviation. There was an insufficiency of sweep and boldness on the part of Britain in the air. There was a tendency on the part of some of the air transport undertakings to "cream" the good traffic—to take special care of the profitable traffic, with the result that some of the less profitable traffics were neglected to the disadvantage of the public, particularly to the disadvantage of Commonwealth and Empire communications.
The real difficulty at that time was that Conservative Governments were trying to reconcile free, competitive, private enterprise with public regulation and subsidies of public money. The result was that there was not enough public direction of the industry on the one hand and not enough public money, by way of subsidy, on the other. So, this great industry in which British personnel are first-class, was stifled and restricted in its development by a policy which was neither one thing nor the other. That is the description I would apply, and which I think is the right one, to the condition of British civil aviation before the war.
I come now to the state of British airfields or airports for civil aviation before the war. There was, clearly, no adequate planning of airports or airfields for civil aviation in this country before the war. How far they existed and where they were was too much a matter of accident. Apart from a limited number of airfields that were provided by private enterprise, the Air Ministry at that time relied upon local authorities for the provision of airfields and airports. The Government, like previous Governments, would wish to extend thanks to the municipalities who, by their enterprise, provided a number of civil airports in various parts of the country. Having expressed my thanks to the local authorities for their enterprise, I will confess my own lack of enterprise, as a former leader of the London County Council, as far as London was concerned. Having said "thank you" to the local authorities who did this, largely in the national interest and out of civic pride, I want to say that it was utterly wrong to expect municipalities to spend the ratepayers' money on what is essentially a national, if not an international, service. If ever there was a service which is not fit for municipal enterprise, it is the provision of airports. It is not the business of local municipal areas. It is the business of a national transportation system, and indeed, of an international transportation system.
It is curious how Conservative Secretaries of State for Air have been most enthusiastic advocates of municipal enterprise in the provision of airports, a trading undertaking. I always thought that municipal trading was contrary to the classical principles of the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, the late Sir Kingsley Wood, a gentleman for whom all of us had the highest respect and who was a good Conservative, if ever there was one, and a strong opponent of public enterprise, whether national or municipal, saw me when I was leader of the London County Council, and said: "You are a great believer in municipal enterprise." I said: "I am, and you are not." He said, "Would it not be nice if the London County Council had an airport?" He then tried to persuade me, with his characteristic skill, to get the London County Council to finance an airport. I said, with great respect, "I do not conceive it to be my job, as the leader of this great municipality, to spend the ratepayers' money on an airport; with great respect, that is your business, that is the business of the Air Ministry, the business of the State, and for the moment I intend to be modest and stick to my drains, and you can stick to the airports, and find the money for them." That may have been a rather selfish reply, but it was the right reply. If airfields are to be provided, clearly they cannot be provided adequately on a municipal basis. That must be a national job.
I wish to state why the Government reject private enterprise in the provision of air transportation for our country and for British civil aviation. I want whoever speaks for the Opposition to deal with the points which I make, if he is willing and feels able to do so. Do the Opposition believe in free competition in the provision of civil aviation? If they do, that is a logical and a sound case—not a sound case in accordance with modern needs, but a sound theoretical case in accordance with a doctrine. I am bound to say I cannot find anybody who believes in free competition in civil aviation, with the possible exception of Lord Beaverbrook, who certainly stands to his guns, or whatever they are, and who goes the whole hog on matters of this kind. I respect him for that. Apart from him, I do not know of anybody who believes in free competition in the provision of civil aviation. I do not know of anybody who advocates it; but if the Opposition wish to make a case today for free competition, I invite them to do so; and if they do not believe in free private enterprise competition in civil aviation, equally I invite them to admit that they do not do so, and to say that they reject that policy. It seems to me to be clear that if we were to allow public air transportation services to be run by just anybody, we would have an economically impossible situation in the air, plenty of accidents, and all sorts of complications and troubles. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Is any company to be allowed to start a civil aviation undertaking? If so, with all the capital expenditure involved, in aircraft, staff and airports, it seems to me that nobody would get a living out of it. Are the free competitors to get their hands into the public Treasury by way of subsidy, or are they not? If there are to be a vast number of people flying about under free competitive enterprise, as used to be the case with the buses in London, it seems to me that that would be conducive to lack of safety and to accidents. [HON. MEMBERS: "America."] Hon. Members Opposite will have a chance to make their case, but there is no completely free competitive enterprise in America. Even in that country, which is perhaps the most individualistic in the world, there is a great deal of control by the Aeronautical Board.
If hon. Members opposite want a great deal of regulation, then they are advocating red tape. We shall see in due course what the Opposition want. I am stating our views, and I invite the Opposition to face the facts of the situation frankly, and to meet the points I am making. If the Opposition do not advocate free, unrestricted, competitive capitalist enterprise in civil aviation, do they believe in free private monopoly; that is to say, that there should be a chosen instrument which would be given privileges, which would be given the chance to become a monopoly, but which would be free of State regulation and control? Let the Opposition answer whether they advocate that. If they do, they will have to meet the point that it would fasten upon the air travelling public a vast private capitalist monopoly without any State regulation, supervision or control. [Interruption.] I am dealing with the alternatives. I did not think hon. Members opposite would like these observations, and it was not my idea that they should.
Thirdly, there is the possibility that, instead of a free private monopoly, there should be a controlled private monopoly; that is to say, a chosen instrument owned by private enterprise and run by private enterprise, but regulated, supervised, checked, directed and generally messed about with by the Minister of Civil Aviation, so that that private monopoly would do what was required in the public interest. I think that is where the Opposition will finish up. I venture to believe that if there were a private monopoly which lacked all elements of freedom and was subject to a great deal of State regulation, we should get the worst of both worlds, neither the virtues of free private enterprise, nor the virtues of free public enterprise—neither one nor the other. If we had State control of private enterprise we should have plenty of Ministerial direction of private enterprise. We should have private management, and we should have to give them substantial subsidies, which would be either beyond what Parliament would care to sink in private undertakings, or inadequate with the result that progress would be stifled as in the past. This policy does not stand up as meeting the requirements of the country, and in any case a regulated private monopoly is not private enterprise whatever else it may be said to be. I invite the Opposition to decide, and to say whether they believe in private enterprise or whether they do not. Moreover, it is surely clear that the State must, in any case, provide the meteorological installations, and must work them. That could not very well be left to a whole series of competitive private concerns, nor could it be left to a restricted number of related monopolies, nor to one complete monopoly. The right hon Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench is smiling——
That is a perfectly legitimate and fair joke, but it is a joke not against me but against all the weather prophets. I say only that the meteorological service must surely be provided by the State, whether it proves to be right or wrong, and that we could not have a whole series of private meteorological installations all over the country. It is clear that the State must conduct a great deal of research because it can do this more economically and on a bigger scale, without prejudice to individual undertakings conducting research of their own. The State must also have in mind, however this industry is run, the interrelation of civil aviation with the needs, actual and potential, of the Royal Air Force, and the relativities between aircraft production for civil aviation and for the Royal Air Force now and in relation to war potential. Therefore, in the circumstances of this industry of civil aviation, it is unavoidable that the State shall be in the business to a very considerable extent, and over a very wide field.
That being so, and in view of the fact that there must be subsidies of some sub- stance, why ever should we go out of our way artificially to manufacture a hotch potch and muddle of mixed up private enterprise or monopoly business under State regulation, in which we get the maximum of trouble? Why should we artificially do that, unnaturally do it, merely for the satisfaction of doctrinaire and dogmatic principles? [Laughter.] I repeat, why should we go out of our way merely to satisfy the doctrinaire and dogmatic principles of the Opposition in favour of private enterprise? I appreciate that I may not have much luck in my request, but I invite the Opposition to be realistic about this matter. I invite them to join with us, boldly and courageously, in giving our fine men in the air services, and those on the ground serving the air services, their chance, for the first time in the history of British civil aviation.
I now proceed to make the case for public ownership, which indeed is half made already by the analysis I have given of the disadvantages of private enterprise. In the first place, there is nothing strange about the principle of public ownership and public management applied to the civil aviation industry. It is done in plenty of other countries. Canada is not only a great British Dominion but, taking it by and large, is a highly individualistic country. Nevertheless, its civil aviation services are publicly owned by Trans-Canadian Airways—and very good airways they are, as I think hon. Members who have travelled by them will agree. That other great Dominion, South Africa, which is not predisposed to Socialistic experiments, also has a publicly owned and managed air transportation system, and I am told that, in all, there are 19 countries which have nationalised scheduled air services, and that there are 23 countries which have partially nationalised services. So there are plenty of precedents which should help hon. Members opposite to swallow the more modern and up-to-date doctrine.
But there are advantages in public ownership as against private ownership. Public ownership means that the substantial public subsidies which will to a greater or lesser extent, and in some way or another, go into this great public utility service will, rightly, be accompanied by efforts to ensure that the subsidy is adequate but not excessive and that it is used in the right way, for it is far easier for the Exchequer to subsidise a public concern and give it reasonable elbow room than to do the same thing for a private concern. Parliament itself will be more considerate in the extension of subsidies to concerns which are conducted in the public interest and not for private profit than they would be in putting the subsidies into a private concern. Moreover, it is exceedingly desirable that, as time goes on, these subsidies should taper off. We are not giving subsidies for fun—[Interruption.] The Tory Party have given plenty of subsidies to private enterprise—in fact they believe in subsidising private enterprise and in general we do not. As a matter of fact we are not enthusiastic about subsidies in any case, but in this industry they are inevitable for the time being. We shall not give more than are necessary, and, as time goes on, we shall seek to taper subsidies, in the hope that on some services they can be eliminated altogether in due course and that it may be possible in all air services at some time—though I cannot see it at present—to do without subsidies entirely. That will be to the good, but it is clear in my judgment, that if subsidies have to be paid it is easier, more constructive, and a more certain way of getting results to hand them to a public concern, and that so long as it is a question of giving them to a private concern, Parliament and the Government will tend to restrict subsidies, for the very reason that there may be suspicion that they are buttressing up some monopolistic organisation of a profit-making nature. The history of the matter bears that out; it is a fact that Governments before the war gave, if anything, inadequate subsidies to Imperial Airways and to other concerns.
Public ownership in this industry means that we can deliberately, with freedom, with enterprise, with initiative, and without bothering about this, that, or the other vested interest, organise and plan routes, services and related ancillary activities. Under comprehensive public ownership and public enterprise, we can have sweep and boldness in our civil aviation policy, instead of what we had under Conservative Governments before the war, namely vacillation, inadequacies, and the element of "creaming" the traffic of certain private enterprise concerns to which I have referred. Next, public enterprise means that Parliament can have a more effective say in the general policy which should govern our civil aviation policy. If we have a series of private concerns, even if they are subject to State regulation and subsidy, Parliament will always be in a dilemma in discussing their policies and development, and Ministers will always be in a difficulty in permitting Parliament to have a free and fair argument about their policies and development. Under this new dispensation, the right dispensation, Parliament will have every right to discuss the broad and general policy of civil aviation, and to bring the Ministry of Civil Aviation to book if Parliament is not satisfied with what is being done. On the other hand, I freely add that I express the hope that Parliament will not, by its own actions, seek to bring this great business too meticulously under political control. We do not wish it to be unduly under political control. In essence, it should be a business undertaking, but, on the other hand, this great public utility is, by its very nature, an undertaking such that Parliament is bound to debate it and discuss it, and I believe that Parliament can more usefully debate it in circumstances of public ownership, than it can under subsidised, regulated even, though to some extent competitive, private enterprise.
Next, under this public ownership policy, it will be easier to give the staff employed by the corporations a better status than it would be under private enterprise. There are provisions in the Bill taking care of this aspect of the matter. Moreover, the Government believe that the public corporation method means that we can combine progressive modern business management with a proper degree of public accountability, that there will be more freedom for the management and not less.
Here I would like to put to the House the case for the public corporation method of conducting this and other industries. There has been criticism of public ownership on the ground that it means Whitehall bureaucracy and Civil Service red tape. That is not how we should wish to run this industry, or the general run of other publicly owned industries. It is our wish, therefore, to get the best of both worlds, which, after all, is the great art of government. The only difference between us and the Opposition is that we are always seeking to get the best of both worlds, and they seem persistently to be seeking to get the worst of both worlds. We believe that a public corporation gives us the best of both worlds. The members of the Board are appointed by a Minister of the Crown who is in turn answerable to Parliament. Those members of the Board, therefore, feel that they have a public responsibility, which is good and right. The Minister has a responsibility to keep an eye on them, and they have a responsibility to keep in touch with the Minister. They have a sense that they are running a public concern, and they are running a public concern. That makes all the difference in their approach to the industry, and in the management and conduct of a publicly owned undertaking as compared with an undertaking, which is owned by private investors, and run primarily for private profit. Thereby we get the element of public interest and public spirit, which, it seems to us, is vital in this class of undertaking.
On the other hand, once appointed, the Board has a wide freedom of management and of business autonomy. It is perfectly true that there is provision for the Minister to give directions, but before we are very much older the Opposition should be the last people to object to that, because they will be persistently putting down questions asking the Minister to give directions. Indeed, Scottish Conservative Members are already on the job, and there is an Amendment down, fathered by the Front Opposition Bench, which is well on the road in this direction. It is true, therefore, that the Minister is in a position to give directions, and surely that must be so, particularly when we remember that public subsidies out of the Exchequer are required. We believe that by this method of a public corporation we get the advantages of both systems. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why three corporations?"] I am coming to that. Competent business people will be appointed to manage the undertaking, with a considerable degree of business freedom; on the other hand, it will be a public concern, appointed by public authority, and therefore, the spirit of the public interest must run right through the undertaking.
My next note refers to the very question which was put just now—why three corporations? I admit that that is a perfectly fair point to raise. We do not want the doctrine of free competition in this industry. We believe that these under- takings should be public concerns, as they are public utility undertakings. Nevertheless, we wish to introduce and develop in the industry the spirit of emulation, of gathering a varied experience, and a certain degree of competition between varying undertakings. Therefore, my noble Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation has deliberately decided on the basis of three corporations, each of which will have its set degree of responsibility to him, and for the general operations of which he and the Parliamentary Secretary will be answerable to Parliament. But, there being three corporations, they will have varying ways of doing a number of things. They will acquire a varied experience, and, in our judgment, that is distinctly of advantage particularly in a new industry of this sort. Of course, if future experience should show either that three are too many, and that two or even one would be enough, modifications can be made. If, on the other hand, it showed that there should be more than three, that can be done, too, but it is my firm belief that socialistic enterprise, particularly in a newish and developing industry like this, is a good thing, and that the element of emulation and legitimate competition should be provided for in the sphere of public ownership. My conclusion, therefore, is that the Government's proposals are logical in giving the right of suitable Ministerial direction by a Minister, who in turn is responsible to Parliament, and in applying the policy I have described with conviction, courage and system, instead of producing half baked plans, piloted by nervous and shaking hands.
As a matter of fact, the British Overseas Airways Corporation was a public corporation. I am not quite clear where the Conservative Party are on this question. Today they are going to move the rejection of this Bill, on the ground that we are setting up public corporations. What were they doing earlier by setting up the British Overseas Airways Corporation? Really, they do not seem to know where they are from year to year, or even from one day to another. If ever there was an industry or a service which required the treatment outlined in this Bill, it is, I suggest to the House, civil aviation. Certainly that is so if the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and Empire, and the world are to be served by our fine men of the air. I invite the Opposition to grow up in this business. I invite them to join with us in this great enterprise, and put aside the "Little Englandism" of before the war. Let us think and act in a big way about British civil aviation.
I will now refer briefly to the case for the national ownership and management of airfields required in connection with civil aviation. I have indicated the policy as it existed before the war and the disadvantages of that policy. We think the time has come for the State to take on the responsibility for practically all the public airports and airfields required for the public service of civil aviation and to organise their finances. I invite the Opposition spokesman to pronounce what their policy is on the national ownership of airports and airfields, and how the Opposition would run them. They should not evade that point. They had better say how they want them owned and managed. We believe the national ownership of airports and airfields will have these advantages. We can have the airports and airfields where we want them. We can have them adequate in numbers, size and service. For example, the new great London airport would be utterly impossible on any other basis. I do not know a municipality which could have carried the financial burden of this new airport, nor any private enterprise undertaking which would have faced it, except on conditions that would have been injurious to civil aviation.
By this means we can have a planned network of airfields. Under these new conditions we can have, as we ought to have, better and brighter British airports. A number of our airports have been shockingly dull, too much like some of the railway main line terminals, too dark and too dreary. I hope and believe that the Ministry of Civil Aviation will see to it that under public supervision and public control the future British airport is a bright and cheerful affair, light and airy in summer and warm and cosy in winter. That is the policy of His Majesty's Government. Another advantage is that we shall be better able to associate with the airport other services which inevitably must be publicly pro- vided. It is far better and easier to fit these other services—namely, the meteorological, the control, the radar and the pathfinding services, the bad weather landing expedients which State research and experiment will develop—in with publicly-owned airfields and airports than it would be with privately-owned airfields. Surely everybody will agree that these services are a job for State experiment and State research, a duty which the State owes to the development of British aviation.
Finding a way. It is perfectly clear. I appreciate the hon. and gallant Member's point, seeing where he sits. I think that he and his colleagues need all the assistance they can get in the way of pathfinding. Next, by public ownership we can much more easily reach international standards. As the House knows, we have agreed with a large number of other nations to bring our standards in respect of safety and so on up to a proper level. It will be easier to do this with public airfields and airports than otherwise. Finally, we can better secure present and future cooperation with and advantages to the Royal Air Force by this means, and I can assure the House that, on all necessary matters, the Minister of Civil Aviation will cooperate with the Secretary of State for Air, and vice versa.
I will now deal with a few of the other main features of the Bill, having established, as I think, the fundamental principles upon which the Measure is based. The Bill has two main purposes—to provide for the development of air transport services by three corporations and under public control; and to nationalise the aerodromes in the United Kingdom required for those services. One of these corporations, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, as I have said, already exists. It was created by a Conservative Government. Two new corporations, the British European Airways Corporation and the British South American Airways Corporation, are to be set up under the Bill, and that will cover the whole of British civil aviation on scheduled routes. The corporations will have the exclusive privilege of operating scheduled air transport services within the United Kingdom and to and from the United Kingdom. The only scheduled services to be excepted are those operated in accordance with inter-governmental agreements by undertakings whose principal place of business is outside the United Kingdom, and any services operated for giving instruction in flying and aircrew duties, or ambulance or rescue purposes. This applies to scheduled air services. Charter work will be free for all—free for private enterprise—An HON. MEMBER: "Free for Government competition."] The hon. Gentleman is afraid of public enterprise competition. He is afraid it will be superior. Already, the Opposition are beginning to move, and, I ask hon. Members to watch; they will urge that public enterprise competition should be excluded on the ground that capitalist free enterprise cannot stand up to it. There is no pleasing them.
That is the point I have been dealing with. I cannot understand the Tory Party and no intelligent man can. It is absurd to come to the House and say "We oppose public ownership on the ground that public enterprise is bound to be ineffective and extravagant," and then to say, in the next breath, as the hon. Member has just done, "Free private enterprise from the superiority of State and public enterprise." I invite the Opposition spokesman to reconcile those two conflicting lines of policy. As I said, this applies to the scheduled services. Charter work will be free for all. At last we concede to the Opposition the principle of free competition, and private ownership of aerodromes not required for the scheduled services will still be allowed. The corporations will be appointed by the Minister, and he will have general power to give them such directions as he may, from time to time, think necessary in the public interest. But it is the intention of the Government to give the corporations as much freedom as possible, and the Bill provides that before directions are given, the chairman of the corporation concerned shall be consulted.
The next point is with regard to finance, upon which I ought to say a word. Capital for the corporations will, in the ordinary way, be raised by the issue of tied stock, which will be charged upon the assets of the undertakings. The issue, transfer, redemption and other dealings with the stock, will be governed by regulations to be made by the Minister with the approval of the Treasury. The rate of interest will be fixed by the Treasury, and the Treasury may guarantee both capital and interest of the stock, as has already been done, as a matter of fact, in the case of British Overseas Airways Corporation airways stock. The maximum aggregate of capital for the three corporations will be, under the Bill, £80 million. The Bill provides for adequate statements of account and report by the corporations, and for the Minister to require such information as he may need from the corporations, and he will lay the accounts and the reports of the corporations before Parliament for the information of Parliament itself.
There are special provisions about staff. The interests of the staff will be looked after by the provision in the Bill for the setting up, by agreement between the corporations and their employees, of joint consultative machinery for dealing with terms and conditions of employment, welfare, safety, health, and other matters of mutual interest. It is our wish that there should be, from time to time, free discussion between the management, the board, and the staff on matters of mutual interest in the running of these great undertakings. The Bill also enables the Minister to provide for schemes for superannuation and other benefits for employees supplementary to those provided by National Insurance legislation.
I now come to Scotland, a matter in which hon. Members from Scotland on both sides of the House have manifested a perfectly legitimate and lively interest. First, let me deal with the things which cannot be done, and I am happy to say that I do not believe that these are things for which responsible Scottish opinion would ask. Civil aviation cannot exclusively be organised on a needlessly restricted basis, for far from being local in character, it is international and world wide in its operations. Clearly, therefore, it would be unwise to establish a separate autonomous airways corporation for Scotland with its own external services, and to establish one confined to Scotland would be to give Scotland a less complete and less efficient service, and would, in addition, inevitably be uneconomical in management and operation. Having said that, in which I think I shall carry the general assent of the House, I would add that, nevertheless, my noble Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation is not only willing, he is indeed most anxious, to make special provision for Scottish needs and requirements, and to take the fullest account of Scottish sentiment and feeling, for which His Majesty's Government have always the highest regard and respect. With the concurrence of my Noble Friend I therefore make the following series of statements in relation to Scotland:
I think that this statement of our intentions will assure Scottish Members in all parts of the House that the Government have approached the interests of Scotland in this matter in no mean or niggling spirit.
The fifth freedom is the power to pick up and to set down for or from a third country. I know that hon. Members have raised the point as to whether anything could be said about the future of Prestwick in relation to the recent Irish agreement, but you, Sir, have indicated your wishes on that matter and I will not extend myself on it. I will only say that we are convinced that the interests of Prestwick are in no way prejudiced by that agreement. There will be an occasion for a more extended Debate about it.
That deals with the Scottish aspect of the matter, and it only now remains for me to refer to the Opposition Amendments which are on the Paper.
My noble Friend may be very sure that as part of the operations in Great Britain as a whole, the interests of Wales will be fully safeguarded and that adequate development of airfields and services, and so on, will be provided in respect of the Principality, but I can say no more about that point at the moment.
If that is all my hon. Friend urges, we shall confer with representatives from Scotland on the matter. I wish to refer only briefly to the principal Opposition Amendment, because I have already made pretty full observations about the one dealing with Scotland. We shall hear what is said, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to deal with any particular points which are raised. This Opposition Amendment clearly came out of the Ark. If it did not come out of the Ark, it certainly came out of the 19th century. In fact, I believe it was borrowed from some member of the old Liberal Manchester school which was strong in the early 19th century, and was so strongly condemned by Benjamin Disraeli, who is supposed to have been the great patron saint of the Conservative Party ever since he held the position of Prime Minister of this country. This Amendment is unrealistic. It simply does not face the facts of the situation. It condemns this Bill because
it arrests the development of the new industry.
I have made it abundantly clear that what has arrested this new industry has been a combination of, first, free competition, and then a miserable compromise
under Imperial Airways, subsidised from public funds, with inadequately small subsidies, hamstrung and controlled by the State as it went along, a completely heterogeneous affair, a hybrid affair which did not give the expansion and development of civil aviation which we wanted. Yet the Opposition come along today and say that these new proposals for public enterprise—and it will be enterprise—are going to
arrest the development of the new industry of civil aviation.
That is a mere assertion, and it would be far truer to say that the policy they pursued in the past arrested the development of civil aviation in our country. Civil aviation, after its treatment by Conservative Governments between the wars, was in a bad way. Everyone knows that is true. The Amendment goes on to say that we have refused
the partnership of experienced aviation and transport undertakings.
Those experienced in civil aviation will certainly be fully considered for utilisation under the new order of things. In fact when the Bill passes we shall take over automatically and straightway many people fully experienced in civil aviation. The fact is that we have to evolve new people who are still more competent than some of the older people, if the industry is to develop and survive. In regard to the other undertakings like railways and shipping, it is not desirable in our judgment that there should be an interlocking of managements between private railways and private shipping and publicly-owned air transportation. We are utilising the services of a certain number who are experienced in railway and shipping transportation, but we do not wish to be suspected of putting air transportation under the thumb of the surface means of communication. Therefore, we will get the necessary knowledge and experience, and I am sure we can get the necessary degree of co-operation. But, if the Opposition mean by their Amendment, that, in some way, civil aviation should be put under the thumb of railway management and shipping management, I personally, think that would be a mistake. The Amendment says that the Bill
vests all real control of operation and finance in the Minister.
That is nonsense. There is going to be a wide and generous measure of day-
to-day management by the corporations themselves, but it is right that there should be the power of direction by the Minister on questions of principle and in relation to the generous financial subsidies which are to be afforded. The Amendment says that this
involves the taxpayer in heavy subsidies.
