Orders of the Day — Air Estimates, 1948–49

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th March 1948.

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Order for Committee read.

3.45 P.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

The net total of the money Estimates I am now presenting is £173 million. This compares with £214 million for the current year; that is, a decrease of £41 million. About £8 million of this decrease is due to a reduction in the provision required for war terminal charges, such as benefits granted to personnel on release from service and transactions relating to war-time contracts and requisitioned property. In 1948–49, war terminal charges will amount to about £11.6 million and about £1.3 million will be required for the pay and maintenance of Polish personnel awaiting repatriation or resettlement in civil life. The net sum left for normal services is, therefore, £160 million, compared with £191 million for last year. The largest net sum required under any Vote is that for the pay, etc., of the Air Force, which accounts for 3o per cent. of the net total. The next largest Votes are for aircraft and stores, requiring about 28 per cent. of the net total, and for works and lands, requiring about 13 per cent. These percentages are very close to the corresponding percentages in the Estimates for the current year.

For the first time, Vote A covers both men and women. As the House k lows, at present women are still not constitutionally members of the Royal Air Force, but they are due to be when the Army and Air Force (Women's Service) Bill is enacted. The maximum number of officers, airmen and airwomen it is proposed to maintain at any time during 1948–49, including 53,000 on release leave, is 325,000. Allowing for 23,500 women now included in this figure, the reduction from the maximum number voted for 1947–48 is nearly 70,000. The number of men and women, therefore, in the Service today is approximately 274,000, and it is expected that this figure will fall to 226,000 during the next 12 months.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

Why is the figure of 370,000 given in this Paper I have?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

That is the maximum figure at any one time. The country is now facing economic hazards as grave as any in its history. We can ill afford money for the things we must have; we can afford none for things we could do without. What, therefore, is the job of the Royal Air Force? Is that job essential? And is this the smallest Air Force capable of doing the job effectively?

Since the war, there has been a great deal of clearing up to be done in occupied countries and in other parts of the world where conditions were still unsettled. The R.A.F. has taken its share of the work and the manifold tasks which this has involved may perhaps have rather obscured the wood with the trees. The Air Force is sometimes thought of purely as a military air transport Corporation, or as an arm of the occupation forces, or as a convenient and effective kind of police for maintaining law and order in out of the way places. The R.A.F. has indeed done all these jobs magnificently, and these jobs are often important means towards the proper end of the Service in peace. But one must never lose sight of the end itself—which is quite simply to help to preserve peace and so to prevent war. Having admitted the essential nature of the R.A.F.'s work, it is our duty to see that the work is carried out as economically and as efficiently as possible. This means that we must decide what kind of Air Force we need to constitute an effective deterrent. Our first task is, therefore, to ensure that the foundations are of the right span and depth, and also that the Force itself is building up again as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

It would not be too much to say that what we are doing is to build the third Royal Air Force. The first was demobilised in 1919. The second has been undergoing demobilisation during the past two years; altogether since the end of the war, that is from June, 1945, 1,122,000 men and women have left the Air Force. Our tasks are to ensure that the third Air Force is erected on the basis of the technical skill, the flexible organisation and operational experience which was so highly developed in the second, and that its beginnings are such as will make it, in due time, a worthy successor of its predecessors.

To take the nature of the force we are building. First, it must be a balanced force able to fulfil both its defensive and offensive roles. There can be no hard and fast rule as to what that balance should be. It must be adjusted to keep pace with the development of weapons and technique.

Offence and defence are complementary. Both are essential, but prevention is always better than cure and real deterrent power lies in the striking force. A potential aggressor must be made to realise that if he started trouble he would be hit hard and at once. The other factor in the proper balance of our Air Force is that it must be so designed and trained that it can also operate effectively in co-operation with the Navy in the protection of our sea communications and with the Army in land operations.

If we are to provide an Air Force which is adequate, but not excessive, for the task it has to perform, we must concentrate on three things: on quality, mobility and trained manpower. These are the three vital requisites of the R.A.F. today. To take quality first: All the elements of our Air Force must be as up to date as possible. It is sometimes suggested that it is a waste of money continuing to build new types of man-carrying aircraft when the scientists have brought push-button equipment within our view. The answer to that suggestion is twofold. Press button warfare as the major factor in war is not yet a practical reality. Even if and when the technical problems which it involves have been solved, there will still remain many air force functions which can only be carried out by manned aircraft.

While research and development are being pushed on unmanned weapons, it is clear that, concurrently with that, we must continue research and development towards the production of the aircraft, armament, and other equipment, upon which our security must depend for a number of years. We can already see the next stage, when stratospheric aircraft of the manned bomber and fighter forces will certainly require the very best crews that we can produce, and special new equipment for navigation, bombing, interception and so on. We realise however that, under present conditions, our expenditure on current production must necessarily be restricted. At the present time, when we are still exploring fields opened up by the discoveries of the war—the guided missile, the gas-turbine and jet propulsion, to mention only the most obvious examples—it would be unwise to go into expensive large-scale production of types which would soon be out of date. With fuller knowledge of future scientific developments, and, in particular, of the strength and limitations of the equipment now under development, we shall be able to determine with greater confidence what new type of equipment must be brought into full-scale production.

While it would not be in the public interest for me to go into details as to our plans for aircraft re-equipment, I can say with confidence that our jet fighters, the Meteors and Vampires, whose primary task is to defend this country from air attack, are the best in the world. Our lead in the development of jet engines is maintained, and we are confident that we can in the future keep our superiority over all corners in the interception-fighter class. Re-equipment of all Fighter Command's interceptor squadrons with the latest jet types has been virtually completed, only one of these squadrons being still outstanding.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm whether the Auxiliary Air Force is similarly equipped?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I will deal with the Auxiliary Air Force a little later on, and I think I shall be able to satisfy the hon. and gallant Member on that point.

We have deferred re-equipping our bomber force with jet bombers until the new jet engines with which future types are to be equipped have been fully proved. I am glad to say that progress in this field of development has been sustained, and that the prospect of jet bomber aircraft of exceptional performance, is in sight. It will, however, be realised that the revolutionary advances for which we are catering take time. Meanwhile the re-equipment of our bomber squadrons with Lincolns will be completed this year. The remainder of our re-equipment for the current year mostly concerns Transport Command, where the new four-engined Hastings and the twin-engined Valetta are being introduced during the coming year to start replacement of the York and the Dakota.

I said a few moments ago that another attribute of our future striking force was its mobility. Mobility requires a special kind of organisation, followed by continual practice. We have brought the organisation into being, and we are Exercising it regularly. For example, we detach aircraft of Bomber Command at short notice, and send them to carry out operational exercises from airfields in the Middle East and then return to the United Kingdom. Other aircraft are sent to do the same kind of thing from a base in the Far East. Command exercises include the detachment of squadrons from their parent stations to operate independently from advanced skeleton airfields. All Hornet squadrons of the R.A.F. undertake long distance flights from the United Kingdom to the Middle East and back. Good-will visits have been paid to a number of friendly countries; one bomber squadron of Lincolns visited the U.S.A. and Canada, taking with it ground crew and spires, thus making it independent of its base in the United Kingdom. Another bomber squadron visited Turkey, and a coastal squadron visited Norway. The advantages of this kind of training are manifest when actual operations are called for. It is then that the full power and flexibility of the highly-trained, mobile Force are seen.

Photo of Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield , St Marylebone

In his reference to operational exercises, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Middle East. Can he say whether those exercises have been taking place in the Dominions in collaboration with Dominion Air Forces, apart from good-will visits?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

No, Sir. The object of the exercises was to gain experience in long-distance flights. The places that have been visited are those to which I have referred. The visits have not been taking place within a particular Dominion Is that what the hon. Gentleman means?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

At one period last year, in both India and Pakistan, many people had to be moved quickly, Britons to Karachi for return to this country, and Indians from Pakistan to India and from India to Pakistan. The R.A.F. carried more than 20,000 passengers in a few weeks, without accident. These aircraft operated at an intensity which rivalled the war-time achievements of Transport Command. The loads were as heavy, in some cases heavier. On one occasion they included the record lift of 117 people in one York aircraft. In December last, 17 R.A.F. Dakotas flew troops of the North Staffs Regiment at very short notice over 1,200 miles from the Canal Zone to Aden, again without fuss or delay and without accident.

I could give many other examples of the way in which the Air Force has been able to do useful peace-time tasks in the course of its training, but I will content myself with two. A considerable programme of air survey has been carried out at the request of various other Government Departments in this country, in East Africa, notably in connection with the groundnuts scheme; in Malaya in connection particularly with areas producing, rice and coal, and in Borneo. R.A.F. Dakotas have been used in the antimalarial campaign in Malaya and Burma, and have also carried out food-dropping operations in India and Burma.

In all fields we are concentrating on the development of ideas and technique. All-weather flying, for example, new safety devices, meteorological research, polar navigation, the enormous problems of interception at speeds already approaching the sonic barrier, and finally bomb-aiming and dropping, and armament practice at modern speeds and heights. It is inevitable, bearing in mind the developments of aircraft and armament as well as the vital importance of giving adequate weapon training to our aircrews, that the Air Force needs more land in this country for armament ranges than it had before the war. I realise and regret that our use of this land causes some inconvenience, or even hardship, and considerable apprehension to many sections of the community. I am afraid, however, that these problems have to be faced to-day if the Air Force is to do its job.

This leads me to the third requirement, which, as I have already indicated, is trained manpower. A properly manned Air Force must have as its hard core a large proportion of highly trained long service personnel, and this is what we must seek to achieve. Our main effort therefore for the next year or two must go into training. In some trades it takes nearly two years of training and practical experience before a man is competent to carry out work on squadron aircraft even under supervision. If we were to skimp the training by putting a high proportion of our trained men into the front line we should soon have no trained men, either for the front line or for the training commands themselves. At present therefore the size and striking power of the R.A.F. are restricted by the fact that we have not the balanced pyramid of trained manpower behind the front line which modern equipment must have if it is to be effectively operated. If, at this stage, we did push the front line up beyond our capacity to maintain it, output from training would assuredly fall below that required to replace the men released and to provide a small margin for reorganisation; this would, in time, reduce the number of available instructors, force down the training output still further, and finally might well bring down the whole structure. So that the rebuilding of a balanced trade structure is our most immediate task today. We are therefore concentrating on training.

At the present time, the number of Regulars serving in the Royal Air Force is about iro,000. By pre-war standards, recruiting has been reasonably good—a total of 77,000 have been entered since 1st January, 1946—but it is by no means adequate. It has to be remembered that of the 274,000 men and women serving today in the Force, about 100,000 will leave the Force during the remainder of 1948 under the Age and Service Scheme.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

The right hon. and learned Gentleman keeps repeating figures which are not shown in the Estimates. There is no such figure as 274,000. The figure given for 1947–48 for airmen of the Royal Air Force is 322,000, with a total of 354,000.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

We are putting in an estimate. There are two figures, the average number of men and women in the Air Force during the next 12 months and also the maximum number which will be in the Air Force at any one time. If my hon. Friend has any doubt about the working out of those figures, I will certainly see that they are explained to him later on.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain the figure on page 10 of 325,000 as the total for 1948–49?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

If my hon. Friend will agree with the suggestion which I made, I will get the Under-Secretary to go into further detail later on.

The recruiting figure I have quoted shows clearly why so large a proportion of our resources is devoted to training. I must repeat that this is an inevitable concomitant of the transition from the second to the third Air Force. The rate at which this situation can be improved depends entirely upon the flow of Regulars. No matter what drive is put behind the training programme, men cannot be trained faster than they come in. And there is a point beyond which there can be no shortening of training programmes without the gravest risks. I hope to receive the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House, and the backing and good will of all sections of the community, in my efforts to improve recruiting, because that is the key to the efficiency of the Royal Air Force and to redressing the balance between the training organisation and the front line. Nor is the importance of Regular recruiting confined to men, for the Women's Royal Air Force is intended to be an integral part of the R.A.F. itself. The magnificent work which the women did for, and with, the R.A.F. during the war is known to us all. Now they will be able to take their place in the regular Service in peace-time.

Men and women who come into the Air Force will find ample scope for their initiative. To give only one example, we are doing everything possible to encourage our station committees, which can be roughly compared to the joint production councils in industry. Here airmen, non-commissioned officers and officers meet together to discuss the work of the unit in all its aspects, and indeed any subject, official or unofficial, which bears on their efficiency and well-being.

I will now turn to the living conditions of the men and women of the Force. At home, practically all pre-war married quarters—about 6,200—have been reconditioned and occupied. Another 350 new married quarters for airmen have been completed or almost completed; work is in progress, at various stages, on 650 more and is about to start on a further 450. In addition, 1,250 temporary married quarters have been, or are being, made by converting R.A.F. huts. Overseas, about 400 new temporary married quarters have been provided since the end of the war. So that altogether, the number of permanent and temporary married quarters in use at home and overseas, is now about 7,550; we hope that within the next 12 months it will be not less than 9,350.

With regard to barracks and messes, work has already begun on a number of new buildings, both at home and overseas. We also envisage a substantial programme of improving living conditions by adapting existing buildings and equipment. This may be unspectacular work of maintenance—make do and mend—but is specially important at a time when our capital expenditure, in the shape of new construction, is restricted. I have no wish to leave the impression that I regard the progress made as completely satisfactory. I do not. The hard fact is that we finished the war with permanent living accommodation only sufficient for a third of the force which we have to house, today. We shall still be deficient in married quarters, even when the houses under construction or conversion are finished, we shall be no more than halfway towards what we need.

This is a serious matter. It is all- wrong that peace-time service should often mean separation from family life; that it should mean housing so many men in huts, some of them with no proper washing arrangements, or damp and draughty, or without proper shelter from the heat in overseas stations. These conditions are serious obstacles to recruiting at a time when the whole future of the Force depends on the regular flow of recruits. It is understandable that wives will discourage their husbands from joining, or from re-joining, because of the lack of adequate provision of married quarters and the separation that that involves. In saying this I do not wish to belittle the efforts which have been made to improve the situation, and in particular the resource which has been shown by the works staffs and the units themselves. Where new building has been carried out, it is very good, and some of the improvised accommodation I have seen myself is very satisfactory. But the fact remains that all we have been able to do only meets a part of the deficiency with which we are faced. I can, however, assure the House that no opportunity which resource or ingenuity can suggest will be overlooked, and that the moment any opportunity offers itself for expanding the programme, we shall take it.

So far I have concerned myself with the regular Royal Air Force. I shall now turn to the reserve and auxiliary forces, to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force—it has given us all great pleasure that it is now termed "Royal"—and to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. These, with the Royal Observer Corps and the A.T.C., provide an essential backing for the Regular Force.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves the Royal Air Force, I would like him to clear up two points. The first relates to units of the Royal Air Force lent to other Governments. How many have been lent, and who pays the cost while they are with the other Governments? The other question is: What are the figures for Royal Air Force Reserve and Royal Auxiliary Air Force serving with the Royal Air Force?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

These figures are to be found in Vote A. At a later stage in the proceedings we shall go into Committee on Vote A and those points will then be dealt with.

The drop in Vote 2 for the coming year does not mean that less will be spent on auxiliaries and reserves. When the last Estimates were being prepared, recruiting had only just opened for the flying squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force; and it had not begun for the other auxiliary units or for the R.A.F.V.R. and in the event the sums provided for the current year have not all been used. The Estimates now before the House are lower because they are more realistic, although it is still difficult to forecast the rate of recruitment.

We still need recruits for the 20 flying squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. These squadrons are at present flying Spitfires and Mosquitos; but we intend that those which already have suit- able airfields will start re-equipment with jet fighters this summer.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

What will happen to those squadrons which have not got suitable airfields? Will they get airfields?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

A plan is now being worked out to deal with that aspect of the problem. These squadrons have a special need for ground staff. Taken altogether, however, they have already recruited 1,000 men out of 2,500 needed as a total. Squadrons are all flying again, with their own pilots and with increasing help from their own ground crews.

The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, in the course of his speech on Monday last, that he had been told that these ground crews do not get the rate of pay of the Regular Air Force and cannot get their meals at the service messes. In general, the position is that all members of the non-Regular Forces receive full pay and allowances at Regular rates for all periods of training in excess of 48 hours. For shorter periods they receive an expense allowance and travelling expenses. At the lowest daily rate this more than covers the cost of a day's food which is available under service arrangements at the cost of 3s. 4d. a day. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, or any hon. Member, that ground crew members of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force are entitled to make use of service messes. If there have been difficulties about messing at any individual unit, I hope that the hon. Member concerned will let me have particulars, so that I can look into the matter.

It is too early yet to say how recruiting will go for the new Air Defence Units and R.A.F. Regiment squadrons. There have been accommodation and equipment difficulties, but these are now being gradually overcome, and we hope soon that men and women will now come forward for these essential duties. I can hardly over-emphasise the importance of the Air Defence Units, for the work of the signallers, and plotters and radar operators on the ground is vital as the House well knows to the success of the fighters in the air.

As regards the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, over 1, 000 pilots, including 24 women, have now enrolled. They are doing their refresher flying training at the weekends at Reserve flying schools, which will number 20 this summer. The syllabus for other training is dealt with at the associated town centres. Some centres and Reserve flying schools will also shortly be training signallers and navigators, to whom recruiting was opened just over a month ago. In addition, the R.A.F.V.R. also includes the 14 University Air Squadrons; these have made good progress and now have 600 out of a planned total of 960 members to be reached in the third year of the squadrons' postwar existence.

As regards the Air Training Corps, its strength is now about 42,000 cadets in 813 units compared with 47,000 cadets in 859 units a year ago. There is, however, no less need of the A.T.C. and provision is made for the numbers to increase again, as we hope they will, during the coming year. Much excellent work is being done in squadrons both by officers and cadets. Over this last year, for example, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of cadets who are under training for their proficiency certificates. As the House knows, proficient cadets are given favourable opportunities for entering the R.A.F. in the trade of their choice; their period of National Service recruit training is reduced; and it has been decided that the 100 National Servicemen who are to be trained this year as pilots will be picked from these proficient cadets.

Photo of Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield , St Marylebone

Could the Minister say how many proficient cadets there are now, and how those numbers compare with the last year or two?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I will have that information obtained and the Under-Secretary will give it later on.

So far as the Royal Observer Corps is concerned, it re-opened on 1st January, 1947. The aim is a strength of about 28, 000 observers and 415 officers. At the end of January, 1948, the Corps had enrolled 12,150 observers and 326 officers. The full time staff of some 50 officers is almost complete. I think the House will agree that this is a fine example of recruitment for the voluntary part-time forces which calls for emulation in every field. The Royal Observer Corps is still, despite the development of radar and the increased speed of aircraft, an essential part of the air defence of the country, and for as far ahead as we can see clearly it will remain indispensable.

Photo of Wing Commander Ernest Millington Wing Commander Ernest Millington , Chelmsford

Are there enough aircraft flying about, other than on scheduled routes, for maintaining the training of the Observer Corps up to those numbers?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I think it is possible to put on exercises with aircraft which will enable the best part of that force, if not all the force, to get a measure of training each year. Training is going ahead vigorously at the various centres and posts, and last year three large-scale exercises were carried out in co-operation with the R.A.F. Similar exercises will be arranged this year.

I should like here to pay a tribute to the work of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations and of the local A.T.C. Committees. I realise how much the recruitment of our reserve and auxiliary forces depends upon the voluntary efforts put in locally; and I am considering whether there are ways and means in which we can give further assistance from the Air Ministry. I feel too that hon. Members in all parts of the House can do a great deal in their constituencies to help in this work, and I hope it may be possible to associate some of them actively with the development and building up of the non-Regular Air Forces.

I now want to say a few words about the Air Ministry. I have looked carefully at the figures of its staff, and I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that whereas the Ministry had a staff of over 5,000 in 1939, not counting the staffs now replaced by the Ministry of Supply and Ministry of Civil Aviation, it will have in the year 1948–49 no more than 7,300 to administer a force nearly three times as large, including the National Service element and, as a result of scientific development, much more complicated to administer. It is this factor of complexity that is liable, I think, to be overlooked. In radio and radar alone there is virtually a completely new field of work. In supply, tactics, training and manning, in almost every sphere of work, there are far more complex problems to be dealt with, and the co-ordination between them is difficult in the extreme. Nevertheless, the strength planned for the Air Ministry in 1948–49 is 15 per cent. lower than in the current year, although the problems of transition are very far from being over.

One of its major tasks is to see that savings are achieved, not by imposing arbitrary cuts, but in accordance with a considered plan, and by introducing, for example, improved methods so that the same flying effort can be obtained at less cost in money, material and manpower. As a result of the experiments carried out under the central direction of the Ministry, we have obtained manpower economies in servicing of the order of 10 per cent. and upwards, besides increasing the proportion of aircraft ready to fly.

We have been greatly helped in our search for increased efficiency by the Manpower Economy Committee, which was set up to review the methods of manning and the use of manpower in the R.A.F. in peace-time and to recommend measures for securing that fighting efficiency is maintained with the greatest possible economy in manpower. The committee has been very active during the past year and has submitted a number of helpful reports. From the outset they interpreted their terms of reference as requiring a comprehensive review of the whole processes of manning and manpower usage in the R.A.F. with the object of securing economies of a kind not likely to result from the normal processes of establishment control and organisation. The committee, therefore, has applied itself primarily, not to such questions as to the establishment of particular units and formations—that remains, of course, the task of the R.A.F. Establishment Cornmittees—but to fundamental issues and broad principles. Among such questions are the following:

  1. (a) How to reduce the number of personnel required to man the Air Force with a given complement of aircraft:
  2. (b) How to reduce the dependence of the Service on the employment of highly skilled tradesmen and how to increase the productive value of semi-skilled and unskilled men; and
  3. (c) What are the best immediate steps to take in order to rectify the unbalance of trades in the R.A.F.
The reports of the committee on these and other subjects are being closely studied in the Air Ministry. Their work has been invaluable in bringing the special experience of outside experts—one of them a trade unionist and one a business man—as well as serving officers free from departmental duties to bear on problems of vital importance to the R.A.F. and in stimulating departmental consideration of them. A number of important decisions have already been taken as a result of their recommendations. For example, it has been decided to select National Service men for training to a high degree of skill over a limited range of the duties connected with maintenance of aircraft and equipment, and thus to ease the requirement for tradesmen trained in every aspect of servicing. There is no doubt that examination of the committee's subsequent reports will produce further results of great benefit to the R.A.F.

In conclusion, I am confident that the House will agree with me that, for the Royal Air Force, it is upon quality that we must concentrate. The victories won by the R.A.F. during the late war were based on quality rather than weight of numbers, quality in our aircrews and technicians, quality in our aircraft and engines, quality in our weapons; it is on quality that we must insist in building up the Third Air Force as I have called it. We shall spare no efforts to this end; we shall seek to give the Air Force the best types of equipment and the highest standards of training.

I have outlined the steps being taken to re-create the R.A.F. and to increase its efficiency, and the House can be assured that we shall not relax our efforts. But direction from the Air Ministry will not by itself maintain quality and ensure efficiency; that will depend primarily on two factors. Firstly it depends on the efforts of all ranks in the R.A.F.: that fact is fully recognised in the service and I have been impressed on my visits to units, by the evident determination of all ranks to overcome their many current difficulties. So far as it is within the power of the Air Force itself, I can assure the House that quality and efficiency will be maintained. The second vital factor, however, rests with the general public. It will be useless for the R.A.F. to have the best of equipment and the best of technique and training if at the same time its ranks are not kept filled with the best that our nation can provide. Quality in material must at all times be matched by quality in character, brains and skill. Modern equipment and modern technique are calling more and more for the highest possible human qualities.

I ask the House today to give a lead to the youth of our nation to come forward to take up careers in the R.A.F. for service on the ground and in the air. In doing so I believe that they will truly serve their country, not in any aggressive spirit, but in the knowledge that on Britain's moral and material strength largely depends her power in preserving world peace. The British peoples are not surpassed by any other people in devotion to the democratic way of life. We have been nurtured in freedom and we seek to tread the paths of peace and co-operation. In this is to be found the basic unity of the nation. The R.A.F. is one of the guardians of the security of our land and of these essential principles which are so vital to our national life, and which it is the purpose of the United Nations to safeguard and to develop. It is thus that the primary role of the R.A.F. should be seen and should make its appeal to the best of the youth of our nation, upon whose active support, in adequate measure, the ability of the R.A.F. to fulfil this role will depend.

4.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I should like to extend, on personal grounds, the congratulations and good wishes of the House to the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just introduced his first Estimates as Secretary of State for Air. Nearly a quarter of a century ago I was a colleague in this House with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's father. He would indeed have been a proud man today if he could have seen his son holding what I shall always feel to be one of the highest and most responsible positions in which a subject can be called upon to serve the Crown, the head of one of the great Service Departments.

At the same time, I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not share the fate of that company of transient and embarrassed phantoms who seem, in the Socialist administration of Defence, to flit restlessly and wanly across the scene. At least he has this advantage over his colleagues at the Admiralty and the War Office. They reached their present positions because they failed conspicuously in their former offices. One indeed got there as the result of the most famous sit-down strike in political history. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, was promoted, and very properly promoted, and I hope he will be given the opportunity of justifying that promotion and earning the confidence both of this House and of the Royal Air Force.

