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Air Power

Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 20 June 1922

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asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the reserve for the Royal Air Force to be provided by civil aviation has almost entirely disappeared, and that as a consequence our defensive power in the air has fallen to a dangerously low level in comparison with other countries and in relation to the other arms of our own service; and what action he proposes to take in the matter?

On a point of Order. I put down this question to the Prime Minister, and expected an answer from the Lord Privy Seal. How can the Secretary of State for Air reply to a question referring to other forces, especially as he is not in the Cabinet, and the other two right hon. Gentlemen are? The whole point of the question was in putting it to the Prime Minister or to the Lord Privy Seal.

I am sorry if my right hon. and gallant Friend thinks there was any discourtesy—

in asking my right hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Guest) to reply to the question. He was good enough to show me the terms of his answer, in which I concur. I asked him to answer, because thought there might be supplementary questions that he would be more competent to answer than I myself. But will read the answer.

My right hon. and gallant Friend may be assured that His Majesty's Government are alive to the bearing upon national security of the developments of aviation in all their various aspects, and are giving the present position their very careful consideration. It must not, however, be taken to indicate that our defensive power is necessarily dependent to more than a limited degree upon the condition of civil aviation.

What action is the Government really taking now, apart from consideration, in view of the deplorable situation in which we stand in the air relatively to other Powers?

It is generally held, I think, that consideration should precede action.

But consideration has proceeded for two years, and this is the result I ask what action is now being taken after two years' consideration?

I can give no further answer. I do not profess to be conversant with the details, but what I do know is that the position as a whole, and the serious questions involved, are under consideration at this time. Beyond that I cannot go. If my right hon. and gallant Friend desires further information, apart from broad policy, I shall be obliged if he will put a question down.


asked the Secretary of State for Air if he can state the approximate number of civil aircraft of value for war purposes now available in the principal European countries and in the United States of America?

The numbers of civil aircraft borne on the French, Belgian, and Dutch registers on 1st May were 598, 39, and 15 respectively. In the absence of any authoritative statement by the Governments concerned, it is impossible to say what proportion of these aeroplanes would be of value for fighting or war-training purposes, but it is probable that the number fit for modern warfare would be small. As regards Germany, 225 aeroplanes were, on 1st May, available for air traffic, but none of these would be of value for war purposes. As regards America, the estimated number of civil aircraft in operation in 1921 was 1,200. Of these, approximately 600 were employed by civil air transport companies.