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21 June, 1927.]
Si WALTER F. NICHOLSON, K.C.B., and Sir SIGMUND DANNREUTHER, C.B.
of a new mess room, say, in one of these new aerodromes. You get a Vote for that on your own Estimates?-Yes. For any major work that costs over £2,500 we should have to get it in our Estimates as an item.
6269. But what I want to get at is this. Is the expenditure on that building criticised as to its expense and the possibility of its being excessively permanent by any body exterior to the Ministry, or is that purely within the control of the Ministry itself? That is one of the points that the Treasury may take up. If the Air Ministry makes a considered recommendation either that a permanent building or semi-permanent building is considered desirable and gives the reasons, the Treasury in nine cases out of ten is, I think, likely to accept it. (Mr. Fass.) This Vote does differ from the other Votes in that the Fighting Services have to come to the Treasury for approval of all and every specific item in the Vote. That gives us an opportunity of comparing the expenditure proposed with the expenditure elsewhere. What happens in fact when we get a building proposed by the Air Ministry which corresponds with a building of the War Office is that we compare prices and sometimes get one or other down. If we have no precise basis we get from the Ministry of Health local authority costs for building quarters of the same sort. That gives us some measure by which we can see what the Estimate of the Air Ministry looks like, but it does not apply to the things which are peculiar to the Air Ministry such as aerodromes with these expensive platforms and aprons, as I think they are called; that also does not cover the whole ground, because apparently it is necessary for certain reasons to spread aerodrome buildings much more than, for instance, barrack buildings, because of the fear of the whole place being wiped out by one bomb from an aerial attack. So that although we have various data on which we can criticise it does not carry us the whole way.
6270. May I take it that the Treasury does not consider itself as in a position to criticise the design and permanence and expense of these buildings from an engineering point of view?-Of course, we are not experts, but we do very often ask whether it is necessary to provide a
permanent building and whether temporary building will not do. We take that sort of point.
6271. That is a more or less casual inquiry. I think we explore as best we can all possibilities of getting the Air Ministry to reduce expenditure.
6272. But your exploration, if I may say so with all respect, is rather casual? -I do not like to accept the word casual," because a good deal of trouble is in fact taken in these matters. But we are not architects, and we do not know how a building can be made cheaper except on rather general lines.
6273. My impression is that it is apparently the natural tendency of any Ministry to do itself well in point of permanent buildings and in point of the scale of building, and there is very little check from any external quarter in these cases? Well, I do not know about that. I think the fights that do take piace between the Treasury and the Service Departments are mainly upon these buildings, and I am sure if you saw the battles that take place about these matters you would agree that we do what (Sir Walter Nicholson.) I think in justice to my Department I must interpose here. I think it must be known to many Members of the Committee that the state of the buildings in many of the Air Force Stations is barely creditable to the Government, and that the Air Ministry can really not be accused of spending an excessive amount of the taxpayers' money on doing itself well in the way of buildings.
6274. I was only speaking of the new buildings which were designed on a permanent footing. They are by no means extensive, and as Mr. Fass has pointed out there are reasons why they should cost a certain percentage more than Army barracks in certain cases. (Mr. Fass.) I have myself taken the opportunity of going down occasionally to see various aerodromes for which different schemes have been put up by the Air Ministry, and I am bound to say that I have been struck with the necessity for providing something better than at present exists. At one station particularly that I visited the buildings were in very poor condition, and it was obvious that something would have to be done pretty soon or the whole thing would fall to the ground.
21 June, 1927.]
Sir WALTER F. NICHOLSON, K.C.B., and Sir SIGMUND DANNREUTHER, C.B.
Sir Fredric Wise.
6275. Did you go to Halton?—I have been to Halton. That is rather different. What I had in mind was Biggin Hill.
6276. The point is, do the Air Ministry put themselves into competition to see that their own buildings are put up as economically as is reasonably possible; that is to say, do they ask themselves whether they can get a similar building put up more cheaply by an outside contractor than they can do it themselves? -(Sir Walter Nicholson.) But all our buildings are put up by outside contractors.