Under any conditions, the problems of demobilisation, re-training and re-organisation must present great difficulties for Service Ministers. In many respect; it is a more difficult problem to contract than to expand, to be a Service Minister in peace than in war. In the present international and economic situation the difficulties are greatly increased, and the Departments have not even had the advantage of continuity—two First Lords, two Secretaries of State for War, and three Secretaries of State for Air in less than three years. The Air Ministry have been particularly badly treated. Lord Stansgate was Secretary of State from July, 1945 to October, 1946, the right lion. Member for Derby (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) for exactly a year, from October, 1946 to October, 1947, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman succeeded him in that month. A speculative sportsman might be prepared to take a bet on his tenure. Lord Stansgate was absent during his period of office for five whole months——

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Not long enough—well, "et tu, Brute," he would say. He occupied himself in Egypt, where his efforts at diplomacy were, fortunately for the strategic defence of the Empire, altogether unsuccessful. I do not think that even the greatest admirer of the right hon. Member for Derby could have expected him to be a great Service Minister. His spiritual home was once Geneva: it is now Lake Success. And in Lake Success he spent a great part of his time as Secretary of State for Air—with what success I do not know. I hope that the present Secretary of State for Air will devote himself, at this grave period, to one thing only, to the Royal Air Force and to the problems of air defence. In that, at any rate, he will be unique amongst Socialist Secretaries of State for Air in the present administration. [An HON. MEMBER: "Get down to the Estimates."] To be quite frank, I do not think that anyone is really very happy nowadays about what one might call the defence set-up. If we were in the calm and easy waters of a placid international stream it would not be so bad, but we are threatened with dark and stormy weather. This strangely assorted quartette—the Big Four—who now control the Army, Navy, Air Force and defence as a whole remind me of what the Duke of Wellington is said to have remarked about certain staff who joined him before the Battle of Waterloo: I do not know what effect they will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me. As for the Estimates, I will tell the hon. Member as much about them as did the right hon. Gentleman. The third Air Estimates submitted by this Government are still based rather on hope than on achievement. In the words of the accompanying Memorandum: 1948–49 is the third year of the difficult transitional period during which we have had the task of keeping the Air Force in being while organising and manning what is virtually a new peace-time Force. Parliament is asked to vote £173 million and 325,000 men and women to this force. Perhaps I should be stating the figure a little more accurately and fairly if I reduced the sum to £160 million, because some £12 million is really for terminal payments to those leaving, and perhaps a more accurate figure for personnel would be something of the order of 260,000 in the force. The explanation about which the hon. Gentleman asked is to be found in Vote A, on pages 10 and Ir. There are 53,000 men and women on release leave, which accordingly reduces the total of 325,000——

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

On that point I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman or with the Secretary of State. The figure of 53,000 is given there as the number of personnel on release leave, but they are still on the strength.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I am only trying to make my point fairly and not to overstate it. I think it would be fair, from the point of view of the effective money and effective strength to take account of the statements on pages 10 and 11, and say that we are voting, say, £160 million and approximately 260,000 or 270,000 people of whom the Secretary of State will have effective use to make his force.

Basing myself on these lower figures, what is the taxpayer getting for his money? He has a right to know. In the first two years of these Air Estimates we have been patient, we have not pressed any very detailed questions. We are now entitled to ask for results as well as for targets. How is the money to be spent? How are the men to be employed? For how many more years is this "difficult transitional period" to continue? When we do we expect to have what the Minister of Defence described on Monday night as: a highly trained and well-equipped air striking force in these islands which will provide a formidable deterrent to aggression and reassure our friends."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 54.] When will that come? How long will events wait for us to emerge from the chrysalis stage of the difficult transitional period until we really have an effective Air Force? The rapidly changing and worsening international situation makes these questions very pertinent. Already, the frontiers of Asia are advancing into Europe. Where will they be next week, next month? Where will they be next year?

The war has shown us the dependence of sea power and military operations upon air superiority and it has shown us the need for the closest integration of the three Services. More than 30 years ago, in 1917, General Smuts made his famous report to the War Cabinet. This is what he said: The day may not be far off when aerial operations with their devastation of enemy lands and the destruction of industrial and populous centres on a vast scale may become the principal operations of war, to which the older forms of military and naval operations may become secondary and subordinate matter. Air superiority may in the long run become as important a factor in the defence of the Empire as sea supremacy. Where is sea supremacy? Where is air superiority? Under modern conditions the power to strike becomes more and more the most essential first weapon of defence. The need for a powerful air striking force is defence priority Number One. Have we got it? When shall we have it?

In the present situation I doubt whether there is justification for, or much wisdom in, the excessive secrecy which we practise in this country. The Prime Minister complained the other day that other countries were not very forthcoming. That is true of some, but there is one country at least which tells us all the facts, in a remarkable document entitled "Survival in the Air Age," which no doubt the right hon. Gentleman and his staff have carefully perused. I refer to the report of the Air Policy Commission of the President of the U.S.A., which has just reached some of us. In spite of stringent quotas on the import of American publications, I hope that the Stationery Office will take steps to make this document available in reasonable quantity, for, in addition to a mass of fascinating material on a great number of subjects, we are given a complete picture of the United States Air Force. Their personnel consists of 337,000 people as against our 325,00o or 270,000, whichever figure we decide is the effective one.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

Three hundred and twenty-five thousand.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Very well, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to take that figure. I am only trying to be scrupulously fair about it. The President's Commission says that the U.S. Air Force has in addition 125,000 civilian personnel. I am glad to see, from the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates, that steps are being taken to recruit, on a larger scale, civilian personnel for the R.A.F., which I agree is a wise step to take. To quote from the American report, there are 108,000 aircraft in active status including about 580 bombers and 2,300 fighters. Backing up this force is the reserve of about 52,800 World War II aircraft usable at any time during the next two or three years to replace losses of planes during the current peace-time attrition, or, in the event of war, caused by combat losses. That is to say, the Americans give us the number of their personnel, roughly the same number as ours, and they give us the figures of their aircraft, which I have quoted. So we have a complete picture in this document of the present state of the United States Air Force. There are very precise figures. This House and the country would be relieved if similar figures could be given for the British Air Force. I fear, however, that the truth of it is that the Americans, like wise virgins, have not destroyed the old Air Force before they built up the new. Are we sure we have not made this mistake? It is absolutely vital during the interval before the new technique comes into effective being that we should have the protection of a powerful Air Force, with the technique at present dominant in the world and which will still be unchallenged.

Photo of Mr Richard Sargood Mr Richard Sargood , Bermondsey West Bermondsey

The right hon. Gentleman has made a point with regard to the building up of a force. May I ask who were pressing a short time ago for demobilisation?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I was taken in, like other people, because I was told that the Socialist Foreign Secretary would settle everything with Communist Russia, and we should have no difficulties at all. For the first two years I tried to take a forward but not too critical view. A reference to the statements I made in the Debate last year will reveal that I asked the question and made a demand that the bomber force should be revived.

There are some splendid statement; in this Memorandum. It is a very food Memorandum but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) remarked about another memorandum, it is full of very fine precepts. We would like to know something more about practices. The memorandum has rather a diversity of terms; "diminution in the effective strength of the force," "The ford is placed under a very severe straits"; "shortages"; "a lack of balance between trades, which seriously disorganises the work of units." All that may be found—especially in paragraphs 3 to 6. We talk of secrecy, but those sort of pronouncements are not very encouraging to public morale. The situation today is not dissimilar from those years prior to the second world war. Whatever mistakes were made, and I do not wish to argue this in detail, certain great contributions were made, especially in the sphere of the Air Force. Under Lord Swinton the Royal Air Force was built up into a powerful weapon of attack and defence and was provided with aircraft which proved their superiority in war. Moreover, steps were taken to build the productive capacity to a very high scale, which could be operated and set in motion in war. I do not think the House or the country has ever paid sufficient tribute to the work of the noble Lord during those years.

What sort of Air Force do we need today? Fighters and anti-aircraft weapons alone are not sufficient, for in due course, speeds and flying heights of bombers will be reached which will make interception almost impossible. If they are launched from forward bases it will make interception wholly impossible. A future bomber force may release their bombs 150 miles from the target. What chance has the conventional anti-aircraft against that? Of course, we shall still need fighters to deal with close support aircraft and air transports trying to land troops against us, or airborne divisions, and to deal with the present type of enemy bombers rising from their bases. These will be needed to intercept those bombers and keep them as high as possible and thereby reduce the accuracy of their bombing.

In my view, and I am fortified by the many with knowledge who share this view, our principal weapon of defence must be our power to strike and destroy the bases from which an enemy striking force can operate, and destroy the launching sites for guided missiles. That must be our immediate priority. What static defence can there be against guided missiles? The development of modern antiaircraft it tending towards the use of the guided missile to counter the guided missile. That is a tremendously difficult conception because it amounts to trying to stop a golf ball driven from the tee by hitting another golf ball to collide with it in mid-air—a very difficult operation.

Who is going to direct this? Are territorials, with a fortnight's training a year, coming in three days after mobilisation, to undertake this delicate and complicated manoeuvre? They will really be of very little service. It will be a tremendously skilled operation. The design, development and operation of a weapon of such complexity will need highly trained men in constant practice. This opens up an old subject of dispute. I still feel that the right decision would be for the Air Ministry to become responsible for static defence—to take full responsibility, and not merely operational control, as in the last war. For the immediate future, however, guided missiles have achieved neither the accuracy nor the range to make the conventional bomber obsolete. We therefore need the nucleus of a powerful air striking force of fast, high-flying bombers, together with a small, but highly efficient fighter component.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

This is a most interesting subject which the right hon. Member has raised. On that point, would he agree that the direct missiles from Germany during the last war were fairly accurate, and that if they were turned into atomic bombs they would be worse?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I said they were limited by range and accuracy. At short ranges they are reasonably accurate under the present development. At long ranges they are not at all accurate. Therefore, in those circumstances, the condition of the frontier becomes doubly important, compared with what it was before the war. This report, "Survival in the Air Age," which I hope will be circulated, goes in the greatest detail into the discussions of the American experts, who reached the conclusion that the present missile, with an atomic bomb, can be devastating, but the present missile with the present explosive cannot be effective, unless it is fired at short range. The hon. Gentleman has put his finger upon the exact point which, under present conditions, I was trying to make. In the development of such a force we need the closest possible collaboration with the Commonwealth for the expansion of the Force, for the dispersal of bases and for the training of crews in long-range flying. We are happy to see in this Memorandum that liaison with the Dominions is well established, but it must extend far beyond mere good will missions from the old country to a Dominion.

I would like to pay a tribute to the recent Polar flights by the Empire Air Navigation School and also to the other schools, the Empire Flying School, the Empire Air Armaments School, the Empire Radio School and the Empire Test Pilots School which are in this country. The common training given in these British units to officers of the Dominions is invaluable. What training is taking place in return in the Dominions themselves? The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the narrow confines of this island make training both in flying and the shooting of missiles, extremely difficult. What has happened to the old Joint Air Training Plan, under which Canada, Australia and South Africa trained a great number of men who played a very great role in the war? Apart from Rhodesia, where, I understand, it is carried on, are these other Dominions now assisting us?

Then we come to the question of bases. From where will our air striking force have to operate? From bases throughout the Commonwealth and Empire. It is a curious reflection that in early Victorian times the use of geography was taught by globes. Then there came, in my childhood and boyhood, the use of the Mercator map. The Mercator map is a most dangerous form of geography. We should revert to the early Victorian practice of the use of globes. By the use of globes, we can soon see what striking bases are within the confines of territory under our control. I remember that point being admirably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn (Mr. Max Aitken) in the Debate on the Estimates of 1946. He pointed out that any target in the world was within six hours' attack from some Empire base. This Empire interdependence, therefore, is greater than it has ever been before. It is more important than ever before, and in future it must be greater still.

Here, perhaps, I might be allowed to add my tribute to one of the most gallant and distinguished officers of the Royal Air Force, whose untimely death a few weeks ago has cast a great shadow over all who love the Service. Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, "Mary" Coningham as he was known to a host of friends and admirers, was himself a most striking example of this great imperial tradition. Born in Australia, educated in New Zealand, he embodied it in his own person. He was, of course, a great tactical commander. By the side of Lord Tedder he was one of the main architects of the air side of the thorough integration of the three Fighting Forces. In North Africa and the Mediterranean, the pioneer work was done and the system was brought almost entirely to perfection. I shall always be grateful and proud that I was privileged to have seen something of his work and enjoyed his friendship. But perhaps Coningham will best be remembered, and would certainly best like to be remembered, as a friend and inspirer of youth. He never failed to inspire in youth his bold, broad and gallant conception of the Commonwealth and Empire which, to his dying day, he served so well.

I venture to pass from this imperial theme, and to say a few words about the new and unconventional weapons about which I was asked. Of course, atomic warfare occupies all our minds. It is strikingly dealt with in the Report to President Truman. The Commission reached the conclusion, after most careful consideration, that atom bombs in sufficient quantities, or other forms of weapons of that kind, will not be likely to be in the hands of potential enemies before the year 1952 or 1953. That is their calculation, and they consider it would be a great dereliction of duty if it were not regarded as likely that such weapons would be in the hands of potential enemies after that date. That is the date they fix.

When, if ever, such weapons become available, we have no hope of being able to maintain a high production of aircraft and other munitions of war in the United Kingdom during a period of war. We may as well face up to that. Once again, we are led to the imperial theme. We would be more likely to build bombers in Winnipeg than in Manchester. Dispersal, which we practised in a small way in our own country during the war, will now become a great strategic weapon in our hands. Forty years ago, Joseph Chamberlain urged this country to think imperially. He then spoke in terms of economies and trade. We must now think imperially in terms of strategy and defence.

The Prime Minister complained on Monday night, a little peevishly I thought, of the difficulty of co-operation with the Dominions. Of course, we understand that Great Britain cannot summon conferences at her own will. We understand that Great Britain cannot dictate; but Great Britain can still lead. The Statute of Westminster does not deprive the Government of the United Kingdom of the right or duty to take the lead in imperial affairs. At the end of his speech, the Prime Minister told us of the leadership which we were going to give to the 16 nations of Western Europe. The whole House was most gratified. Surely, if we can give a lead to Europe, we can give a lead to our own Dominions and Colonies? It is not necessary, in order to be a good European, to be a little Englander. Everyone knows that, in the modern world, the potential war capacity of the Empire must be treated as a whole. I am convinced that, if the Prime Minister will take the lead in the light of present events—for much has happened in the last few months—the leaders of the Dominions will not be slow to follow.

There was a Debate last night in another place such as has seldom, if ever, taken place in time of peace. I cannot remember in time of peace a Debate such as that, with statements of that character made on behalf of the Government of the day. It is against this sombre background that we must examine these Estimates. We must lose no time in building up the nucleus of our component of the Empire Air Striking Force. We must concentrate on training that nucleus to the highest possible pitch of efficiency and organise it so that it may be quickly expanded.

There are a few observations I wish to make of a little different character. Of the total strength of 325,000 or 270,000, whichever way we have it, only 100,000 are Regulars. That means that this small Regular component has to administer and train more than 200,000 National Service men and at the same time provide the aircrews and the men on the operational units, who are almost all Regulars. It rightly states in the Memorandum that: Efficiency and economy can only be restored when the training effort can be limited to meeting normal replacements in a stable force. That really means that the one year National Service men can play little useful part in the Air Force. They play some role, but the danger is that so much effort will be taken from the Regulars towards their training as to deflect them from other duties. The Royal Navy is taking only 2,000 National Service men next year, and the Air Force only 48,000. I think the second figure will be reduced still more. Therefore, it is clear that, so far as the Air Force is concerned, National Service men cannot be relied upon to play a maximum or even an important role. I do not say that about the Army. I am sure that there it is necessary for national defence: I am not complaining of that. We must proceed with the recruitment of the Regular Forces as rapidly as possible, and make such arrangements to attract men to the Regular Forces as will bring them up to the highest level that we require.

I would like to ask a few questions on other subjects. The Estimates provide for nearly £39 million to be spent on aircraft. According to the memorandum, most of this will go on new fighter aircraft. Presumably, this means that the bomber component of the air striking force, if it exists, is composed of wartime aircraft. How many of these are truly operational? What new bombers are projected? When can we expect operational squadrons to be equipped with them? What advance do they make? I understand that the Lincoln is merely an improvement upon the Lancaster. It is the Lancaster brought up to date, with only comparatively small additions either to its speed or load-carrying capacity. Still, it is better than nothing. However, in the interim period we must assure ourselves that this striking force is available in an efficient form.

What of the future? We are told that in the long run there will be the new supersonic bomber which will replace the present types, but although we must not delay research and development to obtain the supersonic bomber, we must not sacrifice present security to those future needs. There was rather an interesting passage in the American document, which I will read to the House. It says: It takes four to seven years to develop a new plane from the engineering board to production. It takes longer than that to develop many of the weapons which will be used in any future war. No airplane was used by the United States in World War II which had not been designed before we entered the war. An air force will probably fight a war which does not last a long time with the general types of equipment it has on hand when the war begins. That is important and very true. Important as are research and development for the far-distant future unconventional types, it is also important that we should not be caught between two stools.

The duties and responsibilities that lie upon an Opposition, particularly a Conservative Opposition, in matters of defence affect very heavily their thoughts and consciences. Those duties are not easy to carry out with due regard to the opposing claims of the need to sound a warning and the fear of causing alarm. I trust that nothing I have said will be of any encouragement to the forces of disintegration in Europe which are now ranging themselves against us. I am sure I have said nothing which is not well known to them, or which has not been published in various documents. I have only spoken in this mood in order to impress upon the Government and my fellow countrymen the grave dangers which confront us unless we grasp the situation firmly. We are voting large sums of money and large numbers of men and women. If the Government tell us that they require more, I am sure this House of Commons will vote them more, but, with the information which is at present before us, we are not quite happy that the best use is being made of that money or the men.

Ministers enjoy a great majority in this House, but majorities carry with them corresponding responsibilities. They are fond of reminding us of the sins of omission and commission of prewar Governments. Indeed, like the White Queen in "Alice," they have almost persuaded themselves that before the war they were the protagonists of rearmament on an immense scale. They were then in opposition. They are now in power. If they believe that the claims of security prevent the full disclosure of the present situation to the House of Commons, the remedy is clear. The House may meet, as in war, in secret session. One thing is certain. If, in the new dangers that lie before us, after two tragedies within a single generation, Parliament and Ministers fail to learn and apply the lesson, they will earn the condemnation and contempt of all future generations.

5.4 P.m.

Photo of Group Captain Clifford Wilcock Group Captain Clifford Wilcock , Derby

One must agree with much of what the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said. Except for his preamble and, perhaps, his peroration, which was his contribution to party politics, I feel that he has said today what many of us who have the Royal Air Force very much at heart feel about the future. I must refer to one of his comments. He said that America today is keeping a very large number of bomber aircraft, not in the first line possibly, but certainly available. He gave the numbers—over a thousand. It is not fair to make this comparison between the American Air Force and ourselves, because we certainly could not do the same in this country, even if we had the aircraft and desired to do so. We could not store large numbers of bomber aircraft except in the open, and I am afraid they would very soon deteriorate. This is one of the differences between America and this country in air matters, and it should be known that they have accommodation and manpower, which we have not.

In thinking of a great fighting Service like the Royal Air Force, there is a temptation, to me at least, to enter into the higher fields of policy and strategy. It would be much more interesting to do so, but I think one has to rely too much upon conjecture. With the limited knowledge at our disposal, I am afraid that my criticism would be of very doubtful value, and constructive suggestions would be quite impossible. I have been in the Royal Air Force long enough to know that it requires a very careful study of all these problems and of all the information which can be made available before any reasoned criticism can be made and any conclusion arrived at, whether political, technical, strategical, or any other kind.

We are dealing here with a very technical Service, and it is easy to come to the wrong conclusions unless one gives it the most careful and detailed study. In this House we have not had the time or the opportunity t6 make this study, and the White Paper and the Estimates tell us very little. I do not quarrel with that. I would rather we knew little if it results in a potential enemy also knowing little. I hope, however, that the Ministers concerned are not also in the position of knowing very little. Presumably these Estimates carry their approval and, in certain respects, this gives me cause for anxiety.

I should like to come down from the level of strategy to some of the more mundane matters. I will take, first, a point which has been mentioned by the Minister, and that is the question of married quarters. I make no apology for coming to this subject straight away, because I did the same thing when we discussed the last Estimates; furthermore, it is no light matter when one is considering £825,000. I think I can assume that there is much criticism that hon. Members could and would make of these Estimates but for the economic situation of the country. Consequently, we feel that if there are acts of negligence or of omission, in the Estimates, they are due to this paramount need for economy. Then we see that this large sum of money is to be spent on something which is quite unnecessary. I am not speaking of the building of houses in this country. After all, we have voted £1,800,000 for that purpose, and I do not grudge a penny of it.

I am speaking now of the money which is to be allocated for building houses and bungalows in the East. I do not know exactly where they are to be built, but I presume it is in the Far East, and moreover we are going to spend a quarter of a million pounds in taking families there. I hardly think that this building can be going on in Palestine, Egypt or India. I imagine that during the last year, notwithstanding what I said when we debated the last Estimates, we have spent several millions of pounds in building out there, taking families there, bringing them out again and getting rid of the buildings. This new building programme must be in the Far East. I have a very strong objection to the spending of this large amount of money in putting a few families into Singapore. I should like to know what has happened to the married quarters which, to my knowledge, have been built in Singapore during the last 15 years. I should like to know from the Minister what, in any event, we are doing in Singapore. It occurs to me that this is the exact locality in which our Dominion Air Forces should be stationed; they should accept responsibility in Singapore and in the Far East, and they should also bear the cost of the occupation there. The Secretary of State mentioned that 400 married quarters were being constructed overseas. This is a scandal. Some may be necessary in Malta, but I cannot think of anywhere else where they are necessary, except in the Far East.

On this question, which is not unimportant for those in the R.A.F., I would remind the Minister that only 10 per cent.—or it may be 12½ per cent.—of married families can proceed overseas. That leaves 90 per cent., or 87½ per cent., who cannot go overseas, which causes a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Service. The very presence of married families overseas operates against the whole conception of mobility. It is a symbol of a past age, and reminds one of troopships, garrisons, sahibs, memsahibs, snakes in babies' cots, and all that sort of thing.

I would like the Minister to have another look at this matter, because I think the policy should be to bring all married men back to this country within a year. I see no reason why that cannot be done. After all, the Service is an air Service and should be capable of changing personnel quickly by air, so that the deterioration which many are subject to after serving more than one hot season abroad can be prevented. Mobility in the fullest sense must be the motto of the Royal Air Force. I suggest that the lure of married quarters overseas is quite unnecessary as a sop for recruiting. It would be much fairer to say, "Ninety per cent. of you cannot go overseas with your families," and even better to say, "No married families can go overseas, but you will all be back within a year." That is not an impossibility, as I am sure the Minister would discover if he investigated this matter.

Turning now to another subject, on 1st March the Minister of Defence said: … it will be of the greatest consequence to build up the volunteer nucleus of the Territorial Army, and this applies equally to the Auxiliary Forces of the other Services. The numbers coming forward for these Services recently have not been as great as we could wish, and I hope we shall see a marked improvement in the coming year. It will be vital to get the organisation throughout the country on a sound footing in the next r8 months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 53.] I am going to say that we shall never build up our Reserves within the next 18 months unless there is a complete change of policy. When we were at war in 1939, we had behind us the Reserves of 1938. There were partially trained aircrews who were quickly brought to operational efficiency, and a large number took their place in the Battle of Britain. Possibly that is why we are able to be here today. Now our Reserves are not being built up as we would wish. Recruits are not coming along, and the reason is not far to seek. In the main, it is due to lack of publicity and lack of money with which to establish and operate auxiliary Squadrons, Volunteer Reserve Town Centres and Reserve Flying Training Schools. The allocation in these Estimates of funds for Reserves clearly indicates that our reserves are considered of very little value, notwithstanding what was said by the Minister of Defence. It seems that they are not important enough to justify the expense even of the amount of money to be used on the construction of married quarters abroad. The Vote for the four main Reserve Forces is just over £500,000. For married quarters abroad it is £877,000.

It would be interesting to know how the main expenditure of £38 million is to be spent on aircraft? We are not allowed to know this, so I will leave that point because I have confidence in the views and opinions of the C.A.S. and the A.M.S.O. of the Royal Air Force on the important question of the proportion of bomber to fighter aircraft. I would like to know, however, what liaison there is between the R.A.F. and the Ministry of Civil Aviation in relation to transport aircraft? The best aircraft for troop carrying is the best transport aircraft for passengers. The need for speed, dependability and easy maintenance is common to both; the interior fittings are merely frills. A common, standardised, passenger plane would reduce costs and conserve manpower and, more important still, would enable us to put down a common spares' service throughout our routes. This would be available for the Royal Air Force, for British civil airline Corporations, and our Dominion Air Forces. This is no minor matter; it is no good having many good aircraft if we have not the spares for them, and if those spares are not in the right place.

