HC Deb 06 December 1944 vol 406 cc518-20
31. Wing-Commander James

asked the Secretary of State for Air what steps it is proposed to take to relieve the increasing burden falling upon the Royal Observer Corps, having regard to the length of trying voluntary service given in so many cases and the easing of the burden in other branches of home defence.

Sir A. Sinclair

I am sorry that it is not yet possible to extend to the Royal Observer Corps generally the relaxations recently authorised for the other Civil Defence Forces. These relaxations have, in fact, made it even more important than it was before to ensure that timely warning is given to the R.A.F. of the approach of enemy aircraft; moreover, the public air-raid warning system depends largely on information supplied by the Royal Observer Corps and any relaxation of the watchfulness of the Corps would involve unjustifiable risks at present. The Royal Observer Corps also perform very valuable services in identifying and reporting friendly aircraft which are in difficulties. In this way they help to save the lives of many Allied airmen.

I recognise that the duties imposed on members of the Royal Observer Corps are arduous and involve strain, particularly to those spare-time members who have other important preoccupations. Relief will be afforded to them as soon as possible but, meanwhile, I know that members of the Corps will continue to carry out cheerfully and efficiently the important task entrusted to them. I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the services rendered by the members of the Corps. They number over 30,000 and include 23,000 part-time members. They have played and are still playing an essential part in the air defence of this country.

Wing-Commander James

Is not every argument used by the right hon. Gentleman one for securing assistance for this overworked body of volunteers, many of whom have now been functioning for eight years, in their own time, in war duties which are very important and are increasing owing to resignations? What steps are being taken to increase the available supply of observers?

Sir A. Sinclair

That is rather a different question from the one on the Paper. I was concerned to point out that it is im- possible to relieve these men of the duties which they are now performing, and which are of greater importance because of the relaxation in other directions in the air defence arrangements to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred in his Question.