6277. And in competition?-Oh yes. There is no question of direct labour for any major new work in this country. We do not think of it.
Sir Robert Hamilton.
6278. With regard to the item for repairs, renewals and maintenance, amounting to £639,000, can you give us any idea of what percentage that bears to the capital value?-No, I do not think I can. I do not think we have any general capital account of our works which would be of the smallest value.
6279. Does that cover aerodromes as well as buildings? Oh certainly,
it everything-technical buildings, barrack buildings, and everything.
6280. That would refer to the maintenance of the aerodrome as much as to the repair of a building then ?-Anything other than work on buildings would be very small in relation to the total sum, but any actual work say on the levelling of the aerodrome and so on would be charged here.
6281. You have no means of saying what percentage that might be?-It would be almost insignificant.
6282. So that in that year you spent £639,000 practically on repairs and main. tenance of buildings?-The amount that would have to be taken off for what one might call earth work, or that sort of thing, would be extremely small.
6283. But what is the percentage of cost of the upkeep of the buildings. I want to know that?-I could not state that. Of course I could give the details for certain special establishments which have been costed, and where the buildings have been valued, but I could not give it as a whole.
6284. Could you tell me what is meant by "Air Ministry Estates" under Subhead H?-Hendon is the biggest item. at the present time. There is a sort of margin at Hendon which we are going to get rid of in due course.
6285. It is the property the Depart1aent is managing?—Yes.
6286. When do you expect to be able to dispose of that?-We are expecting in the course of a few years to get rid of that, but we are not in a hurry to do so because the rents are pretty good on this property.
6287. I was just going to ask you what there was to balance that on the other side? There is no need to get rid of the ground before we can get a good price for it, because in fact it is bringing us in at the moment a net return of 43 per cent. on the estimated capital value, and we expect that figure to go up. In fact we know it is going up to well over 5 per cent.
6288. Does that cover the expenses?That is the net figure after expenses are deducted. So that it is obvious there is no hurry to dispose of it until we can do so favourably.
6289. Is the Air Force in Egypt paid for by the Egyptian Government, or the English Government?-It is paid for by the English Government.
6290. Is there any consultation with the Egyptian Government when you erect all these buildings which I see referred to on page 50? Is there any understanding that if at any time in the future the Air Force leave Egypt those buildings will be taken over by the Egyptian Government and the EngJish Government will receive payment for them?-No. Our position in the matter is that we are, speaking very broadly, in a sense ancillary to the Army in Egypt. We are carrying on on the same basis as the Army in Egypt, and both the Army and the Air Force are in touch with the High Commissioner in Egypt in regard to any permanent schemes. The general position in regard to Egyptian defence is, I think I might say, continuously under the consideration of the Home Government.
6291. Is it exactly the same in Palestine? No. I should say the position in Palestine was essentially different. Palestine is, of course, a mandated territory,
21 June, 1927.]
Sir WALTER F. NICHOLSON, K.C.B., and Sir SIGMUND DANNREUTHER, C.B.
The terms of the mandate are rather special, and in fact Palestine works very similarly to a British colony.
6292. I see on page 52 in one place You have works that are going to cost £115,000. Those are permanent buildings at Ramleh. They have already cost £108,000. Supposing the military forces were taken over by the Government of Palestine, is there any undertaking between the Palestine Government and the English Government that those buildings will be taken over from us, or if we left Palestine would all that money be lost?-Perhaps it might answer the question to say that the claim for hutting that has been taken over by the Palestine Government is an admitted claim against the Palestine Government. The Colonial Office are still discussing the manner in which it shall be accounted for.
6293. Do you suppose the Palestine Government would in any way recognise, if there was any change in the position. that they were liable to make us some payment for this sum of £115,000 expended on these permanent buildings? -If they took them over for their own gendarmerie I think they would recogise to the fullest extent their obligation to pay the current value of the property, but if they were just vacated and the Palestine Government said they did not want them for their own purposes I do not know that I am prepared to make any statement as to what the position would be.