While I do not intend to criticise expenditure on aircraft, I do not feel the same way about mechanical transport. Expenditure of £1,500,000 is out of all proportion to the other expenditure. I cannot believe that there cannot be economy here, that we cannot, for the time being, carry on with our present stocks of transport. I would like the House to realise the difference between this £1,500,000 and the £500,000 for the Reserves of the Royal Air Force. Under the heading "Mechanical Transport Vehicles and Marine Craft," there is over £600,000 for marine craft. Is that really necessary? My quarrel is with the shabby and unsympathetic treatment which is being meted out to Reserves of the R.A.F. Realising the sympathy and wisdom of the Minister and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, I look to real major adjustments in these Votes.

I am one of those who consider that money spent on the Royal Air Force is well spent. It is a good business investment today, even though we are faced with an economic crisis. As we must economise, I am afraid that it means we must do it at the expense of other Services. I would like to see a large Navy and a powerful Army, but if we cannot have them because of the shortage of money and manpower, we must not disperse our resources among the three Services, as a policy of appeasement to the Service chiefs of the other Services. We must ensure that our first line of defence, in the air, is adequate to meet an attack by a bomber fleet of any other nation within range and that our own bomber fleet has the necessary striking power to deter any nation from contemplating war against this country. This cannot be repeated too often.

We have no indication of the money and effort that are being expended in this field of air defence and attack by our Dominions. We can only hope that this is receiving the attention of His Majesty's Government, and that one scheme is being prepared for our own Air Force and the Air Forces of Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. This scheme should include the standardisation of aircraft, armament and technique. I believe that had we used on the Royal Air Force a quarter of the resources which were put at the disposal of the Navy and Army in the last war, we should have shortened the war and saved many lives and much misery.

We must accept the fact that the next war will be fought with an intensity and speed never before known. The right hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned the new American report, in which that is clearly shown. This view is not new to the men who are leading the Royal Air Force today. It is to my mind doubtful whether our land and sea forces in any numbers will have the time to mobilise in the event of war, and, for these reasons, I beg that the Royal Air Force should be brought to the highest possible operational standard, with all its reserves adequately trained, within the shortest possible time, and that all other considerations now in the way should be put aside for the time being. What we want to do now is to get, as quickly as humanly possible, an effective striking force immediately available to strike.

In conclusion, may I say I did not like the remarks of the Secretary of State about a third Royal Air Force, although I know exactly what he means. I feel it is the wrong approach The Royal Air Force has fought in two wars, and it has built up a very great esprit de corps, which we do not want to change, though we might well change many other things We do not want a new third Royal Air Force; we want the old Royal Air Force modernised.

5.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I wish to oppose these Air Estimates. I do not believe that the future security of this country depends upon the millions that we spend on the Armed Forces, and I want to direct my remarks to these Estimates and to say that £173 million spent upon the Royal Air Force at the present time is not likely to bring us more security, but will impose a crippling economic and financial burden on the nation.

The right hon. Gentleman who led for the Opposition paid a well-deserved tribute to the father of the Secretary of State with which I wish to associate myself. Mr. Arthur Henderson was one of the greatest Foreign Ministers this nation has yet produced, and I only regret that it is left to his son, years afterwards, to propose Estimates which mean that £173 million in these times is to be devoted to the destructive purposes of modern war. I have listened with great interest to the specialists and experts on air warfare, and the more I listen to them, the more am I convinced that they have very little conception of how this new war is to be fought, and that they are preparing for air warfare in terms of the last war. The modern developments in science quoted by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition make us wonder whether we are not rehearsing for something that may never come off, and which, if it does, will not be like the rehearsal.

At a time of grave economic crisis, when, as we were told last night, our dollar reserves are at the point of exhaustion, how does this sum compare with the sum that is being spent on civil aviation? Our Conservative friends a few days ago were criticising the losses incurred by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. They thought that the £8 million lost on civil aviation was too much, but, in these Estimates, we are asking for a bill 25 times greater for the doubtful purposes of the Royal Air Force, compared with the item in our national accounts for civil aviation. Consider the treatment handed out to the Ministry of Civil Aviation as compared with the R.A.F. We were told in the Debates on civil aviation that we could not afford to spend money developing air travel in Scotland, and, as representing a constituency with an airport which is one of the biggest in this country and which played a prominent part in the last war, I object to spending so much money on military aviation when we can spend so little on civil aviation and are cutting down that expenditure.

In the Civil Estimates, we are spending £162 million of the national expenditure on education. We are spending on the R.A.F. more than we are spending on education. We could go over the items of money spent on the social services, and we should see that the social services are being crippled because these immense sums are being lavished on war expenditure. We are suffering from the hangover of war, and, looking over these Estimates in great detail, I have been convinced that we have at the Air Ministry, people who are out to defend the vested interests that always hang over from a war.

Take the case of the Women's Air Services. I had occasion to protest against the expenditure on the Women's Services in a recent Debate, and I am more convinced than ever, after reading the publicity material I picked up at an R.A.F. recruiting office in Kingsway, that we are prepared to spend money like water in recruiting women for the Royal Air Force when we are told by the Ministry of Health that we have not enough nurses to nurse the tuberculous victims of the last war. I strongly protest against the recruiting activities of the R.A.F. and the literature that is being distributed asking the women of this country to roll up and join war services at a time when our nursing services are so desperately in need of women to help in the nursing of the civilian population.

It is, indeed, very interesting literature which is produced by the Department of the Secretary of State. Here is an interesting little leaflet, entitled "Careers in the R.A.F.," and this is the sort of publicity material that is being sent out by the Minister's Department. I have never seen anything so naive and simple in my life. It begins in this way: In the days when Dickens wrote 'Dombey and Son' women had a very difficult, but very limited, place in the scheme of things. It goes on to say: Their sphere was bounded by the church, the kitchen and the nursery. Then comes this most interesting statement: Some very advanced women wrote books. Really, the profundity of thought that comes from the publicity department of the R.A.F. is most impressive. We are told that the books of George Eliot and other women were read by women, particularly unmarried women, but only in secret. There were rebels like Taglioni, the dancer, and Fanny Davies, who carried the torch lit by Clara Schumann. Any amount of money can be found by the publicity departments of the war Services, but very little money can be found for essential civilian services like the Women's Land Army.

We do not wonder at that when we turn to the Air Estimates and find set out the publicity apparatus which is being used to popularise the Royal Air Force. We are told on page 48, that there is a Chief Information Officer, a Director of Public Relations, a Deputy-Information Officer, a Deputy-Director of Public Relations, a Publicity Officer, a Senior Press Officer, two Press Officers, eight Assistant Press Officers, a Campaigns Officer, an Assistant Campaigns Officer, a Layout Artist, a Designer (Exhibitions), an Assistant Designer (Exhibitions), and so on. There is absolutely no attempt at economy and the cutting down of expenditure in the Royal Air Force. It seems to me that the Ministers of our War Services take their instructions from the chiefs of their Departments, and that they are not framing policy at all.

I had occasion yesterday to ask the Minister of Defence about the speech delivered by Air-Marshal Lord Tedder at Glasgow last week. I drew attention to the fact that Lord Tedder, in opening a recruiting exhibition, had referred to nations, with whom we are on terms of friendly relationship, as "yapping jackals." I was amazed to find that the Minister of Defence, instead of supporting me in my reasonable demand that air-marshals should restrict their activities to their technical services, actually endorsed the remarks of Lord Tedder. My only point in mentioning this is that if the Minister of Defence is not prepared——

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

I do not see how that question can possibly arise under these Estimates.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I would point out that the salary of the air-marshal is contained in these Estimates. However, I have made the point. I only wish to make one further point—a very reasonable one—which is that this House of Commons should maintain control over the Ministers, and that the Ministers should tell their military staffs to keep to their proper functions and not usurp those of the Cabinet in framing policy. Indeed, what Lord Tedder said was not even successful from the point of view of the recruiting campaign which is being conducted by the Air Ministry. Indeed, we were told three days later that recruiting was lamentably slow. I object to this large grant of public money being spent on the three Services at the present time, and especially to the items contained in these Estimates.

The right hon. Gentleman who led for the Opposition, referred to a Debate in another place—a very sombre Debate. None of the experts can tell us very much about the atomic bomb. When we ask questions in this House, about it, one would almost think that an atomic bomb had been dropped. When an hon. Member asks the Prime Minister about the atomic bomb, he looks at him as if he had asked something indecent. But the fact is that the discovery of the atomic bomb has changed the whole science of modern warfare. I maintain that these Estimates do not reflect the attitude we should be adopting towards modern warfare, that we cannot afford this money at a time of economic crisis, that we are preparing obsolete weapons, that we are throwing away the national money, and that the only real security and defence for this nation in a time of atomic warfare is a fundamental change in our whole international policy.

5.35 P.m.

Photo of Mr Roland Robinson Mr Roland Robinson , Blackpool South

Until the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) rose to his feet, it seemed to me that there was a general measure of agreement, on both sides of the House, on the objectives we wish to achieve for the Royal Air Force. I have very little sympathy with the view which he propounded. We are living in a time when, once again, the spirit of aggression is in the air. If we were to follow the policy he desires, we should have our country completely undefended, and then, indeed, we might fear the worst. He took an entirely wrong view about these Air Estimates. Their purpose is to ensure the defence of our country, to ensure the continuance of freedom. They are not designed in any way to defend vested interests of the Air Ministry. The hon. Member's views are completely divorced from the realities of the situation of today.

I prefer the well-reasoned and very carefully prepared statement made by the Secretary of State this afternoon. I think I can say on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House that we will give him our fullest support in ensuring that this country has a strong offensive and defensive Air Force as a means of securing the continued peace of the world. We agree with him when he says that the Royal Air Force wants quality, mobility and trained manpower. During this Debate, we should, as far as possible, address ourselves to the question of whether or not these objectives are being achieved. I must say that on reading the Secretary of State's Memorandum, which was issued by the Air Ministry, I did not think we were altogether achieving our objects.

The first thing that calls for attention in that Memorandum is the statement that only 4o per cent. of the Royal Air Force is represented by the Regular element. I do not believe that a conscript who comes into a highly technical service like the Royal Air Force can hope to be efficient, or of any real use to the Service, after only a year's training. He would be no good for ground crew or for air crew. Even the Secretary of State said that it would require at least two years to make such a man suitable to play his part as a member of an air crew. This Service is not getting anything like full value from its number of recruits at the present time. Indeed, I think we are losing value, because, as has been pointed out in the Memorandum, a large proportion of the whole effort of the Royal Air Force must be devoted to the training of men who, at the end of their period, could not possibly be efficient units of the force if they were called up again in the event of war.

It presents rather a dark situation when, in the Memorandum, the Secretary of State has to point out that this puts the force under very severe strain, and when he says that the average level of experience is low, that postings are frequent, and that dilution is high. We can agree with him when he says it is most important that the process of building up the Regular content should not be delayed. We cannot emphasise that too strongly in view of the present position of international events. We, on this side, feel that there is no time to be lost. Time is very vital, and we should, therefore, consider what we can do to increase recruitment to the Regular Air Force.

I think that the Secretary of State will have to go all out to improve, in every possible way, the conditions of service. It may involve some revision in the rates of pay and pensions, and it will certainly involve the improvement of conditions in married quarters. After all, when young men go into the Services, they expect to get married and to have families in the same way as other people. If they are faced with the fact that they cannot get married quarters, that there will be frequent postings, and that they can never settle down in a home of their own, then, surely, that must be a deterrent to their joining the Forces. The Secretary of State pointed out that we were increasing the married quarters, but even from his own speech it was quite clear that the increase at the end of the year will give us only half what we want.

I feel that if we allow the Government to ride way with this on the ground that they want to save, and to cut capital expenditure at the present time, we are following a false policy, because such a saving can only result in an uneconomic loss to the country. We must get the Regular content in our Air Force rather than so many short-term conscripts who cannot fulfil the requirements in spite of the utmost goodwill on their part. In that connection, too, it would be wise if the Secretary of State could consider whether it is possible to make some arrangements whereby the children of the Regular people in the Air Force may be assured of some form of continuity in their education. It is a very important matter when young familes are being brought up. If there are to be constant postings from one place to another, the education of the child will be unnecessarily interrupted a great deal, and that is a matter in which all parents would want to exercise the greatest possible care.

I would stress again, as I have done in the past, the necessity of ensuring, too, that there is employment available for men coming out of the Service at the end of short or medium term service. When the Under-Secretary replies, I wonder whether he could say what steps are actually being taken to ensure that these people who come out after short or longterm service can pass straight into industry. There is a great deal in R.A.F. training among ground crews that could well qualify men to pass straight from the R.A.F. into any form of industry. Can we have some plan so that the future of these men can be considered before they leave the Service, so they know exactly where they are going when they leave?

Is the Minister also creating similar plans in connection with the entry from people in the R.A.F. into civil aviation? The R.A.F. is undoubtedly developing into the greatest recruiting ground we have for civil aviation. Indeed, it is the only way in which most pilots and air crews can complete the number of flying hours required to qualify them for most courses and most positions in civil aviation. Will the Secretary of State use this as a means of making a career more attractive, in that these men might pass from one to another? People who wish to go into civil aviation might, perhaps, in the latter part of their service, be moved into Transport Command, where they can learn something of the flying on which they will have to embark in their later career. These things are important, and I hope they will be borne in mind in order to stimulate recruiting.

I was glad to see in the Minister's Memorandum, and to hear in his speech, that he wanted to develop contacts with the Commonwealth and other friendly forces. This was a point I raised on these Estimates some two years ago. I do most strongly feel that, in this part of our normal routine training, we should do long distance flights overseas, with landing bases in friendly countries—not merely flying there, refuelling and corning back, but making contacts, and mutual understanding, when they are visiting members of the Forces of other countries. I think this is an excellent idea. Obviously, we have done it once with the Lincoln Squadron's flight to Canada tad the United States. It appears also that there have been trips to our own bases in the Middle East; we have had a visit to Turkey and to Norway. I say to the Government—can we have more of this? It is an excellent idea which can be developed and fostered so that it is a much more regular feature than it is at the present time.

Are we carrying the policy to its logical conclusion by inviting friendly foreign bomber and fighter squadrons to visit this country on their training flights so as to get an interchange of ideas? This interchange of ideas is very important. It was of the utmost use to us during the war, and I wonder whether we still continue the system of interchange of pupils at the staff colleges. During the war many very efficient American officers passed through our own staff college; are any of them coming to us now, and, indeed, are we, in return, continuing to send our own officers to the efficient American staff colleges? In the same connection, on mutual understanding for the purpose of mutual defence, I would like to urge once again that we should as far as possible develop amongst our friends standardisation of types of aircraft, guns, ammunition and so on. Are we developing a policy of standardisation with our friends, or is it gradually being allowed to drop away with the end of the war?

In general, I want to reinforce what the Secretary of State said about the need for a balanced Air Force. I feel it should be offensive as well as defensive. The Secretary of State in his Memorandum pointed out that we were giving special attention to the training of our bomber force because he believed that the existence of an efficient striking force in this country was the most effective safeguard against aggression. I agree with that, but I do not think it goes quite far enough. We must have a strong defensive force as well. We are living in an age of atomic warfare, and in atomic warfare the greatest advantage lies with the man who gets his blow in first. If there were two opposing Powers, each with strong offensive forces, and one mustered its own force without notice and launched an atomic attack, that is the Power which will have a very great advantage in winning the war. If I may say so, with respect, we are not the type of people who would be prepared to strike first, and to strike without notice in that manner. Maybe some other potential aggressor would be prepared to do so and I hope, therefore, that we shall continue to give enough emphasis to our defensive force so that we can meet a surprise attack if one should come in that way. If we do not, it may be too late.

We will give our full support to the Government to give strength to the R.A.F. We believe it can be a great power for keeping the peace of the world. I want to emphasise that it should be truly known throughout the whole of the world that our Air Force can be ready for action at any time, and will not be ready only at some mysterious date in the future. Time is getting short and I say: let us see that whatever we do, we are not too late.

5.49 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Gould Mrs Barbara Gould , Hendon North

The hon. Member for South Blackpool (Mr. Robinson) will forgive me if I do not deal with what he discussed, although I agree with very much of it. I want to deal specifically with one matter—the question of Hendon aerodrome, which is in my constituency and which is a very vital matter at the moment. When Hendon aerodrome was built some 20-odd years ago it was built in the midst of fields, out in the country. Now there is a very different position. On three sides it is surrounded by houses, mostly working class houses, the gardens of which run right down to the fences of the aerodrome. The fourth side is not really clear, in as much as the L.M.S. has built rails along part of the way and there are some, though fewer, houses.

Therefore, Hendon aerodrome today is closed in, as it were, to a built-up area. It is no longer what it was and what it was intended to be—a defence aerodrome beyond London on the outskirts. It is, indeed, in London, the postal addresses of the surrounding houses being N.W.4, N.W.7, and N.W.9. One side, however, is in Burnt Oak, which is the most closely built-up area of all, and which happens to be in Middlesex. The reason why this is such a built-up area is that housing had to follow the unplanned industrial expansion which took place there. In the interwar years factories were built all along the Edgware Road, and houses for the workers followed. Many of these people are employed in the de Havilland factory which is not far away.

Since the present Government came into power I have been pressing for the removal of Hendon Aerodrome because the site is needed for housing and for two further reasons. One is that it is used very much for single seater aircraft, which, I understand, have to fly very low in circling round when taking off or on reaching the ground. The other reason is the deafening noise people in the surrounding houses have to endure. This is particularly important at a time when many of the workers who are engaged on essential production are employed on a shift basis, cannot sleep because of the continual noise. I know it has been suggested that the area around the aerodrome should not have been built up, and that the present Government cannot be held responsible for the presence of large numbers of small houses, schools and so on, and even a hospital, close to the aerodrome. But, just as we have had to accept the burden of unplanned industrial expansion in other ways, so must we accept it in dealing with an aerodrome, and in deciding whether or not it should remain in a particular place.

I am well aware that to remove it will cost money, but there is now a reason very much more serious even than that, which I have been pressing during the last two years—the need to remove the nuisance of low flying over a built-up area, quite apart from the very serious need of the ground for housing. On 9th February an accident occurred in which an Anson aircraft which was taking off from Hendon Aerodrome hit, first of all, a block of L.C.C. flats. Fortunately they were still under construction, and were, therefore, unoccupied. The aeroplane then crashed down on to a trolley-bus, and the pilot of the aircraft, Wing-Commander Rolfe, and his passenger were killed in the performance of their duties. Only these two people were killed. That is bad enough if it was not necessary, and I propose to try to show that, in other circumstances, flying from another aerodrome, those two young fellows would not have lost their lives in the performance of their duty. It was a miracle that only two people were killed. The aeroplane crashed on to a trolley-bus less than 3o yards from a civic restaurant in Edgware Road. In this restaurant, which is of the bungalow type, were between 200 and 300 people. If the machine had crashed there, Heaven knows what the casualty list would have been.

The point of the greatest interest—and of the greatest moment, I suggest, to this House and to the country—is the circumstances in which the accident took place. I understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the inquiry is not yet complete, and, therefore, we are not yet able to have the report before us. I refer, therefore, to a statement made at the inquest by Flight-Lieutenant Wallance, of the R.A.F., Hendon, whose evidence, I understand, was quite correct. He said that: The plane was being flown on one engine only, as part of a routine practice: I have been given to understand that it is quite irregular that a plane should be flown on one engine over a built-up area. In such circumstances the likelihood of an accident is much greater than if the aircraft were flying over open fields. Although I speak as a layman, the evidence shows fairly clearly what actually happened. Flight-Lieutenant Wallance went on to say that the last radio transmission from the plane said that there was another plane on the runway, so that it could not land, and that the pilot proposed to overrun the landing, but that he was too low to gain sufficient height on one engine to clear the obstruction in front of him. That was why he had crashed and why there was this disaster. When, later, Flight-Lieutenant Wallance was asked whether it would have been possible for Wing-Commander Rolfe to use also the other engine, he said: No. It is not the policy, although it would be possible. I repeat what he said—that it was not policy to use a second engine, although it would have been possible. I do want to say to the Secretary of State that it is a very serious matter for an accident of this kind to take place. We all understand that aircraft have to be tested out on one engine, but they should be tested out on one engine only over open spaces. That is not possible anywhere near Hendon Aerodrome, because there are no open spaces and the area is very closely built up.

Since this accident I have made a number of inquiries. I am aware that I cannot give my findings as evidence, because, obviously, I cannot bring forward names, but I have talked with a great many people, including a number of pilots who are flying in that area. They say they are extremely glad that a protest is being made, that they consider the aerodrome is obsolete, and that it is very difficult to get their aircraft clear of the buildings. This must obviously be true, and the extraordinary thing is not that we have had this one accident recently, but that we have not had a great many more. Councillors and other responsible people living in the area, to whom I have talked, have told me how, again and again, that they have witnessed aircraft getting up over the surrounding buildings only with the greatest difficulty and, as one of them said, they have seen a large number of near accidents.

In these circumstances, it is vital that this aerodrome should he moved. We cannot take down all the houses; we cannot convert it back into an aerodrome set amid open fields; we cannot make it safe either for the community or for the pilots. Those two young fellows lost their lives in the performance of their duties because they were forced to go up in the close proximity of buildings, in circumstances in which it was not possible for the plane on one engine to fly over the buildings. If, as is obviously the case, Flight-Lieut. Wallance did not even know—as apparently is the case from the evidence—that it was not permitted in routine work to go up over buildings, I would suggest that this sort of thing is probably constantly happening in the case of other small planes flying from Hendon Aerodrome.

Much has been said tonight on both sides of the House—very rightly—about the need for the greatest possible efficiency in our Air Force. I think that, with the exception of one hon. Member, we are all agreed that that is vital today. If we are to have the most proficient Air Force possible, and, as my right hon. and learned Friend wants, the finest men and material for it, and the best conditions of service, then we must have practice at aerodromes and in conditions which are as safe as possible for the pilots. I have been told that one of the reasons why Hendon Aerodrome continues to be used is that it is necessary for the Auxiliary Air Force; that the Auxiliary Air Force must have a place to which its members can travel easily, without transport difficulties. De Havilland have a place where they try out their planes at Hatfield which, I know from experience, is just as easy to reach as Hendon. The tubes and 'buses run a long way out, and it is just as easy to get out considerably' farther as it is to reach Hendon Aerodrome. Certainly, I cannot believe for a moment that the pilots would not rather take a little longer upon their journey to do their training than to do their training at an aerodrome which is surrounded by buildings, the proximity of which makes flying on to or from the aerodrome obviously dangerous.

I put it to my right hon. and learned Friend that it has been agreed by the House that we must spend as much money, even in these days, as is necessary to make the Royal Air Force really efficient. It cannot be efficient if it has an obsolete aerodrome completely surrounded by buildings as the training place for the pilots. It cannot be proficient if people are being disturbed all the time, if people are being endangered all the time, if the pilots, whom it is so necessary to train in the best possible way, are in danger all the time in the place at which they have to train. I urge the Government to spend the comparatively small amount of money which is needed to establish an aerodrome another 30 or 40 miles away, and which it will be safe to use.

6.5 p.m.

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

I have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould), because I am one of the pilots who fly from Hendon. I can assure her that we have no difficulty in getting off the ground at Hendon. It is an aerodrome which is extremely well suited for the auxiliary squadrons equipped with Spitfires, and I sincerely hope that we shall stop there until we are re-equipped with jet aircraft or similar aircraft. There is no tube to Hatfield, and it would be difficult to get there. As for the little houses round about Hendon Aerodrome, the little houses the hon. Lady so dramatically described—houses put up by free enterprise—they 'lave been there for some 15 years; and there were houses there when the Royal Air Force pageants took place at Hendon, which the hon. Lady will, no doubt, remember. So, while I admire her plea on behalf of her constituents, I hope that the Secretary of State will pay little attention to it, and more attention to the difficulties the auxiliary squadrons would have if the right hon. and learned Gentleman followed the hon. Lady's advice.

Two years ago I pleaded strongly for some greater form of Empire air force. It seems to me that we had a united Empire air force during the war. It was everything we wanted then. The pilots were mixed up in various commands, and mixed up in various air forces as well. New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians, South Africans were in the Royal Air Force, and Royal Air Force officers operated with Dominions squadrons. Now all that Imperial organisation seems to have broken down. The several air forces of the Dominions have retired into their own shells. They have gone home; of course, they had to; now the Royal Air Force seems to have become once more a separate operating unit. I wish the Secretary of State would consider suggesting to the Dominions that they and we form, once again, an Empire air force. I think that if we do not, the Dominions will severally form liaisons which will be difficult to remove. There may, for instance, be a liaison between Canada and America. Dominion Air Forces may tool up in different ways; they may, for instance, have ammunition different from that used by the planes of the Royal Air Force. I hope that the Secretary of State will now, two years after this subject was raised in Debate, consider with the Dominions forming a unified air force.

