§ The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)
I have to tell the House that, after careful review of the war situation; and in particular our air crew position, it has been decided that the Joint Air Training Plan in Canada shall not continue after 31st March next. This announcement is being made to-day in Canada by Mr. Power, the Canadian Minister for Air. In the event, however, of the war situation so developing that expansion is again necessary, skeleton training staffs and airfields will be retained.
The original agreement provided for joint training in Canada to continue up to March, 1943, but by a further agreement negotiated in June, 1942, the scale of training in Canada was stepped up and the scheme was extended to 31st March, 1945. It is because of the favourable war situation which I have just mentioned that the present step is now possible. Simultaneously with the winding up of the Joint Air Training Plan in Canada, training in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia is being considerably reduced. Arrangements have, however, been made with the Canadian Government to train a certain number of United Kingdom air crews in R.C.A.F. Schools after the final date of the Plan, namely, 31st March, 1945.
In making this announcement of the finish of what has been a vast joint effort, creating an overwhelming impact of 2248 superior strength in the air upon the enemy, I must acknowledge the great debt which we and the Allied nations which have also benefited from air training in Canada, owe to the Canadian Government as administrators of the scheme, and to the Royal Canadian Air Force. In innumerable directions we have had close relationships with those concerned in organising and operating the scheme in Canada, and at all times we have found nothing but ready acceptance of any and every suggestion which has been for the furtherance of our common war effort. Thousands of young men of this country have enjoyed the hospitality of Canada when carrying out their training on Canadian soil, and I am sure that there will be results of great and lasting benefit to the British Commonwealth beyond even those concerned with the war.
§ Mr. Boothby
When the right. hon. Baronet talks of expansion again becoming necessary, may we take it that he is referring to the training of air crews, and not to the construction of aircraft?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I only referred to the fact that we are keeping a skeleton of instructors and air crews available, in case it becomes necessary to increase the amount of air crew training.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg
Does the right hon. Baronet realise that his statement will come as a severe disappointment to those who desire to see a continuance of some of these Commonwealth arrangements in the days of peace?
§ Sir Austin Hudson
There seem to be a large number of these young men now training who are surplus, and who for a very long time have really had nothing to do. Will the right hon. Baronet look into that so that, if he finds that there are these young men, they can be transferred to other branches of the Service as soon as possible? I have a relative who for months has had nothing to do and who feels a sense of frustration when he wants to help in the war effort.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that such transfers have already been taking place. Of course, the situation is now constantly under review.