The Opposition have been involving the taxpayer in heavy subsidies for private enterprise for many years. Why does it suddenly become wrong for public enterprise as compared with a private undertaking? It says that no security will be afforded to independent charter operators. We give to independent charter operators freedom of enterprise and freedom of competition against these publicly-owned undertakings. If the Opposition believe public ownership is inefficient, they should welcome this decision. It will prove who is right and who is wrong. We genuinely desire that private enterprise should have a fair field in charter flying, and good luck to it. The Amendment says that the Bill
denies to the travelling public any effective appeal against inadequate services or excessive charges.
What effective appeal had the public against Imperial Airways in the earlier days? We are providing a channel for complaint and appeal to the Advisory Committee which my Noble Friend is intending to set up.
I think I have made the case for public ownership and against private ownership. I said in the course of a speech in the Dominion of Canada:
It is up to the nationalisers to prove their case that there will be public advantage by nationalisation. It is no less up to the anti-nationalisers to prove their case, that the public interest can best be served by private ownership.
Too often the Tory Press quote the first sentence, and not the second. I have made the case for the nationalisers and the socialisers, those who believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. I now invite the anti-nationalisers, those who believe, I fear, in government of the people, by the capitalists for the capitalists, to make their case, if they can. But let it be a constructive case. If they believe their policy—if they have one—to be in the public interest, let us know what it is. Let us know what they would do with civil aviation if they were in power at the present time. Let them not evade this issue by misrepresentation and attempts at witty abuse, mixed up with a long series of largely petty and irrelevant questions. By all means, let them put questions which are important and relevant, but let them not put petty and irrelevant questions for the mere purpose of dragging my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary off the main line of effective reply. Now is the chance of the Opposition to state the policy of the Conservative Party and to tell Parliament and the country what they would do with civil aviation if they were in power. I invite them to take that chance.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That", to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which arrests the development of the new industry of civil aviation by confining all passenger and freight services, present or future, to Government monopoly corporations; refuses the partnership of experienced aviation and transport undertakings; vests all real control of operation and finance in the Minister; involves the taxpayer in heavy subsidies; affords no security to independent charter operators, and denies to the travelling public any effective appeal against inadequate services or excessive charges.
We are flattered by the large amount of time which the right hon. Gentleman has taken in the course of his singularly lengthy speech—incidentally if all speeches are to be as long we should be right in asking for two days for the Debate—in asking what is the point of view of the Opposition. In so far as this represents a salutary improvement in the right hon. Gentleman's approach to Parliament, we are pleased. Hitherto we have been told that the Government mandate was unquestioned, and all the Government have to do is to hurry through legislation in the House of Commons as fast as they possibly can and that the people have already decided on the merits of the Opposition case. I will answer that challenge. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that in the course of my speech I shall leave him in no doubt whatever exactly what we want to do, and one day will do, for civil aviation. The right hon. Gentleman's speech threw singularly little light on the provisions of the Bill. He told us nothing of any real value, he broke no new ground other than that that he threw out a rather sinister reference to the granting of "fifth freedom" rights at Prestwick to certain foreign countries. I say here and now that when we have the promised Debate on the international agreements into which the Government have entered, we shall want more information on that particular transaction.
I do not altogether quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman on the rather inadequate speech he has made. He is called on to do so many things. He finds it possible to pass under review so many of our national activities from day to day that even when we are dealing with a matter of such transcendent importance we are scarcely entitled to ask, expect or demand any lengthy consideration of the Bill itself. After all, only a day or two ago we were told what was to happen to the steel industry. Experts of that industry have been giving 18 months of their time, after a lifetime of experience, to recommend certain proposals in regard to that industry. The Government have not taken as many weeks to decide what they intend to do, so that we who are interested in civil aviation have little with which to quarrel.
The right hon. Gentleman threw out a number of gibes to which I will refer in their proper place in my speech. He appeared completely to have forgotten the many pioneers whom this country has produced, who, in fact, in face of Government indifference and also hostility——[HON. MEMBERS: "Which Government?"] All Governments, all parties. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tory Governments."] The right hon. Gentleman referred to the London airport at Heathrow as if it were comparable to any other airport in the country, as if we seriously suggested that it should be thrown at private enterprise or the L.C.C. to provide it. It will be a great airport and under any Government would rightly and properly be a national charge. The right hon. Gentleman threw out a scathing reference to "drab railway termini." I hope that Sir Harold Hartley, Vice-Chairman of the L.M.S. Railway, who is to be Chairman of the European Corporation, will take those words to heart. The right hon. Gentleman made a number of other references which gave us little further illumination on the provisions of the Bill. It is abundantly clear from his speech that if that had been the directive issued to airminded people in the last 30 years, no pioneers would have got into the air at all. The right hon. Gentleman seems completely to have failed to realise that under the provisions of this Bill there is no competition of any kind allowed. To talk as if these three Corporations, geographically limited to separate parts of the world, can provide competition to each other, is surely a ludicrous assumption.
Before we get to the more controversial parts of the Bill, it is well that we should agree on the things where we do see eye to eye. We are dealing with a great British industry which both sids of the House and the whole country and Empire want to see prosper and succeed. It is the merit of our Parliament and people that once decisions have been taken people on both sides work loyally, and try to carry out the common decisions of our land. We had looked to seeing a vast expansion of British air services in the United Kingdom and the Empire, and to Europe and overseas, carried by British crews and flying in British planes, and still further uniting the Empire along the lines Lord Swinton started, by joint parallel corporations, enabling people from the mother country who are living in the Empire to keep in touch with their homeland, and giving to people in this country, in ever widening numbers, chances of imperial and foreign travel which most of them have never enjoyed, and drawing for these services on all the youth, enterprise and zeal which this country can command. There has been lately a number of pioneer flights by B.O.A.C., Transport Command and other bodies which have shown that, given freedom to operate and given good machines, we have nothing whatever to worry about in trying to secure the blue riband of the air.
"Given the freedom to operate"—this is where our main controversy with His Majesty's Government arises. We agree with the distinguished pilot who said a few days ago that ice and the politician were the greatest menaces which civil aviation had to face today. We had hoped that the Government would approach this problem objectively. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that a Conservative Government had set up B.O.A.C. That was an honest attempt by a Conservative Government to approach this problem objectively. We had hoped to see the same attitude on the part of His Majesty's Government. All parties in the late Government had agreed on the Swinton plan. The right hon. Gentleman himself, as Home Secretary in that Government, was an active member of the Cabinet which approved that plan. It was agreed on 14 precious months ago, months during which foreign, friendly but active competitors have been conquering air routes all over the world.
In addition, the Government have had thrown into their lap the unexpected windfall of the Japanese collapse. At the time the Coalition plan was first adumbrated we expected the Japanese war would continue for at least another 15 months. There is no reason whatever why this plan, which commanded the support of the Coalition Government, should not have been immediately implemented when the last Election results were known. It was not a Bill which everyone——
This is an extraordinary proposal. There were many compromises reached in the Coalition Government. This was a compromise, and to that extent unsatisfactory. The present Leader of the Opposition decided upon an Election, which he had the right to do. An Election was held. Is the hon. Gentleman now seriously and calmly saying that when we were returned with a Socialist majority our duty was to carry on with a Coalition Bill?
The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. The first answer is that in matters of civil aviation days count as years, and the prime need of this country was instant action 14 months ago. The second answer is that when the Lord President's right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade introduced into this House the Coalition proposal, he was at pains to show that it was not a compromise plan but a plan which was good in itself. As I was saying, many Members on both sides of the House did not altogether like that compromise plan, but there would have been general and universal agreement, certainly on this side of the House, and I believe many hon. Members on the other side—after all, five Cabinet Ministers from the other side approved of it—if that plan had been implemented.
I am sorry, but it is impossible for me to give way in the time I wish to occupy. A great many people want to speak and I feel sure that the House will allow me to continue.
That plan took advantage of the existing transport experience of our various carrying interests, and set up corporations with genuine division of character in them, genuine responsibility and independence of management, and involved the cash of the managers in these corporations in seeing that the corporations were prudently managed. The plans were all drawn up. The plans for the Commonwealth services were completed, and plans for the routes in the United Kingdom and from the United Kingdom were nearly completed. We had every reason to think that shortly after the Socialist Government took office the Minister of Civil Aviation and his Parliamentary Secretary here would pass the Coalition plan through Parliament, no doubt with one or two modifications which it would not have been unreasonable to expect, in the light of the changed political complexion of the Government. That is what we confidently believed, and if we are to believe a certain newspaper that was about to happen. I read in the "Tribune" of 9th November, written in the form of a Westminster commentary, the following:
Lord Winster and his Parliamentary Secretary first offer us the Coalition White Paper policy. It is only after weeks of remonstrances by back benchers that the Government agrees to adopt the policy to which it has been pledged by speeches, policy statement and Conference resolution.
That has never been denied. I should be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary would deny it later, if it can be denied. If it is true, it is a very sound commentary on the way in which our business is now being conducted and a poor augury for that objective consideration of the steel industry which we have been promised.
In replacement of this plan we now have the Socialist Government's own proposals setting up a monopoly of three corporations which have no shadow of independence whatever. I hope shortly to show that they are but three branches of a Government concern with their separate boards pure eyewash, because all the shareholders are the Government, anyway. The Government protect these boards against all competition and guarantee them against all financial loss. There is no spur whatever to efficiency, no yardstick by which cost can be measured. In addition to this, having set up these boards with an appearance of independence the Minister fastens on them control which leaves overwhelming power in the hands of a Department to sit on private initiative, drive and enterprise at home and to carry on negotiations involving fiercely competitive business with our Allies and, we hope, our friends overseas.
Surrounding and supporting the Government in this task, large corporations are being created. The House must have been surprised a few days ago when we heard that the staff of British Overseas Airways Corporation is no fewer than 21,000 people. Already, I suppose, some are pensioned and day by day the corporation is growing more and more like a civil service. No hon. Member would deny the courtesy kindness and help given by the staff of B.O.A.C. all over the world, and all would agree that they try to give of their best against difficulties, but I hope the House will realise the dangers of a growth of this kind. There are 21,000 workers and we are told they have only 109 aircraft in the air——
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. There are 195 aircraft in the air and the corporation have 21,000 workers. I think we are entitled to ask what chance can there possibly be for vigour, initiative and the readiness to take risks in a swollen body of that size. We are not altogether reassured by the frank statement of the Parliamentary Secretary that 30 people in his Department are now able to fly. History has a habit of repeating itself. Towards the close of the Roman Empire corporations of this kind began to emerge. I would refer to some rather significant words by the historian Gibbon on what happened when new and bright ideas were suggested to the Roman government by those who came from the outskirts of the Empire. Gibbon says:
The new improvements so easily grasped by the competition of freedom are admitted with slow and sullen reluctance in these proud corporations above the fear of a rival and below the confession of an error.
I will deal in some detail with the Amendment we have put before the House. I will answer the points which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House though I am under no obligation in the matter. First and foremost, we deplore the monopolistic feature of this proposal. No one is to be allowed to start a scheduled service. A scheduled service is a service run on a timetable where the service is available to the public. There is an absolute prohibition against the starting of any such service. That is a fact which the right hon. Gentleman scarcely made clear. In addition, we deplore the sham provision of the Ministry's advisory council which I hope to show is a complete illusion and on which it will be very difficult to get to serve, or to remain for a long time, people accustomed to giving independent and honest advice. We believe that there should be an executive council, an organisation similar to that in operation in the United States where the Civil Aeronautics Board have contrived to give competition and service within the framework of a general Government supervision. We favour an independent tribunal to which any independent operator can apply in regard to routes at home or overseas. If the tribunal is satisfied that there is inadequate service, or no service at the moment, on a particular route and the tribunal is also satisfied as to the financial soundness of a proposal and the technical ability of the people concerned, they would have power to grant a licence to operate over that route.
In addition, we think that all appeals, not only from independent operators but from private people, who believe the service is inadequate, the fares excessive—in so far as we can regulate them without international agreement—or the facilities poor, should be considered by the tribunal. Local authorities should be permitted appeal to this tribunal in the very many vexed matters where their interests are affected. We believe that certain strategic and vital routes must be reserved to the corporation in the first instance. We also believe that we should set up certain corporations to operate in the more urgent and important areas, but these corporations should run the gauntlet of the possibility of the appearance before the tribunal of enterprising people who believe they can offer better service than that being given.
As to the advisory tribunal, which we would merge into a licensing authority, we regard the present proposals as hopelessly inadequate. The Minister's tribunal is purely advisory. The Minister only tells the members of the tribunal what he thinks it desirable that they should hear. If other people do not tell the Minister everything, they can be fined £5,000 and sent to gaol. The Minister, however, is in a position to tell the tribunal only that which he thinks desirable. The body has no power to alter facilities or fares, however inadequate the facilities or excessive the fares. If the tribunal really believes that a route should be made by some independent operator, or even by one of the corporations, it has no power to insist upon this being done. There is no provision for the tribunal to sit in public. The annual report to Parliament means only that the House of Commons may well have to wait one whole year before it knows what is happening. We hold that the only real remedy for bad service is the right of tribunal to be able, as in the United States, to license a second operator. It is, therefore, the policy of the Opposition that the tribunal should be not advisory, but judicial with full judicial powers and sitting under a legal chairman. It should meet in public and all should have access to it. If they are satisfied that there is a case for a new route or for competition on an existing route, they should be in a position to license that route or that new competition. I hope that meets the requirements advanced by the right hon. Gentleman.
In regard to the partnership of other interests, whether prewar operators or other surface transporters, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that we had some plan under which, for selfish reasons, real control was going to pass into the hands of railway or shipping interests. I should have thought the readiness of the railways and short shipping lines to come into the Coalition scheme without a subsidy, and generally to take the rough with the smooth, was an indication that they were genuine transporters engaged in transportation as a whole. The vast amount of traffic carried in the air by the railway companies in the last few years was sufficient proof that they had no intention of trying to "muscle in" on civil aviation in order to smother it. I do not believe they ever had such an intention. So far as shipping is concerned, there is almost a complete blackout as to what has happened since the Government took office in regard to proposals of the shipping interests to participate in civil aviation. The Minister, in another place, on 1st November, said that he could not produce a White Paper until his conversations with the shipping interests were over; yet, only last month, on 8th April, the general manager of the Chamber of Shipping—and I should be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with the point—said that, when the Government announced their policy, they had stated that they would seek the cooperation of surface transport and air transport, but that, so far, no steps appeared to have been taken, and, in particular, neither the shipping interests as a whole nor individual shipping companies had been approached either by the Government or by the B.O.A.C. I do not know why they were not approached. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House is not hesitant to approach great industries and give them advice or tell them how to manage their own concerns. To borrow a comradely phrase from one of his colleagues, the Minister of Fuel and Power, he is a past master of the art of intimidation, and no doubt he could have given pretty hard knocks to the railway and shipping interests. We have had no information whatever about what has happened in regard to shipping
As to the railways, we certainly have got the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in which he said that, where industries were efficiently managed, there was no prima facie case for State ownership, and, where this was the case, they could be allowed to carry on their private enterprise in their own efficient way. The railways have had a very successful period of operating airlines, and, at the present moment, those hon. Members who may be going to Jersey may know something about how well that service is being run. With six aircraft, they are doing five hours' flying a day for seven days a week, and, since the days of the liberation of the Channel Islands, have carried, on their own services, no fewer than 22,000 passengers and 500,000 tons of freight. That is a pretty good record, of which they are entitled to be proud, and it is one to which some reference might be made by the Government. As to the work done by pilots in evacuating large numbers of our people from the Channel Islands over here, we know enough about these operations to say how grateful we are.
In regard to the general question of railway services, they have, throughout the war, quite properly, placed all their facilities at the disposal of the Government, carried 300,000 passengers in their own planes, 7,000,000 tons of freight and worked to a timetable with 95 per cent. regularity with only a single casualty, and that caused by enemy action. I think these things ought to be said, since this enterprise is now being scorned and ridiculed and its essential service belittled. Some hon. Members may have been caught in Paris or in the Channel Islands during the foggy period in February and March, when there was no transport across the Channel. At that time, the Jersey air services filled the gap and carried over the people who had been accumulating in Jersey and got them home in record time. This certainly shows that flexibility and reliability are not limited to Government Departments.
We make a further charge in our Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman made reference, and I ask him to give me some information. We claim that these proposals will impose Ministerial control of the corporations so that they will have very little control over their operations but will have to put up with a good deal of interference in their day-to-day activities. The House will remember the resignation a few days ago of the pioneer of jet propulsion in this country and of 16 of his engineers. I remember very well the public spirit and conscientious belief in the value of State enterprise of Air-Commodore Whittle, when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and his own belief that he would have a really good deal at the hands of the Government, and an opportunity to serve in producing new engines and in using his talents to the full. Remembering this genuine belief, and comparing it with what has happened now, I wonder how many other people who are anxious to serve in civil aviation will find that they have no real authority in this corporation, any more than had Air-Commodore Whittle in regard to the policy on jet propulsion.
If the hon. Member had followed what I have said, he would also have followed its relevance. I do not think I need labour the point for the benefit of the hon. Member, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary is perfectly clear himself as to the relevance of what I said. In regard to the question of flexibility and initiative, the Government were at pains in the White Paper to say how these corporations should really work. They said:
His Majesty's Government do not desire to stultify this policy by imposing unnecessary limitations on freedom of management.
If we look at Clause 2 of this Bill, we see provisions under which all freedom of management is, in fact, if the Minister wills it, prevented. In Clause 2 (5), no power is exercisable save under the Minister's own specific authority, and under Clause 2 (4) the Minister may order the corporation to undertake or stop anything which the corporation has power to do. No wonder "The Times," which has never any desire to embarrass a Left Wing Government either here or anywhere else, says that these powers are "patently incompatible with the maximum freedom of operation" promised in the White Paper, and even suggests that the word "minimum" should be substituted for "maximum." I am, indeed, surprised that the Government have got a number of eminent people to serve on such corporations with such limited powers, but I shall be even more surprised if they remain long when they see exactly what their authority is.
As to the financial provisions, on which the Lord President touched briefly, they carry the protection of the public interest far beyond what is desirable in the public interest. Is it in the public interest that the corporation should be prevented from setting up a reserve fund without authority or that they should have their estimates of revenue slashed about and their programmes and apportionments of revenue absolutely controlled? Even this House of Commons, which has been asked to be not too meticulous in its examination of these matters, will have very little knowledge of what is happening with public money by the presentation of the accounts, and that knowledge will not long reconcile distinguished people, when they are aware of it, to their dishonourable role.
There are one or two other points to which I would like to refer and on which I would be glad to have answers. The first is the question of charter services. We believe that the type of people who will be forthcoming to offer their services are just those men and women who pioneered air routes in the past and to whom we are deeply indebted. The Government have been studiously vague as to the real powers of these charter operators. What is the position of the planes carrying newspapers? They are specially chartered planes, yet they will leave to regular daily timetables and, before the war, even carried passengers. Are they legal? Will it be legal, for example, for any hon. Member of this House to fly in one, if he wants to, to Newmarket races? Newmarket races, we know, take place at fairly fixed times, and we know beforehand that they are going to be held. Will that be a charter service or a regular route? Will it be legal for hon. Members to fly to the Labour Party Conference at Bournemouth and elsewhere by arrangement with a transport undertaking whenever there is to be a Labour Party Conference? The times of these Conferences are fixed in advance, as we know very well; we know exactly when they will take place.
We would like answers to questions of that kind. We believe that any person who has set up a charter service should be allowed to run it himself provided no one else is already doing it efficiently. We are very much afraid that, as soon as a charter service has been so successful that the need for a regular service has been established, the Government will come in and take over with a view to running a full service, thus depriving the charter service of all its pioneer work. That is why we are anxious that the corporations should not have the right to opt for charter work.
In his introductory speech, the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the supply of aircraft or with the direct contact which we hope to see established between the operator and the manufacturer. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with this point. The White Paper of the Coalition Government made it clear that there was to be close cooperation between manufacturer and operator. At the moment, the manufacturer has very little knowledge of the operator's need. Three Government Departments are interposed between the manufacturer and the operator—the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Treasury. We think there should be direct contact, as in the United States, for only in this way will it be possible to get the proper production of aircraft to meet the differing needs of the routes and operators. We would also like a statement from the hon. Gentleman as to the progress made in producing civil types of aircraft, so far as it is relevant, because the House and the country as a whole are deeply depressed at the decision to purchase American aircraft and are anxious to know how far our own are coming along.
Finally, we believe that there is running through this Bill a general air of defeatism. Penalties, subsidies, and prohibitions appear in almost every line. On this side of the House we have the utmost confidence in civil aviation if it can wrest itself from the trammels which successive Governments have imposed upon it. We do not think that people who transgress a hair's breadth under this Bill should be heavily fined for their enterprise, but, rather, that rewards should be given to people who can show the corporations how to run their business. We believe there were glimmerings of understanding on the Front Bench when Lord Winster was appointed Minister of Civil Aviation. We believe that, being confronted by the facts, Ministers on the Socialist benches came to the right conclusion. We know why that has been foiled and we ask the House to refuse a Second Reading to a Bill which we believe to be forced on the Ministers by their own back benches and which we think will prevent us achieving in the air the position of primacy which we won and maintained at sea.
I know that a large number of hon. Members desire to speak on this Bill in the limited time available and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there have been a number of Debates on this subject in recent years. Therefore, I intend to set a good example by being very brief. Listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), in which he was so critical of this Bill with its national set-up for civil aviation, I could not help remembering the previous Debates we had in this House and the critics who were constantly challenging the Coalition Government, and the Government before that, and urging them to take steps to see that this country had an opportunity of competing in international civil aviation after the war. I also recalled the number of times the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members of his Party told us that all would be well when the competitive curtain went up, and this country had to face international competition again in civil aviation. Whatever our position in international civil aviation is today and if we are at a certain disadvantage, it is due entirely to the failure of previous Conservative Governments to prepare a long-term policy of development. I recollect when the Bill for setting up the British Overseas Corporation was introduced.
The last Conservative Government introduced a Bill in this House for setting up a monopoly of the British Overseas Airways Corporation Before that time, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, we had Imperial Airways, British Airways and a number of other companies operating in competition. The original set-up was envisaged by the handling committee, but it was a Conservative Government which decided in favour of a subsidised State-controlled B.O.A.C. If the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) who interjected wanted so much to fight for private enterprise, that was the time to fight for it and not now, when the position has gone.
I came to the House this afternoon with something of an open mind on this Bill. I must confess that the right hon. Gentleman has made out a very formidable case and anybody in the House who wants to see British or Commonwealth civil aviation given a chance in what is likely to be severe international competition ought to give this Bill his constructive support. I must congratulate the Minister of Civil Aviation on having performed a difficult job in preparing this large Bill. The three corporations, in contradistinction to what the hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition thinks, will be something of a yardstick for competition in technical efficiency. In the old days we had that with Imperial Airways and British Overseas Airways. International competition will provide it likewise. Imperial Airways, in the main, operated the Empire and sea-based services and British Airways the European and land-based aircraft services There was competition, but the Conservative Government saw fit to destroy that competition and to have one large monopoly. In resorting to the three corporations we shall get back, to a certain extent, to a position where we can have competitive efficiency and some sort of yardstick to show how we are getting on.
I thought the Leader of the House put his finger on the all-important point when he referred to the question of the control of radar and safety devices. I have had the experience of seeing a small private airline run without subsidy. I think it is almost impossible today for a small airline setting up without subsidy to compete with the large international corporations which exist, whether we like it or not. Take, for instance, the subject of de-icing in relation to the safety factor. In civil aviation, if we are going to make the people of this country and the British Commonwealth completely airminded, we must concentrate on the safety factor. In America—and the right hon. Gentleman referred to Trans-Canadian Airways—they will not fly unless there are two airports open in bad weather. It is to these safety factors that we have to turn our attention. I used to read the reports of the Accidents Committee in days gone by, and it is clear that we are completely in the hands of a greater authority when one deals with radar devices, meteorological services and so on. I wonder what would have been the story of de-icing and technical efficiency in relation to the safety factor in great companies like Imperial Airways, if we had had a completely national set-up such as is proposed by this Bill. If we are to give aircraft the maximum efficiency with safety equipment we must put into those aircraft the best that aircraft research and experiment can give, irrespective of whether it is to pay the operator or not.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of subsidy in relation to control, and America was mentioned. A tremendous amount of subsidy goes into American Airways. I would like to see an American veteran or a "G.I. Joe" try to set up shop and compete with Pan American or American Overseas Airways. Reference was made by the Leader of the House to the policy of decentralisation. For years I have pleaded here for a Commonwealth aviation policy which envisaged decentralisation, not only of the aviation production and operating industries, but of the industrial war potential, as regards scientific research and so on. We cannot divorce the research that is going on in the control of the Government and in the Royal Air Force, from the technical devices which are to be made available to civil aviation. I hope the Government will cooperate with the Dominion governments, and that they will set up the nucleus of scientific research for civil aviation, to be made available for the Royal Air Force and military aviation should the emergency arise. I hope, too, that we shall see it done through this Bill in such a way as will give the scientists in this country and in the Dominions an opportunity of having a voice in the scientific developments. I hope there will be an effective Commonwealth Air Council. It is impossible to have a laissez faire private enterprise industry with a set-up of that kind throughout the Commonwealth. I would have thought that in defence alone, it would be essential that on the Committee of Imperial Defence, or whatever body is to be appointed, we should have not only air-marshals, admirals, and field-marshals, but scientists and men who understand the technical side of aviation and technical and industrial development.