The Secretary of State should also think of having a unified personnel department or an Empire Air Ministry; not necessarily situated in London, for it might be located in one of the Dominions. There should be uniformity within the Empire. There should be Empire types of aircraft, and Empire bases, all on the same pattern. I do hope he will consider this. I am sure he thinks of it. I wish he would do something about it.

Last week the Secretary of State issued a Memorandum in which he said: Special attention is being given to the training of the bomber forces. It is realised, he said: … that the existence of efficient striking forces is this country's most effective safeguard against aggression. Great importance is attached to increasing the mobility of the force and reducing its dependence on widespread and elaborate base organisation. It is the aim of the Air Council to enable a substantial weight of air power to be developed at short notice in any area where it may be required. I suggest to the Secretary of State that that is exactly what we had in 1945, when the war finished. I suggest that that striking force has been frittered away by this Government. The Secretary of State now comes and says that this is a new idea that this Government are going to put into force. But could not the Government have kept in being the force we had, with the large sum of money they had last year? How are they going to develop it this year with less money? I wish this idea which the Minister has developed so suddenly, and this force which we had in 1945, could have been at our disposal two weeks ago. The conference between President Perón and President Videla, set to the music of Royal Air Force Rolls Royce engines, would have been a very different conference, and they would have scuttled home quicker than they did—and that goes for Guatemala as well.

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

I have been seeking, sometimes in the Press and sometimes elsewhere, for positive signs that this country is to be properly armed, and that a proper appreciation of the facts will be made. I read the other day that the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) might be made the Minister of Defence. If that is the case he can learn a new tune in his heart—a tune which would come from "Annie Get Your Gun" and which would run: My defences are down,He has broken my resistance,And I don't know where I am.I went into the fight like a lionAnd came out like a lamb. In actual fact we went into the fight like a lamb and came out like a lion. Now we seem to be the lamb again, and that is disturbing. How much of a lamb are we?

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

I do not think that the Royal Air Force is quite happy in itself about how strong or how weak we are. I wish the Minister would tell us how many bombers we could send out on an actual operational trip. Personally, I do not think it is much above 100. He might get a few more on paper, but I doubt whether he would get more out operationally. As for our Fighter Command, I do not think that is very strong either; certainly not strong enough to repel an airborne attack on the same scale as, say, Arnheim. We may all speak of atom bombs and missiles, but there are other and older forms of attack which would be just as effective in these days.

The basis of all fighter aircraft is their guns. One can have a brilliant pilot in a fighter aircraft, who can fly his aircraft in circles, but he is no good if he cannot shoot straight. I have commanded an auxiliary squadron for almost two years now, and we have not yet fired our guns because we have not a range on which to fire them. We were told to go and fire into the mud, so we said, "How can we see if we are shooting straight? We want targets." We have not been given any targets; and we have not had any airborne targets either. That is a serious position, and if that situation obtains in other squadrons it should be put right immediately.

I should like to say that the Under-Secretary has been extraordinarily helpful to the Auxiliary Air Force. Whenever I have approached him, he has helped all he could. But we want all the facilities we can get, and I hope he and the Minister will not cut down the money this year merely because we did not use it all last year. That would be false economy. He ought to argue that the converse should be the case, and persuade us to build up and to use all that extra money which we saved last year. The job of the Royal Air Force is to fly, yet more and more pilots are being kept on the ground in the Air Ministry, in the various commands, and in duplicating capacities throughout the country. The Minister may have heard the phrase, "Set the people free." I ask him to set the pilots free.

6.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Victor Collins Mr Victor Collins , Taunton

I am sure the House listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Holborn (Mr. Max Aitken), but I confess that I was disappointed in that he did not, from his experience, make any forecast of the type of air defence or air attack to which he thought we should look in the years to come. The most significant things in this Debate have been said by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) in his references to the report of the President of the United States. In the war the United States did not use operationally any aircraft which were not designed prior to the war. We all know that that is a fact. What we have to consider is the-kind of engagement that is likely to be fought in several years' time, when the aircraft which are now being designed will have been built and put into operation.

I am sure it is possible to exaggerate the effects of the atomic bomb; but I feel also that most people are inclined hopelessly to under-estimate its effect, and particularly its effect on strategy. Whatever our views on the present expenditure in the Air Estimates of £173 million, and whether any of it is being applied wastefully on the somewhat naive literature referred to by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), the whole thing is fundamentally wrong unless we have some assurance that our strategy is designed to take complete cognisance of the possible effect of the atomic bomb. We must recognise, not only that our strategy must be linked completely with the Dominion and Colonial Air Forces—in an Empire Air Force, such as has been described—but that the whole of the training and the munitions must not be based in a major sense on this country at all. That is the factor of over-riding importance which emerges from this Debate, and any Estimates or plans which fail to take that basic fact into account make nonsense of the whole Debate and of the whole Air Force.

I still hope there is a reasonable chance that men will learn that the only possible way to stop war is to get together in such a way that the weapons will be taken out of their hands, because that is the only way we shall achieve peace. Meanwhile, we should be stupid were we to ignore the international situation with which we are confronted today, and were we not to take all proper precautions within our power and deploy our forces with a reasonable assessment of the future probabilities. Speaking with all humility, as one having none of the experience of the hon. Member for Holborn, or of other hon. and gallant Members, I confess it is disappointing that we have not had from them the forward-looking observations which we might have expected.

In opening the Debate, my right hon. and learned Friend rightly spoke of the building up of the third Royal Air Force. I am fully aware that there will be only one Royal Air Force, and that it will be the same, with all its traditions and spirit, but we realise that it is starting anew. My right hon. and learned Friend made an appeal to the youth of the country, on whom the success of this new venture will so largely depend. The question of the quality of personnel is one of the most vital problems which has to be solved. The quality will depend very largely on the pay and conditions which the Service offers. I suggest that at present the pay and conditions are sadly deficient for attracting the right kind of personnel to the Air Force, which will be the most important striking force, both for defence and aggression, of the three Services.

I wish to refer particularly to the pay and conditions of the Women's Royal Air Force, and especially to the very unattractive nature of the conditions offered to the officers in that service upon whom so much depends. I understand that the rate of pay for an assistant section officer is 8s. 9d. a day, and for a section officer 10s. and many officers with experience of seven or eight years' service will leave the force if the present war service pay comes to an end. It is pointed out, for example, that a senior sergeant gets the same pay as an assistant section officer, and so there is no inducement, other than the question of rank, for a girl to take a commission. These girls simply cannot afford it. It is no earthly use expecting to build up an Air Force of quality unless it can be well officered.

I notice that reference is made in the Memorandum to the fact that people can take extended-service commissions with opportunity for transfer to Regular commissions. The prospects of transferring to Regular commissions are very small indeed, because so much pressure is being put on officers to take these short extended-service commissions. It means that people are putting in perhaps 10 to 14 years service without any prospect of getting Regular commissions. There is a great deal of frustration and disappointment over this, which is greatly affecting the service. We cannot hope to build up a personnel of quality if this sort of thing is happening. I suggest also that the pay and conditions of other ranks needs looking into.

I was talking the other day to some girls in the service, and they told me that nearly 5o per cent. of the girls now coming into the service were joining because they had no homes. It is no longer the spectre of unemployment which is the great recruiter, but home conditions and the lack of homes. As a result, we are not getting the girls coming into the service under the happiest circumstances. We want to attract a better and more fortunate type of personnel, and we can do that only by offering better conditions. When the girls join the service, they are given initial training which lasts for only five weeks before being transferred to their stations. I do not think that that is long enough. The period should be some seven or eight weeks, particularly as these young persons, when they go to their stations, have practically nothing to do, which, as my right hon. and learned Friend knows, has had some very bad effects.

I hope that particular attention will be paid to what has been said about married quarters, particularly in this country. It seems to me that a great deal more could be done if maximum attention were given to reasonable conversions of existing buildings. I know of the difficulties in regard to labour and materials, but I do not think there has been sufficient drive. It would give a great deal of added satisfaction if better facilities were provided. What is now being done in this important task of building up the Air Force anew is vitally significant. The two major tasks are to look after personnel in every possible way, and to look after the basic and fundamental strategy. If that is done and the Air Force is ever needed again in a big way, which we all hope will not be the case, I am sure that it will give a good account of itself.

6.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Ward Mr George Ward , Worcester

I wish to reinforce the plea, put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), that we might be allowed to have a little more information in these Memoranda issued in connection with the Air Estimates. If it is true that the object of discussing these Estimates is to give the House some idea of the value, in terms of an Air Force, the country is getting in return for a certain sum of money, then our task is made unnecessarily difficult by being asked, for example, to discuss the total manpower without being given nearly enough of the factors which have been taken into consideration in arriving at that total. I cannot believe that the people whose business it is to decide these matters start off by saying that there will be an Air Force of 260,000, and then ask themselves how many squadrons of various types that will allow. Clearly, it is done the other way round. They decide what number of squadrons of various types are needed to meet our present commitments, to form a nucleus which can rapidly be expanded in an emergency, and to be sufficiently powerful for the time being to be a deterrent to a potential enemy, and then from these factors decide what total manpower is needed.

We are asked to start our deliberations at the wrong end, and that is why the speeches of so many hon. Members in these Service Debates are largely of an interrogatory nature. It means that we have to try to worm out of the Government as much information as we can, instead of being given the broad basis upon which we can put forward constructive ideas. I have no doubt that the Government will put forward the plea of security, but that is not an argument which we on this side can accept, so long as we are presented with a White Paper which says: The provision made for supply allows for further re-equipment of fighter squadrons with jet-propelled aircraft and for a limited measure of re-equipment elsewhere. That means anything from supersonic, pilotless aircraft to a new pattern of shoes; but the Secretary of State then gets up and tells us that the Air Force will be equipped very shortly with a jet-bomber of a particularly high performance. If he can say that at the Despatch Box, why cannot he say it in this Paper? We want something which we can think about before coming to the House.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I must correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. I did not say "very shortly." I am not going to mislead the House. I said that the production of jet-bombers was in sight. The phrase I used was "in sight," and I hope that he will not read any more into it than that.

Photo of Mr George Ward Mr George Ward , Worcester

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but it does not alter my argument. We should know what we have to work on. We should, as an hon. Member said, be "forward-looking" in our ideas. The Minister may say that this Memorandum contains as much information as was ever issued in the past. I cannot believe that it does. Having read some of the Air Estimate speeches made before the war, it seems to me that hon. Members then must have had much more information than we get now. If they could have it then, I do not see why we should not now.

When reading this Paper through, I was reminded of the shop in "Alice Through the Looking Glass" which always appeared to be full of curious things, but when she looked hard at a shelf to find out exactly what was on it, that particular shelf was always quite empty. There is nothing in this White Paper which will stand up to hard examination. The Prime Minister said last Monday that he would consult his advisers to see whether or not more information could be given to us. I hope that when he is having these consultations, he will remember that it is the duty of Parliament to examine these Estimates very carefully. Our duty is being made almost impossible, by having so little information.

We on this side of the House have never attached a great deal of importance to overall figures. We have never thought that the total number of men in the Royal Air Force is particularly important. We would sooner have a small, highly efficient, highly trained, well equipped Regular Force, with a large reserve behind it, than a large and woolly Air Force, with a lot of men kicking their heels and doing very little. It is quite impossible to discuss this figure of 260,000 without knowing what these people are doing. We want to know how many of them are in operational squadrons, how many in training squadrons and how many are allotted to administrative duties. What matters is the shape of the Air Force and not its total size. Paragraph 5 of the Memorandum admits that the Air Force is out of shape; that there is a huge training machine, and, therefore, presumably a very small operational side. It admits that the average level of experience is low, and that there is a lack of balance in training. That is very disturbing, particularly in view of tin present international situation.

Page 8 of the Memorandum states that special attention must be given to the training of a bomber force. It is very difficult to see how special attention can be given to the training of the bomber force; in fact it is difficult to see how any good training can be given to the bomber force at all if the Air Force is misshapen and unbalanced, as this White Paper describes it. This is particularly so in view of the fact that only 4o per cent. of the entire force represents the Regular element. That means that only about 20 per cent. of the total is available for operational squadrons because the others must be engaged in training the non-Regulars.

I do not know whether the term "striking force" still means what it did at the end of the war; perhaps it means something quite different today. At the end of the war, the term "striking force" meant three things. It meant, first of all, the heavy, strategic bomber, the object of which was to destroy the war potential of the enemy, such as munitions, chemical factories, oil distilleries, etc., in the heart of his country. Then there was the light, fast bomber of the mosquito type to dislocate the civilian life of the enemy. Thirdly, there was the rocket fighter to smash communications behind the enemy's lines. I can see that a jet-propelled bomber may be highly suitable to replace the Mosquito. The jet fighter may be admirable to replace the Typhoons and the Spitfires of the last war, but it is very difficult to think of the jet-propelled bomber as being of the slightest use for penetrating vast distances behind the "iron curtain" and carrying a reasonable load of bombs.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us, in his winding up speech, whether that is a possibility of the future or not. If it is a dream that probably will never happen that we shall have a jet bomber capable of such vast ranges as we are likely to need in a future war, can he tell us if we have got a bomber of the conventional type, capable of penetrating beyond the "iron curtain" far enough to dislocate the war potential of a possible enemy? If we have not a conventional bomber coming along and if the jet-propelled bomber is not capable of these long ranges, that is a very disturbing thing and something ought to be done about it.

I turn to page 12 of the Memorandum to reinforce what has been said by the right hon. Member for Bromley and the hon. Member for Holborn (Mr. Max Aitken) in urging the Government to think imperially. The question of an Empire Air Force and close collaboration between our Air Force and the Air Forces of the Dominions has been very ably put. I would go one step further, and ask the Government what steps have been taken to disperse a part of our aircraft industry throughout the Dominions. It would be complete folly to rely in a future war on the output of the aircraft industry in the United Kingdom for supplying our Air Force with its needs. Already De Havilland, A. V. Roe, Faireys, and Hawkers have taken the initiative and have established valuable contacts in the Dominions. Clearly, the building up of the overseas potential of the aircraft industry is a task far beyond the resources of the ordinary private firm, and a lead should be given in this by the Government. It is much too vast an organisation to be left purely to the industry. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us what encouragement it is proposed to give to these. and other aircraft industries to develop their overseas potential, and whether the Government are giving a lead in this highly important matter.

Let me conclude by adding my plea to that of other hon. Members who have urged the Government to pay particular attention to the reserves and auxiliaries. I was horrified to see that the best the Secretary of State for Air could do for the auxiliaries and the reserve forces in this Memorandum was two little paragraphs of one sentence each. One merely said: The Auxiliary Air Force was honoured by the grant of the prefix 'Royal' in December, 1947. That is rather like saying: "The school was honoured by a visit from Queen Mary last term." The other sentence is: The development of reserves, auxiliaries and pre-entry forces is being continued on the lines already laid down. What are they and where are they laid down? We have not the slightest idea, and I hope the Government will tell us, for we wish to know. What I would emphasise is that we cannot possibly expect our Air Force to be able to expand rapidly in an emergency and to be ready to meet that emergency unless we have a strong Auxiliary Air Force and Volunteer Reserve. That cannot be too often emphasised, and we on this side of the House expect to see very much more energetic measures on the part of the Government to build up these forces properly. We have heard a shocking example from the hon. Member for Holborn about the lack of firing ranges, and it makes one wonder what happens to the auxiliary squadrons which do not have a commanding officer in the House of Commons. Do they get anything at all?

Because we came out of the war with a powerful, highly efficient Royal Air Force, we cannot afford to be complacent now. Nothing gets so rusty so quickly as an air crew. I believe that 20 volunteer reserve stations throughout the entire country is not nearly enough. I cannot see low all the aircrews that came out of the war, and the people who want to become aircrews since the war, can possibly keep themselves in flying training with only 20 places in the country to which they can go to train. I know that in Worcestershire, my part of the country, there is no place for miles around where I can go for training. The matter should be taken up with more energy, and more facilities should be provided.

After making all possible allowances for what we have been told is the difficult period through which we are passing, I feel that now something more solid and encouraging should be emerging than this force so vaguely and thinly described in the Memorandum. We hope that the next time we discuss these Estimates all the rather lame apologies will have ceased, and we shall then be given much more information and also much more detailed knowledge whereby we can have grounds for some sort of confidence in the future security of the British Empire.

Photo of Wing Commander Ernest Millington Wing Commander Ernest Millington , Chelmsford

On a point of Order. I should like your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on an inference which can be drawn from one of the questions posed to the Secretary of State for Air by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward). In his speech—I cannot quote it exactly because I do not write shorthand, and, therefore, have not the precise words in front of me—he asked the Secretary of State to say whether the jet-engine bombers which he mentioned in his opening speech were of the type which could penetrate the "iron curtain" sufficiently far to disrupt the war potential of the countries behind that curtain. Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman to refer in such a manner to nations, with whom we are in terms of diplomatic friendship at the moment, as potential enemies?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The hon. Member is entitled to make his own speech in his own way. He is entitled to give such examples as he may think fit to show how far the Air Force should be built up. Whether he uses the term "iron curtain" or China, Japan, or anything else, it is only an illustration, and there is no imputation that we are preparing for war against the countries behind the "iron curtain."

Photo of Mr George Ward Mr George Ward , Worcester

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for your Ruling. May I point out, for the benefit of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington), that if he had been with me behind the Bar of another place listening to yesterday's Debate, he would not feel so squeamish, as obviously he does, at the moment?

6.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff Central

I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House welcomes the provision made for technical education and training in the Royal Air Force; and considers that the continued development of technical skill and experience among members of the Royal Air Force is of importance both to the Service and to industry generally. I should like to point out——

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

On a point of Order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you are now calling the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas). That Amendment is of rather a restrictive character. It deals with one particularly limited aspect of the issue under consideration, and I rather hoped—and there are some others in the same boat as myself—to say something about the wider aspects of the matter. I wonder if we are to be precluded from doing that because of the rather narrow terms of the Amendment you are now calling?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

It is customary for the hon. Member who has drawn a lucky place in the ballot to be given a reasonable time to put his Amendment and get it disposed of, after which we go back to the main Debate. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) can then develop the wider theme without reference to this Amendment.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff Central

I am sorry to take the House from the exciting and controversial issue which they have been discussing to the subject of technical education in the Royal Air Force, which might sound rather prosaic, as indeed it is, but without which we would have no Royal Air Force, and all the talk and excitement about policy, iron curtains and everything else would amount exactly to nothing. I am convinced that the gallantry and audacity of our airmen would avail little were it not that they have been provided with a vast store of technical education in the Royal Air Force. Therefore, there is no need to apologise for asking the House to give its attention to this subject.

I do not like the use of the phrase "technical education," because I believe that we cannot really compartmentalise sections of. education. The purpose of education is the full development of people the better to serve God and man. A lopsided education cannot provide either an efficient airman or an efficient citizen. That leads me to the statement that education in the Royal Air Force must be broad in basis and varied in character. We are not seeking to produce mere automata who will respond to the commanding officer, but citizens of a democratic country. I have been fortunate enough to visit two of our Royal Air Force stations. One of them, in the Vale of Glamorgan, is the largest, and certainly one of the finest, Royal Air Force stations in the country. The other, Halton, is an outstanding example of an R.A.F. apprentices' school. I am very glad to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the education services that I saw in those great R.A.F. stations.

The House will be aware that I regard conscription in time of peace as abhorrent. I have never made any pretence of the fact that I do not like the power of Parliament to be used to filch away the liberty of a man for a given period. Despite that bias, I could not but admire the way in which the human approach ran right through the education service, like a silver thread, at those Royal Air Force stations. I felt that a purposeful attempt was being made in adverse circumstances to provide for the many-sided interests and habits of the men.

The stations which I visited are large, with a very considerable number of people on the staffs. I would like to know what happens at the smaller stations. What happens to our men who are stationed in the remoter parts of our island country? What education is available for boys who are serving in the Royal Air Force in Germany, Palestine or Greece—from which country I would like to see them brought home, if I may say so. I have received a letter during the past few days from a boy serving in Germany. I consider the letter is very disturbing. It speaks of the absence of an education service in his unit. I realise that it is impossible to expect my right hon. and learned Friend to be able to answer questions about specific units without being given previous notice, so I would ask him to address himself to the issue whether education is given on a broad basis on general, current matters, to lads who are serving abroad.

It is clear that one of the major problems is technical education in the Royal Air Force is the seriously inadequate supply of trained teachers. In the Debate on the Estimates last year, my right hon. Friend's predecessor revealed that we were 800 teachers short in the education service of the Royal Air Force. There was, of course, a reason for that. The shameful way in which teachers were served by the Air Ministry during the war and upon their demobilisation has brought its reward. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton has taken a leading part in trying to get justice for these people. Now that the Air Ministry has established an education service on new lines and with better conditions of service for the teachers, I want to know whether the recruiting of teachers is proving as satisfactory as my right hon. Friend hoped.

It may well be that the Minister is wrong to base his calculations upon a policy of two-thirds short-term and one-third long-term commissioned officers. It means that we shall never have in the Air Force a majority of education officers who have any far horizon to look to, in their service in the Force. It is a very flimsy structure, which gives no security of tenure to the majority of teachers. It is clear that teachers who have left the civilian schools of the country to enter the service of the Royal Air Force, are being given very good conditions. I have no hesitation in saying to my colleagues in the teaching profession that those who enter the service of the Royal Air Force will gain valuable experience that ought to serve them well when they get back to their schools. I have always believed that it was an advantage to a schoolmaster to have as broad a background as possible. We have been much too limited in our training in other days. Many teachers now serving in civilian schools might find that they were better teachers after a period of service in the Royal Air Force.

The Air Ministry has an obligation to provide education for four classes. There are the career men. There are the apprentices who enter at 15 years of age and spend many years in the service. There are the National Service recruits. There are the Women's Royal Air Force recruits. My right hon. and learned Friend accepts a very heavy responsibility when he permits thousands of young lads to be taken at 15 years of age for training and living in the various Air Force stations. Adolescence is a critical period. The major physical and mental changes take place during the period of puberty. I always felt that my right hon. Friend and his advisers in the Air Ministry should be mindful of the responsibility that they have for the full and wholesome development of those young people. I know that excellent provision is being made at such places as Halton. I have seen it. I do not know if that is the only apprentices' school we have. I beg my right hon. Friend to bear in mind that his aim with those young people who go in at 15 and sign for a long period of years should be, first of all, to produce citizens and, secondly, to produce airmen. The one will follow on the other.

I have observed that those responsible for the technical training of these young people are trying to keep in mind the best 'practices adopted in the civilian schools of our country and that there is a sound relationship between the theory of the class room and the practical work of the shop. I believe that on the higher level there is a close liaison between the Air Ministry and the National Foundation for Educational Research, the Educational Foundation for Visual Aids and the British Association for 'Commercial and Industrial Education. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether his Department has given the National Foundation for Educational Research any specific projects or if his policy is to watch their general research as applied to the civilian schools? There must be problems which are specifically applied to the Service Departments.

The Minister will perhaps tell me whether his Education Advisory Committee is satisfied that a policy of broad education is being implemented in all departments, or whether it is true that in only one-third of the technical trade training courses now being run is there any educational content in the syllabus, and that in the training of flight-mechanics, which is a training course lasting 18 weeks, only some 12 hours of education is given. I find it hard to 'believe this, and yet I am assured by people who ought to know that it is true. Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will be good enough to answer that point. I understand that in pre-war years such subjects as mechanics and physics were part of the instruction for flight mechanics, but now that seems to have disappeared. In my opinion, the need is as great today as ever it was.

Now a word about National Service recruits. I believe that one year in the Services is fantastic. I was opposed to conscription, but what can be done in one year to make airmen or to make any improvement in the education of these young people, I find it hard to imagine. Where will these young conscripts fit in? What part of the technical training scheme will be adapted to them? I should like to know if they will receive anything which will be useful to them when they go back to their civilian activities.

What part will the women play in the Air Force? The Minister is asking for 26,000 women. Shall we recognise their ability and their adaptability as in the days of the war? I believe that in a time when the Services must be satisfied with fewer numbers there ought to be recognition that women can do many of the jobs which men are doing. They have proved their ability at engineering, science and almost all the activities of men. What part does the Minister envisage as training for these people in the future?

Ever since it was known that by the good fortune of the ballot I was to propose this Motion, lads in the Air Force have been sending me letters. Numbers of grievances, far more than I could talk of here, have been sent to me. I hope that those who happen to read the Debate in HANSARD will appreciate that it is often wiser to take up issues privately with the Minister than merely to catalogue them in a speech.

I want to say how much I agreed with my right hon. and learned Friend whose speech revealed that he has already mastered the intricacies of this great Service Department. I agreed entirely when he said that the quality of the Air Force is the thing that counts. The human factor has always been of major importance in this country, and the quality of the human factor depends largely upon the type of education which is given. I am glad that it has not fallen to me to talk about forward-looking or backward-looking. It is to my mind backward-looking when we talk of the vast weapons of destruction which are envisaged. I trust that the Minister will bear in mind the necessity for realising that the men in the R.A.F. are not only Service people but human beings who have many sides to their nature and that we must see that the education given to them is broad and worthy of a proud people.

