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National Defence Inquiry

Volume 161: debated on Wednesday 14 March 1923

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It is on this account that I welcome the comprehensive inquiry to be held into the whole question of National and Imperial Defence. I have only been connected a very short time with one of the defence Services, but it has been long enough to show me that you cannot isolate the problems of one Service from the problems of the other. The problem must be treated as a whole. The members of the Committee of Imperial Defence will

be able, to survey the whole problem of defence, the problem of the Army, the problem of the Navy and the problem of the Air. No part of the problem can be isolated from the other parts. Particularly do I look for guidance in their deliberations with reference to the strength of the Air Force. What Imperial responsibilities is the Air Force to undertake? What is to be its relation to the other fighting Services? Is there some standard, like the one-Power standard, at which we should aim, and, if so, can we make equivalent economies in other fields of defence? Only by a comprehensive inquiry can these questions be satisfactorily answered, and only by the help of all parties in the House can we agree upon a national air policy that is neither excessive nor inadequate. But I do not want to leave the problem of air defence with a number of unanswered questions. For until we have decided upon our air standard, we have still to make the most of the resources at our disposal. So long as we have a small force, we must have nothing but the very best. We must keep it an air corps d'élite, highly trained, well equipped and capable, so far as possible, of quick expansion.