HC Deb 01 July 1941 vol 372 cc1206-7
37. Sir G. Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for Air the measure of response to the Royal Air Force appeal for volunteers to defend new aerodromes; and whether he is satisfied that the public has understood exactly what is wanted?

Captain Balfour

It would not be in the public interest to give the information asked for in the first part of the Question. I believe that the public understands that we want men to defend our aerodromes.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is my hon. and gallant Friend satisfied that the public understand the necessity for having two separate forces for-defending aerodromes?

Captain Balfour

I do not think the public would understand the full implications, but I think they would appreciate the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member when he said that he was thoroughly satisfied that a clear-cut decision had been reached and good working arrangements made, but that on the other hand it was not expedient to go into' those matters in detail.

Colonel Arthur Evans

Dots not my hon. and gallant Friend consider that the position would be clear if the appeal was made to the public to join the Army, which is primarily responsible for the defence of the aerodromes, rather than to join a separate Force?

Captain Balfour

That is an entirely different question.

Mr. Shinwell

Why does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman think it is in the public interest to inform us and the public of the nature of the response to the Government's appeal? If the response has been good, ought not the country to be informed, and, on the other hand, if it has been bad, should we not take advantage of it to make a further appeal?

Captain Balfour

The terms "good" and "bad" are relative in regard to the objective which we outlined. If we stated how many we had got in relation to our target figure, the enemy would at once know the approximate number of men of the Royal Air Force we were aiming at having for guarding aerodromes, and it would not then be difficult to divide the approximate number of men required for each aerodrome into the total Force and so find out how many aerodromes we have in the country.

Mr. Garro Jones

Why, in that case, was a high Air Ministry official allowed to give elaborate particulars to the Press, saying how disappointing the response had been, and if that is the case, why should not my hon. and gallant Friend be frank with the House and tell us the same thing?

Captain Balfour

I am not aware that that particular statement was given by a high official as the hon. Gentleman alleges, but I think the hon. Gentleman and the House will agree that to give the specific figures for which I was asked would not be in the public interest.