7.6 p.m.

Photo of Wing Commander Ernest Millington Wing Commander Ernest Millington , Chelmsford

I beg to second the Amendment.

I am glad that it falls to my lot to second this Amendment, though in the general Debate I would have liked to follow the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward) into the wilderness whither the logic of some of his remarks would have taken us. I want to refer to a re- mark made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air. He adumbrated three desiderata towards which his policy is striving, that is, to create an Air Force which has quality, mobility and a trained manpower economically deployed. In a general Debate I would like to say a lot of things about the first two of those subjects, but my purpose tonight is to discuss some of the methods which are employed in the training of the manpower of the Royal Air Force so that we can have the most efficient service and at the same time have in mind what is so important to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), a development of the individuality of the man who is called upon to do service in the Royal Air Force.

First of all, I direct the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the Army and, in particular, to the work of the Army Education Corps, which has many points that put it, in general education, a long way in front of the educational services of the Royal Air Force. In particular, there is something good to be learned from the Army Education Corps in the structure of the Corps itself. I refer to the fact that, unless things have changed since I was most closely connected with education in the Air Force, there is in it no substructure of N.C.O. instructors, who are the backbone of the Army Education Corps. There is something good in having sergeant and corporal instructors who live more nearly the life of the men whom they instruct, particularly in technical education.

It is desirable that education should not be left on the voluntary basis, as so much of it is in the Royal Air Force. Specific technical education on courses is an essential part of the life of an airman. Certain technical education after he has qualified in his trade is also part of his life, but much education of great value, in a functional sense, to the man's daily work, which can be obtained on a station, is left on a purely optional and voluntary basis. We get a good attendance at voluntary lectures if we are at a lonely aerodrome in a neighbourhood which has no recreational facilities to offer to an airman and an exceedingly bad attendance if there are a few cinemas and public houses within easy walking distance of the aerodrome. If it is accepted that these lectures which are provided for airmen as an ancillary part of their technical education are of such importane, that they are laid on by the Air Force, I submit that a strong case could be made out for making attendance at these lectures a requirement of service.

One of the points on which I should liked to have followed the hon. Member for Worcester, because I am in complete agreement with him, was his remark that hon. Members on his side of the House would like to see an Air Force consisting of a small, skilled, well-trained, Regular contingent backed up by a broad reserve, well trained and in good numbers but leading an ordinary civilian life. Indeed, by coincidence, it is on record that, with the hon. Member for Central Cardiff, I opposed conscription to a large extent on those grounds. In particular, I agree with the hon. Member for Worcester in relation to this problem of technical education. It seems to me to be a travesty of what the right hon. Gentleman has set before himself as his task, to try to give any practical, valuable technical education to a young man who is being taken from civilian life, pitchforked into the Service, and will be out of that Service at the end of 12 months. Of course, it is important that his education should not be broken, but the nature of technical education in the Royal Air Force, of all Services, is such that it looks to me as if the Air Force could, without any harm to itself, dispense completely with National Service men and rely wholly upon its regular Force and upon its reserves.

Finally, I welcome what appears to me to be a developing interest by the Air Force in technical education and in education generally, as expressed in the Estimates this year. In the general Debate this afternoon, some mention, mainly cryptic, has been made of the future of war and, particularly, of the future of war in the air. It seems to me that nobody can hazard a guess at what that future will be, but the ability of this nation to fight a future war will depend wholly upon the degree of education in engineering and technical skill that people get now. I do not believe that we shall see any future war on the conventional pattern.

I said in the Debate a year ago that, in my opinion, there was a danger of people looking upon the Air Force as we understood it in the recent war, with modifications of new engines and faster machines, as the ultimate ideal, as the thing that people should be striving after as an instrument of defence in a next war. I do not think it will work like that at all but, if we must have preparation for a future war, if we have to base defence on the conventional Service forces, then the best hope for the people of this country is that we shall keep abreast of development. Indeed, if we are to have a nationalist war again, we shall need to be far in front of the development of everybody else, and we should see that men, particularly men going into the technical forces and into the R.A.F., should be trained in the highest possible degree on the technical and engineering side. It is for that reason that I welcome the mention made in the documents today of technical education in the Royal Air Force.

7.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Drayson Mr George Drayson , Skipton

The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) for moving this Amendment and directing our attention to the importance of technical training and education in the Royal Air Force. The subject I want to talk about—and it occurs to me that it is relevant to this Amendment—is that of the training of aircrews, particularly their technical training. It is important, when we are considering training in the R.A.F. and encouraging young or older persons to join up in that Service to undergo their training, that the terms and conditions under which they serve should be sufficiently attractive. Now, the particular aspect of aircrew training to which I wish to refer is that of young men who joined up under a bounty scheme in 1945 on a three years' engagement governed by Air Ministry Order No. 1153/P/45. Apparently, they signed on for a period of three years as aircrews, after which time they would be released from the Service with a gratuity of £150, of which £25 was payable straight away. After these men had joined up and started their training, they were told that the Air Ministry could no longer continue to train them on the same basis——

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The hon. Member is not talking to the Amendment; he is talking about something that is in Order on the general question, but this Amendment raises the question of education pure and simple. He is talking about conditions of service.

Photo of Mr George Drayson Mr George Drayson , Skipton

I bow to your Ruling, Sir, but I thought it was also training and technical education of R.A.F. personnel, which is an important aspect.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Even training does not raise the question of the conditions of service. After all, the hon. Member was talking about some bounty or sum of money they were getting. That is not training.

Photo of Mr George Drayson Mr George Drayson , Skipton

I can reserve my remarks for a later stage, Mr. Speaker, but I was confining myself largely to that training, and why it could not continue. The fact that they were to receive a bounty is not very material to my argument.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The hon. Member will be wise to 'confine his remarks to the general subject.

7.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Chetwynd Mr George Chetwynd , Stockton-on-Tees

I would like to follow the comments of the mover and seconder of the Amendment on education in the Air Force and to ask one or two questions. It is generally understood that the Royal Air Force gets the pick of the men going into the Services. They generally take people at a higher educational level and with a better educational background than the Army and, possibly, the Navy, and one would not expect to find in the Royal Air Force any degree of illiteracy.

But there is a problem arising from the lack of education in the war years which has to be tackled in the Services today, and I wonder if my right hon. and learned Friend could give us any indication whether he is faced in the Royal Air Force with the position where recruits are unable to absorb the technical training so necessary for them because of their lack of educational background arising from their disturbed education in the war? I doubt if there will be any real problem of the out-and-out illiterate, but there may be a problem of the mentally backward person who, for the reasons I have stated, cannot absorb the highly technical training to which he must be subjected in the Royal Air Force.

I think we recognise that there are difficulties in the set-up of the R.A.F. which make it less easy for them to devise a hard and fast educational system within training time. The bulk of their training is instruction of one kind or another, and in spite of the sympathy I feel with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington) who thinks that there should be more education of a compulsory nature, it would be difficult to overload their training programme to include lectures on citizenship, and so on, within the training time. We should bear in mind that it is no use developing the purely technical side of Air Force education and neglecting the more general education of the airman as a citizen. If we could have some figures to show exactly what kind of voluntary educational activities are going on in the Air Force, it would be welcomed by the House as a whole.

I would like to know what use is being made by airmen of the correspondence system. Where there are isolated detachments, it seems that much greater use could be made of correspondence courses, which are admirable, and which are greatly used in the other Services. If my right hon. and learned Friend could tell us exactly how many airmen have applied for these courses, and what type of courses they have asked for, whether purely practical or technical, that is information which the House ought to have. Up and down the country there are admirable technical colleges and institutes which were well used by the Services during the war. In order to get as much out of technical education as we can, in view of restricted equipment, I wonder if there is close liaison with the civilian authorities, so that airmen in organised groups can make use of all the facilities of the technical colleges today. That is a point well worth looking into.

In order to make sure, not only that the conscript, but the airman coming to the end of his period of service, is as well equipped as possible to face civilian life again, I wonder if there are any equivalents in the Royal Air Force to the formation colleges which are so much appreciated in the Army. A man can take advantage of excellent courses, technical and otherwise, in specially selected formation colleges. If they have not followed it, this is an idea which the Royal Air Force ought to follow as soon as possible. I welcome the setting up of the educational branch of the Royal Air Force. It is a very tardy measure, but I hope it will succeed. We ought, however, to be thinking in terms of a coordinated educational service for the three Services. There is much overlapping which could be avoided and much benefit could be brought to the three Services from such a scheme. If we can be assured that the airman going in for a year's service will receive the kind of education, or a better education, than he would have if he remained a civilian, then I believe the Royal Air Force is doing a good job, and ought to be encouraged in every way.

7.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I wish to begin with a conciliatory reference to the point of Order I raised when the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) moved his very proper Amendment on education. It was not in the least that I under-estimated the importance of that issue, and still less that I would desire to impede his speaking upon it. I support what has been said about the virtues of that scheme, and lend my voice to those who have spoken upon it; but, I wanted to speak on some wider aspects of the Royal Air Force Estimates, and I was not sure that we would be able to come back to the wider sphere before the end of the evening.

I am confronted by two difficulties in the Debate, one inherent in the situation, and the other deriving from memory. Those of us who have memories of prewar Debates on the subject of the adequacy of our air defences——

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Does the hon. Member wish to speak on the wider aspects of the Estimates? We have not got to that yet. We are still on the narrow Amendment.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I beg pardon; perhaps I may hope to be called later on.

7.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

I wish to express admiration for the very valuable contribution of the hon. Member for Central Cardiff {Mr. Thomas). I rise to refer to one element of education which somehow seems to be missing at every station or depot which I have had the privilege of visiting in the last six or seven years. That is the facility for young men pursuing some form of study to acquire the necessary books, particularly books on technical subjects. I have in mind the case of a young man who wished to study law. Although he was getting all the help that could be given him under the previous education scheme, failure to provide books for him limited his opportunity considerably and he felt very distressed about it. There are also young engineers who are finding similar difficulties.

I feel that something like the county libraries scheme would be useful in connection with the education scheme. There was—and I believe still is—in many parts of the country an excellent dovetailing which afforded facilities for loaning textbooks on technical subjects which would cost considerable amounts of money to purchase. I speak from knowledge, as unfortunately two of my children could not borrow the type of books they particularly needed, and there are many hundreds of young people in similar difficulties. If there could be some organisation whereby the loaning of books could be dovetailed—I care not whether it is municipal or county, or a private organisation such as Foyle's Bookshop, so long as there is a welding together of opportunity for obtaining books required for particular types of study—that would be very much appreciated by young men called up under the National Service scheme.

Another matter I wish to raise is concerned directly and solely with education. In a very big Army camp where the A.T.S. were trained during the war, someone had the bright idea of arranging for a scheme of domestic training, and as a result they developed a number of excellent classes in the camp. I believe these classes were of value throughout the whole of Northern Command, and young women without doubt derived considerable benefit in training for the married state, or motherhood, or housekeeping and domestic cooking, and all the various forms of training required to run a home. That was very much appreciated, and it is certainly something we shall have to think about. In regard to the 26,000 women for whom he is calling, I would commend such an idea to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There is something that he and his officers can do in this educational scheme which can benefit these young women who will be entering the married state later, the future mothers of the country. That contribution of his educational scheme will be of considerable importance for these women when they leave the R.A.F. I commend to him, and hope he will take particular note of, the two items I have suggested.

7.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

The various hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate on the Amendment, have dealt with a subject which everyone on both sides of this House will regard as of outstanding importance. Certainly so far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, there will be no difference between us about the aim which the service has in mind, namely, to promote the highest possible standards of technical efficiency. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), in his excellent and constructive speech, did not rather tend to confuse general education with technical education. As he knows, there are 36 technical trades in the R.A.F. and the courses of training for each of them extends from 14 days to 18 months. I am sure that he would not expect that time should be taken up with general education in the very short courses.

As for the particular case to which he referred, the explanation is apparently that the course was for a period of 18 weeks. It was a highly technical course, and it was considered that in those circumstances and in view of the urgent demand for trained tradesmen belonging to that particular trade, the general education element should be confined to a period of 12 hours. I quite agree with the criticism which my hon. Friend made, and I can assure him that not only is the course to be extended as soon as circumstances permit, but the general education element will certainly be increased.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington) urged that we should employ N.C.O. instructors as teachers. One of the great difficulties which has confronted the R.A.F. during the last two years or so has been this scarcity of trained education officers. It is perhaps unnecessary for me tonight to go into the background of that shortage. Perhaps it is sufficient for me to say that whereas at the present time we require the best part of 1,000 education officers, as provided for in the establishment of the R.A.F., we find ourselves with just over 300 trained education officers. We have, therefore, sought ways and means of augmenting that number, and my hon. and gallant Friend will be glad to know that we have already adopted his suggestion. We have made arrangements for recruitment from within the Force of what we call substitute teachers, who will be, as well as officers, non-commissioned officers with the rank, the paid rank, I am glad to say, of sergeant. They will be drawn not only from the ranks of the Regulars in the R.A.F. but also, when the time comes, subsequent to 1st January next year, from qualified personnel who come into the Service under the National Service Act.

I hope that by this means, although that will not be sufficient—we shall certainly want another 300 to 400 education officers—to build up before very long as nearly as possible to the figure of a thousand.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff Central

Does my right hon. and learned Friend's figure mean that only 75 teachers were recruited to the education service since last year's Estimates?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

My hon. Friend refers to commissioned officers?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

My hon. Friend is quite correct.

Photo of Wing Commander Ernest Millington Wing Commander Ernest Millington , Chelmsford

Is my right hon. and learned Friend married to this peculiar title of "substitute teacher"? Does he not agree that such a title is likely to militate against remustering into that trade?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I would not like to commit myself on whether exception would be taken to it or not by those qualified to teach, but the evidence available to us up to date indicates that there has been no objection or difficulty. I am quite willing to consider whether or not we can coin a more appropriate term. None the less, the object of using the term was to indicate that those so designated were not properly commissioned education officers. It may well be that my hon. and gallant Friend's point is a good one, and I will certainly look into it. The important point is that we are meeting this difficulty in the way in which my hon. and gallant Friend indicated, and we hope that it will be successful. The difficulty has, however, been a serious drawback to our educational work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff wanted to know what happened at the smaller stations. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford rather deprecated the fact that education was, broadly speaking, on a voluntary basis within the R.A.F. am quite sure that my hon. and gallant Friend will know, perhaps better than many of us, that a great proportion of the members of the Royal Air Force have received a considerable amount of general education in the course of the extensive technical training which they have had to undergo during the time they were engaged upon their trade courses. Approximately 13 per cent. of the total number in the R.A.F. at the moment are taking advantage of our educational courses on a voluntary basis. I must emphasise that that percentage is in addition to the much higher percentage of those who receive basic training, both technical and general, during the time they are undergoing their trade courses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) raised the question of correspondence courses and technical colleges. I cannot give him figures of the numbers of personnel who are undertaking correspondence courses, although I believe it is a considerable number. I can tell him that the estimated expenditure in 1948–49 on external and correspondence courses arranged under our general educational scheme is £21,000. We have a system whereby members of the Royal Air Force who are in reasonably close proximity to technical colleges are enabled to take special courses at technical colleges, and the expense of the course is met by the Air Ministry.

My hon. Friend paid tribute to what he saw at St. Athan and Halton. I should like to endorse that tribute. From my own experience I know that they are doing magnificent work. St. Athan is a leading trade school. The value of the trade instruction and training that is given in the R.A.F. is well illustrated by the experience I had at Cardington last week at our recruit training centre, when I spoke to quite a number of recruits, young men between the ages of 18 and 21. When I asked them why. they had joined the R.A.F., their reply, in the great majority of cases, was because they wanted to learn a trade.

That indicates that, throughout the country, there seems to be this general view that the Royal Air Force does give a first class training in a trade, and does make it worth while for young men, not only to have the opportunity of serving their country, but, at the same time to provide for their future careers and life by securing this excellent training. I would, therefore, express my grateful thanks to my hon. Friend for moving this Amendment, and to other hon. Members for the constructive suggestions they have made. In so far as I have not dealt with them in my remarks, I will gladly undertake to look into them, and ensure that they are given the most careful consideration.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff Central

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

7.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Drayson Mr George Drayson , Skipton

I am glad of the opportunity of raising on the wider issue, the case of-the 400 aircrew trainees to which I referred earlier. I am informed that a constituent of mine was concerned in this matter, the facts of which are as follows. Just over a year ago young men who were about to leave the Royal Air Force were persuaded to stay on, and to sign for another three years under a bounty scheme which, at the end of that period, would give them, in all, a gratuity or bounty of £150, of which £125 would be paid at the end of three years. These men were to be trained as aircrew, and that training, I am informed, was carried on for about a year. They were then suddenly told that they could no longer be trained as aircrew, but if they wanted to continue under the scheme they must undertake some other form of employment in the R.A.F., such as clerks, or R.A.F. police, or one or two other forms of employment. These young men were apparently posted to a new station, and when they arrived there they were handed a letter from the Air Member for Personnel. This letter started off by saying: You will wonder why you have been posted to this station. That is a thing about which many of us who have been in the Army, or the other Services, have wondered. In fact, I seem to recall that we had a very appropriate expression for that sort of thing. Nevertheless, we did not receive such a courteous note to inform us of the exact position. The object of this letter is, apparently, to explain the reasons. Those reasons, as set out in the letter, have a very important bearing on many of the other aspects of the Royal Air Force which we have been discussing this afternoon. These young men were told: You will have seen for yourselves that for some time there has been a growing holdup in aircrew training. That itself is a very important statement. The bottle-neck is at the entry of the post-S.F.T.S. stage of training, and I realise the deep disappointment and natural impatience of those of you who, because of it, have been unable to fulfil your ambition by completing your training. The unsatisfactory situation in which we find ourselves is due to various causes. A number of causes are mentioned, about skilled tradesmen being released with rapidity and in numbers which make it difficult to provide replacements, and: Furthermore, the abnormally bad weather earlier this year severely dislocated the training programme. It is amazing the number of times that this appallingly bad weather has come to the rescue of the Government in not enabling them to carry out plans which they must have, or should have, put into operation after very serious consideration. It is a little surprising to find that the weather is, once more, advanced as the reason why obligations entered into cannot be fulfilled. The letter goes on to say: Both in the Air Ministry and Commands we have done everything possible to improve things, though the principal causes of what has happened are largely outside our control. This is an important point. This letter was written in December, 1947: But there is no longer any disguising the fact that there are a large number of aircrew who have been awarded their 'Wings' who have no reasonable prospect of completing their training during their current engage- ments, and unless we are prepared to face this unpleasant fact at once, we are only going to get into deeper and deeper difficulties. That statement requires a great deal of explanation from the Minister. The letter goes on to say: I am afraid the time has come when I must tell you that there is no prospect of your being able to complete your training for the aircrew employment for which you engaged. That is the important point—"for which you engaged." These young men feel that there is a breach of contract on the part of the Government. This is a very polite letter. It goes on: I hate having to say this to anybody who has volunteered in answer to our recruiting appeal. What value is the country to place on any recruiting appeal put forward by His Majesty's Government if, when answering the appeal, men find they receive such treatment? I have, therefore, to offer you the choice of immediate discharge to civil life on the terms set out in Appendix 'A' to this letter, or, alternatively, if you have been building on the assumption that you would have a job in the Service for a fixed period ahead, of continued service until your current engagement expires"— in those other forms of engagement which I have indicated earlier.

It is not the point that these young men expected to be employed in the. Service for a period of three years. They expected to be employed by the R.A.F. and to be trained as aircrew and pilots. It was not merely the fact that they were going to be in employment for three years that was the main attraction. When these men took on this engagement and volunteered under this scheme, they renounced their reinstatement rights as civilians, which they would have enjoyed had they come out of the Service straightaway with their demobilisation groups. That is a very important point. They anticipated, no doubt, that the additional flying training they would receive would either encourage them to stay on for a further period in the Service, or would get them some appointment in civil aviation. The rapidity with which some ex-officers are leaving those appointments makes it reasonable to suppose that there might be opportunities for employment in civil aviation for some of these young men, especially as they might calculate that the initially difficult period of world civil aviation services changing over from war conditions, would have been overcome in three years' time.

It is pointed out to me that the Government, when putting forward this scheme, and accepting 400 men for training, were prepared to spend the sum of £20 million in completing their training, and that if the men were to be paid off, and given their full bounties, it would cost the Government only £50,000. I do not suggest for a moment that all these young pilots want particularly to leave the Service. It may be that some of them were banking on being in employment in the Service for three years, and not minding particularly whether it was to be as aircrew, or in some other capacity. I do suggest to the Minister that he should look into the matter again. In view of the solemn contract entered into—and I have a copy of the document that the applicants signed—they should, at least, be offered the option of having their full bounty, because that is what they expected to receive—£125 at the end of three years—and they may have made definite plans on what they wished to spend this money. That is in no way affected by the fact that they would have been earning for three years, because that money would have been required for their ordinary household and living expenses. There is no reason to suppose that, at the end of that period, they would have left the Service with a large, amount of money which they had saved from their pay.

I ask the Minister to examine this matter again. Those who expected to continue aircrew training for three years, and who feel that there has been a breach of faith on the part of the Government, should be allowed to leave now with their full bounty. I understand that they have been offered £30, £40 or £50. That is not satisfactory. An alternative scheme could be put forward for those men who wish to remain in the Service. No doubt, a number are prepared to continue in some other occupation. My constituent is one of those who wants to leave the Service immediately. He feels that he is entitled to the full bounty. If this is the sort of treatment that volunteers for our Services are to get when they enter into a solemn engagement, the Government will find great difficulty in attracting the recruits which we all agree are so important to our Fighting Services.

7.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr Wilfred Vernon Mr Wilfred Vernon , Camberwell Dulwich

The two facts to which I wish to draw special attention have already been mentioned more than once in this Debate. The first is the time taken for an aircraft to be developed from the first specification until it is ready to go to the squadrons. This time was given as between four and seven years, and I have no reason to quarrel with those figures. The other point concerns the date when it is believed that the atom bomb will be available to potential enemies. That was given in the American Report as between four and five years. From other sources, I should have expected it to be later than that; but it does not affect my main argument. There is some period at which a potential enemy will be provided with atomic bombs. It seemed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) was going to draw the inevitable conclusion. He got nearly up to the mark; then he stopped short and went off to another subject.

The conclusion to which we are inevitably driven is that the Minister's intention of creating a third Air Force, does not quite meet the case. What he needs to do is to think of a third Air Force and a fourth Air Force—two things which would be entirely different. One would be an Air Force designed to meet an enemy more or less similarly armed, that is, without atom bombs. The other would be an entirely different force with a completely different background. prepared to meet an enemy equipped with atom bombs. In the few years before a potential enemy acquires sufficient atom bombs, that Air Force will be simply a development of the Air Force and Air Force practices of the last war. It may be a little faster with a little greater range, and there may be small changes in detail, but not in kind. The fighters and bombers will be something like the old fighters and bombers. The Observer Corps will be necessary. I notice that we are destroying air raid shelters all over the country, although they should be part of the set-up. Then there is the great aircraft industry, with its trained personnel partly dissipated. The nucleus is there, and it can be built up again. The whole set-up that we used in the last war would be useful in a war which started in the next four or five years. Research and development such as we have done would be extremely useful. Research and development one or two years ahead will be of no use at all for this first period, because of the time it takes for work of that kind to be put into practice and used in the actual aeroplanes and equipment.

In regard to the second period, I notice from the Memorandum that it is the intention to provide a powerful bombing force. Will that force be sufficient? Is it possible that such a bombing force could protect us from atom bombs discharged either by rocket or aeroplane? One needs only to strike circles on the map around Britain at 200, 400, 600, or 1,500 miles radius, to see the enormous tract of territory from which an attack might be launched. However skilful the bomber crews, however perfect the intelligence, the possibility of keeping that vast area clear of starting points for an attack seems to be perfectly hopeless. There are some other implications. I will not carry them too far. There is the question whether it would need 20, 50 or 100 atom bombs to smash communications in this country, to break up the aircraft industry and to dislocate the country to such an extent that it could no longer be an effective starting point for an attack upon the Continent. One does not know.

What would remain? Certainly, there would be the aerodromes which would be useful to either side. Nature has put Great Britain at the crossroads of civilisation, if civilisation it can be called. Britain would be useful to either side as a refueling and bombing-up point before going on to the next stage. Clearly, our headquarters must be somewhere other than in Great Britain. A great deal has been said about the Commonwealth and their contribution to the Air Force. The whole of the Commonwealth should be integrated in the system of defence.

I have one other point in reference to the Estimates. Research and development work which can be expected to produce results quickly is well worth while. It is money well spent. But in the case of vast projects, such as the great wind tunnels, which will cost a large amount of money and require a great deal of steel and concrete which we badly need for other purposes, they cannot possibly be finished for several years. Their results will not be of use for some time after that. They cannot possibly be of use in the immediate future. It is folly to erect these vast establishments in this country, which is the very place where they would most certainly be among the first targets to be attacked.

