HC Deb 03 February 1943 vol 386 cc870-1
9. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Air the reason for the posting from Canada to England of Group-Captain C. H. Keith; and why this officer has been, or is shortly to be, retired?

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

The officer referred to was posted from Canada on 20th March, 1942, to the command of the Central Gunnery School in this country as it was considered that his services could be better utilised in England than in Canada. He is now being retired in accordance with the policy of the Air Council, promulgated in the summer of 1941, under which senior officers must give way to younger men when circumstances so require. It is inevitable that officers of wide experience and with good records of service will from time to time be affected, but the policy ensures a healthy flow of promotion and the infusion of new blood and fresh ideas into the higher ranks, which is essential to efficiency.

Mr. Driberg

Is it not a fact that this officer was brought back from Canada after serving eight months, although it had been laid down that he should serve not less than 18 months, and that he was given the highest tributes, officially and unofficially, for his efficiency?

Sir A. Sinclair

That goes outside the Question which the hon. Member has asked and I have answered, but I must say I think it is deplorable if the names of officers are to be dragged into discussion in this way. It is bound to be hurtful to and resented by them.

Mr. Driberg

Is it not more deplorable that they should be treated unjustly?

Mr. Maxton

Why should it be wrong in the House to raise a grievance about an officer who, after satisfactory service, is being scrapped? There is nothing deplorable about it.

Sir A. Sinclair

I doubt whether this is a grievance of this officer. I think it is hurtful to an officer and resented by him if his name is brought in in this way.

Mr. Shinwell

Does the right hon. Gentleman think hon. Members are going to take instructions from him as to the Questions they ask in the House? Does he think he is a dictator? If he were trying to do his job efficiently, that would satisfy us.

Sir A. Sinclair

Obviously hon. Members are not going to take instructions from me, and I did not suggest they would. I am suggesting that it may be unfair to officers to use their names in this way.