I would like to say one word about aircraft—and this may be the Achilles heel. We are in a serious position with regard to trans-Atlantic aircraft. The Parliamentary Secretary knows the situation. America has a tremendous start for various reasons of which we are aware. They were making transport aircraft during the war. However, the air traveller will go on the most efficient, safest, fastest and best aircraft wherever it is produced. If we wish to compete or cooperate with the United States of America and with Trans-Canadian Airways something must be done to expedite the production of our own civil air liners. I hope when the hon. Gentleman replies he will give us some information about that. Reference has been made to jet propulsion. I hope the hon. Gentleman will tell us when we are to get jet air liners. I have an uncomfortable feeling that much of the research work and much of the production that is going on at the present time on ordinary civil aircraft may be obsolete when the craft eventually go into the air, and I hope the hon. Gentleman when he comes to reply will tell us when it is envisaged that the first jet-propelled air liner, designed and built in this country, will be flying on services across the Atlantic. Reference has been made to the various personnel on the boards who will run these corporations. What a miserable record of Government appointments to the directorship of B.O.A.C. we have had in the past. I hope the Government will appoint men who are airminded and not mere pensioners. I think I heard an hon. Member say, "Not industrialists." The Government should appoint young men who want to live their lives and make their names in building up a great aviation service in the Commonwealth of British Nations, and for the advance of civilization, and men who know something about the job.
I wish to say a few words about Prestwick. I hold no brief for Heathrow or Prestwick, but I am convinced, speaking from an impartial point of view, that there are many days when one can get into Prestwick and not London. Having listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House read out the various provisions for the arrangements in Scotland, I hope there will be some provision for enlarging Prestwick so that it can be made into a first class trans-Atlantic service airport. It needs enlarging. It is possible to fly from Prestwick to London in under two hours as a shuttle service. There are occasions in the English winter when one can get into Prestwick but not into Hurn. I think the American air line companies have some provision whereby, if the ceiling is below 1,500 ft., or if there is a certain cloud density, their aircraft are automatically diverted from Hurn Airport to Prestwick. You cannot nationalise English or Scottish weather, and the Government would be wise to look at Prestwick from the point of view of a reserve trans-Atlantic airport, and they should set about enlarging it as soon as possible.
This Bill may be an opportunity to put civil aviation in this country upon its feet. I hope we are not going to have speeches from both sides of the House asking "Why did not your Government do it while they were in power?" I hope hon. Members in all quarters of the House will do all they can to take this out of party politics, and try to get a good system of civil aviation, and that they will constantly worry the Minister until we get good aircraft which are able to do the job efficiently in the march of progress I understand that British Overseas Airways Corporation will not run a North Atlantic service for some months. I think the crews have been sent to America to be trained on Lockheed Constellations, so that, apparently, we are going to fly our Atlantic routes with American Constellations. Some of us have constantly begged the Government to enable a few designers to get on with designing and give us an opportunity of bringing air line designs up to date.
In conclusion, I say, Scrap some of the obsolete plans and concentrate on jet propelled and modern trans-Atlantic liners, because in this we have a fair start in technical development. If we are to use American aircraft in the meantime, in two or three years' time I believe we shall have a good position in operating efficiency. For those reasons I, and hon. Members of the Liberal Party who sit on these benches, will give support to the Second Reading of this Bill.
I listened with considerable interest to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) had to say. His story was put over by means of a very plausible argument, but I did not feel it was the whole story. If he really had the solution, as he seemed to imply, all I can say is that it has taken the Conservative Party nearly 30 years to find that solution. If at this stage they are bringing against this Government a charge in the manner indicated in the Amendment, then I feel the Amendment is ill-founded because of the short time this of only nine months Government has had in which to show what it will do in civil aviation in the near future. I was interested in the hon. Member's reference to shipping interests. He suggested that the great advantage of the Swinton White Paper lay in the fact that the shipping interests would have an opportunity of participating in the operation of airlines. Reference is often made to America, particularly by the Opposition when they praise private enterprise. However, it may be remembered that the Americans themselves have ruled out the participation of shipping interests in airline operations. The hon. Member decried the fact that the shipping people had not been consulted There is at least one member of the new board who has had experience of shipping in the past. I do not necessarily agree with that, but at any rate it confounds his argument in that respect.
I recall that the railways were given power to come into civil aviation in 1928. That gave them 11 years before the war started in which to show what they could do. Yet before the war the railways' air services were acknowledged to be quite inadequate. It is all very well to quote the case of Jersey Airways now. It must be remembered that the Railway Air Services bought up Jersey Airways; it was not developed by them. I quite agree with the hon. Member when he refers to the possibility, under the new Bill, of too much restriction of civil aviation development by a Government Department. I hope to elaborate that point later. As I see it, the need at the present moment, as far as this side of the House is concerned, is for our civil aviation to achieve an outstanding success. If civil aviation does achieve the outstanding success of which we feel it is capable under the nationalisation plan, then we shall have proved to the country at large the great possibilities of nationalisation as a whole. Because of that, special responsibility is placed upon the Minister of Civil Aviation to show what nationalisation can do. I sincerely trust that in the very near future we shall see some results which will, in their success, undeniably justify the confidence of the country at large in nationalisation.
I do not propose to deal with the Opposition Amendment in any detail. All I see it as is an attempt to condemn the principle of nationalisation and to say, in effect, "B.O.A.C. has failed in its job. Let us have no more of it." I do not intend to defend B.O.A.C. at the moment, although I am absolutely convinced of the necessity for a full plan of nationalisation. There may seem to be some contradiction in that, but I hope to show what I have in mind in a few minutes. The Opposition are really saying that the Swinton White Paper would have succeeded where the new Bill will fail. Let us analyse what led up to the Swinton proposals. I refer first to the Cadman Report of 1938, which was as much a condemnation of the Department of Civil Aviation in the Air Ministry as it was of the chosen instrument—Imperial Airways. It is of interest to note that within a month of that Report being published, the responsible Minister, who was by implication criticised by that report, resigned. That Minister was Lord Swinton, a Tory Minister.
What did the Tories do after that? They proposed that there should be an amalgamation of Imperial Airways, which had been criticised, with another small company, British Airways, which was shown during the Debate on the Floor of the House to have failed. British Airways had failed financially; it was unable to raise more capital to carry on. Ever since the Conservatives, having engineered the amalgamation through Parliament, so far as I can recall and as the official reports indicate, proceeded to criticise the instrument they had set up. As I see it, the reason for their criticism was this. The Tories did not wish nationalisation to succeed. If nationalisation had succeeded, and had achieved the outstanding success of which we on this side of the House are convinced it is capable, it would have proved its case too eloquently for them. When the Ministry of Civil Aviation was set up in 1943 it was felt by many that there was some real hope for the future of our civil aviation. There was considerable dismay when it was seen that the first Minister to be appointed by the Coalition Government to the new Ministry was none other than the Minister who had resigned when the Cadman Report was issued.
Looking back over the history of civil aviation in this country, we see it consists of one report after another showing the inadequacy of the policies pursued: the Londonderry Report in 1921, the Hambling Report in 1923, the Gorell Report in 1934, the Maybury Report in 1937 and the Cadman Report in 1938. All this indicates one thing, namely, that something which should be considered as a highly technical and commercial field of enterprise has been turned into a political plaything. Therefore, to move an Amendment at this juncture, worded in the terms of the Opposition Amendment, is nothing but a piece of political impudence. This Government are confronted with the task of transforming the muddle that has been left behind into an organisation which will be a happy and efficient organisation. Anybody who has had any association with the Navy will know that for a ship to be happy, it must be efficient. The task confronting the Minister of Civil Aviation is to make the new organisation which he proposes under his Bill an efficient organisation. Yet the reports which are coming in to me at present indicate that conditions in B.O.A.C. are far from happy. I think therefore that the Minister will be well advised to investigate very carefully the causes of the dissatisfaction which still exists. I am not blaming him for it; it is a legacy he has received from the previous Government; I am asking him to investigate the troubles which are there, so that they can be eliminated and so that the organisation can make progress in developing the aviation of this country.
If anything is wrong with a large organisation, the trouble is always found at the top. We should realise that the task ahead of us is no longer in the realm of politics, something to be bandied about as it has been in the past. It is one which must be treated as a commercial and technical task. This business needs to be organised as a large-scale business should be organised. If we have to organise a new industrial undertaking, how is it done? Is it done by placing in charge a number of part-time people, perhaps enthusiastic amateurs, or is it done by putting in charge, at the top, in the place where they really have the opportunity of making or marring the project, people who are fully qualified, technically and professionally? If the answer is that, in a large-scale industry, we put in full-time, fully qualified people, I advise the Minister that he should do the same for civil aviation. Let it be remembered that the Cadman Report advised a full-time directorate, and that report, even to this day, gives a very fair idea of what is required. In addition to this full-time executive, I am asking that, as far as we possibly can, we should free this technical and professional task—this commercial task—from the Ministry, which after all is of a regulatory and political nature. Do not let us mix these things. Let us give the new organisation a chance to function as a commercial undertaking. To achieve this I suggest that we should take our lead from what has already been done by this Government. In the Coal Bill we have the Coal Board, a functional and executive body made up of qualified people. In the Health Bill the same thing applies; the Health Council is made up of those who are qualified in the medical profession. Further, there is already a precedent in the Ministry itself. About a year before the war there was organised the Air Registration Board, to which the Minister delegates his powers to ensure that the technical excellence of our aircraft is maintained. It is also responsible for issuing certificates of airworthiness. If that precedent is followed by setting up an Air Transport Board at this juncture, I consider that we shall achieve the very desirable result of giving responsibility to professional people, who will be able to ensure the technical excellence of our airline operations.
Certain objections are raised by some critics to this proposal of an Air Transport Board. It is suggested that it would be too remote from this House, and that there would not be sufficient democratic control over its activities. I suggest that the public would be protected fully if we followed what is already done in the case of private companies. There, the shareholders are protected by the audited accounts, published at regular intervals, which they have an opportunity of studying. If they do not like what is being done they have ways and means of making their opinions felt, in accordance with the Companies Act. The same thing applies here. As the public is interested, if the Air Transport Board was given the task not only of carrying through its technical responsibilities but of preparing at regular intervals fully authenticated returns, not only financial but statistical, and laying them before Parliament, that would be a sufficient safeguard for the public. The same sort of thing is insisted upon by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States of America, where the airline operating companies have to furnish full details, financial and statistical, of their operations.
A second line of criticism is that we have not the right people with the right sort of experience to appoint in charge of an Air Transport Board. It depends on where you look for your experience. If you look to the aircraft constructors, those who are represented by the Society of British Aircraft Constructors, there is a very fair chance of getting technicians. If you were to ask other bodies of opinion such as the British Air Line Pilots' Association and the Radio-Officers' Union, there is a very fair chance of getting names submitted of people who are qualified to take responsible positions on an Air Transport Board. Consumer interests might also be taken into consideration by consulting such organisations as the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain, the Association of Municipal Corporations, who after all will be interested in internal airlines, and for export or overseas interests, opinions might be sought from the Institute of Export or the Institute of Transport.
If such bodies were consulted they would feel a sense of participation, which is quite an important thing, in the new developments of civil aviation. If we go outside such professional bodies for advice as to who is suitable to serve on the executive boards, anybody's guess is as good as anyone else's. There is no assurance whatever that we shall get the best people. It is an unenviable task for any one person or Minister, with the best will in the world, to select really first-class men to serve on the boards of two or three corporations. It is an almost impossible task and unless some system such as I have envisaged is followed, the choice will be extremely hazardous and the chance of getting really first-class people at the top very remote indeed.
In other countries, airlines have been employing, in their key positions, men who have grown up in the industry. This applies to the United States of America. In that connection the names that come to one's mind are of men of international repute, who have got to the top in American civil aviation by beginning at the bottom. The same applies to Sweden, France, Holland, Canada and Australia. What is even more significant is that in some cases Englishmen have been taken by these foreign airlines in order to serve in responsible positions. One by one we in this country have let talent ebb away because we did not give people the opportunity and encouragement to take up positions of responsibility which they are well qualified to fill. They have become discouraged because between the two wars, since 1920 and 1921, they have seen how successive Tory Governments have muddled this great problem of civil aviation. They have become discouraged and have sought to serve in civil aviation in other countries of the world.
I could refer to these men individually by name, but there is no point in so doing. One whom I know, and who is known to many hon. Members in this House, is the chief executive of K.L.M. Royal Dutch Airlines before the war were certainly one of the most efficient European airlines. Two Englishmen have left this country's civil aviation to serve in the Trans-Canadian Airline, which has already been referred to as a very fine airline by the Lord President himself. One, only recently, has been offered a very excellent appointment in Swedish airlines—a man who was more or less thrown out by the directors of B.O.A.C. One was a very highly technical man who was in B.O.A.C. and was allowed to go to De Havilland. Only recently, again, a man with fine technical qualifications has been allowed to leave B.O.A.C. in order to take up an appointment in the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal. I could name 12 or more men who have had experience from the early days of civil aviation, in this country and abroad, and who, had they the opportunity of alternative employment, would leave the corporation tomorrow because of the unhappy state of affairs in which they are working. That emphasises the point I made earlier, that it would be in the interests of this Government at this stage if investigations were made to ensure that the existing organisations are sound, are efficiently run, and so can set the lead for the new corporations that are proposed, so that they will run equally efficiently.
A question was asked earlier by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), "Why three corporations?" Well, the suggestion I have made, that there should be an Air Transport Board, I think, would obtain us the advantages of both worlds. It would ensure unification of direction and executive responsibility. If under that board there were organised one or two or more companies or corporations—call them what you will—to operate in the various geographical and technical areas of the world, they could be given a task which would be a specialised task on which they could concentrate without undue diversification. This proposal is, after all, similar to what is carried out in large scale industry. Take, for example, the organisation of I.C.I. They have one controlling board which is mainly responsible for executive decisions. Under that board they have several divisions, separate chemical plants, in various parts of the country. The important thing is that each of those separate divisions is independently accounted, so that there is full check to see that the efficiency of the separate companies is kept up to a right and proper level. In other words, it is not possible to play off one organisation against another, one company's profits against another's losses. Each has to show its own merit and its own worth.
Finally, I am convinced that we in this country can make a success of a nationalised civil aviation and for this reason, that practically every other country in the world, practically every other nation, has decided to concentrate its talents and its efforts in one national concern. I need only mention Sweden, France, Holland, Belgium—in fact, practically all nations except the United States of America. If they can make a success of nationalisation so can we. It is purely a question of the thoroughness with which we carry out the organisation. We shall achieve this result provided we give the executive control to men who are fully qualified. In this respect I appeal to the Minister to give those people who have grown up in civil aviation in this country a real chance to show their merits. Even if they are young men, do not condemn them for that. Give them a chance. After all, some of the biggest tasks in this last war were carried out by young men, and they achieved results that are undeniable. I am convinced that if the Minister looks carefully for talent in the corporation he will find it, and if he finds it he will ensure that civil aviation will be a success, because these men have the vision, zeal and enthusiasm to make it succeed.
The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) referred to a series of reports. I would refer to the most recent report on this matter, the White Paper on civil aviation produced by the present Government. There were three objectives set out in that White Paper on which hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree as, I think, will people in all parts of the country, although on the method of achievement, there is wide disagreement. The three objectives were: the maximum expansion of our air services; the efficiency and flexibility of those services; and the establishment of law and order in the air. Those three objectives, this Bill presumably sets out to achieve by the action which it will impose on the country when it becomes law. Of those three objectives, I believe the most important to be the conception of the creation of order in the air. It is precisely this conception that the Government seem to have misunderstood and confused. What is the quintessential object of order, especially order in the air? Surely it is simply greater freedom within prescribed and accepted limits. That is what we set out to do, surely—to achieve order by law for greater civilian freedom of action, and in this case freedom for expansion of air services. It is precisely the course that the Government have refused to adopt.
There are two alternatives to this conception of order. One is chaos in the air and the other is order for order's sake. It is the conception, order for order's sake, which the Government have adopted. In the political sphere, this conception leads eventually to prison, where, after all, the best form of order is usually kept. In the case of commerce it is monopoly, and that is the Government's system, to establish three monopolies under a Socialist trust, with order backed up by fines and penalties. There, doubtless, order will be absolute, as indeed it should be. Not only that, it will prove to be absolutely restrictive. That is why this House, instead of being asked to legislate for the people's use of a new dimension is being asked to cabin and confine the firmament in three State monopoly corporations.
In this instance it is cabin'd and confined. Seldom has a so-called progressive Government made such a restrictive suggestion. It is unfortunate that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not made a greater study of the Civil Aeronautics Board of America. It is, after all, a most remarkable institution. It has frequently been reformed and the United States of America is, after all, so far as civil aviation goes today, the one country which matters. In that country the board has made an outstanding success of its working. Changes have been carried out, and today it is the best known method of establishing a framework of law within which free enterprise can be worked, and which can produce the most effective companies, with a view to expanding air services, and with a view to ensuring cheap cost to the consumer, and with a view, also, to the high remuneration of those interested.
There is no shadow or question of doubt that there is only one State in the world today with existing freedom from the point of view of civil aviation, and that is America. That is an example where we see order in the air and order on landing grounds so that a citizen can form his company by going to the licensing authority. In that respect there are freedom and order in the air and on the landing ground, and that is the framework within which American civil aviation is prospering. It is dreary to think of the Lord President, in his trip to the United States, only borrowing an overcoat instead of bringing back a few ideas.
Doubtless the Government are conscious of the formidable opposition they will incur from American civil aviation. They are afraid because the monopolies which they propose to establish are only local monopolies; they are parochial monopolies instead of being worldwide. The Government may glorify themselves at home, but, like that of King Canute, their empire has strict limitations, greater limitations even than that of Canute, because the air is a sea without any shores. What do the Government do? They have forced these three monopolies on the public. One has heard before of a forced sale, but never of a forced buy, and that is what the country is being asked do by this legislation. My hon. Friend says it is not a pig in a poke. What do they do? They pay lip service to internationalism, but they prevent American aircraft from landing, and beg them to bump up their fares and bring them in line with their own exorbitant fares for a trans-Atlantic service, which, incidentally, is not now functioning, hoping that something may turn up at the next international conference. This is a confusion of gambling, chicanery and of downright bad neighbourliness, which I understand is known as long-termed planning.
So much for the Government monopolies which are being forced upon the public. They are wrong in conception, restricted in essence, and internationally disturbing. Can they be saved by their own intrinsic merits of efficiency and flexibility? They will be saved, not by their own merit, but by that of the subordinate personnel, the individual directors and employees. It will be a triumph for these people, over stumbling blocks which will be put in their way by the Treasuries, M.A.P., Ministers, Cabinets, and Parliaments. We shall have the old, old story of what happened throughout the war. It is not the enemy we are fighting, but our own G.H.Q. staff behind us. Already there has been an X-ray examination of the machinery to be set up. Its faults have been exposed from all sides of the House, even by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough, whose speech, in many ways, was in line with that made by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). That criticism will stand, and to it I have little to add.
In the old days, civil aviation was often misdirected by a semi-civilian branch of the Air Ministry. For an interim, King Log was removed, and the Minister of Civil Aviation was put to hatch out the eggs in his stead. Now that the bird has been hatched out, we see that it is King Stork. King Log is gone, and King Stork stands in his place, armed with this hideous Bill, with all its rending powers—powers to appoint board members, to order corporations to undertake or discontinue activities, to arrange finance, to accept or reject estimates, to dictate policy as to reserves or profits if any, to insist on three-year plans for each corporation, to plan, to lose, to find and to punish with two years' imprisonment. Let Sherman twist in his grave. Seldom has the chief of the most iniquitous monopoly, trust or corporation had behind him such powers and such resources as, tomorrow, will stand behind the Minister. And who is he to be, this modern Ford and Car- negie, this eagle of the air? It is a Noble Lord who held some minor appointment during the war. This huge board has been placed at his disposal. Who, when he goes, will follow him? It will be whoever the political wind blows up. That is to be the position of this huge organisation, with a capital of £120 million, employing thousands of people, which gains foreign exchange, and has to show our flag throughout the world. Is this what we shall see? Are we to have this political appointment, with the political winds uncertain? Is this to be the machinery? In this set-up of boards, Ministers, and Treasury officials, who is to be the responsible person? Will there be boards of guinea pigs, with the Minister becoming the biggest guinea pig of them all, to be twisted, twitted and chased by Treasury officials three times around the building every morning?
This Bill, I suggest, is incompatible with the great expansion we need to see in our civil aviation. I believe that instead of establishing order in the air it seeks to establish a parochial monopoly. Instead of producing efficiency, it guarantees ineptitude and confusion, and instead of promising expansion of our airlines, dooms them to restrictions and to an unworthy position among the air services of an expanding world.
I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Stone (Major H. Fraser) will forgive me if I do not follow him. I believe he will be relieved if I do not do so, because he galloped along with an easy dogmatism which I am sure he does not wish anyone to go into too closely. My interest in civil aviation goes back further than my membership of this House. In the last few years I have devoted no little time to research in air transport administration and in airline operation. In the circumstances I hope that I may be allowed to add something to the analysis made by the Lord President of the opposition to this Bill, with particular reference to the Amendment which has been set down in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and his friends. As I understand it, the Amendment bases its opposition to the Bill on four principal points.
The first of these points is that the Bill "arrests the development of the new in- dustry of civil aviation." Anyone who comes fresh to this subject might imagine from that phrase that civil aviation in the past has been operated under private ownership at an extremely high level of efficiency, and that there is the fear that, with a change in structure and of ownership, that high level of efficiency under which the industry has formerly operated will break down. If this were so, there might be some conceivable ground for the fears of the Opposition. If, at any time, the Government proposed a radical change in the structure or ownership of an industry which had proved very effective by giving good service, or by making high profits, or treating its workers particularly well, then, indeed, one could make out some sort of case for leaving well alone; but everyone knows that these conditions did not exist in British civil aviation between the two wars. Everyone knows that in British civil aviation between the two wars there was one long, sad tale of muddle and incompetence, which, on several successive occasions, led the industry to the verge of bankruptcy from which it was rescued only by hasty, successive doses of Government subsidies. If there were no other reasons for nationalising this industry—and there are many others—there would be sufficient justification for so doing in the fact that the Government cannot afford to let ill alone. Even if the most gloomy forecasts of the Opposition came to pass, the result could not possibly be any worse than the muddle and incompetence which characterised the development of British aviation between the two wars. Right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to have forgotten the Cadman Report on British civil aviation, which was the most slashing indictment of a privately owned industry since Elijah chastised the prophets of Baal.
The second complaint of the Opposition's Amendment is that the Bill
refuses the partnership of experienced aviation and transport undertakings.
This phrase is obviously chosen to cover the Opposition's disappointment that the Government have abandoned the proposals of the Swinton White Paper to pass over a large part of the ownership of aviation to railway and shipping interests, on the rather specious grounds that their experience would be valuable. I say at once, and categorically, that to anyone who has worked in the field of civil avia-
tion, this suggestion that experience in surface transport is of any great value in the running of airlines is arrant nonsense. We have heard a great deal from some interested parties about the experience of the railways and shipping companies in booking passengers' tickets and looking after passengers' needs, but running an airline demands something more than the ability to book passengers' tickets. On this subject, I would like to quote from an article which I wrote, and which one of my hon. Friends who was a Member at the time did me the honour of quoting in a Debate in the House, at the time of the publication of the Swinton White Paper. What I wrote then is I suggest, as true today as it was then. I stated:
The chief technical problems of running an airline are the selection and maintenance of the aircraft, the distribution and storage of the fuel, and the recruitment and training of the personnel. Now a 70,000 ton liner is not a 70 ton aeroplane, heavy oil is not high-octane petrol, and a seaman is not a pilot. Techniques of turn-round and maintenance in a ship are quite different from those in an aeroplane; the fuels are bought differently, stored differently and issued differently, and flying personnel need different selection, different training and different handling from sea-going personnel. Even in the care of passengers, experience in feeding them for five days across the Atlantic, with ample space for galleys and stores, is no guide to feeding them fo 12 hours in an aircraft in which every inch and every ounce matters. When you boil it all down, the so-called 'varied experience' of rail and sea which will 'bring a valuable contribution to the air'—this is a quotation from the Swinton White Paper—is experience in selling travel tickets across a counter, and nothing else. There are of course a few people in privately owned surface transport industries who will be valuable to the Government in running its nationalised air service, but the Government can surely recruit them as State employees without saddling themselves with the burden of non-technical, finance-minded, dividend-hunting directors of railway and shipping companies.
The third basis of opposition to this Bill is that it
vests all operation and control of finance in the Minister.
I am mystified to discover why the Opposition should offer objection to these two things. It seems to be a part of the new conception of democracy which the Opposition is producing. I am always at a loss to understand that concept of democracy which, for example, led the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) to object to back bench supporters of the Government representing their views to Ministers and urging their views upon Ministers. I am
not going to give the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford the satisfaction, even if I knew, of telling him whether he is right in his suggestion that the Bill is a result of back bench pressure. I am interested to see that he went to a Left Wing newspaper for an accurate account of what is done in Parliament—he obviously could not get an accurate account anywhere else. If this is a result of back bench pressure, what is wrong with it? Is not a Member sent to this House to urge his views on the Government? Is it a fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite have become so stultified through years of acting like sheep in going into the lobby that they never dare to tell the Minister what they think? They do not understand this new vital democracy.