We might look further afield and see whether there are not other terrible forms of warfare. There are. In my view mankind is about wicked enough to use atom bombs, but not quite wicked enough to use poison or disease germs to a large extent. One must make some assumptions: that seems to me the most probable assumption. I suggest to the Minister that he should tell us whether he has clearly separated the period before the enemy has atom bombs and arranged all his thinking and planning around that, and, as a separate item he should tell us his plans and schemes for the other period, which may be anywhere from five to seven years' ahead, when these vaster schemes need to be prepared.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I find two difficulties about this Debate, one of which springs from memories of earlier Debates, and one of which is inherent in the nature of the situation itself. My memory goes back to Debates in this House on the Air Estimates before the last world war, when the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition pressed the Government of the day, under the late Mr. Stanley Baldwin, again and again, for assurances as to how far our air defences were adequate against the manifest rearming of Germany. From time to time he received assurances which were eminently satisfactory, but wholly unjustifiable. The House was told on one occasion that our striking strength was twice that of Germany's, and that never would the Germans be allowed to come within range of parity with this country in the matter of air power. Yet the fact was that they not only came within sight of parity; they outstripped us. They built up an immense predominance, and it was only by the grace of God that we were not defeated in the last war.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that it was also said by Goering that we would not go over Germany.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I quite agree. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is telling me that German Ministers may make mistakes as great as those of English Ministers, I would say that that is in the course of nature, but it is not in the course of nature that English Ministers should make as big mistakes as the Germans. I think we should expect a higher standard of competence in these matters from our Ministers than one is prepared to expect from theirs.

That gives rise to the first difficulty that I feel. How far can we press the Government without embarrassing them, and if we do not press them to the point of embarrassment how far can we be assured that our preparations against emergencies are adequate? That is a very real difficulty. The Opposition in the days that I am describing—and the Opposition of those days consisted of hon. Members who are on the Government benches today—refrained from pressing the Government half as hard as we now say, in retrospect, they ought to have pressed the Government. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was the most tenacious and insistent of those who brought pressure to bear, but in retrospect one doubts whether even his pressure was adequate to the requirement; of the situation in those days.

Then there is the further difficulty of how far the Government will be frank with us. That raises another difficulty—the second difficulty to which I wish to refer. Tonight we are discussing the adequacy of our Air Estimates. If one asks the question how far are our air defences adequate, one is immediately confronted with either a vacuum or a series of further questions. Are our air defences adequate? Are they adequate to what?—to what enemy, at what time, and under the conditions of what kind of war? Those are the three questions which one must immediately ask in elaboration of the question, are our defences adequate? Otherwise, our whole discussion is a discussion in vacuo, which has no relation whatever to any concrete reality in the world in which we live today.

I, therefore, propose, even at the expense of causing some embarrassment, which I am sorry to do, to ask some of these questions and to try to answer them. First, against whom are our defences to be adequate? Who is the potential enemy? If I say that any one Power is the potential enemy, somebody will immediately accuse me of war-mongering, so I will try to put it as tactfully as I can. There are only two Powers in the world today which can make war.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

Guatemala, Chile, and the Argentine.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I regard that as a first-class joke, but I also regard it as a pitiable commentary on the declining fortunes of Britain that Guatemala, Chile and the Argentine should be mentioned in the same breath. There are only two Powers in the world which can make war today. One is the United States of America and the other is Russia. I cannot say that Russia means to make war on this country, but I can say that we do not need to fear war from the United States of America. To put it differently, of the two Powers that can make war in the world today, we are safe in eliminating one. We do not have to organise an Air Force against the United States of America. Therefore, if we are to prepare at all, it is Russia whom we must regard—let me be careful about my words—as the potential enemy in a future war with this country. I do not say the enemy—I say the potential enemy. If it is not a potential enemy, we do not need any Air Force at all.

If there are only two Powers that can make war, and there is no need to fear anything from either, in those circumstances we do not need to spend any money on armaments whatever. That is the inescapable logic of the situation.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Why not mention Monaco and make the list complete? Do not let us make any mistake about it; we cannot watch what is happening on the Continent of Europe without knowing that Russia is the potential enemy—a more formidable and dangerous enemy than the enemy of 1939, for the fifth columns of this enemy are vastly more extensive, better organised and supplied, and with a longer experience of conspiratorial work than the fifth columns of Nazism ever were. Last week, while we have been discussing defence, we have seen the one surviving democracy of South-Eastern Europe conquered by the Russians without the moving of a single Russian ship, plane, gun, tank or soldier.

What we are contemplating here is the "cold" war. I will ask the question in a moment when we are likely to have to consider the "hot" military war which we must take into account. Are the Minister of Defence and the Air Minister satisfied about their defences against the "cold" war? How many members of the Communist Party are there serving in the headquarters of the Air Ministry today? These are serious questions after the events of last week. I know at least one Communist who is serving there, because he is the president of my union. I have reason enough to know both of his existence and of his unpleasant qualities. Is the Air Minister satisfied about the defences on the side of internal security? I have some reason for asking this question, and we want to know the answer in respect of this Department. There are Cabinet Ministers in Britain with Communists as their private secretaries; or, at least one Cabinet Minister who has a Communist as his private secretary. Whether he knows it or not I do not know, but I know of it. Are we satisfied about our protection against the internal enemy, the penetration and the erosion from within which delivered Czechoslovakia as a helpless corpse into the hands of the Russians last week?

I come to the next question. If we are to ask about the adequacy of our defences against war, when will the war come? What date are we to bear in mind in this matter? Nobody can be sure. We can only work upon some possible assumption. I have tried to ask myself that question and to answer it. I do not think that the "hot" war will come until the Russians have got the atomic bomb. I do not think they will embark on a "hot" war without the atom bomb, because that would invite disaster from their point of view. I am perfectly certain that the Americans will not start an atomic bomb war, because it is the most difficult thing in the world for a democracy to start an offensive-defensive war. A dictatorship can do it, because it can alter course over night without regard to the feelings of the people it controls. But a democracy, going into war, has to carry its people with it; that means that it is difficult to the point of impossibility for a democracy to launch an offensive-defensive war. It is not untrue to say that today the democracies are caught in the greatest psychological trap in their histories.

So I answer my own question. At what date have we to prepare for the possibility of the "hot" war? To that I say: when the Russians have the atomic bomb and feel able to use it on terms of something like equality. How long that is likely to be, I cannot say. Does our Intelligence know anything about that? Our Intelligence will be even more important as against the threat of the next war than it has been in days gone by. Today there is an iron curtain of a far more formidable character than we had to penetrate in prewar days. I will give a personal and tentative, sort of estimate. I think there are still a few years between now and the possibility of the outbreak of the "hot" war. Whether that "hot" war ever comes or not depends much less on the military preparations we are now making than on our firmness in the political field.

One lesson to be learned from the Hitlerism of 1933 onwards is the folly of not drawing a political line and saying, "Thus far shalt thou go, but no further." If that line had been rigidly drawn before the world war of 1939, we know, from the subsequent revelations of Hitler's generals, that Hitler would not have been in power to carry through that war. I hope we shall drop every shred of illusion on this subject; I hope we shall co-operate with the Americans in drawing a line and imposing it, because that is one way of averting war.

The one sure way to ruin is to refuse to face facts, to allow the cold war to develop in country after country. We shall see it in Finland, Austria, Italy, and France. And, even in our own country, a fortnight ago, we had a demand from the leader of the Communist Party for a new Government, to be composed of Communists and certain unspecified Left Wing members of the Labour Party. We see, in Britain, the embryonic stage of a process which, on the Continent, has brought country after country to the ground. Whether we are Labour, Tories, Liberals, or what not, we have a common interest in preserving——

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman will at least be articulate.

Photo of Mr Maurice Orbach Mr Maurice Orbach , Willesden East

I said that "what not" is a correct designation of the hon. Gentleman's own position.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

That is the intrusion of a trivial mind in a Debate of considerable importance.

We must look at this business of air defence in relation to psychology. We must look at political defence in the "cold" war, as well as in relation to the "hot" war. If it be right to suppose that war will not come until the atomic bomb is available to both sides, we have to ask ourselves what is an adequate air defence against conditions of atomic bomb warfare? Here, again, and I speak with reserve, I say that in any struggle in which Russia, the United States and ourselves were involved—if that should ever come, which God forbid—there would be no more concentrated single target in the whole area of military operations than these islands in which we live.

If that be so, how many atomic bombs of the more modern type, which we have reason to suppose are vastly snore destructive than the bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and other Japanese cities, would it take to put the industrial productive resources of this country out of shape? I submit that a dozen atomic bombs dropped on a dozen of our principal industrial centres might make: it impossible for us to carry on industrial production after the first 24 hours. If that be so, what is the deduction? It is that in the very manufacture of instruments of aerial warfare, we ought to be thinking not in terms of these islands, but in terms of the planet. We ought to ask ourselves where to erect the factories to produce the planes to carry on the aerial warfare of the future. I do not ask the Minister of Defence, or the Air Minister, to give away information that we ought not to have, but can we be assured that there are plans in hand to deal with that situation and, if so, how far they have got? If not, it might go hard with us from the first day of the war, from the point of view of producing war instruments.

That is the first point. The second is, where are our headquarters of Imperial Defence to be in the conditions of atomic war? In London? Anywhere in this crowded little island?

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

We do not want them there.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

The Scots have always objected to any move from the South to the North, but never to movements from the North to the South. Are the headquarters to be in the Channel Islands, or where are they to be? I should have thought that the second obvious conclusion was that they must be somewhere away from these islands altogether. Then comes the question of operating an Air Force in conditions of atomic war. Is this the centre from which to operate? I should have thought that we should have to look elsewhere than these islands to provide the centre and base of operations of our Air Force.

Let me put another side of the picture. An Air Force exists not only to defend but to strike. Somebody objected to a Member on this side posing the issue as to where, behind the iron curtain, a striking Air Force would need to get to attack the centres of production of the enemy Power. I saw nothing whatever to object to in that postulated question; it seemed to be highly material to the argument, because if we are to argue completely in vacuo we might as well go home. So I ask the question: Where have we to strike in the event of war? Let me be greatly daring, and suggest that if Russia is the hypothetical, conceivable, opponent, then the areas of Russia we would need to strike at are the oil areas of Batum and Baku, the industrial areas of the Don Basin, and the new industrial area across the Ural Mountains.

That raises the next question: Where ought the Air Force to be based in order that it might be capable of striking so far as that in the event of this hypothetical opponent becoming, under the conditions of the future, a very real and practical opponent? I do not purport to give the answers to these questions, and it may very well be that the Minister did not desire to, but I say that no Debate here has any meaning which fails to face up to these questions and tries to provide an answer.

If it is embarrassing for Ministers to discuss here as possibilities the issues that may ere long be ugly realities, because they fear they might make already difficult situations still worse—a consideration which Ministers have to bear in mind—might we not ask whether we could not be allowed to use the instrument we used from time to time during the war, when we wanted to discuss all sorts of things which it might have been undesirable to discuss in the public light of day? Can we not revert to the instrument of "spying strangers" and having a discussion behind closed doors of the ugly realities of the situation? I detect between this period and that earlier period we all lived through, from 1933 to 1939, a disturbing and appalling parallelism. This is Hitlerism in reverse. The Hitlerite dream of uniting the technical resources of Germany with the manpower resources of Russia and the natural resources of Russia; it is that dream inverted—this time with the Russians in charge of the European set-up and not the Germans, as Hitler intended.

There seems to be an ominous and sinister parallel and we would do this country's interest nothing but harm to try to blur over, ignore, or forget. Many, many times this country has come to the very edge of defeat because we persuaded ourselves that things could not be as bad as they looked—because we pretended that the thing we hated could not happen here. It happened last week in the last surviving democracy of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and there is no law which says we are immune. Therefore, I hope that the Under-Secretary, when he replies—I do not ask him to avoid dealing with the many details and the many points, important in themselves, that have been raised—will address himself to what is the real problem confronting this country today—how can we defend ourselves in what appear to be the probable conditions of the very near future?

8.23 p.m.

Photo of Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn , Great Yarmouth

It will be difficult to follow the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) in his speech which held the House for the last half hour or so, even if some people agreed with what he said and others did not. Like many speeches made today, his speech indicated to our Ministers that these documents that we have before us—the Memorandum and the Air Estimates—are very useful camouflage; they are documents which will be filed at once by Air Attaches in Eastern Europe and across the Atlantic because they do not give anything away. We do not expect the Government to give us the complete picture of what we should do if we were attacked by some enemy in the next few months, or if Mr. Pollitt does here today what was done in Czechoslovakia a few weeks ago. There are certain broad issues, however, indicated in the Debate which must arouse the interests of the Members and must augur action in the future.

The hon. Member for Holborn (Mr. Max Aitken) brought up an important point which probably escaped the notice of most hon. Members, especially those who served in the R.A.F. during the war. He indicated that the old method of manning the R.A.F. with all components of our nation and our Commonwealth and Empire no longer existed. The R.A.F. evidently now consists of the English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh, but it no longer includes those people who have served with their various flashes on their shoulders from all parts of the Commonwealth. We had really got a British force in actual operation during the war years, certainly in the R.A.F. At that time one might be serving in a mess with colleagues from all parts of the Dominions and Empire. As the hon. Member for Holborn expressed it, we are one country in these days. Distance has been wiped out, making for much quicker movement than was possible in the days of the 1914–18 war. We must, therefore, build on a very broad basis, seeing that in the near future we shall have to convince other nations, which may be either of the East or of the West, that this is one country, and that this is one country which is going to save itself by its own efforts.

I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State for Air replies, we shall have an indication that we have in the Air Force today the same kind of structure as we had in the war years, with representatives from all the various parts of the Commonwealth and Empire. Indeed, one little note in the Estimates indicates that, perhaps for the first time, one of the smallest parts of the Commonwealth is making its contribution. Reference is made to payments by Southern Rhodesia towards the cost of these Estimates and the plans which it is proposed to carry out, because, presumably, Southern Rhodesia will have an important part to play in the Air Force in the next few years, as it did under the Empire training scheme during the war. It seems to show that in these days payment is being made by members of the Commonwealth, whereas before, the onus of providing the fleet which kept the freedom of the seas evidently was paid for only by taxpayers in this country.

Regarding the bomber force, there is one point which is mentioned, almost as in passing, in the Air Ministry Memorandum. On page 4, it is stated in paragraph 8 that: … in air matters nothing remains static, and in their training programme the operational Commands of the Air Force will continue to develop and practise improved methods for obtaining the maximum effectiveness from the aircraft with which they are equipped. Special attention is being given to the training of the bomber force, in the realisation that the existence of efficient striking forces is this country's most effective safeguard against aggression. That statement is open to very grave doubt. It seemed to me, as the war years wore on to 1945, that the answer to air warfare had been given by the Germans. They stopped sending human beings in their aircraft: they merely sent the bombs which the aircraft could have carried. It seems to me that they were giving a line on future development. In fact, as far as one can see into the future of aerial warfare, it is becoming more like David's sling in the Old Testament—one merely sends a missile. Why send out human beings flying in petrol tanks with dangerous materials aboard, hundreds of miles over enemy territory, where there is always the risk of being shot at by night fighters, when the bombs can be sent out without human agents, especially when this method requires merely the pressing of a button at home? I hope we shall hear that research is being made in this direction and that it is agreed that the agent in the heavy bomber is now superseded, except perhaps for transport work.

If we have as great a bomber force as we had when the last war ended, that will be a very great mistake. The proposition shows that the old military mind is at work. We are going a long way back to the 1914 mentality, when the experts relied on their knowledge of the Boer War, and to the position in 1939, with the kind of people starting war in 1939 as those who had had excellent training at Passchaendale, who had no weapons for a war of movement. I hope that this is not the case, and I wish that some of us could have the opportunity of examining what is being done although I know that we cannot all be given the secrets, for some of us may be "cryptos" I really think that we should know something further about the development which is proposed: ultimately it is our responsibility.

It has been said that the bomber force is supposed to protect us. We all know that that is not its real purpose. It is a weapon of attack. Perhaps there is a great deal of truth in the old maxim that "The best form of defence is attack." It has already been pointed out that in this island we are living in the most vulnerable greenhouse in the world, at which the little boys from every other country can throw their stones. Presumably, our experts are not only making their investigations on ways of attacking other people, but have found some way, I hope, in which we can throw up an umbrella over these islands similar to the air umbrella that protected us in 1940, which will be a practical defence if we know atom bombs are to be dropped.

Then there is the question of bacteriological warfare. It is obvious that the combatants on both sides in the last war were competent to engage in bacteriological warfare. This city in which we are tonight, these islands in which we live, constitute the finest target for anything of that kind, if anyone were to start a war against us in the near future. It would be reassuring to know that here we were invulnerable to all the latest weapons of modern war. I hope we shall get some indication that our scientists are at work on problems of defence against this kind of attack. Should there be another war, it will not be the fighting boys who will keep us alive, but the scientists.

There is another matter, not directly related to these wider issues which I have been tackling, to which I would draw the Secretary of State's attention. In the Debate on civil aviation, I was fortunate enough to have two and a half minutes to speak before the winding up speeches began; and I tried to use those two and a half minutes as well as I could to plead for the flying clubs. I should like to plead for them again tonight. The Royal Air Force has not played the game since the war ended in its attitude to the flying clubs. It seems the Royal Air Force has made up its mind that it wants boys straight from school knowing nothing about aircraft—boys whom it can mould and train as it will to do the various jobs that the Air Force wants done. Surely, however, if the Air Force were to draw upon young men and young women who have had some experience in the air—of flying and gliding—before they entered the Air Force as volunteers or conscripts, it would be very much better? It seems to me a truism that if people are air minded they will make better members of the Royal Air Force when they join it.

I plead with the Secretary of State to examine the report of the Committee set up by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to advise on flying clubs, and- to see that the Air Ministry takes a greater interest in private flying in this country than it has done since the war ended. Before the war the Air Ministry did take such an interest, and in taking that interest they saved the flying movement of this country; and in saving the flying movement of this country they saved the country. The flying clubs were training grounds for airmen. Such a flying club was that of the London Passenger Transport Board, whose members paid 6d. a week, in which the drivers and conductors, in a most democratically run club, learned to fly and provided the country with hundreds of people who were able, when the war came, to transfer to the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force and the Auxiliary Air Force. The same applies to the Civil Air Guard in which the Government took an interest. It paid ample dividends during the war. Let us see that we are air minded, and that we get our air defence right. I urge again that the flying clubs should be taken into consideration.

If the Air Ministry are to take a general interest in flying clubs they should subscribe the £50,000, which does not seem much money, especially by comparison with the millions that are being spent on B.O.A.C. The sum wanted for aiding flying clubs is a mere bagatelle. I hope the Air Ministry will play the game by the flying clubs in existence at the moment, even if it cannot help in the establishment of more. There is a very fine club in Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Aero Club, which uses an aerodrome that was well known in the war years. The people who learned to fly there did a good job of work during the war. Indeed, they formed one of the finest fighter squadrons. When the war ended they found themselves in possession of a small aerodrome. Luckily for them they were renting it from the Ministry of Works who—probably being pre-occupied with housing at the end of the war—agreed that they should get the aerodrome at a rental of £300 a year, which included rates. On that basis the Yorkshire Aero Club, catering for the West Riding of Yorkshire, was able to carry on and to work out its budget, even at the fee which they had to charge, as do all clubs nowadays, of up to £4 per hour flying, which cuts out most of the population.

Then a change occurred, and the Air Ministry took over the land on which the aerodrome stood. Immediately, the Air Ministry said, "We shall have to reconsider your tenancy." Ultimately, the rent went up to £712 a year. The club just cannot afford to pay £712 a year, and if this problem is not settled equitably it will have to close down. Once the fellow in the Air Ministry makes his decision on one of these pieces of paper—many of which I have with me—this flying club will close down, so that one of the 57 in existence is killed. They have worked out that they can pay even more than they paid to the Ministry of Works; they had it valued by an independent valuer, and by paying £400 a year they will be able to keep going in the hope that the Private Flying Committee will recommend the Government to give a subsidy which would tide them over. That is the position of one flying club, and I am told that there are difficulties in the other 56.

In my view, and in the view of the Committee which studied this question during the whole of last year, it is in the national interest that something should be done for these flying clubs—and where should we go for assistance but to the Air Ministry? I hope that next year we shall see in the Estimates an item for the flying club movement of this country, so that we can become the most air-minded nation in the world, and can develop on that basis, and really be an airfaring nation.

8.37 p.m.

Photo of Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield , St Marylebone

In paragraph 5 of the Memorandum on the Air Estimates there is the following observation on training: A very large proportion of the effort of the force must be devoted to training. In paragraph 8 it says: Special attention is being given to the training of the bomber force. Apart from that, there is nothing in this Memorandum, as far as I can see, about what is happening in the general training of the Royal Air Force. In the concluding passages of his speech the Secretary of State for Air emphatically stated the importance of quality: quality in training and quality of aircraft and aircrews; for it was undoubtedly those qualities which enabled us to beat the numerically superior German Air Force. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some more information about the present training position. It was quality of training which enabled us successfully to emerge from the war.

Quality in training was started away back in the 1914–18 war, when the Central Flying School was formed, which carried on in the inter-war years, and very rightly laid stress upon teaching instructors how best to instruct. Al the outbreak of the 1939–45 war there was a most urgent need for training instructors. It would have been impossible to train all the crews we needed, first for the Battle of Britain, and then for the intensive aerial warfare which followed, without a powerful nucleus of instructors who could themselves train others, thus getting a rapid expansion, as happened in Canada. The Central Flying School enabled that to be done. I have some personal knowledge of the value of that, because I passed out of the first of the war courses from the Central Flying School—as I had had previous instructional experience, I was qualified to go there.

During the war, the Empire Central Flying School was formed. That school was developed, and it is functioning now. Here we have a demonstration of the fact that, so far as training is concerned, there is co-operation between the Royal Air Force and the Dominion Air Forces. Instructors from all over the Empire go there for training, and I wish to ask whether the school is equipped with the latest and most modern types of training aircraft. If it is not equipped with modern aircraft and training equipment, the value of bringing instructors from all over the world will be wasted. What steps are being taken to enable proper training of aircrews to take place in jet- propelled aircraft? The Minister has referred to the fact that the re-equipping of our fighter squadrons with jet-propelled aircraft is now about completed. He also told us that jet-propelled bombers would be in operation in the foreseeable future.

What steps are being taken, therefore, to enable aircrews to be properly trained to fly these latest types of aircraft? Is there any propeller-turbine training aircraft to give the pilots the necessary prior training for jet-propelled aircraft? Are Oxfords and Masters still being used at flying training schools, or have other aircraft superseded them? Is there standardisation in this country with the Dominions, or are different types of aircraft being used for training in the Dominions? If that is the case, cannot we have standardisation? It is of the utmost importance that this particular training of instructors should take place now, because if flying instructors are not equipped with the most modern means of training, then they cannot do their job. If our Air Force is to meet whatever needs it may be called upon to meet in the years to come, it is vital that these training difficulties and problems should be overcome. The most disturbing information was given to this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) about the unsatisfactory position of aircrews who have been unable to complete their training. There ought to be in these Memoranda much fuller explanations of what is being done to ensure that the basis of the future strength of the Air Force, namely training, is being kept up to the quality needed.

I wish to take the matter one step further. I asked the Minister a question when he was describing the operational training which was going on. I asked whether any of this operational training was being done in the Dominions, to which he replied, "No." I think that is a sad thing. Operational training should be carried out in the Dominions, and Dominion Forces should be trained here. Air crews trained in Canada in fine weather during the war found it difficult to acclimatise themselves to conditions in this country. Weather conditions continue to exist, and I think that it is important that there should be more interchange of aircrews between this country and the Dominions.

What steps is the Minister taking to integrate training with foreign countries as well as with the Empire? What is happening in the Benelux countries, and in France, Norway, Denmark and Sweden? Are steps being taken to bring about co-ordination of training with those countries? During the war, outside Toronto, there was a training aerodrome which was known as Little Norway because of all the Norwegian airmen trained there. What is happening there at the present time? Are steps being taken to co-ordinate the air training activities of all these countries? Surely that is a most important part of any Western union that may take place economically or politically. The hon. Member for South Blackpool (Mr. Robinson) asked whether close contact was still being maintained with the American Air Force, such as existed during the war. I would like to know if any of our aircrews are going to Canada to do operational training there, and are any of the American aircrews coming here? If not, why not? If the dangers in the future are to be faced bluntly and squarely, there ought to be close, up-to-date, modern interchange of views on training, as well as of actual operational and training exercises. I hope that point will be examined. It would be very welcome to this House and to the country if we could have assurances that steps on the lines which I have indicated are being taken.

