HC Deb 17 May 1939 vol 347 cc1385-7
29. Wing-Commander James

asked the Secretary of State for Air what expenditure, approximately, has been incurred to date under the Civil Air Guard scheme; how many females have been trained as pilots; what proportion of the pilots trained are suitable to join the Royal Air Force in emergency; and how the cost of potential first-line pilots produced under this scheme compares with the cost of those produced by other methods?

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Captain Harold Balfour)

The sum of £106,000, approximately, has been expended to date on the Civil Air Guard scheme. Of 2,428 Civil Air Guard pilots holding "A" licences at present, 93 are women who have been trained under the scheme. The categorisation of "A" licence holders for service in emergency is now proceeding, but I am not yet able to state the numbers which will be available in the various categories. The scheme is not designed to produce pilots ready to take their place immediately in an operational squadron, but provides a pool of pilots, a proportion of whom after further training would qualify as Royal Air Force pilots; others as flying instructors or ferry pilots; the remainder would perform such duties in connection with aviation as may be allotted to them. The cost per hour to the State of giving elementary flying instruction to a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve is higher than the subsidy payable for the training of a Civil Air Guard member up to the highest category.

Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter

Is it not a fact that the Civil Air Guard scheme is the only way in which young men of the towns can learn to fly at small cost?

Captain Balfour

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Perkins

What is the object of teaching women of 49 to fly?

Lieut.-Commander Agnew

What will be the position of women pilots in time of war?

Captain Balfour

In answer to both supplementary questions I would say that in a certain number of cases women will undoubtedly be of value in ferry pilot work or instructional work, but I would not like to lay down any hard-and-fast rule as to the degree of utility that women pilots might show in time of war. Others who are trained to a certain degree of proficiency will be of use by virtue of their knowledge as pilots.

35. Mr. Kirby

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will secure that men under 21 years of age, at present serving in the Civil Air Guard, and particularly those who have gained an A licence, shall, if called up under the Military Training Bill, do their service in the Royal Air Force?

Captain Balfour

Men under the age of 21 will have an opportunity of expressing a preference for carrying out training with the Royal Air Force; and members of the Civil Air Guard should be able to present qualifications and experience which will make them particularly suitable candidates for such vacancies as exist.

Mr. Kirby

May I take it from the answer that, in cases where men have even got so far as having an A licence, they are not certain of getting into the Royal Air Force?

Captain Balfour

We shall have only a limited number of vacancies in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and we cannot, therefore, undertake to accept all applicants. We do not know how many applications there will be, but obviously applicants who have been in such an organisation as the Civil Air Guard should be able to have a qualification which would add to their chances of being accepted.

Mr. Acland

Will this apply to those who made bona fide applications before the date of the conscription Measure? Will their applications be accepted in preference to those which were made later?

Captain Balfour

I will look into that point.

Wing-Commander James

If all Civil Air Guard pilots of suitable age are not fit for absorption in the Royal Air Force, what is the use of producing another crop of part-trained pilots?

Captain Balfour

There are other values in the Civil Air Guard than that. As my hon. and gallant Friend will have seen, a communiqué issued by the Commissioners of the Civil Air Guard says that from now onwards new Civil Air Guard members must be over 21 years of age.