I cannot see why it is undemocratic to vest the control of an industry in the hands of a Minister who, in the ultimate issue, is dependent on the will of the people, rather than in the hands of a self-appointed board of directors of a private company, who know no allegiance except to their shareholders, and who have no mandate to watch over anything except the interests of their shareholders. As a new Member of this House, I have watched with interest and appreciation the way in which this House is jealous of its rights and powers, and the degree of control which it exercises over the affairs of the nation. It is, therefore, all the more surprising to me that hon. Members opposite should advocate taking our vital interests in the air out of the hands of the Minister, who can be constantly made subject to the will of Parliament. I am sure that if this Parliament means anything at all, and we are all deeply conscious that it does, we should welcome rather than resent a Bill which puts control where this House most readily and directly can exercise a watch over it.
The Amendment says that the Bill
denies to the travelling public any effective appeal against inadequate services or excessive charges.
Surely, where the ultimate responsibility for a service rests in the hands of a Minister of the Crown, it is this House which provides the machinery for an appeal against maladministration of that service. I ask hon. Members to consider which is likely to be more effective—letters from disgruntled air travellers to the managing
director of a privately owned aircraft company, which letters will never get within half a mile of the managing director, or letters from aggrieved air travellers to M.P.s, who can go and " nag " their Minister about them.
The fourth and last plea by the Opposition is that the Bill
involves the taxpayer in heavy subsidies.
Like the Lord President, I should be a great deal more impressed by this argument if airline operation under private enterprise had never involved the taxpayer in heavy subsidies. Every Member of this House knows that the taxpayer had to pay heavily to subsidise British airlines before the war. Not only that, but on more than one occasion the taxpayer paid heavily not to get aeroplanes into the air but to send fat dividend cheques to the shareholders of Imperial Airways. I know that it has been said there are now private operators who are willing to operate without a subsidy, but just what does that mean? Are they going to build and pay for their own aerodromes, their own ground installations, their own radio services and their own meteorological services, because without them they are not operating without a subsidy? The cold, hard fact is that there never has been in any country—not even the United States, now become the holy habitation of hon. Members opposite—any genuinely unsubsidised large-scale airline at any time. It is very easy to pretend to run airways without a subsidy if somebody else pays for the runways and maintains them, and it is easy to pretend to run a non-subsidised airline if someone does the radio service and the " met " service, or if the Post Office pays fantastically inflated rates for the carriage of air mail. Whether we like it or not, in the next few years the Government will have to pay a part of the cost of airline operations, and so long as His Majesty's Government pay part of the cost they owe it as a duty to the taxpayers to call part of the tune. The nationalisation of this young industry, which needs to be free from the trammels of past prejudice and outdated ideas, is the best chance we have of making the industry one of which we can be proud.
So much for the Opposition's Amendment. May I say a word or two on the administration of this nationalised industry, and particularly on the question of the constitution and personnel of the boards of the corporations? There are two points in this connection to which I should like to make some reference. The first of these, about which considerable discussion has taken place, concerns the administrative organisation of British air transport, particularly the question of whether there should be a single air transport undertaking operating under a single board, or whether there should be three boards operating three separate undertakings. It seems to me that the arguments which have so far been used in this connection are rather superficial. The question is not so much whether there should be one corporation or three, but rather to what extent the specialised functions in the operation of air transport should be centralised or decentralised; because, even if we have three boards, there will still inevitably be a great deal of centralisation exercised within the Ministry of Civil Aviation; and even if there is one board, there will have to be a great deal of decentralisation out to its various executive departments. The problem is not at all a problem in air transport but a problem in management, and a very common problem in management.
It is a problem such as has to be faced by a single company which has three factories operating in three different parts of the country making articles which are similar in some respects but not identical with each other. What happens in such an institution? Every function that falls to be carried out will be examined and it will be decided, on its merits, whether that function is to be centralised or decentralised. In such a company, if there were one single accounts department, there might very well be three separate costs departments. Certainly, if there were a single department for personal relations there would be three separate departments for personal administration. There might be a single chief designer but three separate works managers. The same thing applies to the air transport project. It is possible for a single undertaking with a single board to have separate costings for each area of operation; and in three separate undertakings with three separate boards obviously some things have to be centralised.
There are two functions which the Bill specifically proposes to centralise, namely, the training of air crews and ground staffs, and the maintenance and overhaul of aeroplanes. I find this proposal, if I may say so with respect to the Minister, extremely superficial and very limited. He may very well be right in saying that these are two functions that should be centralised, but the Government cannot possibly be right to pick two functions like this, almost with a pin as it were, and say that they should be centralised without considering the effect upon other functions. For instance, it is against good managerial practice to have centralised training of staff which are separately recruited by three separate organisations to three separate sets of standards, nor does it seem to me that one can consider the problem of maintenance and overhaul of aircraft without considering in the same way the problems of design and purchase of both aircraft and spares.
I want with very great respect to suggest to the Government that not enough detailed thought has been given to this problem of actual management in the aviation industry, and that they should review the whole question in the light not so much of continuing the Swinton White Paper policy, but in the light of simple efficiency. Unfortunately, the Bill prejudges the results of this review in one important respect, in that it proposes to set up three separate boards, and there is the danger that this will overload the industry from the start with a top heavy structure. In any good business there is one thing that is never decentralised, and that is the board of directors. Boards of directors are notoriously bad at administration, and so they are left with only the policy-making function to carry out. In this case, however, it is the Minister who will be the policy-making instrument, and there is the real danger that these three boards will be left with very little to do except lobby the Minister in competition with each other and interfere needlessly with the work of the administrative personnel.
The second and last point which I wish to make in connection with administration concerns those gentlemen who have already been chosen to sit on the civil aviation boards. I approach this question with a great deal of diffidence, because, obviously, it is distasteful to say anything in criticism of gentlemen who are not here to speak for themselves. But the selection
of the right people to run this industry is of such paramount importance to this House and to the nation that I cannot refrain from making some observations upon the subject, however distasteful it may be. In one part of the Debate on the White Paper on civil aviation on 24th January last, the Lord President of the Council laid down two criteria for the members of the civil aviation boards. He said:
We do not mind where the man comes from as long as he has the necessary competence for the position and as long as he is a believer in the policy we are pursuing in this field." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 432.]
I think no one will quarrel with these two criteria, but I think equally that not one of the appointments so far made conforms to these two criteria. There are some gentlemen among those so far appointed who have very strong claims to competence, and there are one or two of whom perhaps it could be said that they are supporters of the Government policy in this field, but I think there is none at all with both qualifications. Most of the gentlemen so far appointed to this board would be invalidated on both of these criteria, and almost the whole of the rest by one or the other. I am not pleading, and I do not think any one else does, that appointments to these boards should be on ideological grounds.
There is a lot of hazy thinking about appointments on ideological grounds, and I would be the last to put forward the plea that a man ought not to be appointed to one of these posts unless he is a convinced and lifelong Socialist. On the other hand, it is not sensible to appoint to a responsible position in a nationalised industry people who believe that nationalisation is completely wrong for that industry, and have gone on record to that effect. No matter what one thinks about ideological appointments, one would not appoint to the head of the N.F.S. a professional practitioner of arson, nor would one appoint an anarchist as a chief constable. No business man would select as a salesman for a brewery a gentleman who, whatever his other qualifications, was a confirmed temperance advocate, and yet to some extent that is what we are doing to these boards, because a number of the people so far appointed have quite rightly come to be regarded as the defenders of private enterprise and the inveterate opponents of nationalisation in the field of aviation.
There are some whose competence, if I may use the phrase of the Lord President of the Council would have been a great deal higher 20 years ago, 30 years ago or even 40 years ago than it is today. Aviation is a young man's industry, and it is gravely open to question whether it can be properly run by people approaching the 70's. There is one elder gentleman among these appointments on whom it is said his present colleagues look with wholly divided views. Some of them uncharitably, as colleagues are apt to do, refer to him as " old muddle head." On the other hand, some other colleagues, who look upon him in a more friendly way, refer to him only as " old fusspot." The common adjective, however, that they have is that he is old. This gentleman has been a great administrator in his day, but I think he has now got past his best and is at an age in which he could not successfully start grappling with the problems of a new, difficult and technical industry. What is more serious, the people so far appointed are busy people with a multiplicity of outside interests. I do not think we can entrust this industry to City financiers—because that is what many of them are—who are going to pop into the headquarters of the aviation corporations for an odd half an hour between one board meeting and another board meeting. I say quite firmly and categorically that these financial gentlemen have been the bugbear of British aviation in the past.
Many of these appointments do not represent aviation at all; they are representative only of the money which has been tied up in aviation. Since, under this Bill, there will be no private money tied up in the industry, it is a mistake to continue to have the industry run by representatives of banking houses and finance companies who did the industry no good in the years before the war. One cannot escape the impression, in looking through the list of appointments, that the Minister has taken the line of least resistance and has glibly taken the first names that came into his head. Many of the gentlemen appointed are what one would call obvious appointments. One gets the impression that they were chosen because they happened to be there on hand, that the Minister did not have to go and look for them; and one gets the impression, also, that they are the people who would have been appointed under the totally different conditions which would have existed if the industry had been left to run under private enterprise.
The Lord President of the Council said today that in the running of this industry we have to create new people, but the Government have used all the old people who were lying around ready to hand My accusation is not so much that the Minister has erred in his judgment in making these selections, but that he has not used his judgment at all, one way or the other. It is, to me, no pleasure in this House to make these criticisms of a Member of a Government who, though they have many more able supporters than I am, have none more loyal, but I think the selection of these people is so important to the industry and to the people who will be employed in the industry, that it would not be honest to refrain from saying what one thinks on this subject. I hope that at the later stages of the Bill a great deal more thought will be given to the question of the strength of these boards in terms both of the number and the quality of the man-hours of service that are available to them. If this is done, we can ally to the benefits which public ownership will bring to the industry the benefit of a sound administrative structure and the right directing personnel.
Yes and I do not condone that. My Noble Friend has taken over a ghastly legacy, and if he has not yet managed to hack his way through the tangle of the jungle which has been left to him, I think no one should unduly criticise him on that point. No one pretends that conditions in B.O.A.C. are ideal, but there is power under the Bill to regularise conditions on a much more sensible basis of joint consultation than there has ever been before, and the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) should support the Bill on that account alone.
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) in his criticisms of the Minister's allocation of the spoils of office. I wish to refer to the assurance which was given in the White Paper that it would be the general policy of His Majesty's Government to require the corporations to use British aircraft types. In Clause 2 of the Bill, we see that power is sought for the Minister to make an order which would allow the corporations to enter into the manufacture of aeroengines and aeroframes. In my constituency in South Berkshire there is a large aircraft factory, and they are much concerned at the moment about the effect of the buying policy of British Overseas Airways and its affiliated companies. It has been necessary, only as an emergency measure we hope, for British Overseas Airways to acquire a certain number of American built planes in order to get British services going. What is worrying my constituents, and what I think should worry the House, is the lack, as yet, of firm offers to British makers for the future British planes which we all hope will run on British air services. There seems to be some doubt in the minds of the manufacturers whether what are called the Brabazon types are still favoured by the Government, or whether other types are to be developed, and if so, who is to develop those designs.
During the war, we depended, and depended with great success, on the enterprise and individual effort of British designers working under private enterprise. The success which we achieved then can be emulated in the future if we allow our manufacturers and their designers to get busy to meet, as they know best, in consultation with the airlines, the needs of the new services which this Bill is to establish. If not, I fear we shall lag behind the private enterprise of America. We do not want to be beholden to them for ever in obtaining planes with which to run our services. I hope the Minister may be able to tell us a little about the recent purchase of Lockheed Constellations. I am told by those who know that the price of the planes which we have now ordered is fairly high, and that it works out £2 4s. per lb. gross weight. Within the last day or two, another order has been placed for 12 British Short Solent flying boats, and in that case the cost works out at £1 4s. per lb. gross weight. If this can be taken as a general indication of the comparative cost of British and American aircraft, the Government seem to be getting a very bad bargain, especially as we have to pay for the American aircraft in hard won dollars. For every pound spent on British machines, no less than 10s. returns to the Government in direct or indirect taxation. Of course, we must all recognise that we must have some American planes quickly in order to get our air lines going. The emergency stage should really have passed by now, and I hope the Minister will be able to tell us that these corporations will straight away be able to place orders with British firms so that our new airlines will be running on British planes.
I want to refer to Part II of the Bill in which the Minister is asking for the most drastic powers to acquire land and control the use of land adjoining the new civil airfields. Safety is an all-important matter in building up our new air services, but we cannot allow the Minister to override every other interest. I ask him whether some of the wartime airfields cannot be used. Already they have inevitably spoiled many thousands of acres of good agricultural land. In this Bill the Minister is asking the House to allow him £20 million for acquiring land and rights over land. That is a big sum. Apart from the land the Minister will take over completely for airfields, he is also seeking rights over adjoining land, and he wants to use these rights rather ruthlessly. He wants to
remove, pull down, cut down, or alter … any building, structure, tree or apparatus
on that adjoining land which may contravene his requirements. This may be necessary, but the fullest consideration should be given to food production and to other local industries before the Minister gets busy with his bulldozers.
All of us who have had the misfortune of farming near airfields during the war know the difficulties and uncertainties that seem inevitable. We never quite knew how much more land would be taken, or whether it would be taken just before harvest, and we never knew what we could or could not do on our land. I hope that as far as possible the Minister will avoid the use of really good agricultural land for the new airfields for civil aviation. Of course, he will have to pay compensation, but I want to ask him whether he will reconsider the period of six months in which claims have to be made after the direction is first publicly notified. If farm buildings have to be demolished and rebuilt elsewhere—which is what the Bill provides for—it is quite probable that the landowner would not be able to assess the extent of his loss or injury accurately within the short period of six months. He may have to rearrange the whole layout of his farms. Then the question of compensation to the farmer for the loss of user of his land will arise.
Wherever new land is being taken for airfields full weight should be given to the claims of food production—claims which must carry much more weight today than perhaps ever before in our time. I ask for a definite assurance from the Minister that he will consult with the Minister of Agriculture before agricultural land is taken for the new civil airfields. We have only a limited acreage of good land in this country and we must use it to the best advantage. This Bill seeks to establish civil aviation in an important place in the nation's life. I fully agree with what has been said from these benches that the control and regulation could be effected in a way which would have given us a more efficient, more economical and more personal service, than a nationalised service is likely to do, but anyway, let us be sure that in building up the new service we avoid unnecessary harm to agriculture and give full scope to the initiative and the enterprise of individual aircraft manufacturers.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) takes a much more lenient view of this Bill than I do. Of all the Bills which have been brought before the House by the Government so far, it is the one which I feel I can most wholeheartedly and completely oppose. Under the cover of setting up three corporations which are not in competition with each other, it sets up a monopoly in this country, and the object of that monopoly is to enter into price cartels with foreign operators—although not necessarily with foreign countries—and agreements with other Governments in restriction of trade. That is the object of this Bill, or, at any rate, that is what it achieves.
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman who is to reply for a little more informa- tion about Clause 14 which seems to present the one and only loophole for any kind of equitable administration of the Measure. That Clause deals with associates, and makes it possible for the three corporations to work together with associates, on condition that the Minister nominates one or more directors of the associates. Does that mean that other companies besides these three corporations are to be allowed to operate, and will they be completely free enterprise? I should like some more information about that. What justification has been given for this Bill so far? The Lord President gave us to understand that civil aviation had become too great a problem for free enterprise. That, it seems to me, is palpably untrue, for free enterprise operates in the U.S.A. Naturally, there must be some kind of control; all of us are subject to laws and controls of some kind. Free enterprise does not mean freedom to do anything one wishes at any time. The American undertakings were subject to regulations right from the start.
Secondly, the Lord President suggested that private enterprise had failed before the last war. It is true that the development in this country was not equal to that in other countries, but the technical necessities here were quite different from those in the U.S.A. There, they could develop easily, because they were running land routes whereas we were largely running sea routes. Nevertheless, the war has done what peace failed to do—it has made this country airminded, although I think it is still a good deal too accident conscious. I should not like to attribute blame for that where I think blame might possibly have been attached recently. The next objection that is raised is that private enterprise cannot operate without subsidy. That is also demonstrably false. Here again one must take the example of the U.S.A. The United States Government are now actually making a profit out of the mails, but to start with they subsidised them considerably and lost money. Now they are not only making a profit but have actually recouped themselves for their earlier losses. Certainly there is a good deal to be said for running Government links—Stateaided links or even State-run links—to sparsely populated areas, either to various countries in the Empire, or to outlying parts of this country, primarily for administrative purposes. But, even there, if private enterprise can show that it can do better it should be allowed to do so. Another objection is that the long distance private operator can only make profits if airports are provided. What is really in this point? How many shipping companies provide their own harbours? Do we expect factories to provide everything for themselves, necessarily to make their own electricity, or provide their own water? That argument does not hold good for a single instant. If airports are laid out on marshy ground, rind in a foggy belt, dues are likely to be heavy.
Recently, the Parliamentary Secretary said that airline operation can be made to pay on two grounds, and I want to examine whether those two conditions are compatible with this Bill. First, he said it could be done by deliberately catering for mass travel, by calculating requirements in advance and trying to adjust passengers and frequencies accordingly. But surely that could not be other than a policy of restriction, whereas we must have a policy of expansion. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman said that it could be done by entering into agreements with other countries to refrain from competitive subsidising. He said that this would be done by making the ultimate basis of fares the cost to the most efficient operator, using the most economical and modern machines. Can that possibly work without subsidies? Assuming a fair profit to the most efficient operator it naturally follows that the remainder do not make a profit, in fact, that they may be working with subsidies. Alternatively, the most efficient operator will be profiteering, exploiting the public. That is the only alternative and the public must suffer. Such a thing can never work. The fact that the Government, behind the Corporation, will deal with operators in other countries is bound to lead to endless trouble.
The Lord President spoke of allowing subsidised corporations to compete with private operators and chartered services. It was surely evident to Members opposite that they will have the advantage of the subsidies. For 10 years, at any rate, there are to be subsidies. Nobody knows to what extent chartered services are to be used in the meantime. That is a fair field for private enterprise, but if the Government come in with a subsidy wherever they find a demand for a chartered service then, of course, private enterprise can make nothing of it, and all pioneering will be stopped before it starts. A good deal of deficit finance is envisaged in this Bill. It starts off, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) said, with the idea of defeat. It is simply indicative of the pusillanimity of the Government. By Clause 12 the corporations are to be encouraged to run at a loss, and that the taxpayer will pay. What happens if a British subject travels to the United States by an American airline? America makes large profits. But if an American subject travels on a British airline the British taxpayer has to pay part of his fare. That is how this Bill will work. The claim is to be internationally minded. What is the real basis of internationalism? Surely it is that mankind should be served as a whole, in the best possible way by those most able to do it.
What have the Government done? It seems that they went crawling to Bermuda, and have been whimpering about the difficulties arising from the war and competing with our Allies. They could have bought planes, and converted them. In this country we are converting planes for the Dutch, Portuguese and Swedes. Why could we not have got planes going, and established a reputation for efficiency in operating them? Instead of confining themselves to a policy of narrow Socialist nationalism, the Government should have gone right ahead. This Bill deals with civil aviation, and we want it to be civil. My experience of official services is that you get civility just so long as there is no hitch, but that when there is a hitch you meet with obstruction and reliance on regulations, instead of initiative and helpfulness. I have always been told—and it was my experience in business—that in normal times a private firm inculcated into its staff and employees the idea that the customer was always right. My experience of officialdom is that the customer is lucky to get what he does get, and that if he is not satisfied it is just too bad. That is likely to be the attitude of the three corporations.
I would like to say a word or two about the position of Scotland. There, as the House knows, there has been constructed an airport with the most remarkable advantages, both geographical and climatic. It is so situated that the Atlantic can be crossed from it without any hop exceeding 900 miles and, further, it is on the shortest and most direct route from America to North Europe. It seems extraordinary and paradoxical that this Government, which have been doing their best to cripple London as a financial, insurance, and commercial centre, should now want to make London an international focal air point. Are they not doing it from the point of view of people wanting to come to London? But who wants to come to London? [Laughter.] It seems that some Members opposite have shown a great desire to come to London, and have succeeded. I doubt very much whether five per cent. of the traffic between North Europe and America wants to come to London. From the point of view of a distributing point for international traffic, it is not necessary to come to London. Recently, the Parliamentary Secretary was asked a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Flight-Lieutenant Crawley), who wanted to know whether narrow provincialism was not the last thing that should be taken into account in the development of civil aviation. The Government's action as regards London is not only provincialism; it is parochialism. The Government seem to have gone out for narrow nationalism, instead of looking at the matter from an international point of view.
Scotland realises well the great advantages of Prestwick as an international airport. Scotland is not making her claim first and foremost for her own national services. She is making a claim to be allowed to enter the international field. That claim is not only right and proper but is vouched for by no less a charter than the Act of Union itself. Let me quote Article 4 of that Treaty:
That all the subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain shall, from and after the Union have full freedom of intercourse, of trade and navigation, to and from any port or place within the said United Kingdom and the Dominions and Plantations thereto belonging.
I maintain that the present Bill is in direct contravention of the Treaty between Scotland and England. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side will join with hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House in desiring to maintain and respect treaty obligations. Of that, I am certain.
Therefore, I must call upon the House to reject the Bill, which flagrantly violates the right of all His Majesty's subjects to trade, and to enter as they will, and to go out from, the United Kingdom. That right, given in the Act of Union, did not simply mean freedom to go here and there, but the right to set out and trade. That was the principal point that induced Scotland to unite with England at all.
Does not the hon. and gallant Member consider that we should not have Prestwick at all if it had not been for the Union? Was not the place built with £2 million of public money?
I am not denying that for an instant. I am saying that the Act of Union definitely lays down the right of all subjects in the United Kingdom to set out and trade as they wish, and to enter any port in the Dominions or Plantations or any place in this country. There is no Supreme Court in this country to reject a Measure. One fears that the Bill will go through, pushed from behind by the squadrons on the Benches opposite. It is regrettable, more than regrettable, that there is not a Supreme Court that could subsequently declare such a Measure invalid; but there is, all the same, a supreme court of popular opinion. I maintain that if the Bill goes through it will do a great deal to damage our international relations with other countries and to harm the relations that exist between Scotland and England.
I welcome the Bill without qualification because it nationalises this industry. I know there are arguments against nationalisation, but I believe that, on balance, the arguments in favour of nationalisation are incontrovertible. It is inconsistent with a belief in democracy to allow a monopoly to be held by private people who are not responsible to those who gave them the monopoly. Since civil aviation is essentially a monopoly, and since it is essential, as I see it, that the monopoly be subsidised by the people, it is unfair and inconsistent that the people should not own the monopoly which they are compelled to subsidise. They rightly desire to subsidise it, and therefore they should also own it. I would like to comment upon some of the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Major N. Macpherson). He said that the Government had gone to Bermuda and complained that they were compelled during the war to build fighters and therefore were not able to keep up with the production of American long distance planes. I do not see how the hon. and gallant Member can argue that all we need to do is to buy more planes and convert them. If we bought them from the United States he would probably be the first to complain that we were spending dollars abroad which ought to be used on other things. Obviously we ought, because of our engineering skill, to give our own industries a fair chance of development. Earlier in his speech, in an endeavour to show that private lines can run without subsidy, the hon. and gallant Member indicated that the United States had made a profit out of their postal services. While that may be true, does he realise that, in order to subsidise those lines, the United States pays for the carriage of its mails six and a half times the economic freight rate? That is straight subsidising, so straight that the hon. and gallant Member failed to notice it.
I would like to make one or two short criticisms of the provisions of the Bill. I welcome the Bill because I believe that nationalisation and the creation of these corporations are a prerequisite to the creation of an international or non-national civil aviation corporation. I believe that the Government really intend to achieve this object. I believe that aviation is global not only in its geographical extent but in its repercussions, and that it ought to be global in its control and its entire organisation. The industry is a utility service, and ought to belong not only to this nation but to all the people of the world. I believe it is the intention of the Government—it most certainly is the intention of this party—to develop a non-national, international corporation, at the very earliest opportunity. I hope that the world will realise these things. It is particularly important at this stage to emphasise that intention. I would ask whoever intends to wind up the Debate for the Government to say whether he is prepared at this stage to declare that the Government support the views expressed by the Australian and New Zealand
Governments in an agreement which they signed at Canberra in January, 1944, in which they declared:
Air services using the international trunk routes should be operated by international air transport authorities, and the full control of those routes and the ownership of all aircraft and ancillary equipment should be vested in the same authority.
Can we be assured that Great Britain does not lag behind in this matter? The aeroplane has made such a fundamental change in human affairs that what may seem to some people to be an extreme policy is, I believe, the only practical policy.
I would like to make one more criticism on a matter which I believe to be tremendously important in the short run. I admit that there is a case for a number of boards; there may be a case for three boards, although I am not entirely convinced of it. However, there is an overwhelming case for fulltime directors to be members of those boards. This industry is so new, has such terrific scope and requires such imaginative courage, that it is not fair to run it in any other way. It is not fair to expect people to do this job upon any other but a fulltime basis, and it is not fair to the people or to this House to ask them to do so. I would like to see the kind of board which is, in fact, the executive of the Departments. Suppose we took the executives of various Departments and said to them: " Not only have you to run your Department but you shall take full responsibility and control." With that type of person on the board we should have what we want.