In conclusion, I want to refer to one stage further back in training. That is the Air Training Corps. I asked the Minister how many proficient cadets there are in the Air Training Corps at the present time, and he promised to reply. The efficiency of the Air Training Corps depends on the number of proficient cadets; but proficient is not the be all and end all of the corps. What is more important is whether the cadets are really interested in the corps and in the training and work which they are doing. What is the length of service that a cadet is giving in the corps? Is it six months, one year, 18 months or two years? If cadets are enjoying their training and are keen, attendances will be good, proficiency will be up and length of service will be increased. That is the test of the efficiency of the corps and how well it is discharging its duties. The Air Training Corps is important if the Royal Air Force is to get recruits in sufficient numbers and of the quality required in the future. What better training could there be for a youth. If he is keenly interested in the Air Training Corps, he will work with all his heart and soul to go into the Royal Air Force when he is old enough.

I hope that in the Memorandum which the Secretary of State supplies next year for the information of this House there will be more information on the Air Training Corps, training and these other important matters. I want to reinforce the appeal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward) for more information in this Memorandum. Let us know where the money is going and what is happening so that we shall be in a better position to form a judgment. If that were done, there would not be the same need to ask all the questions which we have been asking tonight because of lack of information in the Memorandum. I trust that next year we shall have a much fuller and more carefully amplified Memorandum on the position of the Royal Air Force and the work that it is doing.

8.51 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Haire Mr John Haire , Wycombe

The hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) brought to the Debate the placid airs of training and of Empire schemes. I want to try, if I can, to recover the more realistic atmosphere created by several hon. Members who spoke before him. The speech made by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), which we should have thought inconceivable a year ago, and even more so two years ago, when seen in the light of events of the last week or so, fits more into the international context, though, in my opinion it transgressed the bounds of diplomacy. I feel that the speech made by the Minister this afternoon failed to give us that realistic appoach. Indeed, may I say with respect I was concious most of the time he was speaking that he was drawing some sort of a smoke screen round his real manoeuvring, I should like the Under-Secretary to address himself to the much more relevant consideration of the possibility of war in an atomic age. The Minister this afternoon made a speech which could have been made just as well seven or 10 years ago.

It is regrettable that in these Debates on Defence Estimates we have to speak of the possibilities of war, but, surely, if we are concerned in the defence of this country we must consider the shape of the next war. In my opinion, it is no good talking in terms of the war we have just ended. Even if the next war starts off where the last one ended in 1945, it will certainly within a short time out-Wells Wells. Indeed, I am certain that the next war will be robot radar war in which fighter planes with jet engines, bomber aircraft, even the latest Lincoln type, and the other equipment mentioned in this Debate will be absolutely irrelevant.

I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) that the next war depends on the scientists and factory workers, and I should like to hear from the Under-Secretary just what emphasis is being placed on the necessary research and scientific development. Pilots and navigators will be much less important. Not that this means that some important development has not taken place since the last war. I should be wrong not to take this opportunity of congratulating the Secretary of State on the Lincoln aircraft which has been developed. I had the opportunity of flying back from the United States recently in a Lincoln, and I believe it represents a development which is well worth while. The display of this Lincoln aircraft in the United States was an excellent bit of British window dressing. In the good will mission in which this aircraft was engaged, it ably indicated to our American friends that we had certainly advanced since the end of the war.

I am not quite sure that the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) was right in making so much play of the U.S. Report to the President. He elevated it almost into the position of the Bible of postwar aviation. I discussed with American airmen at various levels the developments that have taken place since the end of the war. I believe it was the opinion of the good will mission that the Americans have nothing to teach us and that they had not made as much advance on training or development as we had.

I agree with what has been said about the integration of Empire air resources. That is one of the most valuable and constructive proposals which has emerged from the Debate. When I was in Canada I was amazed that our excellent wartime training scheme there had disintegrated and that the Royal Canadian Air Force had largely disintegrated too. I was also informed of the requests that the Air Force in Canada had made to this country for suitable training aircraft and air engines, requests which I was told had gone unfulfilled. I would like the Under-Secretary to give us information on these matters. How far have Canadian requests for aircraft been met? The Canadians appeared to think that they had been somewhat let down. Canada would very much welcome the restoration of the training scheme. She is already doing much more than we are in atomic research. In that respect, they are being more realistic.

Now I would refer to certain domestic issues, and firstly, to conditions at our stations and aerodromes. I regret to notice from the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates that there have been necessary capital cuts in the provision of more quarters on Air Force stations. The matter particularly affects my constituents, because at Bomber Command there has been a considerable cut. Certain building operations have ceased. I would like to think that the Air Force personnel, officers and men, who have been billeted out, may soon be found camp quarters, because they are using up accommodation in the district which would be of use to my constituents. I welcome very much the station committees. Those who were in the Air Force during the war thought that that development, the "works councils" of the R.A.F., would be very valuable. How far are those bodies allowed to discuss questions of discipline, organisation, and policy? Are they still only concerned with questions such as canteens, week-end leave and the quality of the food? Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that machinery exists for even the humblest airman to get his suggestion right through to the command headquarters?

I would like to refer to two backroom departments. They are most important. The first is the meteorological department. The idea is still held by the public that that is rather a "corny" department. Much more publicity must be given to it. It is not good enough that we should be told that extra deputy directors have been appointed to it recently. The public's response would be, "By their forecasts ye shall know them." We are told that certain developments have taken place. Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us exactly what they are?

The second back room department to which I would refer is one which we found most important during the war. It is the department concerned with photographic interpretation based on reconnaissance. Can we be told what advances have been made? Are new lenses and new cameras being tried out? What is the present development of infrared photography? I am certain that photography in a fast moving war like the next one may well play an even greater role than it did in the last war. Indeed, if our photograph interpretation at the end of the last war had not been adequate many rocket projectile bases might have gone undetected, with resulting great damage to this country.

Another domestic point to which I would refer is that of the A.T.C. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to the need to encourage these young cadets. I believe that the A.T.C. has been badly neglected in the last two years. It is quite right, as the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) said, that the air still fires the imagination of youth. Let us make this work attractive for them. Let us spend money on their quarters, give them an opportunity of training in the air and pep up their dull uniform. I end where I began. I maintain that this is an atomic air age. I believe that the Royal Air Force is today by right the senior service. These Estimates are the Estimates of a pre-atomic age, an English Channel defence age. Let us be more realistic.

9.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

I had not originally intended to intervene in this Debate because—to use a phrase of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), which he applied to the Secretaries of State for the Service Departments opposite—I was only for a brief time a transient and embarrassed phantom in the Air Ministry. I was afraid that my right hon. Friend was referring to me until I reflected that he was certainly a little more transient even if slightly less embarrassed. At any rate, I reinforce his plea to the Government to keep their Service Ministers longer in office in order to enable them to learn the elements of their task. If I cannot claim to have added example to precept, the hon. Gentleman who will reply will at any rate not accuse me of not having tried to remain where I was.

I hope the Government will at any rate have learned from this Debate that their Estimates and their Memoranda have left a good deal of disquiet in the minds of hon. Members. In his opening statement, which was obviously sincere and at times quite eloquent, the Secretary of State appealed to this House of Commons to give a lead to youth to join the new Air Force he was building up. Now, near the close of this Debate, I cannot but ask myself what response the House of Commons has given to the lead asked for by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Have we given a lead to youth this evening? I think we have not. I think this has been a dead Debate in an almost entirely empty House. How could it have been otherwise with the Estimates and the Memoranda which we are now discussing? How could it have been otherwise with the information which we are given? How could it have been otherwise with the complete absence of leadership from the Government?

I venture to draw this Debate to a close with one or two criticisms of the Estimates and the Memoranda which have remained unanswered. We are dealing now with the Service Estimates which are perhaps the most important in the modern age. We are discussing an arm, the neglect of which could annihilate this country in a moment, which predominates in modern war over navies and armies alike, and the proper development of which is essential not merely to the continuance of this country as a significant force in the world at a time when its authority and power is challenged everywhere but to our very survival. It seems to me to be deplorable, as I ventured to point out two years ago on the occasion of these very Estimates when the present Minister of Food occupied the position of the Under-Secretary, that at no time since the Government have taken office, at no time since the end of the war, has there come from the Government or from the Air Ministry any coherent, strategic doctrine with regard to the position and role of the Royal Air Force at the present time.

What part is the air arm to play? What is its role? What is the position of the defence of this island in the modern age? Where do we stand with our huge population dangerously concentrated in a few vulnerable areas? What is the strategic policy which will defend it? We do not know. Instead of that, we are asked to content ourselves with platitudinous talk about a third Air Force, a plea to this House of Commons to give a lead to youth, when all the time the House and the people and youth are crying out for some coherent doctrine and guidance from those who control our destinies as to the kind of part we are called upon to play. What is to be the type, what is to be the size, what is to be striking force, what is to be the shape of this third Air Force. Of these vital factors we are told nothing. We are told nothing, presumably under the plea of secrecy and of the need for security. But is that true, or is security being used as an excuse for weakness, and as an excuse for absence of vision?

We have seen in another arm in the last few days that an undue advertisement of our weakness may provoke unpleasant and embarrassing political consequences in the world. I am not inviting the hon. Gentleman who will reply to this Debate to commit any such blunder as was committed there, but at any rate this comes from an advertisement of our weakness—the people of this country begin to see the kind of danger in which they stand, and I would much prefer at this time, while there may yet be a locus pœnitentiœ, the Air Ministry frankly to admit how weak it is and how completely devoid at present of any clear idea of what it is going to do, than to let it drift on with a lot of smug assurances and get away with a plea of secrecy and a demand for security.

Not only have we not had this evening the smallest guidance on matters of strategic policy, but we have had a complete absence of any assurance that we shall possess in the near future an effective Air Force. I do not ask the hon. Gentlement to give us exact figures of how many aircraft we could put into the air tonight, although I suppose in my own mind that the figure is very much more near 25 than the 100 aircraft spoken of by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn (Mr. Max Aitken). But we really must face this issue: we are spending upon this arm and, indeed, upon armaments generally, more than we have ever spent on armaments before in time of peace, and we seem to have secured an Army that cannot produce an effective striking force on land, a Navy that cannot fight at sea, and an Air Force which cannot fight in the air. It is about time we insisted in this House of Commons—for this is no party matter—on getting from the Government of the day, whatever its political complexion may be, some kind of assurance that, in return for these vast expenditures, we are at least getting a force which can go into action within a reasonable period of time.

Lastly, we have a complete lack of information either as to the type of weapons to be used, or as to the means, or as to the place of their production. We have heard nothing whatever about the implications of speed and range of modern weapons upon our co-ordination with other countries, in particular with the Commonwealth and Empire. We have absolutely no assurance, now that all the world is talking about the possibility and potentiality of war, that this country is in a position to survive by this the most vital of her arms.

9.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edgar Granville Mr Edgar Granville , Eye

The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) complained that this Debate was rather dead, and he has done his best, with his usual declamatory vigour, to pep it up. I agree that the Government have not been able to give any indication of their strategical policy, but I imagine that that is rather difficult at the present time. In 1945 the immediate tendency of this country was, of course, to run down the machine and have immediate disarmament. I think the same happened in the United States. I do not think the same happened in Soviet Russia, and there is a germ of truth in what the hon. Gentleman said, by implication, that we have left it late enough in that vital transition period from research to the supply of machines and equipment for Air Force units. The Secretary of State has a difficult job, and he has given us some idea of the working of his Department. He has to draw the line between research and supply, and that is extremely difficult at any time. Of course, it has its political implications. The Chiefs of Staff and defence policy are all involved, and I imagine that the ten years rule, and so on, where that is operative, has to come into the picture in the scheme of defence and the R.A.F. strength.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in opening the Debate, research and technical development are going on at such a pace that it is difficult to say, "We draw the line here, and will manufacture this type of fighter, or bomber, or reconnaissance or training machine now in reasonable quantities, and equip the squadrons with them." Always over the Minister's shoulder officers from various research establishments are advising him that something better is coming along, and that he ought to wait a little longer before putting these things into production for supply to the squadrons. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman absolutely satisfied that the system is properly geared up and that the research establishments have sufficient staffs now at their disposal to accelerate this? I think it is fairly well known that after the war, research establishments had to cut down their staffs severely. Whether there has been a real acceleration in the programme I do not know, but I would like to know whether the Under-Secretary of State can give an assurance that there is no serious shortage of research staff adequate to do the job. Bearing in mind what the hon. Member for Oxford has said on the strategic position, I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to assure himself that we can get this necessary acceleration and better gearing of that arrangement from the development stage to production.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) referred to the visit of certain units to the Commonwealth and the United States. I consider that that has been all to the good, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Air will do more in that direction. We all recall the number of technicians, as well as members of the Commonwealth Air Forces who came here during the war, and had complete integration, and complete knowledge of all technical and training questions. Now that they have gone back to their own countries, are they completely cut off from this information, or is there an effective plan within the Ministry to see that the Dominions and Commonwealth are kept in touch with the technical development which began during the war years?

Take, for example, the question of standardisation. I will not keep the House by telling them how many man hours were required during the war to convert American types to British types, and British types to American types. Is a study being made by the Air Ministry at the present time of the important question of the standardisation of measurements—screws and threads, and so on? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has always taken a great interest in international peace. Many of us hoped that one day there would be a U.N.O. air force—an international air force police. Surely, one practical step would be to set up a small committee, probably in conjunction with the Ministry of Supply, to study with the United States, members of the Commonwealth and other peace-loving nations, the practical steps to be taken for the standardisation of measurements and so on, particularly with regard to aircraft and other equipment.

One hon. Member referred to decentralisation. We have recently read the report on Singapore. I remember the Debates that took place in the House during the war, on that debacle. What was the answer we were always given? That we could not get fighter aircraft to Singapore, because it was thousands of miles by sea, and they would have to be sent on the deck of a steamer. In other words, we had not available a scheme for the decentralisation of production of aircraft, for units in Australia, the Middle East or India. I hope that the lesson of Peenemunde has not been lost. If the Germans had not made the mistake of putting so much technical experiment under one roof, there might have been a different story to tell. We have to decentralise development and experiment throughout the Commonwealth.

I believe there was a plan in existence before the war, which was discussed at Cabinet level, for the setting up of prototype production in the Middle East, India, Australia and Canada. Have all these arrangements, made hurriedly during the war, been revoked? Because unless that integrated system of decentralisation can begin to be applied, we shall never be in a position to carry out a proper defence of our responsibilities in the far corners of the world. That is the clear lesson of the early part of the last war.

There is another question which is related to the question of standardisation and decentralisation. I would like to ask whether sufficient practical study and its application is being given to Arctic or cold-weather flying or "winterisation" by the Royal Air Force at the present time. I know that the Royal Canadian Air Force have had the loan of Rolls Royce engines from the Air Ministry, and that the operation "Musk Ox" was conducted by the United States and Canada at Fort Churchill and that the operation "Frigid" was conducted by the United States Air Force for this purpose. There was an opportunity of seeing some of our units under conditions of "winterisation," but I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not think that that is by any means enough. I would say that this is at the moment, our blind eye. We have not given sufficient experimental study to this subject. Strategically it is of the most vital importance, and I hope that in conjunction with Canada we shall pay far more attention to this vital question of "winterisation" and its effects on machines metallurgically and also on oil and engines, and of course on the men themselves who use the machines. I hope that when the Air Estimates are introduced next year, the Secretary of State will be able to tell us that something has been done in that respect.

I should like assurance that there is sufficient co-operation between the military and civil sides of aviation in this country. This applies to a good number of subjects relating to radar, and, as the hon. Member for Wycombe mentioned, meteorological and also navigational questions, etc., in the vital field of technique and scientific research in which the Minister is so ably served by Sir Henry Tizard. Is there effective co-operation if something good is found for military aviation which could also assist civil aviation? Surely that is something which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has always in mind? Is there sufficient contact and co-operation? Is the machinery there to enable all the technical research which is going on—good work—to be used by both the civil and military sides?

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

The answer is that Sir Henry Tizard is not only Chairman of the Defence Research Committee, but also of the Civil Research Committee.

Photo of Mr Edgar Granville Mr Edgar Granville , Eye

Yes, I appreciate that. Sir Henry Tizard was some little time ago Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence. His experience during the war was at the Ministry of Aircraft Production. I am asking whether, in his present capacity, he is being given an opportunity of seeing that work which is being done can be applied to civil aviation as well as to the military side, because much of this vital research can be used for both. There can be a tremendous saving to the taxpayer if that co-operation is effected and he must of course always be considered.

9.23 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

This has been quite a disappointing Debate but I welcomed the interventions of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). They, at least, put the Debate on a footing which gave us something to think about. After all, this is a Debate concerning expenditure of £173 million and the employment of over 300,000 of our citizens. It is not for me as a new Member to rebuke my colleagues, but looking at the attendance of hon. Members I blame the Secretary of State for the Memorandum. It contains literally nothing about the Air Force in any detail. Hon. Members, who know little enough about a technical subject like flying, have nothing on which to work to enable them to come here and make their contributions.

I welcome what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. I think he was most sincere. He has not been in the job for long, and he has been travelling backwards and forwards to India and is probably only beginning to settle down. I can only think that he had his instructions from the Minister of Defence and the Cabinet as to what he was to tell the House about the strength and composition of the Royal Air Force. We have not been told much about the strength and effectiveness of what is our first line of defence. Before the war we had the "Air Force List" in which we could find when an officer joined the Service, when he was last promoted and the unit he was in. In fact, it almost gave his life history I am not suggesting that we should go back to that. I think that the information was given in far too much detail; not that it means much because any countries which are any good at all have an intelligence service and can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman how many bomber squadrons, fighters, etc., he can put into the air.

I do not see why this information should be hidden from hon. Members and the public who, after all, pay for the Air Force. If it is bad news, let them know exactly where they stand, and public opinion will then see that it is put right. It is far better than covering it up. I would suggest that if we cannot have a secret session we might have an all-party meeting so that the Secretary of State could give Members some information. I can well understand that there are some hon. Members who would not be welcome at such a meeting. Nevertheless, it would be worth while taking that risk.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) said he thought that the next war would be a radar war. I should like to think that he was right. If he was, we could all go 400 or 500 feet underground, press buttons and get on with it. I do not share his illusions in that respect. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) referred to testing aircraft in cold weather. I should have thought that the Falkland Islands last week would have provided a good opportunity of putting that into practice. I do not know why aircraft were not employed. It was a good opportunity to send out some long-range aircraft and show these upstarts what we really think of them.

The hon. Member for Rugby went a great distance in getting around the point to describe who he thought was the potential enemy. Other hon. Members talked about enemy X. The hon. Member for Rugby was quite right in what he said. There can be only one potential enemy. Every one of us in this House today prays that there will not be a war. Every day we say that, but the indications are leading up to a war, and we shall be wrong if we do not think on those lines.

Eastern Europe is quite terrifying to the rest of the world, and we all know that the potential enemy is Soviet Russia. Let us face it fairly and squarely so that we know exactly where we stand in this matter. Since the election in 1945 I have spoken up and down the country at savings weeks events and other nonparty gatherings, and I have always said that we must try to make a deal with Russia, have trade agreements, and do all we can to bring about friendship and try to understand each other's point of view. I have now got to the stage when I cannot go on doing so without offending the Russians, if they listen to or count for much what I say.

I heard the Debate in another place yesterday. I was alarmed to hear the noble Lords on both sides of the Chamber, and the Government spokesmen, making their speeches on the world situation. We in this House must take note of what they have said, and face up to the situation. I looked up today the Debate on the Air Estimates in 1939. The present Prime Minister was the opening speaker for the Opposition. He said: There is one difficulty in discussing these Air Estimates. There is a very great deal of information which cannot possibly be given in public, and there are criticisms which we might like to make but which we should not like to make in public. The hon. Member for Mossley called attention to the fact that in the really big items of expenditure we know nothing whatever. We merely get a figure, and we are left very much in the dark when we try to estimate what progress has really been made towards shortening that gap between our force and the nearest potential enemy force. We really get nothing at all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1939; Vol. 345, C. 337–8.] The right hon. Gentleman was speaking six months before the last war, and he complained that he had not got enough information. Today, two and a half years after that war, we are given about the same amount of information. It is not good enough. We must insist that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, some time before the Estimates are presented next year, should tell the House, on a Supply Day or some other occasion, what is the strategic future of the R.A.F.

I agree that an efficient striking force is the country's most effective safeguard against aggression. Of that there is no doubt, but I implore the right hon. and learned Gentleman not to forget our home defences. We must have an effective Air Force to defend this island. I fully appreciate the difficulties of demobilisation. The manpower situation in the whole of the country is difficult. We have to produce goods and so on, but what will be the use of producing them if we get into any more serious trouble? The first essential is the protection of the country.

It has been generally agreed in the Debates that have taken place since the war that the R.A.F. is our first line of defence. One hon. Member opposite went so far as to suggest that it was now our Senior Service, although I am sure the Minister of Defence will not agree. While recognising the requirements of the Army and the Navy, I do suggest that if we have to cut down expenditure on the three Services, the R.A.F. must be the last to be cut. Also, we should, of course, have priority with men.

After what happened during the war, much is expected of the R.A.F. by everybody. I am not belittling what was done by the other Services, but the Air Force did undoubtedly save the situation in the summer of 1940. We are now concerned about how it will fulfil its duties in the future. First of all, we must get a sufficient number of long-service men into the R.A.F., and we shall never do that unless conditions of service are made more attractive. With the exception of one increase, officers and men are now being paid at very much the same rates as in 1930, when I was serving in the Regular Air Force. Rates of pay have not been stepped up to enable personnel to cope with the increased cost of living. The present rates of pay are deplorable.

The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) referred to the Women's Royal Air Force and pointed out that many of these women, who in many cases undertake the same duties as men, get less than two-thirds of the men's rates of pay. This is not the time to debate equal pay for women but it is, nevertheless, important that women in a fighting Service should be paid nearer to the rate for men who do the same job. We were told in the Estimates that the extended service bounties had been reduced from £450,000 to £40,000. That is a very big reduction, which indicates that the scheme has not been a success. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary of State, in his reply, will give us some further information about this?

On the question of the Reserves and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn (Mr. Max Aitken)—whom I am very pleased to welcome back after his extended illness—has made a very fine speech. In the Memorandum there are only two sentences dealing with the Reserves and the Auxiliaries. Surely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman could have given the House considerably more information on these two very important branches of the Service. One of the most disappointing items in the Estimates is the lack of information about the Auxiliaries, because these men are going to play an increasingly important part with the Regular Air Force. We must not confuse them—I am not belittling the Territorials—with the Territorials, because the Auxiliaries get exactly the same equipment as the Regulars. When the last war came they fought in the front line with the Regulars from the very first day and played their part in the defence of this island. Let us give them full credit for what they have to undertake. One can recognise that at the end of a war there will be a falling off of interest in the Services; vast numbers of men have been involved in a war, and the younger men have to look forward to National Service. Very much more could be done to make that branch of the service more attractive.

The Secretary of State said that they paid the Auxiliary airmen the rate of the Regular airmen over a 48-hour period. I would suggest that he pays them the same rate all the time. They would still be a very cheap proposition, for they are not pensionable, they require little kit, and they can usually improvise as far as buildings are concerned, although they ought to have better buildings. At the earliest moment they should have the same aeroplanes as the Regulars are flying. I see the difficulties about Hendon and other similar aerodromes, which are not suitable for jet aircraft. They ought to have new airfields. That must be an immediate consideration. We ought to give the London squadrons good airfields and jet aircraft. The same applies to the A.T.C. These men give a good deal of their leisure time to the service. They give up two or three evenings every week and 48 out of the 52 weekends, besides the time for the annual camp. It is quite unbelievable how much time they give to the service, and so to their country.

I want to say a few words about the Air Ministry itself. No one seems to like it. I was fortunate enough not to have to serve there myself. A reduction of only £33,000 on last year's Estimates is really not enough. I have always found that in Service establishment committees, that when it comes to making economies, they start with the last and lowest unit and then work upwards. Really it ought to be the other way round: they ought to start pruning at the Air Ministry and work down to the squadrons. Of course, if they did, a good many people would have to take stripes off their arms, and that would not suit them. I see that the Department of the Member for Air Personnel, one of the few good ones at the Ministry, is costing more than it did. But I see that there has to be an assistant editor, a journalist, a reporter and a layout artist. I would observe that we have enough papers and we do not want more coming out of the Ministry.

Now I come to the most serious part of my speech, to consider the effective striking force—bombers. I see no point in trying to be careful in what one says at this stage, because the facts are generally known. Bomber Command can put into operation only two or three squadrons of bombers. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn referred to 100 bombers. I am, however, quite prepared to believe that there are reserve aircraft tucked away in maintenance units which could be manned in a short space of time. We should like an assurance on the point. We should like to know what really is the strength of Bomber Command. It is absolutely necessary to have a Bomber Command until we have long-distance, accurate, guided missiles. Do not let us have any illusions about pressing buttons, and so on. We have got to keep an Air Force which is as good as—indeed, better than—that of any other country in the world. I am sure we can.