6294. As far as you know there is no arrangement which would show that if we left Palestine the Palestine Government would be compelled to take them over?-Compelled to take them over willy-nilly-I am afraid not. But I would rather that question were put to the Accounting Officer of the Middle East Votes. It is a broad question of financial policy in a mandated territory and is really not a question for the Air Ministry.
6295. Perhaps the Treasury could tell me whether they think this question of putting up these permanent buildings in lands which are not really part of the British Empire has ever been considered in regard to the money spent upon them and the position as to the possibility of the recovery of that money? (Mr. Fass.) I think we should feel entitled in Palestine or in Iraq-depending upon the terms upon which the land was
transferred to us and the buildings erected-to sell at the best price we could get if the Government of Palestine or the Government of Iraq did not want them. I do not think we have any power to compel the Palestine Government to reimburse us, or any agreement on which the Palestine Government would reimburse us, for the buildings which we chose to vacate on an alteration of policy. I do not know anything more than that as to the arrangements originally made when these buildings were taken over by the Air Ministry either in Palestine or Iraq. I should have to look up that point.
6296. Do you not think it is a point which ought to be considered when there are these large sums of money being spent in these various places?—It is a point that is considered. But of course when proposals come forward for fresh accommodation, say in Egypt, if we raise any question about it we are likely to be met by the answer that if the Government policy is to keep troops there they must be housed. If the buildings there at the moment no longer suffice to keep out the weather, we are forced to build something to carry on with at any rate.
6297. Could you tell me whether there is any one place in which I should find put altogether the value of the stores of the Air Force?-(Sir Walter Nicholson.) That question was dealt with by the Committee on Valuation of Stocks.
6298. Is there any item in this Account which will show that?-In future accounts a valuation of certain stores will be given. It will be for a portion only, not the whole, because the Committee recognised that that was impracticable.
6299. Of course, there are certain valuations shown in this Account for small amounts, but will there be one place where we can see the values shown altogether? The form in which that valuation is presented will be settled by the Treasury Officers of Accounts. (Mr. Watson.) We were rather proposing to follow the arrangement in the Navy accounts of giving it at the end of each vote in cases where the stores held on the vote are valued.
6300. In reference to the expenditure on ordinary repairs, renewals and maintenance amounting to £639,000 odd, I
21 June, 1927.]
Sir WALTER F. NICHOLSON, K.C.B., and Sir SIGMUND DANNREUTHER, C.B.
would like to put this point to you. would be interesting if we had some means of knowing what was the value of the buildings upon which this £639,000 has been spent. It may prove, on going into detail, that it is a very large sum to spend for maintenance of buildings. It may be a big percentage of the capital sum spent, and I feel it would be interesting to this Committee to have before it the value of the buildings upon which this sum was spent for repairs and maintenance?—I do not like to undertake to promise the labour of valuing all our buildings, because I very much doubt the utility of it. 6301. That is not quite my point. I do not suggest that you should put a value on your buildings. All I am asking you to do is this. There must be surely in your Department a heading under which you have spent so much money on erecting x number of aerodromes and x number of buildings?No, there is not even that. We came into existence out of the chaos of the War, and I think it would be impossible to find in many of our stations what the War Office and the Admiralty spent during the War on certain buildings, some of which are, either in a ditioned or in
state, still in our occupation. 6302. Would it be possible that from a given date you could keep a record? No doubt you have a record from some date of how much you have spent?-Undoubtedly.
6303. It would be very interesting if you would show this maintenance figure under two heads, one of them showing the amount spent on the maintenance of buildings that you have a record of, that is to say, whether it is 5 per cent., or 10 per cent., on capital?-With submission, I do not think that would be useful. I do not know whether the Honourable Member has studied the interleaved green page in the Estimates on this Subhead D. It is page 49b, if I might read it. It says: "It includes all repairs to buildings, fixed machinery and aerodrome surfaces; the operation of electrical, heating, water and drainage plants; upkeep of Air Ministry railways and sidings; and incidental expenses." ." Then it goes on to state: "The total provision is allotted to areas at the discretion of the Air Council," and it states the provisional allocation to areas. I must say that I think that statement is a good
deal more useful than an attempt to segregate certain special stations of which we have records and an attempt to estimate what the percentage is at those stations.