It seems to me that all we are doing now is to put between the executive and the Government one more blanket, if I may use that expression, and perhaps one more deterrent. We want to encourage initiative. We realise of course that we are passing now to a system whereby direct authority is vested in this House through the Government, and we know that all the people in this industry fully realise that they are responsible to us. I do not think, therefore, that they need any further checks or balances. What we ought to do is to try and give their initiative as much encouragement as possible. It seems to me, therefore, that there is no real case for the type of mark time board that really derives its existence from an effort and a usefulness under an old era, the era of finance-capitalism that
passed away when we entered this House. I would like to quote something which seems to me extraordinarily relevant to the Amendment which, in supporting the Bill, I am naturally going to oppose. The Amendment moved from the Opposition Front Bench says that this Bill
refuses the partnership of experienced aviation…
Unfortunately for the mover, and for me, that is not entirely true. The truth of the matter is that we have tended, as it were, to overload this aviation corporation with too much older experience. The future of British aviation is not a future that will be easily conceived by the minds of old experience. It is one that will be discovered by the imaginative outlook of younger men. I read in a journal not so long ago:
In this country, particularly, aviation has suffered from rings and monopolies in both military and air transport. Those in key posts who have grown up in this atmosphere are now too old and fixed in their ideas to imagine any other state of affairs either possible or desirable.
That was written by no less a person than Gordon England, who has had considerable experience and knows exactly what he is saying. In 1930 he served on the Gorrel Committee on Civil Aviation and signed its minority report.
I want to conclude by saying that I welcome this Bill. I shall support it wholeheartedly. I believe that it is a step in the right direction. If we can, however, change the constitution of the boards, allow younger people on to them, draw, if possible, these people from the industry which the board is there to manage, I believe we shall have created an instrument which we can with pride turn over to the people of the world at the very earliest opportunity.
After nine months of Socialist rule, or misrule, this House and the country are getting used to the introduction of doctrinaire legislation. But as was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dumfries (Major Macpherson), we have not so far had a Bill quite as bad as this one, and our fears have not been allayed this afternoon by the remarkable speech of the Lord President of the Council. He devoted little time to the merits of the Bill, but rather made a speech advocating this particular type of legisla- tion. The Lord President used for the first time the word " socialisation." Previously we have always heard of " nationalisation," or " public ownership." The right hon. Gentleman asked hon. Members on this side of the House to tell him what they believed in. Let me tell him that I believe in free enterprise, and I am opposed, and most of my hon. Friends on this side of the House are opposed, wholeheartedly to socialisation. The Lord President made some very remarkable statements. Among other things, he said that more accidents would occur under private enterprise than under State control.
I am sorry. I will not quarrel over the Lord President's words, but I think that is rather an unfair commentary on the very great services which private free enterprise aircraft lines have rendered to the country in the past. Incidentally their record compares very favourably with the accident record of Transport Command.
I am including Imperial Airways, but I am referring principally to airline operators who are not hamstrung by Government control in every possible way. I and my friends object to this Bill on the grounds that it makes the Minister of Civil Aviation the absolute dictator of the future of our civil aviation industry. In Clause 2 (3) we find that it is the Minister who, at all times, has the power to control the activities of these three grandiose corporations, which are to be set up. I would say, in passing, that we were interested to hear the Lord President's views on whether there should be one or three corporations. I do not know if what he said means that when he comes to the nationalisation of the surface transport industry, we are to have one corporation for roads, one for railways and one for sea transport, but we shall no doubt find that out in due course.
The Minister's control of our civil aviation industry under this Bill goes even further than the Clause to which I have drawn attention. Under Clauses 7 and 8 not only the Minister of Civil Aviation, but the Treasury is brought in most effectively to control the determining of the routes we shall fly on every new air service. Of course it is the Treasury whose approval has to be obtained to secure the very valuable assets of working capital for those services. Similarly, under Clause 12 again it is the Minister who has the authority for determining operational policy, administration and finance. Scant regard appears to be paid to the wishes of the travelling public. When this Bill gets on the Statute Book, no longer will this country be able to enjoy the facilities provided by air services operated by the unfettered and free enterprise of commercial corporations not bound by Government control and in a much better position to conclude agreements with foreign privately owned companies than any Government-owned corporation could possibly be. Therefore, we shall see British air services in active competition with privately owned services operated by other countries.
The main thing that this Bill does is to see that the Minister has a finger in everything concerned with civil aviation. It does one or two other minor things. In fact, the principal Clause appears to be so widely drawn that the Minister can do more or less what he likes with any airport under his control—run restaurants or swings and roundabouts if he so wishes. It is worthy of note that such is the confidence of the Minister in being able to make this new enterprise a success, that he is asking for very heavy subsidies, notwithstanding that the Minister's existing godchild claims to have made a profit of £1,500,000 in the previous year. All the penal Clauses would appear to be drafted so as to make it virtually impossible for any vestige of free enterprise to remain; in fact, the penalties proposed remind one more of the penalties for black market offences, than for people who show some slight enterprise.
Proceeding with the Clauses of the Bill, one finds quite clearly that the Minister of Civil Aviation has apparently been contaminated with the " acquisition bug," of some of his Ministerial colleagues, for he takes the most complete authority to acquire land and buildings however he wishes. Throughout the Bill, too, one sees in almost every Clause the Ministerial edict of " Thou shalt not," and little or no encouragement to any one who wants to do anything. It is interesting that in one Clause of the Bill, which the Lord President did not mention—Clause 2 (3)—it is possible for the Minister of Civil Aviation to enter into competition either with the Aircraft Ministry or with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Production in the manufacture of aeroplanes and engines.
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I would remind him of the Clause which says:
Save as may be expressly provided by an order made under this subsection, none of the three corporations shall have power to manufacture air-frames or aero-engines.
There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Minister from making that order as many times as he wishes.
I have only referred to a few points which stand out in this miserable Bill. We on this side of the House will oppose it in the Division Lobby tonight, and we will oppose it through its remaining stages. I only want to say in conclusion that hon. and right hon. Members on this side will from now on reserve the right, when this era of misguided legislation comes to an end, as it will surely come to an end, to remedy in any way we can the injury which this Government are doing to civil aviation.
In reviewing this subject of civil aviation, my mind goes back to my very first acquaintance with it. In 1918 a very senior officer, who had some hope of making money out of civil aviation when the war was over, asked me to prepare some figures for a flying boat service between Harwich and Hamburg. I prepared the figures and, when he had looked through them, he said, " Well, if you are right, there is not much future in civil aviation." He was thinking, as we were all thinking in those days, of civil aviation without subsidies, and it was quite true, although it was not realised until a few years later, that subsidies would be absolutely necessary. The first aircraft companies that were set up tried to work without sub- sidies. There was a period of hope, followed by a period of doubt, then a period of despair, and then there were committees, inquiries and reconstructions. My hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) has given a list of the six or eight commissions and inquiries that were spread out during the intervening years. The story has repeated itself over and over again—the inquiry, the old mistakes discarded, a new scheme undertaken, a period of hope, money flowing in, some from the general public, some from the Government, then a period of doubt, then a period of certainty of failure, and again reconstruction. This story has repeated itself about six or eight times during this period.
What guarantee have we that we shall not repeat the story once more? Again we are in the period of hope, and again we are avoiding past mistakes, but can we be sure that we are really going on to success, continuing success, this time? It depends on the perfection of the Bill before us. Although I am perfectly in agreement with my hon. Friends on this side of the House that nationalisation as a complete scheme is the right principle, there are very many snags and very many difficulties to be overcome, very many adjustments to be made, before we can be sure of its being a success. What have we in the way of human beings out of whom to build this civilian industry? There is a certain collection of human beings directly under the Minister called civil servants; there are the boards, collected from the more or less successful companies of the past and from the City of London; and there are the people actually engaged in the aircraft industry at the present time on the civil side and on the Service side, people with recent experience, people who have learned a great deal during the intense experience of the past few years.
Coming to the civil servants first, there seems to be almost a horror of civil servants in this House; they are looked upon as so much red tape, cramped, bureaucratic, everything they touch seeming to shrink and shrivel. Why is this? Are civil servants different human creatures from other people? Surely they are not. They are human creatures who have gone through a particular kind of experience, and all the experience in the Civil Service is not alike. If a civil servant is a " no man," a person who has to go about like the boy who was told to see what the baby was doing and tell him not to, a person always stopping people doing this and that, the effect on his mind, almost on his soul, is a shrinking, a contracting, with a deadening effect. It is possible for a person even to lose his initiative and almost his humanity in the process.
All civil servants do not have that kind of experience. Those with whom I have mixed have been scientific and technical civil servants, people who have a job of work to do every day of investigation, research, development, collecting new ideas and trying to make them work. In so far as they are doing things actively, their own ability, their own experience, and also their own cheerfulness grow with their work. I have noticed that the Ministry of Civil Aviation has recently been collecting some of the ablest, most brilliant engineers, scientists and aeronautical technicians in this country in the Ministry. There they are at the disposal of the Minister. What is to become of them? It seems to me that if all the initiative is to be on the boards, these excellent people will lose their grip and become less useful to the community as time goes on.
What of these boards? We look through the list and we think of their experience. We ask, " Are they people who actually in their daily work have lived with aeroplanes and grown up with flying? " We find that, generally speaking, they are not. Some of them have been accountants, some have been directors of companies in the City, some have been Governors of remote Colonies. They have been all sorts of things except aeronautical engineers and I learn, somewhat to my horror, that they are not even to spend their whole time the aeronautical industry. Apparently they are to be part time people who, once a month or a fortnight, will gather together to decide critical issues put before them, but, for the rest of the time, they are occupied with other matters and other companies. Of all industries in the country, aeronautics is about the most intensely technical. Every ounce of an aeroplane has to have the concentrated intelligence of a number of people to put it in its right place in relation to all the other parts of the machine. It is as intense a collection of complicated mechanism as ever one would find. Not only the aeroplane itself, but the runways, navigation, radio, radar, directional control in fog—the whole thing is simply a technicality and hardly anything else.
There was a time when business came into it, but, to a certain extent, now that the Government look after subsidies and see that it carries on, the business part drops out of the picture. The businessman spends his time driving hard bargains which have no place in the industry at the present time. Then there are the workers; they are people of all grades of skill and experience. Their skill and experience ought to be woven into the fabric of this enterprise. How is this to be done? Somehow or other the boards and the Ministry must be made to coalesce, and the civil servants must be given a chance to exercise their industry. It seems just absurd to leave the workers in the industry to do the work while these remotely connected directors make a decision one way or another at intervals and the civil servants occasionally meet the directors and possibly reverse the decision they have made. The whole idea should be workers throughout, from top to bottom.
What sort of pattern do we need for such an enterprise? We are all used to the chain of command in the military sense. In military affairs, command and obedience are the essence of the whole thing. Even in the Army there is a reverse chain; the soldier has the right to appeal against a decision or to object to his conditions to those immediately above him. That can be carried on, right up to the Army Council. In this enterprise of civil aviation—and it applies to many other enterprises as well—this return chain must be developed to its perfection. If a person at the lowest level has a grievance, there should be a mechanism through which he could appeal to his foreman or chargehand and his grievance should be sympathetically considered. If he is not successful, it should be possible to appeal to a higher level. We need to build up a return chain from the lowest to the highest level, not only for remedying grievances, but for collecting ideas, experience, and suggestions. We shall never get a healthy enterprise unless the return chain is developed to perfection. I conclude, as I started, by saying that the Bill is excellent in its main principles, but there is a great deal to be done before we have any justification or hope of a lasting and growing success.
This is a sad and depressing day for the future air development of our country in this great air age. When the announcement was made some time ago that our great civil aviation transportation service was to be nationalised, an American very prominent in civil aviation rubbed his hands with glee and said, "This is the best thing that ever happened for American aviation." That is what they think of it across the water. As I listened to the funeral oration pronounced by the Lord President of the Council, I thought of the other funerals which we have had during this Parliamentary Session and are apparently to have so long as this Parliament lasts—funerals of initiative, of responsibility, of enterprise. I could not help being reminded of the story of a village funeral at which there was an incident, thus reported by the local Press: " As the undertaker was lowering the coffin into the grave, he fell dead. This incident cast a gloom over the whole proceedings." That is what I felt when I heard the Lord President of the Council expound the reasons why we should have this Bill setting up a State monopoly.
The right hon. Gentleman, in his argument for the Bill, put up a lot of Aunt Sallies and knocked them down again. He asked a lot of questions which were very ably answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), who pointed out the advantageous policy which would have been adopted had a Conservative Government been returned. That policy would have been to the great benefit of the public of this country, and it is the public we want to see well served. I fear that under this Bill the public will be ill served, and not better served.
An hon. Member opposite made a remarkable statement a little earlier. He said the setting up of this State monopoly would lead to that internationalism which we have heard advocated so often, so forcibly, and with such eloquence, by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) in previous Debates. It seems to me that in setting up a State monopoly we rule out any chance of internationalism. Surely the way to get international airlines developed is by allowing a corporation to be set up, not with State money but with the money of the public in it, in which are combined the interests of this country and the interests of Norway, Sweden and America, undertaking to carry out air transportation. In fact, all the troubles and difficulties over the agreement with Eire and the upset in Scotland have been brought about because of this State monopoly proposal. If the scheme which we would have introduced had been formulated, opportunity would have been given to Scottish interests to put their proposals before the Aeronautics Board, and their aspirations would have been satisfied. In this State monopoly there is no chance of anything like that.
I am opposed to this Bill in the form in which it is put before the House, because I believe initiative will be hindered and restricted by it. The Lord President of the Council asked if private operators desiring to run a charter service were afraid of State competition. The answer is " No." We all know that when such a service is built up, losses are incurred Then, having established themselves, the operators begin to make profits and that is the time when the State comes in. The private operator, having shown the need for a service and spent perhaps years of enterprise and initiative, reaches the profit-making stage because of the service he gives to the public. Is there any reason to suppose that in these circumstances private operators will go into this business with confidence? If they do not, the public will suffer.
There is another reason why it is desirable that there should be, in this field of aviation, more than one operator. If a manufacturer has an idea to sell or a new invention or some different type of aircraft, and if he has only the State as his sole customer, and his product is turned down, where can he go? If an inventor goes to the Post Office with an invention, which is turned down by the State, he has no other opportunity of offering it. In the case of the railway companies, he can go to four possible customers, and if his invention is a good one, it is likely that one of them will take it up. I believe that having only one customer, will prove a great handicap to the future of the industry. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary does not agree with that view. He thinks apparently there will be three customers. But in this Bill, under Clauses 2 and 4 and subsequent Clauses, the Minister has absolute control over these corporations. The governors are merely " guinea pigs "; they cannot make decisions. I cannot see what is the job of these boards of directors. What is the job of a board of directors? It is to initiate policy, to formulate policy, to give direction. Under this Bill the boards of directors must go to the Minister. He directs and initiates policy. Ordinarily a board of directors initiates policy for the management to carry out, but here it is the Minister who initiates policy. These boards are completely redundant. For the Parliamentary Secretary to suggest that there will be three customers is absurd. There is one customer only, that is, the State. These boards are not independent managements at all; they have to go to the Treasury for everything.
For this reason I greatly fear that we shall be handicapped in the future. One has only to remember the opposition of the Civil Service and others to the drop undercarriage. I remember one little thing—a new kind of lacquer for covering aircraft, which made the aircraft very smooth and required one or two coats fewer than the ordinary covering. But it did not conform to Civil Service specification, and no progress could be made with that. Then in the war, in a critical time of our fighting, something of the kind was found to be wanted for Spitfires. That is an illustration of the kind of fears we have that our aviation in this country may not go ahead in the same way as American aviation will go ahead because of the greater opportunities offered to operators there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford gave examples from the Bill of the control which the Minister has over the boards of directors. I have already referred to such control, but I ask the House to turn to Clause 15. In it are obviously envisaged subsidies up to £10 million. There were air operators who were perfectly prepared to operate these services without subsidy. I know that the Lord President of the Council, in his historical survey, pointed out how in pre-war days subsidies had been given, and went on to suggest that private enterprise had failed. But civil aviation was in its infancy. I would remind the House that it was in 1938, 1939 and 1940, when we were preparing for war or were actually at war, that great progress was made by civil aviation interests in the U.S.A., which were much more favourably placed than we were. They had been suffering
from losses, but these they gradually overcame and went ahead. We had far greater difficulties with the longer Empire routes we had to operate, but even so, our services were developing. The time has now arrived when civil air operators are prepared to operate first-class services without subsidy. It seems to me a terrible thing that we should contemplate paying £10 million of public money for civil service air operation, whereas the scheme which we on this side would have given to the country, had we been returned to office, would have been one under which profits would have been made, and revenue paid to the Exchequer. This is another scheme of nationalisation which I fear will mean losses and payments from the public Exchequer. This shows the slippery slope down which we are now going. Clause 18 is most remarkable. Subsection (2) provides:
Any direction given under the preceding Subsection may require the whole or any part of any such excess as aforesaid to be paid into the Exchequer.
This means that while losses are envisaged, in the unlikely event of profits being made they go back to the Exchequer, and we get the case of the raiding of the Road Fund all over again, this time in regard to aviation. That is a bad precedent; I hope that when the Committee stage comes we shall see that that Clause is omitted. Clause 21 requires that each of the corporations shall keep proper accounts and proper records in relation thereto, etc. I suggest that the requirement here is quite inadequate, and I hope that between now and the Committee stage the Parliamentary Secretary will consider amplifying this Clause and bringing it more into line with the Civil Aeronautics Act in America, or more in line with the Railways Act, 1921, under which detailed statistics of revenue and expenditure were required. If railway companies, publicly owned by the people, but privately operated, were required to do that, a State monopoly should provide the same sort of information. There is one other provision to which I would like to refer. I may be wrong, but I think this is the first time such a proposal has been made in this Parliament. In the Third Schedule, Part III, Paragraph 7, in connection with the purchase of land, it is stated:
Where any such order comes into operation during the period of five years begin-
ning with the seventeenth day of March, nineteen hundred and forty-six, the amount of the compensation shall be assessed by reference to prices current at the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and forty-six, on the assumption that all material interests in the land concerned had at that date been subsisting as they were subsisting at the time of the coming into operation of the order…
Under an Act passed earlier in this Parliament the 1939 price level was extended for five years. This Bill extends it for a further five years until 1951. It seems to me that to extend it for another five years, over and above the general provisions of the Act which we have already passed, is a matter of principle and that we ought seriously to consider it. This provision ought not to be inserted in this Bill, without a statement upon it by the Lord President of the Council. I hope we shall have an answer from the Parliamentary Secretary giving the reasons why it has been done. It is a matter of considerable importance.
While on the question of land I would draw the attention of the House to Clause 28 in which is raised another important principle, vitally affecting public interest. This Clause empowers the Minister of Transport by order to authorise
… the stopping up or diversion of any highway or provide for the extinguishment of any public right of way.
No obligation is imposed to provide a substitute right of way or right of access. I suggest that if a public right of way is taken, there should be substituted some other right of way. Powers should be taken to do that where it is possible. At the same time powers to be conferred on the Minister of Transport would not enable him to include in any order provision for two further points. The first is with regard to new means of access to land where such new means involve going across land belonging to third parties. Between now and the Committee stage I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should go into that important point. The other is with regard to the retention of existing culverts in stopped up highways or the provision of new culverts. Both these matters affect the public interest, and I hope they will be considered. In Clause 40 there is great detail about the recording of births and deaths on aircraft, but, so far as I can see, there is no provision in the Bill for full investigation and report in the un-
fortunate event of accidents. I think the House will agree that is necessary. Full details of accidents in which corporation aircraft are involved should be reported. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will examine the matter and, if possible, include an appropriate Clause making provision for full investigation, report and publication of accidents under this State monopoly corporation.
We oppose this Bill because we believe that, as it is now drawn, it will not serve the best interests of the public. We think that research, efficiency and initiative will suffer. Risks will not be taken. By that I do not mean risks of life and death but commercial risks. That is not because of the civil servants themselves but because of the system. Civil servants are grand chaps who are thorough, hardworking and most conscientious. Anybody who has worked in a Government Department knows the system. We know the Treasury clerk. We know how he comes down with the hard hand, saying, " You must not do this, that and the other." We know the battles that are fought with the Treasury clerk who has never flown in his life except in the flights of his imagination on his way between London and Surbiton. We know the conferences held on the design of aircraft, the discussion on what colour the inside of the aircraft shall be, and whether the wash basin shall be on the left or the right. We have them making these balanced judgments without any responsibility for profit and loss. [An HON. MEMBER: " Is that how we won the war? "] It is this sort of thing that makes up the whole picture. A hundred years ago, when there was a monopoly in shipping to the Far East, this country fell right behind America and one could get to the Far East quicker by American Clipper. When that monopoly was thrown off, and enterprise and initiative were released, we went to the top. Unfortunately, we play second place to America where there is the opportunity for free enterprise. It is because of that feeling that we are going to play second place—not first place as we ought to do and could do under the scheme which hon. Members on this side would have put forward—that we oppose this Bill.
We have listened tonight to a most extraordinary case against this Bill.
The hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) is an old Rugby internationalist himself and on his speech, especially the international bit, I think he ought to be awarded a " try." I do not, however, think he has altogether managed to " convert " it, any more than he has managed to convert anyone on this side of the House. We have heard most remarkable examples from different hon. Members opposite of reasons why they are opposing this Bill. We had a document from the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Gandar Dower), who objects to private enterprise in these terms. Perhaps I would be wrong in saying, " Gandar Dower, Limited "; perhaps " Limited " ought not to be applied to the hon. Member, though in many regards, perhaps, it ought. He finishes a long lamentation by saying:
It has been fun while it lasted but we did not know in 1930 that a young Oxford graduate and a retired naval officer would one day act as 'matadors'.
He may be consoled by the fact that the case for the Opposition was opened and closed by retired naval officers, and he may hope that two retired naval officers on his side will be able to do what only one retired naval officer and an Oxford graduate on this side of the House have failed to convince him that they can do. I think the last part of his argument is the funniest of all when he says of the life of his own private firm:
Nothing in life became him so well as the leaving of it.
There we are on a certain amount of common ground. And he concludes sadly:
To throw away the dearest thing he knew, as it were a careless trifle.…
One would not think it was a careless trifle that the Tories have been forced to relinquish today—
I said "a careless trifle" and I was quoting from the hon. Member. I think we might adapt Cromwell's dictum and say, "It is better than one man should have died than that a whole aviation policy perish!" The argument put forward by hon. Members against the Bill was based upon the reduction of their opportunities for exploitation of the consumer in civil aviation, just as in every other case where they have opposed the nation taking into its own hands the control of public services.
Perhaps the offering of service is not unconnected with the profit motive somewhere in the background. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment today made only a slightly more convincing speech. He spoke of liberty. He is heading right these days; even if he headed away a little on the Right wing. I can well remember that we on this side of this House were the advocates of liberty against totalitarianism not so many years ago—during the Franco rebellion. Today, this passionate attack by the hon. Member upon alleged totalitarianism would have been more convincing—if I may use an Irishism—if this prospective anti-totalitarianism had had his budding anti-totalitarianism behind it in those civil war days. It would have provided the hon. Member with a much better background from which to argue a democratic case today. An example he gave today was taken from Roman history, from the decadent days of Rome. He quoted expressions of contemporary fears of the corporations—
I am answering points which were made by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. He compared the Roman corporations of the decadent days of Rome with the corporations which are being set up under this Bill. Not long ago, the hon. Member was a very strong friend of the corporations of the new Roman Empire of Mussolini, and it comes ill from hon. Members on that side of the House to attack this Bill on political lines, because they know that their own record in that regard is very much open to criticism. The hon. Member criticised the " fifth freedom " for a third party nation —Eire—to acquire landing and other concessions; but not long ago he was an ardent supporter of allowing the fifth freedom to be granted to two third party nations in Spain's Civil War, namely, to the airfleets of the tyrants Hitler and Mussolini—
I hope, with due respect to the hon. and gallant Member opposite, who seems to be extremely scared of me developing my argument, to show that I am making references in reply to arguments and points used by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. Why does the hon. and gallant Gentleman object to that? I was taking up the point that the hon. Member who opened for the Opposition expressed very strong objections to according fifth freedom rights to third parties. Surely, it is legitimate to answer him in the very terms he used. The hon. Gentleman referred to a friendly enough Power—Eire—[Interruption.]—I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman would hold his remarks for a moment while I answer the point. Here we have a case of a Government in Spain, whose case is now before the United Nations organisation, which has to decide whether its vicious Fascist activity is a threat to the peace of the world or not; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman takes objection when I say that the hon. Member who opened the Debate for the Opposition felt most sympathetically towards it in those days. The hon. Member also criticised the State purchase of American aircraft. Would he agree that private enterprise also buys American aircraft? Would he, for example, agree that Group Captain MacIntyre, who writes regularly in the Press—one now suspects even some editorials—particularly in various newspapers in Scotland, has expressed, as the representative of private enterprise, his intention of buying American planes so that he can use them by adapting the fuselage in this country? Would the hon. Member agree to that? The group captain told hon. Members of this House that that was the policy and intention of his company, so that there is very little to argue on that point.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland to whom I have already referred has mentioned the advantages of private enterprise over the State service proposed in this Bill. I think the hon. Member might be given full rights to develop his private enterprise in Caithness and Sutherland, and, if so, I hope he will devote his full time to it. It would also enable the hon. Member to demonstrate his plea that private enterprise, without subsidy, can show its superiority over the State service; and it would also enable him to fulfil the obligation which he undertook at the General Election to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds and allow a fresh appeal to the people of his constituency at the end of the Japanese war.