When I read the word "research" over and over again, I am always very suspicious, because although nobody believes in research more than I do, I fear that research is not enough. Research alone does not at all meet the case today. We must have intensive research; but research looks far ahead, and we want real aircraft now which can be got into the air at a moment's notice. There is no doubt that, so far as research is concerned, atomic development must be given first priority. That is generally agreed. Then we want development of a high performance jet bomber, capable of delivering an atomic bomb at long range. That is the ideal—if we can attain it. Nobody wants it more than the Secretary of State himself, I am sure. The Lincoln is a fine aircraft, but it is really out of date. We must face that. It is a good, solid aeroplane, but its altitude is restricted with a full load, and its range is restricted.

I have heard that there is to be an intermediate bomber. I do not know how right that is. It is very difficult to obtain information about one's old Service. One hesitates to ask one's friends in the Service, and the Government give us so little information. All we can do is to read and listen as much as we can, and draw conclusions. What we really want is a long-range jet bomber which will carry an atomic bomb. My estimate is that we shall not get bombers like that for eight or 10 years, unless something is done in the immediate future to give its development and production very high priority. That is a very alarming thought, that we may have to wait so long, and I have grave misgivings about the situation in Bomber Command. I really have. I hear, on the other hand, that Soviet Russia is making something as good as, or even better than, Super-Fortresses, in large numbers. I do not think that is gossip; I have been told that they are making something equivalent to B.29s. If that is the case, then we must get busy, because the Lincoln is not good enough.

I believe the National Service men to be practically useless. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are almost a hindrance to the Royal Air Force. The R.A.F. stands or falls on whether or not it has sufficient long-term volunteers. Need the R.A.F. have National Service men at all? In the Debate last year, when the Minister of Defence had difficulty in making up his mind about the period of service, I had intended voting against conscription; and had he kept to his original figure of 18 months, I would have voted against conscription, because I do not believe in it.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

The hon. and gallant Member should have done it anyway.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

No. If the Minister cannot make up his mind, it is a bit difficult for hon. Members on this side of the House to make up theirs. I still hold that one volunteer is far better than two or three conscripts. If we go out of our way to make the Royal Air Force, our first line of defence, sufficiently attractive, then we shall get the volunteers. There are indications that men are beginning to come in, and steps to encourage them should be taken. For instance, we are told that because of the economic crisis the uniform cannot be smartened. I would give the uniform a high priority. Although smartening the Royal Air Force uniform is not everything, it is a step towards getting men into the Service.

When these National Service men have done their year in the Royal Air Force and gone on to the Reserve, I do not believe they will be any good at all. They will then merely spend a fortnight annually in the auxiliary or reserve squadrons, and that period of training is not nearly enough to keep them at the necessary standard of efficiency. Furthermore, I believe the auxiliary squadrons will have their spirit rather broken when they see conscripted men coming in; it will break up their team spirit, and in that way the right hon. Gentleman is running a great risk of losing part of his front line of defence—the 20 auxiliary squadrons, which I should like to see increased to 40. I said so last year, and it could be done if the Ministry embarked upon an ambitious scheme of developing the auxiliary squadrons.

I am concerned that nothing has teen said about the new strategic bases. During the last 12 months very nearly half the Empire has gone back to its original owners, and we are in the position of having to withdraw from these countries. But we have no indication where the new bases will be situated, and it is quite alarming. We can only make guesses. In January I was in Cyprus, on which island there are five or six airfields. I regret to say that one of them, a fully equipped airfield, had its control tower blown up by an Army demolition squad I do not know why. They had received an instruction, the communication lines were pulled out, and the whole thing blown up—yet we shall probably want it in a few years' time. In addition, there was not one British military aeroplane on that island, which is only 120 miles from Palestine, and a troubled area. I know that our aeroplanes may well be doing their part in Palestine itself, but it is important to have something in a British colony, where we can show the flag, so that the people will still have something, instead of the whole island being denuded of aircraft. I was very depressed about it.

In turning to the defence of Great Britain, I refer first to Fighter Command. There is a tendency today to say that we must have a striking force of bombers, and to ignore the rest of the Air Force to some extent. If we ignore Fighter Command, we deserve all that is coming to us, if it should come. White Papers stress the bombers, but very little is said about fighters. I believe that if we had war with the Soviet tomorrow, we should have them facing the Bay of Biscay and the Channel ports within three weeks—probably less. Two or three million soldiers could advance regardless of atomic bombs, which would make very little difference to their actual advance. We might well find ourselves in the same position as in May or June, 1940. I beg the Government to give every attention to the rearming and to the size of Fighter Command until we are absolutely certain that fighter aircraft are not required for the defence of these islands.

I should now like to ask the right hon. Gentleman something about radar stations. We built up a very great network of radar stations and communications during the war. It was a terrific expense, but it was worth it. It enabled us to keep our aircraft on the ground and to send them up when enemy aircraft appeared on the "tube." Are these communications being retained? Something should be done to see that these units are kept it good maintenance. The Royal Air Force must be assured of a steady intake of men, and I suggest that the pay and allowances should be improved; secondly, that married quarters should be increased, and, thirdly, that we should have an educational scheme within the Service. The last suggestion is only a small point, but it is a big factor in the minds of parents. Many children, by the time they reach 12 years of age, have probably gone to five elementary schools, and it is a nightmare to mothers. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot get a scheme going in the Royal Air Force, although I know that the Minister of Education will not like it.

So far as the Empire is concerned, the House was, I think, most concerned about what was not being done. Are factories being dispersed? We know that one or two firms, on their own enterprise, have gone to New Zealand, Canada and Australia. The Government must co-ordinate schemes to see that we manufacture our aircraft instruments and armaments in the British Empire. The interchange between personnel in the Staff Colleges is not enough. We want something much more than that. We want squadrons working together in the air from each others' aerodromes, and flying each others' aircraft. The same is the case with the French Air Force, what little there is of it. I am told that there is no single complete squadron in Metropolitan France. That is a situation which should be rectified by ourselves and our friends the Americans. We have already given them a great number of aircraft, but most of them have gone to Indo-China and to French Morocco. It is incumbent on us, together with the Americans, to see that we get more aircraft into France itself. Soon after a war, it is only natural that politicians and people generally resent giving money to the Fighting Services. They dislike it because they are so imbued with getting everything else under way which has lagged behind during the war years. The onus is now on this Government. They have a very grave responsibility to the country to see that we have an efficient Air Force, and that the public knows how it stands in this direction.

I, personally, am all for health schemes and the other schemes that have gone through this Parliament, but they will be no good if this country is weak We must have a strong defence, not a large Air Force like the French in 1930, but an efficient Air Force with sufficient reserves behind it. Let us support the Fighting Services and give them every help we can to get recruits, and see that the money is properly spent. What is being done in this country about security in factories? I know that in America it is very difficult for a British subject to get into an aircraft or engine factory. I hope that something is being done in this country to see that we have ample security measures to prevent a fifth column getting into our factories, not only as workpeople but as visitors. The Government have a great task ahead. We must not run the grave risk of repeating what happened in 1939–40. There will be no second chance this time. I implore the Government to face up to the situation, to give money freely, to see that it is well spent, and to tell the House and the public exactly what we are getting.

9.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

The last point which the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) made was to stress the necessity of security in factories. Of course, that is important. But other security is unfortunately important too. The hon. and gallant Member quoted what the Prime Minister said when he was Leader of the Opposition in a Debate on the Estimates in 1939. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State have all been in this House a very long time, and they have all been engaged many times in Estimates Debates. It is, of course, with considerable reluctance that they have not provided the yardstick by which the efficiency of the Air Force is to be judged. I cannot therefore answer many of the questions which have been put to me; many of which, I entirely agree, are of the greatest importance in assessing the efficiency or otherwise of my right hon. Friend, of myself, and of the Government as a whole.

Much of the Debate has touched on the widest strategic field. My right hon. Friend has been attacked for not dealing with questions of strategic policy which involve at least the three Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply. I submit that a Service Minister, presenting the Estimates of his Service, is not called upon to indulge in the widest stategic arguments. Surely, under the system which we have now set up we have a Minister of Defence and a Defence White Paper, which was debated on Monday, On the point of the Service Estimates and matters of strategy, I think that the confusion of ideas may be seen in the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), who actually asked if the Minister of Defence was to reply to this Service Estimates Debate.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Surely there is nothing remarkable in asking that the Minister of Defence should have something to do with Defence. I merely asked whether he was going to reply or whether the Air Ministry was going to reply. That is not a sign of confusion but of intelligent anticipation.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

I have made my point. The hon. Gentleman may not think that it is a good point. I thought it was rat her good. It is this: This is a Service Estimate, and, therefore, concerns one Service and not the widest strategic matters of the three Services.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I think that we ought to be clear about this. Is it the hon. Gentleman's doctrine that on the Navy Estimates we are not to discuss the strategic and tactical use of the Navy, that on the Air Estimates we are not to discuss the strategic and tactical use of the Air Force, and on the Army Estimates we are not to do likewise? That may be a new system and the right one on purely administrative matters, but then we ought to have three or four days' discussion on the Defence Vote. It might be more convenient to do it that way, but surely it must be discussed some day, and one day is not enough for the three Services.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

My point was that much of this Debate had ranged over a field which covered the three Services and the Ministry of Supply. There was a speech from one hon. Member which dealt entirely with Ministry of Supply matters.

The right hon. Member for Bromley asked why we were so long in transition: I think that he rather misunderstood the position when he referred to 100,000 Regulars looking after 200,000 National Service men. Of the 100,000 Regulars, some of them may be recruits, and of the 200,000 non-Regulars, some are men with very long service indeed. That showed a misunderstanding of the problem, which has been one of demobilisation and, at the same time, the maintenance of the structure so that the third Air Force could be built up. If we had given in to the cries from many quarters for a very rapid helter-skelter demobilisation, there would have been no transition because there would have been no Air Force. We have achieved those points. We demobilised the men to industry and we preserved the structure. We are still in this transition period.

The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield was worried about our being caught between two stools. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) spoke of the Lancaster and supersonic bombers. We know the point about being caught between two stools. Obviously I cannot say much of that, but we want to shorten the distance there always is between different types of equipment. There was a big difference between the Gladiator and the Spitfire. We certainly have not sat back and waited for the supersonic bomber. The right hon. Gentleman addressed himself to the importance of offence. He spoke of the necessity for long range, high flying aircraft. We entirely agree.

Like so many other speakers in this Debate the right hon. Member for Bromley and the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield emphasised the Commonwealth position. Neither of these hon. Members made the mistake, but there were some hon. Members who appeared to think that the Government in the United Kingdom could somehow force the Dominions to do things. Some of them used the word which, though small, is irritating to many people in the Dominions, namely the word "our" in "our Dominions." The right hon. Gentleman paid tribute to Air-Marshal Coningham. Besides good will flights we have exchanged ideas in tactics, armament and navigation by sending aircraft equipped with special equipment and skilled men as well as specialists in other branches. Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have been visited by one or other of these specialised aircraft. There are exchanges of officers in staff colleges and of officers in normal service posts. These are schemes not in the future but working today.

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Gentlemen who raised the matter of production throughout the Commonwealth that that matter is not being lost sight of, with the proviso that we cannot make people in the Dominions produce. Again this is a matter which is outside the scope of the Department of my right hon. Friend. However, it is common knowledge that the Dominions have made enormous strides in recent years in such things as aircraft manufacture. Canada made Lancasters and Mosquitoes during the war and is making aircraft like the North Star and the Chipmunk. Australia is making Mosquitoes, Mustangs, Lincolns and even Vampires.

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

Is it a fact that the Canadian Air Force is tending to unite with the United States Air Force rather than the Royal Air Force?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

There may be certain items in which they are uniting for the purpose of easing production and supplies, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question was a general proposition and the answer is "No."

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

Is it not against everything that we want in this country, if the Canadian Air Force is to get merged into the American, whether in regard to equipment or to personnel?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

I do not accept for a moment that this merger is going on, but should it ever come to that, it certainly will not be any fault of the Government of the United Kingdom.

Another important point which the hon. Member mentioned was the size of the Air Ministry. As we develop new types of aircraft we shall need more and more men sitting at desks in relation to the people in the so-called front line. Let us think why the size of the Ministry can never be proportionate to the size of the Air Force. One reason is the enormous increase in the technical range of equipment. The handbook dealing with spares and items of radio equipment was a small volume of 200 pages before the war. It has now 2,000 pages. That not only affects men working on supply but the operational staffs, who have to work out the problems of modem equipment and aircraft, and the best use of them. The supply and operational staff are all concerned with the complexity of the equipment which our men are called upon to use. They study the equipment, and work out its problems.

Thousands of men in the field can be saved by statisticians in the Air Ministry. Even if ten, or twenty, or even a hundred men and women are employed collecting statistics, the study of these statistics may result in the saving of as much as one per cent. of the force in the field, and one per cent. of a quarter of a million men is a large number.

The hon. and gallant Member for Holborn (Mr. Aitken) complained that there were shortages of ranges which were holding up the training of his squadron. I have found out that the squadron has concentrated on other forms of training. I am assured by the Command that there is no shortage of ranges. I am glad the hon. Member raised the point. Because of the difficulty of getting ranges and range practice before the war we can say that certain operations failed in the early years of the war. The old system by which a squadron went into camp for three weeks in the summer is not good enough today. That is why we need 34,00o acres. That only covers the land required for training in guns and rockets. Most of the bombing is done over the sea. Otherwise the area required would be much larger.

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman has been doing with the 34,000 acres. Perhaps we have been writing to the wrong Ministry. The fact remains that for two years now we have been trying to shoot off our guns at targets and have not been able to do so. Believe me, the pilots in my squadron are all fairly well trained. They flew during the war, and they can fly an aeroplane. What I am asking the Under-Secretary for is a target at which to shoot. That is what we want—something to shoot at; not necessarily him, but a target.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

I would like to clear up this point. It is an important matter. Obviously I cannot say what the hon. Gentleman's group commander or the commander-in-chief of the Reserve Command thinks about the efficiency of his squadron or whether it is fit to go on a range now, but I am sure that there is nothing in the position as spectacular as the hon. Gentleman made out. Undoubtedly the squadron has been concentrating on a certain type of training, but there is no shortage of ranges, and if the squadron is ready to go to a range, it can do so.

Photo of Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield , St Marylebone

Are there targets on the ranges?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

Everything is ready for practice.

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

I am sorry to say that, from my point of view, that is not so. We are given a lot of mud to shoot at, but we are not given targets. A target is what I asked for, and that is what I stick to.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

I hate to be in the position of trying to arbitrate in a matter which involves a chain of command and so on, but if the hon. Gentleman takes this up, he will find that the difficulties are not as great as he thinks——

Photo of Group Captain Hon. John Aitken Group Captain Hon. John Aitken , Holborn

I have been taking it up for two years.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will have better luck now.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

The hon. Member must have missed the target.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

The right hon. Member for Bromley and others have discussed the use which the Royal Air Force can make of the National Service men. The National Service Act is very flexible indeed, as to the training laid down. The men can take their 60 days in three long periods of 20 days each or in 60 short periods which are matters of hours. We are going to adapt that to our requirements and also, as a result of our Manpower Economy Committee, we have been able to break down many of the technical trades in such a way that shorter training can be given to these National Service men in order that productive work can be obtained from the men after their training.

The need has been emphasised—and, of course, I emphasise it, too—for Regular airmen. I was shocked to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Derby (Group-Captain Wilcock) say that married quarters overseas had no significance in this matter. Our researches show that they have the very greatest importance in affecting recruiting of Regulars, and the right type of Regulars. The figures which he gave were a little out of date, and I shall be pleased to give him later ones if he gets in touch with me afterwards.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) raised a matter to which the Air Council attaches great importance, that of the station committees. They are free to discuss a wide range of subjects, and suggestions will get to the Command. Very rightly, the question of the civil flying schools and the reserves generally has been mentioned by a large number of hon. Members. Although my right hon and learned Friend was attacked for not putting more in the White Paper about the non-regular forces, he devoted a considerable proportion of his speech to that subject. I was asked to give a figure of the number of proficient cadets in the A.T.C. At the end of 1947 there were 2,600. The important point is, as was stated by my right hon. and learned Friend, that the number training for the proficiency certificate is three times as great as it was last year.

The hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) raised a point of detail but one of great importance to all of us, and particularly to her constituents, the question of Hendon airfield. At Hendon there is a communication flight, facilities for refresher training for Air Force officers serving in the Air Ministry, and the two auxiliary squadrons. I can quite understand the nuisance, especially at week-ends, to the inhabitants of Hendon, of these fighter squadrons training, but I regret to say that I cannot give any assurance that we shall be moving from Hendon. Even if we could move the auxiliary squadrons, the necessity for keeping near a refresher training unit for Air Ministry staffs would be important. There are a number of other factors which the hon. Lady mentioned and which were dealt with by the hon. Member for Holborn who, at that time, was shooting on my side.

The sad case of the 400 pilots was mentioned originally by the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson), whose speech, unfortunately, is the only one in this Debate I missed, and it was also mentioned by the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield). Of course, it is a most serious step for the Air Ministry to take to say to these 400 men who had passed through their basic training that they could either have immediate discharge or transfer to ground duties. What are the facts? These men came from one of the last large wartime entries and, after basic training, there were no advance and operational training units to absorb them all. Naturally, with demobilisation, Training Command came down in numbers and only part of this last entry could be absorbed. We were hoping to be able to fit these 400 men into the training machine. Last winter prevented us from doing a great deal of flying, as hon. Members will appreciate, and that could not be done.

Towards the end of last year, this sad state of affairs had been reached: it was so long since these men had flown that they would have had to have a refresher course before going on to their next stage of training, and that refresher course could only have been at the expense of the men now coming into the training machine. Further, so long had elapsed that they would have been able to give very little productive service after training. Very reluctantly, therefore, we came to the conclusion that the only thing to do was to cut the loss and give them a choice. About 300 have chosen immediate discharge, and about 100 have chosen to go on to the ground staff. It is a most regrettable matter.

The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward), who was the first to draw our attention to the size of Training Commands, asked whether they were not unduly large. They are exceptionally large at present—about a third of the Royal Air Force are in them—but they will always be large so long as aircrews must have such intense training as they need to have today. It has recently been estimated that the cost of training a bomber pilot is about £10,000, which is more than it costs to train anyone in the legal or medical professions. It is also a fact that 30 per cent. of our ground trades require a training which lasts between six and 18 months.

How can we reduce this Training Command? We cannot reduce the training period itself, but we have had a very intensive drive against overheads in the Commands, and we also have the benefit now of the Manpower Economy Committee which has examined the trade structure and recommended certain additional trades and shorter specialised trades. In spite of the more complicated syllabuses, the 200 different trades instead of the 50 there were before the war, and vastly more complicated equipment, the ratio of pupils to instructors and ancillary staff is exactly the same as it was before the war.

I was asked by my hon. Friend the member for Wycombe to say something about the meteorological service. In my capacity as Under-Secretary, I am chairman of the Meteorological Committee on which are represented scientists, Fellows of the Royal Society, and so on, and consumers such as the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Civil Aviation. These Estimates deal with developments in the meteorological service of great importance; research—and I use the word hesitantly after the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield—reorganisation, and the ocean weather ships. It was asked whether we are satisfied that we have all the trained scientists we want. Of course not; no one has. But in the meteorological office this year we have organised the whole of the work so that a great deal of what used to be done by trained scientists is now done by much lower grade workers. This has resulted in the establishment of the deputy director, who is devoted entirely to research. That research covers the problems of aviation—icing and such matters—and of agriculture. We have a meteorological officer at the Cambridge University Agricultural College. Elsewhere cloud precipitation is being studied. They have been studying matters which are not unconnected ultimately with inducing precipitation from clouds—in other words, making it rain.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Derby raised the point of marine craft. The sum of £133,000 is for the next link in this chain of ocean weather ships.

Photo of Group Captain Clifford Wilcock Group Captain Clifford Wilcock , Derby

The hon. Member will recognise that though £160,000 may be spent on these weather ships, that still leaves over £500,000 spent on ordinary marine craft, a ridiculous sum.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

I did not realise that it was as much as that. I will inquire into that point. The weather ships have made an enormous contribution to meteorology. The point was made that the real value of a meteorological service is the accuracy of the forecasts. They will be improved as we get these ships into the Atlantic. These ships are set up by an international meteorological organisa- tion. They are nothing to do with any one airline corporation, as was so wickedly alleged, or any one country.

It is a matter of great interest to me, having taken part in two Estimate Debates, and listened to three, to note the completely different atmosphere of this Debate compared with the two preceding Debates. Previously, we have primarily thought of what the Services cost in land, men, money and materials. Now, with one exception——

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Nottingham Central

With only one or two exceptions the attitude towards these Estimates has been: "What protection do they give us?" This change in emphasis is extremely heartening to the men and women of the Air Force. We have changed from: "What are they costing?" to: "Are they doing the job efficiently." One of the most common reasons for enlisting in the Service—although men and women who do so would deny it heatedly—is the desire to do something worth while for the community. It is quite clear that, with only a few exceptions, hon. Members feel that service in the Air Force is a worth while job. Hon. Members can help by spreading this feeling in their constituencies. That will do more than anything else to improve the efficiency of the Air Force. If we think about the Air Force as something which costs us £173 million, we must also think of it as our first line of defence. If we think first, as we should, of our pilots and aircrews, we should also think of the clerk at his ledger and the storekeeper in the depot. They seem to have small jobs, but we should recognise that they are all proud and indispensable members of a force which must always be ready—and which is ready—to strike at a moment's notice in defence of us and our liberties.

10.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

Having heard the Under-Secretary wind up the Debate, I wish to say a few words. I waited to hear him, and if I did not hear the whole of the Debate, I heard enough to be able to make these observations. One thing I am glad about is that he did not take up some of the wild, panicky arguments contributed during the course of the Debate by a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. We heard those wild, panicky arguments not only today, but also on Monday in the Defence Debate. I am apprehensive that we shall hear these wild, panicky arguments next week in the Debates on the Army and Navy.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

We must stick to the Air Estimates and not deal with Debates on the Army and Navy.

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

Yes, Sir. I was merely looking into the future.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

How many speeches did the hon. Member hear to-day?

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

The hon. and gallant Member will be delighted to learn that I heard the whole of his speech from the Gallery. It was most informative and instructive, and not so hysterical as those of some of his friends. It is those speeches that I am criticising, not least that of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown).

Photo of Sir Toby Low Sir Toby Low , Blackpool North

Short-wave from Moscow.

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

I have risen, therefore, at this hour in order to call for sanity. [Interruption.] I do not expect hon. Members opposite to appreciate that, but I am sure that my hon. Friends on this side of the House will understand what I am talking about. What we require is the defence of our people. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) said that the first defence of our people is a strong Air Force. I wonder? I am not against having a strong and useful Air Force, but is it the first defence of our people? The first defence of our people is really their standards of life.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That is outside the scope of the Air Estimates. We cannot now discuss standards of life.

Photo of Mr Philip Piratin Mr Philip Piratin , Stepney Mile End

These are matters for our consideration. Earlier in the Debate an hon. Member spoke of bombing Baku, and asked whether the Air Ministry was ready and able to bomb Baku. I ask this House very seriously, for we are not the great Power which many hon. Members opposite thought we were a generation ago, to reflect and to think what they would say if a debate took place in another country as to whether that country's air force was ready to bomb London, Birmingham or Manchester. I ask what they would say if they were to read in their morning newspapers reports of such items in the Press of other countries? Hon. Members opposite are smiling. Likewise they said earlier that we should be prepared to move our bases and our supplies from Britain to Canada. What is to happen then to the people of Britain? What is the value of protecting our supplies and not protecting the people of Britain? These are matters for consideration. I have risen for a few minutes to call for sanity, and with that I sit down. I hope it has its effect.

10.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

I also rise after having heard the opening of the Debate, part of the middle of it, and the closing stage. The one outstanding feature that has annoyed me about the whole Debate is that while those with technical knowledge made it perfectly clear that the modern bomber is able to carry the atomic bomb to any country or to any place which was to be attacked, the right hon. Gentleman opposite made it perfectly clear that defence against the atomic bomb to be carried, is comparable to two golfers trying to make two golf balls collide in mid-air, one of them driving from a tee at one end of the course and the other from a tee at the other end of the course. That in itself made clear the absurdity of talking about defence in air warfare which embraces the atomic bomb.

According to the discussion here today, one has to get one's blow in first, and paralyse the enemy. The trouble is that this is an invitation to whoever is ready first, to start without telling us. Have we not been told by experts it will take ten years to give us the up-to-date machine that is required? Surely, we have reached a state of insanity when we are discussing warfare on such a scale that the defence of the civilian population depends on something that is almost impossible. That is agreed on all sides. Would it not be far more sensible if this Government and the other Governments got together and talked about some sensible way of abolishing war altogether, rather than waste time and money on this nonsense and tom-foolery. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The Opposition say, "Hear, hear"; but still we are going on with it, in the hope that we get our blow in first. The whole thing is absolutely nonsensical and ridiculous. I thank heaven I am a pacifist when I hear the warmongers.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Supply accordingly considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair]