HC Deb 02 July 1940 vol 362 cc678-80
Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Air whether steps are being taken to speed up the training of R.A.F. pilots and crews to keep pace with the increased output of aircraft; and whether it is proposed to take any special measures or to make any special appointments in this connection?

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

Yes, Sir. A number of steps have already been taken which will have the effect of speeding up very considerably the output of pilots and other flying personnel during the next few months. I have also decided that all the departments of the Air Ministry concerned with training should be placed under the direction of a new member of the Air Council to be called the Air Member for Training. He will be charged not only with responsibility for training policy and for the success of the training programme, but with ensuring that the training organisation is at all times adequate to meet the requirements of the Service and to keep pace with the increased flow of production that we can anticipate from this country and from the United States. The Air Member for Training will have a special responsibility for all matters connected with the Empire Air Training Scheme. The officer selected for the appointment as Air Member for Training is Air Vice-Marshal A. G. R. Garrod.

Sir M. Sueter

I hope he will work at high speed.

Mr. John Rathbone

Will the Air Member for Training be told by the right hon. Gentleman that perhaps the best way to speed up their training is to release flying personnel and ground staff, mechanics and riggers from guard duty at night after having worked for 14 hours and more a day on their normal duties?

Sir A. Sinclair

Yes, Sir. That is one of the steps, as a matter of fact, to which I have referred as having already been taken, which we expect to have in advance of this appointment, and from which we expect to derive a beneficial effect on the flow of pilots.

Sir W. Brass

Has my right hon. Friend got substitutes for these guards at the aerodromes to take the place of those referred to by my hon. Friend?

Sir A. Sinclair

Yes, Sir. Airmen have been specially enlisted for guard duties.

Mr. Leach

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why these measures were not taken nine months ago?

Sir Irving Albery

Cap my right hon. Friend say whether satisfactory progress is being made with the scheme for the overseas training of pilots?

Sir A. Sinclair

Yes, Sir. Progress is being made with that scheme, and we attach the greatest importance to it. I specially mentioned it in my answer as being one of the specific responsibilities of the new Air Member.

Sir Ernest Graham-Little

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the training of these pilots will be conducted with machines that are up to date, and not with old machines which are perfectly useless for their training?

Sir A. Sinclair

Most decidedly, Sir, that is one of the most important factors in an efficient training system.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Minister aware that men are being called up before the Air Department is ready for them, that they are taken long distances from their homes in Scotland to England and then are sent back until the Department is ready? Could we be assured that men will not be called up until the Department is ready?

Sir A. Sinclair

No, Sir; it is essential to have a certain pool of people who can be drawn upon in the eventuality of the remainder of the training system operating so quickly that, if there was no pool, there would be no one to pass through in the ordinary sequence. That makes it necessary to have a certain pool of applicants before they enter their initial training. We are, however, making special arrangements so that those who do not wish to return to their homes and would like to take employment with the Royal Air Force should be allowed in future to go to aerodromes and be employed with the ground personnel and on defence and other matters.

Mr. Burke

Is the Minister aware that there have been men lying in the pool for months past while other men who have never been near the pool have passed straight through? Will he see that the pools are cleared out?