I respectfully accept your Ruling, Sir, and I am sorry if I have transgressed the rule in any reference to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. We must undertake the obligations of a planned Socialist policy. We must make air transport available as cheaply and adequately as possible to the people of the country. It is not a matter of exploiting the public, however the hon. Member for Marylebone might want to do it. It is a question of supplying an essential service as cheaply as possible, for business purposes, and giving an efficient service to the public on their social journeys as well. We hope to see an expanding future for civil aviation in that respect in this country; with more and more people enjoying it, without financial embarrassment. I do not think that was the chief consideration of the hon. Member—
We have to remember that we are facing in the near future, the nationalisation of the railways. We hope to see the nationalisation of coastal shipping, especially when it is an integral part—
A great many statements have been made in the House about it. It is part of the general transport plan. Perhaps, if the hon. and gallant Member will see me privately behind the Chair, I can explain it to him later. I hope to see the integration of coastal shipping, where it is part of the main route to places in the British Isles with the rest of our rail and road services We cannot possibly leave that out of a scheme of things to which the Government majority in this House are committed, on which they were instructed by the people of this country at the Election; and we cannot leave out of that scheme of things the development on modern lines of civil air transport and other form, of transport which must follow lines of national reconstruction. Aviation is an essential part of all modern transport, even, and especially, in the Western Isles, which I represent. There one sees sometimes a horse and trap, but one also sees the modern aeroplane. It is claimed to be an essential part of the economy, as far as transport is concerned even of those so-called remoter parts of the British Isles. We want to see it made much more cheap and regularly available to the person with a small income and, goodness knows, past Governments have left us with plenty of people with small incomes.
For years the State has paid subsidies to the "pioneering" of this industry. It has paid for radar, for meteorological services and for the great national aerodromes. I do not think that private enterprise is at all anxious to develop and pay for these costly services and for the maintenance of the great national aerodromes of this country. Every argument —financial, social, ethical and economic —is on the side of a State civil aviation service. It favours national ownership and control. This in no way belittles the efforts of those who have played their part in pioneering civil aviation in this country and that includes the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. Let us be honest and make that tribute. There are the men who pioneered the services to the Shetlands, the Orkneys and the Western Isles and helped us with the ambulance services and so forth. But let us not pretend that these services are adequate for all modern needs, or that the people concerned are able to run them at rates at which we would like to make them available to the ordinary people who cannot afford luxury rates.
If I may cite one example, I would like to mention a recent case where a young girl had to be taken at night from the Isle of Lewis to Edinburgh infirmary. The bill for that journey was sent to a poor woman, a crofter's widow. The charge was between £40 and £50. That is not an unreasonable charge for an expensive service, but I would rather depend upon the statement given by the Parliamentary Secretary on 24th January that such and more efficient services will be maintained, even at a loss, for the people, at reasonable rates, so long as they are essential to the life of the community. In North Uist Island the private company can neither manage to get agreement with the Tory landlord upon how to do it nor the money with which to put the local airfield in condition to take a full load. I would much rather rely on the Parliamentary Secretary's and the Government's policy in that regard than upon the private landlord and the private company.
We in the Hebrides are especially dependent for our economic development, as well as for emergency hospital and other cases, and for the ordinary comfort of our people, on the aeroplane. Scotland's case has on many occasions been put in this House and I do not want to labour it again. But I want to say that we are comforted and reassured by the assurances given by the Minister in this House. The party opposite have very little on which to base any grumble as to what they are asking for Scotland and what has been gladly conceded. Scottish Members on this side of the House are determined to ensure, as far as civil aviation is concerned, that the standard of life of the Scottish people shall be such that Scotland can be as prosperous as possible. Unless Scotland is prosperous, it cannot make its full contribution to the social and economic life of this country and the world. We no longer want to be in the position of exporting as our main and only export the finest of our sons in Scotland and the finest of our skill; we want to develop those as fully as we can in order that Scotland be developed and may play her full part in the world. To be effective, however, in a mutually beneficial partnership—and this is the point on which we base our approaches to the Government—there must be equality of opportunity. On this all Scottish Members, whatever political motives may have been in the minds of our opponents, have been insistent. We demand equal opportunity even if this needs subvention, in order that Scotland shall get a good start and a square deal. However, it ill becomes hon. Members opposite to criticise the Government for that, because in Scotland we never had it. We confidently anticipate it now, but it is not by nagging and cavilling that hon. Members opposite will see that day develop in Scotland. It is by supporting and putting their trust in a Government which for the first time is tackling this job.
I make no apology for pleading the Scottish case on this Bill, and I offer no excuse for narrowing the Debate which has ranged widely over so many other aspects of the Bill. Every day I listen to hon. Members pleading the cause of their constituents by question and argument and that is regarded as laudable and praiseworthy; but when an hon. Member tries to plead the case of a wider range of constituents or a whole population, that is stigmatised as narrow provincialism—a phrase used only three or four days ago in this connection by an hon. Member opposite—or as extreme nationalism—a phrase used by the Lord President of the Council when replying to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). I am fortified in my resolve to put forward the Scottish case by the fact that the Scottish case is largely the British case. The Lord President of the Council has gone a long way to recognise this fact by the amount of treatment he gave to Scotland in the Debate today.
In order to understand why this question has become so vital to Scotland and has become a pivot of much agitation, I must ask the House to bear with me for a moment while I examine recent Scottish history. Nature has given some assets to my country, but not very many. Among those are a grandeur of scenery which is being assailed by hydro-electric schemes, many of which are designed to export hydro-electric power to England. Nature has also given to Scotland a fair belt of coal deposits, but we find that one of the most important of those fields is already being worked out. In consequence of this, large and grandiose plans for transferences of a large population, and for the concentration of the iron and steel industry, so dependent upon coal fields, have been put forward. We see these assets wasting. There is another natural asset which nature has given to my country—admirable shipping waters. This, coupled with a natural exploratory bent, which was emphasised in the speech of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan), has prompted Scotsmen to wander the world and establish an important shipping industry. Because manufacture follows transport as night follows day, there has been established in Scotland a most important shipbuilding industry.
So if shipping is, in fact, to be assailed by a new form of transport, is it not natural for my countrymen to look round and see how they are to replace this wasting asset, and what share they are to have in this new method of livelihood and new method of movement? Therefore, they cast their eyes round to see what justifiable claim they have to be in the forefront of this picture. They by chance fall upon yet another great natural asset, for in Prestwick we have an airport of the first magnitude. During four years of the stress of war, with all the claims made upon it during that time, it functioned brilliantly. It has proved itself to be the most fog-proof airport in the whole of Europe. Leaving that aside what do we find? We find that Prestwick lies astride the nearest geographical route from the North American continent to half of Europe. Is it surprising that we Scotsmen say to the Minister and the Government, "What right have you to chuck this overboard? Surely Prestwick has made out a prima facie case at least."
In that frame of mind a deputation of hon. Members from both sides of the House waited upon the Minister not many weeks ago. We were informed that the yardstick by which Scottish airfields and Scottish airlines would be judged was that of suitability and operational efficiency. Excellent. That is the yardstick we want. Let that be the criterion. We. ask for no subsidies, and the Minister can put them back into his pocket. All we ask is that the dice be not loaded against us. We are satisfied that with this natural airport, with its natural characteristics evidenced during the war, we can hold our own with Rineanna, Heathrow or anywhere else.
If we examine this question—and I ask the Government to get out their maps once again and see where Scotland lies in relation to other countries—we find that instead of Prestwick having been recognised ungrudgingly, we have to agitate and make nuisances of ourselves for weeks on end before we can drag from the Lord President recognition that we have any claim whatever. While in order to be made into a super airport, Prestwick requires the expenditure of £3 million, we find that £20 million is being spent in creating an airport of the first magnitude close to London, in the fog belt. We do not mind. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to waste the nation's money in this way. that is his affair. However, we ask to be allowed to compete, and to compete without any favour to either party.
It is not so much the travelling public of London for which Scotland claims to cater. We believe, and there is evidence to support this belief, that for every traveller from the North American continent who comes over to Europe and ends up in London, or wishes to descend in London, three or four go further afield. Since Prestwick lies astride the most direct route to Istanbul, Moscow, Paris, Stockholm, Amsterdam, by what stretch of imagination can the Government seek to bypass it?
But what do we find? Owing to the dilatoriness, delay and vacillation which for years have been the concomitant of this civil aviation question, Ireland, which has had its eye firmly fixed on its target, has stolen a march on us and literally had a flying start. We have the paradox of the Government accepting Ireland as the staging point for all aircraft flying to and from the London area and the continent to North America. Already that staging point is being used, and on-carrying services to Paris are in fact operating. Leave out this question of the London travelling public, leave out the advantage of the fog free airport, leave out the advantage of the favourable winds—winds of the Northerly route, which would in fact bring pilots flying from London who can make their own choice close to Prestwick anyhow—and examine the short hop route via Iceland and Greenland. Once again you are led to Scotland.
What does this Bill provide? It provides for three corporations, and today we have heard the Lord President of the Council elaborate a theme already offered by the Minister of Civil Aviation, namely, the establishment of a Scottish Division. Does that satisfy us? No, not in the least. I personally am against nationalisation. I think that all the evidence on nationalisation in competitive industries shows that it has always been a failure. But I recognise that that is not in fact the case we are arguing today. All we may say in that direction is so much beating the air; the Government are determined to use their majority in order to steamroller these Bills through Parliament, and therefore I do not want to develop my anti-nationalisation case any further at the present time. It has been done, abundantly and effectively, by my hon. Friends on this side.
But I do wish to refute the claim that nationalisation in these matters is flexible, efficient and speedy. What in fact has been the record? In October, 1945, the Noble Lord the Minister of Civil Aviation stated that he expected that the Tudor I would be in operation in a "very short time," but the Under-Secretary, in April of this year, blandly informed the House that he expects this aircraft will take the air in September, nearly a year later. Is that, in the Minister's imagination, a "very short time"? Perhaps it is, under the aegis of nationalisation. Then we find that at the same time, in October, 1945, we were promised that Prestwick would be designated officially as an airport. It took until April, 1946, for that to be given effect. No great manufacturing process, no great organisation was required to do that; it was a simple statement, which it took six months for the Government to produce.
Yes, that Government, sitting there. Promise follows upon promise without anything being done. Promises are not enough; men cannot live on menus.
Let me examine for a little the proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council today. He offers us a Scottish Division. What are to be the powers of this Division? We say that in fact these corporations are mere puppets of the Minister. If they have any doubts about that, I ask hon. Members opposite to read the Bill. They will find the words "the Minister may," "the Minister shall," "as the Minister will determine." They will find them twice in Clause I, twice in Clause 2, once in Clause 4, twice in Clause 5, once in Clause 6, and in Clause 7 there is a slight change of the, dramatis personæ, because the Treasury twice steps in. So the Minister gives place to his colleague, Nervo gives place to Knox. [Laughter.] Yes, but John Knox was a good Scot.
Since the Government are determined that nationalisation shall be steamrollered through, I believe that we in Scotland are slightly better off with a fourth Scottish corporation rather than a Scottish Division. We will be, at any rate, major puppets with the fourth Scottish corporation, and not mere dependants on puppets already created and owing allegiance to Whitehall. We ask for a Scottish corporation with full powers to look after Scottish airports, to develop Scottish airlines and to foster the manufacturing industry of aircraft in Scotland. We demand that it shall be given a large measure of financial control, and that there shall be no starvation in finance for this corporation, as compared with the other three in England.
The Minister has said that services which will depart from Prestwick will depend upon the demand of the traffic. What demand? Is it only a Scottish demand? We claim the right to be able to cater for all those passengers and traffic which intend to stage in this country. He says that this country has no right to North European—North American traffic. Why on earth has it not? If the aeroplanes of any nationality find it convenient to stage in Britain, are we not entitled to claim a share in that traffic? Have the Government got a mandate to throw geography overboard?
That is coming. We have seen Ireland profit by this situation. They are, in fact, already doing what we in Scotland asked to do, and we have seen Britain accepting the position of a junior partner in an Agreement which I must not discuss today, but which, I hope, will very soon come up for critical examination. We have put our signature to the most despicable international document seen for many years.
I wish to close by reading the unanimous resolution of a conference held in Edinburgh. I am astonished that hon. Members opposite who represent Scottish constituencies have been so easily gulled and so docilely satisfied with the chicken food of concessions given by the Lord President to them today. This is what was unanimously agreed not many weeks ago in Edinburgh, at a conference at which Members of Parliament of all shades of political opinion in this House, peers, local authorities, the Scottish Council of Industry, and others, were present. It was demanded that
The ownership, development, and management of Prestwick airport shall be vested in a Scottish public utility corporation; that the ownership and management of a Scottish airline system to operate in the United Kingdom and overseas be vested in a similar Scottish public utility corporation.
And those were minimum demands. I ask my Scottish confrères opposite to search their consciences to see if what they have had today squares with that resolution.
My countrymen are anxious and in angry mood. They feel they have been betrayed. Their eyes are settled on Ireland. There they have seen what a small, independent country that knows its own mind can do. That is a dangerous example for them to watch. I want to read to the House a few words from Article 4 of the Treaty of Union of the Parliaments, where it was provided that
From and after the Union all subjects of the United Kingdom shall have full freedom of intercourse, trade and navigation to and from any port or place within the United Kingdom and the Dominions and the foundations thereunto belonging.
How do the Government square that with this Bill? Is "betrayal" too strong a word?
I was very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, at the beginning of this Debate, fastened on what I consider the fundamental issue, namely, whether civil aviation should be socialised, or left to free enterprise. I have listened in an endeavour to find out what are the arguments against the socialisation of civil aviation. Members opposite have complained that this matter was not discussed by the nation, but that was their own fault, because they refused to discuss it when the opportunity was given by this party at the Election. Members opposite were more interested in creating bogies and running circuses. We have had several opportunities since that day to discuss this matter. But we find very few, if any, reasonable arguments adduced in favour of what is called free enterprise. Today, I do not think the Opposition know where they stand.
I have been trying to reconcile the conflicting statements made by Members opposite, in an endeavour to piece together that policy. We have had free enterprise advocated; we have been asked for larger subsidies; we have been told that the Government should make a law to maintain that state of order in which free enterprise can function; and a number of other things, but the case put by my right hon. Friend at the commencement of this Debate remains unanswered. I do not wish to add much to that argument, but I should like to say this. If we are to run civil aviation on a competitive basis, then we must expect a considerable amount of wastage. It is an historical fact that whilst competitive private enterprise can achieve certain results, in cheapness and efficiency, when it pays a profit, it is only as a result of enormous wastage of manpower, technical skill and capital. At no time can we afford that wastage, and today we can afford it less than ever. If we are to compete successfully against powerful corporations throughout the globe, we can do it only by being efficiently and not wastefully organised.
I do not believe that private enterprise will give us a cheap and adequate service unless it pays a profit. In other words, the measuring stick of private enterprise is profit, and not service for the people. If we are to get—and this is what Scotland wants, in spite of all the talk which we have heard from Members opposite—an adequate and efficient air-transport service in Scotland, we have to face the fact that a number of the services will be unremunerative. This has already happened in the case of the railways, and services are closed for that reason. I cannot see that private enterprise can give the people what they want, namely, a cheap, efficient and adequate service. [An HON. MEMBER: "And unremunerative."] The suggestion is that we must not continue an unremunerative service. Surely hon. Members opposite would not be satisfied if we discontinued many of our unremunerative postal services. If we are to have all that we want, we have to be prepared to face up to the fact that many of these services will be unremunerative, and these services can be paid for only on the basis of large-scale ownership.
That brings me to the needs of Scotland. The only mention of Scotland, apart from what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. MacMillan), has been in reference to Prestwick. Scotland wants something more than that from civil aviation. Scotland wants a fair share of the trans-Atlantic traffic; it wants to be linked up with the outside world; it wants an internal service, linking it with various places in England, and adequate to meet its own needs internally. Concerning its share of the trans-Atlantic services, we received assurances from the Minister last week for which we were thankful, inasmuch as they helped to reassure people concerning some aspects about which doubts had arisen.
Services are to be run internally to link up with Prestwick. Today we have had an assurance that "fifth freedom" rights were given to certain countries in North Western Europe; that is that passengers may be taken up or put down at Prestwick. I feel convinced that we cannot expect much more than that. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary this question, however; what proportion of the 14 weekly services scheduled across the Atlantic will fly either from or via Prestwick? I imagine that it should be possible to give that information for this year. Next year, 28 services are scheduled, and for the year after that, 28 services are scheduled. Can we have an indication of the proportion of those services that will fly via Prestwick? If we can get that information, it would help to allay much disquiet which is felt in Scotland over the matter. We want to be linked with the outside world.
I would say, in passing, concerning Prestwick that if we had had to choose an international terminal in 1938, it would not have been Prestwick. It would have been somewhere nearer to our large centres of population. I listened to the hon. Member opposite who has just spoken about what he wanted for Prestwick—£3 million, he said, had to be spent on Prestwick. Let us be quite frank: From where in Scotland is the £3 million to come to do what he wants done to Prestwick? We cannot get £250,000 to start an aircraft industry. There has never been an aircraft industry in Scotland, and that is not the fault of this Government—it is the fault of private enterprise; it is the fault of the Scottish capitalists. They have not had the initiative to start a Scottish aircraft industry, and it is only during the past three months that they have been prepared to come forward to guarantee any large sums of money to enable such an industry to be started.
I venture to submit that that is not a Scottish company. There is no indigenous industry in Scotland, and there never has been. That is undeniable. Scotland cannot get a quarter of a million pounds to start it. Prestwick is run by a company with £100,000 capital. Prestwick cost the people of this country £2 million, and now we have got to spend another £3 million according to one hon. Member opposite. Are we going to get it by the suggestions made from the other side of the House? It does not look like it. If I may continue my argument I would say that we want to be linked up with the outside world. I welcome the provision in the Anglo-French Agreement whereby provision is made for services from France to Glasgow and from France to Edinburgh. I want to see our centres of population linked up with the outside world, and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give me an assurance that that will be the policy followed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in regard to these two important industrial and commercial centres of Scotland. We need adequate airfields at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. Glasgow is the second largest city in the Empire, and huge businesses are concentrated in it. We want to see it linked up. I should like to ask what are the plans of the Ministry in connection with Renfrew, because it seems to me that Renfrew should become the second largest airport in this country, at least for internal services. What about Turnhouse and what about Edinburgh? We still have not got any service from Edinburgh to London. Anyone travelling from Edinburgh any night in the week and seeing the number who occupy first class sleepers and anyone travelling the same route during the day and observing the number of first-class passengers would agree that an air service is absolutely vital between Edinburgh and London. In addition to linking up these large centres of population we want subsidiary air centres in order to meet the needs of the Highlands and of the Islands.
It is well known that the Ministry of Civil Aviation is interested in flying boats, and I venture to suggest that there is a future for flying boats in Scotland in connection with the tourist traffic. I asked a question about that two or three months ago. Could the Parliamentary Secretary give us some indication as to what has been done? A suggestion has been made by one hon. Member opposite that what we need is a Scottish Corporation. Three corporations are provided under this Bill each representative of the whole of the United Kingdom and each responsible for services to one area of the world. What is being asked for by hon. Members opposite is a corporation to represent a smaller part of the United Kingdom. Upon it would devolve the duty of arranging services with the entire world which would probably lead to a certain conflict between the Scottish corporation, the B.O.A.C. and other corporations. The result of that, I am afraid, would not be beneficial to civil aviation in Scotland.
My time is up but I should like in conclusion to make this point. The Minister has promised us that we will have a body with powers to manage airfields in Scotland. We are to get a Scottish advisory committee to the Board with Scottish members on the board. We are also to have a Scottish Divison of the B.E.A.C. Certain powers were defined as its functions, but perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would be clearer about those powers. The phrase that was used earlier this afternoon was that the Scottish Division will be given a "generous delegation of management." What does that mean? Does it mean that the Scottish Division will be able to run its own in ternal services? I cannot see any reason why the Scottish Division could not do that. We want as large a delegation of powers as is possible within the B.E.A.C. Given that organisational set-up, there is no reason why Scotland should not play its full part in rendering cheap and efficient civil aviation service. For that reason, Members on this side of the House certainly cannot support the Opposition Amendment.
I, too, come from Scotland, and I represent a very large number of Scots who are deeply concerned about this Bill, and its effect upon Scotland. I have examined the Bill to see whether there was one iota of comfort which Scotland could get from it and the answer is definitely, "No." I looked to see whether Scotland was particularly mentioned in the Bill and I found, surprisingly, that it was mentioned once or twice. Here is the first mention that took my eye, and which will particularly interest Scottish Members here tonight:
This Act shall, in its application to Scotland …
The title of the Clause in which those words appear is, "Application to Scotland." I naturally took particular interest in how this Bill would benefit Scotland, and I would like to quote the words of the Bill, which, I hope, Scottish Members will bear in mind:
for any reference to an easement there shall be substituted a reference to a servitude.
They are on page 33 of the Bill, at the beginning of Clause 49. They caught my eye. It seems that Scottish Members opposite did not look at the Bill, otherwise they must have noticed those words. The third line of Clause 49 states:
for any reference to an easement there shall be substituted a reference to a servitude.
I think it is obvious what is meant. It is obvious to my constituents, indeed to anybody in Scotland who is deeply interested in this question, that Scotland will get no satisfaction whatever from this Bill. The only reference to Scotland shows that that will be so. I am amazed at my Scottish colleagues in the Socialist Party, and disgusted with them, too. So will be hundreds of thousands of other people in Scotland tomorrow. After all has been said, the work we have done together, all the resolutions which have been passed and all the agitation in Scotland on this subject, they have ratted, and run out. They have let Scotland down. Without a shadow of doubt that is what they have done, and that is what Scotland will know tomorrow.
I represent the largest constituency in Scotland, and the largest constituency represented by any Member of the House, and I speak for more Scottish people than any other Scottish Member. I know what people in Scotland will be thinking. Hon Members opposite representing Scottish constituences have put their Socialist doctrinaire fanaticism and the Party Whip before Scotland. They have sold Scotland and Scotland's birthright for a mess of Socialist pottage, and if pottage means pottage—soup—they have put Scotland in the soup by doing so. What does Scotland get? [An HON. MEMBER: "Soup."] Scottish Socialist Members, after all their talk in the past, are now prepared to say they are satisfied with the assurances that have been given. Those assurances are not worth the paper on which they are written. Not one of those assurances is in the Bill. The assurances have been given to Members of the Socialist Party to let them out easily. They have betrayed Scotland by accepting these assurances. They ought never to have accepted them. We on this side of the House, on behalf of the Scottish people, repudiate the assurances.
What, in fact, is Scotland to get from this Bill? A taxi service. By kind consent we are to be allowed a taxi service here and there in Scotland. "Thank you for nothing" say the Scottish people. Is that what the Socialist Party are satisfied with for Scotland? We are to get a taxi service, and not one iota of initiative or enterprise, except for a taxi service, are we to be allowed. Everybody knows that is true, and hon. Members opposite representing Scottish constituencies declare that they are satisfied that, after all Scotland's efforts, after all the heartburn, and after the unity that we used to have, Scotland should get a taxi service, and nothing more. What else do we get? We get a notice board in the middle of Prestwick airfield saying that it is an international airport. No doubt everybody will be delighted to look at the notice board, with its nice new paint, but it will mean nothing. Is that assurance worth anything? Prestwick is designated an international airport. We knew that before. We are to have a little bit more than a designation; we are to have a notice board. Sweden and Holland are to be told that if their aircraft like to land at Prestwick, no obstacles will be put in their way. But we have not the slightest guarantee, and no assurance worth anything, that Prestwick is to be developed up to the highest possible standard as a modern international airport. I have not the slightest doubt that Prestwick is to be the poor relation. Scottish Socialist Members have been fobbed off with a sop and nothing more, and they have swallowed the sop. What else are we to get in Scotland? A few Scotsmen are to be selected as honorary puppets of the State and are to be allowed to serve on various committees only in an advisory capacity. A few Scottish puppets are all we are to get from the point of view of the administration of this Bill.
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to know anything about puppets, let him go to Russia. They know all about puppets there. Now we begin to realise that those who for a long time have been pretending that they had the interests of Scotland at heart on this issue have sold Scotland down the garden, and when they are accused of doing so, they cannot take it. That is exactly what I would have expected of them. We have discovered now what Scotland has gained—these three pitiable bits of things with which, apparently, the Socialist Party are satisfied. I know what Scotland has lost and I will tell the House. She has lost her initiative and freedom to develop her air services as she hoped to do, as she longed to do, and as thousands of her young airmen, coming back from the wars, hoped to be able to help her to do. Her freedom and initative have been sacrified for a mess of Socialist pottage. She has not the slightest hope of being able to employ more than a small proportion, a mere fraction, of these many splendid young airmen who are longing to play their part in what to them is their life's work—aviation. Thousands of them want to spend their lives improving Scotland's civil aviation, but they have not the slightest hope under this Bill. Instead they will go abroad and find employment where initiative and enterprise are encouraged and not confined at every possible turn. In my opinion Scotland's hopes and aspirations are finally shattered by this Bill. It is a tragic day for Scotland that that should be so.