6304. I think we are travelling different ways. What I had in my mind was this. Looking at the Appropriation Account only, and not at the Estimates -and that is what is before us as the Public Accounts Committee it appears on the face of the Account that £639,000, which is a large sum of money, is spent on ordinary repairs, renewals and maintenance. You may say, and say rightly, that we must bear in mind the vast area covered. Do you not for your own administrative purposes have some gard to how much it costs you for the maintenance of a particular building? Do you not have regard to the fact that it is not economical possibly to maintain buildings that are not put up as well as they might be because the cost of maintenance would be greater than capital sum? Of course, stantly considering whether the maintenance of a temporary building is not so expensive that it would be cheaper to scrap it and put up a semi-permanent building; but the matter is always considered in relation to the particular item. I submit that is the practical way of looking at it.
the are con
6305. Of course, the most practical way of looking at it is to consider each item separately. But in other departments I think I am correct in saying, Sir Malcolm, it is possible to say how much is spent on the maintenance of buildings. For instance, in the Army it is possible to say how much is spent on the maintenance of barracks. Is there not such a figure as that to be found in connection with the Army? (Sir Malcolm Ramsay.) The War Office tried for five years to establish a capital valuation of the barracks. They began by attempting an expert valuation of each building, but they found that that was too expensive. Then they fell back on inexpert valuations made by the Corps of Military Accountants, but the total was absolutely untrustworthy. Finally the attempt was abandoned.
6306. Because it was an impossible task? It is so expensive. I do not say it would be impossible, but it would be expensive out of all proportion to any results gained
HALF-PAY, PENSIONS AND OTHER NON-EFFECTIVE SERVICES.
6307. With regard to Subhead F, on Vote 8, page 30, could you tell me on what principle the Civil Aviation subsidies are given? (Sir Walter Nicholson.) I think I must refer the Committee to the published Command Papers on the subject. Every year there is presented to Parliament a Command Paper of the progress of Civil Aviation in which particulars are given. It has all been presented in very great detail to Parliament. (Sir Malcolm Ramsay.) The conditions are very elaborate and complicated. There are complete Papers to which references are given on the green page 81 (b) in the current year's Estimates.
6308. Do you mean that it lays down the rule on which the subsidies are given? -Yes.
6309. How many companies are receiving money from you? (Sir Walter Nicholson.) Only one company-Imperial Airways. Also under the same Subhead there are six light aeroplane clubs receiving subsidies.
6310. Hardly anything has been done in regard to those light aeroplane clubs? -It is not a very big item.
6311. I thought I saw a statement which said that?-They have been going now for two years, but very little practically fell on the year of account which is now 15 months' old.
6312. Is it possible for new companies to be formed and to obtain subsidies from you? Could a new Civil Aviation company be formed and then ask you for a subsidy?-No; we have an agreement with the Imperial Airways for a period of 10 years, of which 6 are unexpired, which grants them a monopoly in Europe.
6313. So that it practically comes to being a subsidy to this one Company?— There is a subsidy to the one Company in Europe, and although we were under no obligation to give the subsidy for the Cairo to Bagdad service Cairo to Karachi as we hoped it would be to the same Company, yet in fact the subsidy has gone to the same Company.
Sir Robert Hamilton.
6314. Can you tell me if there is any difference in the matter of pay and conditions of service of medical officers belonging to the Air Force and those in the Army, or are they recruited on the same basis?-They are not identical. The recruitment and pay of the Medical Services of the Navy, Army and Air Force were all recently considered together by a Committee, and the recommendations of that Committee were considered by the Government and were accepted.
6315. What was the date of that Committee?-It sat last year. It was the Warren Fisher Committee.