What does Scotland want? [Interruption.] You neither know nor care what Scotland wants. She wants a measure of autonomy and she has been clamouring for it. You who now laugh and mock have been trying to tell your constituents during the last Election and ever since that Scotland wants autonomy and now you have ratted—
Even in my wildest imagination, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I could not have intended those remarks for the Chair, but it is easy for me to see that they might have been so construed, and I apologise. They were, in fact, meant for those who have let us down, we who have been fighting the battle for Scotland, and they were intended to express my contempt for those who have thus betrayed Scottish interests. What Scotland wants, as I was trying to tell the House, and which I hoped Scottish Members, at least, on the other side of the House might have been interested in, is a measure of autonomy. At one time we were all united in asking for this but now only those on this side of the House want a measure of autonomy for Scottish civil aviation. No one on the other side of the House wants it. If that is not so I will sit down and allow some hon. Member to contradict me.
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say why hon. Members opposite never raise their voices in protest when Scottish concerns are absorbed by English concerns under private enterprise?
I am trying to go on with the question of what Scotland wants, which does not interest many hon. Members on the other side of the House very much. We want a measure of autonomy and freedom to employ our young airmen coming back from the wars, and opportunities for our initiative and enterprise and for our brains and energy in Scotland in connection with the development of our civil aviation. We do not look like getting it under any Clause in this Bill. I have endeavoured to put my case. I should not have been so long about it had it not been for the interruptions from those who know well that they have let Scotland down. Scotland will judge tomorrow the Socialist Members who have ratted on Scotland in this issue. Scotland has lost 90 per cent. of what she has been asking for owing to the betrayal of the Socialist Members for Scotland.
I am very delighted to hear such enthusiasm from all parts of the House for Prestwick airport, which happens to be in my constituency. I would like to assure the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd) that things are not quite so gloomy in Prestwick as he tried to make out. I will endeavour to prove that statement, not from the evidence of any Labour man or Socialist, but from statements made by people who are the arch-apostles of private enterprise in Scotland and the people who are largely behind all the opposition to the Bill and to the national ownership of civil aviation. If things are so gloomy and depressed,. why did it happen that, only a week ago, the people who are now telling us that Prestwick airport will be doomed under nationalisation were saying something very different through the solicitor or agent who appeared before the Ayr licensing board, the licensing magistrates who gave two licences to hotels at Prestwick because of the rosy future that was to be opened up? Hon. Members should hear the story in detail. We have heard nothing but a story of gloom and despondency about Prestwick. When the vested interests that seek to exploit Prestwick wish to get licences for their hotels there, they can say that Prestwick is to be the hub of the universe.
It was 18th April. Mr. Black, the agent, said that, since the beginning of the year, the hotel had been used to its utmost capacity and that even the building which had been used as overflow had been occupied to the extent of 50 to 80 per cent. of capacity.
Perhaps he had not seen the Bill, and perhaps he will now withdraw his demand for licences if he has seen the Bill. I am sure that the Ayr County Council would be pleased to take them over. Here is the newspaper report of what that prophet said:
'With the ever-increasing traffic which we expect to see there,' went on Mr. Black, 'there will be a great demand for catering provision. Scottish aviation have, during the war, been responsible for all the catering at the airport on behalf of the Air Ministry. Since the beginning of this month the airport has been taken over by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, but Scottish Aviation are still to be responsible for the catering arrangements. The licence at the two hotels was very necessary in order adequately to cater for the many guests of many nationalities who could be expected to arrive at the airport'.
That was the story that they tell to the air district magistrates when they want licences. My complaint against this Bill is that it does not go far enough. I want an assurance from the Minister who is to reply that when the airport is taken over the two hotels which are going to offer such lucrative profits to the people who apply for the licences and who did not believe in the future of Prestwick—
It is impossible to give the exact figures of lucrative profits because this private enterprise concern is so private that it does not even disclose its accounts. I suggest—
Well, if there were no anticipated profits there would have been no licences. I want to suggest that if the State and the Civil Aviation Bill are going to attract all this host of foreigners to Prestwick, the profits from the hotel should not go to private enterprise but to the State.
What is this private enterprise they talk about in Prestwick? Scottish Aviation Limited is, I presume, the company that would have had control of the airport if the Tories had secured a majority at the last Election. The Tories would have handed the airport back to private enterprise. What is this private enterprise? The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) has referred to the fact that this concern has £100,000 nominal capital. I would not say that originally the people who invested the money in this concern did not help in some way as pioneer enterprises in aviation in Scotland, but the £100,000 capital is now in the control of four individuals. They are going to get the profits from the hotels. The leading shareholder is a noble Lord, a Duke, who has 43,545 shares in this company. There is the brother with 30,045 shares. There is another one with 25,910 —[An HON. MEMBER: "Another brother? "]—Not another brother; this is Captain McIntyre. Then there is the solicitor who represents the law but not the "profits" because he is only a nominal shareholder of 500 shares.
Is it not the case that the four gentlemen whose names the hon. Member has mentioned, a year ago offered to the Scottish Council of Industry their undertaking at what they agreed to pay for it? Will he tell the House that is true?
I am quite aware that these revelations will not be received with enthusiasm by the supporters of private enterprise, but here is a state of affairs that this company, 73 per cent. of whose capital is owned by two noble Lords—(HON. MEMBERS "Why not?") I suggest that we should not hand over Prestwick to private enterprise and that the time has come when £2,500,000 or £3 million of State money is in Prestwick, that its future must depend entirely upon development by Government and public enterprise. There is absolutely no other way to make Prestwick a success than to make it publicly controlled and run in the interests of the nation. After all, it is not a couple of people whose enterprise made Prestwick. Prestwick was built during the blitz and the blackout by thousands of people during the war, and later on the hon. Gentleman who is to reply can tell us how much State control has invested in Prestwick. As trustees for the people who helped to build Prestwick, multitudes of unknown men, we say that it would be criminal for Prestwick to be handed over to private enterprise and for all our civil aviation in future to be handled by private enterprise.
After all, why should we be defeatist and say that the people who went in the bombers and the fighters cannot run civil airlines? We believe that the future of civil aviation will be safer under public enterprise than under private enterprise, which works for profit and exploitation, and we say that the great majority of public opinion in Scotland and throughout the country will welcome this Bill as a statesmanlike Bill, putting civil aviation on its feet in the interests of the country.
I do not propose to enter into the argument of the advantage or otherwise of private enterprise or State enterprise. It has been well thrashed out by more able persons than myself and by some who are not quite so able. [An HON. MEMBER: "Look behind you."] I am not looking in any particular direction at all, but quite seriously, it is no exaggeration to say that this Bill, combined with the Irish Agreement which we cannot discuss tonight, wipes Scottish civil aviation clean off the slate. There is no question about it. Even without the agreement there is a complete absence of any safeguard for Scotland in any of its Clauses, as has already been pointed out, but I think there is some danger in over-emphasising Prestwick as opposed to Scottish aviation as a whole. Prestwick has certainly had all the publicity, but Prestwick is only a part of the structure, a very important part admittedly, of Scottish civil aviation.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) on Wednesday last, according to HANSARD, said that satisfaction had been given by somebody upstairs to the Labour Members. Later on the same day the Lord President of the Council said they would see what they could do to assuage Scottish opinion. Today, I presume, we have had from the Lord President of the Council the assuaging process. If hon. Members opposite will accept what was said by the Lord President in the way of safeguards for Scotland, then they will accept anything. It literally means nothing more than has been said by the Parliamentary Secretary last Wednesday, or the Noble Lord the Minister, or the Lord President on many occasions. On those earlier occasions Socialist Members opposite were as opposed to what were called benefits as we were. The Minister admits that nothing more has been said upstairs than what was said before. What magic has happened since that they now swallow this and give no further thought to Scottish civil aviation?
Scottish rights have been mentioned in connection with the Treaty of Union. Under Article 4 it is laid down very clearly that we are entitled to free navigation and use of ports in the United Kingdom and all the rights and interests that go with them or may come in the future. That is a solemn treaty between two sovereign States, a thing which is very often forgotten. It is not just an ordinary Act of Parliament. I challenge the Government to say whether that Treaty of Union, in all its respects, including Article 4, is still in existence in their minds. I was brought up to believe that "An Englishman's word is his bond." I believe that of every Englishman in this House today, but I do not believe it at the moment of the Government collectively. It is perfectly clear that we are entitled to our rights of civil aviation under the Treaty. If they say the Treaty is still in force, then, legally, they are
bound to give us those rights. I would like to know from the Minister whether they are in force or not. One of the Scots Commissioners in 1707, when he signed, said:
There is the end of an auld sang.
That man, 200 years ago, spoke more truly than he realised. It is the end "of an old sang" and we are seeing it helped on by Scottish hon. Members opposite. I am afraid of the effects of central control in London. We have had that before and we know the results. I have been reading through the Debates of 1922 when the railway companies were amalgamated into four big companies. Great concern was expressed in both Houses of Parliament by Scottish Members as to what would happen to Scottish interests and industries in connection with the railways. We know the result has been that there is not one line of electric railway existing overland in Scotland today while every little station in Surrey and Sussex has been electrified—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—most of the lines have been electrified.
I am sorry, I have not much time. I have grave doubts about this central London control and I hope hon. Members will think over the matter again. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), for whose opinion I have great respect, although not for his politics, agrees with me on this. I have spoken to him about it before. I do not say this in any partisan spirit.
The Minister has told us there is going to be an advisory committee. We in Scotland know what that means. We have seen what happens in regard to advisory committees in the hydro-electric scheme. They are brushed aside as if they did not exist. Is there any safeguard against that happening in connection with civil aviation? I have grave doubts about that and about this central London control. If a Conservative or Coalition Government had put forward these proposals I would have said exactly the same thing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Question."] There is no question whatever about it.
To sum up, I would ask the Government: What has Scotland done that there should be this continual opposition to her just rights in this House? Has Southern Ireland's record in this war been so much better than Scotland's that she has to get all the plums? Practically everything that Scotland wants has been bartered away to that country. I will not discuss that because I am not allowed to do so, but I appeal to all Members of Scottish constituencies, sincerely and entirely apart from party politics, to stand together to demand that there shall be an end to this dishonest attitude towards Scotland's interests and Scotland's rights. The Lord President of the Council, for some strange reason, seems to have a bitter hostility against Scotland and Scottish interests, and public opinion in Scotland has noticed the fact. I am not saying that as personal to him, but to him as representing the Government. We want to see a change very quickly, but unless Scottish Members stand together to save Scottish civil aviation, and are reasonable about it, then indeed shall we see the "end of an old sang" in relation to the Treaty, and the end of a new "sang" before it has even been sung, that is, the end of civil aviation in Scotland today.
Unlike the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) I feel that I ought to apologise to the House for dealing with purely the Scottish angle, when the universe in which we live has shrunk to a microcosm as a result of the coming of the aeroplane. Yet there are hon. Members opposite—Scottish Members—who can do nothing today but talk the rankest parochialism. I apologise for talking so much about Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] Scotland is the country I know, it is the country I love. I can talk about Scotland with as much authority and as much knowledge as any hon. Gentleman opposite.
I have only one apology I would like to make tonight, and it is an apology for the point of view put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd). I assure this House of Englishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen and Irishmen, that the opinions he put forward do not represent the feelings of the Scottish people.
Scottish aviation has had to suffer from two handicaps. One is the attitude taken by the Scottish Tory Press, which has used every excuse to bolster up the claims of Prestwick beyond its very strong operational claims in a way which has appeared to represent the mentality of the Scots and used this as a stick with which to belabour the Socialist Government on behalf of purely vested interests in Scottish circles. Secondly, we have had, in the people controlling Prestwick, one of the biggest dangers to the development of Scottish aviation. If Scottish aviation, which up to this year had carried no passengers, carries as many passengers in the next five years as they have made speeches in the last six months, there will be no fear for the future of Scottish aviation. In spite of the sneers against Whitehall, we must remember that we have in Prestwick an aerodrome which was but a small private flying club when war broke out, with a small amount of capital invested in it, and it has now been built up to international proportions by Whitehall, by community effort and by public funds. It would be a shame if any Government in this country were to return such a magnificent aerodrome to private enterprise.
We in Scotland believe that Prestwick can stand on its own feet, and can build up for itself a share of Scottish traffic sufficient to justify its full development. I am not greatly concerned with the fact that a handful of Yankee millionaires may drop off at Prestwick with their golf clubs. I do not believe that the prosperity of Scotland will depend upon any such shuttle service. We are more intimately concerned with the development of our internal services. It means more to me that the steel workers or miners in Lanarkshire can get a cheap trip to see their friends in the Orkneys, Shetlands, Lewis or Caithness, or, if they have an odd "fiver," to North-Western Europe, to Oslo or Christiania, than that they can watch people landing at Prestwick in luxury liners the return fares on which it would be quite beyond their means to pay. We want our own body of opinion to run our Scottish aviation.
I do not want to see an entirely separate Scottish organisation trying to build up for itself a world trade against the competition of a stronger English corporation. We recognise that that is not wise, practicable or possible.
I cannot understand the new-born enthusiasm of Scottish Tory Members for Scottish nationalism. They have never been nationally minded, unless they could see a political advantage. They were not in the least Scottish-minded when they closed the Scottish shipyards, nor when they consented to the departure of many of the workers of Stewarts and Lloyds. They only become nationally minded when they begin to feel their political grip of Scotland weakening, and they hope that by whipping up a Scottish sentiment, they may regain the power they are losing. We in Scotland want Scottish aviation. First, we want internal Scottish aviation. I have had letters within the last week from the Western Isles and from Orkney. I have a relation in North Ronaldshay who cannot get to that island since the air service has been taken off, because of bad weather. We can do more for Scotland by making it possible for the people to move freely throughout Scotland by the new method of transport than by "muscling in" on the industry.
I urge the Government to push on with their Bill, to give us the best possible local service, and to ensure that that local service is manned by the young virile Scots who have fought and bled for Scotland, and not by the deadheads and capitalists who are trying to exploit sentiment to secure for private enterprise in Scotland an industry which they are incapable of creating and which, like other industries, they are incapable of perpetuating.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate today treated the House to one of those entertaining speeches which it has become the custom to receive from him—speeches which, for the greater part, are dissertations on matters generally applicable to Government policy and not particularly related to the Bill under discussion. In the course of his remarks, he asked a number of questions, to which he received very straightforward answers from the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), which left no doubt whatever where the Opposition stands in regard to this Bill, nor as to the policy which we would have pursued had we been returned to power. I cannot think that the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) could have been in the Chamber when that speech was made; if he was, he must have forgotten what the hon. Gentleman said.
In the course of his examination of inter-war aviation, I could not help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman was perhaps being wise after the event, that he had forgotten the state of development of civil aviation in this country, that the people of this country were not ready to accept that kind of transportation, and that there was no prospect whatever, except for special services and routes, of the service being carried on without loss. There were certain strategic services of an Empire nature which had to be fostered for strategic reasons, and, naturally, they were paid for, as they ought to have been, by the State. Now that aviation has come to be more generally accepted by the people of this country, and when the public are willing to use it, I think that, given an opportunity, free enterprise would operate successfully and in the public interest.
Of course, one would not expect civil aviation to provide its own airports. Harbours and port facilities were not provided by shipping interests, but by the seaports because of the benefit through the trade which would come to them. The same thing should surely apply to civil aviation. The right hon. Gentleman re- ferred to the much better conditions which the staffs were likely to receive under nationalisation. That has not been the experience of those in the public service generally. It has not been the experience of the Navy, Army, Air Force, nor yet of the Civil Service, as the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) frequently reminds the right hon. Gentleman. These people have always lagged behind people in the employment of private enterprise.
The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the three corporations were desirable so as to provide competition. I would ask him this question—Are we to have competition? When transport is nationalised, is there to be competition between rail and road? The right hon. Gentleman informed us of the better and brighter airports, but I would like to warn him to beware of what has happened in the past, and will undoubtedly again happen in the future, and to be careful not to promise too much. Then, I thought the right hon. Gentleman had a gibe at Scottish parochialism. Aviation is no more international than shipping. The control of Scottish shipping has always remained in Scotland. I wondered, during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, when he talked of freedom of management, whether, in fact, he had had time to read this Bill. We debated the White Paper on British Air Services last January. I am certain that the main impression which was left on the minds of the great majority of hon. Members was that, while the Minister would lay down the broad lines of policy, the corporations would be left with independence in management and operation.
In paragraph 6 of that White Paper the Government gave their reasons why they did not propose to entrust the operation of the service to any single agency. I would like to remind the House of what those reasons were. They were as follow:
The principal feature of this Bill is that while it gives powers with one hand, it immediately takes them away with the other. In Clause after Clause, powers are given to the corporations and then, in a subsequent Clause, the Minister is authorised to put a check on, or to put a complete stop to, the exercise of those powers. The corporations are given power to do anything which will facilitate the discharge of their functions, and then the Minister is given authority, by Order, to define the powers conferred. The corporations, in particular, are to have power to acquire, promote the formation of, or to lend money to similar undertakings. The Minister may, by Order, limit the extent of those powers as he thinks desirable.
It is the duty of the corporations to exercise their functions in accordance with directions given by the Minister who may, in particular, direct the corporations either to undertake or to discontinue any activity which they are empowered to carry on. Indeed, it is laid down that the main duty of the corporations is to comply with the directions of the Minister. The opening words of Clause 5 have no other meaning. There would appear to be little scope either for independence or for initiative. On the financial and operational side, one finds exactly the same thing happening. Each year the corporations must submit the programme of the services they mean to run, together with an estimate of their revenue and expenditure. The Minister may require these things to be modified. The corporations are charged with the duty of establishing a reserve fund, but they can only place to the credit of that fund such amounts and at such times as the Minister may direct. The fund, when created, must be managed and can only be applied to those purposes which the Minister directs. Where there is any excess of revenue over expenditure that, also, must be applied as the Minister directs.
I ask, in all seriousness, why this farce, why set up these corporations at all? Why not state the truth, namely, that the Government have decided that the operational control of civil aviation and the financial management of civil aviation shall be placed in the hands of the Minister? That is what the Bill does. I suppose it might be inconvenient for the Government to state that openly, for the Minister would be deprived of a smokescreen behind which he can hide when he so desires. The corporations provide nothing else than that. Certain I am that in future, when hon. Members of this House ask inconvenient questions, the Minister will make very good use of the cover which this Bill provides.
In the Debate on the White Paper I ventured to express the view that by reason of the manner in which these corporations were to be constituted they would show neither independence nor initiative, that they would do what they were told. Under the White Paper, although I did not believe they would exercise either independence or initiative, they at least had the opportunity of doing so. Under the Bill that opportunity is not afforded to them. In the White Paper the Government admitted the need for flexibility in the development of the new industry, but then immediately put it into a Civil Service straight jacket. There is no doubt whatever now that British civil aviation will be run by a Government Department. In accordance with all experience of the past and every precedent of the Civil Service, that will result in standardisation, which at the present stage of the development of this industry is the thing to be most feared.
During the Debate on the Navy Estimates a few weeks ago there were vigor- ous complaints from both sides of the House about the conditions under which men in His Majesty's ships and His Majesty's naval establishments ashore had to live. Those conditions are, to a very large extent, due to standardisation. Everything has to be in accordance with Admiralty pattern, a pattern which may have been fixed years before and has no connection whatever with modern conditions. However, no departure from that pattern is allowed; indeed, any suggestion that there should be such a departure is treated as revolutionary. I suggest the same thing will happen to civil aviation: controlled by a Government Department. My fear is that which was expressed by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), that we will be left behind in the race for better equipment, better airframes, better engines, better accommodation, better schedules and better operational aids.
The Government are going to force this Bill through the House tonight. I implore them to think again between now and the Committee stage; to modify the Bill so as to restrict the Minister's powers to laying down the broad lines of policy and to give the corporations independence to carry out their functions. If we are to compete successfully with other countries it is essential that our aviation should be provided with the most efficient machines procurable. The corporations are prohibited, unless express powers are granted, from manufacturing their own engines or their own airframes. That may be a very wise provision; but that barriers should be placed between them and the manufacturers is utterly intolerable. I understand that today four different Departments are interposed between the corporations and the manufacturers: the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production, which in this connection are really two Ministries, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and, last of all, the Treasury. Under these conditions what hope have users of obtaining the things they consider necessary?
It has been said that the Ministry of Aircraft Production must be allowed a say because, as the Lord President said, they have to think of this industry, unfortunately, in respect of war potential. Why is that any more necessary in regard to aircraft than in regard to shipping? I believe that argument can be carried too far. As in the case of ships and marine engines, I am certain experience will show that there is little connection between the requirements of fighting aircraft and those for commercial use. The design of both engine and airframe may be on the same priniciple, but there the similarity will end. That has been the experience so far as shipping is concerned, and I cannot see why it should not also be the experience in regard to aircraft. If I am correct, the sooner the Ministry of Aircraft Production is removed altogether from the field of civil aviation the better for the prospects of our civil aviation.
I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman who is to reply whether the Government are satisfied that those who are the responsible heads of the three corporations agree that the policy in regard to meeting their requirements for aircraft is satisfactory. Are they satisfied that under this procedure they can obtain the aircraft necessary for their purposes? There is another aspect to this matter. How long will this country be able to maintain an efficient and progressive industry when all the orders come from one source and are required to pass through the same sieve? Will that not lead to the Ministry of Aircraft Production laying down the detailed specifications and the industry becoming merely manufacturers to order? Will it not lead to the drying up of the initiative of the industry? Will it not lead to our obtaining only stereotyped engines and airframes? That is what happens where the Admiralty is concerned. The Admiralty, the shipbuilders and marine engineers are only kept up to date because they are called upon to meet the requirements of a great variety of users. If is essential that there should be direct touch between the users and the manufacturers, if the users are to obtain the machines they require, and if the industry is to remain progressive.
I would like to say a word about accounts. They must be fully detailed, they must show separately the revenue which is earned by the corporations in their commercial operations and the revenue which is earned from Government contracts, whether by the carriage of mails or otherwise, and also what comes to them by way of Government grant. There must be no concealed subsidies, and the public must have made available to them all the information which is necessary to enable them to judge the efficiency of the corporations.
This Bill establishes three corporations. The White Paper, in paragraph 7, envisages that a greater number may ultimately be required. The Bill, so far as I can see, makes no provision for meeting that contingency. I am of opinion that if this Bill is to be amended so as to allow independence to the corporations, a further corporation may well be desirable. British European Airways Corporation covers too wide a field, and as a result of a natural desire on the part of the corporation to increase and perfect its foreign services, the domestic services in this country may well suffer. What would be more natural than that, in the eyes of the corporation, its services between London and other European capitals should loom larger than those between, say, Glasgow and the Hebrides? I suggest therefore that a separate corporation for our internal services should be set up, and that that might go some way towards a solution of the Scottish problem.
During this Debate, Scottish aspirations have been enunciated from both sides of the House. When we consider the history of Scotland and the independent character of her people, I do not think it will be found that the case made by the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Guy Lloyd) was in any way overstated. The Scottish people are airminded, they have great engineering traditions, they are pioneers in many directions, and they do not like being excluded from this new industry and from this new service. But that is the position which they are called upon to occupy in this Bill. Neither Clause 3 nor the undertaking which we have received today is adequate to assuage Scottish feelings. The Government, no doubt, claim that they have a mandate to nationalise civil aviation. I will not examine that claim at this time, but the people of Scotland must accept their share of responsibility for the return of this Government and of the consequences which flow from it. While they must accept the situation, if the Government want to retain any element of support from Scotland, they will have to see that something is done. They will have to see that Scotland has an opportunity of managing at least her own internal airways and aerodromes, and of exercising a real measure of control over all the air services which visit that country. I suggest that that can only be done, as was indeed suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison), by setting up an independent Scottish Corporation.
The Amendment which was moved so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford is couched in very modest terms. For not only does this Bill arrest the development of civil aviation, but the policy which has hitherto been adopted by the Government has already held up that development. When the Government came into power they found, prepared and ready for them, complete plans for the organisation of civil aviation, worked out in detail with those experienced in the operation of commercial aircraft and with all those other interests which have to be coordinated with civil aviation, the steamship companies, the railway companies and the travel agencies. Those plans could have been put into operation last autumn, to the great advantage of our country and to the convenience of many of our people. They gave freedom to managements, they gave —[An HON. MEMBER: "Where was Scotland then?"]—Scotland was doing very well under the promise received from the last Government, which was overturned by the present Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was it?"] We had a direct promise that Prestwick was to be an international airport, that any service could be run from Prestwick within the country of Scotland, and further, that Scotland could run services between that country and Scandinavia. That was the promise given by the last Government.
As I was saying, those plans gave freedom to the corporations. They gave them free enterprise varying degrees of responsibility, so that evidence could be obtained and comparisons made as to the relative efficiency of the various systems. Those plans also retained a measure of Government control sufficient to ensure the safeguarding of the public interest, so far as both the individual citizen and the nation were concerned. Purely from political motives, because these plans do not provide for complete nationalisation, with no consideration whatsoever for the necessity of trying out different systems, with no concern for real efficiency, at a time when world conditions call for our civil aviation to be put into operation without delay, the Government threw these plans aside and demonstrated afresh that irresponsibility and lack of concern for the real national interest which have become increasingly obvious since the day they first assumed office. The Government, on political grounds, have already held up the development of civil aviation, and placed a handicap upon it which may well have disastrous results. Now we have this Bill which increases the injury already done, which brings in rigidity where there ought to be flexibility, which banishes experience, which denies an operation to other transport undertakings, which gives no adequate protection to the travelling public, which involves the taxpayers in far greater obligations than are necessary, and gives no opportunity whatever, either to enterprise or initiative. In the interests of the future of British civil aviation, in the national interest, we on this side of the House will oppose the Second Reading of a Bill which does nothing to assist, but which hinders the development of this new and vital British interest.
On a point of Order. This afternoon, Mr. Speaker, you put a Motion to the House that we should suspend the Rule for today. May I assume that it was your intention that advantage should be taken by the House of that Motion, and that there should be opportunity for more Members to take part in the Debate than is possible on a normal day? If so, is not the purpose of the Motion lost, by bringing the Debate to a close now?
I think I can answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman straight away. It is for me to be the judge when I think the Debate has gone far enough and to accept the Closure. I have heard most of it. I will not say what I am going to do, because it is up to me, surely, to judge. It is not for hon. Members who want to speak to rise and say they want to speak. It is for me to say when I think the Debate has continued long enough, if the Closure has been moved.
May I say, Mr. Speaker, that you have entirely misunderstood my remarks? I was casting no reflection on your judgment, or on your right to terminate a Debate. All I wanted to ask was why the right hon. Gentleman opposite should move a Motion to suspend the Rule, and yet not give the opportunity for one more speech than can be made on a normal day.
If I may respectfully say so, Mr. Speaker, I entirely agree with what you have said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I repeat that I respectfully agree with what you, Mr. Speaker, have said. But I am entitled to draw attention to the fact that there were conversations through the usual channels on this matter. An agreement, a perfectly honourable agreement, was reached. I enunciated it at the end of Question time and it is within the recollection of the House. I only wish to add that if we are to have conversations through the usual channels, it is desirable that they should be upheld.
Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you would be good enough to give the House a Ruling? The Rule has been suspended today. It may or may not be, that you will think the Debate has gone on long enough; but, surely, the only way the Debate can now come to an end, is by no hon. Member rising to continue it, or by the Government moving the Closure?
If a Motion for the Closure is moved, and if I accept it, it is for the House to decide by a sufficient majority whether the Debate is to come to an end. It is my responsibility to see that every minority has an adequate hearing, and if, in my judgment, it has not, it is for me to refuse to accept a Motion for the Closure.
Seldom have I known the Conservatives bathed in such inspissated gloom as they have been this afternoon and evening. No doubt they expected the nationalisation of the Bank of England and of the coal industry, but it obviously came to them as a great surprise—though I do not know why—that civil aviation should be brought into public ownership and control. Hardly a ray of cheerfulness has broken through the discourses of hon. Members opposite. I should like to point out to them that, in the words of Mr. Asquith, there is a great deal of ruin in a great Empire. This old country is far from being played out because the Conservatives have lost the General Election. It is not so long ago that this country won the air-speed record. Week after week, I see new services being opened up to all parts of the world. It is true that there are some matters which give anxiety to the Government. My chief anxiety concerns the supply of aircraft, but that is something which has been left in private hands. Even there, I would point out that British engines are in a state of development which is far ahead of anything else in the world, and that the designs for airframes are also in a state which augurs well for the future. Therefore, I say to hon. Members opposite, "Cheer up. Although we are proposing to nationalise civil aviation, the end is not yet." I am glad to see that, for the first time this evening, I have succeeded in arousing the Opposition to an appreciation of our true position.
I think it will be convenient if I deal first with as many as possible of the detailed points which have been raised in the Debate, then say a few words about the Scottish question, and finally turn to the Amendment. [AN HON. MEMBER: "How about the Bill?"] Unless the remarks of hon. Members opposite were entirely irrelevant to the Bill, I shall deal with it too. Let me deal first with the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). He was challenged by my right hon. Friend the Lord President to say what policy he wanted, and it became clear from his speech that he wanted us to revert to the Swinton plan. That is more than Lord Swinton himself would do, for he has abandoned the plan in favour of unrestricted private enterprise. I always thought that Casabianca should be regarded either as a hero or as a fool—I have never been sure which—but I have no doubt about the Casabianca who swims back to the burning ship. The hon. Gentleman felt alarmed by the statement that we had in our international negotiations offered certain "fifth freedom" rights at Prestwick to foreign operators in order to encourage them to come to Prestwick. It is a subject on which there will be opportunities for debate later. I can assure him that the "fifth freedom" rights offered are within the framework of the principles accepted at the Bermuda Conference, which will perhaps give an indication of what they are. He referred to the staff of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and appeared to think that a staff of 21,000 was very large. The largeness of the staff is in relation to the work it has to do, and the B.O.A.C. will come very well out of the test, as he accepted my figure that the B.O.A.C. is now operating 195 aircraft. I think that that works out at about 100 persons for every aircraft. In the United States, which is so often held up to us as an example, the number of persons employed for every aircraft by the international carriers was 176 in 1942, the latest year for which definite figures are available. But there are good indications that the present number is in the neighbourhood of 200 persons for every aircraft used. It will be seen, therefore, that the number of persons employed by the B.O.A.C. compares favourably with the figures of the American international carriers.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford, like the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), asked for a closer association of manufacturers and users. This is highly desirable, but it already exists. It is the fact that the operators are brought into the closest consultation, from the outset, about the design of aircraft; and at every stage in manufacture, a representative of the operators goes to the manufacturers and sees aircraft under construction. I thought I ought to mention this point, as hon. Gentlemen opposite did not seem to know it. The hon. and gallant Member who wound up for the Opposition did not seem to know that the Ministry of Aircraft Production had ceased to exist on 31st March. It is the fact that the operators are brought into the closest touch with the manufacturers. I was asked by the hon. and gallant Gentleman also if I could give some details about the aircraft of civil types so far as they are relevant to this Bill; and the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) also asked for that information. But I am not certain that it would be very relevant to this Debate; so I content myself with saying that we are now at the point where a number of aircraft are going through the last stages of their development trials, and will shortly be going into production. Some of them have received provisional certificates of airworthiness, and will shortly be coming off the production lines. I am glad that the hon. Member for Eye emphasised the importance of scientific research, because it is something which has always held a high place in my noble Friend's plans. The hon. Member also asked us to concentrate in particular on jet propulsion for civil aircraft, especially for the Atlantic route. I can assure him that we have done that from the outset, and this is something in which we can take great satisfaction, for the aircraft which are to be jet propelled look like being very good indeed. There are jet propelled aircraft for the Atlantic now being designed, and although I cannot give the date when they will be flying the Atlantic, as the hon. Gentleman asked—because it would only be very tentative at present—there is no doubt that we have a distinct lead in this field over American manufacturers.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) dealt at some length with his proposal for an air transport board. I listened carefully to his argument because I think he said a great deal which was sound and wise, and I assure him that full attention will be paid to his speech. I can, however, see certain difficulties about his proposal for an air transport board to supervise the three operating corporations. It would, in fact, be a super-corporation to run the other three, and would in effect nullify the Government's policy. If we are to have a single corporation, we would rather have a straightforward one—a corporation with several divisions inside it. That is the main objection to my hon. Friend's proposal for an air transport board of the character that he indicated. It would in effect undermine the whole policy of the Government which we have deliberately adopted. He also asked if we would follow precedents in having a board of full-time directors on a functional basis. Well, there is a lot of room for experiment in the public corporations, but what may be appropriate for a long-established industry with an established technique, may be inappropriate for a new industry like civil aviation. I believe the part-time director can contribute something very valuable to the boards of our air line corporations.
The hon. and gallant Member for Stone (Major Fraser) ought not to be taken too seriously, because apparently up to a certain point in his speech he hardly expected to be taken seriously. He announced that he had not been speaking seriously up to that moment, but he then put one serious point. He asked us to model ourselves on the Civil Aeronautics Board of the United States. That organisation has much to commend it, but it is appropriate to a system of competing private enterprise which needs a regulatory body. Such a board, I think it will be agreed, would not be appropriate to this country where we have adopted a different policy.
The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) also dealt with the question of the boards of the corporations. To my mind the hon. Member spoiled an otherwise very good speech by his attacks upon the persons who have been nominated to these boards. The power of making appointments is seldom one that gives much satisfaction to those who have to use it. I believe it was Talleyrand who said that every act of patronage made 99 enemies and one ungrateful man. There will always be a dispute about whether or not someone better could have been given these appointments. I myself think that they are exceedingly good appointments. There is only one test by which to judge and that is results. As I shall show, and as will be shown still more fully in the months that lie ahead, these people are getting good results. We are urged by my hon. Friend and by other hon. Members to get keen young men, especially those who have come up from the lower ranks of the industry. My hon. Friend is only too anxious to find such men, and will welcome assistance in so doing.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) put two questions to me. He invited my attention to a comparison between the price of the American Constellation aircraft per pound of all-up weight, compared with that of the British Solent flying boats. Such a comparison is not really fair, because he is comparing a land plane with a flying boat. I am afraid that the figure of £1 per pound of all-up weight which used to be accepted before the war has long since become out of date, and whether we like it or not we have to reconcile ourselves to higher figures. I think, therefore, that his comparisons are fallacious. He also asked me a question about powers of purchase of land for aerodromes. I am glad that he mentioned this, and he seems to be the only Member who did so. When I read the Conservative Amendment I noticed it dealt only with Part I of the Bill. I tried to reconstruct the scene and I felt that lunch must have supervened when the drafters came to the end of Part I and that they never got to Part II at all. The hon. Member for Newbury has repaired the omission. I think, however, he is under a misapprehension, and if any other hon. Members think as he does on the matter I am glad to clear it up. We have no great programme to build new aerodromes up and down the country. There are between 600 and 700 aerodromes in this country already. Unfortunately, not all of them are in the right places for civil aviation, but we shall do our best to use these aerodromes whenever we can. In the case of the new London Airport we had to build, but apart from that instance, it is extremely unlikely that we shall have to build new aerodromes in any other part of the country. The figure of £20 million mentioned in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum relates not only to new land that is bought, but to land which will need to be acquired at existing aerodromes under the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act.
The hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Major Macpherson) asked me for a further explanation of Clause 14, which refers to associate companies. I can do it by example. The Anglo-Irish Company which has just been formed, and which we may be discussing at a later date, is an example of such an associate company. Tasman Airways, which operates between Australia and New Zealand, is another associate company of B.O.A.C., and so is the recently formed company for operating the Pacific Services, formed by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member for Acock's Green (Mr. Usborne) is very zealous to see the internationalisation of aviation. The Government need no prodding in this matter. It has fallen to me to be charged with a number of international negotiations on behalf of His Majesty's Government. I have always done my best in those negotiations to make that point perfectly clear. We welcome what the hon. Member said. I think he will accept what I say when I give him the answer that we are willing to go as far as Australia and New Zealand went in their agreement of 1944 He also raised questions about full-time directors of the Board, a matter to which I have already referred.
The hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) dealt with the need to use the skill of the workers in these industries. We have made certain provisions in the Bill to enable us to safeguard the interests of the workers. We recognise the point of view which he put. We shall do our best to see that the skill of those working in the corporations is fully utilised, and that they have the opportunity of reaching the highest positions. I do not know what corresponds to a field-marshal's baton in this business, but we want it to be in whatever corresponds to a knapsack. The hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) put a number of questions which I can deal with fully only on the Committee stage of the Bill. I will say to him now that the point about compensation is one which I shall be prepared to consider very carefully between now and the Committee stage. He asked whether we could not have compulsory power to substitute new rights of way where old ones were taken away. We shall consider sympathetically the view he put forward. In a large area, such as the London Airport, there may be no other road which can serve the purpose, and compulsory powers might not be desirable or necessary for the purpose. As to the point of detail in regard to accidents that subject is not dealt with in the Bill, except in so far as it is mentioned in connection with the appointment of special constables. It is dealt with in the Air Navigation Act of 1936, and the regulations made thereunder.
Mr. Ivor Thomas:
They may be called upon to deal with accidents. It is my noble Friend's policy to give immediately full details about accidents. He desires to see the fullest publicity in these matters. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), who wound up the Debate for the Opposition, devoted his remarks mainly to the Amendment. I shall be dealing with it in a moment. He also put a few questions. He asked that the accounts should be fully detailed. I can assure him that that will be done. They will be presented to the House, and they must not be judged by the accounts which, necessarily, had to be presented in wartime for secrecy reasons He suggested that a new corporation might be needed for running internal services in the United Kingdom, as distinct from the continental services. The hon. and gallant Member is an old naval man, and I suspect that something of the naval atmosphere still hangs over him, because this seems to me to be reminiscent of ships, and not of aircraft. Ships are forced to stop at the coast; aircraft ignore the coast and travel on. I find it just as easy to fly to Paris as I do to my constituency.
I would like to say a few words here on the Scottish question. It would not have been necessary perhaps to do so if it had not been for the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd). I thought until he spoke that the House was well satisfied with the statement made by my right hon. Friend [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] This is a subject about which I might be justified in feeling a certain amount of resentment, for a campaign, not always too scrupulous, has been conducted against the Government. I think the Conservatives are very angry tonight because they see the failure of a political stunt. They had hoped that by means of Prestwick, they could have rent the Labour Party, but my hon. Friends who sit for Scottish constituencies are far too canny for that. But I do not feel any resentment, for several reasons. I myself come from a very small oppressed nation. Possibly the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew does the same; he seems to have a good Welsh name. I can appreciate what Scotland feels. Even more, 1 know what is behind the people who have felt apprephension on this subject and have not thought of it as a political stunt. I know Scotland is very anxious lest she should again fall into the condition in which she fell between the two wars; she wants to ensure that in this new age she gets all the ancillaries necessary for a thriving industry. One of these is civil aviation. The Government are determined that Scotland shall not fall into the condition in which she fell between the two wars and that she shall have her due share in civil aviation. I need not repeat the assurances so carefully given by my right hon. Friend.
Now let me deal with the question of whether it would be desirable or not to have a separate operating corporation for Scotland. I am convinced that it would not be in the interests of Scotland, for two reasons: Firstly, there is a purely operational reason. In these days of high aircraft costs there is only one way of making an airline pay, and that is by high utilisation. A Scottish corporation would necessarily have a very small fleet of aircraft. Possibly 20 would be enough to run its services. They could not possibly be effectively utilised. With a corporation running all the European services it will be possible to get a high degree of utilisation from which Scotland will benefit along with other parts of the United Kingdom. That is the operational argument. The other argument is the political one, that we must work for a greater integration of the civil air forces of the world, not for splitting up our existing air forces. We should he working for something larger. How can I go to other countries, as I have had to do, and tell them "We want to see an international owning and operating authority," if I have to say, at the same time, "But you must leave Scotland out of it"? I hope that that argument will be found convincing.
I have not much time left, but I would like to say a few words about the Conservative Amendment. It states that the Bill
arrests the development of the new industry of civil aviation by confining all passenger and freight services, present or future, to Government monopoly corporations;
I am bound to say that that comes ill from representatives of a Party whose administration was condemned in the Cadman Report as Government activities have seldom been condemned in a public report. When they say that the Bill "arrests the development of civil avia-
tion," are the Opposition unaware of what is happening? Let me take some figures which will show what we are doing. Let me first take the smallest corporation, that is, British-South American Airways, which has just been started. Although for a long time it had to use an aerodrome that was far from complete, although it had to maintain its aircraft in the open air, it has been running a regular service to South America, and has already flown 2,700,000 passenger miles. Let me take the British European Airways division of B.O.A.C. Since 4th February it has opened up not less than 69 services a week to Europe. In April it flew a mileage of 247,000. The regularity of its services, that is to say, the percentage completed as against scheduled flights, was 98.8. Does that look like arrested development? Take British Overseas Airways Corporation, the parent corporation. It now operates 96 services a week over more than 66,000 miles of routes. That must be my answer to the charge of arrested development.
We are accused of refusing partnership to experienced aviation and transport undertakings. There is only one thing we have refused, that is, their money. We have not declined their experience. In fact, we know we can have the benefit of that experience on an ordinary commercial basis. I am happy to say that transport undertakings, both railway and shipping, have shown a great deal more public spirit than has been shown by some hon. Members opposite. The Amendment proceeds to say that the Bill
vests all real control of operation and finance in the Minister.
This is a subject that could be debated at some length. There is no conflict between the White Paper and the Bill in this respect. The White Paper laid down a policy which remains the policy. It is my Noble Friend's policy that the corporations shall have independence of management. He wants them to have it. He knows that they cannot do their job properly without it. I believe they accept his assurances. But it is essential, in a Parliamentary democracy, that there should be these reserve powers for the Minister in his dealings with public corporations. If they did not exist, these corporations would be even less responsible than private enterprise. Private enterprise is, at least, responsible to its shareholders, but there would be no share holders having an equity in these corporations. The powers are there, but they are in reserve and will be kept in reserve. I think hon. Gentlemen misunderstand the way in which they will be applied. My Noble Friend will issue directions only after consultation with the chairmen of the corporations. If I may so express it, these things will be done on an "old boy" basis. My Noble Friend and Lord Knollys do not normally put on their coronets to address each other. These powers must be there in reserve.
I will give some practical illustrations, which should I think convince everybody of the necessity for such powers. Hon. Gentlemen desire that the Minister should have power to direct a service through Prestwick. How could he possibly do that unless powers were given him in this Bill to enable him to do it? It may be desirable that he should direct the corporations to use British aircraft: if that is so he must have the power in the Bill to do it. It may be desirable to lay down upper limits for the salaries of executives: he must have power in the Bill to do it. I could multiply these illustrations. They would be far too numerous to be specified in the Bill. Therefore, it is necessary to have the powers of control in reserve. Before leaving this subject, I should like to quote from the report of the Machinery of Government Committee of 1918, over which Lord Haldane presided. They said:
We think that where a board is set up without explicit statutory provision for a Minister responsible to Parliament for its work the position is obviously unsatisfactory. We feel all such proposals should be most carefully scrutinised. There should be no omission, in the case of any particular service, of those safeguards which Ministerial responsibility alone provides.
Things have come to a pretty pass when hon. Members opposite wish to do away with the rights of Parliament, and it is left for Ministers of the Crown to stand up at this Box for the right of private Members to question Ministers on any subject.
My time is drawing to an end. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I must not abuse the courtesy of the House. I could wish that the Opposition would subordinate their doctrinaire predilections for private enterprise, and give a united support from the House of Commons to the Government's plans for a new industry so vital to the wellbeing of a trading nation. If this is
not to be so, it will not be simply a case of one more vote for or against the Government. The vote which we shall take tonight is symbolic of the passing of an age. We are living in a period of transition which is not less revolutionary than the Renaissance. In this period of rapid change, the aeroplane is playing the same role as the caravels of Columbus and Vasgo da Gama played in opening new horizons to mankind and expanding the bounds of our knowledge. The comparison could be pursued into details. Radar is playing the same part as the lodestar played in those days; the Portuguese and Spanish navigators, who found new worlds beyond the ocean, have found kindred spirits in those British pilots who are today bringing those same lands within a day's flight of the homeland; the men who steered their barques over the curved ocean, despite their dread that they must eventually fall off, have found true descendants in those pilots who are preparing to assail the mysterious barrier that limits the speed of sound, in the hope that they will burst into an
… ampler ether, a diviner air, And fields invested with purpureal gleams.
comparison is not limited to the physical. The Renaissance is significant in the history of mankind because physical discoveries were allied to a new and revolutionary economic principle. Though it is hard for us to realise it today, private enterprise based on the free movement of interest-bearing capital was then a new
|Division No. 138.||AYES.||11.13 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Blackburn, A. R.||Collindridge, F.|
|Adams, W T. (Hammersmith, South)||Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Collins, V. J.|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L||Bottomley, A. G.||Colman, Miss G. M.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Comyns, Dr. L.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Corlett, Dr. J.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Cove, W. G|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Brown, George (Belper)||Crawley, Flt.-Lieut. A.|
|Awbery, S S.||Brown, T J. (Ince)||Crossman, R. H S.|
|Ayles, W H.||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Cunningham, P|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Burden, T. W.||Daggar, G.|
|Baird, Capt. J||Burke, W. A.||Daines, P.|
|Balfour, A.||Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Byers, Lt.-Co! F||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Callaghan, James||Davies, Edward (Burslem)|
|Barton, C.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)|
|Battley, J. R.||Champion, A J.||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Chater, D.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Belcher, J. W.||Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Deer, G.|
|Bellenger, F. J||Clitherow, Dr. R.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Benson, G||Cluse, W. S.||Delargy, Captain H. J.|
|Berry, H.||Cobb, F. A.||Diamond, J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Cocks, F. S.||Dobbie, W.|
|Bing, Capt. G. H. C.||Coldrick, W||Donovan, T.|
|Binn||Collick, P||Douglas, F. C. R.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Shawcross, Sir H (St. Helens)|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lindgren, G. S||Shinwell, Rt Hon. E.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Lindsay, K M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Shurmer, P.|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lyne, A. W.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||McAdam, W.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||McEntee, V. La T.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Mack, J. D.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Ewart, R.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Fairhurst, F||McLeavy, F.||Smith. T. (Normanton)|
|Farthing, W. J.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Follick, M.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Soskice. Maj. Sir F|
|Foot, M. M.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Foster, W. (Wigan)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Stamford, W|
|Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Steele, T.|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Marquand, H. A.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Gaitskell, H. T. N||Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Strachey, J.|
|Gallacher, W.||Mayhew, C. P||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth)|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S||Messer, F||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Gibbins, J.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Gibson, C W.||Mikardo, Ian,||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Gilzean, A.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.||Swingler, Capt. S.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Montague, F.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Moody, A. S.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Morley, R.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Grey, C. F.||Moyle, A.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Grierson, E.||Mulvey, A.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Naylor, T. E.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Thurtle, E.|
|Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Timmons, J.|
|Gunter, Capt. R. J.||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E (Brentford)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Guy, W. H.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Tolley, L.|
|Hale, Leslie||O'Brien, T.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)||Oldfield, W. H.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Oliver, G. H.||Usborne, Henry|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Orbach, M.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Paget, R. T.||Viant, S P.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Walkden, E.|
|Harrison, J.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Walker, G. H.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Pargiter, G. A.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Parker, J||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Weitzman, D.|
|Hicks, G||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Holman, P.||Perrins, W.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Holmes, H E. (Hemsworth)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Horabin, T. L.||Poole, Maj. Cecil (Lichfield)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|House, G.||Popplewell, E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hoy, J.||Porter, E (Warrington)||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Pritt, D. N.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Proctor, W. T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Ranger, J.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Irving, W. J.||Rankin, J.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reeves, J.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Janner, B.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Rhodes, H.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Willis, E.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Robens, A.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Keenan, W.||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. Emrys (Merioneth)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J|
|Kenyon, C.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Wilson, J. H.|
|King, E. M.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Kinghorn Sqn.-Ldr. E||Rogers, G H. R.||Woodburn, A.|
|Kinley, J||Royle, C.||Woods, G. S.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Sargood, R.||Yates, V. F.|
|Lang, G.||Scollan, T.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Scott-Elliot, W.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Segal, Dr. S.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E A. A.|
|Lever, Fl. Off. N. H.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Levy, B W.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Hare, Lieut.-Col. Hn. J. H. (W'db'ge)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir I[...]|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harvey, Air-Comdre A. V.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S (Cirencester)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Head, Brig. A. H.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir O||Noble, Comdr A. H. P|
|Boothby, R.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Bossom, A. C||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peake, Rt Hon O|
|Bower, N||Hogg, Hon. Q||Pickthorn, K|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley||Poole, O. B. S (Oswestry)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Hope. Lord J||Prescott, Stanley|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Howard, Hon. A.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P G. T.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J||Ramsay, Maj. S|
|Bullock, Capt. M||Hurd, A||Rayner, Brig. R|
|Carson, E.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W S.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Ropner, Col L|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.||Ross, Sir R.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Keeling, E. H.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lancaster Col. G.||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T||Smith. E. P (Ashford)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt Hon. H. F. C.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Snadd[...]n, W. M|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Linstead, H. N||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Strauss, H. G (Com. Eng. Univ'sities)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Lloyd, Selwyn||Stuart, Rt Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Digby, Maj. S. W.||Low, Brig A. R. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Teeling, William|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr P. W.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Drewe, C.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Macdonald, Capt. Sir P (I. of Wight)||Vane, W. M. T.|
|Eccles, D M.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Wakefield, Sir W. W|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||MacLeod, Capt. J.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Maitland Comdr. J. W.||Williams, C (Torquay)|
|Foster, J G (Northwich)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Willink, Rt Hon H. U.|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P (Stone)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Marples, A. E.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Marsden, Capt. A.||York, C.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Young. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Maude, J. C|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mellor, Sir J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Molson, A. H. E.||Commander Agnew and Mr [...]tudholme.|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.